With the transfer window officially closed, it’s time to predict the Premier League standings, top to bottom. What a deadline day it was today, with Everton signing everybody in their power and then some, Tottenham still doing nothing (which is incredibly impressive I don’t care what anyone says), and Manchester United failing to get a defender or a winger that Mourinho has been craving. So, without further adieu, let’s get into the MegaBlog!
This portion of the table are the teams that will be relegated and/or deep in a relegation fight. I’d be shocked if any of these teams were to have a strong season and reach the 40 point (safety) barrier comfortably. And no, these rankings do not include noted bottom-feeder Stephen A Smith.
20. Brighton & Hove Albion
While they had a lot of movement this summer, there just wasn’t really anything that moved the needle with their transfer activity. Brighton did well to punch above their weight last season and avoid relegation, they stayed up largely despite the second-worst goal differential in the league (-30) and the joint-least amount of goals scored (28). With a strong incoming class from the Championship, I think their PL reign ends this season. Jose Izquierdo’s brilliance took them as far as they can come. Nothing to be ashamed about, as they did so well to get here and stay up.
19. Cardiff City
Last season, for the first time, no teams that were promoted from the Championship were relegated the following season, a truly remarkable feat. I don’t think this gets repeated this season, however, and Cardiff are the ones I think go back down. They haven’t lost anybody due to transfer activity, but midfielder Marko Grujic–a big part in their promotion–went back to Liverpool after his loan spell was up, is no longer with the club, leaving a severe dent in their midfield. Swansea going down means that they will be the only Welsh team in the league, which should give them pride. Diehard fans of the sport might know the name Aron Gunnarsson because 1) it’s amazing and 2) he played a big part in Iceland’s 2016 Euros run and their 2018 World Cup fight. But outside of him they lack much true talent and that will be their downfall.
As a Liverpool and Premier League fan, this sucks. No other way to put it. Liverpool’s longtime feeder club almost took the drop last season, just barely avoiding relegation. They’re a team that has produced some incredible talent in world soccer, with the names Gareth Bale, Sadio Mane, Virgil Van Dijk, Nathaniel Clyne, Toby Alderweireld, Luke Shaw, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Morgan Schneiderlin, Adam Lallana, and Theo Walcott all leaving for bigger clubs. Honestly I would normally have shortened that list to a top 3 but I think it’s important to recognize how incredible they’ve been at developing and nurturing talent (I could have named at least 3 or 4 more names too). They’ve been incredible for the sport and the rise of a Big Six has ravaged them of all that talent. Now, they lie fighting for Premier League survival and I think they might actually make the drop this year. They lost even more talent in Tadic, Carrillo, and Boufal and they have a very bare-bones squad. One of the reasons they almost went down was because of an FA Cup run, yes, but when you’re that close to relegation the cups don’t matter. I’ll be rooting for them but I’m not sure they’ll survive after their latest gutting of talent. The late signing (still TBD) of Danny Ings will not do much as they already have Charlie Austin and Ings has barely seen a goal in almost 3 years.
17. Huddersfield Town
While last season Southampton had a significantly better goal differential (-19 to -30), I think Huddersfield has done a much better job of strengthening their squad this summer to reverse that gap. Durm and Kongolo are both solid defenders to shore up the left side of their defense, and for a team that scored only 28 goals last term (and just lost one of their key attacking players in Tom Ince), they’re going to need every bit of that defensive line. A big reason I think that they stay up is manager David Wagner, who has his team very well-drilled at all times and has no illusions about who they are and how they have to stay up. Last year, Huddersfield stayed up thanks to having the joint-most draws in the league at 19 (9-10-19 record overall) and that’s how they’re going to have to do it again. Analytics say it will be incredibly tough to replicate that kind of success-via-draws again, but I think they’ve done enough (so far) to hold their ground, at least for another season.
Though Burnley shocked everyone in it’s run to 7th place and a Europa League spot, that might just be their downfall this season. If they qualify, then they have to fight on four fronts (FA Cup, Premier League, Europa League, Carabao Cup). They simply do not have the depth or strength to do that, and the constant morose of playing midweek football will sap their energy for Premier League games in a fight for survival. Joe Hart is a great addition for almost no money, but they didn’t need him as they already have arguably two keepers that are better than him. Sean Dyche is a wonderful manager who is good at what he does (he’s a significantly better Big Sam Allardyce), but I see them struggling a lot this season, barring quick cup exits.
The Mid-Table Stragglers
These are the teams that will hit about 40-50 points and then essentially start their summer vacations early (so I will 100% be betting against all of them come the end of the season against teams with something to play for).
