The long five-week summer without any European soccer comes to an end as the Premier League returns this weekend. Last year was a wild unpredictable ride and this year you can expect more of the same. Here are some bold predictions for this season sure to go wrong.
Dele Alli will win Young Player of the Year
Real bold to pick the player who won the award last year, I know. But as I wrote at the end of last season, this is exactly why I hate this award. The rules allow Alli to win it multiple times when he shouldn’t be able to. Nevertheless, Alli didn’t stumble into this award last year, he won it because he was that good. This year he’s only going to be a year older wiser and better. It’s hard to see anyone stealing it from him. He’ll become the first double winner since Wayne Rooney won it in 2004 and 2005.
Leicester City will finish fourth
The trendy pick is to say Leicester City will struggle to even remain in the top half of the league this year. I’m not sure why. They’re returning their entire squad sans N’Golo Kante who they’ve already replaced with Nampalys Mendy. They still have Riyad Mahrez who is one of the best players in the league. Sure there will be slip ups, but Leicester’s success has come from their belief that they can beat anybody. They’ll have more challenges than they had last year, but fourth place is very much on the table.
Sergio Aguero will lead the league in goals
The Premier League’s leading scorer this season will come from Manchester. While there are some that believe it’ll be a certain Swedish striker from the red half… it won’t be. Say what you want about Sergio Aguero’s ability to stay fit, or Pep Guardiola possibly being a very overrated manager, and believe me I’ve said it all. Regardless of how the rest of City looks, Aguero will slot into Pep’s system, that has experience getting a lot of goals out of an undersized striker.
Arsenal will fall out of the top four
Every year we seem to think this will be the year that Arsenal finally drop out of the top four and every year Arsene Wenger gets his squad back to the Champions League. It’s pick against Arsenal at your own peril, so why am I picking against them? Arsenal simply haven’t done enough to improve. They brought in Granit Xhaka to address an area of the field that was already going to get better with Jack Wilshere’s return and didn’t address any of their other needs. Meanwhile, the five other teams competing with Arsenal for the top four have either greatly improved, or done enough to stay better than the Gunners.
Sunderland will go down
Not only will Sunderland go down this year, but they will be this year’s Aston Villa — the team that is just absolutely terrible. They were pretty bad last year until Big Sam managed to get win after win out of them at the end of the year to pull off a great escape, but he’s gone now. David Moyes is in fact a good manager, but there’s only so much he can do with this squad that is not only terrible, but hasn’t made any additions.
Jamie Vardy won’t score more than 15 goals
I’m actually torn on this one. On one hand Jamie Vardy is a very streaky scorer who only scored seven goals from open play in the second half of the year last year. On the other hand, he still scored fairly consistently for England over the past year and scored in Sunday’s Community Shield. Nevertheless, teams won’t be playing as high a line against the Foxes this season, meaning less room for Vardy to run behind them. When Leicester have most of the possession, which they will this season, Vardy is less effective. He’ll still get his goals, just not as many.
Jurgen Klopp won’t get Liverpool into Europe
Excuse me for not drinking the Liverpool kool-aid. I’m a huge Jurgen Klopp fan but that doesn’t mean I think he’ll work a miracle with this side. While Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea were busy signing players that just won titles in Europe’s biggest leagues last season, Liverpool were signing the best players from average and terrible Premier League teams. Add that to an already very average squad and this team simply remains pretty average. Klopp will overachieve with them as always, but they’re unlikely to find any more consistency than they did last season.
Manchester United win the Premier League title
This isn’t because I’m drinking the Jose Mourinho kool-aid like everyone else. I still have my problems with him as a manager. This is simply because last season under Louis van Gaal United picked up 20 points against Leicester City, Tottenham, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea. Their problem was when they took on teams from the bottom half of the table and got 0-0 or 1-1 draws, or lost 1-0. They’ve already drastically improved the squad and under Mourinho, they’ll still be able to pick up 20 points against the above clubs, but they won’t be dropping nearly as many points against the bottom half of the table. That will be enough to win them the title.