It feels very good getting to write a Premier League Preview this season, am I right? As much as I will miss the unpredictability and drama of the Championship (just take last nights game between Nottingham Forest and West Brom as an example of the dramatic) it is so exciting to be once again competing against some of the Worlds best.
I was planning on putting this piece up after the transfer window slams shut tomorrow evening but work commitments have gotten in the way of my Fulham recreation so you’ll have to make do with my preview being incomplete in terms of transfers.
Premier League Champions 2018/19 – Manchester City
For the second season in a row I just can’t look past Manchester City as the overall winners, but I do think their competition will be closer this year. With the remarkable money that Liverpool have spent they really have to challenge this year and if they can keep Salah fit and allow the new boys to adapt then they could do some damage. However, I still think that City have the better squad and under Pep they are unplayable at times. Last year they weren’t challenged so it will be interesting to see if they can handle a title threat, but with the way they just kept blowing teams out of the water I just can’t see anyone taking the trophy off them.
Most Improved – West Ham United
After an awful season where they nearly dropped down to the Championship and had fan protest on the pitch as well as off it, the Hammers and heavily invested in their squad. Pellegrini is a good manager and they have backed him wisely. They finished 13th last season, but if things go well with the squad they now have I reckon they could be in Burnley’s position from last season.
Biggest Loser – Burnley and Newcastle United
What I mean by this is the team who drops the most places from last season. It’s really a toss up between Newcastle United and Burnley, but for different reasons.
Burnley will be safe from relegation, but often when a team plays in Europe for the first time their league form suffers so I can see them dropping as many as five places from 7th to 12th. Losing Nick Pope to injury was a blow and it’s now down to Joe Hart, who has had a rough few years, to fill the gap. Ben Gibson was a bit of a strange signing and won’t massively improve them while Matej Vydra could prove to be a shrewd piece of business if he can find the net even nearly as frequently as he did in the Championship. Smallish squad, possible European commitments and the fact that they overachieved last season means that they will drop places, but will still be comfortably safe.
Newcastle, on the other hand, could be in for a torrid season and I fully expect them to be in a relegation battle. There are worse squads out there so I’m not backing them for relegation but this could change if Benitez decides that enough is enough. I feel for Newcastle fans, as they have the size and stature of a club that could be real heavyweights, but their owner seems to have no desire to improve the squad leading to frustration on and off the pitch.
Relegation looming – Cardiff, Huddersfield and Brighton
Second season syndrome for both Huddersfield and Brighton, while Cardiff could go straight back down. I think it will be a real scrap with a lot of teams in the mix come May which could make for an absorbing, but at times stressful, battle. Watford have lost Richarlison but his replacement in Deulofeu was a decent piece of business. Crystal Palace have brought in Max Meyer and Cheikhou Kouyate so I feel that they will have enough to avoid the drop. Wolves and ourselves, despite having brilliant windows, could be brought back down to earth when up against better opposition. Both sides should stay up, but it isn’t going to be plain sailing.
I just don’t think Brighton or Huddersfield have done enough in the tranfser window to really improve from last year while others have. Brighton may have brought in plenty of faces, but we know that it is about quality rather than quantity and none of the signings really stand out in comparison to other clubs who could be in the mix. Cardiff have brought in four players who I would be thrilled with if I was building a team for promotion from the Championship rather than Premier League survival. They should be tough to beat, but I don’t think that’s enough.
And what about Fulham?
Finally Premier League football returns to the banks of the Thames and Fulham have thankfully invested in their squad as well as keeping Cairney, Sess and Mitro away from prying eyes. Slav seems to be reasonably happy despite not having cover for the defensive midfield position- and ‘reasonably happy’ is likely the best that we can hope for from the moody Serb. The signings of Schurrle and Seri in particular seem to have shown Fulham desire to stay in this division for a long time, while bringing in Mawson and Chambers should improve one of the weaker aspects of our squad. I’m absolutely buzzing to see Ryan Sessegnon finally grace the Premier League and fully back him to make an impact.
We have to be realistic though. Our first target will be getting points on the board early to help us along to the goal of survival. Without a doubt there will be more losses than last year and we won’t have the same levels of possession as we became accustomed to throughout our stint in the Championship. But I do think that we have plenty of reasons to be confident and I expect us to be safe- at least- come May.
Bring it on.