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Premier League Preview

PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEW
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Below you will find a preview of all 20 sides in this year’s Premier League.

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ARSENAL

Last Season: 5th
Expected Finish: 7th

Goal Difference: 22
Expected Goal Difference: 7.5

Points: 70
Expected Points: 58.97

Arsenal were one of the biggest over achievers last season based upon the xG statistic. Based upon expected points they were only ranked 7th in the division! Much of that was due to the form of Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang who as well as ending the season as joint leading scorer, also had the best xgoals per 90 mins.

Indeed the stats show that Arsenal were actually worse under Unai Emery than they were under Arsene Wenger’s last season in charge, particularly defensively where they conceded an average of 1.53 xG’s per game. In Wenger’s last season that figure was 1.35.

So with work to do defensively what have Arsenal done in the transfer market?

Players In:

Nicolas Pepe: £72 million
Gabriel Martinelli: Undisclosed
Dani Ceballos (Real Madrid): Loan
William Saliba (Saint Etienne): £27 million
Kieran Tierney (Celtic): £25 million
David Luiz (Chelsea): £8 million

Key Players Out:

David Ospina (Napoli): £3.1 million
Aaron Ramsey (Juventus): Free
Petr Cech (Retired)
Danny Welbeck (Released)
Stephan Liechsteiner (Released)
Carl Jenkinson (Derby): Undisclosed
Laurent Koscielny (Bordeaux) : £4.6 million
Alex Iwobi (Everton): £34 million

For some time the summer did not appear to be going well for Arsenal. With Laurent Koscielny near enough mutineering in order to force a move away the already vulnerable defence was weakened further.

Rumoured to be on a tight budget eyebrows were raised when they purchased centre back William Saliba for £27 million and immediately loaned him back to Saint Etienne for the season. Squandering much of what was apparently such a small budget on a player who wouldn’t help now didn’t seem the wisest of moves although there is no doubting the potential of Saliba.

Those limited budget stories however were blown away when they secured the club record signing if Nicolas Pepe for £72 million from Lille. An explosive pacey winger he is going to add even more potency to an Arsenal attack that already possesses devastation in the form of Aubamayang and Lacazette. Fans will also be excited to see if young Brazilan starlet Gabriel Martinelli can force his want into contention, left wing being his preferred role.

This meant no place for Alex Iwobi who was shipped out last minute to Everton for £34 million to recoup some of those outgoings.

In midfield they will of course be without Aaron Ramsey who has moved to Juventus on a free and his absence will be felt. Little has been done to replace him in the market so will Emery finally manage to unlock Mesut Ozil? Based on last season he simply couldn’t find a role he could consistently performed in as he chopped and changed his system. Does Ozil even have the desire anymore or just happy to pick up his pay cheque, some fans think the latter.

So.. what about the defence, the key area for the Gunners as they attempt to not only get back in the top four but retain a top six place. After a long saga they wrapped up the £25 million signing of full back Kieran Tierney from Celtic and sprung a surprise on the final day by bring in David Luiz from Chelsea for £8 million. Luiz brings experience and a title winning mentality but is he the answer to shore up that back line? At a figure of just £8 million it’s not a bad piece of business but whether he will be able to ‘lead’ that defence is something I would question.

It certainly seems that Arsenal will be going all out for goals this season, they might need to as they still appear somewhat shaky at the back to my reckoning.

 

ASTON VILLA

Last Season: 5th (Championship)
Expected Finish: 5th (Championship)

Goal Difference: 21
Expected Goal Difference: 13.8

Dean Smith performed wonders in turning around Aston Villa in the 2nd half of last season and helped them storm into the play-offs and subsequently secure promotion back to the PL. They appeared to have some fortune as their goal difference exceeded their expected goal difference by over 7 goals.

Perhaps most concerningly, defensively they weren’t all that solid possessing just the 9th best defense in the Championship based on the xG stats.

PLAYERS IN

Wesley (Club Brugges) £22 million
Tyrone Mings (Bournemouth) £20 million
Matt Targett (Southampton) £15 million
Ezri Konsa (Brentford) £12 million
Bjorn Engels (Stade Reims) £9 million
Trezeguet (Kasimpasa) £8.75 million
Tom Heaton (Burnley) £8 million
Anwar El Ghazi (Lille) £8 million
Jota (Birmingham City) £4 million
Kortney Hause (Wolves) £3 million
Doulas Luiz (Manchester City) £15 million
Marvelous Nakamba (Club Brugges) Undisclosed

KEY PLAYERS OUT

Craig Gardner (Birmingham) Undisclosed
Tommy Elphick (Huddersfield) Free
Albert Adohah (Nottingham Forest) Released
Ross McCormack (Released)
Micah Richards (Released)
Glenn Whelan (Released)
Alan Hutton (Released)

Aston Villa’s owners certainly haven’t shirked in the transfer market investing over £120 million in new players. That all sounds fantastic, but when it is spread across twelve players it’s going to be a big ask for all those to gel or indeed be used on a regular basis. That said, several of them were on loan signings made permanent which will help in this process.

Spending such sums is no guarantee of success as was shown by Fulham last season so it will be very important that Villa don’t lose their identity as they integrate the new players. The question will be, are they players brought in going to be good enough to compete in the PL? Most have come from lesser leagues/clubs so it’s vital that they have got their scouting spot on or things could go wrong very very quickly.

Dean Smith has stated they will continue to play in an attacking style and they will be relying on goals coming from midfield, particularly as their top scorer from last season had just nine goals.

