Premier League 2018-19 Season Preview: Reloaded Liverpool stands in way of Manchester City’s dominance
Manchester City will start the Premier League 2018-19 season as favourites but with Liverpool and Chelsea bolstering their ranks in the transfer window, it will be a tight race to the title.football Updated: Aug 09, 2018 18:34 IST
The Premier League season is here and like every time, it promises a lot of exciting matches and individual performances that will etch the names of the players in English footballing folklore. A look at the last three seasons and one can already see the unpredictability that comes with England’s top- tier competition.
While Pep Guardiola’s star-studded Manchester City sauntered their way to the title last year, it was Leicester City who made the headlines with their fairytale run to the title in 2015-16. With the new season on the horizon, the English clubs are back from their foreign (mostly) pre-season tours and over the next 10 months, they will battle to become the new champions of English football.
While talking about title contenders, it is almost impossible to not talk about Manchester City after their dominant show last season. Pep Guardiola’s men were in a class of their own and the 19-point difference between them and second-placed Manchester United was a clear depiction of their superiority.
This time, the core trio of Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne are back for the Citizens and they will be joined by playmaker Riyad Mahrez, who became the club’s costliest signing. With the Community Shield already under their belt, City are once again looking in brilliant form. Add Guardiola’s tactical acumen to the mix and City might just become the first side since rivals Manchester United in 2009 to retain their title.
On the other hand, their main contenders - United and Chelsea - have been going through a bit of a turmoil. United manager Jose Mourinho and star midfielder Paul Pogba have not enjoyed the best of relations over the last year and his frustration over the team’s pre-season performances is a concern for the fans.
Mourinho was quite clear about his unhappiness regarding the club’s transfer plans and although they have signed Brazilian midfielder Fred and FC Porto defender Diogo Dalot, the manager believes that the team is still a couple of key players short.
Over at Stamford Bridge, the ‘revolving door’ policy of appointing managers continues as Antonio Conte was sacked following a below-par season that also saw him alienate members of the dressing room; Maurizio Sarri took his place. Former Napoli gaffer Sarri became the 13th manager to be appointed since 2004 and he will be given the same ‘perform or perish’ ultimatum by the owner Roman Abrahimovic.
However, Sarri has a talented squad at his disposal and the addition of Italian midfielder Jorginho, and Willian declaring his loyalty lies at Stamford Bridge, means the Londoners will be sorted at the centre of the field. The concern still remains over the possible departures of Eden Hazard, but a reassuring approach from Sarri can calm down the transfer talks.
Staying in London now and we have two rival North London clubs with vastly different situations - Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. Last season saw the end of the Arsene Wenger era at Arsenal and in came former Paris Saint-Germain boss Unai Emery to take over the reins. It’s never easy to take over a club which is going through transition but Emery has already started to put his stamp on certain sectors.
Arsenal were done with their summer signings well before the start of their pre-season and the addition of players like Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Stephan Lichtsteiner means that the team will have a lot of experience in the back line.
Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira will also add more stability to the midfield and that allows Aaron Ramsey, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil to venture forward in order to help out main striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in Emery’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation.
While Arsenal are going through monumental changes, Tottenham Hotspur are happy to follow last season’s formula. The third place finish was a testament of the resilience shown by the team and with names like Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen in their ranks, Mauricio Pochettino has made no major additions to his squad.
Kane, who scored 30 goals last season, had a good outing with England at the FIFA World Cup 2018 and he will be once again be the main man for Tottenham with Eriksen, South Korea international Son Hueng-min and Alli providing him support from the midfield.
Down at Merseyside, Liverpool are looking like a massive threat to Manchester City’s title with Jurgen Klopp creating a team capable of excelling with his ‘heavy metal’ brand of football.
With Brazilian goalkeeper Allison Becker, defender Fabinho as well as midfielders Xherdran Shaqiri and Naby Keita joining the ranks, the Reds are looking stronger than ever. Add to that, the firepower of last season’s top-scorer Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, and the team looks ready to get the ground running in the title chase.
When it comes to the relegation battle, it is common practice to chalk up the newly promoted sides as favourites to go down. This year, it is no different as Cardiff City (1.68) are the odds-on favourites according to Betfair to be relegated with another promoted team in Fulham being fifth-favourite at 3.50. However, it will not be wise to go with the trend this year as the odds-on numbers do not show the complete picture.
Betting data over the past five seasons shows how many of the three relegated teams were promoted sides: 2013-14 (one), 2014-15 (two), 2015-16 (one), 2016-17 (one), 2017-18 (zero). Of the last 15 teams to be relegated, only five were promoted sides (33%) and that figure goes down to just two from nine (22%) over the past three seasons.
This time, Wolves are in a better position than traditional powers like Southampton and Watford to escape relegation thanks to their impressive transfer strategy. With signings like Joao Moutinho and Diogo Jota, they have showed great intent and that is also clear from the fact that Wolves are 11th favourite among the betting community when it comes to relegation.
The likely choice for relegation is Huddersfield Town who managed to stay up in the Premier League last season by the skin of their teeth. They were the second team in Premier League history, and the first since 1996-97, to score 28 or fewer goals and still avoid relegation.
But, with the other strong teams joining the ranks, the luck may just run out for the Terriers. The other apparent choice is Watford who are also suffering from financial problems and their managerial changes are quite infamous in the competition. The aging team has not seen many quality additions and it could just be game over for them at the end of this season.
The surprise inclusion in the relegation battle could be Southampton, who looked completely out of form in the last season. Mark Hughes’ men escaped relegation by just three points, but this time around they may not be that lucky.
First Published: Aug 09, 2018 18:28 IST