EPL Season Preview: Man City looks to repeat, Liverpool seeks return to the top and more

EPL Season Preview: Man City looks to repeat, Liverpool seeks return to the top and more

European Soccer

EPL Season Preview: Man City looks to repeat, Liverpool seeks return to the top and more

Manchester City’s historic campaign in 2017/18 saw the Citizens hit the century mark with 100 points through the entire season, and Pep Guardiola’s men will be eager to follow it up.

The Citizens will be heavy favorites to repeat in England’s top flight after the acquisition of Leicester City playmaker Riyad Mahrez. Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane, Sergio Aguero, and David Silva also highlight the talented City attack in the blue half of Manchester. Also in the running for the title, will be Manchester United, Tottenham, Liverpool, and Chelsea.

Arsenal and Burnley finished outside of the top five last season, but will be eager to make the jump this season. Everton, Leicester City, and Newcastle United rounded out the top ten a season ago.

Elsewhere, Cardiff City, Fulham, and Wolverhampton Wanderers were promoted to the Premier League after strong seasons in the second-tier. All three will seek a permanent place after this season but will need to come out swinging to do so.

Here is SBI’s full 2018/19 season preview for the Premier League:

Arsenal

Transfers In: Stephan Lichtsteiner, Bernd Leno, Sokratis, Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi.

Transfers Out: Per Mertesacker, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Takuma Asano, Hugo Keto, Kelechi Nwakali, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Chuba Akpom, Calum Chambers (Loan), Lucas Perez.

Player to Watch: After 20 goals with Borussia Dortmund to begin last season, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finished his second half with Arsenal. The Gabon international scored 10 goals in 13 matches and will be truly important to the Gunners this season. His athletic ability is up there with the best strikers in the World, while Arsenal will hope he builds off last season’s haul.

Outlook: It will be a time of transition at the Emirates with Unai Emery taking over for longtime manager Arsene Wenger. Emery definitely has the ability to lead the Gunners after several trophies won with PSG. However, Arsenal need to do better as a team and get back to the aggressiveness that many feared long ago. Expect the Gunners to fight for the top four.

AFC Bournemouth

Transfers In: David Brooks, Diego Rico, Jefferson Lerma.

Transfers Out: Ryan Allsop, Benik Afobe, Max Gradel, Adam Federici, Lewis Grabban, Conor Mahoney (Loan), Harry Arter (Loan).

Player to Watch: Joshua King was tied for the Bournemouth team lead in goals with eight a season ago. The Norwegian international will need to do a little bit more if Bournemouth wants to take the next step as a club. At 26, King still has plenty of years left to improve as a player and his talent will surely be important for Eddie Howe’s team in 2018-19.

Outlook: It was another step in the process for AFC Bournemouth last season which surprisingly ended with a 12th place finish. Eddie Howe continues to reward the majority of his roster that helped get the Cherries here in 2015. A strong backline will be key once again while offensively they will need to rely on undervalued players. Bournemouth will be fighting for a place in the top ten for sure.

Brighton & Hove Albion

Transfers In: Leon Balogun, Florin Andone, Bernardo, Hugo Keto, David Button, Yves Bissouma, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Anders Dreyer, Billy Arce, Dan Burn, Martin Montoya, Leo Skiri Ostigard, Peter Gwargis.

Transfers Out: Steve Sidwell, Jamie Murphy, Liam Rosenior, Connor Goldson, Christian Walton, Henrik Bjordal, Sam Baldock, Jiri Skalak, Dan Burn (Loan).

Player to Watch: Pascal Gros was one of Brighton’s more consistent players last season, scoring seven goals and registering eight assists. He was able to provide a spark offensively for the Seagulls and will be important again if Brighton wants to survive another season.

Outlook: In their first season back in the big show, Brighton & Hove Albion held off a relegation scrap at the bottom. Chris Hughton’s side gained some valuable experience and now will seek a less stressful campaign in 2018-19. Goals will be hard to come by but defensively they have shown signs of stability. Brighton will be in the bottom-half but will fight off relegation once again.

