With the transfer market dominating the headlines over the past few months, it’s hard to believe that football, yes real unadulterated Premier League football, will be beginning this Friday night.
It would be understandable if you’re feeling lost after the frenzied whirlwind that is the off-season; the player movement, manager’s getting shunted and all sorts of controversy that distracts you from the season ahead.
To ensure that your informed and ready for the new campaign, we here at Tribal are rolling out season previews for all 20 of the Premier League teams over the next four days.
Manager: Pep Guardiola
NotableIns: Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, Ederson, Kyle Walker, Danilo
NotableOuts: Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna, Aleksandar Kolarov, Gael Clichy, Kelechi Iheanacho, Jesus Navas, Willy Caballero, Nolito
Possible Starting XI: Ederson, Walker, Kompany, Stones, Otamendi, Mendy, De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva, Jesus, Aguero
Their season will be a success if… they become Champions – nothing less
Their season will be a failure if…they fail to win the league – even a domestic trophy will be a failure
For the first time in Pep Guardiola’s managerial career, he did not win one single trophy in a season. The Spaniard arrived in England with equally as much curiosity as excitement. Many of the questions surrounding his ability to succeed were seemingly justified given his struggles last season.
At least his eliminated one excuse – the players. Guardiola has done an assassin’s job on his rivals the way he has carried out his business this summer. Bernardo Silva arrived from Monaco in May and Benfica goalkeeper Ederson was not far behind him. Then he went out and spent over £125m on three full-backs: Kyle Walker, Danilo and Benjamin Mendy. His upgrade in this position cannot be understated; the full-backs play with the ball is imperative to success in Guardiola’s system.
There are still question marks around his depth in midfield given the ages of Fernandinho (32) and Yaya Toure (34) and the injury-prone Ilkay Gundogan, but he couldn’t possible have filled every hole in one window.
The Sky Blues have a favourable start, with fixtures against Bournemouth, Brighton and Watford accompanied by slightly trickier encounters with Everton and Liverpool, however both will be played at the Etihad.
Now that he has his players, Guardiola has no excuses. He has to deliver this season for City to justify their over £200m investment and although he will not be easy, he has every chance to claim his first Premier League title.
Manager: Jose Mourinho
Ins: Victor Lindelof, Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic
Outs: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Adnan Januzaj
First five matches: West Ham (H), Swansea (A), Leicester (H), Stoke (A), Everton (H)
Possible Starting XI: De Gea, Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Blind, Matic, Pogba, Herrera, Lingard, Rashford, Lukaku
Their season will be a success if… much like their cross-town rivals, its the Premier League or nothing for them this season
Their season will be a failure if…they don’t win the title, but more glaringly, if they fail to mount a serious challenge
It’s Jose Mourinho time – that’s right, it’s the Portuguese manager’s second year in charge at the club, which if history tells us anything, the Red Devils are guaranteed to be crowned Premier League title winners. His won the title in his second season at Chelsea, Inter and Real Madrid, and given his off-season, it seems he has all the tools he needs to do the same with United.
Prepare yourselves United fans, this will not be swashbuckling, attacking and entertaining football you desire. Oh no. This will be the Jose Mourinho way. Tough, disciplined, organised and ready to break on the counter.
The acquisitions of Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku are the most telling that Mourinho’s philosophy can now be succesfully implemented at Old Trafford.
Like his counterpart across the city, Mourinho lacked the players he needed for his system to be successful last season.
Now with Nemanja Matic, he has his aggressive leader in the middle of the park, and in Lukaku, he has a striker who is deadly on the counter-attack, a far cry from stifling Ibrahimovic of last season.
Mourinho needs to win the title and fortunately, his side will have the opportunity to get some early points on the board with their first five fixtures against none of the top-six clubs. The scene is set for a dramatic season and Mourinho and his United side will undoubtedly be in with a shout.
Manager: Rafa Benitez
Ins: Christian Atsu, Javier Manqullo, Florian Lejeune, Jacob Murphy, Mikel Merino
Outs: Vurnon Anita, Sammy Ameobi
First five matches: Tottenham (H), Huddersfield (A), West Ham (H), Swansea (A), Stoke (H)
Possible Starting XI: Elliot, Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett, Ritchie, Merino, Shelvey, Perez, Atsu, Gayle
Their season will be a success if… they manage to not get relegated
Their season will be a failure if… they are embroiled in a relegation battle from the get-go
Newcastle return to the Premier League after just one season in the Championship, in which they won on the final day of the season. The Tyneside club are a big club in stature and they will be looking to avoid another stint in England’s second-tier at all costs.
Unfortunately, Rafa Benitez has failed to really make an impact this transfer window. The Spaniard has brought in Florian Lejeune and Javier Manquillo to shore up his defence, while highly-rated youngster Jacob Murphy arrives from Norwich.
It might not seem enough from the Magpies, but they have the luxury of having a manager who has a wealth of experience of managing in the top-flight. Benitez spent six years with Liverpool and short-stint with Chelsea, and he’ll be hopeful that his tactical nous in the competition will help keep Newcastle up.
United have a tough task at home on opening day against Tottenham, but with no other fixtures against the top-six clubs in the preceding month, they have a good chance to gain some points. It will be tough battle all year, but they should finish above the drop thanks to their gaffer.
Manager: Mauricio Pellegrino
Ins: Mario Lemina, Jan Bednarek
Outs: Jay Rodriguez, Cuco Martina
Possible Starting XI: Forster, Soares, Yoshida, Stephens, Bertrand, Redmond, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Tadic, Gabbiadini, Austin
Their season will be a success if… they push on for another crack at European football
Their season will be a failure if… they lose their best players and fall down into the lower half of the table
Southampton gave a quite a misleading impression with their ladder position at the end of last season. The Saints finished a respectable eighth -but that was 15 points behind Everton in seventh. Claude Puel’s side 12 points off the drop.
For that reason, Puel is gone and Argentine Mauricio Pellegrino has arrived in his place. The former Liverpool defender led the tiny Alaves to the Copa Del Rey final last season, but his responsibilities have increased ten-fold now he’s at St. Mary’s.
Their off-season has been quiet, with the loudest noise coming from their own player, Virgil van Dijk, who has demanded to be sold by the club. There has been some respite, with Mario Lemina arriving from Juventus for a club-record fee, as well as highly-rated young defender Jan Bednarek.
Pellegrino will have his work cut-out to try and consilidate Southampton‘s position, let alone improve on it. But they still possess a ton of quality in their squad, which makes it hard to foresee them dropping down the table, either.
Manager: Mark Hughes
Possible Starting XI: Butland, Pieters, Shawcross, Zouma, Cameron, Diouf, Fletcher, Allen, Shaqiri, Bojan, Berahino
Their season will be a success if… they manage to stay in the Premier League
Their season will be a failure if… they are relegated after working so hard to establish themselves as a top-five club
This season marks the tenth since Stoke arrived in the Premier League. And it may very well be the last. Over the decade, they have established themselves as a no-nonsense, gritty outfit, the saying ‘but you can you do it on a cold Wednesday night at Stoke’ has become an old adage.
The Potters struggled to get going at all in the 2016/17 campaign, and they eventually finished in 13th place, ten points above the drop zone. The club needed to get better after what was a nervy campaign, but so far they have failed to do so.
The club’s only notable acquisitions are 35-year old Darren Fletcher and forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Mating, who scored 3 goals in 30 appearances for Schalke last season. Kurt Zouma is a smart buy, even if it is only on loan, while full-back Josh Tymon provides some much needed youth following his move from Hull.
This season looks bleak for Stoke, but the experience of a few key players and their Welsh manager, should see them stay up, just.