Premier League 2017/18 Preview – Liverpool

liverpool

Image: Daily Mail

Liverpool’s success in the transfer window cannot be judged until the window closes. The club are desperate to keep hold of Philippe Coutinho, but it will be hard to resist a substantial bid from Barcelona with their newly acquired riches from Neymar’s move to PSG. There is also the issue of Virgil van Dijk, who the club had to publicly apologise for tapping up earlier in the summer, however the player seems determined to force a move. Of the business that they have done, Mohamed Salah has come in from Roma, a much-improved player to the one that failed to break through at Chelsea. Salah joins a threatening front line of Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino. At the back, Liverpool will have a natural left-back this year, as Andrew Robertson has come in from Hull, meaning that they will not have to shoe-horn James Milner into defence. Up front is an issue for Jurgen Klopp. Roberto Firmino operated there last season, whilst Daniel Sturridge is unlikely to feature regularly this season, whether through injuries or because he does not fit in to Klopp’s philosophy. Added to that there is Divock Origi, Danny Ings, and new signing Dominic Solanke, who has been impressive in pre-season, netting three goals. After not having European football last season, Liverpool managed to claim a Champions League place, so the extra matches this season could be the difference between matching last season’s achievements and missing out.

Key Player: Saido Mane. With Coutinho looking likely to leave, Saido Mane would be Liverpool’s main threat going forward. The attacker was Liverpool’s joint top-scorer with 13 goals last season, and Liverpool’s form significantly dropped off when he went to the African Cup of Nations. Mane’s pace is a key feature in Klopp’s philosophy, and paired with Salah on the opposite wing, this could be Liverpool’s real attack threat this season.

One to Watch: Ben Woodburn. The Welshman broke in to the Liverpool side last year, and has reportedly had several loan offers for him rejected this summer. This implies that Woodburn is a part of Jurgen Klopp’s plans this season. Woodburn netted in the friendly against Athletic Club, and became the club’s youngest ever goal-scorer after his FA Cup strike against Leeds last season. Woodburn can operate up front, on the wing or behind the striker, making him perfect for Klopp’s system.

Last Season: 4th

Predicted Finish: 5th

Advertisements

Premier League 2017/18 Preview – Leicester City

Leicester

Image: The Sun

Everyone expected Leicester to drop off last season, but not quite to the extent that they did. Craig Shakespeare steadied the ship after the sacking of Claudio Ranieri, dragging the Foxes away from the relegation zone and up to a mid-table finish. Their Champions League run to the Quarter Final last year was one of the highlights of the season for neutrals. Shakespeare has been backed in the transfer market, and Leicester have had one of the most successful windows in the league. Harry Maguire impressed in a poor Hull side last season, and at 24 he offers an alternative to the aging Robert Huth and Wes Morgan. Vincete Iborra has joined from Sevilla for around £12.5m, with the midfielder looking to partner Wilfred Ndidi, who really improved as the season went on last time out. After Ahmed Musa’s struggles to adapt last season, the Foxes have brought in Kelechi Iheanacho from Manchester City for £25m. He scored 7 in 28 appearances last season for City, and has proven in his limited game time that he is a top quality poacher. This should help ease the burden on Jamie Vardy, who still managed 13 goals last season despite his struggles in the first half of the campaign. Eldin Jakupovic has also joined from Hull to replace the outgoing Ron-Robert Zieler as backup to Kasper Schmiechel. A worry for Leicester will be if Riyad Mahrez does depart, as they have not brought in a direct replacement for their want away star, however Demarai Gray could step up to replace the Algerian.

Key Player: Wilfred Ndidi. The 20-year-old had a solid start to his Leicester career last year, and didn’t look out of his depth as he tried to replace N’golo Kante. He averaged 4 tackles a game last season (1.1 more than any other Leicester player), and only Yohan Belalouane made more interceptions per game. At such a young age, and being partnered with the experienced Vincete Iborra, Ndidi can only improve this season.

One to Watch: Darnell Johnson. The young defender was a mainstay of the club’s Under-23 side last season, featuring in 17 of their 22 league games. He featured at centre back for England in their successful Under-19s European Championship campaign, and may be ready to make the step up in to the first team.

Last Season: 12th

Predicted Finish: 9th

Premier League 2017/18 Preview – Huddersfield Town

huddersfield

Image: Huddersfield Examiner

David Wagner transformed Huddersfield last season, taking them from Championship strugglers to promotion via the playoffs. Keen to avoid the disadvantage that the playoff winners usually face, the Terriers have done most of their summer business early on, bringing in nine players before the start of pre-season. Record signing Steve Mounie has grabbed four goals in pre-season, and Tom Ince has also been amongst the goals after his move from Derby. Huddersfield will need to be clinical if they are going to survive. Their total of 56 goals was only the fourteenth highest in the Championship last season, and they were actually promoted with a negative goal difference! Against Premier League defences however, Huddersfield may struggle to find the goals to keep themselves afloat. Huddersfield have a fairly easy opening to the season, as they don’t face a top six side until the end of September, so we could see a strong start from David Wagner’s side. However, their final four games are Chelsea (A), Everton (H), Manchester City (A) and Arsenal (H). If Huddersfield are still in with a chance of staying up by that point, it could be a very tense final few weeks for their fans.