They’ve spent £22 million on Wesley to address this issue but he hasn’t been exactly prolific with a record of 35 goals in 117 appearances for previous side Genk in the Belgian League.

It was vitally important they held onto Jack Grealish which they have managed to do and they’ve splashed out on Tyrone Mings who impressed at the bed rock of their defence.

Overall there are so many questions over this Villa side it is difficult to say how they will perform. If absolutely everything goes to plan and the majority of the new signings settle in well they can aim for a lower mid table finish but with a potentially shaky defence and no guarantee of goals I foresee a relegation battle ahead.

BOURNEMOUTH

Last Season: 14th
Expected Finish: 10th

Goal Difference: -14
Expected Goal Difference: -6.58

Points: 45
Expected Points: 51.49

After several seasons of mid table safety, which for a club of their size was fantastic, Bournemouth went for it last season splashing out some £80 million in the market in an attempt to push for a top half finish. Their eventual finishing position of 14th was seen as something of a disappointment.

The underlying stats though show they were somewhat unlucky. Expected points showed they deserved to finish 11th and much of this can be explained by conceding 7.5 goals more than their xG’s against figure suggested.

That being said, their defence was pretty porous despite their bad luck with only the bottom two sides conceding more goals.

PLAYERS IN

Lloyd Kelly (Bristol City) £13 million
Jack Stacey (Luton Town) £4 million
Phillip Billing (Huddersfield) £15 million
Arnaut Danjuma (Club Brugges) £13.7 million

KEY PLAYERS OUT

Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa) £20 million
Lys Mousset (Sheffield United) £10 million

 

Bournemouth have been much less extravagant in the market this season with a net spend of around £15 million. They’ve addressed their defensive issues with the signing of Lloyd Kelly, a full back who is 6’3 and expected to move to centre half eventually. Other key signings are midfielder Phillip Billing from Huddersfield and winger Arnaut Danjuma from Club Brugge.

Perhaps the biggest achievement of the window is them holding on to both Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson who once again will be key to their success. Fraser was by far their most creative player, creating almost double the opportunities of their next best player whilst Wilson of course is their man to put the ball in the back of the net.

This season I foresee something very similar to the last. They are too well drilled to be worried about being sucked into a relegation battle but I don’t believe they possess the overall consistency and defensive nous to challenge the top 10 unless their new signings prove to be major hits.

 

BRIGHTON

 

Last Season: 17th
Expected Finish: 18th

Goal Difference: -25
Expected Goal Difference: -25.43

Points: 36
Expected Points: 36.19

 

There were many who felt Chris Hughton was harshly treated when dismissed at the end of last season but I’m not one of them. If it weren’t for a particularly unlucky campaign for Cardiff then the Seagulls would have been relegated and an increasingly negative Hughton would have been to blame. Towards the end of the season they were making little to no effort to actually score a goal and rode their luck in several games.

The owners decided they had seen enough and replaced Hughton with Swansea manage Graham Potter. Potter will bring a much more expansive style of football and comes in on the back of a season where Swansea really didn’t garner the results they deserved having been the 4th best team in the EFL based on xpected Goal difference.

PLAYERS IN

Adam Webster (Bristol City) £20 million
Leandro Trossard (Genk) £18 million
Matt Clarke (Portsmouth) £5 million
Taylor Richards (Man City) £5 million
Neal Maupay (Brentford) £20 million

KEY PLAYERS OUT

Bruno (retired)
Anthony Knockaert (Fulham) Loan
Markus Suttner (Fortuna Dusseldorf) Undisclosed

Brighton have long been reliant on veteran Glenn Murray for their goals and they have addressed this with the signings of Neal Maupay who scored 25 goals for Brentford last season and Leandro Trossard who bagged 22 for Genk.

It’s a signal of the attacking intent that Potter will show as Brighton fans can look forward to seeing the back of game after game of parking the bus. Of course, they will still need to be defensively sound especially against some of the bigger teams but they now have the players on board to effectively attack.

Another key factor will be getting the best out of the players signed in the previous close season who never really got going last season.. time will show whether that was due to them simply not being good enough or not being allowed to show their talents in the rigid system Hughton employed.

Some think Hughton performed wonders in keeping Brighton up, the owners felt they could do better given the investment. Potters style of play could be a risk if things begin to go wrong but I think they have the experience and potential to avoid a relegation battle this season.. but not by much!

 

BURNLEY

 

Last Season: 15th
Expected Finish: 15th

Goal Difference: -23
Expected Goal Difference: -21.38

Points: 40
Expected Points: 42.00

It was almost inevitable that it would be a case of after the Lord Mayors show for Burnley following their 7th place finish the previous season. Europa League football meant their season started early and with minimal investment and a small squad it certainly didn’t seem to help them.

They made a decent fist of things in Europe overcoming Aberdeen and Istanbul Basaksehir before losing out to Olympiakos in the play off round.

Their league form was woeful with just three wins in the first half of the season before hitting an eight game unbeaten run at the turn of the year to steady the ship.

Crucially they won the big games against their relegation rivals and in the end that was enough to ensure their survival.

