Premier League Predictions 2019/20

As some Premier League teams are scrambling to put the last pieces of their jigsaw together, others like myself are preparing the aperitif of fantasy football and predictions that act as the palate cleanser to introduce the main course that is the football season.

Despite getting closer last year, I still didn’t manage to win the prediction league as I was pipped at the post by my good friend Tony Holland.

I’ve decided this year not to go so much on what I think I know but what I and others definitively know. This is to say researching the teams more thoroughly and even asking a few of their fans.

So in reverse order: 

20 – Sheffield United:

Somewhat unsurprisingly I have gone for one of the new boys for my last placed team this year. I’m no fan of Sheffield United but I would like to make it known, I mean no disrespect. My rule of thumb towards the bottom of the league is look for the team that will struggle to find goals and in Sheffield United, I believe I have that team.

I like the addition of former old boy Jagielka. While being past his best, his passion and leadership should inspire the defence and I do think it will be tough to score past the Blades when it comes to those tricky six pointers but I just don’t see enough at the other end of the
field.

A mixture of unproven and underwhelming options including the manager Chris Wilder and up front Lys Moussett and Callum Robinson doesn’t inspire. While I don’t hope they prove me wrong, I am not saying they will not.

It will certainly be interesting to see if he sticks with three at the back and how that plays out, certainly worked okay for Conte at Chelsea.

Player to watch: Oliver McBurnie. I believe he is the club’s record signing at £17m from Swansea and the Scotsman has a lot to live up to but is certainly talented enough to make his mark at the top level if reports are to be believed.

19 – Aston Villa:

Another team with a lot to prove. In Dean Smith they have a manager that I am not sure is cut out for the Premier League. In terms of his charges, Grealish and Abraham will be looking to make a name for themselves having had a taste of the Premier League previously and Tom Heaton was an excellent signing but overall the only reason they finish above Sheffield United is more experience at this level.

It’s a proud history and tradition they have but the Premier League doesn’t care what you did in the past, not even what you did to get here, it only cares about what you can do now and I just don’t see enough to rank this side any higher.


18 – Brighton and Hove Albion:

You may remember that last year this was my “dark horse” team. Not so much this year. Maybe it’s a case of once bitten, twice shy but really, I think the sacking of Chris Hughton will prove to be a big mistake. They go into this season with a new manager and that can always be tricky. They also go in still over reliant on the goals of Glen Murray until further notice. They still have players I really rate but I don’t see that they will have the stability of last season. Yes they were underwhelming in attack and there were players like Jahanbasksh who I rate who never showed a fraction of their ability.

I think this season Brighton will be a boom/bust type commodity and I’m selling my stock after last season and simply because it’s so competitive and tough to pick the order of how the Prem will finish this season, that there are enough warning signs for me to put them here in my opinion.

Player/s to watch: Alireza Jahanbaksh and new boy Leandro Trossard as they simply have to take some of the attacking burden off Murray.


17 –  Norwich City:

Every year there is a team that plays nice football but goes down, this year many will think that team will be Norwich City, I do not. I like Norwich a lot but if I thought they weren’t up to the fight, I’d put them down even casting aside my deep love for the incomparable Stephen Fry.

Teemu Pukki better be everything he is advertised to be though and more if Norwich want to stay up.

More so than that though, the reason I am backing them to avoid the drop is the genius of Daniel Farke. The German former Borussia Dortmund II manager sold James Maddison and Josh Murphy – his two best players – for 33m and then went on to win his side promotion playing an open attacking brand of football.

He knows his team, his team know him and that’s an underrated and overlooked quality these days. He also gets the best out of every player in his team, being as he is an excellent man manager. This team has the ability, especially if Josip Drmic can find the quality that deserted him that previously led to Leverkusen and Gladbach being interested in his services.

Player to watch Onel Hernandez. Exciting and there’s still more to come from him I believe.



16:

Crystal Palace – 12th last season and what have they done to build on that? Stephen Henderson and Jordan Ayew. I like Ayew but he’s not the difference maker that others teams I have ahead of Palace have made, not on his own.

A lot of squad depth left Palace this season in Sako, Souare, Puncheon and they lost their most promising player in Wan Bissaka to Manchester United and weakened their defence doing so. £2.5m invested back into the squad at this point.

That said, they are still solid enough and savvy enough to stay in the Premier League.

