The Premier League season is about to begin again and as always, it promises to be action. There has been a great deal of transfer action over the summer, and last weekend we were given a preview of things to come when Manchester City comfortably beat Chelsea 2 – 0 to win the Community Shield.
While it is almost impossible to predict how the season will play out, there are a number of talking points worth looking at before the start of the season. Here we take a look at ten major questions going into the new season.
Can Manchester City Make it Two in a Row?
At present Manchester United is the only club to have won consecutive Premier League seasons, something they have done numerous times, 1992 to 1994, 1995 to 1997, 1998 to 2001, and 2006 to 2009.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) August 9, 2018
However, Manchester City are in an excellent position to become the second team to achieve the feat. Last season they became the first ever team to accumulate 100 points in a season, and that was just one of eleven new records set by the team, while they tied three others.
In fact, City was so dominant last season that theoretically they could have won by playing just 28 of the 38 games. They had a total of 32 wins and 4 draws, losing just twice to Liverpool and Manchester United, and finished 19 points ahead of Manchester United.
This summer the only major signing City has made was Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City. However, they managed to sell six of their players, none of whom would even make the second squad, without it causing any fuss. All this suggests that they will once again be a very dangerous side.
Will Liverpool Continue to Improve?
While Liverpool did not win any trophies last season, they finished in the top four for a second consecutive season and they reached the Champions League final. There are now great expectations surrounding the team and fans are hoping for some silverware.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) August 9, 2018
The stars behind Liverpool’s success were Salah, Mane and Frimino who scored 57 Premier League goals and 91 in all competitions. They also helped compensate for the loss of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona in January. In order to try and build on this, Liverpool have brought in four major players this summer, midfielders Fabinho and Naby Keita, the attacker Xherdan Shaqiri and goalkeeper Alisson Becker.
Liverpool lost just five games last season, all of them away from home. But they need to start turning more draws into wins. They drew a total of 12 games, a number only exceeded by West Bromwich and Brighton & Hove Albion.
What Will Happen at the Bottom of the Table?
The three teams promoted to the Premier League at the start of last season have all survived, but more surprising was the relegation of Stoke, Swansea and West Brom, all of whom were fairly well established in the top flight.
If you ignore last season’s top six, and the three newly promoted teams (Fulham, Cardiff and Wolverhampton), there are eleven teams remaining, none of which have had particularly long runs in the Premier League.
With the six teams fighting for the top spots excluded, it is conceivable that any of the remaining fourteen could be drawn into a fight to avoid relegation over the coming season.
Who is to Blame, Paul Pogba or Jose Mourinho?
Both Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho have been at Manchester United since 2016, but neither have lived up to expectations.
There have been continual complaints about how Mourinho has made use of Pogba, and considering how influential he was in France’s successful World Cup campaign, it would seem that the fault lies with Mourinho.
Manchester United failed to win a trophy last season, and while it was only the fourth season out of 16 that Mourinho has failed to capture any silverware, he seemed to be thoroughly uninspired throughout.
Mourinho regularly complains about squad depth and the need for new players, but after spending over $500 million on new players, his excuses are beginning to wear thing for supporters.
Can Burnley Keep It Up?
Burnley was perhaps the most surprising team last season, finishing seventh in the league with 54 points and earning a place in Europa League qualifying. However, many teams find this to be a major disadvantage, having to compete in more competitions while trying to perform domestically.
Furthermore, after last season, the other teams will be wearier in their approach to Burnley. The coming week are likely to be a true test of the team’s metal.
Will West Ham’s Big Spending Turn Things Around?
In 2016 West Ham were in Burnley’s current position, having finished seventh in the league. It was also the team’s final season at Upton Park before making the move to the Olympic Stadium. This move was meant to herald a new era for West Ham, with increased attendance to help them move closer to the best of England’s clubs.
However, West Ham ended up dropping to eleventh and then finished last season thirteenth. Furthermore, the thirteenth place finish doesn’t tell the full story, as the team came close to relegation.
West Ham have now brought in well-respected coach Manuel Pellegrini, and since then they have spent vast amounts of money bringing in new players. It remains to be seen if this will help turn things around, but fans will certainly be hoping for at least a top half finish.
How Will Fulham and Wolves Settle In?
Wolves were comfortably promoted from the Championship last season, but it took Fulham a little longer. In the end, they couldn’t achieve an automatic promotion spot, but wins over Derby and Aston Villa gave them the third spot through the play-offs.
Over the summer Fulham has spent a great deal of money on some big name players while Wolves brought in goalkeeper Rui Patricio and midfielder Joao Moutinho. While it seems unlikely that they will be able to upset the big clubs, it would be a mistake to underestimate the newcomers.
Will Spurs Settle Into Their New Stadium?
Last season Tottenham Hotspur were playing home games at Wembley while a new stadium was built at White Hart Lane. The stadium went massively over budget, and this may be why the team has not spent in the transfer window.
They have one more game to play at Wembley, on August 18 against Fulham before the new stadium opens and they host Liverpool on September 15. Before then, Spurs have three away games, at Newcastle, Manchester United and Watford.
Last season it took time for Spurs to settle at Wembley, they lost one and drew two of their first three home games. One season earlier Spurs were fantastic at home, they played 19 games, won 17 and drew 2. If they can return to that kind of form at home, then they will be real contenders for at least a top four finish.
How Will Arsenal and Chelsea’s New Managers Perform?
Last season both Arsenal and Chelsea failed to finish in the top four, and as a result will not be in the Champions League this season. Chelsea finished fifth with 70 points, five behind Liverpool, and Arsenal were sixth with 63 points.
Chelsea’s reaction was typical of the team, they fired manager Antonio Conte (despite him winning the Premier League and FA Cup in successive seasons), and hired Maurizio Sarri.
Arsenal also changed their manager, but unlike Chelsea, who have had 10 managers over 15 years, Arsenal have not changed manager for 22 years. They brought in Unai Emery, formerly of PSG and Sevilla, to take over from Arsene Wenger.
Neither manager faces an easy task and there are sure to be hiccups along the way. However, there are simple issues at the heart of each team’s problems. Last season Chelsea did not score anywhere near enough goals while Arsenal conceded far too many. Chelsea scored just 62 (compared to Manchester City’s 106, Liverpool’s 84, Spurs and Arsenal’s 74, and Manchester United’s 68). Arsenal on the other hand, allowed 51 goals through their defence, even West Bromwich, who finished bottom of the league, let just five more through.
The teams above Arsenal did now allow anywhere near as many goals through, Manchester City allowed just 27, Manchester United 28, Tottenham Hotspur, 36, and Chelsea and the much-mocked Liverpool defence allowed 38.
However, while the problem may be easy to spot, it remains to be seen how quickly, or if, the new managers will be able to fix them.
Will The Younger Players Be Given a Chance?
Due to the World Cup, a number of the biggest names delayed their return to their clubs and youngsters have filled the spaces in warm-up games over the last few weeks. Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal are just a few of the teams to have given some of their teenagers much needed playing time in their pre-season games.
We have seen the likes of Callum Hudson-Odio, Phil Foden and Emile Smith Rowe take to the field in recent games, but it remains to be seen if any of them will be selected in the coming season, or if they will find themselves back in the background.