 

PLAYERS IN

Jay Rodriguez (WBA) £10 million
Erik Pieters (Stoke) £3 million
Ryan Cooney (Bury) Undisclosed
Bailey Peacock-Farrell (Leeds Utd) £2.5 million
Danny Drinkwater (Chelsea) Loan

KEY PLAYERS OUT

Peter Crouch (Retired)
Jon Walters (Retired)
Stephen Ward (Stoke) Free
Tom Heaton (Aston Villa) £8 millon

With very little investment in the summer it is going to be ‘same again’ for Burnley in the coming season. It’s a tried and trusted system they have under Sean Dyche but questions have to be asked how much longer they can maintain it when teams around them are strengthening.

Personally I think a little bit too much emphasis was placed on the European adventure for the poor form Burnley showed in the first half of last season and those problems may present themselves again this.

Defensively they are nowhere near as sound as they once were, conceding 68 goals compared to just 39 the year before. They did actually score nine more goals showing perhaps a more open way of playing… one that may not be to their benefit.

Their main signing of the summer is Jay Rodriguez, a somewhat injury prone player who has never lived up to his early potential.

They will fight, scrap and battle to the very end but whether it will be enough this season remains to be seen.

 

CHELSEA

 

Last Season: 3rd
Expected Finish: 3rd

Goal Difference: 24
Expected Goal Difference: 25.86

Points: 72
Expected Points: 71.45

Chelsea enjoyed a successful season, finishing 3rd in the PL and winning the Europa League to secure Champions League football. It wasn’t enough for some though and manager Maurizio Sarri has moved on to Juventus, hardly a step down in itself.

PLAYERS IN

Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid) £40 million

KEY PLAYERS OUT

Eden Hazard (Real Madrid) £88 million
Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid) £58 million
Ola Aina (Torino) £8.9 million
David Luiz (Arsenal) £8 million
Tomas Kalas (Bristol City) £8 million
Gary Cahill (Released)

New manager Frank Lampard has returned to the club where he made his name to some fanfare but what a position he finds himself in. Unable to sign anyone due to a transfer market ban the only business Chelsea have been able to do is wrap of the signing of Mateo Kovavic who spent last season on loan. There is also the arrival of Christian Pulisic for £58 million in a deal struck before the transfer ban was enforced.

There have been a lot of hype about Lampard with some pointing towards an excellent season with Derby but for me he has much to prove. The underlying xg stats at Derby showed they were very fortunate indeed to finish in the playoffs with a position just below the middle of the table a more deserving position. Whether Lampard would have secured the role with such a finish is open to question.

Outgoing of course is Eden Hazard and the importance of that loss cannot be under estimated. He contributed 16 goals and 15 assists last season, over three times more than the next best player in the squad. That kind of output is gong to be prove to be tremendously difficult to replace.

Then on transfer deadline day David Luiz was shipped of to Arsenal for just £8 million.

Lampard is clearly going to be placing a lot of emphasis on youth with strikers such as Tammy Abraham who netted 25 for Aston Villa on loan last season expected to pick up some of the slack. Relying on a player unproven at PL Level for a big four club is a major change for the club.

Chelsea must build for the future by introducing their talented youngsters alongside the more experienced likes of Willian, Pedro, Giroud, Kante etc. They still have a decent core but with the loss of Hazard their top four position is very very vulnerable indeed.

CRYSTAL PALACE

 

Last Season: 12th
Expected Finish: 10th

Goal Difference: -2
Expected Goal Difference: -2.16

Points: 49
Expected Points: 51.93

After a somewhat stutter start to the season Palace eventually found their feet and finished comfortably clear of relegation in 12th place. It was a deserved position as xpts showed they performed well enough to finish 10th in the table.

Manager Roy Hodgson is of course extremely experienced and he knows how to get the best out of this side who on their day can beat anyone as their shock win at Manchester City showed.

PLAYERS IN

Jorday Ayew (Swansea) £2.5 million
Gary Cahill (Free)
Victor Camaras (Real Betis) Loan
James McCarthy (Everton) £3 million

KEY PLAYERS OUT

Aaron Wan-Bisaka (Man Utd) £50 million
Jason Puncheon (Released)
Julian Speroni (Released)

The biggest news of the summer for Palace fans was not who came in but who didn’t go out as the will he-won’t he saga with Wilfred Zaha eventually ending with him staying at the club.. at least till January anyway!

Keeping hold of Zaha was vital for Palace as he offers them that something different and the cutting edge that can help pick up vital pts. They have lost young full back Aaron Wan-Bisaka who has moved to Old Trafford but haven’t re-invested that money in the squad which must be to the chagrin of manager Roy Hodgson.

As such with little change to their overall squad it will be more of the same from Palace this season with Luka Milivojevic, the afore mentioned Zaha and Andros Townsend expected to provide the bulk of the creativity and goals whilst they will be hoping for more from Michy Batshuayi this season.

At the back they have picked up the experienced Gary Cahill and have kept hold of the vastly under rated Mahmadou Sahko. I don’t think they’ll be in any danger but will struggle to replicate last season.

EVERTON

 

Last Season: 8th
Expected Finish: 9th

Goal Difference: 8
Expected Goal Difference: 4.56

Points: 54
Expected Points: 55.54

 

Everton in 8th place you say? That’s becoming the norm for them now as they have finished 7th or 8th three seasons running. Of course their aim is to take that elusive next and get back into the ‘big time’ of European Football.. and that means the top six.

Manager Marco Silva was brought in and hopes were high he would be the man to do that but for quite a portion of last season it began to look like he was clinging onto his job as after a bright start they suffered an awful run of form from December through to February during which they won just three games.

From there though things began to click and by the end of the season their fans were being delighted by some great football with home wins over Chelsea, Arsenal and Man Utd (4-0) coming in the final eight games of the season.

