Football hasn’t started yet, the Brewers are choking, and last time I checked, the NBA is still boring. The only thing keeping me awake this week is the start of English Premier League
football soccer this weekend. With that being said, here are my predictions for how the table will finish at the end of the season.
20. Huddersfield Town A.F.C.
Finished 16/17 EPL Season – N/A
Huddersfield “won” the Sky Bet Championship Playoff against Reading last season to earn promotion to the Premier League by winning in PKs after an incredibly boring scoreless draw. American manager, David Wagner, has made a couple relatively significant transfers for the newly promoted side by signing Manchester City loanee Aaron Mooy to a permanent deal, as well as signing striker Steve Mounie from French side Montpellier for a club record $15 million. Although the Terriers have made a few quality signings, I do not see them staying in the top flight. Their inability to complete chances seals them as a one and done team.
Finished 16/17 EPL Season – 16th
Burnley finished last year with 40 points and an atrocious 1-4-14 away record. Their ten wins at home were able to help them stave off relegation last year, but I do not think they can keep that pace up this season. A top flight team can not go into the season expecting to win every home game and lose every away game. The loss of Michael Keane to Everton and Andre Gray to Watford do not help their chances either.
18. Brighton and Hove Albion
Finished 16/17 EPL Season – N/A
Of all the newly promoted teams, I am most excited to see Brighton, (Mostly because I would start my manager mode at Brighton with hopes of being promoted and hired by a bigger club on FIFA 17). The team has added Aussie international goalkeeper Mathew Ryan and bought midfielder Davy Propper from PSV Eindhoven for an undisclosed club record fee. Led by veteran forward Glenn Murray, who scored 23 goals in the Championship last year, I suspect Brighton to have a few thrilling games against some of the bigger, top half teams, but ultimately be relegated at the end of the season.
17. Swansea City
Finished 16/17 EPL Season – 15th
Swansea City were able to escape relegation last year solely based on Paul Clement’s managerial skills and Gylfi Sigurdsson’s playmaking abilities. With rumors of Sigurdsson leaving the Swans for Everton at a staggering $65 million transfer fee, it seems that this team should be destined for relegation this year. However, I believe that the Clement can use that sack of cash the size of Iceland to buy the players to fit his system and avoid relegation. With the transfer window deadline quickly approaching, I expect Everton to match the transfer fee, and Swansea City to get some fresh blood into the team.
Finished 16/17 EPL Season – 17th
Watford was able to avoid relegation with 40 points, a 6 point lead over Hull City. They ended up tied with Burnley on points, but had 10 less goal differential. However, unlike Burnley, Watford have made a few quality signings this transfer window. The Hornets have added Chelsea youngster Nathaniel Chalobah to their midfield and Burnley forward Andre Gray for a club record $24 million fee. These upgrades should help Watford spread the field more to free up Troy Deeney and hopefully score more goals.
15. Crystal Palace
Finished 16/17 EPL Season – 14th
Crystal Palace had a subpar season last year scoring only 45 goals while giving up 70 goals, the second most behind Hull City. After losing manager Sam Allardyce at the end of the season, Palace signed former Ajax and Inter Milan manager, Frank de Boer. Since then, Palace have been relatively quiet this transfer window. However, two new loanee players I look forward to watching for palace are center midfielder Rubin Loftus-Cheek from Chelsea and defender Timothy Fosu-Mensah from Manchester United. If Wilfred Zaha and Christian Benteke can create more chances and the defense can prevent so many shots, the south London team should be clear from the drop zone.
14. Stoke City
Finished 16/17 EPL Season – 13th
Stoke City has always been one of those teams that will finish in the bottom half of the table, but safe from relegation. This upcoming season will be no different. The biggest move for the Potters this transfer window was Marko Arnautovic to West Ham United for an undisclosed fee. Arnautovic finished the year with only 6 goals and 5 assists. When compared to his 9 yellow cards and 1 red card, this move away from the club should be best for the team going forward. An honorable mention is the addition of center back Kurt Zouma on loan from Chelsea.
13. Newcastle United
Finished 16/17 EPL Season – N/A
After one year away from the Premier League, Newcastle United are back. Last year, the Magpies won their last three games to win the EFL Championship with 94 points, one point more than Brighton and Hove Albion. This team is different than the team that was relegated two years ago. There may be some familiar faces like Jack Colback, Jonjo Shelvey, and Aleksandar Mitrovic, but two players to look out for this year are former Seattle Sounder DeAndre Yedlin and Christian Atsu. With rumors that manager Rafa Benitez is looking new striker, Arsenal’s Lucas Perez or Chelsea’s Michy Batshuayi might be joining Newcastle soon. If Benitez is able to make a big signing, Newcastle will by far be the best team of the newly promoted sides.