Burnley

Transfers In: Vinnie Steels, Ben Gibson, Joe Hart, Matej Vydra.

Transfers Out: Dean Marney, Scott Arfield, Chris Long, Tom Anderson, Josh Ginnelly, Aiden Stone (Loan), Conor Mitchell (Loan).

Player to Watch: Former Leeds United striker Chris Wood led Burnley with 10 goals last season and will seek to increase that number. The New Zealand international brings physicality to the offensive attack and a knack for finding the back of the net. Wood will expect to lead the line again as Burnley look to provide an encore of last season’s success.

Outlook: Burnley surprised many fans and media alike with their seventh place finish a season ago. The Clarets will seek for a similar result this season and will lean on their defensive stability to do so. Sean Dyche is the perfect man to lead this team and under his guidance they should be in the top ten again.

Cardiff City

Transfers In: Josh Murphy, Greg Cunningham, Alex Smithies, Bobby Reid, Victor Camarasa., Harry Arter (Loan).

Transfers Out: Greg Halford, Omar Bagle (Loan), Lee Camp.

Player to Watch: Canadian international Junior Hoilett was an important player for Cardiff last season, scoring 11 goals and registering 11 assists in all competitions. The 28-year-old was last in the Premier League with QPR and recently upped his game over the last few seasons. Hoilett’s pace and dangerous attacking ability is key for Cardiff this season.

Outlook: Cardiff only had one double-digit goalscorer last season and that will need to change for a long-term stay in the top-flight. Defensively, they have a good set up with Sol Bamba and Sean Morrison leading the backline. Expect Cardiff to have a tough time staying afloat if they cannot score at a consistent rate.

Chelsea

Transfers In: Jorginho, Robert Green, Mateo Kovacic (Loan), Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Transfers Out: Eduardo (Loan), Kenedy (Loan), Dujon Sterling (Loan), Jamal Blackman (Loan), Mason Mount (Loan), Jeremie Boga (Loan), Kyle Scott (Loan), Kasey Palmer (Loan), Thibaut Courtois.

Player to Watch: Spanish forward Alvaro Morata had 15 goals in all competitions for Chelsea last season and will seek a repeat outing in 2018-19. At 25, Morata has a lot to improve on and will need to be consistent if he wants a significant role in Maurizio Sarri’s starting plans.

Outlook: Chelsea’s season a year ago was a disappointment in their standards as they finished fifth behind several other rivals. With Antonio Conte out, in comes Maurizio Sarri, who has proved himself with Napoli the last few seasons. If Chelsea want to fight for the league title, they will need to get their aggressive swagger back or else settle for a place in the top four.

Crystal Palace

Transfers In: Vicente Guaita, Cheikhou Kouyate, Max Meyer, Jordan Ayew (Loan).

Transfers Out: Diego Cavalieri, Damien Delaney, Lee Chung-Yong, Yohan Cabaye, Jaroslaw Jach (Loan).

Player to Watch: Wilfried Zaha is a dangerous winger for Crystal Palace after totaling nine league goals a season ago. The 25-year-old Ivorian has the ability to flip a match on its head with his pace and ability to take defenders on. If his fellow attackers continue to struggle, look for Zaha’s need to score inch higher and higher.

Outlook: The Eagles finished 11th last season with Roy Hodgson remaining as manager for this year. One thing that will need to improve is Palace’s goalscoring from their forwards. Christian Benteke only had three goals last season, while Alexander Sorloth did not contribute. If Palace struggle in front of goal, they could see themselves relegated to the second-tier.

Everton

Transfers In: Richarlison, Lucas Digne, Joao Virginia, Bernard, Andre Gomes (Loan), Yerry Mina, Kurt Zouma (Loan).

Transfers Out: Joel Robles, Ramiro Funes Mori, Wayne Rooney, Luke Garbutt (Loan), Henry Onyekuru (Loan), Shani Tarashaj (Loan), Ashley Williams, Antonee Robinson (Loan), Kevin Mirallas (Loan), Callum Connolly (Loan).