PLAYERS IN

Moises Kean (Juventus) Undisclosed
Andre Gomes (Barcelona) £22 million
Fabian Delph (Everton) £8.5 million
Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) £34 million

KEY PLAYERS OUT

Nikola Vlasic (CSKA Moscow) £14 million
Ademola Lookman (Leipzig) £22.5 million
Idrissa Gueye (PSG) £30 million
Phil Jagielka (Sheffield Utd) Free

Everton fans were perhaps hoping for a little more from the window but they are hamstrung somewhat by the excessive spending of previous managers and a squad on very high wages.

They’ve moved out a couple of those in Vlasic and Lookman and another in Idriss Gueye who will be far more of a miss after putting in stellar performances last season.

To compensate they have brought in the exciting Moises Kean from Juventus. At just 19 years old he has bags of potential and could be that elusive goalscoring forward they need.

Andre Gomes has turned his loan into a permanent move after an excellent debut season and the experienced Fabian Delph has been brought in for what could be a bargain at £8.5 million. Delph should provide a defence that is stretched at times some valuable cover.

Finally they sprung a late surprise with the last minute signing of Alex Iwobi from Arsenal, this after pursuing Zaha from Palace for much of the summer. Getting Iwobi for near to half the price Palace wanted could prove a smart piece of business.

The foundations are there for Everton, if Kean comes off they could really push hard for a place in the top six. With Arsenal, Utd and Chelsea all looking vulnerable they will see this as a golden chance to bring European Football back to the club.

LEICESTER

 

Last Season: 9th
Expected Finish: 8th

Goal Difference: 3
Expected Goal Difference: 7.47

Points: 52
Expected Points: 56.24

Leicester’s season was obviously over shadowed by the tragic helicopter crash that ripped the soul out of the club.

On the field it proved to be the end of the road for Claude Puel who although not doing a bad job simply wasn’t exciting or expansive enough for a club which has so recently tasted such heights.

Puel struggled to get any attacking consistency into the side but it could be argued he didn’t quite have the personel to do that. Most notably one of his final acts was the on loan signing of Youri Tielemans who showed in a dozen games what a talent he is.

Puel was of course replaced by Brendan Rogers and with Tielemans at his disposal he was able to use him to play a much faster game utilizing the strengths of Jamie Vardy who rediscovered his goalscoring touch with ten goals in the final eleven games after just eight in his first twenty-five.

PLAYERS IN

Youri Tielemans (Monaco) £40 million
Ayoze Perez (Newcastle) £30 million
James Justin (Luton) Undisclosed
Vontae Daley-Campbell (Arsenal) Undisclosed

KEY PLAYERS OUT

Harry Maguire (Man Utd) £80 million
Shinji Okazaki (Malaga) Free
Danny Simpson (Released)

The window started superbly for Leicester with them wrapping up the permanent signing of the aforementioned Tielemans. They they added Ayoze Perez who impressed so much at Newcastle in the second half of last season. This will help to take the pressure of James Vardy and give them another option going forwards.

With creative talents such as James Maddison and Harvey Baines to call upon plus winger Marc Albrighton the Foxes are going to be a danger to anyone when going forwards. They also possess two excellent full backs in Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira.

Throw in Wilfred Ndidi sitting at the base of the midfield to offer protection and Rodgers must have high hopes this team can produce the goods.

Now comes the burning question… how will they cope with the loss of Harry Maguire. They don’t have a lot of cover and will be relying on Jonny Evans (who isn’t getting any younger) and likely the 35 year old Wes Morgan at the heart of the defence. Whether Morgan has the legs for another PL season is questionable indeed and they may have to turn to either Caglar Soyuncu and Filip Benkovic, both players of undoubted potential.. but potential is not always realized.

Clearly Leicester were chasing a centre half all summer, even before Maguire departed, but failed to land their target.

That said, there is little doubt they will be in that crop of teams, usually known as ‘best of the rest’ but this season with hopes of gatecrashing that top six party. I don’t see them repeating their ultimate gate crash of a few years back but they’ll certainly close that gap on the top six.. if not break into it.

 

LIVERPOOL

 

Last Season: 2nd
Expected Finish: 2nd

Goal Difference: 67
Expected Goal Difference: 50.31

Points: 97
Expected Points: 83.45

Will Liverpool ever break that hoodoo and finally win the Premier League? They can’t do much more than last season when amassing 97pts was still only enough for 2nd place behind Manchester City. That said, the underlying stats do show they were somewhat fortunate to achieve that amount of pts as they ended with almost 14pts than they deserved, the largest in the league.

They did of course gain that small consolation of winning their sixth Champions League title.. so it wasn’t all that bad after all!

PLAYERS IN

Sepp Van Den Berg (PEC Zwolle) £1.3 million
Harvey Elliot (Fulham) Undisclosed
Adrian (West Ham) Free

KEY PLAYERS OUT

Danny Ings (Southampton) £20 million
Alberton Moreno (Villareal) Free
Rafael Camacho (Sporting Lisbon) £5 million
Daniel Sturridge (Released)
Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge) £6.4 million

No major incomings or outgoings means it is more of the same for Liverpool this season. That’s hardly a bad thing given the successes of last season.

In any other period of top flight history (even before PL) they’d be nailed on as favorites but unfortunately they are in an era where there is another super team in Man City. There is little doubt in my mind those two will be head and shoulders above the rest once again.

