Premier League Preview: A guide to how the ‘Big Six’ will perform

Manchester United’s 2-1 victory over Leicester City at Old Trafford kicked off another Premier League campaign, and Saturday afternoon’s action with Chelsea and Spur both winning continued the opening round of the new season.

Perhaps more so in a World Cup year the break from a Premier League season is far too short lived to get over the drama, if any hanks to Manchester City winning in convincing fashion of the previous season.

The gap between the top six and the rest of the league is big, and any one of the big six clubs has the tools to contend for the title.

Arsenal

Arsène Wenger’s long reign at Arsenal is finally over, one that arguably should have been over a few years ago. Wenger’s methods ultimately led the Gunners into a dead end, prompting the board to make a move. A new era starts with incoming manager Unai Emery, looking to make Arsenal a powerhouse again.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Arsenal - International Champions Cup 2018
Unai Emery’s first year at Arsenal could be a tough one. (Photo / Kevin Morejon)

Emery has done what Wenger seemed incapable of doing; spending money. The likes Sokratis from Dortmund, Lucas Torreira from Sampdoria and Bernd Leno from Bayer Leverkusen have arrived, headlining some good singings for the North Londoners.

However the Spaniard isn’t exactly a manager to be raving about. Emery’s well-regarded and known for his intelligence of the game, yet his record arriving at Arsenal isn’t anything to brag about. His two years at Paris Saint Germain between 2016 and 2018 saw them finish 2nd and 1st,, with disappointing Champions League finishes in both years. As well as that he had ordinary campaigns with Sevilla, with two straight 5th placings and a 7th in his final year with them. But to be fair, he deserves time to transform Arsenal into a title contender, and I like most believe he can.

The key player, maybe a surprise for many, will be French forward Alexandre Lacazette. The Gunners have ranked 5th, 5th and 4th the past three seasons amongst the top six in goals scored. With Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka creating chances in the midfield, Lacazette should be able to improve on his league tally of 14 lasts season, and in the 18-25 goal range for the season.

In terms of player selection Emery has given himself plenty of options, and filled some big holes already. But the gelling and chemistry development within the team may take a bit longer, but that shouldn’t discourage Arsenal fans… for now.

Final placing: 6th

Chelsea

The start of another season, the start of a new tenure for a Chelsea manager. The Blues are onto their third in as many years, as billionaire Roman Abramovich seems incapable of satisfaction. That makes them a relatively tough team to make out at this stage.

Maurizio Sarri (PJB PRO)
The clock is ticking already for Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea. (Photo / PJB PRO)

Incoming manager Maurizio Sarri had a strong spell with Napoli, but simply didn’t have the quality to compete with Juventus. Now with Chelsea, with more money to spend and a larger range of quality players, Sarri and the Blues could break through and become a perennial contender. The only problem is without immediate success he could be out of the job quickly with Abramovich breathing down his neck.

How Chelsea have been structured throughout the preseason has been impressive, with Sarri’s style providing some beautiful football and a lot of that was evident again against Huddersfield. Though their community shield performance against Manchester City, the current benchmark, showed how much Sari has on his plate.

Chelsea have been relatively stagnant in the transfer market. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is gone, and Bilbao goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has arrived, who isn’t an upgrade but a fine addition nonetheless. As well as that, Croatian Mateo Kovačić arrives from Real Madrid on loan, and could be a key component in the midfield.

There is no doubt that Eden Hazard is the key to Chelsea’s attack. With great ball control and dribbling skills, as well as the ability to create something out of nothing makes Hazard one of the best attacking footballers in the world right now.

Ultimately for Chelsea, a top four spot should be the aim in what is a bit of a ‘reboot’ year. But if Sarri can get the squad’s formation and style sorted early, they could become a dark horse contender.

Final placing: 4th

Liverpool

For the first time in 29 years, Liverpool look primed to contend and possibly win the league title. They have arguably their best crop of players along with one of the most capable managers to do so, and the confidence to go with it.

Jurgen Klopp (PJB PRO)
Jürgen Klopp finally has Liverpool in a position to win the League title. (Photo / PJB PRO)

Manager Jürgen Klopp’s attempt at making Liverpool a title contender took a huge leap this off-season with four key signings that make them the deepest squad in the league right now.  Klopp’s ability to revamp the team in little under three years, is an impressive feat when you consider the shambles they heading towards under Brendan Rodgers. His high-pressure, attack focused style of play is entertaining, and has troubled top sides, highlighted by three wins at the back end of last season over Manchester City.

Naby Keïta was a known signing before the window opened, but the arrival of Fabinho from AS Monaco surprised many and strengthens their defensive ability along with adding a high-quality keeper in Alison from Roma.  As well as that, Daniel Sturridge returns from loan and after having a strong preseason looks primed for a comeback year of sorts.

