Premier League Season Preview 2018-19

Manchester City dominated the Premier League last season; their route to a third title in seven years being a mere procession. Elsewhere, Liverpool thrilled the neutrals, Arsene Wenger bowed out at Arsenal, Huddersfield and Brighton survived their first campaigns at this level in the modern era while Burnley attained European football. What’s in store for this season? Here’s The Football Lab predictions (click on the green links for club season previews/fan Q&As).

Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane inspired Liverpool to the Champions League final last season, but they needed extra touches of quality from deeper areas on rare occasions when the trio weren’t at their defence-dazzling best; the tenacious Fabinho, the dynamic Naby Keita and the classic Xherdan Shaqiri fit the bill. In Alisson Becker, the Reds now have a world-class goalkeeper and with super-motivator Jurgen Klopp in charge, this could be the year they pick up their first title for 29 years. 1st

Arsenal have a potent attacking quartet, including a borderline world-class forward in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who could challenge for the golden boot, while deep-lying playmaker Granit Xhaka may move up another level alongside Lucas Torreira. The Gunners have better squad than last season suggested and perhaps Arsene Wenger’s exit, combined with the arrival of a meticulous coach in Unai Emery, could rejuvenate the club sufficiently to inspire a title challenge. 2nd

Manchester City were outstanding last season and Pep Guardiola should be commended for bringing innovative ideas to English football. No reigning champion though has retained the title for nine years and The Citizens have only added Riyad Mahrez to a senior squad that had 16 players away at the World Cup. City will therefore start to integrate more exciting, young talents, but they might not dominate in quite the same way. 3rd

There’s not a better deep-lying playmaker in England than Ruben Neves, who is the ideal fulcrum to build this Wolverhampton Wanderers side around. Elite footballers Rui Patricio, Jonny Castro and Joao Moutinho have joined last season’s title-winners, who play with incredible technical proficiency. The Midlanders won’t have the European distractions, nor the pressure, that comes with being part of the establishment. While world-class head coach Nuno Santo is around to elevate players to new levels, the possibilities, at Molineux, are endless. 4th

Tying Harry Kane down to a new contract is a positive from Tottenham Hotspur‘s summer, although the squad hasn’t been strengthened further, perhaps partly due to the new stadium. Jan Vertonghen should continue to thrive at centre-back alongside Davinson Sanchez, but the reliance on Christian Eriksen for creativity could hinder their quest for another top four berth. 5th

Chelsea’s preparations have been suspect, given that Maurizio Sarri wasn’t appointed until mid-July. Effectively, only Jorginho has been added to a squad that finished 5th last year while Thibaut Courtois has left for Madrid, leaving Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kante and Cesar Azpilicueta as the only stand-outs in an otherwise uninspiring squad. With domestic rivals strengthening, the Europa League might prove their best avenue back towards the top table. 6th

Everton left it late but they have strengthened in key areas by adding reliable centre-back Yerry Mina and classy midfielder Andre Gomes. They possess a reasonable squad including Jordan Pickford, Seamus Coleman, Idrissa Gueye and Cenk Tosun. Much-needed improvements have been made off-the-field and, in Marco Silva, they finally have a manager proven to improve individuals and encourage fast-paced play. Expect modest progress. 7th

A sense of crisis is already looming over Manchester United. Jose Mourinho’s brutal man management style appears to alienate young players, sabotaging potential for squad evolution, while Ed Woodward only seems interested in selling shirts. In David De Gea and Romelu Lukaku, The Red Devils possess match-winning individuals, while a decent centre-back could join. Mourinho though is unlikely to deviate from a system that leaves them lacking the width, dynamism and creativity from deep needed to take the burden off key individuals. As English football’s elite modernizes, United could fall some way behind. 8th

After signing six senior players, including competent ball-player Jonny Evans, mobile right-back Ricardo Pereira and exciting attacking midfielder James Maddison, Leicester City now have a squad more Claude Puel’s possession-based methods. To supporters fond of counter-attacking though, that is not exclusively a good thing. While The Foxes have players capable of leading a challenge for Europa League qualification, there is potential for disunity when sticky patches occur. 9th