One plus Liverpool do have is the return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who after missing the whole of last season is effectively like a new signing this. If he can show the form he did at the tail end of 2016/17 he’ll provide a vital attacking weapon from midfield that perhaps they lacked last year.

I expect Naby Keita to kick on and improve after a year settling into life in the Premier League whilst Fabinho, after a rocky start, developed into one of the best defensive midfielders in the league last season and will no doubt only improve.

Defensively of course they are rock solid, boasting the best defence last season. The only worry is potential cover for Van Dijk or Andy Robertson should they suffer injuries, although the versatile James Milner would likely be used to cover.

Importantly their big three up front are all still there with no major European sides tempting them away. The only question mark is can they continue to produce the goods after all three were playing tournament football during the summer.. but let’s be honest, that question can be asked about many players across the big clubs.

 

MAN CITY

 

Last Season: 1st
Expected Finish: 1st

Goal Difference: 72
Expected Goal Difference: 67.99

Points: 98
Expected Points: 90.64

So we come to the champions, Man City. They answered every question posed of them last season as they didn’t falter one single step in the title run in to eventually clinch the league by 1pt. Added to that of course were wins in both the Carabao (League) Cup and FA Cup. An incredible dominant season.

The expected points stat shows they had their fair share of fortune over the season but not as much as 2nd places Liverpool so there is no doubt the title was deserved.

At one stage it looked all over for them as they trailed Liverpool by ten points but a superlative run of form saw them overhaul and edge out their chief rivals.

Even though they won the league, City and Pep Guardiola in particular would have been casting envious glances in Liverpool’s direction as they claimed the Champions League. It’s a strange circumstance but both clubs would I believe gladly swap those trophies this season!

PLAYERS IN

Rodri (Atletico Madrid) £62.8 million
Angelina (PSV) £5.3 million
Zack Steffan (Columbus Crew) £7.2 million
Joao Cancelo (Juventus) £60 million

KEY PLAYERS OUT

Fabian Delph (Everton) £8.5 million
Danilo (Juventus) £34.1 million

City have made two major additions in the market this season.. and they are both good ones. Rodri has joined from Atletico Madrid in a club record fee and has looked impressive in pre-season, whilst Joao Cancelo an attacking right full back joined late on from Juventus with Danilo heading the opposite way.

Some pundits are pointing towards the failure to secure a centre half to replace the Vincent Kompany as a potential weakness but the reality is, Kompany has played so little football the last couple of seasons it isn’t exactly a new situation for them.

Rodri at 6’3 is quite capable of filling in there if necessary and the talk is Fernandinho may be used there too.

Cancelo will obviously offer major competion to Kyle Walker at rightback so perhaps they are thinking of deploying Walker in a more central role where he has played often before (in a back three).

Unfortunately for the rest of the Premier League I can’t see anyone at all, bar Liverpool, getting close to this City side this season and a third successive title is most definitely on the cards.

The Champions League will I’m sure be their main aim and we ‘may’ see some form of sacrifice in the other domestic competitions to ensure they are fully fresh for that target.

 

MAN UTD

 

Last Season: 6th
Expected Finish: 4th

Goal Difference: 11
Expected Goal Difference: 16.32

Points: 66
Expected Points: 61.86

 

After replacing Jose Mourinho Utd went on a surge under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer to invoke hopes of Champions League qualification. Unfortunately those hopes petered out and they ended the season in woeful form suffering some awful defeats including 4-0 at Everton and losing at home to Cardiff.

Defensively they were poor, conceding 54 goals, only 11th best in the PL and that is something Solksjaer is going to have to address if he hopes to restore some form of glory to the Old Trafford club.

PLAYERS IN

Harry Maguire (Leicester) £80 million
Aaron Wan-Basaka (Crystal Palace) £50 million
Daniel James (Swansea) £15 million

KEY PLAYERS OUT

Ander Herrera (PSG) Free
Antonio Valencia (Released)
Roman Lukaku (Inter) £74 million

After the initial euphoria of Solksjaer’s arrival Man Utd ended last season as a shambles and I remain to be convinced they will be any better this term.

I am firmly in the camp of those who believe this job is to big for Solksjaer and that he will be found wanting and the collapse in form at the end of last season only re-enforces that view.

The summer was spent waiting for Paul Pogba to leave. That hasn’t happened which has prevented Utd from spending big elsewhere. Pogba at his best can be talismanic… at his worst he can be cancerous. A bad or indifferent start could quickly see the cancerous Pogba emerge especially as it has been quite apparent he wanted away. Should that happen Solksjaer could find himself in trouble.

The Utd defence last season was porous and they’ve attempted to address it with their two big money signings of Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Basaka. Maguire has massive pressure to live up to the £80 million and worlds most expensive defender tag… but then again, it didn’t effect Virgil Van Dijk who has been a far bigger success at Liverpool than anyone could have imagined.

Wan-Basaka is an exciting prospect both for the present and the future and should lock down his full back position.

Not only are there questions marks defensively, they remain in an attacking sense. The much maligned and now departed Romalu Lukaku was still the clubs top scorer last season and Marcus Rashford simply must step up and start to score more regularly for Utd to have success.

With an aging Matic, a Mata who doesn’t seem to fit into Solksjaer’s plans, Lingard whom they don’t seem to know where to play for the best the side has question marks all over it. As said, I don’t believe Solksjaer is the man to solve them…. I may be wrong, we will see!

As it stands, although they will still be in the mix for the top six and possibly top four, they are vulnerable to the improving teams below.

