Premier League 2018-19 Gets Set to Kickoff

As Michael Scott said, “Oh my God! Okay, it happening. Everybody stay calm.”  The Premier League starts anew on Friday, August 10th, and I for one could not be more excited. With some marquee matchup, this gameweek will be one to watch. Below find my previews and predictions for each of this week’s games!

Manchester United vs Leicester City

This season opener has the chance to provide a huge upset. Manchester United are the stronger team on paper, but their form in preseason has been dreadful. Quite frankly, they appear to be in chaos: Jose Mourinho is openly critiquing the board and Ed Woodward, star players like Alexis Sanchez are clamoring for big signings, and their squad is alarmingly thin. Leicester, however, have made 8 signings this window, all of which have the potential to contribute to the first team (although Danny Ward will have to fill the role of backup to Kasper Schmeichel).  I wonder if Leicester are going to switch to a more cosmopolitan 4-2-3-1 to offset for their relative thinness up top. Either way, this squad will certainly be challenged by Manchester United in their first competitive fixture, but if they can seize their chance they can capitalize on a rattled and disorganized United team.

Prediction: Leicester City 2-1 Manchester United

Newcastle United vs Tottenham Hotspur

In this battle of two teams who have drastically underperformed in the transfer window, it will likely be Spurs’ pedigree that sets them through. Despite somehow not making a single transfer this window, Tottenham will look to get their season off to a winning start. (Even Arsenal, who were the only team in the top five leagues not to make a transfer of an outfield player three summers ago, still signed Petr Cech. Tottenham have become the first-ever Premier League team to not make a signing in the summer transfer window since the transfer window was created in 2003.) However, as we touched upon in our podcast, Spurs seem to have peaked with their current squad, and they will likely be stretched thin as they have to play on multiple fronts this season. Realistically, all it would take is an injury to Harry Kane to turn their side from being a top-4 challenger to being a mid-table side. Newcastle, however, have not improved their squad at all. They currently sit 10th in the table alphabetically, and that might be as high a position as they see all year. Bringing in Salomon Rondón and Yoshinori Muto will help them in the goalscoring department, but this is a very, very thin side. As Reddit user u/GoalaAmeobi so delicately put yesterday in their version of Newcastle’s depth chart (see below), this team is very much in trouble. Spurs will likely take this one just based on their superior pedigree.

Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Newcastle United

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One Reddit users’ depiction of Newcastle’s depth. Image: Reddit

AFC Bournemouth vs Cardiff City

This is a good matchup in the eyes of Cardiff City, who will look to get their new Premier League spell off to a good start. However, a winning start is unlikely. Bournemouth have steadily improved their squad over the past two seasons, and they  look to be a top-10 side this year. Cardiff have made no real improvements to their side, and the players they have signed have largely come from Championship sides. That strategy does not usually serve promoted sides well. Cardiff are the odds-on favorite for relegation, and I expect them to show it against a pacy, energetic Bournemouth side. Look for new signing Jefferson Lerma to make his mark in the midfield for the Cherries.

Prediction: AFC Bournemouth 3-0 Cardiff City

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New Cherry signing Jefferson Lerma. Image: Sky Sports

Fulham vs Crystal Palace

One thing for sure is that there will be goals. Fulham have had one of the best transfer windows of any Premier League team to this point, bringing in vital defensive reinforcements (Calum Chambers, Alfie Mawson, Maxime le Marchand), a solid attacker (Aleksandar Mitrovic), and pulling off two coups in Jean Michael Serri and Andre Schurrle. It will be up to the latter to try to make a difference against relegation candidates Crystal Palace, as he and the young Englishman Ryan Sessegnon will look to kickstart Fulham’s offense. Palace have only recently dipped into the transfer market, and they remain heavily reliant on Wilfried Zaha to create and score goals in this game and this season overall, although new signing Max Meyer will also look to have a hand in creating. Look for Fulham to start this season with all three points by taking advantage of a below-average Palace defense.

Prediction: Fulham 2-0 Crystal Palace

Huddersfield Town vs Chelsea

Huddersfield Town have a deep, but not inherently talented squad. The question now becomes if they can make the most of the talent they have. Chelsea now boast an impressive midfield duo in Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho, and a new keeper in Kepa Arrizabalaga, but their squad lacks cohesion and there are question marks over their striker position. However, they should have enough possession to force their way through a youthful Huddersfield defence, although they will certainly be met with feisty opposition. Aaron Mooy will look to pull the strings for Huddersfield, but the imposing trident of Kovacic, Jorginho, and N’Golo Kante will likely smother him. For Huddersfield, the game hinges oncontaining Chelsea and looking to capitalize on counter attacks and set pieces.

