EPL Season Preview - My Top 10 (Ladder Prediction)

EPL Season Preview - My Top 10 (Ladder Prediction)

1. Manchester United - Jose Mourinho and Manchester United have stamped down a marker in the off-season. When Mourinho gets his business done he is a dangerous commodity. With the record breaking signing of Paul Pogba, Mourinho has now added 4 key recruits in areas in which United needed plugging. Mourinho has also recruited the exciting centre back, Eric Bailly from Villarreal.  Bailly has shown promising signs in the pre-season with his pace and reading of the game, reminiscent of a young Rio Ferdinand. Henrikh Mkhitaran is a classy playmaker from Borussia Dortmund and will no doubt find a place in Mourinho's starting side. United were turgid for much of Louis Van Gaal's reign. They do lack some pace and it will be interesting to see how exactly Mourinho sets that up. Rooney and Ibrahimovic are world class players; however they will not be exposing opponents for pace. The pre-season has not been without controversy for United with Bastian Schweinsteiger asked to train with the reserves. Juan Mata suffered the ultiate humiliation of being subbed as a substitute in the Charity Shield win over Leicester City, while Adnan Januzaj has demanded a move. 

Verdict – 1st.  United have had the most impressive transfer window and I expect them to come out of the blocks hard. Mourinho has won everywhere he has gone and he will no doubt elevate United into the kind of title threat their supporters demand. There is no better front runner in the game than Mourinho if he gets his nose in front early in the title race. However he is not the sure thing he used to be and the ghosts of his Chelsea sacking might still be haunting him. Mourinho endured a torrid final 3 months and appeared to be coming apart mentally. A few losses at United and the honeymoon might soon be over. United have a really tough run home this year and I'm hoping they might just get pipped at the post. However I have to give them the edge based on their transfer window and Mourinho's great record when changing clubs.

2. Liverpool - The Reds have experienced a quiet summer only adding Sadio Mane from Southhampton for 34 million. Whilst they may have missed out on the big names, Jurgen Klopp has added 3 signings from the Bundesliga in Karius, Klavan and Mati. The Reds seem to be looking for continuity in their first full season under Jurgen Klopp. Last season Liverpool had wild fluctuations in their performances. They were capable of destroying the likes of Chelsea and City away, however often got rolled by mediocre sides at home. Klopp is known for his high energy, "total football" and when Liverpool got it right they looked like title contenders. Klopp is a master motivator and he managed to get the energy levels among the players and the Kop at fever pitch on occasions. They were outstanding in the Europa League but often looked lethargic backing up from these games. After 26 seasons without the league title Liverpool fans are desperate for success and have discovered a new found optimism under Klopp which had been punctured under previous boss Brendan Rodgers. Whilst winning the title has probably never been harder, Liverpool fans demand results.

Verdict – 2nd. -  This is a bit of a stab in the dark, however I think the Reds can be the team to surprise this season. Klopp is the big name manager with a season under his belt. I think he has a crucial advantage over the other big name managers. Whilst they have not added any big names I expect them to make Anfield a fortress and find more consistency in their game.

3. Arsenal - Nothing much has happened this summer at Arsenal which is not overly surprising. They made their one major signing early in the piece before the Euros with Granit Xhaka coming on board for 34 million to bolster their midfield. Arsene Wenger lives to fight on despite his continued backing dividing Arsenal supporters equally. Arsenal fans were left with that familiar feeling of failure last year as they came up short yet again, despite all their supposed title rivals falling over. The argument is if Wenger can't win a title when Leicester are their only competitor, then what hope do they have this season with big clubs reloading with big signings and big name managers on the rebound. Arsenal have pace and talent galore. The likes of Ramsey, Walcott, Ozil, Carzola and Sanchez form the basis of a lethal attack that can destroy teams on their day. However they still don't have a world class striker with lots of pressure remaining on Olivier Giroud - that makes such a difference in tight title races. Arsenal for years have come up short because of a lack of leadership, mongrel and character in the middle and in defence. 

