Premier League Predictions III: The Top Four

Today I predict the top four of the Premier League. If you missed the first two parts of my EPL predictions, please go back and read them.

Arsenal. Liverpool. Chelsea. Manchester City. Those four teams will make up the top four, starting in the fourth spot with. . .

Liverpool. The Reds bolstered their attacking lineup with the €42 million capture of Mohamed Salah from Roma. The problem is, as Arsenal fans like me painfully learned with Mesut Ozil, attacking players tend to get pushed around for about half a season before they become accustomed to the Premier League’s version of the world’s game. Playing Philippe Coutinho in the center of midfield won’t help their playmaking either.

What is left to be said about last year for Arsenal? Their record 19 year streak of finishing top four was broken and the Gunners will compete in the Europa League this year. Fans changed their tune when Arsene Wenger signed some striker (!) named Alexandre Lacazette. This Lacazette guy is actually very good. Mesut Ozil is going to break every assist record imaginable this—oh wait, he did that two years ago.

Mesut Ozil is going to break all of his assist records this year if Alexis Sanchez stays. Arsenal could finish even higher if not for second-placed Chelsea. When John Terry is your worst departure, you’ve had a pretty solid transfer window. When Alvaro Morata and Tiemoué Bakayoko come in to South London?  Unheard of. Look at what happened to the last five champions of the Premier League. They got off to abysmal starts the year after. Add the fact that Eden Hazard will miss the first month of the season. Chelsea should be on fire late a lá Arsenal 2015, but it won’t be enough to top. . .

Champions Manchester City. Has Josep “Pep” Guardiola finally assembled the team he has wanted at the Etihad? New signings Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker will start on either side of the defense. Danilo won’t even start. Bernardo Silva and Ederson Moraes have been signed to start at right mid and goalkeeper respectively. Considering that Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva are the other attacking midfielders, this side will score goals. Lots of them. In defense, Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany form a formidable center-back partnership. If they’re healthy.

 

Did you agree with my predictions? Perhaps you thought something different. Let me know in the comments!

Premier League Predictons II: The Europa League race

Yesterday I detailed my predictions for the bottom half of the Premier League table. Today it’s 10-5, the race for the Europa League.

I really like this Newcastle team. Henri Saivet and Tim Krul return from their loans to a side that added Javier Manquillo, Florian Thau—I mean Lejeune, and Mikel Merino. Jonjo Shelvey and Matt Ritchie highlight a midfield that dominated the Championship last year, and that’s just the start. If not for their relative inexperience I would put them higher.

In 9th is West Ham. The Hammers still haven’t replaced Dmitri Payet, and that won’t hinder them to the extreme, but they will be pushed by Newcastle.

In eighth is Southampton. Fraser Forster in goal is never a bad thing, and they won’t be lacking chances in the final third with the likes of Dusan Tadic in the attacking midfield.

Here is where it gets really hard. Chelsea. Arsenal. Manchester City. Manchester United. Tottenham. Everton. Liverpool. All have great squads. All but the Spurs have improved them, and that’s why Tottenham are in seventh. They finished second last year, sure. Their Pythagorean win total placed them at sixth. Mass regression is due, and they’re playing at Wembley. They never do well at Wembley. When all the other top seven sides have boosted their stars and depth, you don’t want to stand pat.

In sixth place, stop me if you’ve heard this before. Perennially underachieving Manchester United won the Europa League last year, and participating in the Champions League this year will be a test for the Red Devils. They lack the squad depth to challenge in the league and in Europe. Despite the signing of Romelu Lukaku, they will still finish sixth.

Look at Everton splashing the cash in the transfer market! Davy Klaassen, Jordan Pickford, and Michael Keane joined early. Then the aforementioned Lukaku left for exactly fourteen times the price Ronald Koeman secured Sandro Ramirez for. Gerard Delofeu’s departure will be a blow, and the squad’s chemistry will suffer for a month or two. However, once they get going, look out!

Tomorrow I will post my top four predictions. As always, leave a like if you enjoyed and your feedback in the comments is appreciated!

Premier League Predictions I: The Bottom Half!

