English Premier League: Who will challenge for European football?
This week saw the 2019/20 EPL season kick off and needless to say the race for the title has begun. The league table has already started tallying points and we can finally start talking league standings, silverware and of course, European football. Last season England set its mark on Europe last with exceptional class acts that gave us two all English European finals and the Super Cup match up. The top teams will once again take their ambitions to Europe where English teams have once again become a force to be reckoned with. Promising summer windows for some of the clubs including Arsenal, Everton and a nonexistent one for Chelsea after a ban from the transfer window and also looking at the pre-season form of the teams, we’ve had a peak at their fortunes this upcoming season and picked teams that have a chance of winning some European football next season.
POSSIBLE 2019/2020 TOP FOUR
Last season finish: 4th
The combination of having more elite players and managers has propelled the once more average teams into big powerhouses. Tottenham represents this metamorphosis better than any other; the emergence of the club as a top flight club in Europe has been due to over the years have put in some quality efforts and consistency from the North Londoners. Mauricio Pochettino’s men look set to bag another top four finish, a fact that seemed inconceivable only a few seasons ago. In fact, Arsenal fans made St. Tottenham’s Day, in celebration of something that seemed so routine for years; finishing above Spurs in the league. Undoubtedly, Spurs have handed Arsenal fans a bitter pill to swallow while simultaneously gaining prominence in Europe not only for their exploits in England but for a brilliant UEFA Champions League campaign and a first final in that competition. The season brings new challenges of whether they can hold on to talents like Christian Eriksen who is on the radar of big European clubs like Real Madrid. Champions League also on the agenda this season, Spurs will come out blazing in hopes to finally secure the league title.
Last season finish: 2nd
Last year’s UEFA Champions League winners Liverpool are the most successful English team in the European competitions. Yet at the moment, it almost seems as if Liverpool can have the most outstanding seasons with unbeaten runs and the most excellent formations and squads and still lose out in the dying moments. The second place curse, as it’s dubbed, is the cause of many frustrations for the YNWA faithful. However, Jurgen Klopp has in times past proven his managerial competence and last year’s UEFA Champions League win is enough evidence that Liverpool have what it takes to take the title this year. Breaking from this pattern of disappointing finishes in the league will be the main goal for Klopp. Liverpool are formidable against any side in the Premier League and with the club’s biggest assets still on the roster, they are undoubtedly close favorites to the title together with City.
Last season finish: 1st
Manchester City go into the season with the possibility of winning a third EPL title in three years straight. City are the most compact, have the strongest and solid attack; that is hardly frazzled champions of the English Premier League. City have been a winning formula and that still largely remains undisrupted. Jose Mourinho commented that he believed Manchester City’s B-team could quite easily challenge for the title. For starters, English international who can as well start on the bench, Raheem Sterling started the season with a hat trick against West Ham and more performances of that level from the forward can as well hand the Citizens yet another title.
Last season finish: 3rd
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea have received a blow to the start of their Premier League campaign. The 4-0 loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford is as an undesirable outcome. Frank Lampard his youthful side do not have the experience warranted to deliver Chelsea their title hopes. Despite this, Chelsea is definitely one of the teams that have the biggest potential, ironically because of the fresh talent in the squad. Lampard has a big task with Chelsea and together with his youthful side, all have something to prove. The rebuild for Lampard will take some time and as such we should not expect much from them. Chelsea will need to work on giving the young players the confidence they need to play at the level of the EPL. They might end in the top four if there the experience of other long standing players on the squad comes to the party.
Arsenal and Manchester United
Last season finish: 5th and 6th
Arsenal and Manchester United’s Red Devils are likely to be beating down at each other’s doors again this season gunning for a top four finish against their much solid counterparts. Unai Emery and Arsenal lost to Chelsea in the final of the 2018/19 Europa league, showing that they do have the world class players they need to inject the much needed attacking potent but a shambolic defence. Arsenal may now have a real chance with Nicolas Pepe, the club’s record signing coupled with Aubameyang’s goal scoring prowess and David Luiz’s defensive experience. After going on a signature spending spree that saw United signing Harry Maguire, Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka for £146million, the main goal would be to finish in the top four. After managing to revive United’s fortunes last season, all eyes will be on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to see if he can take United into a future where they once again dominate the EPL.
PONTENTIAL FROM OUTSIDE THE TOP SIX
Last season finish: 8th
Football in Europe is the crowning of any English club into the club of champions which has been exclusive to the top six. A team that unsurprisingly could shake up the top four this season are Everton. Shaking things up is Everton, who have set themselves up for a strong chase with their summer signings. Marco Silva’s new personnel are likely going to play significant role in the club’s European football ambitions. One of them is Moise Kean, the nineteen-year-old striker from Juventus, who is one of the most promising young talents in Europe at the moment. Kean’s signing from Juventus has been seen as the remedy for Everton’s attack which has not been the same post Lukaku’s exit to Old Trafford in 2017. Nigerian midfielder, Alex Iwobi joins former Arsenal teammate Theo Walcott at Everton. Iwobi’s £28 million move to the Blues has come at a time for him to prove his impact in the big game and will be eager to prove his worth. Andres Gomes from Barcelona also joins the Blues to round off a brilliant transfer window for Everton. The Blues are likely to shake be knocking on the top six’s door if they perform to the standard.
Last season finish: 7th
Merciless and on the chase for a spot in European football next year. Wolves will be looking to bash it out with the top six. Last season, the newcomers did more than just turn a few heads, knocking a few egos along the way as well and managing an absolutely hard earned seventh place finish. Nuno Esperinto Santo’s men will once more hope to ruffle the feathers at the top this season and qualify for Europe once more after nudging their way into the Europa League this season courtesy of Manchester City’s double qualification as league winners and FA Cup victors. Wolves have had a busy summer, releasing and signing new players including club record signing Raul Jimenez from Benfica who will stay on permanently after a succesful loan spell last season and Patrick Cutrone from AC Millan.
Last season finish: 9th
Leicester City manager, Brendan Rodgers maybe the right man to take the Foxes into a top six finish. The manager has been focused on creating a top flight team for Leicester City once again. The transfer window was a chance for the former Celtic manager to rebuild the squad after departures by key players such as Riyad Mahrez. This summer, Harry Maguire’s move to Manchester United for £80 million exposed Foxes to another loss of a key player. However, signings of Belgian midfielder Youri Tielemans who spent last season a loan from AC Monaco and striker Ayoze Perez from Newcastle could cover some of the gaps. Leicester City talisman and top goal scorer Jamie Vardy will provide the experience while the addition of young energy into the squad will allow for a dynamic squad that could potentially qualify for the Europa League next season.
Last season finish: 10th
West Ham who also managed to finish in the top half of the table last year. The question is how will they fair against the big teams this season. After a disappointing start to the season, losing to Manchester City 5-0, the Hammers will look to rebuild their confidence with wins against smaller teams lined up. West Ham had moments where they looked like a top 10 team last season, beating out Manchester United and Arsenal. The Londoners have however suffered a blow to their attack after losing Arnautovic to the pull of the Chinese Super League. Manuel Pellegrini’s task this season is undoubtedly to fish out the quality performances from the team in the face of the bigger teams in the league. The former Manchester City manager has to make crucial improvements in the back which will serve Hammers well in their campaign. West Ham could edge up wards in the league, only if luck would have it.
The Premier League is set to be a magnificent one. With 380 matches this season, with the bulk of them still to be played, there’s a long way to go before we crown the league champions. If past Premier League seasons are anything to go by, it’s a road packed with dramatic goals, unexpected injuries that get in the way.
Comment with the team you think will take the title this year?