Season Preview: Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, Huddersfield
IT’S BACK! Previews for Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, Huddersfield in part two. 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 III: Leicester, Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Newcastle
Part IV: Coming soon...
Scroll to the bottom for full predicted tables.
Maurizio Sarri doesn’t feel like a Chelsea manager. He doesn’t feel heavyweight enough for Chelsea. He has too many principles; too little experience at the very highest level and seems insufficiently Machievellian to survive in the corridors of Cobham and the Bridge. And yet there’s much excitement from the fanbase and around the league…
In terms of Chelsea’s summer, and indeed their season, much depends on what will happen to Eden Hazard, and to a lesser extent, Thubaut Courtois. They’re clearly interested in Wilfried Zaha which signals that they probably expect to have to sell. Sarri got his man, Jorginho, under the nose of Pep Guardiola and he’ll surely be key not only on the field, but also in communicating Sarri’s philosophy and ideas to the rest of the squad. Chelsea’s transfer window still has a fair way to run though… and they look almost certain to lose Courtois now. Will they manage to seal a deal for Kepa Arrizabalaga?
I’m not convinced the face fits, and I think there is ample potential for boardroom fallings out this season if things don’t start well. Other teams around them (with the exception of Spurs) have spent money and improved. 6th.
Maurizio Sarri repeats his Napoli exploits, bringing gorgeous football led by Hazard to the Bridge, underpinned by pressing from Kante and Jorginho. Except, he really repeats his Napoli exploits and they’re overhauled by the country’s traditional juggernaut - in this case, Mourinho’s United.
Wilfried Zaha + 9 – Christian Benteke = 11th place finish. That was the equation for Palace last season (ok, that might be a little harsh on Loftus-Cheek, Mamadou Sakho and Yohan Cabaye) but the point essentially stands. As rumours continue to swirl around their main man this late in the transfer window, surely Palace have to hold their nerve to maintain their Premier League survival.
Palace have had a quiet summer, only bringing in Cheikhou Kouyaté permanently. The Senegalese is joined by free-transfers Vicente Guaita and former wonderkid Max Meyer, who came in complete with groan-inducing #MeyerofLondon social announcement. The only brought in Vicente Guaita on a free from Getafe thus far. To be fair, fielding offers from Daniel Levy and rejecting every combination of £30m + failed-Chelsea-central-midfielder must keep you pretty busy. It appears Lyon have also decided to throw needless work on the desk at gone 6 with a paltry £13m bid for Sakho. At least it can’t have taken long for that to be rejected.
Roy’s boys will probably be solid and well organised again and in Zaha they have a player capable of making the difference more often than not. They’re not as good as last season as a squad, but should at least manage to avoid the horrendous start. Ultimately, it seems likely they’ll slip slightly. 14th.
Zaha leaves on the final day of the transfer window for £65m, Roy resigns in protest and all looks lost but Jack Grealish joins in January and Benteke scores 20 to keep them up.
Everton could be almost anything this season. Having paid $5.99 shipping to offload Wayne Rooney to the MLS and splashed £40m on Richarlison to play under manager/ mentor/ good boss Marco Silva, Everton could be good. But… they might also be bad.
Ok, so first, the good. Everton have a talented manager (according to one half of Foul Throw at least) who surely won’t repeat his past mistakes and become tempted by an even bigger club (United?) if Everton start well. They have a more balanced squad than that which started last season, with Theo Walcott and Cenk Tosun adding attacking options that aren’t simply creative midfielders. Lucas Digne comes in for £18m to bolster their options at left-back. What about the bad? Well, the only players Everton have paid actual money for are Richarlison and Digne. They still don’t have a proven-in-this-league out and out striker – Cenk Tosun and Oumar Niasse both have their issues. Above all, their central defence has looked shaky and slow, albeit that Ashley Williams has now left for the potteries of Stoke and will presumably be replaced.
Everton still look the most likely team for ‘best of the rest’, even if it’s essentially by default. Burnley in Europe and Leicester without Mahrez etc. So, yeah… 7th.
Everton start the season well, including a 3-1 away win at Old Trafford on 27th October. That game seals Mourinho’s fate. United express interest in Marco Silva, but he refuses to have his head turned, sticks it out with Everton who finish 6th, above United in 7th.
1.5 miles. That’s the difference between what would have been a perfectly ordinary summer transfer story, and an absolutely remarkable one. It’s 752 miles from Nice to West London but it’s only one and a half between Chelsea’s plot and neighbour Fulham’s. Despite being initially linked with Chelsea, among others including Arsenal, Liverpool and even Barcelona, Seri’s indifferent form for Nice last season meant the cottagers were able to secure a £27m deal that could look scandalous by the end of the season if the Frenchman can settle.
That’s not the only bit of shrewd business Fulham have done over the Summer (no Wembley comments please). In come former Chelsea and Dortmund man Andre Schurrle on a two-year loan deal, Seri’s former teammate Maxime Le Marchand at left-back, Turkish-title winning goalkeeper Fabri, last season’s 11 goal (in only 17 games) man Aleksandar Mitrovic on a permanent deal, Alfie Mawson from Swansea for £15m and. More important than all of this is that it appears Ryan Sessegnon will still be pulling on the black-and-white shirt next season.
The only concern is their defence. Even when they went 27 games unbeaten last season, they only kept 11 clean sheets during that run. But the cottagers have taken steps to obviously taken steps to strengthen in this department - they’ll just have to hope that the new men can bed in quickly.
Fulham shouldn’t go down. That doesn’t mean they won’t. But they shouldn’t. They’ll be enjoyable to watch whatever happens. 13th.
Sessegnon leaves to ‘replace’ Hazard at Chelsea (i.e. sit on the bench while Willian plays in three separate positions). Fulham are relegated while winning all our hearts.
Between 1st January and 13th May Huddersfield took 13 points from 17 Premier League games, conceding 28 and scoring only 10. That’s the kind of form which will see you rock bottom by the end of the season. Last year they stayed up thanks to their fast start. This year it seems unlikely they’ll get that ‘new league bounce’.
Huddersfield have spent money this summer, but the problem is that a significant amount of it simply made permanent players who were already at the club on loan last season – notably record signing Terence Kongolo who cost £20m, while former loanees Florent Hadergjonaj at right back and goalkeeper Jonas Lössl also cost a combined £9m. Huddersfield’s hope will be that the money they’ve spent in attack will be enough. £10m winger Adama Diakhaby also from Monaco has shown early promise for Town, and he’s joined by fellow winger Ramadan Sobhi and central midfielder Juninho Bacuna.
Might be better than Cardiff, thanks to their experience and a manager better equipped at this level. Or they might not. Ultimately, they’re still one of the favourites to go down. 20th.
Huddersfield stay up. Yes that does qualify as a punt.
5. Man Utd
9. West Ham
1. Manchester City
3. Manchester United
7. Leicester City
8. West Ham
15. Crystal Palace