Premier League 2019/2020 Preview and Predictions
Champions: Manchester City
In the past two seasons Pep Guardiola’s men have amassed a staggering 198 points, and if this past weekend’s opening fixture against West Ham is anything to go by, then I’m expecting more of the same. Raheem Sterling seems to have picked up from where he left off last season, and I’m expecting young England star Phil Foden to feature more this season after showing flashes of brilliance last season. Pep has already described him as the most talented player that he’s ever seen, and that’s coming from someone who has coached the likes of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta.
Legendary captain Vincent Kompany has left the club to return to Belgium, but the acquisition of Rodri for a club record fee, and the retention of Leroy Sane, means that Man City remain a squad with a top class player in every position. I fully expect another high points total and a third title win in a row.
Runners Up: Liverpool
Liverpool broke their own records last season, but ultimately fell short on the final day. The title drought has now stretched to 29 years, and I’m expecting it to be 30 by next May. Will they run City as close this season? All will depend on the goalscoring form of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane. The defensive leadership of Virgil Van Dijk will also be crucial in terms of shepherding the back four. Jordan Henderson is of course the club captain, but I’ve always regarded Van Dijk as more of a natural leader.
It’s been a quiet summer for the Reds, although the acquisition of Adrian on a free from West Ham has proven to be a wise bit of business, given Alisson’s injury. Personally I don't think they'll be able to do enough to overhaul City, they’ll still finish second but it will be tough for them to maintain that level of consistency for a second year. I expect Liverpool to be some way off the pace.
Third and Fourth: Manchester United & Tottenham Hotspur
Whilst the top two places are easy to predict the rest of the top four involved a great deal of thought. Well, maybe fourth, as I feel Manchester United should secure third and perhaps even bridge the 25 point gap that separated second and third last season. The Red Devils have spent big, and in Harry Maguire have a world class centre half and a future captain. Young Daniel James also looks like an excellent addition from Swansea. I fancy Rashford to have a strong goal scoring season, and with Lukaku gone, Martial should have more chances after effectively being frozen out by Mourniho. Paul Pogba for me remains a problem; his footballing ability makes him world class, but his personality has proven to be the difference between managers keeping and losing their jobs. If results don’t go United’s way then don’t be surprised if relations between the Frenchman and Solskjaer break down.
Fourth spot was a much tighter call for me. At one point I even had Leicester to break into the top four, but the loss of Maguire may derail any lofty ambitions the Foxes may have had. Still, they know all about defying the odds. Personally though, I think fourth will be a straight contest between the two North London Clubs- Tottenham and Arsenal, with the former pipping their rivals to the final Champions League spot. Spurs of course have Harry Kane who will provide the goals. Keeping Christian Eriksen was also a key move and the addition of Ndombele looks a great piece of business. Ryan Sessegnon was a much hyped player this time last year after starring for Fulham in the Championship, but obviously found his first taste of the Premier League a rather sobering experience. However, now surrounded by a far better players, his obvious talent should shine through. The only thing I will say in a negative capacity about Spurs is the decision to sell Kieran Trippier for a ‘measly’ £20 million could come back to haunt them. I personally rate him very lightly and certainly wouldn’t have accepted anything less than £70 million for him.
Fifth and Sixth: Arsenal and Chelsea
Arsenal should claim fifth place, and the addition of David Luiz to the defensive line should add something Arsenal have lacked for many years- genuine leadership. Kieran Tierney has been one of Celtic’s standout players in recent years, so I’ll be curious to see how he copes with the rigours and demands of English Football. Club record signing Nicholas Pepe should not only provide service to the front two, but also chip in with a few goals too. Both Lacazette and Aubameyang had strong scoring seasons last time out, and if they can replicate that this season then they’ll push hard for a top four spot.
Chelsea, well, in all honesty they overachieved last season in my view. Now they are a club operating with an inexperienced manager and a transfer ban. Don’t get me wrong I like Frank Lampard. I love the fact that a top six club have given an English manager a chance, but as great as he was as a player, he is still an inexperienced manager. That being said, I do want him to succeed and prove my doubts wrong. The transfer ban of course has meant that for Chelsea they’ve simply had to sit back and watch stars like Eden Hazard leave. Perhaps more worryingly was the decision to allow experienced captain Gary Cahill leave on a free, and David Luiz leave for a rival club. The transfer ban though will allow young stars like Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi to feature more in the first team. Chelsea just don’t have enough quality at the moment to think about anything else other than staying in the top six.