Player to Watch: Brazilian playmaker Richarlison made the move to Merseyside from Watford and will be expected to contribute immediately. At 21, the attacking player has a lot of talent and flare to his game which should make opponents worried.

Outlook: With many players still getting used to one another, Everton may get off slow to start the season. However with their talented attacking front, they should be able to beat the teams they are better than. Everton has the ability to finish in the top-seven, it will truly depend on how well the team gels as a whole.

Fulham

Transfers In: Jean Michael Seri, Andre Schurrle (Loan), Maxime Le Marchand, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Alfie Mawson, Fabricio Agosto Ramirez, Calum Chambers (Loan), Sergio Rico (Loan), Joe Bryan, Luciano Vietto, Timothy Fosu-Mensah (Loan), Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa.

Transfers Out: Ryan Fredericks, Stephen Humphrys (Loan), Elijah Adebayo (Loan), David Button, Tayo Edun.

Player to Watch: 18-year-old Ryan Sessegnon exploded onto the scene last year, totaling 16 goals and eight assists as Fulham was promoted via the playoffs. In his first taste of top-flight football, Sessegnon will need to prepare for anything and everything as the Cottagers try to stay up.

Outlook: Fulham fought their way to promotion thanks to a strong backline and the ability to grind out results. Sessegnon, Andre Schurrle, and Aleksandar Mitrovic will look to highlight an attack that will need to be consistent in order to remain a top-flight side. Expect Fulham to fight for a place in top-12.

Huddersfield Town

Transfers In: Ben Hamer, Terence Kongolo, Ramadan Sobhi, Juninho Bacuna, Jonas Lossi, Erik Durm, Adama Diakhaby, Issac Mbenza.

Transfers Out: Rob Green, Tom Ince, Dylan Cogill, Dean Whitefield, Sean Scannell, Jack Payne (Loan), Cameron Taylor, Jordy Hiwula, Joel Coleman (Loan), Michael Hefele, Scott Malone.

Player to Watch: Australian international Aaron Mooy may not put up the amazing numbers but his work rate is second to none. The 27-year-old will need to be just as good as he was a season ago if the Terriers want to improve off a year ago. Mooy has good technical ability and can cover a lot of ground for Huddersfield.

Outlook: David Wagner’s men may not have produced a double-digit goalscorer a season ago and that may need to change in 2018-19. Steve Mounie headlines the forwards group but reinforcements may be needed as the season goes on. The Terriers should be in the mix for a spot outside of the relegation zone.

Leicester City

Transfers In: Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, James Maddison, Danny Ward, Rachid Ghezzal, Filip Benkovic, Caglar Soyuncu.

Transfers Out: Robert Huth, Ben Hamer, Elliott Moore (Loan), Riyad Mahrez, Connor Wood, Harvey Barnes (Loan), Ahmed Musa, Josh Gordon.

Player to Watch: With the loss of Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City, Jamie Vardy’s stock has risen that much more for Leicester this season. His 23 goals in all competitions was one shy of his tally during the Foxes’ title-winning campaign, but at 31-years-old many will question his age.

Outlook: Leicester still possesses a great ability on the counter attack and with the testy Vardy leading the attacking front. Defensively, they will look to veterans Jonny Evans and Wes Morgan to lead the backline while they search for a playmaker in midfield due to Mahrez’s departure. The Foxes will be in the mix for a top-ten finish under Claude Puel.

Liverpool

Transfers In: Fabinho, Naby Keita, Xherdan Shaqiri, Alisson Becker.

Transfers Out: Danny Ward, Jon Flanagan, Ovie Ejaria (Loan), Emre Can, Adam Bogdan, Harry Wilson (Loan), Allan (Loan), Danny Ings (Loan), Ben Woodburn (Loan).

Player to Watch: Mo Salah took the Premier League by storm in his return, totaling 43 goals in all competitions including 32 in the league. The Egyptian can beat teams in a variety of ways, but is also a strong two-way player for Jurgen Klopp’s men. It will be neat to see if Salah can replicate his form from a season ago.