Key Player: Aaron Mooy. The Australian international won Huddersfield’s player of the year award in their promotion season, and has since turned his loan move in to a permanent one. He was one of the top performers in the Championship last season, and now he has his opportunity to perform in the Premier League.

One to Watch: Philip Billing. The promising Dane broke in to the Huddersfield team in the 2015/16 season, and continued his development with 16 appearances in the Championship last season. The midfielder stepped in to the first team after Jonathan Hogg’s injury in March, and although he is clearly highly rated by the club, David Wagner has questioned his attitude. If Billing can raise himself to Wagner’s challenge, he may well feature in the Premier League this season.

Last Season: 5th (Championship)

Predicted Finish: 20th

Premier League 2017/18 Preview – Everton

Everton

Image: Everton FC

Everton have been making headlines this summer as one of the highest spending teams in the division. After impressing at Sunderland last season, Jordan Pickford has become the most expensive British goalkeeper and will look to be Everton’s long-term solution to their lengthy goalkeeper struggles. Michael Keane impressed for Burnley, and has joined for £30m, bolstering a defence that was badly affected by injuries last season. You have to imagine that Everton will be stronger defensively this season, strengthening two positions that were weak links last season, as well as having a full season of Idrissa Gueye, Tom Davies and Morgan Schneiderlin covering every blade of grass in midfield. Davy Klaassen looks as though he will be the replacement for Ross Barkley, who Koeman has seen as expendable. At just £5.2m, Sandro Ramirez could be one of the bargains of the season, but it could be too early to rely on the 22-year-old to replace the goals left by the departure of Romelu Lukaku. This is where Everton’s problems will lie this season though, and this will probably be the thing that stops them breaking in to the top six. There is no 20-goal-a-season striker in their side, and they struggled for periods last season even with Lukaku in the side. The signing of Wayne Rooney is the anomaly in Everton’s business this summer. Apart from Rooney, Everton have looked to sign young players approaching their peak, with the potential to either grow with the club or sell on for a huge profit. Rooney, although a sentimental signing, doesn’t look capable of leading the line for a team challenging for a top six place, nor is he good enough to sit back and pull the strings from a deeper role, especially if the Toffees are successful in their pursuit of Swansea’s Gylfi Sigurdsson. And the less said about Ronald Koeman’s baffling obsession with Cuco Martina the better.

Key Player: Sandro Ramirez. Everton have no real stand out players this season, but the time that it takes for Sandro to adjust to the Premier League could influence how the Toffees fare this year. A product of Barcelona’s youth academy, and having made 17 appearances for the club, Sandro netted 16 goals in 31 games for mid-table Malaga last season. At just 5ft 9, he will not be a like for like replacement for Lukaku, but once Everton adapt their style of play to suit their new players Sandro will certainly be capable of netting the goals to push the Toffees towards a top six finish.

One to Watch: Liam Walsh. The midfielder was a part of the Everton side that won the Premier League 2, the Under 23 league. The 19-year-old scored 6 goals in 26 appearances and won the competition’s player of the month for February. After Tom Davies’ breakthrough last season, Walsh will be keen to follow suit, however it may be tough for the youngster due to the depth in Everton’s midfield.

Last Season: 7th

Predicted Finish: 7th

Premier League 2017/18 Preview – Crystal Palace

cpfc

Image: BBC.co.uk

The future is looking bright for Crystal Palace. Frank de Boer has come in to replace Sam Allardyce, who left after keeping Palace up last season. However, this squad should never have been in that situation, and De Boer should be aiming for a solid mid-table finish. He did not fare well at Inter Milan, but a number of managers have failed to turn around the Nerazurri’s fortunes. De Boer has played a 3-4-3 formation in pre-season, and it will be interesting to see whether this will play to the strengths of Christian Benteke and Wilfried Zaha. Palace’s signings this summer have been very positive. Ruben Loftus-Cheek clearly has immense talent, and will be playing to prove that he is capable of being a Premier League regular. Jairo Riedewald is a ball-playing defender who is also comfortable in defensive midfield, and the 20-year-old already has three caps for the Netherlands. Timothy Fosu-Mensah has also come in on loan, reinforcing that De Boer will look to focus on developing a young squad as he did at Ajax, especially with the departures of Fraizer Campbell, Mattheu Flamini and Joe Ledley.

