Season Preview: Leicester, Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Newcastle
IT’S BACK! Previews for Leicester, Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd and Newcastle here in part 3. You came here to scroll down to your club, so just get on with it…
If they're not in this part, then try:
Part I: Arsenal, Bournemouth, Brighton, Burnley and Cardiff
Part II: Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham and Huddersfield
Part IV: Coming soon...
Scroll to the bottom for full predicted tables.
Will Jones has already written about Leicester’s strange return to normality after their League win and Champions League escapade. Losing Riyad Mahrez was always going to hurt. But maybe it’ll be a blessing in disguise. If they invest wisely they can build a squad comfortable with being the ‘best of the rest’ and chasing Europa League football consistently as their ultimate goal.
£60m is only any good if you spend it well. Just ask Everton or Southampton. Although it’s always dangerous to assume anything before their new men have kicked a ball in anger wearing a Leicester shirt, the Foxes look like they have spent it well. James Maddison, tipped for moves to Spurs and Liverpool before his knee injury at the end of last season, comes in to central midfield to fill some of the creativity void post-Mahrez. A more direct replacement arrives in the form of fellow Algerian right-winger Rachid Ghezzal from Monaco.
Meanwhile, Leicester appear to have secured an absolute bargain in Portuguese wing-back Ricardo for £25m – both statistically and anecdotally he looks strong going both-ways and has already played under Puel at Nice. Jonny Evans strengthens the defence for basically no money but that didn’t stop Leicester going out and spending money on that position anyway (presumably in preparation for the loss of Harry Maguire which never ultimately materialised). Diacritically acclaimed, and Arsenal-linked, Caglar Söyüncü (£20m from Freiburg) and Filip Benkovic (£13m from Dinamo Zagreb) join Maguire and Evans to give them real depth. Keeper Danny Ward comes in from Liverpool to provide competition for Danish penalty hero Kasper Schmeichel. Ahmed Musa returns from a solid season (and summer) in Russia.
Leicester have a foundation now, and as the ghost at the feast fades, their chemistry and togetherness as a team should only improve. Expect decent football and a solid finish. 8th.
Ok, so Jürgen Klopp is a hypocrite and his meticulously cultivated image as football’s nice guy is beginning to slip. But none of that really matters. His players love him, and each other. Liverpool have, on paper, had the best transfer window of any team in the league. They have a bloke called Mohammed Salah. The one caveat is that they, and their manager, still feel like a Cup team who get up for the big occasions but might drop points at Cardiff in September.
Keïta, Allison, Fabinho and Shaqiri. That’s Liverpool’s summer. Which they add to… Van Dijk, Salah, Firmino, Mane, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Milner and Henderson as well as young talented full-backs in Alexander-Arnold and Andew Robertson. Decent line-up that.
With Allison between the sticks Liverpool might have won the Champions League last season. But the link with league success is less clear. Liverpool are, on their day, perfectly capable of beating City. But over the course of a season… 2nd.
19. 1900-01, 05-06, 21-22, 22-23, 46-47, 63-64, 65-66, 72-73, 75-76, 76-77, 78-79, 79-80, 81-82, 82-83, 83-84, 85-86, 87-88, 89-90 and now... 2018-19.
City have spent the summer off-grid, just working on their music, couch-surfing in Arizona. Mahrez aside they haven’t splashed the cash. But that album of Americana inspired drum n’ bass is coming along very nicely…
There isn’t much detail. Manchester City are still the same City that had us all reaching for superlatives and rewriting the record books last season. The same, and maybe… better. Benjamin Mendy will return at full-back; Kyle Walker comes back from the World Cup more versatile than ever; Kevin de Bruyne led that break against Japan; Sané’s absence was entirely responsible for Germany’s early exit. Of the city squad, probably only Gabriel Jesus’ stock wasn’t improved by the World Cup.
The only drawback is that having missed out on Jorginho, City still risk being vulnerable to Klopp’s swarming men in red. They can probably afford to lose a couple of games though.
They’re still the best team in the league. They could drop ten more points than they did last season and still walk the title. 1st.
Got nothing. By some unforeseeable confluence of events (possibly including a natural disaster or nuclear war) City fail to win the league. Maybe?
2016. No one died. 2017. No one died. 2018…
It just feels like there’ll be an incident with a pigeon (or worse) this year, doesn’t it? That’s the way Mourinho is in his third season. And he’s already well on his way. Telling fans he wouldn’t pay to watch the team he picked and saying Antonio Valencia has had ‘too much holiday for him’.
In theory, United have strengthened in the transfer market. Fred will add steel to a midfield and hopefully allow Pogba a slightly freer role where he can thrive; Diogo Dalot will provide competition for ageing right-back Antonio Valencia; and Lee Grant has joined so he can play some friendlies in America. On the flipside, they haven’t signed their Van Dijk figure to lead the motley crew of centre-backs.
In theory, too, Pogba and Lukaku showed form at the World Cup that the former has certainly never shown in a United shirt, and even Lukaku has never looked the worldbeater he did this summer. But Pogba showed that form in black and white too. Mourinho soon saw to that.
The brightest omen for United has been Alexis Sanchez’s imperious pre-season form. The problem… this is the competition that Mourinho said fans shouldn’t pay to watch. Ultimately, it all comes back to him.
Tears. Tantrums. Fifth.
Full meltdown. Mourinho out. Woodward out. Group-stage Champions League exit. 7th.
Benitez is still, inexplicably, manager of Newcastle United. Mike Ashley is, rather more explicably, still chairman. That’s the ying and yang that will keep Newcastle United just about in balance (and the Premier League) this year.
The bare facts about Newcastle United’s summer can be summed up on a balance sheet. £41.5m out. £30m in. In a season where survival in the Premier League will be worth at least £100m.
In terms of where that money’s come from and gone to then… In fairness to Ashley, they got almost £20m for Mitrovic, a player who found much greater success at Fulham than he ever did at St. James’. Similarly, what amounted to a swap deal with West Brom for Rondon with Dwight Gayle going the other way seems like a win-win for both clubs. Mbemba and Merino leaving will hurt though.
In terms of those new arrivals, Yoshinori Muto comes in to partner Rondon, despite only scoring 8 goals in the Bundesliga last season and having no previous Premier League experience. Last season’s surprise package between the sticks Martin Dubravka joins permanently, and they bring in Europe’s relegated centre-backs in Federico Fernandez (Swansea) and Fabian Schär (Deportivo). It’s really not pretty, but in exact opposition to another northern-United, their manager is an asset, and he’s still there. For now. If this transfer window didn’t finish him off, it’s unlikely anything will though – Benitez is to Newcastle’s summer what cockroaches are to nuclear apocalypses.
Ying and… (just) Yang. 17th.
Admittedly, this might not qualify as much of a punt. But here goes. Benitez leaves and Newcastle are relegated.
5. Man Utd
9. West Ham
1. Manchester City
3. Manchester United
7. Leicester City
8. West Ham
15. Crystal Palace