Player to watch and the only reason they aren’t lower: Wilfried Zaha.


15 – Newcastle United:

This is a club that lives in turmoil. Yes there are stories of oil money “rescuing” the club, but until I see anything signed and official, I’ll go with what I know is and not what might be.

Losing Rafa hurts, but Ashley made it clear that he wasn’t willing to back him, but he was willing to back Steve Bruce? Why? I think it’s because Steve Bruce is less of a threat to Ashley. Rafa has never been a yes man and his demands would have grown with his improvement of the team.

They have a solid team with some players of real class and have bought players in Joelinton, Willems and Saint-Maxim that can make a real impact in this league.

While Bruce is a step down, he isn’t as bad a manager as people make him out to be. It is seemingly overlooked that he took his Hull City side to a dizzying 10th place, having already kept them in the league in their first season by finishing 16th. The main reason Newcastle are so low is the looming spectre of Mike Ashley and the cloud that hangs over the team because of his ownership. They will stay in the league in spite of him not because of him.

Player to watch: Joelinton, a hard working, intelligent bully of a footballer who the Toon Army will love from day one.


14 – Bournemouth:

This may come as a surprise to those who read my piece last season. I simply can’t see enough improvement or reason to put them any higher.

I still love what they are about, I still think they are more than good enough to be in this league, but with that said, standing still in this league – unless you are good enough to do so – is dangerous and Bournemouth are not at the point where standing still was the right thing to do.

I love that they managed to get 10m for Moussett who showed very little really and 20m from Mings the same, great business. If they had invested some of that money in depth in attacking positions then perhaps I would have been able to put them higher, but with the greatest respect to Jack Stacey, Lloyd Kelly and of course the superb Eddie Howe, I don’t see you kicking on. Not that staying in the Prem yet again would not be another fantastic achievement as you know. Consolidation season for the Cherries.

Player to watch: David Brooks. It’s a shame about his injury but his return will determine the season, I believe.

13 – Southampton:

There’s an optimism again around Southampton fans and with good reason as far as I’m concerned. Important results at important times saw them stay in the league finishing two places from bottom after the appointment of Ralph Hassenhuttl half way through the season in December. With a full pre-season, a healthy Ings and the signing of Che Adams delivering on his promise, this could be a much more comfortable season for the Saints.

Player to watch: Danny Ings – I can’t stress enough how underrated he is. If you can just keep him fit he’s a game changer and and an absolute terror for defences.

12 – Burnley:

It should be a better season for Burnley this year. Without the weight that European football can bring, they should be looking closer to the 54 points that saw their highest ever finish two season ago, 7th. I don’t think they will match it though. That said, they know who they are and what they are and that’s valuable to a team.

I think if you offered some of the more realistic Burnley fans 12th now, they’d take it as long as they continue to improve. Erik Pieters and Jay Rodriguez were good if not spectacular signings that can improve the team and indeed do improve the squad, so I’m happy to give them this little bump up the table.

11 – Watford:

The more astute amongst you will notice that Watford also finished 11th last year. I don’t see them making significant strides, they haven’t signed anyone I am aware of other than Craig Dawson, probably as they are waiting for Joao Pedro in 2020.

With the greatest of respect, I don’t have all that much to say about them other than, like Burnley, they know who they are but unlike Burnley, I believe that cup run will give them a bit more confidence in bigger games. Javi Gracia cost me the prediction league title last year, I am showing him and his side far more respect this!

Player to watch: Roberto Pererya – keep him fit and sit back and enjoy the magic.


10 – Wolverhampton Wanderers:

What a time to be a Wolves fan. They have players that could play in all but any team in the Premier League, specifically Ruben Neves, Diego Jota and Raul Jimenez.

I would like to apologise unreservedly for suggesting you would go down last season. I am delighted to be wrong (other than your classless last day away fans at Anfield) because you brought some fantastic football to the Premier League and your manager is one of the most likable men in the league – of course Warnock hated him …

Even with all that though, European football is a great equaliser for smaller squads like yours and I believe you have the quality to go far and will want to obviously. Great, but it’s a recipe for disaster in the Premier League.

If you had no European football, I’d have you 6th but with it, I have no choice but to put you here.

Feel free to prove me wrong again.


9 – Everton:

As a Liverpudlian, there are those that will think this is a bias pick and that Everton should be much higher up, perhaps they are right but I do not believe they are and here is why.

