Last season was an epic one in the Premier League with Manchester City and Liverpool going at it hammer and tongs over the last few months of the season until City pipped the Reds to the title by a single point. That title success was their second in a row and their fourth Premier League crown and it was then capped a week later when they landed the FA Cup with a 6-0 thrashing of Watford in the final.
City’s domestic dominance was absolute as they won all of the four domestic trophies they entered last season, but missed out on the Champions League, which was won by rivals Liverpool. As both teams and the 18 others in the Premier League kick off their campaign on Saturday, we are going to take a look in the crystal ball and try to predict who will be the Premier League Champions of the 2019/20 season.
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How will the Premier League Shape Up this season?
Given the disparate nature of the Premier League and the gulf in class between the teams at the top, middle and bottom, I think the division itself will be split up into a number of different ‘races’ if you want to call it that. You will have the teams battling against relegation, those battling for mid-table positions, those trying to break into the top six, those battling for Champions League places and lastly, the genuine title contenders.
Here’s how we see each team in the Premier League fitting into these categories.
- Newcastle United
- Aston Villa
- Sheffield United
- Norwich City
Wolves bucked the trend last season by being a newly promoted Premier League side that thrived and finished in the top half of the division, but I think the three newly promoted teams this time around will find it a lot tougher. Norwich seem the best equipped to stay up, but I worry about the amount of goals they concede. Villa ended last season in great form but it is a huge step up in class from the Championship and I am not sure the squad they have is Premier League ready.
Sheffield United’s squad is most definitely not Premier League ready and I think the Blades are going to be one of the teams really struggling. The same can be said for Brighton, who I think made a big mistake sacking Chris Hughton and replacing him with Graham Potter. I have no grudge against the ex-Ostersunds and Swansea boss, but I do feel he is untested at this level and Brighton were in freefall in the latter part of last season.
Lastly, I also think Bournemouth, who also stuttered over the latter stages of the season will find this year tough and Newcastle, now that they will miss the tactical brilliance of Rafa Benitez, are going to find this year a massive struggle.
- Crystal Palace
- West Ham United
I think these five teams have enough quality in their squad to ensure that they do not become embroiled in a relegation battle. They also have some excellent and experienced managers. I do think Burnley and Southampton are set to improve, as should Palace, but I do feel West Ham’s lack of firepower means they won’t improve a great deal on last season, whereas Watford are about at the limit of what they can realistically achieve with their squad and budget.
Trying to Crack the Top Six
- Leicester City
- Wolverhampton Wanderers
I think all three of these teams have made solid moves in the pre-season to push on from their top half finish last season. These teams finished 7th – 9th in the table and I think all have showed ambition to go higher. They could do that with real question marks over at least three teams above them which means that potentially a Champions League berth could be available for one of these teams if they can produce their best form.
Of the trio, I feel Leicester may be the most likely option. I think the signing of Tielemans is the best piece of business in the transfer window and in Brendan Rogers they have a manager who has gone very close to winning the title. Wolves too look sharp and I think they could certainly put pressure on teams above them and at least match their Europa League qualifying spot of last season.
Everton could be great but could also be poor, I am not quite as sold on Marco Silva’s men just yet. I feel their squad doesn’t have the depth of the other two teams in this group, but their first XI has the potential to be the best of the bunch. Everton could finish as high as 4th or 5th or as low as 13th or 14th. They are a tough team to predict.
Aiming for Champions League Places but Perhaps Struggling
- Manchester United
All three of these teams will have their eyes firmly set on finishing top four this season but I also feel all three do have some major problems that mean this is by no means a formality. Indeed if anything, I think the gap between them and the top three teams may well have grown and the gap between them and the teams looking to jump into the top six is now much smaller.
With news that many United stars want out, including key players like Pogba and Lukaku, it is going to be interesting to see how Solskjaer replaces them, if he needs to. Chelsea have lost the massively influential Eden Hazard and with a transfer ban, new manager Frank Lampard will have to rely on youth.
Arsenal meanwhile have lost Aaron Ramsey but have not yet, at the time of writing brought in any players that will cover for his loss or indeed will improve their team any from last season.
As such, I think these teams may find this year a real struggle and not only will they be struggling for a Champions League spot I feel they could come under real pressure for a Europa League spot too.
Definite Champions League Qualifiers
- Tottenham Hotspur
I think the signing of Tanguy Ndombele is a very good move by Spurs and he will add real quality in midfield. However, I still feel they need another player or two to compete with the top two. They lost 13 games in the Premier League last season, eight on the road, in contrast Liverpool lost one and Manchester City just two.
One player isn’t going to close that kind of a gap in quality, but I do feel Spurs could cut down their losses by at least half and if they do, then I think they will be well clear of the chasing pack behind them looking for Champions League places.
Genuine Title Contenders
- Manchester City
I haven’t seen anything in this off season to suggest that the teams chasing them are going to make massive inroads into the gap between these two teams last season and the rest. If anything, I think both these teams have got stronger, City by signing Rodri and Liverpool who can now call upon the likes of Ryan Kent and Harry Wilson, plus the return of Rhian Brewster and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after season-long injuries last year.
For me, both these teams are the class acts in the division and it may well be the case once again that whoever comes out on top in the matches between these two teams, ends up top of the table in the summer.
And though I expect it to be very close again, I think this time around, Liverpool will just do enough to clinch the victory.