English Premier League finally returns this weekend, and having kept a close tab on the teams during the pre-season, fans have reason to be somewhat anxious for their respective clubs. It is difficult to point out potential champions, or even the top-four teams, but based on previous season and the activity by most clubs in the summer, some general predictions can be made.
Return of Manchester United
A giant will return from its slumber. After three years of identity crisis, which Manchester United suffered following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, United are finally back at the top of the food chain. Or so it seems. They have a star-studded squad, a decorated manager, and most importantly, the humongous fan base of this club is finally happy. Jose Mourinho is a manager who has won it all, yet what he still longs for is a footballing dynasty. Having never lasted at a job for more than three years and criticised for not nurturing young talent, Mourinho is seeking a change in his image as a manager by virtue of a long-term job where he can develop a team according to his style of football. That is reflected in the young players he has invested in – Romelu Lukaku, Victor Lindelof, and Eric Bailly being some examples. Now he has the squad, the support base, and a season of experience at the helm to put in a strong title challenge, and fans should expect no less.
Big title race
With the ever-increasing financial might of the Premier League, the best players in the world are happily joining mid table premier league teams such as West Ham United, Stoke City, and Southampton. This year, the competition will likely be even more intense, and fans all over the world will be licking their lips at a possible 7-way title race involving Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, and Spurs. All of the above teams, barring Spurs, have invested heavily in their squads to fill in gaping holes. Manchester City looked unstoppable in pre-season as they finally solved their defensive problems, while Ronald Koeman has completely revamped Everton’s starting eleven. Similarly, the other title contenders have cut out their weaknesses and last year’s new managers, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, have now had enough time to get used the Premier League way of things. Meanwhile, last year’s runaway title winners Chelsea have looked unconvincing in pre-season, leaving a vacuum at the top of the table.
One thing fans can most certainly expect is plenty of goals. There have been a lot of movement on the forwards front amongst Premier League teams, and fans face the prospect of a mouth-watering face-off for the golden boot. Last season, Harry Kane treated us to a spectacular comeback as he scored a flurry of goals towards the end of the season to steal the golden boot from Lukaku. This season, however, Lukaku’s fire power is packed by United’s star studded midfield engine with the likes of Juan Mata and Paul Pogba supplying him. Meanwhile, there will be new world class strikers such as Alexandre Lacazette and Alvaro Morata plying their trade for title contenders Arsenal and Chelsea. Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) will be looking to show Manchester United what they missed out on after two prolific seasons with Bundesliga outfit Bayer Leverkusen. While Davy Klaassen would want to follow on the path of Premier League icons Robin Van Persie and Ruud Van Nistelrooy rather than flops Memphis Depay and Vincent Janssen. The sure-shot contenders would be Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero, Morata, Lacazette, and Lukaku; but there are a number of dark horses too such as Chicharito, Jermain Defoe, Marcus Rashford, Alexis Sanchez, Eden Hazard, and Gabriel Jesus. The number of names in the mix represents the tight race for the golden shoe we are about to witness. While it will be difficult to predict who really will take the award home, fans can expect the 30-goal barrier to be broken and maybe even the long-standing record of 31.