Everton are improving, anyone who watched them at Anfield last season when they actually came to play football can attest to that.

So what’s the problem? I have to compare the improvement in terms of additions to the squad but also in terms of the additions to the squads around them and the level they are at as well.

Everton made what I believe to be a shrewd signing in Delph. He showed in his time at Villa he had ability, he then showed at City that he was able to play out of position and still be a valuable member of the squad. I know towards the end that it didn’t work for Delph in Manchester but that doesn’t take away from the fact he proved a lot of people wrong and I believe he will do so again.

With that said, they lost one of the best defensive midfielders not only in the league but I believe in Europe in Idrissa Gueye. Delph will offer more going forward so perhaps he ends up being better in that regard but there is concern about who will win the ball back on a regular basis in midfield. It would be less of a concern if Morgan Schneiderlin could go back to the form that saw Manchester United willing to part with £25 million to take him to Old Trafford, the same amount Everton then risked on him to bring him to Goodison.

 

In other words, this isn’t a slight on Everton, nor Delph, it’s just a realistic summation of where I see them at this point.

Player to watch: Richarlison – For the present and the future, he will need to continue to develop because the potential is certainly there.

 

8 – West Ham United:

This was tricky. I’m a big fan of the signings they have made, so much so that I was tempted to put them higher. I believe Haller has the potential to be an improvement on Arnautovic in terms of what he offers – that is to say when he wanted to be at that club – and there are not many players who have the unique skill-set where I would say that.

Fornals is a player I have admired from afar for some time and it came as a shock to me that he went to West Ham. I would suggest that West Ham fans owe a debt of gratitude to Pellegrini’s links to his former club, Villarreal, on that one. I think he will take time to settle and I also think there is more to come from him, a lot more than he showed at Villarreal and that Pellegrini will get it out of him.

Pellegrini is a vastly underrated manager and his way takes time. I expect to see a slight improvement from West Ham from 10 to 8 but an important improvement.

7 – Leicester City:

The most important signing of their season was Youri Tielemans. With that signing, Leicester laid down a marker for their present and their future.

I’m not as high on Leicester as others though. I think that a lot of people are somewhat “prisoners of the moment” when it comes to the Foxes this season.

The lasting image of last season for many when it comes to Leicester was them battering Arsenal 3-0 at home. It is this image I believe that has led to people saying that Leicester could challenge for top 6 and even top 4 this season.

For me Leicester are a project and Brendan Rodgers has just started what he is trying to achieve there.

I’m going to jump ahead in my “player to watch” here and say the reason that they are so high on my list: Ayoze Perez. One of the most underrated forwards in the Premier League and well worth the 30m they paid for him.

A natural successor to the tireless Japanese forward Shinji Okazaki in that Perez never stops running and working for the cause. What he also brings though is much higher level of technical ability than the departing Japanese. Perez also brings his best ever Premier League tally of 12 goals and 3 assists, that’s twice as many goals as Shinji managed and the same number of assists in his best season.

Ayoze Perez I believe will prove to be one of the shrewdest buys of the season.

I don’t think losing Harry Maguire will be as devastating as some think it will, certainly not with 85m to find his replacement – not that Leicester will be stupid enough to outlay that money in their position.

Don’t get me wrong, Maguire is a very good defender and easily one of the best in this league but he can be replaced and Rodger’s style was never over reliant on defenders…

6 – Chelsea:

Abramovich is spending less and less due to political reasons and it is believed with good reason he wants to sell the team.

That said, they still have some very good players and one absolute worldy in N’golo Kante.

Kepa while not what he was hyped to be (as I said) is improving. Willian against the odds stayed put and they still have a lot of experience that will ease the pain of the drop to come but the drop is coming make no mistake.

You don’t lose a world class footballer in Eden Hazard and one of the best managers in world football in Sarri and replace them with a player who while talented, couldn’t beat out Jacob Bruun-Larsen at Dortmund and a manager who while he has potential has never managed in the Premier League. At least you shouldn’t. If they keep rolling along then fair play to them but I really can’t see it.

Player to watch: Pulisic. This lad is the future of Chelsea now. Roman will want returns on his outlay and the pressure and the eyes of the world to replace a world class superstar are all on him. Good luck …

5 – Manchester United:

Maguire will help. Yes United have vastly overpaid for him but he is what they need. I believe that United will improve and he may also help De Gea find his form again which means a lot less goals conceded.

