Season Begins Today, Here are bold predictions

 

The season starts later today at 2:45 pm when Leicester City visit the Emirates to face Arsenal. So with the season just around the corner here are predictions for the English Premier League season coming up.

Arsenal will gamble with Ozil and Sanchez and win.

Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil who both could leave for free next summer (image: Getty Images)

Arsenal’s two top players are in the last year of their contracts, which lead many to believe they were for sale since the players might leave on a free transfer next summer. Both players are unwilling to sign extensions after Arsenal didn’t earn a place in the Champions League this season. The Gunners as of now have said they will not sell both players and will let them run out their contracts, with the belief that if they get champions league for next season they will resign with the club.

This is a huge gamble because if the team loses both players next summer they will face a huge hole in the squad with no money to try to replace them. If Sanchez and Ozil both leave then Arsenal will probably fall from the level of the teams trying to win titles, a level that will be very hard to achieve without receiving money for selling them. World class players are hard to come by and losing two for free can be detrimental.

Yet, if Arsenal do finish in the top four this season than the move will be seen as brilliant. As Arsenal got to keep their best players and never take a step back and can continue building a squad around them. This year will be a make or break season for Arsenal, it will set up the years to come. If they reach top four then Arsenal will continue to be the Gunners of recent years but if they don’t they will probably take a huge step back that will take years to recover. This is all a gamble Arsene Wenger is doing but it is not the first time the club just put all its faith in the manager.

Ultimately Arsenal does look in a prime position to get back into the top four since they have added to the squad and been able to keep their best players. Something not all clubs in England have been able to do.

Liverpool have a drop-off

Phillipe Coutinho’s future still up in the air (Images:Getty Images)

Liverpool is in the middle of the biggest transfer sagas of the summer with Barcelona after Phillipe Coutinho. Yet, while many are clambering for the player to stay it won’t make a difference. Liverpool’s problem last year was the depth of the squad, they went undefeated against the other teams in the top six but still managed to finish fourth. This shows that Liverpool’s problem is beating the teams they are supposed to beat not the top class opponents.

Many expected Liverpool to bring in many players to set up the squad with a bigger depth and as of now, they have only three additions with the potential of losing their best player. The problem will also be highlighted by the fact that Liverpool are in the Champions League and that brings more fixtures into the schedule. So if the squad remains the same it is easy to predict that the team will produce similar results. If they struggled last season this year will bring even more matches for the team to juggle. The second issue is the top teams they have had success against have gotten better and it would be hard to assume they will find the same success against the top side as they did last season.

This season will show if Jurgen Klopp can manage a full premier league season and build a squad that can be consistent day in and day out. Liverpool will have to be more consistent and step up the level of play of the team if they want to find the same success they had last season. There are still three weeks left in the transfer window so the depth issue might be resolved a couple fixtures into the season.

Spurs and Man City will pass Chelsea

Kane was leading scorer last season and will look to improve this year (images: Getty Images )

Chelsea this summer has looked like they have taken a step back which is in direct opposite of Man City and Tottenham. Man City has spent over 200 million and finally look to have a squad more built with Pep Guardiola’s style. Tottenham have been able to keep their great young core that keeps improving year by year.

Spurs last year already scored more and allowed fewer goals than Chelsea and with three weeks left you’d expect the team to add a little bit more to the squad. Man city will come back with a healthy Gabriel Jesus plus a complete overhaul of the defence that allowed 39 goals last season. On the other hand, Chelsea is losing players and not really gaining much. While their defense is still intact and the addition of Antonio Rudiger will help, the problem this year will be the goals. Since Diego Costa is out the door Chelsea doesn’t really have a striker that can net 20 goals in a season. Spurs have Kane, City have Aguero and Chelsea doesn’t have a player that can counter them.

Unless they add another forward player in the three weeks left in the window, Chelsea will have a tough time being able to score goals at the level needed to win the championship. So while Chelsea is trending downward, Man City and Spurs have looked amazing in the preseason and are the two clubs who have seemed to separate themselves from the rest. It goes to show how Chelsea has suffered this transfer window where they needed the year as favorites and are now falling behind Spurs and City.

