After a difficult 10 weeks without any English football we are back and every single team means business! Transfer records obliterated, exciting new signings and lower league clubs spending big… We are in for a cracking season!
After all the marquee signings and change in managers we are looking into a few teams that we are predicting to compete for the title/promotion throughout the top four English leagues.
We believe it will be the usual top 6 battling it out again this season, with all of them, well apart from Spurs currently, spending big this summer we are in for a treat! Six elite teams fighting for four positions. It will also be interesting to see how the new boys Brighton, Huddersfield and Newcastle fair, with ‘The Terriers' firm favourites to go straight back down.
Having gone from ‘The Invincibles' to ‘The Invisibles' a lot of Arsenal's big players just didn't turn up consistently enough for them to finish in the top four. The first season without Champions League football in 21 years, is this the beginning of the end for Arsene Wenger? Let's be fair he scraped a new two-year deal by winning the FA Cup.
Despite all of this you can't rule them out! For the sixth consecutive season they begin the campaign at the Emirates against former champions Leicester City. It would do Arsene and his squad the world of good to kick off with a strong home win having only won one of the previous six opening clashes.
A real challenge, and one they are not used to, is the Europa League. Thursday nights and a major fixture backlog could prove tough. They last played in Europe's second-tier competition in 2000, losing in the final against Galatasaray.
Only one notable acquisition this summer, a big one mind you, the ?45m signing of Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon. A prolific goal scorer in Ligue 1, but can he do it on a cold Wednesday night in Stoke? Time will tell! A lot also rides on whether Alexis Sanchez stays or goes. Arsene will be relying on the likes of ?zil and Ramsey to create the chances and steer them in the right direction.
The current Premier League champions are back with a bang! Excellent first team signings of Alvaro Morata, Antonio Rudiger, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Willy Caballero have bolstered their title winning side. The only notable departures are John Terry and Nemanja Matic, who has relinked with Jos? at United. Although it is only a matter of time until we see the end of Diego Costa's time at Chelsea. The Spanish striker is rumoured to have received a text message, from Conte, at the end of last season, informing him that he was not in his plans for the campaign ahead.
Conte has spent a lot of money and firmly has his sights set on regaining the title. A difficult challenge that Mourinho majorly messed up just 2 seasons ago, going from 1st to 10th, well when he finally got the chop/parting on “mutual consent” Chelsea were sat in a miserable 16th position. Chelsea's return to the Champions League could prove a challenge with the hectic schedule, compared to last season anyway, but they have strength in depth and we believe they will do well once again.
They will have a handicapped start as Hazard and Bakayoko are still recovering from surgery. The Belgian talisman will be extremely missed and he isn't expected to begin training until the start of September.
After a successful pre-season, Liverpool fans are already crying out “It's our year”, again. Bringing home, the Premier League Asia Trophy and thumping a strong Bayern Munich side 3-0 the fans on the red half of Merseyside are extremely excited.
Transfers in haven't been overly busy but they have still spent over ?40m, bringing in Andrew Robertson from Hull and Mohamed Salah, the former Chelsea flop, from Roma. A lot of rumours of further additions to the squad and the departure of their talisman Coutinho, even more possible with Neymar's world record move to PSG.
Klopp will be relying on the likes of Mane to stay fit this season, the Senegalese forward was firing on all cylinders, when available. Juggling Champions League commitments could see Liverpool struggle and slip out of the top four this season.
Putting these reservations aside Liverpool played some scintillating stuff at times last season and will be going in full of confidence. Adding pace and directness opposition defences will be dreading it!
Last season didn't go exactly well for Pep and the boys. Devastating form at the beginning of the 16/17 season didn't carry on for the remainder of the year. They won the first six games comfortably, including a commanding victory at Old Trafford. It all sounds great, right? Then you start factoring the issues of keeping clean sheets… only one.
Anyway, that was last season. The woeful Claudio Bravo has been dropped to the bench and city have strengthened in every area required, spending a cool ?200m in the process. A re-shape of the defence and a young, experienced goal keeper looks to see them set for the beginning of their latest attempt at European domination. Could the Champions League trophy make it back to the blue side of Manchester this season?
