PREMIER LEAGUE expert Daniel McCulloch (@DMcCulloch1984) delivers his team-by-team verdicts ahead of the 2019/20 campaign, with a 1-20 rundown covering each club in-depth ahead of the new season.
1st) Manchester City
A rather predictable opinion but I couldn’t find any logical reason to oppose The Citizens this term. They’ve gained 198 points in the last two seasons and while Vincent Kompany is a loss from a leadership perspective, I don’t believe any other side will get close to the 95+ points I expect them to amass.
At the time of writing, Liverpool have spent £1.3m improving their squad from last season. They came within a point of matching Manchester City last season but their lack of attacking options concerns me, especially with Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah all being involved in international tournaments for their countries over the summer. I still expect Liverpool to be comfortably ahead of the rest of their rivals, but Manchester City seem a bridge too far.
Mauricio Pochettino made his first signing in 18 months with the capture of Lyon midfielder Tanguy Ndombele but his barbed comments about Daniel Levy being in charge of transfers suggests that all is not well in North London.
Still, Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane look likely to remain at White Hart Lane for at least another season and why they have lost a few players I don’t see any having a significant impact on their finishing position this season.
Despite supposedly having a transfer budget of around £45m, Arsenal have already almost £100m on Nicolas Pepe and William Saliba and look certain to add Kieran Tierney to their ranks. The Gunners still look pretty poor defensively whenever I see them in action and I am conscious that they outperformed the data last season.
However, I do believe that Pepe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette mean that they have far better attacking options than either Chelsea or Manchester United. Additionally, a fit-again Hector Bellerin and new signing Tierney will give them a lot more attacking – and defensive – balance than they enjoyed last season.
5th) Manchester United
A barely deserved runner-up spot in 2017/18 papered over the cracks at Manchester United and I really struggle to understand the logic of this season’s transfer activity. Harry Maguire is a very decent Premier League defender but he often looks ponderous to me and £80m is an extraordinary sum of money.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka is clearly a better right back than Ashley Young and Daniel James will be a decent impact player but the data over the last couple of seasons suggests that United are either the fifth or sixth best side in the Premier League and I see little to suggest that will change.
The transfer embargo and loss of Eden Hazard makes Chelsea look pretty toothless in my view. Tammy Abraham may have played in a poor Swansea side a couple of years ago but I have seen very little from him to suggest that he is capable of starting for a side competing for – and in – the Champions League.
Frank Lampard did an ok job at Derby on the face of it but I think a playoff final place really flattered The Rams overall performance and this looks like a really tough gig for any manager, especially a relative novice.
If I had the gift of knowing what Leicester were going to do with the £80m they have gained from selling Harry Maguire, I may have put them higher than seventh spot. Despite his ability to sound like David Brent, Brendan Rodgers is a very competent manager and this relatively young, pacy Leicester side looks every bit as good as that that one the Premier League three years ago.
I may have omitted them from my own top six, but on value grounds I shall be take the 9/2 with Coral on them finishing in the top half dozen.
An eight placed finish was hardly an inspire start for Marco Silva but he will be comforted from the fact that they lost only one of their last eight league games and enjoyed victories over Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United during that time.
The Toffees have made some promising signings, I believe Fabian Delph will do a decent job for them while Andre Gomes is clearly a talented footballer and the likely acquisition of Moise Kean gives them more firepower. However, Idrissa Gueye is definitely a loss and I struggle to see them doing anything other than repeating last season’s feat.
9th) West Ham
To date there have been a lot more outgoings that incomings in East London but I don’t think too many Hammers fans will lose any sleep about those going through the exit door. Instead, they will be encouraged by the signing of Sebastien Haller in particular and very confident in their attacking options. Still, it’s hard to see them being much more consistent this term so I can’t place them any higher than ninth.
The signing of Patrick Cutrone from AC Milan has got plenty of Wolves fans excited, especially given that he’s cost them less than Sheffield United outlaid for Oli McBurnie.