United will contend but will ultimately fall short

If United want to win it all Rashford has to become a proven scorer (image: Getty Images )

Manchester United has done a lot this summer to improve the squad with many believing that it will be enough to win the title. The red devils fixed a lot of the problems in their squad they brought in Victor Lindelof to fix their issue of not having a good centre back in the air. They got Lukaku to get a world class striker that can score goals and move defenders since Zlatan Ibrahimovic was let go. Their latest move might have been the most important, Matic brings a good defensive midfield that can win the ball back and give Pogba and Mata space in front to be able to create plays.

United are starting to look like an elite team again like it used to be during the Ferguson years. Yet, the talent gap may still be too big for them to catch up in just one summer. While so much talent has been added at United, they will still be needing goals and unless the wingers they have (Rashford, Lingard) break out and start scoring like they never had.

Every single one of the top teams last year had two guys that could score more than 15. Costa and Hazard for Chelsea, Kane and Ali in Spurs, Aguero and Jesus at Man City. That is something United are still missing and if they don’t find that second scorer alongside Lukaku it will be difficult for them to have the fire power to win the title. Manchester United only scored 54 goals last season, which is 31 fewer goals than the champions Chelsea. Adding to the fact is that of those 54 goals 17 were from Zlatan who will not be there next season. So while adding Lukaku gives the side goals they will need someone to step up along side him if United want to win it all.

Burnley will struggle

Burnley sold their second leading scorer Andre Grey to Watford (Image: Getty Images )

Burnley finished 16th last year summing up the magical number of 40 points to stay in the league. They played fantastic at home, winning 10 games and drawing there while only losing six matches. This is an incredible home record for a team in the relegation battle. In direct contrast, they were one of the worst teams in the road gaining points only five matches and losing 14. They collected 33 of their 40 points at home something that will be very difficult for them to repeat this season.

What will add difficulty to Burnley aspiration of staying up is the transfer window they are having. They have sold their best defender in Micheal Keane to Everton, gotten rid of one of their minute’s leader George Boyd and on Saturday they sold their second leading scorer from last year in Andre Gray to the only team they finished above in the table. Burnley scored 39 goals last year, that is the worst mark among all the teams returning from last year.

On the other end, Burnley hasn’t really added to the squad. They brought in a Jonathan Walters from Stoke who only score 4 goals last year and Jack Cork who will come in to fill in the role Boyd left. If Burnley wants to stay up they will have to find a goalscorer in the three weeks left in the transfer window. They can’t expect their home form from last year to show up again so unless they improve at scoring away from Turf Moor they are bound to end up relegated.

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What Next Season’s Contenders Need to do to Improve in the Summer (Part 2)

Manchester City

Pep Guardiola’s second season in Manchester will be highly anticipated and expectations will be massive. With a year of experience in England under his belt, a title and run in the Champions League (assuming City make top four) will be expected.

City have perhaps the least amount of work to do as far as improving personnel. One storyline will be whether Sergio Aguero departs the club following the emergence of Gabriel Jesus. In Jesus and Kelechi Iheanacho, Guardiola has two young strikers with massive potential to develop. Aguero is nearing the end of his prime and may fancy a move back to Spain or Argentina in order to get more play time.

When City do go shopping in the summer, it will be mostly geared towards their defense. City’s deficiency at full back could be solved by signing Tottenham right back Kyle Walker. At left back, Jose Luis Gaya of Valencia would be a massive improvement over the departing Gael Clichy. Finally at goalkeeper, Guardiola needs to find an alternative to the horror show that has been Claudio Bravo and Willy Caballero this season.

 

Arsenal

The most uncertain future among England’s top clubs is that of Arsenal. The Gunners could very well lose their manager and two best players at the end of the season.

The club has been pretty mum on whether Arsene Wenger will still be at the Emirates next season. A split fanbase has made this story one of the most talked about in recent months. If Wenger ends his 21 year run at the club, two rumored candidates are Borussia Dortmund’s Thomas Tuchel and Monaco’s Leonardo Jardim.