Key Player: Wilfried Zaha. The winger was one of Palace’s star players last season, netting seven goals and providing nine assists. Under a more attack-minded coach, Zaha’s impact could be even greater this season. He will be playing in a more advanced position this season, as a part of the front three, and is already seemingly a marked man in the pre-season friendlies with De Boer complaining about his rough treatment from opposition players.

One to Watch: Jason Lokilo. The 19-year-old has featured up front for Palace throughout their pre-season friendlies, including starts against FC Metz and Schalke. The winger has impressed De Boer with his pace and ability to take players on, as well as his set-piece delivery, and this could see him being given a chance alongside Zaha, who many at the club are likening him to.

Last Season: 14th

Predicted Finish: 12th

Premier League 2017/18 Preview – Chelsea

chelsea

Image: Premier League

Chelsea’s dominance last season was not predicted by many, but the real test will be whether their squad can maintain a title push whilst also challenging in Europe. The main problem that Chelsea face is the expected loss of Diego Costa. Conte has replaced him, with Alvaro Morata coming in for £70m. Morata averaged a goal every 88 minutes last season for Real Madrid, but whether he can adapt to the Premier League straight away and replace the presence that Costa brought to the team. Michy Batshuayi will hope to get a chance to prove himself in Costa’s absence, after scoring 5 goals in just 239 minutes of game time last season. The Blues have also splashed out on Antonio Rudiger, providing them with a natural centre-back, rather than having to play full-back Cesar Azpilicueta as a part of the back three. Tiemoue Bakayoko has arrived from Monaco as an upgrade on Nemanja Matic, who has left for Manchester United, and support for N’golo Kante. Chelsea’s new signings will have to bed in quickly, as they face European-chasing rivals Tottenham, Everton, Arsenal and Manchester City before the end of September.

Key Player: Eden Hazard. The Belgian was Chelsea’s stand out player last season, contributing 16 goals and 5 assists. This was a huge improvement on his 2015/16 season, and Hazard will again be key to Chelsea retaining their title. With Morata being less of a complete forward than Costa, Hazard’s creativity will be relied upon to maintain Chelsea’s goals.

One to Watch: Andreas Christensen. It’s hard to pin-point a player to watch for Chelsea, as most of these are out on loan across Europe. But Andreas Christensen may be given a chance this season after impressing on loan at Borussia Mönchengladbach. With Kurt Zouma heading out on loan, Christensen could offer the rotation option as a part of the back three. The 21-year-old has experience of playing in Europe so should not look out of his depth when given a chance.

Last Season: 1st

Predicted Finish: 2nd

Premier League 2017/18 Preview – Burnley

BUR

Image: Premier League

Burnley performed above all expectations as they never really looked in danger of being relegated. Their home form was the key to this, picking up 33 out of their 40 points at Turf Moor. Conversely, however, the Clarets picked up just one win away from home, with only Hull picking up less points on the road. Had the Premier League been stronger last season, you would imagine that Burnley would’ve been in trouble. Therefore, this season Sean Dyche must focus on becoming tougher to beat away from home if Burnley are to avoid any second-season syndrome. One of Burnley’s key strengths last season was their centre-back partnership of Ben Mee and Michael Keane, whilst ‘keeper Tom Heaton made the most saves in the league (142) whilst also keeping 10 clean sheets. However, Keane has left for Everton, and Burnley are yet to replace him. The signings that they have made have been astute, with defensive midfielder Jack Cork and attacker Jon Walters offering solid options with Premier League experience. Left-back Charlie Taylor has come in on a free from Leeds to offer competition for places with Stephen Ward. Burnley face three tough away trips in their opening five games, travelling to Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool, so could struggle for points early on. However, they face only Arsenal out of last season’s top seven in their run-in, so should be able control their own fate should they be in any danger of relegation.

Key Player: Ben Mee. Although Michael Keane gained most of the plaudits for Burnley’s defence last season, Ben Mee actually out-performed him. Mee averaged almost twice as many successful tackles per game as Keane, as well as having more successful interceptions, blocks and clearances. The two averaged around the same number of passes per game, but Mee managed to complete a higher percentage of these. With Keane’s departure, it will be vital to Burnley for Mee to continue his form in to the new season, if Burnley are to improve on their dismal away form.

One to Watch: Charlie Taylor. The 23-year-old left-back has joined on a free transfer from Leeds. He has been a mainstay of the Leeds side for the past three seasons, and it will be interesting to see whether he can make the step up to become the first choice at Burnley. He was solid defensively last season, and chipped in with 3 assists in his 29 appearances. Taylor will be tested this year with Burnley’s tactics away from home relying on sitting deep and being solid defensively.

Last Season: 16th

Predicted Finish: 16th