Still, I believe that Leicester will usurp Nuno Espirito Santo’s side and while I don’t see Everton, West Ham and Wolves being separated by much more than cigarette paper, I do believe the European exertions will have a detrimental impact on their league campaign this term.
Having been involved in a relegation dogfight for the last couple of seasons, I expect this season to be a lot calmer for fans of the south coast side. Saints improved markedly under Ralph Hassenhutl and they look set to have a comfortable, if a little dull season.
12th) Aston Villa
Since Valentine’s Day, Aston Villa have lost just three competitive games. Still, I can take comfort that two of them were against West Brom. Sadly, they’ve spent a lot more money than us this summer, with their 12 captures placing them in the top five spending clubs in Europe.
Villa may have overspent on a couple of players but I do believe that comparisons with Fulham are very wide of the mark. They look solid at the back, with much creativity and speed in midfield. 12th place may seem a little high but I just see more talent in this side than any of those beneath them.
Bournemouth appear to have gone for quality not quantity in this window, with four signings that look pretty astute to me. Lloyd Kelly and Jack Stacey both look likely to give them more mobility at the back, Philip Billing gives them presence in central midfield while Arnaut Danjuma provides pace and trickery.
Eddie Howe’s side did struggle in the second half of last season but I believe much of that was to do with the fact that they had so little to play for. I expect them to survive comfortably but do little more than that.
Much has been made of Watford’s poor end to the Premier League season and their hammering by Manchester City in the FA Cup final. However, I am not really taking that in to account when predicting this finish.
I like the look of The Hornets midfield, but Javi Garcia must see something in Craig Dawson that I fail to and I always struggle to see where the goals will come from. I think they will win enough games to stay up but wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Garcia looking for another job by early 2020.
Given how much Burnley improved when Tom Heaton was restored in goal (they managed 28 points from their final 19 matches) I was surprised to see Sean Dyche let him go to Aston Villa. Jay Rodriguez is their major capture of the summer but I believe that both Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood are greater goal threat at this level. The Clarets haven’t lost any major players though so I expect them to mirror last season's efforts.
16th) Crystal Palace
Despite finishing 12th last term, I can see why many are tipping Crystal Palace for relegation. They are yet to make a major signing, have lost an excellent right back and may well lose arguably the best player outside the top six in Wilfried Zaha. Roy Hodgson is a canny operator and I simply cannot believe that The Eagles won’t make significant investment before the season starts. I expect them to survive but not much more.
17th) Sheffield United
Chris Wilder has done an excellent job with his boyhood club and I hope – and expect – him to guide Sheffield United to Premier League survival for the first time since the inaugural season. I think Oli McBurnie is really bad business but other signings look more palatable and The Blades style – with overlapping centre backs – and hostile home ground can ensure they stay up by the skin of their teeth.
The Norfolk side have made 11 signings and while there are few household names, Daniel Farke has proved himself to be an excellent manager in his time in East Anglia. I have seen several other tipsters predict that they will surprise a few this term but I was rarely that impressed when I saw them last term. They may well make a foul of me but I think Sheffield United will just edge them out.
Last season Ayoze Perez and Solomon Rondon scored 12 and 11 league goals respectively for Newcastle. Sadly for fans of the north east side, neither are still at the club. Their top scorer aside from these two managed just four goals and I struggle to see record signing Joelinton scoring enough to keep them up. Losing Rafa Benitez is also a big loss for this side and one that I believe will be too much for them to cope with.
Brighton last won a Premier League game on 9th March as they just about retained their Premier League status. In truth, results caught up with performances so while I expect Graham Potter to improve Brighton’s style, the reality is that they still have too many Championship players. The Seagulls look likely to be reliant on Glenn Murray once more, a striker who will be 36 in September.
I really like Potter and was impressed with him at Swansea, but cannot see him being able to guarantee a fourth successive season in the top flight for Brighton.