Alexis Sanchez looks to be on his way out of the Emirates this summer. The Chilean leads the club with 25 goals in all competitions this season.

On the field, the team’s leading scorer this season, Alexis Sanchez, is all but guaranteed to be leaving in the summer. His list of possible suitors contain Chelsea, Paris St. Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich. Midfielder Mesut Ozil also faces an uncertain future.

If either Sanchez or Ozil leave the club, it will leave a massive gap. However, the massive transfer fee Arsenal will collect will give them options in the replacement process. Monaco’s Thomas Lemar and Everton’s Ross Barkley are the latest rumored targets to replace Sanchez and Ozil respectively.

 

Manchester United

Much of what United is able to accomplish in the summer will be dependent on their result in the Europa League final May 24 vs Ajax. A victory would boost the Red Devils into next season’s Champions League, and equally importantly, it would make Old Trafford a very attractive destination in the summer.

Uncertainty over the striker position is first and foremost on Jose Mourinho’s mind. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is 35 and just sustained a serious knee injury. Marcus Rashford, while equipped with serious talent and potential, is still raw. Mourinho could look to the transfer market at that position. Antoine Griezmann has long been linked with a move to Man U and his addition would certainly make United quicker and more creative in the final third, an area they lacked in Mourinho’s first year with the club.

Two familiar faces could potentially depart the club this summer. Wayne Rooney has struggled to break into the first team under Mourinho and has been linked with a move back to his boyhood club Everton after an illustrious 13 year career for United. Goalkeeper David de Gea was close to moving to Real Madrid two summers ago and Los Blancos could come knocking again this season.

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Is Champions League Still Reachable For United Without Zlatan?

Manchester United’s quest for Champions League football next season took a massive hit when star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic suffered serious damage to his ACL and PCL ligaments in Thursday’s Europa League tie with Anderlecht .

United are fighting the battle for Champions League on two fronts, in England and in Europe. Jose Mourinho’s side controls their own destiny for a top four finish in the Premier League. Thursday’s showdown with Manchester City will have serious table implications in addition to the heated derby atmosphere.

A difficult schedule still awaits, with visits to City, Arsenal and Tottenham still to come. Zlatan’s injury thrusts the spotlight on young Marcus Rashford and club legend Wayne Rooney at striker. Anthony Martial will also likely be given a chance to redeem himself for past chances not taken.

Manchester United will need Wayne Rooney to re-find his form of old.

Rashford has been significantly better in the last month and can give shaky backlines fits with his pace and work rate. Rooney and Anthony Martial both stepped up by scoring United’s goals in a 2-0 win over Burnley on Sunday. If that trio continues to play well, it could even be an improvement over filtering the entire attack through Ibrahimovic. Liverpool’s loss to Crystal Palace on Sunday puts United in their best table position in months, making a top four dream very much alive.

In Europe, the Red Devils are in the Semi-finals of the Europa League. They must win the competition in order to automatically qualify for next season’s Champions League. Celta Vigo from Spain will prove to be a difficult test in the semis.

While they only sit tenth in La Liga, Celta have proved they can be giant killers by defeating both Barcelona and Real Madrid this season. Forward Iago Aspas is tied with Antoine Griezmann for fifth in La Liga with 16 goals on the season. Man U also lost defender Marcos Rojo to injury and will be shorthanded facing Aspas and the dangerous Celta attack.

Iago Aspas has tormented opposing defenses all season.

United will likely play similarly to the way they did against Anderlecht. Expect Mourinho to be conservative in the opening away tie and attack back home in Manchester in the decisive second tie.

 

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Promising Premier League Players To Watch Under the Age of 21

The Premier League has long prided itself on having some of the greatest youth programs in the world. Some of the world’s greatest players rose to the top at a young age. Players such as Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Gareth Bale (Southampton/Tottenham), and Wayne Rooney (Everton/Man United) are a few recent examples among the many quality players produced by the Premier League.

There is youth talent galore in the Premier League at the moment. Many managers have made a recent effort to get youth talent more involved and to start planning for the future. Here are some players who could be top dogs one day.

