The English must still be slapping themselves on the back for an excellent football showing in the 2018/19 season. Liverpool won the UEFA Champions League, Chelsea won the UEFA Europa League while Manchester City won a historic four titles though the Pep Guardiola-led side faltered in their main pursuit, which was the UEFA Champions League.
The Top Six
City should win again
Last season, City and Liverpool were miles ahead of the other teams in the top six. City finished with 98 points, one ahead of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Chelsea finished third with 72 points, one ahead of Tottenham in fourth. Arsenal and Manchester United completed the top six, pursued vigorously by Wolves, Everton, and Leicester City.
Manchester City look the most likely winners again, hinged on this amazing stat: the Citizens won an average of 2.7 points in games with Fernandinho and won 87% of those games. In games played without the Brazilian holding midfielder, City managed two points and won just 67% of these games. In the summer transfer window, Guardiola twitched and brought in Rodrigo from Atletico Madrid. In the 2018/19 La Liga season, Rodrigo ranked second for most possession won. In an area that was the major weakness, City have strengthened and then they exchanged Danilo for the young and excellent Joao Cancelo – a better player who can play from both flanks.
Liverpool in another second-place finish
On account of not losing any notable player and getting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana back in fine fettle, the Reds should again push City to the end though Jurgen Klopp might need to dip into the January transfer window to strengthen the team for the last push on the EPL title.
Klopp has been trying to dampen expectations at Anfield by emphasising the riches in store for City and how Liverpool are relative paupers to the Abu Dhabi-owned Citizens. On the evidence of the Community Shield match, which they lost on penalties to City, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane will continue to be the main goal threats.
Chelsea look likely to lose out
Chelsea are the strongest doubts for the top four on account of the loss of Eden Hazard, the transfer ban and the relative naivety of their new manager, Frank Lampard. The Blues scored the least number of goals amongst the top six despite recording the second-highest number of shots per game.
Hazard contributed directly to 31 out of the 63 goals they scored in the league. Lampard is hoping Tammy Abraham, Olivier Giroud, and Michy Batshuayi will pick up the slack – that could be a pipe dream.
Tottenham have serious ambitions
The acquisition of Giovani Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele adds serious muscle and creativity to the midfield that should give Harry Kane more ammunition. The only negative for their offensive nous is the vulnerability of Kane to injuries.
The England captain missed 10 EPL games last season but still ended the season with 17 league goals. Last season, Mauricio Pochettino led his Spurs all the way to the UEFA Champions League final.
Keeping Toby Alderweireld also keeps the team in good shape at the back though time will tell whether the team made the right call in selling Kieran Trippier instead of Serge Aurier.
Arsenal are offensively stronger
The deadline day signing of David Luiz from Chelsea should mitigate the loss of Laurent Koscielny because based on last season’s stats, the Gunners’ backline had to deal with the opposition attacking threat more times than any of the other top six teams and should have prioritised the signing a commanding centre-back, which Unai Emery would hope Luiz solves.
Offensively Emery’s side is stronger with the purchase of Nicolas Pepe from Lille for £80 million. The Ivorian created an average of 1.8 chances per game last season in Ligue 1 and he should dovetail well with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette for their own version of a terrific trio.
Manchester United are in flux
It looks like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will need a good season at Old Trafford to keep his job as the Red Devils boss. The capture of Harry Maguire at least plugs one hole in the United defence. His pairing with Victor Lindelof should guarantee some security for David de Gea, who made 122 saves, managing just seven clean sheets as United ended the season in the sixth position.
Finally, Romelu Lukaku got his wish of a transfer from Manchester after choosing not to play second fiddle to Marcus Rashford, whose best scoring season was the last when he got 10 goals in 33 appearances. This is a gamble that could backfire on the whole team. Paul Pogba is still around, though he also seeks an escape. If United do not start well and are floundering in December, Solskjaer may need another job.
In the last five EPL seasons, the winners have either been the team that conceded the least number of goals or the second least number of goals and City look like the best in terms of squad strength and quality.
Chelsea look the most vulnerable among the top four teams from last season, as they could not sign players to boost their numbers going forward. Defensively, the Blues can mix it with some of the best in Europe but in the absence of Eden Hazard, Chelsea are considerably weaker upfront and Arsenal’s capture of Pepe stands them in better stead of knocking Chelsea off their Champions League perch.
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