Best of the Rest: Seventh Place
We’re at a point now with the Premier League where the top six are pretty much cemented in stone, so for the remaining fourteen, it seem that seventh place is the height of their ambitions. Last season, a very exciting Wolverhampton Wanderers team deservedly claimed a spot in the Europa League after finishing seventh in their first season back in the Premier League after a lengthy absence. Can they replicate last year's achievement? Yes they can, but at the same time I’m cautious about their prospects, as many promoted teams do inevitably suffer from second season syndrome. However, Wolves have the cash and the Portuguese influence to boot, so can’t see that fate befalling them.
Everton, with their cash and the additions of Kean, Gomes and Iwobi should be another good shout for seventh, along with West Ham and Leicester. However, in Everton’s case I’m not totally convinced with Marco Silva as a manager. I can quite easily see him getting the sack and maybe Jose Mourniho replacing him. If I had to pick then I would say Leicester- Perez and Tielemans are both excellent signings and Jamie Vardy is still a top quality goal scorer, so for me Leicester will claim seventh place. Bear in mind too that Brendan Rodgers has a knack of improving a team once at the helm. He did it at Swansea, Liverpool and Celtic; I fancy him to do the same at Leicester.
Could Something Like This Happen Again?
Relegation: Who’s Going Down?
Relegation is always hard to predict, but a good starting point is to look at the promoted clubs. Norwich City were outstanding in the Championship last year, but I just don’t feel like they have enough quality to compete at this level. Teemu Puuki will probably score most of their goals, but he will struggle against better defences. Moreover they've elected to rely on loan signings and small transfers and so Norwich are my first pick for relegation. That being said they do say that if it ain't broken, don't fix it. Norwich could surprise everybody.
Sheffield United finished second in the Championship last season and have since broken their transfer record four times. Bringing Phil Jagielka back for his second spell will add experience to their defence, and if Chris Wilder can finally tame the beast that is Ravel Morrison then they could stay up. Billy Sharp for me is the most underrated striker in the country. No man since 2000 has scored more goals than him in English professional football, and I believe that he can score goals at this level. So for me, the Blades will stay up...just.
Aston Villa have invested heavily in the summer, spending £100 million. For me though, bringing back Tyrone Mings and Anwar El Ghazi for relatively little money were wise moves. The capture of Tom Heaton from Burnley for just £8 million may just turn out to be one of the signings of the summer. Heaton was one of Burnley’s outstanding players, but injury cost him his number one spot. However, for me he’s still one of the best goalkeepers in the land. Captain and star player Jack Grealish will face a baptism of fire at this level, especially as he likes to spend a lot of time on the ball. I feel though, that Villa will do enough to stay up this time.
So, apart from Norwich, who do I fancy to go down? Well, this may shock a few people but I’m going to go for Watford. Last season manager Javi Gracia did a sterling job, and fully deserves another shot for seventh place. But, they haven’t added much over the summer, although Danny Welbeck is still a decent player. The fact of the matter is that this team still rely too much on Troy Deeney and he isn’t getting any younger. Moreover, their end of season form was poor, and I feel that many of the players will still be hurting after their Cup Final humiliation.
My final pick for relegation is Southampton. They seemed to have fallen into the trap of just doing enough to avoid relegation without pushing on. This flirtation with danger may work for a while, but history tells us that at some point a team’s luck runs out. The signing that sticks out for me is Che Adams. Being a Birmingham City fan I saw Che first hand a few times and occasionally he looked phenomenal, but there was always that feeling that he only scored as much as he did through the tireless work of Lukas Jutkiewicz. It’ll be interesting to not only see how Che adapts to the Premier League, but also if fellow new striker Danny Ings can rebuild his career after a failed spell with Liverpool.
It’ll be fun finding out regardless, and I daresay that some of my predictions will be wrong.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 James Kenny