Sam Hendry runs the rule over the Premier League season
After a frantic deadline day which at least left supporters in north London happy, the time for talk is over and it’s time for the real action to begin. Some sides will be happier than others with their summer dealings, but all talk of “winning” the transfer window is meaningless if they can’t translate that to the pitch. Let’s pick out some of my best bets for the season ahead…
Top six teams under threat?
I don’t think it’s worth looking at the league champions market. In all likelihood it will be another two-horse race between Man City and Liverpool and thus they are both way too short to back. What I am interested in is the race to finish in the top six.
The last three seasons have seen the same six sides occupy those top spots, but I think several look vulnerable this time around.
Eden Hazard has left Chelsea and thanks to their transfer ban they have been unable to source a like-for-like replacement. Christian Pulisic has arrived after his pre-arranged transfer from Borussia Dortmund, but it would be asking too much of him to replicate Hazard’s contribution.
Manchester United have improved their defence but still look weak in midfield and attack and there are question marks over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s credentials for the job after a horrible end to last season.
Arsenal have undoubtedly added quality to their squad, but I still have big reservations over their defence.
All that may clear the path for one of Wolves, Everton or Leicester City to make a run and disrupt the Premier League’s golden boys.
Wolves played virtually the same starting XI every week last season and may struggle to juggle their Europa League commitments alongside domestic football while Everton are still a little unpredictable. That leaves Leicester as the best placed to lay down a challenge in my eyes.
They have a top class manager in Brendan Rodgers and securing the permanent signing of Youri Tielemans was a real coup. Much of the 2016 title-winning squad have moved on and been replaced by young and hungry players looking to cause an upset of their own.
Although it was too late in the window to spend the £85m they received for Harry Maguire, that money will still be there waiting in January should they need further reinforcements. They are available at odds of ??? to finish in the top six and I don’t think it’s outwith the realms of possibility that they could threaten the Champions League places. It’s ??? for them to finish in the top four.
Who will go down?
At the bottom, Sheffield United and Norwich are most people’s tips to go down, but I believe two more established Premier League teams could be in danger of the drop.
Mike Ashley has finally opened his wallet this summer at Newcastle, but the problem is it’s for Steve Bruce and not Rafa Benitez.
They have lost both of their top scorers form last season in Solomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez, but the Spaniard will be an even bigger loss than any player and I think the Geordies will be in big trouble without him.
Brighton are another who are going into the season with a new manager – through their own choice at least – after Graham Potter replaced the sacked Chris Hughton. They were dreadful for much of last season and their third year in the Premier League could be their last.
Joining them will I think be one of the aforementioned two of Sheffield United or Norwich. Daniel Farke did a terrific job guiding an unfancied Norwich side to the Championship title last season and I think he can keep them up here at the expense of Chris Wilder’s Blades.
A treble of Brighton, Newcastle and Sheffield United to go down is ???
The year of Bernardo Silva?
The market for PFA Player of the Year is unsurprisingly dominated by Man City and Liverpool players and if City can win the title for a third straight year then expect the winner to come from there.
Raheem Sterling earned much of the plaudits last year after his 17 league goals, but it was Bernardo Silva who was arguably their best and most consistent performer over the season.
Pep Guardiola has repeatedly spoken of his admiration for the diminutive Portuguese and he is now one of the first names on the team sheet.
Kevin De Bruyne has hopefully seen the back of the knee injuries which saw him miss large chunks of last season, but the truth is he wasn’t that big of a miss purely because of Bernardo’s brilliance.
With Leroy Sane facing a lengthy spell out with an ACL injury and David Silva in his last year at the Etihad, expect Bernardo to have an even more integral role this year and he is ??? to scoop the league’s most coveted individual prize.
In the race to be top goalscorer, I can’t look away from Tottenham’s leading man Harry Kane.
He found the net 17 times last year despite missing ten games through injury and if he can stay fit then I expect him to lead the way this time around.