Outlook: If any season is Liverpool’s to win the Premier League, this is it. Their strong attack just got even stronger with Xherdan Shaqiri’s arrival while Naby Keita and Fabinho will slot into the midfield as well. Alisson may finally answer the Reds’ constant questions about goalkeepers, meaning their starting XI is very dangerous. The expect expectation is for Liverpool to challenge Man City from the get-go in the title race.

Manchester City

Transfers In: Riyad Mahrez, Claudio Gomes, Philippe Sandler, Daniel Arzani.

Transfers Out: Yaya Toure, Pablo Maffeo, Angelino, Manu Garcia (Loan), Angus Gunn, Jack Harrison (Loan), Aleix Garcia (Loan), Tosin Adarabioyo (Loan), Bersant Celina, Joe Hart, Lukas Nmecha (Loan).

Player to Watch: After a sensational season a year ago, Kevin De Bruyne will continue to be a huge player for the defending champions. The Belgian had a good World Cup and is always a threat whether its scoring or setting up his teammates. For City to claim another Premier League title, De Bruyne will need to replicate his performance from last season.

Outlook: Manchester City will have a bullseye on their back from the opening week by many challengers in the Premier League title race. Talent wise they have the best team in the league, but they will need to be successful against the other giants in England to claim their second straight league title. Can they do it? Yes.

Manchester United

Transfers In: Diogo Dalot, Fred, Lee Grant.

Transfers Out: Michael Carrick, Sam Johnstone, Daley Blind, Dean Henderson (Loan), Matty Willock (Loan), Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (Loan), Joel Pereira (Loan), Axel Tuanzebe (Loan), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (Loan).

Player to Watch: Despite a strong World Cup for winners France, Paul Pogba has still been under scrutiny by Mourinho. After six goals and 12 assists last season, Pogba will look to improve those numbers as United chase a league crown. The goal for Pogba will be to replicate his World Cup impact over to club level in 2018-19.

Outlook: Manchester United will certainly be in the race for the league title as they try to out-do rivals Manchester City. Jose Mourinho’s club definitely has the talent to win it all but the question remains can they do it over an entire season. The Red Devils will hope to be in the top four yet again by season’s end.

Newcastle United

Transfers In: Martin Dubravka, Ki Sung-Yueng, Kenedy, Fabian Schar, Yoshinori Muto, Salomon Rondon (Loan), Federico Fernandez.

Transfers Out: Massadio Haidara, Stuart Findlay, Mikel Merino, Chancel Mbemba, Matz Sels, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Dwight Gayle (Loan), Ivan Toney, Adam Armstrong.

Player to Watch: Scottish midfielder Matt Ritchie does a lot of creative work for Newcastle’s attack but also is willing to track back and defend. He is a veteran of the league and knows the hard work needed for positive results. His two-way ability will be key for the Magpies this season.

Outlook: The Magpies finished 10th last season under Rafa Benitez and that is the goal again this year. A lot of their talent is back on both sides of the field, while they have sprinkled some Premier League talent elsewhere. It may be tough to advance into the top-six, but definitely the top-ten is doable.

Southampton

Transfers In: Stuart Armstrong, Mohamed Elyounoussi, Angus Gunn, Jannik Vestergaard, Danny Ings (Loan).

Transfers Out: Sofiane Boufal (Loan), Guido Carrillo (Loan), Dusan Tadic, Florin Gardos, Jeremy Pied, Jordy Clasie (Loan).

Player to Watch: The Saints are a stubborn bunch led by the hardworking James Ward-Prowse. At 23, Ward-Prowse still has a lengthy career ahead of him and has already seen plenty of first-team appearances at St. Mary’s. He may not rack up the stat sheet, but his work ethic will be crucial to Southampton staying afloat.

Outlook: The Saints barely remained in the top-flight as Mark Hughes came aboard. This season they will need to be strong from the get-go, with plenty of new faces on board. Armstrong, Elyounoussi, and Vestergaard should all see time this season but the forwards have to stay healthy. Southampton will have a tough run this season, but may survive from their experience.

