2017/18 SBI English Premier League Preview

2017/18 SBI English Premier League Preview

European Soccer

2017/18 SBI English Premier League Preview

Chelsea’s dominant debut season under Antonio Conte was sealed with a Premier League title in 2016/17, and the Blues are among the contenders to repeat this season while other top sides look to spoil the party.

With major additions like Alexandre Lacazette at Arsenal, Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United and Manchester City’s acquisition of a quartet of young stars, Chelsea will have their hands full beginning opening day as 19 other teams gun for the top spot in England’s top-flight.

Several other sides will look to make the next jump into the top-half of the league table and possibly into European qualification. Tottenham and Liverpool remain threats in the top-four and title race, while Everton, West Bromwich Albion, and West Ham United are expected to finish in the top ten.

Elsewhere, Newcastle United returns to the EPL after just one season in the second-tier. They are joined by Brighton & Hove Albion and Huddersfield Town, who both are looking to have successful campaigns and remain in the top-tier in their first ever trips to the Premier League.

Without further ado, here is SBI’s full 2017/18 season preview for the Premier League:

AFC BOURNEMOUTH

Player to watch: At 34, Jermain Defoe doesn’t have much time left in his playing boots. The striker joined Bournemouth this summer after his former club Sunderland was relegated to the second-tier. Defoe adds a veteran scoring presence to a Bournemouth side that is ready to take the next step up the table.

Outlook: Bournemouth finished in ninth last season under Eddie Howe, a surprising feat to a lot of media and fans alike. The Cherries will look to do much of the same this season, especially after acquiring several starters this summer. 67 goals is a lot to concede however, and will need to come down if Bournemouth want to avoid a run in at the bottom.

Transfers In: Asmir Begovic (Chelsea), Jermain Defoe (Sunderland), Nathan Ake (Chelsea).

Transfers Out: Lewis Grabban (Loan, Sunderland), Ryan Allsop (Loan, Blackpool).

ARSENAL

Player to watch: Alexandre Lacazette has been on Arsenal’s radar now for a while, and this summer the Frenchman finally joined the London club. The 26-year-old is coming off three consecutive seasons with 20+ goals in Ligue 1, including 32 in all competitions last season. Pairing with Alexis Sanchez will be deadly for Arsenal, pending the Chilean doesn’t go anywhere.

Outlook: For the first time in Arsene Wenger’s tenure, the Gunners finished outside of the top-four last season. The positive is that Arsenal acquired striker Alexandre Lacazette this offseason to add with Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez. Arsenal will need to win the matches they are capable of in order to compete for a league title and a UCL return.

Transfers In: Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon), Sead Kolasinac (Schalke).

Transfers Out: Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus), Chris Willock (Benfica), Kaylen Hinds (Wolfsburg).

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION

Player to watch: Midfielder Anthony Knockaert will play a huge role for Brighton this season if they want to remain in the EPL for more than a season. The EFL Championship Player of the Year from 2016/17, scored 13 goals and added eight assists for a side that saw four double digit scorers. The former Leicester man is vital in both scoring goals and setting up goals for the team.

Outlook: Brighton rolled their way to a second-place finish in the EFL Championship a year ago. Now their goal will be to produce the same performances in the EPL. Easier said than done right? Brighton had four double-digit scorers a year ago and will hope those stats can translate over this season. If they score enough goals, Brighton could avoid any relegation scares.

Transfers In: Izzy Brown (Loan, Chelsea), Josh Kerr (Celtic), Mathew Ryan (Valencia), Markus Suttner (Ingolstadt), Steven Alzate (Leyton Orient).

Transfers Out: Oliver Norwood (Loan, Fulham), Rob Hunt (Oldham), Ben White (Loan, Newport County), Christian Walton (Loan, Wigan).

BURNLEY

Player to watch: Keeper Tom Heaton is a rising star in the Premier League despite already being 31 years old. The England international has been Burnley’s #1 for the past four seasons and is a huge reason why the Clarets are tough to break down. I see 2016/17 being another important season for Heaton in between the sticks for Sean Dyche’s men.

