‘Only live once’ is the tag line for the current Sky Sports EPL advertising campaign. You know the summer is on the way out when you see the EPL fixtures appearing on the sport pages. Hawkeye Sidekick previews the EPL action.
We have more than two teams genuinely positioned to challenge for the EPL this season. It was great to have Manchester City and Liverpool slug it out last term, but the league potentially may become quite stale if these two side continue to lead the way.
For this to happen though, there needs to be a significant improvement in the chasing pack and for me there are massive question marks on several teams hoping to get into the title race picture with those big two.
Chelsea is under new ownership. There are questions in the defensive areas given the Rudiger and Christensen departures. It is all well and good to bring in replacements but are they up to standard?
Cucurella’s signing from Brighton adds depth to a left back position which was exposed when Ben Chilwell was injured. The Lukaku experiment has failed spectacularly so who will be the focal point to score the goals required to propel the club into a title race? Is Kai Havertz the guy or will Raheem Sterling have to deliver immediately?
Tottenham Hotspur have had an exciting offseason. Antonio Conte has wasted little time in securing players to fill central positions. A tough preseason should stand Tottenham in good stead as they continue to provide Troy Parrott with a loan to Preston North End to increase his experience.
Antonio Conte is a proven winner but whether that mentality shift has taken place in the playing squad is another question. I expect blips along the road for the club again this season, but the hope is that Tottenham with Kane and Son will provide goals and early points to settle the side into a good league season.
Manchester United. Yet another new managerial era. Erik ten Hag comes with an impeccable record at Ajax but one person will not change the cultural toxicity which is at the club. The new manager has seen first hand the issues he faces; offloading surplus squad player is a challenge given the wage demands and the decision of several players to leave the ground early last week after the Rayo Vallecano game is another marquee moment.
The manager and what he does with Cristiano Ronaldo in the next few weeks will be key. This is by and large the same squad that put Ole and Ralf firmly under the bus. The new manager has been duly warned.
Will Marcus Rashford come back to form? Too many Jekyll and Hyde characters in the squad for the new manager to secure even a top four finish. Ronaldo’s future question needs to be closed out now. De Jong transfer debacle also a worrying sign for the new manager; his board and recruitment colleagues cannot get the job done!
Arsenal come into the season with players more experienced in the EPL. Saka, Tierney, Odegaard should be prominent performers and the signing of Gabriel Jesus may solve the goalscoring issues of last season in the final third.
The questions though will be asked of defensive and goalkeeping squad depth; both units showed weakness last term and the better teams could exploit this again this season at different points. Has Mikel Arteta evolved his game plan? No plan B when fixtures went against Arsenal last season. If not, then the manager is under scrutiny.
You would be a brave betting man to not tip either Manchester City or Liverpool for the title race. Liverpool is under pressure to deliver a league title this term. They have had several near misses now and Klopp’s side needs to put one over a Manchester City who have seen several keynote players leave the club.
Aguero retired. Jesus joined Arsenal. Fernandinho who was a work horse in the middle of the park for the club has left. Who fills the void in midfield with Rodri to win those 50/50 balls? The hope is that Kalvin Philips is the answer, but it is big pressure on the player to deliver.
Liverpool lost Sadio Mane in the summer. The player has moved to Bayern Munich. It will be up to Nunez and Diaz to provide that pace, work rate and goal scoring prowess to compensate for a big loss to the club. Mane was a super play for Liverpool.
Haaland arrives to Manchester City with a glowing reputation, but he needs to hit the ground running and it will be intriguing to see how Jack Grealish links up with the big striker. For City to be successful, those two players need to build a rapport immediately.
I have liked how Newcastle United have increased their squad depth this season. The signing of Nick Pope enhances a goalkeeping unit containing Martin Dubravka. Botman signing could be one of the signings of the season if the central defender can adapt to life in the EPL early. Eddie Howe and coaching staff have had a full preseason to reinforce their footballing philosophy on the squad. I expect Newcastle United to be a top ten team this season. Callum Wilson fitness is key. If the striker plays consistent minutes, then he will be scoring plenty of goals. The new ownership has only started the squad improvements.
A big second season is required from Aston Villa and Steven Gerrard. A busy summer has seen several key arrivals and departures. A change in club captaincy signals a change in leadership approach from the manager with John McGinn taking over from Tyrone Mings who now must focus on delivering performances in the heart of the Villa defence.
Phillipe Coutinho should revel along with Jacob Ramsey in the final third. Ollie Watkins’ movement and pace should aid this no end. I expect a top ten finish from the Villa. Gerrard has culled several first team players who were regulars under Dean Smith.
This will be the fascinating battle of the league again this season. The three clubs promoted for me have it all to do. Nottingham Forest have recruited massively but early cohesion issues may have the club looking at an earlier than expected relegation fight.
Jesse Lingard needs to focus on football and deliver superb performances. Dean Henderson whose interview on Manchester United is a warning sign for his loan club on a player who does like to throw his toys out of the pram. Steve Cooper may be the first manager to be culled given the ownership at the club.
AFC Bournemouth return to the EPL but I am not convinced by their squad depth. Dominic Solanke needs to score goals regularly and often. The hope is that Mark Travers gets game minutes, but Scott Parker may recruit more experience at goalkeeper before the transfer window concludes.
Fulham surely have learned their lessons from previous EPL failures. Alexander Mitrovic was a goalscoring machine last term in the Championship, but will he get the service required this year? Bernd Leno is a good signing for Fulham. Out of all the clubs promoted, Fulham stand to have the best chance of staying up.
I really fear for Leeds United this season. They have lost Raphina and Philips. The defensive unit was a mess last season and without Philips, it is very difficult to see that trend shifting. The final third needs Patrick Bamford fully fit and scoring goals given the Raphinha departure. Where is the creativity coming from to create those chances for Bamford? Jesse Marsch has a tough job ahead of him at the club.
The second season syndrome for Brentford may strike here. Thomas Frank has assembled a well drilled side but have opponents figured them out? No Eriksen in the side to quell any midfield issues this term.
Leicester City is in transition. Kasper Schmeichel has joined Nice. James Maddison continues to be courted by Newcastle United. No new players recruited and then you have the Tieleman’s situation. Brendan Rodgers has Danny Ward to step into the goalkeeping position but if Maddison and Tielemans were to leave, then this could be a long season for the Foxes. Jamie Vardy and Rochester NY FC next season could be a distinct possibility. Squad depth issues emerge. Rodgers may not stay around to solve the problems if that scenario (worse case) plays out.
- Champions: Manchester City.
- Top Four: Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea.
- Europa League: Manchester United, Arsenal and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
- Relegated: AFC Bournemouth, Nottingham Forest and Leeds United.
- First Manager for the sack: Steve Cooper or Jesse Marsch.
- Golden Boot: Erling Haaland.