Fulham have sufficient belief in their possession principles to offer a breath of fresh air to the Premier League; midfield controller Tom Cairney deserves his shot at this level. The signings of Fabri, Alfie Mawson and Jean Michael Seri plus Aleksandar Mitrovic after a loan spell, ensures the Cottagers have muscle in their spine. With 2014 World Cup winning forward Andre Schurrle joining on loan, a top half finish is well within their reach. 10th

Brighton & Hove Albion retain a reliable defensive spine including outstanding goalkeeper Maty Ryan, plus stalwarts Lewis Dunk and Dale Stephens. Equally, Chris Hughton has freshened up the squad by adding exciting, foreign players such as Florin Andone and Alireza Jahanbakhsh. This Seagulls squad looks sufficiently balanced for them to not only avoid relegation, but begin to look towards the top half. 11th

The fact AFC Bournemouth have brought in a La Liga stalwart like Diego Rico and a key World Cup performer like Jefferson Lerma is a sign of their growth. Eddie Howe appears to be moving on the old guard from the 2014-15 promotion campaign, but in a gradual way that doesn’t interfere with the squad harmony. Ake staying on boosts the West Country outfit’s chances of challenging for the top half, although they must influence more games from the outset. 12th

Crystal Palace now have a range of options up top that will keep opponents guessing. Vicente Guaita’s arrival could solve the keeper conundrum and they have the basis of a strong spine in Mamadou Sakho, James Tomkins and Luka Milivojevic. A high-calibre partner for the latter – and perhaps one or two full-back upgrades – might be needed before they enter the top half, but a season away from the dogfight would be a step forward. 13th

On paper, West Ham United have a top half worthy squad after the exciting additions of Felipe Anderson, Jack Wilshere and Andriy Yarmolenko, who will support the in-form Marko Arnautovic; Manuel Pellegrini has pedigree, too. In practice though, it could take time for a whole new defensive unit to gel and while David Sullivan remains, political unrest will never be far from the surface. 14th

In Will Hughes, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Nathaniel Chalobah, Watford have a central midfield ready-made for the top half; Gerard Deulefeu and Roberto Pereyra offer attractive wide options, too. There are, however, major question marks in other areas; potential centre-back partners for Christian Kabasele aren’t at their peak and forwards Troy Deeney and Andre Gray have been wasteful. Scope for business is restricted due to an already bloated squad, so the Hornets might enter May looking over their shoulders. 15th

If Stuart Armstrong starts well and Mario Lemina adds consistency, Southampton will have a strong midfield, while aerial deficiencies could be corrected by new keeper Angus Gunn and centre-back Jannik Vestergaard. However, enigmatic magician Dusan Tadic has gone and the Saints currently look short of a striker combining Shane Long’s work ethic with Charlie Austin’s goalscoring reliability; although they have looked brighter under Hughes, a lack of firepower could limit progression. 16th

The tenacious spirit remains at Huddersfield Town, evidenced by the gutsy defensive displays that secured survival; Jonas Lossl and Christopher Schindler should build on positive campaigns. As an attacking entity however, they have been slightly disappointing since promotion; a possible lack of quality in forward and wide areas could leave them relying on Aaron Mooy for control and Alex Pritchard for creativity. While David Wagner is around though, the togetherness might give them the edge in a dogfight. 17th

Newcastle United might have attained a top half finish last season, but baring Martin Dubravka, Jamaal Lascelles and Matt Ritchie, major question marks linger over the squad, which has barely been strengthened this summer. Rafa Benitez has played a diplomatic role but were he to walk, as he might feel entitled to do, fans would turn against Mike Ashley and the atmosphere could turn sour. A tough year, on and off the pitch, could be in the offing. 18th

Burnley’s recruitment has been slow: nothing has yet been done to freshen up an aging squad suited to having full weeks to prepare for games, which they now might not get due to the Europa League. Ashley Barnes is an honest striker, but Nick Pope is out with a long-term injury and if fatigue sets in, they will have to lean on players only good enough for the Championship, where they may reside next season. 19th

Cardiff City did superbly to win promotion last season and Neil Warnock deserves immense credit, as does centre-back beast Sol Bamba and impressive midfielder Joe Ralls. However, it remains to be seen how the second-tier’s seventh-oldest squad will handle the step up, given that they have won just two of their last 12 against the Championship’s top eight. The Bluebirds’ old-school tactics could shock the Premier League, but is more likely to see them lack the flexibility and imagination required to compete. 20th