That’s the bottom line. I think United will improve, I think they will play at least marginally better football but I don’t see any drastic improvement. There was no revolutionary transfer window that puts them back in the picture as far as I’m concerned.

Daniel James could be exciting to watch and Wan Bissaka also helps with the defence but offers little to nothing going forward statistically.

I can see them winning some big games, even beating teams that finish ahead of them but I can’t see a level of quality and consistently that warrants Champions League football.

Player to watch: Romelu Lukaku. If he could bring his form for Belgium to United then they could close the gap on the top 4.


4 – Tottenham Hotspur:

Spurs are who they are. I said last season don’t laugh at the idea of Spurs winning the Champions League final when they were in the group stages.

They have slowly but surely improved season on season in both Europe and the Premier League and I see no reason why they will not do so again.

I personally don’t think they are good enough to go with the top two as things stand but that is no slight on them.

They are solid, experienced, play a nice brand of football, have an excellent manager (though he could do with stopping his comparison of Liverpool’s budget to City’s) and the only reason I see Arsenal catching them is because they do not have European football to be concerned with.

I think Spurs could even look to try and do what Liverpool did and get to back to back finals. Again, I don’t think this is out of the question at all given the pedigree they now have in European football. I do think though, this hinders them in the Premier League.

Player to watch: Ndombele. Spurs should give Pochetino more money if this is how he spends it. Combative but with an elegance to his play, he will add another level to Spurs in midfield.

3: Arsenal

I’m as surprised as you to see them here and this is where my change in philosophy comes into play. I had it in my head that “if Arsenal sign a centre back and improve that defence, I’ll give them top 4.”

They haven’t as yet signed that centre back, perhaps they won’t. Saliba could be the one for the future but we have to go with what we know now.

So what I thought I knew was Arsenal’s defence was a shambles, and against Liverpool when they capitulated after taking an early lead through Maitland-Niles (who I identified before the game as a weak link defensively and was ultimately proven right) and then against Chelsea in the Europa League final, that would certainly seem to be the case.

It’s recency bias though.

Arsenal are being severely underestimated by anyone who does not consider them a top four team and here is why.

Arsenal while getting to the final of the Europa League, from the round of 32 onwards had a record of:

14 games, 9 wins, 1 draw and 4 losses.

Of those loses, 1 of them was affected by a 41st minute red card to a centre back.

The draw? That came against Spurs away after a last minute penalty was missed by Aubameyang.

Goals for during this time? 28. Goals against? 13.

Of those 13, 3 came when they were down to ten men and four came in a final they fell apart in.

So during the business end of the season when Arsenal were playing at least twice a week and given how desperately they need a defender in many people’s eyes – including my own –  how many goals did they score and concede in just the Premier League?

Two, they conceded two goals. A pen from Harry Kane and a consolation strike to Bournemouth in a game they won 5-1.

Maybe, just maybe Arsenal’s defence is not as bad as we have been led to believe?

Add to that the superb attacking quality of Ceballos and Nicolas Pepe and Arsenal will score even more goals. Scary thought.

Player to watch: Guendouzi. I can’t tell you how big a fan of this lad I am and how underrated he is. This is the season where he breaks out and the world gets to know his name.

2 – Manchester City:

I know, I genuinely did not think I would be putting them second. I can hear the howls of derision now “it’s your year” but I’ll address that at number one.

Last year I had Manchester City winning the title and win the title they did. Without thinking about it, I had them winning the title again this year and even stated on a site I frequent that Liverpool’s lack of transfer activity sees us further away from them this year.

Rodri is a top top top signing. I mean as good as City could have made, potentially world class as in on the cusp of it.

So why the sudden change of heart? 

 

Cast your minds back to the Premier League title run in and who did City look to more than anyone else, who was the most influential player at the biggest moments? Vincent Kompany.

When it mattered most, Pep looked to his captain while the much revered Aymeric Laporte seemed to lose his way somewhat. He got away with it, largely in part due to more experienced players around him, one of whom was City’s talisman.

How do you replace him? He’s as good a centre back as there has been in this league. From the minute he turned down Chelsea and stated he didn’t want to be “on a conveyor belt” at a time when City were not in the position of riches they currently enjoy, he made me sit up and take notice.

