It’s the most wonderful time of the year and it’s time for our Premier League season preview!
Many people wrongly believe Andy Williams was talking about Christmas when he wrote this 1960’s classic.
In actual fact he was talking about the period at the end of July when the various pre-season tournaments start to wind down, transfer speculation begins to kick into overdrive and betting shops are full of punters are scrambling to find themselves the next bookie bashing Premier League winner like Leicester City in 2016. (SPOILER ALERT: They probably won’t!)
That said, let’s take a look at the runners and riders for in our Premier League season preview:
If I had motivated myself enough to write this a few weeks ago, I would have doomed The Gunners to another season of thinking they could recapture their glory days of finishing 4th and getting knocked out in the last 16 of the Champions League against Bayern Munich.
As it stands, they’ve broken their transfer record by landing the much-lauded Nicolas Pepe from Lille for £72 million pounds. This is despite, as reports say, only having a budget of £45 million.
Dani Ceballos’ signing gives them a little bit extra in midfield. However, there’s still a defensive issue with club captain Laurent Koscielny gone and Shkodran Mustafi seemingly for the exit door.
If the forward duo of Lacazette and Aubameyang can repeat last year’s goal-scoring exploits and an extra defensive signing can be secured, I can see Unai Emery’s second season in charge at The Emirates ending much the same as the first one did: good but not great.
Six out of the last ten Championship play-off winners have been relegated immediately. That doesn’t really bold well for Villa, does it?
They’ve certainly invested in the squad but can you really integrate 11 new players into a team and not expect there to be some kind of bedding in period?
Only two of their eleven signings have Premier League experience (Tyrone Mings and Matt Targett) which could cause problems. However, they finished strongly last season, only losing twice in the league since mid-February.
Jack Grealish is integral to their success next season. When he plays well so does the rest of the team and if he keeps his head about him, he can help Villa stay up.
I’d almost forgotten that Bournemouth exists – bear with me though because that’s a good thing.
They’re a great example of what a team with minimal resources can do when they have a manager who knows the club inside out.
Eddie Howe is currently the longest-serving manager in the Premier League (2,483 days) and this is their 5th consecutive Premier League campaign.
Luckily for them, they’ve managed to keep hold of most of, if not all of the talent that kept them there this last few years. In particular, Callum Wilson and Josh King, who managed to bag 26 goals between them last year.
Nevertheless, they did concede 70 goals last season. However, with Nathan Ake expected to kick on and the introduction of highly touted Bristol City left-back Lloyd Kelly you can expect that figure to decrease slightly.
Barring any sort of catastrophe, I can’t see Bournemouth going anywhere for this season anyway.
This is a tricky one.
Brighton did well to stay up last season. In addition, for a brief period against Man City on the final day Glenn Murray would have never had to buy a drink in Liverpool again.
They now start the season with a new manager in Graham Potter, who has the unenviable task of improving a Brighton team that managed just 35 goals in the league last season.
Bright sparks from last season were few and far between and they were only safe from relegation last season because there were three teams below them who were really… really bad.
Burnley managed a respectable 15th place in the league, despite last season starting approximately five minutes after the end of the previous one.
I expect this to continue this season. Gravel voiced Sean Dyche has kept largely the same squad together, losing only Tom Heaton to Aston Villa.
With two other England international goalkeepers knocking around Turf Moor, I suspect it will be more of the same from Dyche and Co this season.
The addition of Jay Rodriguez will be a welcome one, giving Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes just that extra bit of service at the business end of the pitch.
Meanwhile, at the back, they can hopefully fend off any interest from other clubs for James Tarkowski, though that’s largely dependent on transfers elsewhere.
This is an interesting one.
Fresh off a Europa League win against Arsenal at the end of last season, new manager and Man City legend Frank Lampard now finds himself with a transfer ban the runs until Summer 2020 and an Eden Hazard shaped hole in his squad.
Chelsea’s 5th manager in as many years has had an interesting preseason sifting through the clubs many, many, many loanees (41 by my count). These include the likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori.
The January capture of Christian Pulisic mitigates some of the damage from Hazard’s departure, but he might take a while to adapt to the Premier League.
I see this season as a bit of a free hit for the London outfit given the high regard Lampard will be held in by the fans and the circumstances surrounding the squad and players.
It will be hard for them to match last season’s 3rd place finish, but I can’t see them finishing anywhere out of the top 6.
When Roy Hodgson took over at Crystal Palace in 2017 (after going seven games without even scoring a goal) relegation was firmly on the cards.
Obviously, that hasn’t materialised and Hodgson has quietly got himself a decent, mid-table side.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s sale to Man United hurts them slightly as he is a player that can only improve, but time will tell on that one.
Wilfried Zaha is the player they can’t afford to lose. Palace are demonstrably worse off without him and given any significant incomings, no disrespect to Jordan Ayew, they simply cannot afford to sell the Ivorian.
Barring visits to Old Trafford and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, their opening five fixtures look like ones they can get results from.
Undoubtedly, improving home form is a must after only winning five times at Selhurst Park last time out. Only Huddersfield were worse, and we all know what happened to them.
This was always going to be the hardest one for me to preview, given my allegiances. (I’ll leave you to guess who that is, though it should be obvious).
Having said that, The Toffees have quietly had a decent transfer window. They secured experience in Fabian Delph and tied down last year’s loanee Andre Gomes to a permanent deal.
They’ve also bolstered their attacking options by signing Juventus’ Moise Kean.
While the Blues were poor away from home (W5, L9, D5), their home form proved beneficial. They lost only five of their 19 home games last season. Moreover, this included wins over Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea.
Marco Silva has the squad playing in a way which entertains the Goodison faithful. Additions to the squad will only serve to improve that.
Just don’t be pinning your hopes on the Merseyside power shift happening just yet. (Had to get that in there, sorry.)
Brendan Rodgers’ first full season in charge of Leicester comes after a run that saw The Foxes lose just three of their final 10 games last season. As well as that, Jamie Vardy scored 10 goals in 11 games.
The permanent signings of Youri Tielemans and Ayoze Perez from Newcastle show that the owners are keen to maintain their position as the best of the rest after their unbelievable overachievement in 2016.
It’s mad that it actually happened though, isn’t it?
While Harry Maguire will be a huge loss for Rodgers, Tielemans and Vardy will want their say in the race for 7th place.
Eight weeks ago The Reds won their 6th Champions League and a million fans lined the streets of Liverpool to welcome them home.
Their second-place finish in the league was the highest points total in the club’s history. It was even more impressive by the fact that they chased down perhaps the best Premier League team there’s ever been.
Some fans are frustrated about the lack of any big-name signings. Sepp Van Den Berg and Harvey Elliot are certainly ones for the future rather than right now. For me, that’s okay.
I expect this Liverpool side to go strength to strength and challenge for silverware again this term. Their season started with the Community Shield against Manchester City on Sunday. If they go deep in all competitions they could be playing almost 70 games this season… that’s a lot.
The emergence of Rhian Brewster could provide much-needed cover to their prolific front three. The returning Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita will add dynamism to the midfield. Expect them to go toe to toe with City again.
Check back tomorrow for the second part of our Premier League season preview!