15. Newcastle United
I have a tough time imagining a Rafa Benitez team being in a relegation battle because he is such a good manager. But he has had zero backing from ownership (and been very vocal about his frustrations with that) and the transfers that have actually gone through almost seem counter-productive. Kenedy is a good loan deal and he was with them last season, but they sold off Aleksander Mitrovic because he wasn’t the kind of striker they needed and brought in…Salomon Rondon, who is the same player but older and worse. They also loaned out Dwight Gayle, one of their strikers who can actually do something besides be a target man. The team did well to hold on to Jamaal Lascelles and Ayoze Perez is a very solid player up front, so I think they do enough to avoid relegation but more because of Benitez and not their actual talent.
Watford’s biggest piece of business was selling their star winger Richarlison to Everton for an immense sum. They brought in Gerard Deulofeu from Barcelona to replace him, and everything else has kind of remained the same. They should be comfortably mid-table and won’t rock the boat too much on either end. They kept the remainder of their most important players, including striker Troy Deeney, midfielders Roberto Pereyra and Abdoulaye Doucoure, which should help them tread water for the season.
13. Crystal Palace
Palace had a great summer, in both resisting the urge to sell Wilfred Zaha for a boatload of money, and by bringing in Schalke midfielder Max Meyer on a free transfer, who would have had his pick of a lot of better clubs. Their only main loss was Yohan Cabaye but at his age, replacing him with Meyer is a no-brainer. As long as Zaha is healthy, Palace will have a solid (if not unspectacular) season and remain comfortably in the top flight for another year, especially if they can figure out how to properly supply target man Christian Benteke.
Bournemouth finished 12th last season and made virtually no big splashes either way to their team. I don’t have a ton to say about them so I won’t linger here, but they are a fun side who play an open brand of football and I commend them for that. I don’t see them finishing higher than 12th or lower than 14th. The perfect mid-table side.
Fulham were promoted last year and have really done an impressive job in strengthening their roster for a Premier League fight. They return winger Ryan Sessegnon, who is 18 and will not be at a club like Fulham for longer (I am shocked he’s still there now, which is a testament to the club’s fortitude) and striker Aleksander Mitrovic, who fits their system perfectly and did well for them last season in the Championship. Brining in midfielder Jean Michael Seri was a serious coup, as he’s been linked with moves to Arsenal, Barcelona, and Milan for the last year, and a player with Premier League experience and genuine class in Andre Schurrle on loan will help them tremendously. I think they’ll make a big splash this year and could be back in the top flight for a while as a team nobody will enjoy playing.
Top Half Dogfighters
This group of teams will make the top half of the table and be fighting to get into a Europa League spot. They all have talent but
10. West Ham
West Ham spent an outrageous amount of money this summer. Their board knew how much their fans hate them, so they went out and attempted to seriously improve the squad. However, I do have questions about how exactly they spent it, because it’s like buying your girlfriend a bunch of jewelry when she’s mad at you. It might help but it settles nothing in terms of changing your dynamic. Andriy Yarmolenko seems like a waste of money in my opinion, Lukasz Fabianski is not an upgrade on their current keeper Adrian, and Lucas Perez from Arsenal has not even remotely fit into the Premier League. That being said, they did some brilliant business with center back Issa Diop and former Lazio winger Felipe Anderson. They are two very very good players who will improve the squad immediately. Overall, they are an improved team (despite talisman Manuel Lanzini being out with an injury suffered in World Cup training), and should do some damage this season.
9. Leicester City
Despite losing their best player in Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City, the Foxes held onto keeper Kasper Schmeichel, striker Jamie Vardy, and center back Harry Maguire. Other key players retained were midfielder Wilfred Ndidi and winger Demari Gray. They have speed to burn and will destroy teams on counter-attacks, but again, losing Mahrez is something you just can’t replace. Bringing in keeper Danny Ward from Liverpool was a good move, especially when transfer talk around Schmeichel was fierce, though now you have a very expensive and unproven backup, and Rachid Ghezzal will be given the unenvious task of replacing their Algerian talisman. Leicester are an established top half side and they should do it again relatively easily.
There’s a lot of Portugal jokes to be made here but I won’t do that because they’ve all been made already. Wolves got promoted and immediately made signings to make them rival any side outside of the top 6 thanks to the help of polarizing agent and part-owner Jorge Mendes. Rui Patricio, Raul Jimenez, and Joao Moutinho are all veterans who know how to win, and other new additions Leander Dendoncker and Adama Traore are very solid. Alongside their best player Ruben Neves, who could legitimately have a case for playing in almost any team on the planet, Wolves will be aiming for the 7th spot and in a few years could really challenge a big 6 side or two should their stellar business continue. A fun team and a definite must-watch. The most hyped up promoted team in history.