Tottenham Hotspur

Transfers In: None.

Transfers Out: Anton Walkes, Keanan Bennetts.

Player to Watch: English striker Harry Kane has been the best striker in the Premier League over the last few seasons. At 24, Kane is on pace for an even better 2018-19 than his 41 goals in all competitions a year ago. He can score in a variety of ways which certainly helps Spurs as they seek a run at the league title.

Outlook: Tottenham has made strong impressions under Mauricio Pochettino but will now look for a higher finish this year. With the scoring ability of Kane and Christian Eriksen, Tottenham have the ability to score goals. The question is can they do it against the big clubs in England? Tottenham will be in the race for the title, but more realistically they should finish in the top four.

Watford

Transfers In: Gerard Deulofeu, Ben Foster, Ben Wilmot, Marc Navarro, Adam Masina, Ken Sema, Domingos Quina.

Transfers Out: Richarlison, Costel Pantilimon, Mauro Zarate, Brandon Mason, Nordin Amrobat, Jerome Sinclair (Loan), Randell Williams (Loan), Daniel Bachmann (Loan), Alex Jakubiak (Loan).

Player to Watch: Longtime servant Troy Deeney saw his numbers take a dip last season, finishing the season with only five goals. At 30 years of age, Deeney still has a lot to offer Watford on and off the field. His physical presences does wonders for the team offensively, while he also tries to be a leader to young players. I expect Deeney to bounce back in a big way for Watford.

Outlook: Watford was able to escape a relegation scrap at the bottom of the table, but will need to improve on the backend. Their 64 goals allowed was in the top five most in the EPL and will need to be trimmed for Watford to do better. With the talent still on the roster, I except Watford to finish between 10th-15th.

West Ham United

Transfers In: Ryan Fredericks, Lukasz Fabianski, Issa Diop, Jack Wilshere, Andriy Yarlomenko, Felipe Anderson, Fabian Balbuena, Xande Silva, Lucas Perez, Carlos Sanchez.

Transfers Out: James Collins, Patrice Evra, Ben Wells, Reece Burke, Cheikhou Kouyate, Sead Haksabanovic (Loan), Jordan Hugill (Loan), Domingos Quina.

Player to Watch: Since his move to London, Marko Arnautovic flipped the switch offensively for the Hammers. His 11 goals and eight assists were a huge reason why the Hammers escaped a relegation scrap at the bottom of the table. The Austrian will be expected to do even more in his second season with the club and should be able to tally another double digit goalscoring campaign.

Outlook: West Ham added several talented attackers this offseason with Anderson and Yarlomenko being the clear cut favorites. Adding them to a roster that already had Arnautovic, Chicharito, and Manuel Lanzini should see West Ham fight for European spots. It may be tough but they could sneak into the top-eight in their first season under Manuel Pellegrini.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Transfers In: Joao Moutinho, Benik Afobe, Willy Boly, Raul Jimenez (Loan), Rui Patricio, Leo Bonatini, Ruben Vinagre, Paulo Alves, Jonny Otto (Loan), Adama Traore, Leander Dendoncker (Loan).

Transfers Out: Ben Marshall, Prince Oniangue, Ryan Rainey, Jose Xavier, Aaron Collins (Loan), Sherwin Seedorf (Loan), Carl Ikeme, Barry Douglas, Ben Goodlife (Loan).

Player to Watch: Wolverhampton Wanderers rolled their way to the EFL Championship last season, totaling 99 points and an automatic place in the Premier League. Highlighting their amazing run was Portuguese midfielder Diogo Jota who has 17 goals and five assists. He will be important this season if Wolves want to remain in the top-flight for 2019-20.

Outlook: Wolves kept a lot of the talent that helped get them up to the big show, which should help. Adding Rui Patricio means they have an international No. 1 keeper in between the posts, while Raul Jimenez adds depth and experience. Leo Bonatini and Jota are both huge if Wolves want to have success, and they should be able to fight off relegation.

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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