Verdict - 3rd. Arsenal are at their best when the pressure is off and I expect that to be similar this season unless they can add to their squad late in the transfer window. I think they will score plenty of goals. I think at some point they will probably look the best team and lead this title race. However in the big games they lack a real presence and leader. They still have failed to address that for mine. One could argue Arsene Wenger is a liability in the big games these days, and with big managers arriving at other clubs Arsenal look stale under Wenger. They will thrill at times, but will give up soft goals. Same old, same old for Gunners fans I reckon. 

4. Manchester City - With Pep Guardiola taking over expectation is at fever pitch for Manchester City. Coming off a poor campaign which saw the demise of Manuel Pellegrini, City fans will expect nothing less than a strong title challenge under Guardiola. Whilst there might be a few holes in the squad at the back, City have added to their squad significantly in the transfer window. The signings of John Stones from Everton and Leroy Sane from Schalke were big money targets that can plug holes at the back and in midfield, to go with the likes of Augero and David Silva up front. City have arguably the best squad in the league. 

Verdict – 4th. Again going with a bit of a gut feeling here that Guardiola and City might not gel straight away.  Guardiola is certain to bring his attacking and high intensity football to the Etihad Stadium. I think this is going to take time for City to come to grips with. It will be interesting to see how City's squad cope with the intensity and work rate demanded by Guardiola. For mine, it's a big question mark as they were awful against Top 6 opponents last season. Guardiola is no doubt a world class coach. However the Premier League is a different beast and how will he react to having tough games every single week. I think City will start slow before getting going after Christmas. I think they might be more of a threat in the Champions League to be honest. 

 5. Chelsea - Chelsea under new manager Antonio Conte are looking to rebound from an embarrassing 10th place finish in 2015/16. The campaign was nothing short of a disaster for the Blues as the reigning champions spectacularly collapsed resulting in the sacking of much loved manager Jose Mourinho. Chelsea steadied their season under interim Guus Hiddink, however they were still miles off the pace. The signing of N'Golo Kante from Leicester is a significant one for Chelsea. Last season the Blues defence was exposed, with Fabregas and Matic experiencing terrible campaigns. Kante is a terrier in the middle of the field and he will be a great signing for Chelsea. He will give much needed protection to the commanding but slower centre halves in John Terry and Gary Cahill. Michy Batshuayi, a striker from Marseille, will be in the mix to start alongside Diego Costa. Whilst I am sure the likes of Hazard, Costa and Fabregas will have better campaigns, I still think this squad needed major refurbishment over the summer. Chelsea do have an abundance of strike power and I do expect them to score goals throughout the campaign. However they have failed to reinforce at the back and that could cause major trouble. Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry and Azpilicueta are slow and teams will worry them for pace. Antonio Conte is known for his intensity and high demands on his players. If he can get this Chelsea squad running through brick walls for him, well they have the talent to win the league. However Mourinho, a similar coach of high intensity, had them closer to the relegation zone by the end of his tenure.

Verdict – 5th.  I expect Chelsea to be far better under Conte. Hazard is sure to rebound and have a far more productive season. Kante will be an animal in the middle. Chelsea also do not have the distraction of European football which is a crucial advantage over their opponents. However I think there are too many doubts over the overall harmony and desire in this squad. Some players look like they really did not want to be at Chelsea last campaign and I don't see them magically all being back to their best this year. This squad brought on the demise of Jose Mourinho and lacked heart throughout much of the last campaign. Chelsea have failed to reinforce at the back and they look woefully slow and could easily be exposed again by strong teams there. Ivanovic, Terry and Cahill were given the run around several times last season and I don't see any reinforcements on the horizon. 

 6.  Spurs - Spurs have had a very quiet summer as they look to build on their impressive 3rd place finish under Mauricio Pochettino. No big name signings or departures means Pochettino will be looking to make a fast start with a familiar squad. Spurs  went under the radar for large parts last season, however crumbled when the title pressure confronted them late in the piece. Somehow they managed to yet again fall behind bitter rivals Arsenal on the final day despite leading them by up to 7 points late in the season. Before their late meltdown, Spurs were being hailed as a side on the rise with their young squad and attractive football. With the likes of Kane, Alli, Dyer, Lamela, Walker and Rose, Tottenham are young and quick and can burn you when they are on their game. Pochettino is one of brightest young managers in Europe and he demands high work rate and intensity. They remain brittle though and the scars of late last season might play a factor in 2016/17.