Alex Iwobi (Age 20), Arsenal/Nigeria

Alex Iwobi broke into the Arsenal first team last year and his promise has tempted Arsene Wenger to continue playing him. Iwobi is a winger with decent pace. He is very dangerous in one-on-one situations and crosses the ball effectively. If he can improve on his finishing, Iwobi will add another aspect to his already multi-faceted game.

Mason Holgate (20), Everton/England

Holgate is a very versatile defender who has thrived for Ronald Koeman when he has been called upon. With seven caps on the season, Holgate has amassed a 7.24 average match rating on WhoScored.com. This figure puts him third on the team. Holgate’s quickness allows him to get forward if he is playing at fullback, but he is also very strong and wise beyond his years for a young centre-half.

Tom Davies (18), Everton/England

Davies has exploded onto the scene in the last month. The previously unknown midfielder was impressive against Hull in December and put on a masterful performance in the Toffees’ 4-0 thrashing of Manchester City.

Davies shows tremendous poise in tight areas for someone his age. His goal against City showed he is a clinical finisher as well.

Ben Chilwell (20), Leicester City/England

The heir-apparent left back to the steady Christian Fuchs at Leicester, Ben Chilwell is highly coveted by many top teams across Europe. He is an outstanding dribbler who gives the Foxes a threat going forward when on the field. In addition to dribbling, Chilwell is also a prolific passer.

The one area in which he needs to improve before he is a regular starter at Leicester is his mentality. Too many times Chilwell has been caught out of position or put his team in a tough spot by trying an ambitious tackle. If he can stop mental mistakes, Chilwell has world-class potential.

 

Demarai Gray (20), Leicester City/England

Gray has seen his playing time increase this season at Leicester following some promising performances early. Gray is a skilled dribbler and a very solid finisher for a winger. He is still improving his passing, prompting Leicester to play him at striker on occasion. His pace and size suggest Gray is better suited on the wing, where he can give opponents nightmares.

Kelechi Iheanacho (20) Manchester City/Nigeria

Like his Nigerian countryman Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho seized his opportunity when given substitute appearances under Manuel Pellegrini last season. New manager Pep Guardiola apparently sees the massive potential Iheanacho possesses as he has continued to keep him in the playing rotation.

Iheanacho is an excellent finisher with eight goals in 21 appearances this season for club and country. He also possesses a cannon left foot and is a threat from well outside the box. If Iheanacho can improve on his heading ability, he will be a complete striker who will be around for years to come.

Gabriel Jesus (19) Manchester City/Brazil

The most anticipated Brazilian youth since Neymar, Gabriel Jesus has already shown European fans what he can do since arriving in early January. After having a potential winner against Liverpool called back in his first appearance as a substitute, Jesus made history by becoming the first player in club history to score and assist in his Premier League debut.

Jesus is unique in that as a striker, he gets back and defends very well and threatens on the counter attack. He is still just 19, and mental lapses are not to be unexpected. If he matures with age and avoids injury, there is no reason he can’t fulfill his massive potential.

Marcus Rashford (19) Manchester United/England

Speaking of seizing their opportunity, Marcus Rashford did just that when Louis Van Gaal put him in the lineup last season. He became the youngest United player to score in their debut and has gone on to become a regular player for the side under Jose Mourinho. Seven goals in 29 appearances is solid for someone who is still a teenager. If Rashford can use his pace to his advantage and broaden his game, Man United could have their Zlatan Ibrahimovic replacement already waiting in the wings.

Dele Alli (20) Tottenham Hotspur/England

Dele Alli burst onto the scene in early 2016 after his wonder goal against Crystal Palace. Since then, Alli has shown he is not a one trick pony. His eleven league goals are the most in the Premier League among midfielders this season. Starting out as a defensive midfielder, Alli has developed an attacking threat to his game that has torched opponents. His two headed goals against Chelsea in January kept Spurs’ title ambitions alive.

Known to get a hot head on occasion, Alli needs to be more careful if he wants to stay out of the referees book. Overall, many could argue that Alli is the best young talent in the world and he certainly backs up that high regard with his play.

 

 

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