 

NEWCASTLE

 

Last Season: 13th
Expected Finish: 16th

Goal Difference: -6
Expected Goal Difference: -17.64

Points: 45
Expected Points: 39.22

 

Another season of strife as the Ashley circus continues at Newcastle. After toying with a relegation battle Newcastle did eventually steer their way clear to finish a respectable 13th. The xG stats show however they were somewhat fortunate to do so picking up almost six more pts than their performances deserved.

 

PLAYERS IN

Joelinton (Hoffenheim) £40 million
Allan Saint-Maximin (Nice) £16.5 million
Jetro Williams (Eintracht Frankfurt) Loan
Andy Carroll (West Ham) Free
Jake Turner (Bolton) Undisclosed
Emil Krath (Amiens) Undisclosed

The will he won’t he saga finally ended with Rafa Benitez packing his bags for China much to the chagrin of the Newcastle faithful. With season ticket sales down by some 10,000 and boycotts planned for the opening home games of the season it’s a nightmare in what should be a dream scenario for life long Toon fan Steve Bruce.

Most would agree that Bruce is not the same caliber of manager of Benitez which puts Newcastle on the back foot from the off. Factor in the fortune they enjoyed last season and if you’re a Toon fan you’re beginning to look over your shoulder… but then thrown in that your two leading scorers from last season in Solomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez and things begin to look bleak indeed.

Enter Joelinton.. Mike Ashley finally splashed the money and brought in the 21 year old Brazilian for £40 million pounds. However, he has never scored more than eight goals in a season so it is a hefty price tag to carry around his shoulders especially when he will be looked upon as the ‘saviour’ of the season. If.. and it’s a big if he can hit it of with Miguel Almiron then Newcastle might be ok, but I have my doubts and can only see a relegation battle ahead.

Then again Andy Carroll may stay fit all season and form a formidable partnership with Joelinton and I might win the lottery on Saturday night too.

 

NORWICH

 

Last Season: 1st (Championship)
Expected Finish: 3rd (Championship)

Goals: 93
Expected Goals: 76.8

Norwich clinched promotion to the Premier League by winning the Championship last season. The stats show they enjoyed their share of fortune as they were only the 3rd best team in the league and scored over 16 goals more than their xG, a figure that would have been almost impossible to repeat in the Championship, never mind the Premier League.

That said, they were an attractive side who played good football under an outstanding coach that resulted in a season to remember for fans.

 

PLAYERS IN

Sam Byram (West Ham) £750,000
Aidan Fitzpatrick (Partick) £350,000
Daniel Adshead (Rochdale) £300,000
Rocky Bushuri (KV Oostende) £100,000
Archie Mair (Aberdeen) Undisclosed
Rob Nizet (Anderlecht) Undisclosed
Josip Drmic (Borussia Monchengladbach) Free

PLAYERS OUT

Steven Naismith (Hearts) Free
Marcel Franke (Hannover) Undisclosed
Nelson Oliveira (AEK Athens) Free
Ben Marshall (Released)

As can be seen from their expenditure Norwich have a tremendous task in order to survive this season. Their free flowing, exciting football could be exposed by the more efficient, ruthless opposition they will face.

They are some clear warning signs, we’ve covered they scored far more than they were entitled too last season but they also only had the leagues 8th best defense, unusual for a team who picked up 94 pts. They were vulnerable from set pieces and lost the ball more than any other team in the division. It is far harder to win it back in the Premier League and of course you will get punished far more.

Unfortunately for the Canaries I can’t see them doing enough to survive this season unless they can hit the ground running and ride upon the wave of confidence last season brought them. They will certainly have their good days and no doubt some decent wins on the way but I foresee some heavy defeats also.

SHEFFIELD UNITED

 

Last Season: 2nd (Championship)
Expected Finish: 2nd (Championship)

Sheffield United are finally back in the top flight 12 years after they were infamously relegated by Carlos Tevez who was illegally playing for West Ham at the time.

Chris Wilder has done a tremendous job to lead the club from League One to the Premier League in just three seasons and the underlying stats showed that it was deserved.

PLAYERS IN

Oli McBurnie (Swansea) £17.5 million
Lys Mousset (Bournemouth) £10 million
Callum Robinson (Preston) £6 million
Luke Freeman (QPR) £5 million
Ravel Morrison (Unattached)
Ben Osborn (Nottingham Forest) £3 million
Dean Henderson (Man Utd) Loan
Phil Jagielka (Everton) Free

KEY PLAYERS OUT

No major sales

It’s been an exciting summer for Blades fans as they have broken their transfer record on four occasions! They’ve opted to go for exciting talents, mostly proven at Championship level. The big test of course is if they are able to step up.

Luke Freeman is an attacking midfielder that has been highly rated for the past 3-4 years whilst Callum Robinson had a great season for Preston last year.

Lys Mousset brings a degree of Premier League experience whilst Oli McBurnie will be looked to for goals having netted 22 for Swansea last season.

Phil Jagielka returns to the club 12 years after leaving and will offer invaluable experience.

This will be Wilder’s biggest test yet. He has worked absolute wonders thus far and if he can manage to avoid relegation this season he will have done it again. The fans are certainly behind them with record season ticket sales.

SOUTHAMPTON

 

Last Season: 16th
Expected Finish: 13th

Goal Difference: -20
Expected Goal Difference: -9.60

Points: 39
Expected Points: 45.11

Southampton were certainly one of the more unlucky sides over the course of last season, conceding 10 more goals than would have been expected resulting in six less pts. It certainly played a part in the dismissal of Mark Hughes early in the season as they found themselves one from bottom with just nine points from their first sixteen matches.

