The Premier League is back!
It almost feels like there was no break but we’re glad to again have purpose for our weekends.
Soccer Surgery breaks out the crystal ball to give you our nailed on predictions for the new season.
TABLE DROPPER: LEICESTER CITY
This is an easy one of course. Leicester started last season with a 5000/1 odds to win the title in what turned out to be literally a magical season. Speaking of magic will Vardy ever conjure something like this again:
With (1) Champions League obligations (2) the likelihood of a less charmed injury record and (3) the departure of Kante you can take it to the bank Leicester will finish nowhere near the top of the table. These detrimental factors would be apparent to many.
However, we’ll add a tidbit you will only see on SS. Did you know Leicester were awarded the most penalties (13) last season? And can you guess how many penalties were awarded the next closest team? ……….7 – awarded to Watford of all teams strangely. The bigger teams (Arsenal, City, Spurs) with more possession and touches in the penalty area had no more than 5 penalties. Odd and unlikely to be repeated.
We expect an 8th placed finish, possibly 6th for the Foxes if things go well.
TABLE RISER: CHELSEA
Again. Almost as easy to predict. The Blues finished 10th after a tumultuous season but we expect them to return to past heights.
There have not been notable upgrades in the transfer window by our assessment notwithstanding the astute acquisition of Kante. The big reason for the improvement though will not be Kante but rather new coach Conte – a tactician of high order (Refer to his recent dismantling of Spain in the Euro 2016 knockouts). With the cloud of distractions now gone from the club, we expect bounce back seasons from the clear quality in the side – Oscar, Ivanovic and Fabregas.
SURPRISE TEAM: MIDDLESBOROUGH
Viktor Fischer, Victor Valdes, Marten De Roon, Alvaro Negredo.
These are amazingly robust additions for ANY newly promoted side. Ironically, the most impactful of these players by our assessment will be the lesser known of the group – Fischer and De Roon.
Plying his trade for Atalanta in Serie A last season, De Roon was 3rd for tackles+interceptions by a defensive midfielder across Europe’s top 5 leagues – behind only Kante and Idrissa Gana(Aston Villa). Fischer, just 22 years old, has been scouted by several major clubs the past few seasons and is a real talent. Frustratingly inconsistent at Ajax, we expect him to continue his recent maturation and replicate goals like these:
Middleborough will be the Watford of this season and battle for a midtable position throughout the season.
GOLDENBOOT/TOP GOAL SCORER: SERGIO AGUERO
Remove the literally laughable pair of Jesus Navas and Raheem Sterling and insert Nolito and Leroy Sane. Of course service will improve for the deadliest striker in the Premier League the past few seasons. Ibra is a consideration here but Man U’s attacking unit will take some time to gel whereas De Bruyne, Silva and Aguero have familiarity.
The only question here is whether Aguero avoids the calf and hamstring injuries that have plagued his career.
CHAMPION: MANCHESTER CITY
This is the most difficult call of all as everyone has reloaded. The league is as competitive as ever with at least 7 teams (Spurs, Man Utd, Man City, Arsenal. Liverpool, Chelsea, Leicester) having recent memories of winning or strongly challenging for the title.
The deciding factors here in our view as always are (1) squad strength and (2) an ability to manage other obligations i.e Champions League, FA Cup and the Mickey Mouse (Carling) Cup.
Mourinho is playing Football Manager in Manchester as we predicted with a net spend over £168M (assuming the Pogba deal goes through). Micky, Ibra, and Pogba are ridiculous additions but they will take time to gel as alluded to previously so we have them to be pipped by a more fluid City unit at the line. Playing Tuesday/Wednesday versus Thursday(Europa) should also provide City a slim edge.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PLACES: CHELSEA, MAN UTD, ARSENAL, MAN CITY
Having already indicated the Manchester teams will finish in the top two places we round out the top four with perennial top 4 club Arsenal and Chelsea who are due a massive revival. We support our selection by explaining why the challengers will fall short of the mark:
Spurs have a strong (pressing) starting unit that works well together but they have not bolstered that depth sufficiently to deal with the added games to be played this season. The Vincent Janssen purchase was a clever bit of business as backup to Kane but there is still lack of depth at centerback (Alderweld) and central midfield (Dembele).
Liverpool’s struggles to add their preferred targets has been well documented and though we like Mane and Origi’s frightening pace the team still lacks a goal scoring predator (who will play 30+ games). With Sturridge battling hip soreness one week before the season opener there should be little room for optimism on that front for Pool supporters.
RELEGATED TEAMS: BURNLEY, HULL CITY, SUNDERLAND
We spoke of Middleborough’s quality previously but the other promoted teams will head right back down probably. Allardyce jumped from a sinking Sunderland ship to take the England national team job, possibly scoping that Sunderland will be playing in the Championship next season. Every year the League’s quality improves, Sunderland’s smash and grab routine looks more and more perilous; you need goals to stay in the Premier League. West Brom by this token also looks a good contender for relegation.
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Disclaimer: Although we are noted for the 99% accuracy of our predictions none of the surgeons bear any liability for financial losses as a result of a reliance placed on the information contained herein 🙂