Outlook: Burnley were a force at Turf Moor last season, picking up 33 of their 40 points at home. However, their struggles on the road pulled them down to a 16th-place finish under Sean Dyche. Now with main striker Andre Gray leaving for Watford, it creates a hole up top. The Clarets will struggle if they cannot win on the road in 2017/18.

Transfers In: Jonathan Walters (Stoke City), Phil Bardsley (Stoke City), Jack Cork (Swansea City), Charlie Taylor (Leeds United).

Transfers Out: Andre Gray (Watford), Michael Keane (Everton), George Boyd (Sheffield Wednesday), Joey Barton (released), Michael Kightly (released), Jon Flanagan (End of Loan, Liverpool), Tendayi Darikwa (Nottingham Forest), Paul Robinson (retired).

CHELSEA

Player to watch: With Diego Costa likely on the way out at some point, Alvaro Morata becomes the next striker in at Stamford Bridge. The 24-year-old Spaniard is coming off a 20 goal season with Real Madrid and can now start consistently for another one of Europe’s top clubs.

Outlook: Defending champs Chelsea will look to make it back-to-back league crowns in 2017. The Blues have brought in three potential starters this offseason, one at each level of the starting XI. Chelsea will contend for the league title again, but will have several teams to fight off this season.

Transfers In: Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid), Tiemoue Bakayoko (Monaco), Antonio Rediger (Roma), Willy Caballero (free).

Transfers Out: Juan Cuadrado (Juventus), Nemanja Matic (Manchester United), Asmir Begovic (Bournemouth), Nathan Ake (Bournemouth), Dominic Solanke (Liverpool), Christian Atsu (Newcastle United), Tammy Abraham (Loan, Swansea City), Bertrand Traore (Lyon), Nathaniel Chabolah (Watford), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Loan, Crystal Palace), Kurt Zouma (Loan, Stoke City), Matt Miazga (Loan, Vitesse Arnhem), Tomas Kalas (Loan, Fulham), Ola Aina (Loan, Hull City), Marko Van Ginkel (Loan, PSV).

CRYSTAL PALACE

Player to watch: At 24, Wilfried Zaha has a lot of football left in his career. The Ivory Coast international is a dazzling winger that feeds off of attacking down the flanks. With his best statistical season a year ago, Zaha will be expected to increase on those numbers under new manager Frank De Boer.

Outlook: Crystal Palace finished in 14th last season under the late season leadership of Sam Allardyce. Former Ajax boss Frank De Boer has taken over for Allardyce and will have his work cut out in his first season. Palace scored 50 goals last season, more than anyone in the bottom ten, but allowed 63. Defensively they will need to be better to avoid a fight at the bottom again.

Transfers In: Frank De Boer (Manager), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Loan, Chelsea), Jairo Riedewald (Ajax)

Transfers Out: Steve Mandanda (Marseille)

EVERTON

Player to watch: After a decrease in playing time at Old Trafford, Wayne Rooney returns to Goodison Park where he first started his career. Now at 31, Wayne knows that he doesn’t have tons of time going forward. Under Ronald Koeman, I expect Rooney to have a huge impact in the dressing room and on the pitch.

Outlook: Everton finished in seventh under Ronald Koeman, but has a huge hole to replace this season. Romelu Lukaku scored 25 goals last season, but not has moved on to Manchester United. If goals are hard to come by, expect Everton to slip down the table some.

Transfers In: Jordan Pickford (Sunderland), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Davy Klaassen (PSV), Michael Keane (Burnley), Sandro Ramirez (Malaga), Cuco Martina (Southampton).

Transfers Out: Tom Cleverley (Watford), Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United), Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona), Aiden McGeady (Sunderland), Brendan Galloway (Loan, Sunderland), Matthew Pennington (Loan, Leeds United).

HUDDERSFIELD TOWN

Player to watch: After never really making it yet in the EPL, Tom Ince has another chance with a newly promoted club. The 25-year-old joined Huddersfield from Derby County this summer, coming off a 14 goal season last year. Ince should fit well within David Wagner’s set up and should be a regular starter at John Smith Stadium.

Outlook: A penalty shootout victory over Reading in the EFL Playoff Final, promoted Huddersfield to the top-flight in 2017. The question for David Wagner’s side is can they be competitive against top competition? With plenty of last year’s starters still on the roster this season, Huddersfield will hope continuity will help them avoid the relegation zone.