In came Ralph Hasenhuttl who managed to steady the ship and lead them out of danger to eventually finish in 16th place.

PLAYERS IN

Danny Ings (Liverpool) £20 million
Che Adams (Birmingham) £15 million
Moussa Djenepeo (Standard Liege) £14 million
Kevin Danso (Augsburg) Loan

KEY PLAYERS OUT

Matt Targett (Aston Villa) £11.5 million
Charlie Austin (WBA) £4 million
Steven Davis (Rangers) Free

One of Southampton’s most pressing issues in recent times has been a lack of goals and they have attempted to address that with the signing of Che Adams from Birmingham. Alongside him will no doubt be Danny Ings who has been signed permanently after his loan spell last season.

Their other key addition is young Mali winger Moussa Denjepeo who again will offer an attacking threat.

It looked likely that midfielder Mario Lemina would be leaving but Wolves and Southampton couldn’t come to an agreement with Wolves wanting a loan deal with an option to buy and Southampton wanting it to be mandatory.

Hasenhuttl will be hoping to get off to a better start this season and keep the spectre of the bottom three at bay. Based on his efforts last season and the squad he has I don’t think they will be in any trouble, but a lower mid table position is the absolute best they can achieve.

 

TOTTENHAM

 

Last Season: 4th
Expected Finish: 5th

Goal Difference: 28
Expected Goal Difference: 12.60

Points: 71
Expected Points: 61.44

 

Tottenham became the first club in 16 years not to sign a single player in the transfer window and as such the doom mongers were out in force but they were soon silenced. Although they tailed off slightly in the league (who wouldn’t with the pace Liverpool and Man City finished at) they still finished a creditable fourth to set up another shot at Champions League football.

Speaking of which, they exceeded all expectations there of course, winning a thrilling quarter final with Man City, completing a stunning comeback against Ajax in the semis only to fall to Liverpool in the final.

Their xG figures show they did enjoy a fair amount of fortune picking up almost 10pts more than deserved and scoring over 15 goals more than xG, figures that would prove very difficult to repeat.

PLAYERS IN

Tanguy Ndombele (Lyon) £53.8 million
Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham) £25 million
Jack Clake (Leeds) £8.5 million
Kion Etete (Notts County) £200,000

KEY PLAYERS OUT

Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid) £20 million
Vincent Janssen (Monterrey) £6.3 million
Jack Clarke (Leeds) Loan
Michel Vorm (Released)

Despite a fantastic season last year it was clear that Tottenham couldn’t afford another summer of non investment as they certainly enjoyed their fair share of luck.

The board has responded and brought in two key players, the very highly rated Tanguy Ndombele and the exciting youngster Ryan Sessegnon. A third was added as a loan deal was struck with Real Betis for £50 million + rated Giovani Lo Celso with an option to buy at the end of the seasons.

The signings of Ndombele and Lo Celso will give them that extra cutting edge from midfield, having the ability to go past players and also provide that killer ball which the likes of Harry Kane, Lucas Moura and Son Heung-Min to thrive upon.

Another key advantage is of course Tottenham will begin their season at their new home having to wait almost the entirety of last season before doing so. They will be intent on turning it into a fortress.

They’ve managed to keep hold of their key players, including Christian Eriksen who was widely expected to move on. It is key that he remains focused and maintains his level of performance as it seems apparent he wanted a new challenge. There is still time for that as the European window is still open and players can be bought from PL clubs.

Their weakest area could be defensively. They conceded 39 last season, 16 more than Man City and 17 more than Liverpool… and 13 more than the previous season when they came 2nd. The only change in this area is the departure of Kieran Trippier and the signing of Sessegnon who is more offensive minded… as such these problems may still exist.

All that being said, I think this Tottenham side will be stronger than last years although not strong enough to get close enough to City or Liverpool. They’ll be aided by the issues facing Chelsea, Arsenal and Utd and a CL spot should be comfortable enough for them.

 

WATFORD

 

Last Season: 11th
Expected Finish: 12th

Goal Difference: -7
Expected Goal Difference: -11.56

Points: 50
Expected Points: 46.00

 

What a season Watford enjoyed. Tipped for relegation by many pundits they stormed our of the blocks winning their first four matches and remained embroiled in a battle for the ‘best of the rest’ for much of the season. To top it off they had their epic comeback from 2-0 down against Wolves in the FA Cup Semi before going down with a whimper in the Final.

Unfortunately that semi final win appeared to be the pinnacle as their form slipped afterwards. Wolves gained revenge winning at Vicarage Road and they lost their last three games of the season, prior to being destroyed by City at Wembley.

The xG figures show they did enjoy some fortune along the way so it won’t be an easy feat to repeat.

PLAYERS IN

Craig Dawson (WBA) £5.5 million
Bayli Spencer-Adams (Arsenal) Free
Tom Dele-Bashiru (Man City) Free
Danny Welbeck (Unattached) Free
Ismaila Sarr (Rennes) Undisclosed

KEY PLAYERS OUT

Obbi Oulare (Standard Liege) Undisclosed
Jerome Sinclair (Venlo) Loan
Marc Navarro (Leganes) Loan

After what looked like being a quiet transfer window with only £5.5 million spent on Craig Dawson, Watford finally got their man with the signing of Ismaila Sarr from Rennes. Sarr is a 21 year old forward who can play on either flank, possesses pace, skill and trickery and should certainly be an asset.

