English Premier League 2018/19 Season Preview

English Premier League 2018/19 Season Preview

With the English Premier League kick-off around the corner, here’s what you need to know about the teams (alphabetically)

 

Arsenal

Key player: Aaron Ramsey is a busy presence in midfield with an eye for goal. A consistent performer in a side that is too often inconsistent.

Transfer business: Aimed at toughening a defence that conceded 51 goals last season, a new goalkeeper and two defenders have signed. Uruguayan Lucas Torreira will add steel to the midfield.

Manager: Many fans finally got what they wanted with the departure of Arsene Wenger. Now they must give his replacement, the Spaniard Unai Emery, time to get his team playing his way.

Weakness: Arsenal won just once away from home in 2018 – the final match of last season.

 

Bournemouth

Key player: Dutch centre-back Nathan Aké is crucial in a defence that ships too many goals.

Transfer business: A couple of shrewd-looking buys in highly-rated playmaker David Brooks from Sheffield United and Spanish left-back Diego Rico.

Manager: Eddie Howe continues to do a sterling job with the league’s smallest club. Finished an impressive 12th last season, but, with the promoted clubs looking strong, he will need to conjure another mini-miracle to avoid a relegation battle.

Weakness: Bournemouth won just two matches against the top six last season, losing 10.

 

Brighton & Hove Albion

Key player: Pascal Groß provides much-needed creativity in midfield and José Izquierdo can be electric on the left-wing.

Transfer business: Of the eight players brought in, Iranian international winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh is the most eye-catching. Jahanbakhsh, who cost a club record £17 million ($22 million), scored 21 goals in the Dutch Eredivisie last season.

Manager: Chris Hughton did a fantastic job securing Brighton’s top-flight survival in their first Premier League season and that will be his, not inconsiderable, challenge again.

Weakness: Outside last season’s bottom three, only Huddersfield scored fewer goals than Brighton’s 34.

 

Burnley

Key player: Centre-back James Tarkowski was nominated for the Premier League’s player of the season thanks to the crucial role he played in a mean defence that conceded 12 fewer goals than 6th-placed Arsenal.

Transfer business: One of only two EPL clubs not to have signed a single player at the time of writing, Burnley need a few more to boost a squad also playing in the Europa League.

Manager: Last season Sean Dyche he was the most successful English manager in the league, guiding relegation candidates Burnley into Europe. As a reward, a pub was named after him.

Weakness: Their excellent defensive record masked a worrying lack of goals. Burnley need more firepower.

 

Cardiff City

Key player: Canadian winger Junior Hoilett had a great season as Cardiff secured promotion and will be hoping to improve on his previous Premier League outing when he was relegated with QPR.

Transfer business: Four players have joined, all from Championship clubs. The arrivals are modest but Josh Murphy, the 23-year-old left winger, could make an impression.

Manager: Neil Warnock has been around the block a few times and won’t be intimidated by anyone.

Weakness: A squad with few star names is likely to be stretched, and scoring more goals than they stop looks like being a challenge.

 

 

Chelsea

Key player: Providing he doesn’t join Real Madrid, Eden Hazard will again be Chelsea’s chief creative force.

Transfer business: So far defensive midfielder Jorginho, following his manager from Napoli, is the only big name to arrive.

Manager: Maurizio Sarri had Napoli playing some of the most exciting soccer in Europe last season but has a tough task introducing a new system at a club that is notoriously impatient.

Weakness: Chelsea have good players all over the pitch but upfront Alvaro Morata faded after a good start and Olivier Giroud is not exactly prolific. The concern of where goals will come from will grow if the brilliant Willian leaves.

 

Crystal Palace

Key player: If they can hang on to him, Wilfried Zaha is the star man. When the direct winger didn’t play last season, Palace didn’t get a point.

Transfer business: Midfield enforcer Cheikhou Kouyaté has arrived from West Ham and Max Meyer is on the verge of joining on a free. If Jordan Ayew can also be added from Swansea, it looks like a reasonable summer of business.

Manager: Roy Hodgson doesn’t always get the credit he deserves but joined with Palace facing relegation after a record-breaking seven-match losing run. In his unfussy way, Hodgson led Palace to an 11th-placed finish.

Weakness: Even if Zaha stays, Palace can’t be as reliant on him. Striker Christian Benteke, in particular, needs to step up.

 

Everton

Key player: It might seem strange to pick a goalkeeper, but 24-year-old Jordan Pickford is coming off an impressive World Cup and will be tasked with inspiring confidence in his defence.

Transfer business: The big-money has been spent on left-back Lucas Digne from Barcelona and Richarlison, the Brazilian winger signed from Watford for a club-record fee that could rise to £40 million ($52 million).

Manager: New manager Marco Silva has an impressive reputation despite his two previous spells in English soccer being cut short. One thing is certain – his soccer will be more pleasing on the eye than predecessor Sam Allardyce.

Weakness: Newly-arrived Richarlison and midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson will need to be at their creative best to supply a limited frontline.

 

Fulham

Key player: He’s only 18, but left-winger Ryan Sessegnon is already a star, scoring 15 goals for Fulham last season.

Transfer business: Signing Jean Michaël Seri, the box-to-box midfielder previously linked with Barcelona, was a coup and attackers Aleksandar Mitrovic and André Schürrle both have solid Premier League experience.

