Frighteningly the new season is almost upon us! So who can we expect to do what this season, will Leicester repeat last year`s incredible achievement or will the heavy weight managerial duo at the two Manchester clubs be the ones at jostling for the top of the table come May? Have Spurs learnt enough from last season to take them up a notch or will Liverpool and Chelsea benefit from lack of European football this season? Or will it be a dark horse – could the likes of West Ham or even Everton make a dash for the coveted Top 4?? Let`s look at what we`re up against. Starting at the current Champions;
Pros – relatively settled squad in that they managed to hang on (so far) to most of their star players. Vardy rejecting Arsenal was a big plus and they may have unearthed a gem of a signing in Musa. £20m isn`t cheap but the Nigerian has an impressive record in the Russian league where he averages a goal nearly every 3 games. Another Mahrez perhaps?
Mendy, from Nice, looks a tidy player but so far is no Kante.
Cons – Kante leaving to Chelsea. Arguably their best player last season and critical in how they play. He will be badly missed.
Summary – Leicester benefitted from a less congested fixture list last season and they could be shocked by the Wed-Sat-Wed pattern that Champions League brings. I wouldn`t move out Mahrez leaving just yet, if results don`t go their way expect him to be pushing for a January departure. Can`t see them catching the rest of the PL unawares this season, teams will sit back against them which won`t suit their style of play. Difficult season ahead.
Pros – very settled squad. No major departures. Set style of play and good team unity. Young squad with solid defence. Significantly reduced travelling now not in the Europa league.
Cons – No real improvements to the first 11. Wayanma is a solid addition and while he will provide cover he is not a major upgrade on what`s already there. Janssen comes with a very good scoring record in a poor league, hard to judge if he will cut it yet. At end of last season the Spurs players looked very tired and this form followed many into the Euros. CL football. Pochettino`s squad management must be questioned after another end of season collapse – it`s a trend across a few clubs now.
Summary – just like Leicester, Spurs lead a charmed life with injuries last season. A lot of first teamers played a lot of football. CL will reduce travelling but increase intensity and there is a question as to how much Spurs improved Vs how much others got worse last season.
Pros – In a word Klopp. Everything is riding on him and if he can manage to bring this, by Liverpool standards, pretty average team, to the promised land of the top 4. Mane, while overpriced, will score goals in a team that plays open football.
Cons – In a word Klopp. To say that the German is a volatile individual would be putting it mildly. The passion he brings is commendable but the tactical approach in some games has to be questioned? At BVB Klopp managed to make it work but he had a superior quality of player. That quality is largely missing at Anfield.
Summary – The team is young, hungry and can play with high energy but can they last the pace for a full season? The defence is dreadful but the lack of European football is a major positive for what may be an up and down season.
Pros – off the radar. So far Chelsea have been allowed to change their manager and rebuild their squad without any of the fanfare of either of the Manchester clubs. Their form during the last few months of the season was exceptional. Conte is a title winning manager and will expect high standards at Chelsea. Batshuayi, despite the £40m price tag may be more one for the future and don`t be surprised to see the combatitive Costa still start up front. Kante, at £35m, may be their key player.
Cons – A lot of players have had a very poor 12 months and also some key players are on the wrong side of 30. Defensive wise there are a lot of questions with Cahill being very poor, Terry getting on and Courtius coming off a very poor season.
Summary – The total lack of fuss around Conte so far has allowed Chelsea a bit of space from the media. The lack of European football is a big plus, dark horses for the title but ultimately fall short.
Pros – I suppose, despite my dislike for the man, you would have to say Jose. The so called Special One does bring something to a team that no other manager quite can. They have also made some major splashes into the transfer market – Pogba, Ibra and Mikhitaryan have been added alongside Bailey (£38m!). None have come cheap but Jose has never completed more than 3 full seasons as at club: he plans for short term immediate success and he`s quite good at it.
Cons – It`s all about the mood in the camp for me. United is now choc full of players with big egos managed by a manager with the biggest ego of all. We saw with Mata during the Charity Shield game how Mourhino likes to stamp his authority on players and the likes of Rooney and Martial will be watching this closely. Ibra will score a hatful against smaller teams but questions remain about his ability to do it at top level at 34 years old coming from a poor league.
Summary – Jose has some work to do on his reputation after a few successful but underwhelming stints as Madrid and more recently Chelsea. Always a volatile individual how calm his is in dealing with a lot of big names may decide how United`s season goes.
Prediction – 2nd.
Pros – Pep is a manager who wins on a consistent basis. Similarly to Jose, his reputation took a bit of a beating in his last job despite consistent domestic success. Sane (despite his eye-watering price!) is a fine talent. Gundogan, if he can regain his fitness is a great signing. Nolito, while not top level, is a clever addition. As always, if he can stay fit, Augero is the best natural striker in the PL.
Cons – Goal keeper and backline are poor. Despite spending a lot of money there is still no replacement to the injury prone Company and Hart has been poor for awhile with no real competition. Yaya is still capable but games he shows his ability are coming further and further apart.
Summary – Pep`s team play a specific type of high intensity football where all team members will be expected to do their part. It`s a big ask for a team that maybe lacked commitment at times last season but I think that they have the manager to do it. Losing De Bruyne last season was a huge blow, it`s vital that he stays fit.
Koeman, despite continuing questions about his man management skills, will steer Everton to 7th place above last season`s Champions. West Ham and Stoke to complete the top 10.
Rivals – 2016/17