Guardiola will really have a bee in his bonnet after last season and will be keen to prove to everyone he can succeed in England, not just in the 2 or 3 team European divisions. He was gifted an incredible team at both Barcelona and Bayern, he is having to attempt to do things a little bit differently this time.
Again, despite all of the above City are favourites to be crowned the English champions this year and we can't see where their team is going to slip up this season.
Anybody get the feeling ‘The Special One' is ready to bring United back to their glory days? After a somewhat disappointing campaign last season… well actually he seemed quite happy with it. I mean in the grand scheme of things, despite finishing 6th, they went on to win the Community Shield, EFL Cup and, of course, the Europa League - guaranteeing them a place in the Champions League.
A key stat for last season was the amount of draws United accumulated. They went on an incredible 25-match unbeaten run, yet only won 13 of those games. They even had 38 shots against Burnley, at Old Trafford, and the game finished a boring 0-0. Typifying how difficult they found it at the Theatre of Dreams.
Pogba didn't have the best of seasons after his World Record move to Old Trafford, but after the signing of Matic we can see him playing in a free-roaming roll this season. With Herrera and Matic covering in behind him Pogba can be his usual confident self, knowing that when he gives the ball away the defensive pair can pick it up. Time to prove that ?89m transfer fee.
No Zlatan so far this season as his contract expired in the summer. The striker doesn't want to sign a new one until he has recovered from that horrible ligament injury back in April. He's recovering faster than any doctors and specialists expected! Recently he returned to Carrington, where he will recover and no doubt sign a new deal with The Red Devils later in the year. Not to worry though, they only went and spent ?75m on Romelu Lukaku, one of the best Premier League strikers over the past 5 seasons. Since that loan spell at West Brom, in his days with Chelsea, he has gone from strength to strength. Still only 24 years old, the Belgian has racked up an impressive, and record for his age, 85 Premier League goals.
Some other notable transfer movements are the departure of the clubs leading goal scorer of all time Wayne Rooney, who has gone back to Everton. The once overly talked about talent of Adnan Januzaj has gone to Real Sociedad, he never really lived up to the promise first show. Another addition to the ranks was Victor Lindelof, ?31m for the Swedish centre-half.
Last, but certainly not least, Spurs. After two extremely successful campaigns under Mauricio Pochettino, they finished runners up to Leicester and Chelsea, both extremely close when it came to it. Could it be the season they push through and take the title?
Spurs haven't strengthened yet in the window and have lost Kyle Walker to Manchester City. Spurs really need to spend some money if they are to compete again, despite having an extremely talented, young squad everyone else has spent a lot! The reason they didn't push through and take the title the past two seasons is down to strength in depth. They haven't got enough players in every position when it comes to it.
Missing out on the likes of Morata and a lot of rumours fading out it's not looking good. With the correct additions Spurs can definitely challenge again. One of the best young talents in the world, Deli Alli and the best striker in the league for the previous two seasons, and with Harry Kane, Spurs have threats in the squad. They just need something a bit different!
White Hart Lane is gone for the time being and Spurs are having to make Wembley their home for the season. Safe to say it didn't go well for them in the Champions League last season. The new ?400m ground won't be ready until next year. With this, they'll go through a couple of interesting transitions. We are intrigued to see how this unfolds.
Currently we can't see Spurs contending for the title. This would change if they signed some world class talent, but right now it's not happening.
We're in for another exciting, unpredictable, dramatic and chaotic Championship season. Renowned as the hardest league to get out of on the globe, it proves it year after year.
Here are the teams we can see challenging for the top 6 places this season. Calling the top two or winners? We'll leave that too you.
Villa are probably the only team with a squad to rival Middlesbrough's title attempt. Last season was disappointing for The Villains, a strong finish to the season wasn't enough.
This time round, Steve Bruce has gone for experience over youth. Bringing in 131 years' worth of it! The signings of John Terry, Chris Samba, Glenn Whelan and Ahemd Elmohamady is incredible for a Championship side. It also shows the real intent to get back to the top flight. Terry's arrival means nothing less than promotion is acceptable.
A late push towards the end of last season saw Fulham break into the top 6, and have a chance of promotion via the playoffs. Those hopes ended with a semi-final defeat, at the hands of Reading. Stuck in the Championship for another season.