Transfers In: Aaron Mooy (Manchester City), Danny Williams (Reading), Tom Ince (Derby County), Laurent Deportee (FC Porto), Mathias Jorgensen (FC Copenhagen).

Transfers Out: Jack Payne (Loan, Oxford United), Jordy Hiwula (Loan, Fleetwood Town), Fraser Horsfall (Loan, Gateshead), Rekeil Pyke (Loan, Port Vale).

LEICESTER CITY

Player to watch: Riyad Mahrez was a huge reason why Leicester City lifted the Premier League crown in 2015/16. However, at points last season Mahrez looked to have dropped down a notch in his production. After seeing his request to leave Leicester denied this summer, Mahrez will look to up his game to help the Foxes avoid any slip in the table this season.

Outlook: After winning the Premier League title in 2015/16, Leicester finished in 12th a season ago. The firing of Claudio Ranieri jumpstarted the Foxes season, and even saw them go as far as the Champions League quarterfinals. For Craig Shakespeare’s side to inch back up the table, they will need Jamie Vardy to get back to his old form of scoring goals.

Transfers In: Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City), Harry Maguire (Hull City), Vicente Iborra (Sevilla), Eldin Jakupovic (Hull City), Sam Hughes (Chester).

Transfers Out: Ron-Robert Ziegler (Stuttgart), Bartosz Kapustka (Loan, Freiburg), Callum Elder (Loan, Wigan).

LIVERPOOL

Player to watch: Mohamed Salah has been a clever footballer for the last few seasons. After not lasting with Chelsea, the Egyptian international ended up with Roma in Serie A where he has consistently gotten better. Expect Salah to make a huge difference, paired with a new group of talented forwards.

Outlook: Liverpool finished in fourth a season ago, and are expected to do much of the same this season. A big question is whether or not they can keep the services of Philippe Coutinho. If the Brazilian joins up with Barcelona, then that will leave a huge production hole in the Reds midfield this season.

Transfers In: Mohamed Salah (Roma), Dominic Solanke (Chelsea), Andrew Robertson (Hull City).

Transfers Out:  Andre Wisdom (Derby County), Lucas Leiva (Lazio), Kevin Stewart (Hull City), Connor Randall (Loan, Hearts), Ryan Fulton (Hamilton Academic). 

MANCHESTER CITY

Player to watch: Manchester City may be the biggest threat to Chelsea this season in contending for the league title. Kevin De Bruyne is a big piece in Manchester City’s midfield and will play a big role in Pep Guardiola’s second season in England. De Bruyne scored seven goals and added 20 assists across all competitions last season.

Outlook: Manchester City were the biggest disappointment in the EPL last season, finishing third behind Chelsea and Tottenham. In Pep Guardiola’s second season, one would expect the Citizens to fight for the league crown especially after acquiring five potential starters. If Manchester City don’t win the league in 2017/18, Guardiola could very well face even more criticism.

Transfers In: Bernardo Silva (Monaco), Benjamin Mendy (Monaco), Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur), Danilo (Real Madrid), Ederson (Benfica), Douglas Luiz (Vasco De Gama).

Transfers Out: Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town), Aleksandar Kolarov (Roma), Pablo Zabaleta (West Ham United), Jesus Navas (released), Bacary Sagna (released), Gael Clichy (released), Joe Hart (Loan, West Ham United), Willy Caballero (released),Olivier Ntcham (Celtic), Marlos Moreno (Loan, Girona), Angus Gunn (Loan, Norwich City).

MANCHESTER UNITED

Player to watch: Romelu Lukaku has netted 16 or more goals across all competitions over the last four seasons. The former Chelsea and Everton man now has made the jump to Old Trafford where he will get to play in the UEFA Champions League. Lukaku is a clinical finisher and will be expected to score from the get go under Jose Mourinho.

Outlook: Under Jose Mourinho, Manchester United finished in sixth place with 69 points.  Zlatan Ibrahimovic has moved on and Wayne Rooney left for his boyhood club Everton, but several key starters remain. United had 15 draws a season ago, the most in the EPL. They will need to do a better job of beating the teams they are capable of, and tallying more victories.

