Premier League Predictions
Written by: Daniel Scarpino
6 down, 32 to go. The Premier League is shaking up to be something quite nice this year but, did we expect much different? In a league that was obsessed, quite literally for years, over ‘The Top 4’, has now changed its rhetoric in the way of obsessing over ‘The Top 6’. Two valuable spots, beyond the top 4, remain for 5th and 6th place with the prospect of getting into the Europa League. We are seeing it this year with the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United. A shift not by way of ‘paradigm’ but, certainly by way of ‘contextual consideration’, especially for those supporters whose club does not make it into the Champions League.
After 6 games in league play, Liverpool sit at the top of the table with an unbeaten record, a
perfect 6-0-0. Is that to last? Surely not. No team can stay in that kind of form for an entire
season, especially when we take into account that the traditional ‘top 6 clubs’ will have games every 3-4 days, mathematically, for the remainder of the season with the exception of International Breaks. Not easy to keep an unbeatable run of form when you’re constantly playing games, dealing with injuries, and rotating your squad.
For my top 6 list, it’s important to take into account ‘context’ and where each team currently sits not only in the table but, in terms of the periodized moment of their club.
From bottom-to-top, I predicted that Chelsea will finish in the 6th spot at the end of the season. Frank Lampard, newly named manager for Chelsea, has come in as an ex-player of the club; pardon me, ‘legend’ of the club, to take on the duties of head coach. His work last season with Derby County in the Championship was nothing short of remarkable as he guided his side to a 6th place finish. Norwich City, Sheffield United, and Aston Villa all saw promotion into the Premier League for this year but, it goes without saying that Frank Lampard was able to produce quite the season with Derby County right until the playoff. As a young manager, he gave the supporters something to believe in. His departure from Derby County would only be received well due to the fact that he was ‘going home’ to his former club from his playing days. Chelsea, a club known for their incredibly high turnover ratio of managers, see’s Frank Lampard come in to do what they hope will be a ‘proper long-term project’. Chelsea, who experienced just one season under Maurizio Sarri last year, was met with a lot of heartache and turmoil. A happy ending, if you will, for Chelsea to win the Europa League title made Sarri’s departure just a little more easy-going after we heard weekly chants of ‘We want Sarri out’ from the Chelsea ‘supporters’. Shocking for a team who also finished 3rd in the Premier League and won themselves the right to play in the Champions League this season. Nevertheless, Chelsea remain in a position this season where they have quality players, a young manager with fresh ideas, and a rich history of winning titles. A long-term project for a club with a short-term memory will be quite the task for Frank Lampard and his team. A 6th place finish would be suitable this season for Chelsea given the likes of what they will be up against. Mr. Lampard certainly has his work cut out for him but, a doable job for him if he is given the time to work at the club. Time will tell.
Next, I predict that Arsenal will finish in 5th place this season. A location that they have become quite comfortable with over many years when it comes to the standings. Last season, Arsenal saw Unai Emery come in to take over as manager of the club. Under the regime of Arsene Wenger for the previous 22 years, Emery provided a new face to the club and perhaps a new direction. A ‘playing-out from the back’ style of football mixed with a rigid & consistent 4-2-3-1 formation saw Arsenal have a season where most fans were left feeling as they often have over the past years — ‘empty’. An Arsenal squad who has continually experienced difficulties in keeping a clean sheet has continued to invest in attacking-minded player after attacking-minded player. A poised and relatively competent squad from the midfield onwards, the defensive struggles will likely continue. The most notable signing for Gunners, from a defensive perspective, was former Chelsea player and Brazilian international, David Luiz. Not exactly the most ‘defensive-minded centre back’, if there even is such a thing to contrast the proposed idiom. Emery will continue to coach towards the aim of getting his playing style/philosophy across this season, and with the quality that is presented in the midfield and upfront, they are sure to carry out Emery’s philosophy in a more emphatic way. That being said, an Arsenal side who are usually never shy on goals will have a serious job to do from a defensive perspective. With so many clubs now investing money into quality, attacking players, it will be difficult to hold these types of players off for 90 minutes at a time.
Claiming the 4th spot should be Manchester United for this season. A team that has been in
constant ‘rebuild’ mode since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, United fans are desperate for a productive season. In the same fashion that Chelsea has done, an ex-player and legend of the club, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, has assumed the responsibility as of late last season in the managers seat. A humble, hard working, and enthusiastic coach who understands the core values of Manchester United will surely try to steer the ship in the proper direction; some might even call it ‘The Old United Way’ from the Sir Alex Ferguson days. Nevertheless, a few woeful years have past under the reigns of Moyes, van Gaal, and Mourinho. Today, ‘Ole’s at the wheel’, as they say, and there is a new train of thought at United that likely emulates what Sir Alex Ferguson had in place years ago during his unprecedented time at the club.