Welcome back to After the Whistle! Today I bring you the first part of my English Premier League predictions: the bottom half of the table.

There has to be a team that finishes bottom of the table. In my opinion it has to be Huddersfield. Aaron Mooy and Tom Ince carried this team last year. Aaron Mooy and Tom Ince. They have made no notable signings and lost Elias Kachunga to Ingolstadt. Because he was in loan. This could be the weakest Premier League team in five years.

Top to bottom, the Premier League (bar Huddersfield) is so close, it’s unreal. In 19th place is Watford. In a normal season I would call them safe. New coach Marco Silva has a terrific record in home games, but recent history has taught us teams have to pick up points on the road. Watford have been abysmal away from Vicarage Road, and that will prevent them surviving relegation.

Stoke City‘s stars are jumping ship faster than Newcastle loaned players to Marseille last year. Marko Arnautovic has gone to West Ham. Bruno Martins Indi has gone back to Porto despite Stoke attempting to trigger his loan-to-buy option. Xherdan Shaqiri is the subject of a rumor mill and could be gone in the next month. This team will not survive relegation.

17th place and a shocker indeed. Swansea City have almost no cover for the playmaking of Gylfi Sigurdsson, who appears to be leaving the club. I don’t care how good their defense is—it isn’t that great anyway—if you can’t score goals, you can’t win. The Swans only survive because. . . well, Stoke.

In 16th is Burnley. Sean Dyche has found a nice formation in the 4-4-2 with Sam Vokes recently dropping into a no. 10 role. The likes of Steven Defour in midfield and Tom Heaton in goal make this side easily safe from relegation. If Michael Keane doesn’t—oh wait.

In 15th is Brighton. It’s really a shame that they haven’t been very active in the transfer market, as I think they could surprise people. They have some solid Premier League quality players in David Sto—

——CUT!!——

They have some solid Premier League players in Anthony Knockaert and new arrival Pascal Groß. This side will not struggle to create chances. Will they finish them? How will the defense do? These are questions that the Seagulls must answer if they wish to establish themselves in the summit of the world’s game.

What to do with West Brom? They finished tenth last season and were very strong at the back, but often lacked ideas in the attacking third. I put them at 14th as teams like Leicester, Crystal Palace, and Newcastle should pass them. Not a bad squad though.

(Un)lucky number 13 for Leicester City. They could sink even lower if Riyad Mahrez leaves. Jamie Vardy doesn’t look like his 2015/16 self, but the Foxes know how to win games. Where’s the Tinkerman when you need him?

Josh King was electric last year for Bournemouth. Scorer of 16 last year on only 1.9 shots per game, he was absolutely clinical in front of goal. He scored 9 goals in his previous three seasons. He has one season wonder written all over him. Bournemouth will not finish top half again unless King carries them like he did last year, and that is not going to happen. Twelfth it is.

What happened to Crystal Palace last year? They were stuck in bottom table form until Wilfried Zaha started playing at a world-class level. The entire team woke up and they cruised to. . . 14th. If Zaha can replicate that form and the team decides to play around him, they could be a top half side. It’s just hard to see them finishing any higher than 11th without some consistency.

 

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Reviewing my Confederations Cup predictions!

Hello and welcome back to After the Whistle! Today I review my Confederations Cup predictions from before the tournament was played out.

My Group A prediction:

1. Portugal

2. Mexico

3. New Zealand

4. Russia

Review: 

I predicted that group almost perfectly, as Portugal and Mexico advanced to the semis. Russia actually finished above New Zealand, though.

 

My Group B prediction:

1. Germany

2. Chile

3. Australia

4. Cameroon

Review: 

Spot on.

 

Semifinals predictions: Chile over Portugal, Germany over Mexico

Review: Chile did indeed defeat Portugal, albeit on penalties. Germany thrashed Mexico 5-1. Two for two.

 

Final prediction: Chile over Germany

It was looking good until this. Germany actually defeated Chile 1-0 behind the easiest goal Lars Stindl has ever scored. The German juggernaut defeats another South American team 1-0 in a major tournament final.

 

Results: Eight correct and three wrong, 8/11, for a percentage of 72%.