Prediction: Huddersfield Town 1-2 Chelsea

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Chelsea’s new midfield maestro, Jorginho. Image: FourFourTwo

Watford vs Brighton & Hove Albion

The Hornets strengthened their weakest positions and reinvested the money they got for the sale of Richarlison well. Gerard Deulofeu joins permanently after a loan spell, and he will be crucial for them on the wings now that Nordin Amrabat has departed. Ben Foster is an upgrade on Heurelho Gomes in goal, and Nathaniel Chalobah will look to impress after a season marred by injury. That being said, Brighton are no easy game for anyone in the league. We saw the Seagulls push Manchester City to the latter stages of games last year, and they added goalscorers in Florin Andone and Alireza Jahanbakhsh. If Brighton stick to their 4-4-2 and shift Jose Izquierdo out wide, they could become a solid counterattacking side.

Prediction: Watford 1-1 Brighton and Hove Albion

Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Everton

This might actually end up being the most entertaining game of the whole weekend. Wolves are, in my opinion, the outright winners of the transfer window for the whole league. They walked through the whole Championship last year, and their owners seem to have no limits to the amount of cash they will inject into the team. (Oh, and their various Portuguese connections certainly don’t hurt their chances with Portuguese players on the market.)  In my opinion, Wolves can end up challenging for a European spot this season. They should see themselves as equal in ability to this Everton team, who will try to regain some continuity with a rejuvenated squad and manager. They have signed three Barcelona outcasts –Lucas Digne, Yerry Mina, and Andre Gomes– as well as Brazilian duo Richarlison and Bernard. However, they will need to figure out a system that can get the best of all of their players. Will it be a 4-2-3-1, with Gylfi Sigurdsson as a number 10? Will it be a 3-4-2-1, with Digne as a wing-back? Marco Silva certainly has some work to do, but nonetheless these are two talented outfits and this game will be hard-fought. Wolves will almost certainly play a 3-5-2, which will match up favorably with Everton’s slightly unstructured squad. Can Ruben Neves et co make their mark on the Premier League this season? We’ll find out on Saturday.

Prediction: Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-2 Everton

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Portugal number 1, Rui Patricio, joined his countrymen at Wolves. Image: Media Referee

Liverpool vs West Ham United

Liverpool have won their last three league matches with the Hammers by a combined score of 12-2. Don’t expect anything different here, as the title contenders from Merseyside will look to pile on the goals against a defensively weak West Ham team. It will likely be a trial by fire for newcomers Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena at the back, when they l face the triumvirate of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and presumptive Ballon d’Or candidate Mohamed Salah. Look for Liverpool to use the gegenpress to force an inexperienced West Ham team into giveaways from the back, while West Ham will want to try to break up the wings with the pace of Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmolenko. However, I only see one winner in this match, and they will be dressed in red.

Prediction: Liverpool 5-1 West Ham United

Southampton vs Burnley

In a matchup of goal-shy teams from last season, it will be up to the midfields to decide which side takes the points. Southampton were fortunate to avoid relegation in 2017-18, while Burnley exceeded expectations by qualifying for the Europa League playoffs. Southampton didn’t make a huge splash in the transfer market this summer, but bringing in attacker Mohamed Elyounoussi from Basel and signing oft-injured Liverpool striker Danny Ings should help the Saints’ attack. However, if either signing struggles from the off, and Southampton can’t find their form, I would worry about them suffering a similar fate this season, perhaps worse. Burnley will rely again on their stout defense and goalkeeping –they currently have three keepers who could be part of the England set up at any given time– to account for their lack of a proven premier league goalscorer. I don’t see too many goals in this one.

Prediction: Southampton 0-0 Burnley

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Is Mo Elyounoussi the man of Southampton’s dreams? Image: Daily Mirror

Arsenal vs Manchester City

Two of the Premier League’s largest clubs will face off in what is certainly the marquee matchup of the weekend. Arsenal need to get off to a good start under Unai Emery, while City will seek to retain their Premier League crown. Arsenal will likely line up in a 4-2-3-1, but questions remain about their defence. Is a pairing of Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis Papastathopoulos good enough to stop Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, and Sergio Aguero? Does Ainsley Maitland-Niles start at left back, and how effective will he be? Who starts in midfield? Hopefully we can see some answers after this game, and if Arsenal win it will be a massive boost to their hopes for the season. For City, nothing less than a win will suffice, but they will likely be forced to rotate after Riyad Mahrez picked up a knock in their last preseason game. However, no matter the personnel, City’s system is so stifling at times that Arsenal will have to play exceptionally to win. Pep Guardiola has a lot of respect for Unai Emery, and this matchup will see two tactically-minded coaches dueling it out on the touchine. For all the questions that surround the respective lineups, we know this match will be of a high quality, as both teams will be itching to prove a point in this one.

Prediction: Arsenal 2-2 Manchester City




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