Manchester United, in many ways, has experienced an identity crisis where the philosophical
principles and playing style have never quite matched the core values of the club since the
retirement of Ferguson. Now, under Ole, we see that change in the way that United are playing. That attacking, forward thinking brand of football, mixed with the promotion/push of youth players, and the ideological concept of ‘running for the badge’. A shift in mindset is something that the new Manchester United boss, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, is appealing to and he is looking for the players who will fulfill those roles in the pursuit of improvement and championship pedigree.
I believe that the work Ole will do at the club will pay dividends. I also believe that in his tenure, for however long it might be at United, will percolate and evidently initiate the discussion topic of, ‘Are ex-players of the club the future managers of the club?’. I think there will be enough for United to get over the line this year in terms of getting a Champions League birth as well as producing some good runs in the competitions they have for the year. There’s a lot to be said for a rebuilding club/team but, if anyone can fast-track the process of a rebuild, it would be nonsensical to suggest that United aren’t at the top of that list.
In the third spot, I see Tottenham Hotspur claiming that position. A squad who has been lead
brilliantly by Mauricio Pochettino for the past few years is seeing the benefits of a solidified
culture, confident playing philosophy, and a brand new stadium (though, I don’t know how much that actually benefits them directly). Nevertheless, Spurs have been improving and have made themselves known as not only one of the best clubs in England but, one of the best clubs in Europe. A visit to the Champions League final last season showed the quality that they have and the type of football they can play. All the while, we must remember, that they have spent virtually zero money in the past few transfer markets/windows. It goes without saying that Pochettino has done wonders with his squad.
The pertinent and begging question that will surely arise as time goes along is, ‘How long can
Spurs retain this consistency without investing into a bench/squad?’. It’s a fair and reasonable
question seeing as most people thought that Spurs would completely burn out last year due to their lack of squad depth. Somehow, they managed to surpass that ‘burn out’ phase and still claim 4th spot in the Premier League as well as make a run in every single competition despite not winning a trophy. This season, one would think that Spurs will continue to soar in an upward direction. Whilst other squads have inevitably improved, a team that we can likely assume will be consistent in terms of results is Tottenham.
In the second spot, I predict Manchester City will be there. The defending Premier League
champions of the past 2 seasons are still one of the best sides in the world. Top quality players, a class personified manager, and an identity understood like no other. Between last seasons Premier League, Community Shield, Carabao Cup, and FA Cup, Manchester City were able to add 4 trophies to their cabinet. If it weren’t for a fall-out in the Champions League, they would have hit the unprecedented quadruple of major tournaments (excluding the Community Shield).
Pep Guardiola has brought a certain level of genius, majestic football, and solidarity to
Manchester City during his tenure at the club. That being said, the investment made into top level players has been astounding when you look at it from a financial point of view. This has
been a reality that Manchester City have not tried to deny nor hide yet, if further begs the
question as to, ‘Are they just buying titles?’. It’s somewhat of an ignorant debate seeing as Pep is still getting the best out of his guys whilst never denying the quality of his players. At the end of the day, it’s football so, anything can happen. The team that deserves to win almost always does in the end.
Manchester City are surely set for another great and historic season. That being said, whilst I can foresee a potential ‘three-peat’ of winning the Premier League, it is so difficult to do. And while I believe another team will step into this years spotlight as champions of England, let’s not be fooled as to the reality that will inevitably exist — City will play beautiful football, they will score goals, and they will still win trophies.
My pick to be Premier League Champions this season is Liverpool. One of the best sides in all of world football, one of the deepest squads you’ll find, a brilliant manager, and a fan-base that cannot be compared to most. What they have been able to build over the past few seasons under Jurgen Klopp has been admirable beyond belief. Last season alone, they only lost one game in league competition and ended up winning the Champions League in the most dramatic fashion coupled with possibly the greatest comeback story in the history of the game itself after being down 3-0 to Barcelona on aggregate.
What we are seeing from Liverpool now, in this moment, is incredibly unique. The high-press,
the front 3, the attack, the solidified defending, the top-class goalkeeping, the movement in
midfield, the pace, the resilience, the ability to adapt, and the unified football ‘family’ at Anfield
— It’s just surreal.
It’s been a long wait for Liverpool, and you just get that feeling that the long wait will soon be
over. I believe they are set to win the Premier League this year. It may not be the only trophy
they win as well but, depending on how they prioritize their competitions, they could eventually become the runaway favourites to win the Premier League. Surely, Manchester City will have something to say about that but, in time, we will find out who will come to pass. For me, it’s got to be Liverpool this season.