After a dramatic and historic 2017-18 season, a new year is upon us. Another World Cup and transfer window has passed; so much money has been spent this transfer window. So much drama and expectations have been set in the preseason friendlies that this looks to be one of the more entertaining starts to a season in recent memory. Here are the biggest questions (and answers) heading into the 2018-19 EPL season.
Will Liverpool dethrone Manchester City and win the Premier League?
What also could have been asked is “which team can challenge Manchester City this year?” but that would’ve been too easy. Manchester United appears to be having internal issues with their manager (more on that later). Chelsea has a new coach. Arsenal is rebuilding. Tottenham made no major changes so it could just be the same old song and dance. Liverpool are the clear challengers to Manchester City.
Money, money, money
The Reds have spent a total of 168.98 million pounds in this summer transfer window; 234.9 million pounds if you count the January transfer window last season. That money spent has brought in three midfielders, a goalkeeper and a center back (Virgil van Djik in January). This transfer window saw the departure of Emre Can on a free transfer to Juventus and the news that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been ruled out for a majority of the season.This has justified Liverpool’s influx of midfielders during the window and all look to be in rotation throughout the season and its competitions.
Liverpool’s new trio of midfielders includes Naby Keita, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri. Keita has been lighting up the Bundesliga with RB Leipzig the past two seasons being a key distributor and contributor for the side. Fabinho, coming from Ligue 1 side AS Monaco, plays what is known as a “holding midfielder” that spends most of his time in defense and regaining possession; a point of weakness Liverpool needed to address. Shaqiri was brought in from fellow EPL club Stoke City; his creativity and vision looks to prove valuable with Chamberlain out.
Last summer, Liverpool brought in Roma winger Mohamed Salah who proved to be the steal of the season considering the price they paid for him. This summer, they brought in Salah’s Roma teammate and goalkeeper Alisson. Alisson was bought at a record fee for a keeper and looks to take over Karius’ job in between the sticks. The Brazilian keeper was also the first choice keeper for Brazil’s World Cup squad over a certain Manchester City first choice keeper (Ederson).
So, to answer the question, “will Liverpool dethrone Manchester City and win the Premier League?” Yes. Liverpool have added enough depth to be competitive and lethal throughout the season across multiple competitions. There is no reason they can’t repeat the success they had against City last season in both the Premier League (handed City their first loss) and Champions League (knocked them out in the quarterfinal). It purely comes down to how quickly the new pieces can integrate and mesh with the pieces that made last year so special. Liverpool have invested money and it looks to be money well spent if they’re on the same page as manager Jurgen Klopp.
Which of the big six misses out on Champions League at the end of the season?
Manchester City and Liverpool are talented and good enough to maintain their UCL status. That leaves Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham fighting for the final two places assuming none of them end up winning the Europa League. United have squad and/or managerial concerns. Chelsea have lost their keeper and brought in a new manager. Arsenal have a new manager and are filtering out players to play a brand new system for the first time in 22 years. Tottenham haven’t made any changes from last year to this year.
Manchester United have brought in one midfielder in Fred during this transfer window. This hasn’t satisfied manager Jose Mourinho, who isn’t shy about putting pressure on his employers to invest more money into transfers. United also brought in Alexis Sanchez during the January transfer window in place of Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Mourinho also has not appeared to have gotten the best out of World Cup winner Paul Pogba, who was touted as the best midfielder of the future a couple seasons ago.
Chelsea somehow have held onto Eden Hazard despite losing fellow Belgian Thibeau Courtois to Real Madrid. New manager Maurizio Sarri has brought in Jorginho. Chelsea have also added midfielder Mateo Kovacic from Real Madrid. Sarri and Chelsea have replaced Courtois with 23-year old Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao. Will that be enough to put Chelsea back into the Champions League?
Arsenal will be without Arsene Wenger for the first time in 22 years. With Unai Emery now at the helm and a couple new defenders brought in, Arsenal begin a new era. How soon can Emery bring the Gunners back to Premier League relevance?
That leaves Tottenham, who haven’t made any changes at the managerial position or in their squad. This team has been together for more than a couple seasons now so chemistry shouldn’t be an issue. Tottenham will make the UCL since they have more consistency than the other three clubs. That leaves one spot open for Champions League qualification.
That spot will go to Chelsea. The players at Manchester United may stop responding to Jose Mourinho all together and work towards rebuilding the club for the next season. Arsenal could be a good team this year, but it is still too soon for them to jump back into the top four. Chelsea are only a season removed from being reigning EPL champions and they still have many of those players in that squad. With a new coach and voice in the dressing room, Chelsea could be raring to go for a UCL spot by season’s end.
Will Jose Mourinho get sacked before Christmas?
Yes, but Mourinho is on the right track if he’s looking to get fired. Mourinho has done nothing, but be negative towards his players, staff and board and set low expectations for one of the biggest clubs in the world. If United don’t get off to a good start, Mourinho could very well see himself out of a job by the holidays, but he and United will do enough for him to keep his job at least until then.
Can Salah repeat his 2017-18 success?
Mohamed Salah had a historic and memorable 2017-18 campaign. Last season saw a massive spike in his goal and assist production that had people scratching their heads. “How did we miss this guy?” is what teams, especially Chelsea, were asking themselves. Can Salah repeat his success? If “success” is determined by his 40 plus goal output, one of the best in Europe, then it’s not fair to expect that since it was his first season reaching those heights. If “success” is determined by say 30 plus goals and some assists sprinkled in, then yes Salah can.
This Premier League season has been highly anticipated coming off a World Cup year and with so much money spent. There may be more questions to be asked by the end of the first week. Regardless, football is back and excitement is at a high. So buckle up and enjoy the ride England’s top flight has to offer.