Manchester City may be heavy favourites to win the title for the third time in a row, but lower down the table the stage is set for one of the most interesting Premier League seasons in years.
That is because the big six, who used their financial muscle to shut out the chasing pack following Leicester City’s title win in 2015/16, could be about to break apart.
Leicester, Everton, West Ham and Wolves all believe they can capitalise on weaknesses at Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal.
The relegation battle should be intriguing too, not least because all three promoted clubs play forward-thinking football. Established Premier League sides like Newcastle United, Burnley, and Brighton face a tough battle to avoid the drop.
Here are our predictions for the 2019/20 Premier League season...
A good season for…
Spurs might look weaker in the full-back positions compared to last season, but Tanguy Ndombele’s arrival has dramatically improved Mauricio Pochettino’s central midfield.
Last year Spurs were occasionally dull to watch, a stodgy central midfield of Eric Dier and Moussa Sissoko creating an overly-structured formation and leading to 13 league defeats.
Frenchman Ndombele is a brilliant box-to-box midfielder renowned for breaking the lines and wriggling out of tight spaces, injecting an energy and verticality to the Tottenham midfield that could dramatically change their tactical approach this season.
Like Mousa Dembele before him, Ndombele’s dribbling skills will disrupt the opposition, creating counter-attacking space for the likes of Dele Alli, Lucas Moura, and Heung-Min Son.
- West Ham
West Ham developed a strong defensive shape and coherent counter-attacking tactical strategy towards the end of last season, completing a perfect transitional year for Manuel Pellegrini.
Now in a settled style, West Ham would probably have improved on their 2018/19 points tally of 52 this year even without any new signings. They surely will after pulling off two major summer coups.
Sebastien Heller (£45million) and Pablo Fornals (£24m) can lead West Ham to a top seven finish.
Heller managed 24 goals and assists in 25 Bundesliga games last season, providing the Hammers’ talented forwards Manuel Lanzini and Felipe Anderson with a more consistent target than Marko Arnautovic, while Fornals offers a creative subtlety that West Ham have not seen since Dimitri Payet.
Brendan Rodgers won 20 points from his 11 league matches in charge of Leicester City last season, the fifth most in the division in that time.
After a full summer with his squad, the former Liverpool manager should be able to continue that kind of return – especially with Ayoze Perez added to the front line.
The Spaniard scored 12 goals last season despite playing in a defensive Newcastle side, and his bustling energy behind Jamie Vardy adds a new layer of complexity to Rodgers’ centre-focused attacks.
Harry Maguire’s £80 million departure for Manchester United won’t worry Rodgers too much; with potential replacements being considered both internally and externally. This is a young, motivated Leicester team whose first 11 is certainly strong enough to challenge for a Champions League spot.
- Aston Villa
Dean Smith has so far spent £130 million on 12 new players, but unlike Fulham’s late panic buying Villa’s purchases have been sensible – and necessary.
They lost 14 senior players over the summer and many of the replacements were either on loan at the club last season or have worked under Smith before. Villa’s is a coherent, long-term strategy that has left them with a squad that is, at the very least, the fourth-worst team in the division.
But Villa will be aiming for more than just survival. Jack Grealish, John McGinn, and Douglas Luiz is one of the most gifted central midfield trios in the country, while Tyrone Mings and Tom Heaton provide Villa with a resilient defensive spine.
Smith’s possession-centric attacking football will lead to some high-scoring defeats in 2019/20, but Villa will certainly be competitive against fellow bottom-half clubs.
- Manchester City
There is very little chance Liverpool can come close to challenging Man City for the Premier League title this season.
Jurgen Klopp’s side relied on lots of fortuitous moments last year to win games by a single goal; their 97-point total flattered Liverpool, whose xG statistics indicate they won as many as 13.5 ‘unexpected points’.
City should win the league at a canter, then, not least because Kevin de Bruyne is back to full fitness after missing most of last season.
What’s more, Rodri provides much-needed competition for Fernandinho and Phil Foden’s pre-season form suggests he is ready to play a bigger role in 2019/20.
The transfer window shuts in England at 1700 BST on Thursday, August 8.Keep across all the latest rumours and done deals on deadline day with our live blog on sportinglife.com/football and on Twitter with live updates and transfers as they happen.
A bad season for…
- Manchester United
United won 34 points from 26 league matches last season either side of the purple patch that followed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s temporary appointment, during which they earned eight ‘unexpected points’ courtesy of Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera.
The hugely under-rated Spanish midfielder has left the club, while an unhappy Pogba is unlikely to be at his best. With top scorer Romelu Lukaku also looking for the exit, Solskjaer faces a very difficult season.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James, and Harry Maguire are all good signings but none of these three are game-changers. The United manager looked out of his depth towards the end of last year, and as the Paulo Dybala transfer collapses it seems that Ed Woodward will not provide Solskjaer with the sort of star performers he needs to bridge the gap to Man City or Liverpool.
Appointing Steve Bruce appeared to seal Newcastle’s fate following Rafael Benitez’s departure, but since then the club has stabilised.
The fans are not protesting just yet, primarily because Mike Ashley has since spent almost £60 million on forward Joelinton and winger Allan Saint-Maximin, but it won’t be long before dark clouds gather over St. James’ Park again.
Losing Salomon Rondon and Perez means the new signings have to replace 23 league goals, 54% of Newcastle’s total in the 2018/19 campaign. Bruce’s defensive, long-ball tactics ensure goalscoring opportunities will be few and far between this year. Unless Joelinton hits the ground running, Newcastle will surely go down.
The remit for Frank Lampard could hardly be more difficult: equal Maurizio Sarri’s third-place finish but without Eden Hazard and with a more coherent tactical identity.
Chelsea’s transfer ban means Lampard must rely on youth, and yet the likes of Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham surely aren’t good enough to be playing Champions League football. Meanwhile Christian Pulisic has far too much pressure on his shoulders for a debut campaign in England.
Restoring N’Golo Kante to defensive midfield will help, but Chelsea are seriously light on attacking options; Hazard’s 31 goals and assists represented 49% of Chelsea’s league total. Never mind top four, even finishing sixth looks difficult when Abraham and Olivier Giroud are the only strikers at the club.
- Sheffield United
Chris Wilder has taken Sheffield United from the foot of Sky Bet League One to the Premier League in just three years, sneaking into the Championship top two following Leeds United’s late collapse.
It’s a remarkable achievement, but one that will probably be rewarded with a 20th place finish this year. The calibre of their signings, most notably Phil Jagielka and Ravel Morrison, indicate that United have struggled to attract Premier League quality this summer.
Wilder’s unusual attacking football caught League One and the Championship by surprise, but that won’t be the case among England’s elite. His 3-5-2 formation includes overlapping centre-backs, a gung-ho approach that will surely end in tears.
Tired from a gruelling Europa League schedule and in existential crisis following the dizzying and un-replicable heights of sixth the previous season, it looked as though Burnley were destined to get relegated last season until Tom Heaton was brought into the side in December.
Why, then, have Burnley sold their goalkeeper to Aston Villa?
Without any discernible evolution over the last couple of years Sean Dyche’s project appears to be slowing down, a natural cycle that is arguably coming to an end. Burnley only survived by seven points last campaign, and this year the newly promoted clubs look particularly strong.
George Pitts provides his best bets for the 2019/20 Premier League champions, top four finishers and relegated teams.
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With the Premier League returning this weekend, Tom Carnduff picks out his selections to win the 2019/20 Golden Boot.
Sporting Life's new weekly Premier League podcast begins with a season preview.
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