12. West Bromwich Albion
Finished 16/17 EPL season – 10th
Tony Pulis has had a quiet transfer window so far. The only significant addition to the Baggies is signing forward Jay Rodriguez from Southampton for $15.6 million dollars. With no players leaving the team, I suspect West Brom to finish at a similar mid-table position as last year. Hopefully Rodriguez can link up with Salomon Rondon so they will not be as boring as they were last year.
11. Leicester City
Finished 16/17 EPL Season – 12th
Leicester City have had a very good transfer window so far. The Foxes have bought two young, talented players in Sevilla midfielder Vicente Iborra, 21, and Manchester City and Nigerian international striker Kelechi Iheanacho, 21, for a total of $48.7 million. However, the biggest decision Leicester City have made this summer so far is to not sell winger Riyad Mahrez. Leicester have declined three bids by Roma for the Algerian, but they are willing to sell Mahrez for $52 million, which the Italian side have yet to match. If Leicester are able to keep Mahrez, it will be exciting to watch him play with Jamie Vardy and Iheanacho in the attack.
10. AFC Bournemouth
Finished 16/17 EPL Season – 9th
It is hard to believe that just five years ago that AFC Bournemouth were just in the third tier of English soccer. Since then, Eddie Howe has been the excellent manager the Cherries need to succeed in the Premier league. This summer, Bournemouth have signed defender Nathan Ake, 22, from Chelsea for $16.3 million and former Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe, 34, on free transfer. The Cherries have also added another quality keeper in Asmir Begovic, the backup goalkeeper for Chelsea last year. Barring any injuries, AFC Bournemouth should finish mid-table once again this year.
Finished 16/17 EPL Season – 8th
Southampton finished last year with 46 points, scoring only 41 goals and allowing 48 goals. In a normal transfer window, selling Jay Rodriguez, 28, to West Brom would raise eyebrows; signing Mario Lemina, 23, from Juventus for a club record $26 million would be big news. However, this summer’s transfer window has been dominated by speculation of Virgil van Dijk leaving the club. Early in the window, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Liverpool were interested in the 26 year old center back, but Southampton decided he was not for sale. Since then, van Dijk has demanded a transfer saying that his time at Southampton was up and that he was ready to move to a bigger team. Southampton set their price at a staggering $90.1 million dollars for the star defenseman, yet no team has matched their asking price as of now.
8. West Ham United
Finished 16/17 EPL Season – 11th
Last year, West Ham United was plagued with injuries and general unluckiness leading to allowing 64 goals while only scoring 47. Ever since selling star winger Dimitri Payet, the Hammers have not lived up to their expectations. This summer, West Ham have made significant transfers including Marko Arnautovic, 28, from Stoke City for an undisclosed fee and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, 29, from German side Bayern Leverkusen for $20.8 million. Hernandez scored 16 goals last year, including 3 goals for the Mexican International team making him the all-time leading scorer for Mexico. The Hammers have also picked up two former Manchester City veterans, goalkeeper Joe Hart, 30, and right back Pablo Zabaleta, 32. Hart had a below average season on loan at Torino last year, while Zabaleta struggled to find a starting position at Manchester City. It is clear that Slaven Bilic is on the hot seat and needs a successful season in order to keep his job as manager.
Finished 16/17 EPL Season – 7th
It is difficult for me to judge where Everton will finish at the end of the season. On one hand, this summer might have been the best transfer window in the club’s history. The Toffees signed star goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, 23, from Sunderland and center half Michael Keane, 24, from Burnley, both of whom are expected to play for the English National Team, for $39 million each. Another important signing this summer for Everton has been Davy Klaassen, 24, a midfielder for Ajax for $31.7 million. Klaassen was electric in the Europa League last year at controlling the ball and maintaining possession, a piece that was lacking in Everton’s team last year. Everton manager, Ronald Koeman, has stated that the team was not done spending. He hopes to sign Swansea City center attacking midfielder and free kick specialist, Gylfi Sigurdsson for less than $65 million. These additions would put Everton in the top 6, however the team also sold their best player Romelu Lukaku, 24, to Manchester United for about $97.6 million. Lukaku scored 24 goals in the Premier League, which was over one-third of the team’s total goals and the second most goals in the EPL. Everton decided to replace Lukaku by reuniting with Manchester United legend and all-time leading goal scorer, Wayne Rooney, 31, however Rooney had a poor year scoring only 5 goals in the Premier league.
6. Tottenham Hotspur
Finished 16/17 EPL Season – 2nd
Tottenham Hotspur finished last season with the most goals scored (86) and the least goals conceded (26). The Spurs were the only team that challenged Chelsea for the title, but finished seven points behind the Blues. This summer, Tottenham sold pacey right back, Kyle Walker, 29, for $58.5 million to Manchester City, and they have made no new additions to the team. The major hurdle that the Spurs will have to overcome this year is playing at Wembley Stadium instead of their former home, White Hart Lane. Since 2012, Tottenham have played six games at Wembley with only one win against CSKA Moscow, a draw against Gent, and four losses to Chelsea, Monaco, and Bayern Leverkusen. According to The Telegraph, Wembley’s pitch is roughly 7,250 square feet, while White Hart Lane’s pitch is only 6,700 square feet, the second smallest pitch in the league. The larger field will make it more difficult for Mauricio Pochettino to run his high pressing defense and may prevent them from finishing in the top four.
