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Premier League 2019/20: Top 4/Bottom 3 Review

premierlegue.com

The 2019/2020 Premier League season is imminent with the Champions of Europe Liverpool hosting the newly promoted Norwich City Friday August 9 at 3:00 EST, followed by a full weekend of soccer action. With the transfer window still propped open until late Thursday night, it’s too early to make predictions, but certainly not too late to look back at last years Top Four and Bottom Three Predictions.

A quick refresher before we dive in. While Winning the Premier League is the main goal of each team, qualifying for the next season’s lucrative EUFA club tournaments, The Champions League and the Europa League is also important. Click here to see a detailed breakdown of which Premier League squads qualified for European adventures this year.

Meanwhile, down at the bottom of the table, we find three teams fighting tooth and nail for the privilege of staying in the top flight and avoiding the ignominy of relegation to the EFL Championship League, whose own top teams are striving for promotion to replace them.

The Top Four: A Fight to the Finish

premier league
Alisson Becker celebrates the end of the year with his lil one, premier league.com

My Top Four last year, and the actual results

  • Liverpool (Manchester City)
  • Manchester City (Liverpool)
  • Tottenham (Chelsea)
  • Manchester United (Tottenham)

The race between the Reds and Sky Blues went all the way until the last two weeks of the season. Liverpool were the rabbit, bursting out to a big lead by leaving no points on the table until drawing at Chelsea to end the month of September. The Reds would go on to only lose one match, the away fixture against City. But their inability to put away teams, seven draws over the course of the year, gave City a window, and they charged through, going on an absolute tear to finish the year one slim point clear to repeat as champions. Liverpool can’t be too disappointed, what with that shiny Champions League title and all.

Tottenham was actually in contention as the calendar flipped, playing gutsy football to overcome their quiescent summer transfer window and nagging injuries to Incredibly Handsome Englishman Harry Kane. By the end of the year they were duking it out with Chelsea and a surging Arsenal squad for the third and fourth spots, while at the same time upsetting Man City and dealing with my beloved Eredivise champs Ajax to join Liverpool in the Champions League Finals.

Chelsea’s lone season under Maurizio Sarri must be considered a success despite the rocky relationship between the Italian and his players. An inability to settle on a traditional striker, bouncing from the world’s most invulnerable hair in  Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud to start the season and adding Gonzalo Higuain during the winter window. None of the three produced, leaving the scoring burden on winger Eden Hazard, who was often a one-man show. Arsenal outscored both of the teams ahead of them, with Pierre Emmerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette combining for 35 strikes between them. In another all England Final, the Blues dispatched the Gunners to win their second Europa League title. Team legend Frank Lampard will try and carry over that momentum at the helm without Hazard, packed off to Real Madrid for dump trucks full of money.

I wrote a LOT about the disaster that was Manchester United’s season. First there were embarrassing losses to Seagulls and Spurs to end last summer,  a brief glimmer of hope in a comeback win over Newcastle, then the sadly predictable end to Jose Mouhrino’s tenure at old Trafford. Former Red Devil Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over and impressed enough to get the full-time gig this year, primarily by remembering that he had a squad of expensive and talented players and getting out of their way.

The Bottom Three: Not Ready for Prime Time

premier league
JonJo Shelvey scores as Newcastle United finish off Fulham, premierleague.com

My Bottom Three last year, along with what really happened

  • Huddersfield Town (Yup)
  • Cardiff City (Ditto)
  • Watford (Fulham, oh boy did I get this wrong.)

Huddersfield Town were the worst team in the league by a country mile. They managed only three wins and a mere sixteen points on the season, 20 points behind Brighton and Hove Albion and safety. Their top scorers were 21-year-old English forward Karlan Grant, plucked from third division Charlton Athletic, and Australian veteran Aaron Mooy with three apiece.

Cardiff City, on the other hand, put up a pretty good fight, scrapping with Brighton, Southampton and Burnley for that safe spot until the waning weeks of the season. The Bluebirds played scrappy defense, certainly better than their fellows in demotion, and did their level best to stay in every game they could. We’ll be wishing them luck on bouncing back up soon.

I would like to extend my apologies to the players, management and Fans of the Watford Football Club for my glib assertion that they would be relegated last season. As I wrote last September, the Hornets four wins to open the season had them halfway to safety by Halloween and a steady winter kept them solidly in the mid-table. The blossoming of Spaniard Gerard Deulofeu into a star made up for Richarlison’s sale to Everton. Plus they rode a hot streak to reach the FA Cup Final, where they received a “happy to be there” 6-0 drubbing from Manchester City.

Fulham was practically the opposite story. While I believed Wolverhampton was the best of last year’s promoted sides and was rewarded with a 7th place finish and a Europa League spot, I also felt that Fulham would be a cinch to stay up. Shahid Khan spent a metric ton of loot bringing in players, but the team never quite gelled on offense despite the star power, netting the same haul as Cardiff despite the shiny toys up top. Meanwhile, they allowed a whopping 81 balls to find the back of the net. Khan’s not going anywhere, so the Cottagers will have the ammunition to strike back, but a more considered team-building plan will be absolutely necessary to ensure that their next trip to the Premier League is a longer one.

Coming Up

That’s it for today. Tomorrow we will take a look at the three newest Premier League competitors and also take a glance at the Championship squads to watch. Then I gotta travel, but I’ll be back next week to review the action and make another set of rash predictions!

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