The key man for the Reds became their most important player at the second half of last season, and Roberto Firmino will lineup the same way from this week onwards. Unlike most strikers, Firmino’s role as an all-rounder’ sees him play a part in all attacking plays for Liverpool, sharing the goals load with Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

Last season Liverpool appeared to be Manchester City’s kryptonite, which could play a huge pat on who is crowned champions next May. Klopp has had his team trending upwards for some time now, and based off that this season can easily deliver that elusive trophy. However, such a prediction at this stage seems a bit too bold.

Final placing: 2nd

Manchester City

city-winning-the-league-dickson-dagogo.jpg
There’s nothing to suggest Manchester City can’t win the league for the second year running. (Photo / Dickson Dagogo)

Manchester City broke records en route to their Premier League win last season. Manchester is painted blue, for now, and City will enter this year’s Premier League campaign primed for another win. But with more competition breathing down their neck, it’s unlikely it’ll be as easy.

Pep Guardiola is the only manager who can rival the success and image of Sir Alex Ferguson, and if he can create a footballing dynasty at Manchester City that may very well cement his status at the very top of the managerial pyramid. The Spaniard managed to get over a tough first campaign with City in 2016-17, where he indirectly admitted the competition of the Premier League was tougher than he expected, with a league and league cup double in 2018.

The attack gets a refreshing addition in Riyad Mahrez who will contend with Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva for the second wing spot. Other than that the Sky Blues made no first team signings, simply because they didn’t need to.

Kevin De Bruyne is undoubtedly City’s best player, but their most important in my opinion is David Silva. Since arriving at Manchester in 2010 Silva has been the glue of the team’s midfield and has consistently been their best player. Last season was another strong campaign with a League Team of the Season honour.

There will be more focus on the Champions League and the increased competition from Liverpool which may not bode well for the Sky Blues. However the gap in quality, at this stage, is too big to dispute.

Final placing: 1st

Manchester United

Manchester United has been of water-cooler-in-the-workplace discussion for the wrong reasons. A lack of activity in the transfer market and players reportedly unhappy with their manager make the coming season for United an unfortunate one to unpack.

Alexis Sanchez (Dickson Dagogo)
Alexis Sánchez could be Manchester United’s most important player this season. (Photo / Dickson Dagogo)

Manager – There’s two sides to United right now, one a good and ne a bad. Unfortunately for manager José Mourinho, he’s the bad. There’s a veil of uncertainty on top of Manchester United, thanks his work methods. The team is unsettled round his methods, some even saying (rumoured of course) they want him off the team. Regardless Mourinho remains one of the best managers in the world with success in Spain, Italy and England’s top leagues. However, unless improvement is clearly noticed at the absolute least, it’s hard to see the Portuguese manager in the job this time next year.

Team – The good side of the team is the quality they have, which is arguably the second best on paper behind Manchester City in the league. The addition of Fred helps strengthen the midfield, while winger Alexis Sánchez will be in his first full year with the club.

Key Player – A man that will be able to rejuvenate Manchester United’s attack is forward Alexis Sánchez. Their depth up front was tested when both Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimović departed, leaving Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford along with incoming striker Romelu Lukaku, none being fully developed yet, to fill out the forward spots. Yet with Sánchez likely becoming a permanent starter, Mourinho has himself an attacking asset and handy looking core up front.

At the end of the day, other teams are in a far better position than Manchester United to contend, and a team on paper can only achieve so much.

Final placing: 3rd

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs seem to be an honorary Cinderella of sorts in the Premier League, and have been for three years now. They’ve exceed expectations based on what it is assumed their squad can produce, while the other big six cubs have struggled to be consistent. This year could be a tad different though for Tottenham.

Harry Kane (petr.pavel)
Harry Kane will need to have another 20+ goal seaosn if Tottenham are to succeed. (Photo / petr.paval)

Manager Mauricio Pochettino has done a terrific job since taking over the team in 2014, with a limited amount of singings and managing to keep players satisfied on a capped wage along with Chairman Daniel Levy. Under Pochettino Spurs have managed to scrape by the last few season with minimal action in the transfer market and relying on their talent, but this year was a step further with zero transfers… that’s absurd. It’s important for teams to add players for refreshment as well as remaining competitive with other sides, and Spurs haven’t done that.

The current roster is relatively strong; with Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Jan Vertonghen all retaining their roles as well as a host of other key names. Lucas Moura, a talented winger who transferred from PSG in January, has his first full season for Spurs and adds another option up front to go with Son Heung-min.

Christian Eriksen has always stood out in my mind as Tottenham’s top talent, but I’m obliged to make Harry Kane their most important player given the lack of cover in the position. Kane has scored 21, 25, 29 and 30 goals in his past four league campaigns respectively – a truly impressive statistic. Their second option up front is Fernando Llorente, who is by no means on the same level as the other substitute forwards among the Premier League’s top sides, making Kane’s presence all the more important.

Ultimately, until Tottenham spend on high-quality players to strengthen the depth of their squad, it seems unlikely they can take the next step to a Premier League title,. For now, they will stand still

Final placing: 5th

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