Finished 16/17 EPL Season – 5th
Arsenal is a great team on paper, but something is not working on the field or in the locker room. Center attacking midfielder, Mesut Özil, 28, has repeatedly expressed his wish to move to a different team over the past two years. Rumors also have world-class striker Alexis Sánchez, 28, going to Paris Saint Germain or rival Manchester City for about $104 million. The Chilean led the team in goals and assists last year with 24 goals and 10 assists, but he has decided not to renew his contract at Arsenal, but Arsene Wenger has stated the the club does not intend to sell either player. Speculation aside, Arsenal have signed another all-star striker this transfer window. The Gunners signed Alexandre Lacazette, 26, from French side, Lyon. Lacazette scored 36 goals for his former club across all competitions.
HOT TAKE ALERT: After managing Arsenal for 20 years, Arsene Wenger will be fired this season in December.
Finished 16/17 EPL Season – 4th
Liverpool finished last year in the Top 4 with 76 points, only one point higher than Arsenal. As of now, Liverpool’s biggest decision of the transfer season is to keep Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho. The team rejected Barcelona’s second bid of $117.6 million dollars for the 25 year old playmaker. The only significant change to Liverpool’s squad is the addition of Mohammed Salah, 25, a forward from Roma who scored 17 goals and had 12 assists across all competitions. An attacking four of Coutinho, Salah, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino will be a force to be reckoned with. Jurgen Klopp’s high press will be exciting to watch, but this tactic might be their downfall in the long run. With the added games from Champions League play, I do not know if Liverpool have the necessary depth to stay competitive in the Champions League and the win Premier League.
Finished 16/17 EPL Season(o) – 1st
After finishing in 10th place in the 2015-16 season, Chelsea rose to become the champions of the Premier League last year with a record of 30-3-5. This achievement was largely due to first year manager Antonio Conte. The manager made very few transfers in his first year, but coached the team to play his brand of soccer. Many players on the champion squad have been deemed surplus to requirements this summer including starting striker Diego Costa (28), defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic (29), and long time captain and Chelsea legend John Terry (36). Conte was able to replace these pieces by signing players from outside the Premier League. Former Real Madrid and Juventus striker Álvaro Morata, 24, was signed for $91 million. Tiemoue Bakayoko, 22, and Antonio Rüdiger, 24, were both signed for undisclosed fees from Monaco and Roma respectively. These younger players had successful years at their teams last year, but only time will tell if their skills can transfer to the Premier League.
2. Manchester United
Finished 16/17 EPL Season – 6th
Last year, Manchester United shook the soccer world by signing Swedish legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic and $123 million dollar man Paul Pogba. The team played a hard-nosed, physical brand of soccer that only allowed 29 goals. However, the offense was lacking, and they were only able to score 54 goals, finishing the season 18-15-5. Since then, star striker Ibrahimovic suffered a knee injury, ending his career at Manchester United. This transfer window, United were able to replace Ibrahimovic with another star striker from Everton, Romelu Lukaku. Manager Jose Mourinho was able to refresh his defensive front by signing Nemanja Matic from Chelsea for $52.6 million and center half Victor Lindelöf from Portuguese side, Benfica, for $41.2 million. Lukaku and Matic already have Premier League experience, and I expected them to fit Mourinho’s system. Over the past two summer transfer windows, Mourinho has spent over $411 million dollars, and this year then will finally be able to challenge for the title once again.
1. Manchester City
Finished 16/17 EPL Season – 3rd
After a disappointing first season with the team, Pep Guardiola has given Manchester City’s defense a complete overhaul. He has spent $157 million on three new first team fullbacks: Kyle Walker (29) from Tottenham, Benjamin Mendy (23) from Monaco, and Danilo (26) from Real Madrid. These players will replace the four veteran fullbacks who left at the end of last year’s campaign. Guardiola also replaced goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, 34, who was signed last year and had one of the worst seasons in Premier League history. The new keeper, Ederson, 24, was signed from Benfica for $47 million. The Citizens are not done spending with reports stating that the team is going after French teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe for over $210 million dollars. With the team revitalized with youth and energy, Manchester City executives are not only planning on going far into the Champions League, but they also demand Pep to deliver them a Premier League title this year.
This is how I expect the Premier League to finish next spring. Comment what you agree with or if you think I am way off. Maybe I’ll be right on the money, or maybe I’ll be wrong and Watford will pull a 2015-16 Leicester and win the league. Who knows?