Verdict – 6th. I just think Spurs have the potential to implode. They came apart at the back end of last season and any injury to Harry Kane could see them extremely thin up front.  This Spurs side have now been together for a couple of years and are far more stable than some of their title rivals. This could work in their favour early in the season as the other sides bed down their managers' ideas. Again the question mark remains - can they really go with the big guns now the big guns are reloading after failed campaigns? Not for mine. 

7. West Ham - West Ham are coming off an outstanding season under Slaven Bilic. They finished 7th, their highest ladder position in 14 years. They also managed their highest points tally in the Premier League era. West Ham made a significant move this season moving out of their spiritual home Upton Park to the Olympic Stadium. They have managed to keep star player Dimitri Payet in the summer which was crucial. The Hammers created all sorts of problems for the big sides last year with victories over Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Man United. 

Verdict - 7th. I think West Ham can have another strong season. However I think the move away might take away the home advantage of Upton Park which was their fortress. The Olympic Park might hold many more fans however it is unlikely to carry the same atmosphere of intimidation for the opposition. West Ham have some classy players and I expect them to beat some of their more fancied rivals again from time to time. 

8. Stoke City - Stoke were highly impressive last campaign finishing in 9th position. They are an old fashioned team, the Potters, and there ability to mix it up and play physically has long held them in good stead. They play at the Britannia Stadium, which is a wild, holy and windy ground that is a nightmare for opponents to travel to. Mark Hughes has done a terrific job since taking over there and they now have the ability to also play some attractive football, which was not always their hallmark. The acquisition of Joe Allen in midfield from Liverpool should improve Stoke's passing game in the middle of the field. 

Verdict – 8th. Stoke have a similar squad and with the same manager I expect them to be hard to beat as usual. Another top 10 finish will be seen as a pass mark for a club that continues to punch above its weight. 

 9. Leicester City - Claudio Ranieri's men will look to do the impossible by defending their improbable title triumph. Leicester created the story of the century last season - as 5000/1 outsiders they marched to their title by an incredible 10 points. Ranieri,  known as the tinker man throughout his career, instead opted for unchanged line-ups for much of the campaign. Leicester were the best organised team and most efficient in the country. Their defence was incredibly difficult to break down and they took their chances up front and proved excellent front runners. Leicester have managed to fend off most of the scavengers looking to poach their best players. However they did lose key cog N'Golo Kante. Kante was the glue of the team and I expect his loss to be felt heavily by the Foxes. Hardy, Mahrez and Drinkwater mean Leicester will maintain an attacking threat especially on the counter attack. The Foxes also retain their twin towers at the back in Huth and Morgan, both inspirational in last season's triumph. 

 Verdict -9th. What about last year's Champions you say? I think Leicester capitalised on a rare opportunity last season and invested every last sinew into making that title happen. It was an incredible achievement. Whilst I don't subscribe to the theory that they could fall off the cliff and go close to being relegated, I think Leicester will struggle this campaign. The big clubs are surely not going to have another shocker and I expect the Foxes to be close to mid-table although I would love to be proved wrong. 

 10. Everton - Everton have experienced a turbulent off-season with the sacking of manager Roberto Martinez and the loss of John Stones to Manchester City. Everton finished cast adrift in 11th spot in 2015/16 and suffered a wretched record at Goodison Park, which was hard to fathom. There are high expectations for new manager Ronald Koeman after he completed 2 excellent seasons at Southhampton. Koeman, was excellent at giving young players an opportunity and played some exciting football at a side that was written off. He will want to keep want-away striker Romelu Lukaku who was a tower of strength for the Toffees last season. 

 Verdict – 10th.  Everton should improve under Koeman. They still have a decent squad and will surely rectify their terrible home record of 2015/16. They will want a more consistent campaign from young midfielder Ross Barkley if they are to keep pace with the heavyweights.


18th - Watford 

19th - Sunderland

20th - Hull