Their best bit of business this summer has been holding onto their captain Tom Cairney. A revelation for ‘The Cottagers' last season, a one man team at times. Fulham have once again used the loan market, rather than purchasing players. Slavisa Jokanovic has expressed his concerns at the transfer policy, and says his summer targets have been ignored… One to keep an eye on.
Last campaign was another up and down ride for the Elland Road faithful. A shock entrance into the top 6 and impressive results saw Leeds go into the back end of the season as one of the teams set for the playoffs. Once again this didn't hold up, in the last few games Leeds slumped, youth players struggled and the old guard were tired. It came to the final game of the season. Leeds needed a 13 goal swing to get back into the playoffs; I'm sure you know what happened.
This season, Leeds have a new manager, new ownership, purchased the stadium back and a lot of new players: cult hero Pontus Jansson and Hadi Sacko's deals made permanent, and new players Mateusz Klich, Felix Wiedwald, Vurnon Anita, Caleb Ekuban, Samuel Sainz, Ezgjan Alioski and Matthew Pennington. They've also managed to hold onto their prolific striker from last season, golden boot winner Chris Wood. It's another promising and exciting time for Leeds fans, whether they get back to the golden years will remain to be seen.
Boro are favourites to win the league and go straight back up after slipping down from the Premier League, after just one season in the division. The Boro board look like they are following in the footsteps of Rafael Ben?tez's men by sticking with a proven squad that are familiar with the Championship. There's a new man in charge, a man that nearly took Leeds back to a remarkable promotion last time round. Garry Monk.
Monk shocked everyone by resigning from Leeds. He felt he could achieve his promotion ambition with Boro and when they came knocking he was ready. A lack of goals was the reason for their relegation so they have gone out and spent big (for Championship standards anyway!) Bringing in Britt Assombalonga, Ashley Fletcher and Jonny Howson will bolster the chances of goals.
We expect Middlesbrough to win the league and go back to the top flight.
Sheffield Wednesday got back into the playoffs with a strong late push, losing to the eventual playoff winners Huddersfield in the semi-final. The Owls have completed a ?10m deal for Jordan Rhodes, a striker who has proved priceless at this level. However this move could backfire. A big chunk of their money spent on a striker who was on loan at Hillsborough for the second half of last season and only scored three goals in 18 games!
Things could go either way this season for Sheffield Wednesday, another one that will be interesting to see how it pans out.
New owners with incredible links, none other than super-agent Jorge Mendes, agent to David De Gea, Thiago Silva, James Rodriguez, Angel Di Maria, Diego Costa and Jos? Mourinho to name a few… Oh and that boy Ronaldo, Cristiano Ronaldo. The link has proven vital, Wolves have made some mind-boggling signings already! Bringing in Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota, two players that could be playing Champions League level football quite easily! Breaking Championship records in the process, ?15.8m for Neves.
There is a strong chance that Wolves will be the most talented Championship squad we have ever seen! Yet, they need a striker and a lot of promise often amounts to nothing, this will be very exciting.
If you look at the history of the English divisions it is hard to believe some of the teams that are in the third tier. Blackburn, Portsmouth & Wigan to name a few. It still looks to be another difficult season to predict.
A team that we really do find hard to believe are this low in the divisions, however no doubt supporters will disagree, it's been coming. It's been a fall from grace over the last 20 years. In 1995 Blackburn won the Premier League, it sounds like it could have been a similar story to Leicester when you think about it now doesn't it… but it wasn't. Blackburn Rovers where the first of the massive spenders, the Manchester City of their day. They broke English transfer records when they bought Alan Shearer for ?3.5m.
The club have made a few canny signings this season. Peter Whittingham and Richard Smallwood in the midfield are quality for League One. Rovers should be more than comfortable in seeing off the competition this time round.
Several clubs are more than capable of a top six finish, Bradford like no other. We're sure the fans are hoping for automatic promotion this season, rather than potentially suffering heartbreak at Wembley again.
Stuart McCall's challenge has been made harder by losing several first-team players; James Meredith and Mark Marshall will be huge losses! Top six is still a very achievable target.
MK Dons should be aiming to push for the playoffs this season, with a promising young manager in Robbie Nelson. Nelson has re-structured the Dons midfield by bringing in Ousseynou Ciss?, Gboly Ariyibi and Aaron Tshibola. A few strong signings and a new manager could be just what MK Dons need after six years under Karl Robinson.
