The World Cup has come and gone, but there is little time for football fans the world over to sit on their laurels as the new domestic seasons are only a matter of a few short weeks away. All eyes will be turned to the EPL 2018/19 season to see if Manchester City can repeat last year’s heroics as well as find out who will fall through the dreaded trap door. Here we look at who will be challenging at the top, who will be fighting to survive and who will be in the middle, threatening neither the end.
If you talk to anyone about this coming EPL season, the title is Manchester City’s to lose. They were so far ahead of the chasing pack last time around, it is hard to see them dropping down, or alternatively, anyone improving enough to make a fight of it. There are a couple of reasons why it may not be that cut and dry, however. First of all, winning the league is one thing, retaining it is quite another, ask Chelsea. Pep Guardiola has brought in new additions to his squad and will be looking to add more star players, all who will be wanting and expecting to be in the starting 11. Though competition for places is a good thing, this also runs the risk of upsetting the exceptional team spirit and ethos that so characterized the team last time out.
Manchester City is also not up against the same teams as last season. Or rather, every one of the chasing pack will be confident they are in a better position to make a challenge. Chelsea has a new man at the helm, as do Arsenal, and both will be looking to improve not only their league position but the whole mentality of the club. Liverpool was the only side last season who on their day could match City, and being another year wiser, with the help of some additions from the market, the red half of Liverpool could see an end to their long wait for the title. Likewise, for the Spurs. And of course, there is Mourinho’s United, who will be looking for World Cup winner Pogba to push their campaign to the required levels.
The fight to survive in the world’s best league is often more exciting than the one to win it, and that involves more teams. There is an argument that on the opening day, all but six teams will see the next nine months as a battle to stay in the EPL, and anything above that is a bonus. Last season, all three newly-promoted sides survived, giving hope to Cardiff, Fulham and the Wolves. More about the Wolves in a minute, but the Welsh side is looking at a long, hard slog to gain enough points to still be there this time next year.
Fulham, however, would appear to have more about them, mostly in the form of the superstar in waiting, Ryan Sessegnon, but they have also made some shrewd signings, which will at least give them a shot. The second half of last season saw Watford on a terrible run, and Huddersfield and Brighton would have been in mortal danger if the season had gone on another couple of weeks. Still, all evidence suggests they will be in for another rough few months ahead.
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It seems harsh to label those teams who reach mid-table respectability as also-rans, especially as most would bite the hand of anyone offering them that now. Inevitably, this group will consist of those disappointed they did not push on into the top six. Those who are excited to not be looking over their shoulder on the last day of the season, and those going through that footballing term consolidation. Teams such as Crystal Palace, who under Roy Hodgson last year had a new lease on life and those looking to kick on this season, should comfortably be in this group, along with the likes of Burnley, who could find Europe a drain on their resources.
After disappointing 2017/18 seasons, Southampton and West Ham will be glad to get to safety as early as possible. One team, however, that would defy and disappoint expectations at the same time is the Wolves. Back in the top tier of English football for the first time in five seasons, the newly-promoted side would normally be most people’s favorites for a bottom-three place come next May. Their rich and equally controversial owner, however, has said he is aiming for a top-six or higher finish. They have a solid side and have spent well, so mid-table should be achievable, putting them into a position to kick on next season.
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