Transfers In: Romelu Lukaku (Everton), Nemanja Matic (Chelsea), Victor Lindelof (Benfica).

Transfers Out: Wayne Rooney (Everton), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad), Sam Johnstone (Loan, Aston Villa), Josh Harrop (Preston North End), Dean Henderson (Loan, Shrewsbury).

NEWCASTLE UNITED

Player to watch: Before 2016/17, Dwight Gayle found it tough to start consistently and score consistently. That all changed under Rafa Benitez, as Gayle scored 22 league goals and helped Newcastle get promoted back to the top flight. Gayle will start as the main striker this season, and could very prove his old club Crystal Palace that he is back with a bang.

Outlook: After a terrific season in the Championship under Rafa Benitez, Newcastle are back in the big show. December will be a big month for them, facing off with four top-six finishers from a year ago. With the talent on the roster, they will look to avoid any relegation battles.

Transfers In: Christian Atsu (Chelsea), Mikel Moreno (Loan, Borussia Dortmund), Javier Manquillo (Atletico Madrid), Jacob Murphy (Norwich City), Stefan O’Connor (Arsenal), Florian Lejeune (Eibar), Josef Carney (Everton).

Transfers Out: Florian Thauvin (Marseille), Vurnon Anita (Leeds United), Kevin Mbabu (Young Boys), Matz Sels (Loan, Anderlecht), Adam Armstrong (Loan, Bolton), Daryl Murphy (Nottingham Forest), Lewis Gibson (Everton).

SOUTHAMPTON

Player to watch: Injuries cut Charlie Austin’s season short in 2016/17, but the 28-year-old should be ready to go for the Saints this season. Scoring nine goals in 21 appearances a year ago proves that Austin has the ability to make a difference when he is on the pitch. If he stays healthy, I expect Austin to be the lead striker under new boss Mauricio Pellegrino.

Outlook: Under Claude Puel last season, the Saints finished in eighth place with 46 points. A big question will be if their strikers can remain healthy this season. Charlie Austin and Manolo Gabbiadini will share the role and both are capable of scoring when on the pitch. Expect a mid-table finish for Southampton in 2017/18.

Transfers In:  Mauricio Pellegrino (Manager), Mario Lemina (Juventus), Jan Bednarek (Lech Poznan)

Transfers Out: Claude Puel (Manager), Cuco Martina (released), Lloyd Isgrove (released), Martin Caceres (released), Jay Rodriguez (West Bromwich Albion), Harrison Reed (Loan, Norwich), Ryan Seager (Loan, MK Dons).

STOKE CITY

Player to watch: After making only nine appearances for Chelsea last year in an injury riddled season, Kurt Zouma joins Stoke City on loan. The 22-year-old Frenchman will be happy to get back on the pitch, but will also look to make a difference in the Stoke backline. I expect Zouma to be a starter from day one.

Outlook: After a ninth-place finish in 2015/16, Stoke dropped to 13th last season. Mark Hughes’ side added two starters in Kurt Zouma and Darren Fletcher, but will need more goals offensively to break into the top-half of the table.

Transfers In: Darren Fletcher (West Bromwich Albion), Kurt Zouma (Loan, Chelsea), Josh Tymon (Hull City), Tre Pemberton (Blackburn Rovers).

Transfers Out: Shay Given (released), Jonathan Walters (Burnley), Glenn Whelan (Aston Villa), Phil Bardsley (Burnley), Marko Arnautovic (West Ham United).

SWANSEA CITY

Player to watch: A year ago saw Swansea City escape relegation and earn another year of top-flight football. Now manager Paul Clement can start a full season with the Welsh club, and avoid any issues from day one. 27-year-old Gylfi Sigurdsson is coming off a 10-goal, 13 assist season with Swansea and will be the most-important piece for Clement’s squad going forward if they can hold onto him.

Outlook: In 2016/17, Swansea City looked like a sure bet to be relegated by season’s end. The appointment of Paul Clement changed the mindset of the team, and they finished in 15th. This season may be tough for Swansea if Sigurdsson departs, and they very much could be in a relegation scrap once again.

Transfers In: Roque Mesa (Las Palmas), Tammy Abraham (Loan, Chelsea), Marc Walsh (Finn Harps), Cian Herries (Coventry City), Erwin Mulder (Heerenveen).