After Paul Cook jumped ship for Wigan, Pompey are looking at new ownership and a new manager. Kenny Jackett, the former Millwall and Wolves manager is looking to make it back to back promotions for Pompey. He has begun to strengthen his squad already and knows the market well.
New signing, Brett Pitman, was made captain upon arrival from Ipswich. He's another player who could tear up the division. Former Spurs reserve Luke McGee is another great signing.
Wigan are Blackburn's biggest competition, a squad that is also destined to bounce straight back up to the Championship. Wigan will be hoping their infamous striker will be back on fire this season. Will Grigg struggled in the second division last season, but will be hoping to emulate the 25 goals he scored in 15/16. They also have Nick Powell in midfield, the once Manchester United hot prospect, another one to slide away from his potential.
The club has also appointed new manager in Paul Cook, the man who took Portsmouth to the League Two title last season.
Previously mentioned manager Karl Robinson is now in charge of ‘The Addicks'. They have well documented problems on and off the field yet a great squad for League One and a manager with expert knowledge of the market to strengthen that.
The fourth and final tier in our preview, another extremely tough division to either stay in or get promoted. It is a real up and down division, literally.
Another team who will be up there at the end of May will be Coventry. ‘The Sky Blues' fell apart last season and plummeted down to League Two. Another former Premier League team who have fell from grace and the fans have had a rough time of it to say the least.
Mark Robins had a near impossible task at the end of last season when he took over. Hopefully after a full pre-season to get things together Robins and captain Michael Doyle, whom both love the club, can help them bounce straight back up.
The past few months have been a bit topsy-turvy for Exeter. They had the highs of making the playoff final only to crash out with a 2-1 loss against Blackpool. Fans will still be revelling in frustration and anger against Joel Grant, a player that they stumped up ?30,000 to help pay his wages and keep him at the club, only for him to go to arch rivals Plymouth Argyle. Star striker Ollie Watkins went off to Brentford and 16-year-old defender Ethan Ampadu was snapped up by Chelsea. Ampadu is a player that could reach big things in the future. Saying that he'll be out on loan for the majority of his Chelsea career.
‘The Grecians' will be hoping Paul Tisdale will be able to steady the ship and challenge for an automatic spot this season, it is his 11th season in charge after all!
Yes, we are predicting a newly promoted club to finish in the top six. It's rare for this to happen, more so in League Two. After a truly remarkable FA Cup run, which got most the nation hooked, Lincoln look set to take on the very best in England's fourth division. It's been a few years now since Lincoln were playing at this level, but now they look better than ever to go up again.
They've have kept the bulk of their squad that managed to make the FA Cup Quarter Final last season, eventually losing to the winners Arsenal. Additional experience in Michael Bostwick will be key for ‘The Imps'. The Cowley brothers look to work their magic again.
An agonising semi-final defeat last time round will still be sinking in for ‘The Hatters' fans. Jones' side have also lost key players Cameron McGheean and Jack Marriot, but goals should still be available with the arrival of James Collins and Danny Hylton. Between them they scored 49 goals last season.
More additions include the giant goalkeeper Marek Stech and ex-Reading player Jack Stacey.
The first of our teams who are at even odds or below. Surely Mansfield are guaranteed to win League Two with odds like those?! Think again, nothing is guaranteed in any of English football.
After finishing 12th last season this probably seams like a shock, but with Steve Evans' first full season in charge ‘The Stags' will be looking to continue their end of season form under him. A massive push for new signings this summer has seen the former Leeds United manager bringing in 13 new signings, many of them have excelled above this level in the past, including Premier League experience in League Two!
Fans of Swindon Town will be hoping that new manager David Flitcroft can take them straight back to League One and begin to rebuild the club. The County Ground has been like Elland Road of late, staff barely have chance to set up shop before they go again. One of those being Tim Sherwood, the director of football only being appointed in November.
A play off push is the minimal target at least for ‘The Robins'.
Overall, whomever you support we're sure you're in for another exciting season. It has the potential to be the best yet across every division. We are extremely excited.
Image credits: arsenal.com, mirror.co.uk, talking-baws.hoqt2ws7j.netdna-cdn.com, bleacherreport.net
Date Posted: Wednesday 12th July 2017
Author: Barry ONeil