I had the Toffee’s much lower before deadline day. Then they went out and signed Andre Gomes on loan from Barcelona, along with Yerry Mina and Bernard and they absolutely smashed it. Manager Marco Silva is incredibly fun and should never have been let go from Watford, and he will transform this team. They also brought in Lucas Digne and Richarlison who will both slot into starting roles. While starting half of your starting XI with new players is rarely smart, they have done great business and will be an absolute pain to play this season once they begin to gel.
The Big Six
Simple enough. These are all the teams who are just simply better than everyone else. They have more money and talent and that’s all that comes down to in the end. Fifth and sixth places get Europa League and the right to play on Thursdays and the top four get Champions League football.
I actually really like Arsenal’s team. Their attack is deadly with Ozil, Aubemayang, and Lacazette, their midfield is bolstered with the addition of Lucas Torreira, and Bernd Leno is excellent business at 25 million pounds as an immediate and future upgrade over Petr Cech. The problem is their back line. None of their additions seem obvious upgrades and are all aging, and seem to be simply stopgap signings. Manager Unai Emery was brought in for one purpose: winning the Europa League, which he made his own at Sevilla. This seems their best bet to getting back to the Champions League and they could very well sacrifice league success in order to do it, a la Manchester United a couple of years ago.
Tottenham, a club worth billions of dollars were it on the market, spent the same amount of money currently in my bank account. $0. Nothing. Which is unbelievable.
That being said, they are already a very good-to-great team, but their issue has always been depth. Manager Mauricio Pochettino has been a wizard and is good enough to maintain this success, but one injury and their season could very well be shot. I think exhaustion will play a role in them finally being outed from the top four, and that does not bode well for anybody at the club, especially the players who may very well leave for greener pastures.
I was this close to putting them outside the top four, and even debated having them down at six or seven. But then they nailed the last couple of days of the window and now I think they have enough. Their new manager Maurizio Sarri plays an incredibly fun brand of football and should provide a boost to a team that’s been desperate for one. Meanwhile, they broke the world record fee for a goalkeeper in Kepa Arrizabalaga and brought in midfielder Mateo Kovacic on loan from Real Madrid. Kovacic is incredible on the ball and his ability to drive forward from the base of midfield will be such a huge weapon. Kepa is probably not worth a world record fee at this point, but with Thibaut Courtois very clearly on his way to Real Madrid, they got their man and at 23 years old, can be a stalwart in net for the next decade or more. BUT, their best business might have been to keep wingers Eden Hazard and Willian. By holding on to those two, they allow Sarri to hit the ground running and avoid headaches in last minute purchases and team selection.
3. Manchester United
Let’s check in on how this summer has gone for the Red Devils, shall we?
You get the point. Look, United have brought in some solid players this summer, but the likes of Kovacic (and possibly Jerome Boateng) turned them down because they didn’t want to play for a miserable, sad sack of a manager who attacks his players to defend his own silly pride in the media. United play boring, ugly, anti-football, and Mourinho is the most likely to be fired first among gamblers…which is why I think they’ll be just fine. I think Jose will get fired and whomever they bring in will stabilize things and coast an incredibly talented Manchester United team to third place.
Last season, Liverpool were very obviously the second-best team in England. They made the Champions League final and were incredibly impressive in the league. However, they seriously lacked depth, and when injuries and exhaustion piled up towards the end of the season, they had a bit of a crisis where it looked like they might not finish top four. So, how did they resolve all their issues? They solved their depth by adding 3 outfield players and not selling a lot of their own players who were out on loan. They solved their goalkeeping issues by breaking the world record for Alisson Becker from Roma (a record fee that lasted all of three weeks thanks to Chelsea). They solved defensive issues by bringing in Alisson and Fabinho, a defensive midfielder who can break up any attack. And they have Jurgen Klopp, the most likable coach in any sport on the planet. Any other year and they would probably win the league. But, I can’t take them this year, and it’s not a knock on the Reds. It’s because the team above them is just too good…
1. Manchester City
The reigning champions of England. How did their summer go? Oh, well they lost no key players and brought in Riyad Mahrez, who might transform into a top 3 right winger on the planet because now he has talent all around him at City. They have a strike force of Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, two players who would start on any team in the world. Their wingers are Mahrez, Raheem Sterling, and Leroy Sane, three players who would probably start on any team in the world. Their midfield is Kevin De Bruyne (the best player in the league probably), David Silva, Bernardo Silva, and Fernandinho, four players who would get into…you get the picture. They are a bit weak at the back at times, but that’s more from a lack of focus because City press so high, the ball rarely gets to their back line. The best team in the land. They know they should win the league, now they want to win the Champions League, the one trophy that has completely evaded them. And they just might do it.
Welp, that’s your way-too-long preview. I’ll be providing some recaps after every weekend and some European midweek blogs throughout the year but that’s all you need to know about England. Turn into NBCSN and catch the games and if soccer is REALLY your thing, buy NBC Sports Gold and get every single game. Until next time.