With the English Premier League kicking off this weekend, it’s time to look into the crystal ball to see who’s going to succeed and fail in the 2018-19 campaign. We’ll look at both team and individual performances and come up with 12 bold predictions for the year. Only time will tell how accurate they are, but it sure will sure be interesting and entertaining to see how they pan out. Of course, injuries may hamper our educated guesses, but they’re just part of the game!
Take from the predictions what you will, since soccer is typically such an unpredictable sport. But all of them should have a decent chance of coming true (at least, we think so!). However, all 12 of them coming to fruition would surely be nothing short of a miracle, while all of them being wrong could be a distinct possibility. Anyway, after hours of humming and hawing and intense scrutiny, we present a dozen bold predictions for the 2018-19 EPL season, in no particular order of importance.
12. Jose Mourinho is First Manager Sacked
There are several managers who could find themselves out of a job if their squads get off to a bad start, including Neil Warnock (Cardiff), Eddie Howe (Bournemouth), Javi Garcia (Watford), and Chris Hughton (Brighton). But the man with the most weight on his shoulders is none other than Jose “The Special One” Mourinho at Manchester United. After suffering through some mighty uninspiring football at the hands of previous bosses David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, fans were expecting creativity and offense with Mourinho. That hasn’t been the case though, with way too many points being dropped through dull draws last season. Things don’t really look much brighter for 2018-19 with the way United played in the preseason and if the points don’t come fast and furious by Christmas, Mourinho could once again be looking for a new job.
11. Manchester City Comes Second
Manchester City is the betting favorite to retain the league title and it’s easy to see why. They’ve basically got the same squad as last year other than the aged Yaya Toure and have added the likes of attacker Riyad Mahrez, midfielder Claudio Gomes, and defender Philippe Sandler. Also, young Phil Foden appears to be the real deal and should be able to prove it if boss Pep Guardiola throws enough playing time his way. It’s typically harder to defend a title than it is to win one and this season will be a prime example of that. City should score plenty of goals with Mahrez, David Villa, Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, and Gabriel Jesus in the squad. But some of last year’s lady luck will run out on them, such as last-minute game winners, and we predict they’ll have to settle for second place this time around.
10. Liverpool Wins League
Anybody could predict Man City to win the league (and have a good chance of nailing it), but since we’re listing “bold” predictions, we’re taking Liverpool to win the Premier League for the first time (yes, we’re aware that football existed before 1992). Jurgen Klopp has done a fine job assembling a formidable squad over the summer by adding Brazilian international Alisson Becker in goal, along with Fabinho, Xherdan Shaqiri, and Naby Keita. The Reds arguably have the deepest squad in the league with the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Daniel Sturridge, and Mohamed Salah. The key will be staying healthy, scoring goals at the same pace as last year and tightening up defensively and in goal. Oxlade-Chamberlain will miss most of the season with injury, but with Alisson between the posts and the rest of the newcomers chipping in, Liverpool with their brand of heavy metal football will be crowned champions.
9. Liverpool, Man City, Tottenham, and Arsenal Finish as Top Four
We’ve got Liverpool and City to finish as the top two, so we need to fill out the the top four. This is the place to be if you hope to qualify for the Champions League. Even though Tottenham’s been dormant during the summer transfer window, they’re still good enough for the top-four if Harry Kane scores his usual boat load of goals. The other logical candidates are Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester United. But with United in a bit of turmoil and Chelsea with an apparent lack of scoring depth, it looks like they’ll be on the outside looking in while Arsenal sneaks in. The Gunners begin a new era as Arsene Wenger finally took the hint to leave and his managerial job’s been taken by Unai Emery. Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud may all be gone now, but with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, and Alexandre Lacazette leading the attack, Arsenal returns to the top four.
8. Cardiff, Huddersfield, and Watford Are Relegated
Usually, the three newly-promoted clubs are among the favorites to go back down to the Championship at the end of the season. That wasn’t the case last year though and probably won’t happen again this season. New boys Wolverhampton and Fulham should be solid enough to remain in the Premier League for at least two years, but the third newcomer Cardiff City will likely be relegated by May (at the latest). Wolves have enough talent to survive and Fulham acquired some useful players during the transfer window. However, Cardiff simply don’t have enough skill or attacking prowess in the squad to stay afloat and won’t be able to survive on grit alone. The same can be said for Huddersfield, Brighton, Watford, Southampton, or Bournemouth. So look for Huddersfield and Watford to join Cardiff in relegation.
7. Kevin De Bruyne Named Player of the Year
Belgian international Kevin De Bruyne is rightfully considered as one of the world’s top players. The 27-year-old Man City midfielder led the league with 16 assists last year to win the inaugural Premier League Playmaker of the Season award and was named to the PFA Team of the Year. He was also named City’s Player of the Year for the second time in the last three seasons and made the UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season. De Bruyne’s not a big scorer, but managed 12 goals in all competitions with City. He would have taken home the PFA and Player’s Player of the Year awards too, if Mo Salah didn’t score a league record 32 goals in a 38-game season. It’s going to be hard for Salah to repeat last year’s scoring heroics, but De Bruyne will continue to create chances, set up his teammates, and score enough goals to take home the Player of the Year awards this season.
6. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Wins Golden Boot
He’s going to have some stiff competition from the likes of Liverpool’s Salah and Tottenham’s Kane, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal has all the tools needed to lead the league in scoring. The 29-year-old Gabonese international skipper is relatively new to the Premier League, as he came over from Borussia Dortmund in the January transfer window. He played just 13 league games for the Gunners last campaign, but slammed in 10 goals. He’s a gifted scorer, with 206 markers in 410 career club outings. Aubameyang led the Bundesliga in scoring in 2016-17 with 31 goals and was the league’s Player of the Year a season earlier. He doesn’t appear to be a flash in the pan either, as he recently scored four goals and three assists in five preseason encounters for the Gunners. He is now the main man at the Emirates. Look for Aubameyang to take home the Golden Boot.
5. Comeback Player of the Year: Henrikh Mkhitaryan
He started out like a house on fire with Man United in 2017-18, with five assists in the first three league matches, but Jose Mourinho quickly doused Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s playing time. The 29-year-old captain of Armenia’s national team then found himself shipped down to London in January, as Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez headed to Old Trafford in a transfer/swap deal. Mkhitaryan set up three goals in his first start with the Gunners and ended up with a pair of goals in nine league games with the North London club. Overall though, his season was plagued by a combination of injuries, the transfer, and poor form. He scored three goals in 24 league games and five in 37 contests in all competitions. Look for a refreshed and determined Henrikh Mkhitaryan to show up in 2018-19 as he reminds everybody how talented a scorer and playmaker he really is.
4. Best Premier League Newcomer: Jorginho
Other than Chelsea paying a world-record fee for Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, there weren’t really any earth-shattering acquisitions in the summer. The best of the bunch appear to be defender Issa Diop heading to West Ham, goalkeepers Rui Patricio and Alisson Becker joining Wolverhampton and Liverpool, and midfielders Naby Keita, Jorginho, and Fred moving to Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United respectively. Defender/winger Ryan Sessegnon is also technically a newcomer as he’ll be playing in his first Premier League season with Fulham. The 26-year-old Jorginho should have the biggest impact though, as he suits new Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri’s high-energy playing style. The Brazilian-born Italian international is a deep-lying playmaker who came over from Napoli. He’s well known for instigating attacks via his creative passing skills and should fit in well with N’Golo Kante, Ross Barkley, and Cesc Fabregas.
3. Most Disappointing Premier League Newcomer: Stephan Lichtsteiner
There’s no doubt Swiss international skipper Stephan Lichtsteiner has plenty of world-class experience and a gung-ho winning attitude, but it looks like he’s on his last legs now. The right-back is 34-years-old and after seven seasons with Juventus was allowed to leave Italy and sign on a free transfer with Arsenal. It’s no secret Lichtsteiner’s speed, stamina, and overall playing skills were starting to go slightly downhill with Juventus and he’ll now be faced with a faster paced game in the Premier League. It’ll be interesting to see how much playing time Lichtsteiner will get with the Gunners this season, especially with main right-back competitor Hector Bellerin also wanting a regular starting role. Lichtsteiner started just nine times with Juventus in 42 matches in all competitions last campaign and wasn’t used at all in nine of them. Due to lofty expectations, Arsenal fans will probably be disappointed in him this year.
2. Most Overpriced/Overrated Premier League Player: Alexis Sanchez
Players such as Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero arguably earn their high paychecks, while others like Paul Pogba, Mesut Ozil, and Alexis Sanchez often stir up endless debates over their worth. But with Sanchez reportedly making £500,000 per week as the highest-paid Premier League player, he’s also in line as the most overpriced. In fact, Sanchez is paid $150K more each week than Ozil, who’s the second-highest paid on the list and makes double that of De Bruyne. The 29-year-old Sanchez had some fine years with Arsenal, but the Chilean international then sulked to force a move to Manchester United. Since moving to Old Trafford in January 2018, he’s done absolutely nothing to justify his pay. With Jose Mourinho’s dull brand of football, Sanchez has had no impact at the club at all. The attacker scored just three goals in 18 appearances with United last season and if his preseason play is any indication, his strike rate won’t be much better in 2018-19.
1. Most Underrated/Bargain Premier League Player: Xherdan Shaqiri
It looks like Liverpool picked up the bargain buy of the summer when they reportedly paid just £13 million to Stoke City to acquire the services of Xherdan Shaqiri. The 26-year-old Swiss international midfielder/winger, who was born in the former nation of Yugoslavia, is definitely a world-class player when in form. His team-high eight goals and seven assists last year are a lot better than they sound considering Stoke scored just 35 goals all year. This means Shaqiri was involved in 43 per cent of his team’s league scoring. He was also ranked seventh in the league in chances created with 77. He’ll now be able to feed the Reds’ front three of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino, as well as chip in with goals of his own. Shaqiri had an excellent preseason and can play both the left and right side of the pitch. He’s a quality player who’s worth a lot more than £13 million in today’s game.