Another risk free signing they have made is Danny Welbeck. IF they can keep him fit they have got an absolute bargain, but that’s a big if.

The core of Javi Garcia’s side remains but it will be crucial they shake of any lingering hangover from their end of season performances. Repeating what they did last season positionally wise may be possible but I don’t foresee them challenging for the top half positions again purely due to the strength (and indeed their strengthening) of the other clubs around them.

 

WEST HAM

 

Last Season: 10th
Expected Finish: 14th

Goal Difference: -3
Expected Goal Difference: -17.70

Points: 52
Expected Points: 43.72

West Ham on their day were a test for the best sides in the league but they also could look absolutely awful, particularly against the more physical sides. They enjoyed a great deal of fortune, conceding 14 less goals than expected and tallying over 8pts more, figures which will prove very difficult to repeat.

Much of that was down to the excellent season Lukasz Fabianski enjoyed but the reality was he faced some 25% more shots than those of teams around them in the league, something that needs to be addressed.

PLAYERS IN

Sebastien Haller (Eintracht Frankfurt) £45 million
Pablo Fornals (Villareal) £24 million
Albian Ajeti (Basel) £8 million
Roberto (Espanyol) Free

KEY PLAYERS OUT

Marco Arnautovic (Shanghai) £22.4 million
Lucas Perez (Alaves) £2.21 million
Pedro Obiang (Sassuolo) £8 million
Sam Byram (Norwich) £750,000
Edimilson Fernandes (Mainz) Undisclosed
Adrian (Liverpool) Free
Andy Carroll (Released)

This off season finally saw the departure of Marco Arnautovic, likely a good thing as having a player who wants away around isn’t good for morale. With Lucas Perez and Andy Carroll also headed through the exit door it left them woefully short in attacking options. This was resolved with their big money signing of the close season in Sebastien Haller. Haller is described as the ‘complete’ striker offering a goal scoring threat as well as the ability to bring others into the game. They will certainly be reliant on him hitting the ground running and should he be injured they may lack in cover.

Xpected Goals Against showed West Ham to be the 5th worst side in the division last season, a figure they must address if they are challenge for the ‘best of the rest’ or even a top six spot. With Pellegrini stating he plans to play an even more expansive game and nobody really coming in to assist in this area massive pressure falls on young Declan Rice to provide the protection for the back four. Other key new signing Pablo Fornals is another attacking midfielder.

West Ham will be exciting to watch this season with Haller complemented by Brazilian Anderson in his second season, Lanzini and new signing Fornals. Behind them Mark Noble is another year older and with the every present fitness issues over Jack Wilshere they lack that bit of pace and bite in the midfield.

Overall I don’t see any danger of relegation looking over their shoulders but I can’t see them being quite strong enough to challenge the higher echelons of the league. Mid table obscurity seems their best bet!

 

WOLVES

 

Last Season: 7th
Expected Finish: 6th

Goal Difference: 1
Expected Goal Difference: 10.37

Points: 57
Expected Points: 59.91

“Nuno had a dream” sing the Wolves fans and his dream has certainly been a good one now lasting two years. After blitzing the Championship ‘his way’ with his combination of Portuguese youngsters and re-invigorated Championship stalwarts all eyes were on them.

It’s no secret the club has grandiose ambitions with plans to become one of the worlds very best in the years to come. Talk is cheap however and it’s been seen from many clubs before, although few with the resources of the clubs owners Fosun.

Their ambition was signed with arguably one of the signings of the season when they landed Joao Moutinho for just £5 million.

Overall, their season was better than even their most optimistic fans could have hoped for although they would have been devastated to give away a 2-0 lead in the FA Cup Final.

What followed however was a mark of the team and its management. Many clubs would have folded and seen the season out at that point, but not this side. They regrouped and came back stronger securing 7th place and Europa League football.

That position was no fluke either, indeed Wolves suffered their share of bad luck and all underlying stats show they should have finished in the top six!

PLAYERS IN

Raul Jimenez (Benfica) £30 million
Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht) £12 million
Bruno Jordao/Petro Neto (Lazio) £18 million
Patrick Cutrone (AC Milan) £16 million
Jesus Vallejo (Real Madrid) Loan
Meritan Shabani (Bayern Munich) Undisclosed

KEY PLAYERS OUT

Kortney Hause (Aston Villa) £3 million
Helder Costa (Leeds) Loan
Ivan Cavaleiro (Fulham) Loan
Rafa Mir (Nottingham Forest) Loan
Niall Ennis (Doncaster) Loan
Will Norris (Ipswich) Loan

Wolves transfer window perhaps wasn’t quite as explosive as some fans would have hoped. They had already agreed to the permanent transfers of Raul Jiminez and Leander Dendoncker and added to those ranks with the signings of young Italian Patrick Cutrone and Spanish U21 captain Jesus Vallejo came on loan from Real Madrid. Just the fact of signing players from Real Madrid, AC Milan and Bayern Munich shows how far this club has come in the last few seasons!

They were linked with numerous other big names over the summer and seemingly actively pursued players such as Ruben Dias (Benfica) and Frank Kessie (AC Milan) but a combination of the selling clubs wanting too much (Benfica) and the player wanting too higher wages (Kessie) meant neither came off. This shows Wolves won’t break their structure or be held to ransom. Character of player seems as important as ability and it is a policy that has worke

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