Transfers Out: Jack Cork (Burnley), Mo Barrow (Reading), Jordi Amat (Loan, Real Betis), Borja Baston (Loan, Malaga), Bafetimbi Gomis (Galatasaray), Marvin Emnes (released), Gerhard Tremmel (released), Connor Roberts (Loan, Middlesbrough), Josh Vickers (released).

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Player to watch: Tottenham has played second fiddle for the last two seasons, but is on a vengeance to make the EPL title theirs in 2017/18. The team returns Golden Boot winner Harry Kane, who scored 34 goals across all competitions last year. If Tottenham want to compete in both England and Europe this season, Kane will be expected to add to that tally again.

Outlook: Tottenham has finished in second the past two seasons, but have failed to bring any silverware back to North London. With their home matches at Wembley Stadium plus with zero transfers in, Spurs may have a tough time repeating as second best in the EPL.

Transfers In: None.

Transfers Out: Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Luke McGee (Portsmouth), Clinton Njie (Marseille), Federico Fazio (Roma), Anton Walkes (Loan, Atlanta United).

WATFORD

Player to watch: Watford concluded 2016/17 on a dreadful run of form, losing six straight league games. Striker Troy Deeney has back-to-back double-digit goal seasons with the black and yellow, and will be heavily relied on to carry the load up front again this season.

Outlook: Watford struggled at the tail end of last season, but should be safe this season with Marco Silva in for Walter Mazzarri. The deciding factor will be if the Hornets can score consistently, and to avoid blowout defeats.

Transfers In: Marco Silva (Manager), Andre Gray (Burnley), Tom Cleverley (Everton), Nathaniel Chabolah (Chelsea), Daniel Bachmann (Stoke City), Will Hughes (Derby County), Kiko Femenia (Alaves).

Transfers Out: Steven Berghuis (Feyenoord), Dennon Lewis (Crawley Town), Mario Suarez (Guizhou Hengfeng Zhicheng), Obbi Oulare (Royal Antwerp).

WEST BROMWICH ALBION

Player to watch: Former Southampton striker Jay Rodriguez has failed to stay fully healthy the past two seasons, and joined WBA in the summer. The 28-year-old joins a strike force that features Salomon Rondon and Hal Robson-Kanu. I feel Rodriguez can fight for a place and can be another goal scoring element for Tony Pulis’ side.

Outlook: West Brom was fighting for a Europa League spot near the end of the last year before a bad run of form killed those chances. Tony Pulis’ sides are always built on defense first, and that trend continues as the Baggies look for a mid-table finish.

Transfers In: Jay Rodriguez (Southampton), Yuning Zhang (Vitesse Arnhem), Ben Pierce (Everton), Ahmed Hegazi (Al Ahly).

Transfers Out: Darren Fletcher (Stoke City), Sebastien Pocognoli (Standard Liege), Yuning Zhang (Werder Bremen).

WEST HAM UNITED

Player to watch: After two seasons in the Bundesliga, Mexican international Javier Hernandez has made the move back to England. Joining West Ham United, Hernandez will be expected to take the starting striker role for a team that needs consistent goals. West Ham failed to have a double-digit goalscorer last season, and Hernandez is coming off back-to-back double digit goal scoring seasons. 

Outlook: In their final season at the Boleyn Ground, West Ham snuck into a Europa League spot. In 2016/17, they had to fight off relegation and settled for an 11th place finish. With several new players in this season, the Hammers should look for a top-half finish in 2017/18.

Transfers In: Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Joe Hart (Loan, Manchester City), Marko Arnautovic (Stoke City), Javier Hernandez (Bayer Leverkusen).

Transfers Out:Jonathan Calleri (End of Loan, Deportivo Maldonado), Gokhan Tore (End of Loan, Besiktas), Alvaro Arbeloa (Released), Havard Nordtveit (Hoffenheim), Reece Oxford (Loan, Borussia Monchengladbach), Enner Valencia (Tigres UANL), Darren Randolph (Middlesbrough), Ashley Fletcher (Middlesbrough).

Who’s your favorite to win the Premier League this season? Which player are you most excited to watch? Which teams will be relegated to the Championship?

Share your thoughts below.

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