A player able to bully you one on one, captain a team and play out from the back with the calmness and quality few possess.

Again I have to ask, how do you begin to replace that? Do you think it was coincidence the amount of game time he got when it got to the end of the season? No, even at that point with people raving about Laporte, Pep knew what wins titles and it’s proven players like Vincent Kompany.

I’ve heard Liverpool fans say that his foul on Salah should have resulted in a red card and I agree but the fact is, it didn’t and the fact is, were it Van Dijk taking out Aguero like that we wouldn’t say a word about it.

Kompany did what he’s always done, what makes him a leader and a champion. He didn’t think about anything but stopping his opponent and winning the game.

City will continue to dominate teams that are simply not in their class, they will cement a top 2 place but asking a team, any team to win 3 league titles in a row after they have just lost their captain and arguably their most influential player ever, that’s some ask.

Fernandinho needed back up, he’s not getting any younger and they found it and they even had Gundogan step in and show that they were not a “one man team” as some had suggested.

Aguero is another year older but didn’t show any signs of slowing down and Gabriel Jesus is a year older and more experienced in a good way.

Bernardo Silva is absolutely world class, one of my favourite players to watch of all time and will step up again this season. His performance against Liverpool at the Etihad was the best I saw all season.

City are ruthless, they are stacked with so much talent that I’d be here all day if I mentioned them all but I will mention David Silva, if for no other reason than out of respect. 
And yet, I still can’t escape the fact that City will come to know the importance of Vincent Kompany even more so than they think they already do.

1 – Liverpool:

I feel sick even thinking about it. 1990, this would be the 30th anniversary of our last league title.

Believe me, this is not a prediction I make lightly. My default setting is Liverpool will not win the league. Funnily enough, under Rodgers I discounted any chance of that based on how poor our defence was at the start of the season and it was because we lost our defensive leader, Jamie Carragher.

Carragher is – to me at least –  overrated by many Liverpool fans in terms of his place in the world game, however, I would never question his importance to our side.

There is no doubt in my mind had he been in our squad in 2013/14 that we would not be still in search for the title that has evaded us for so long. He wasn’t so we are.

So what about now? Looking at the transfers Liverpool have made, they are very much for the future. Harvey Elliott impressed in his debut but he’s not got anything like a body of work to suggest that he can make a major difference in a potential title race. Then again, maybe he could be our “Macheda”, I’d take that.

Sepp Van den Berg is again one for the future it would seem.

Outs? None of particular note. Sturridge found his way at the end of the season and we will never forget that belter against Chelsea but it was always going to be his last season.

Few are crying over the loss of Alberto Moreno, that’s for sure.

Usually not making a move in the Premier League can be dangerous but when you amassed 97 points and won a European Cup, I’d say you can give the manager the benefit of the doubt and his feeling is, he has the squad to compete across the board.

Alisson and the back four are surely now unanimously considered the best defence in Europe?

Our midfield while not the most creative last season showed that they can match up with any team in Europe. Welcoming back Adam Lallana and Oxlade-Chamberlain could be huge IF they can make it through the season. A big if sadly.

Keita is another whose fitness comes with question marks but before he was taken out so crudely, he was starting to show signs of the frightening player he could be for us.

My biggest worry is up front. Not the front three but the depth after that.

Brewster and/or Wilson will have to step up and prove themselves with the big boys. Pre season means absolutely nothing but both look hungry at least going off that.

Origi is less concerning given that every time he was called upon last season he made a difference. Even when he didn’t score, he just looked more confident and went at people. I wasn’t sure he would make it here, how wrong I was.

I’d still love us to sign a left back, but we appear to be happy having Milner or Larouci as back-up. I trust the manager, he’s more than earned that right.

There’s a lot of ifs with Liverpool winning the title, there’s a lot of ifs with any team winning the title but I just get the feeling that with the confidence of winning Europe’s ultimate prize, with everyone expecting City to win it and even more so with Liverpool standing pat. With City losing Kompany and with our whole team more experienced, more confident and undoubtedly more hungry after coming so close last season that this could be, yes I will say it for you to laugh heartily at your screens; our year.

Player to watch: Bobby Firmino. As he goes, so does Liverpool’s attack. He was up and down last season which is uncharacteristic of him but he was still hugely important for us. We can’t be at our best if Firmino is not at his best. We’ve learned to win without him, but we can beat anyone with him.

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