Manager: Slaviša Jokanović will be relishing the chance to test himself in the Premier League. He previously made it there with Watford, but left before the season started.

Weakness: Defensive solidity is essential in the Premier League and Fulham could do with signing an extra defender or two, particularly a left-back.

 

Huddersfield

Key player: Australian midfielder Aaron Mooy keeps the team ticking and provides dangerous deliveries from set-pieces.

Transfer business: Dutch centre-back Terence Kongolo has made his loan from Monaco permanent, joining for a club-record fee of £20 million ($26 million). Out-of-favor Monaco forward Adama Diakhaby has also joined.

Manager: The likable David Wagner did a wonderful job keeping Huddersfield up, but will know his side is up against it again and another survival would be even more impressive.

Weakness: Huddersfield managed just 28 goals last season, the joint-lowest in the league with relegated Swansea.

 

Leicester City

Key player: With Riyad Mahrez gone, Jamie Vardy will be relied on even more to score goals. After an excellent World Cup, centre-back Harry Maguire will marshal the defence.

Transfer business: James Maddison from Norwich, Ricardo Pereira from Porto and Jonny Evans from West Brom all look solid signings, but they don’t compensate for losing star Mahrez to Manchester City.

Manager: Claude Puel took Leicester from 18th to 9th last season and is a dependable, if unspectacular, coach.

Weakness: Knowing their expectations. A repeat of their shock 2015/16 title isn’t going to happen so what are they aiming for? Top six must be the, albeit ambitious, target.

 

Liverpool

Key player: It has to be Egyptian striker Mohamed Salah, who scored 32 goals last season and was named Premier League Player of the Season.

Transfer business: Liverpool have splashed the cash (€182 million / $211 million) on four players. Alisson, now the world’s most expensive goalkeeper, will be under pressure to prove he is worth the price, and Naby Keïta will provide energy and competition in midfield.

Manager: Jürgen Klopp is as entertaining as his teams. He will whip up the crowd and do everything he can to inspire his team.

Weakness: At times last season Liverpool were scintillating. They scored the second most goals in the league and lost the second fewest matches (both second to Champions Manchester City) but drew 12 times – the most of any of the top six.

 

Manchester City

Key player: Hard to pick from a dazzling first 11, but Kevin De Bruyne was consistently excellent last season and is capable of mind-boggling passes.

Transfer business: Not content with winning the league by 19 points, City spent £61 million ($79 million) on Leicester attacker Riyad Mahrez.

Manager: Pep Guardiola has spent a lot of money but, in the league at least, he delivered the goods last season. A meticulous, determined figure, he will be desperate to successfully defend the title.

Weakness: Hard to pick one with excellent back-up in all positions. Though the defence only conceded 27 goals last season, it can look susceptible against pacy opponents.

 

Manchester United

Key player: Paul Pogba, Alexis Sánchez, Romelu Lukaku. The trio have yet to hit their highest heights for United, but have shown flashes of what they are capable of.

Transfer business: Central midfielder Fred is the highest-profile arrival so far. He looks a talented player but may take time to settle in.

Manager: José Mourinho has been particularly grumpy in pre-season and a shaky start would put him under more pressure. But Mourinho will grind out results with the squad at his disposal, even if he would like a better one.

Weakness: If he carries on as he is, it could be Mourinho. According to reports, his constant moaning is “demoralising” his own players. If Mourinho leaves, there will be no shortage of suitors for one of world soccer’s biggest jobs.

 

Newcastle United

Key player: Captain and centre-back Jamaal Lascelles holds the defence together and ahead of him, Jonjo Shelvey is mercurial but occasionally excellent in midfield.

Transfer business: Newcastle have added some modest signings, including useful midfielder Ki Sung-yueng from Swansea on a free.

Manager: Rafa Benítez deserves plenty of credit for leading Newcastle back to the Premier League and then to 10th last season. But will he have the patience to last the season with a squad he clearly feels needs more quality (see below)?

Weakness: Behind the scenes, this is a club that, for the past few seasons, seems to be in constant chaos. Benítez’ comments after a pre-season defeat didn’t exactly inspire confidence.

 

Southampton

Key player: The team have a youthful, exciting-looking centre of midfield. Despite Southampton’s poor season, former Bayern Munich prospect Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg was impressive and this could be his moment to really shine.

Transfer business: The Saints have added some solid signings in centre-back Jannik Vestergaard and winger Mohamed Elyounoussi. Midfielder Stuart Armstrong could end up being a bargain. The talented but inconsistent Dusan Tadic has left.

Manager: Mark Hughes is a no-nonsense character who won’t allow his side to be dragged into another relegation fight.

Weakness: Can look lightweight upfront but a fully-fit Charlie Austin should make a difference.

 

Tottenham Hotspur

Key player: Christian Eriksen is crucial but talisman Harry Kane would be the hardest to replace. Kane scored 30 league goals last season.

Transfer business: To the irritation of some fans, Spurs have yet to sign a player. But there is still time and they have tied key players including Kane and Son Heung-min to new contracts.

Manager: Mauricio Pochettino has done a great job with Spurs but it will be another big ask to repeat Spurs’ third-place finish.

Weakness: Spurs may have a disjointed start to the season with important players returning from World Cup duty and a move into a new stadium.

 

Watford

Key player: Abdoulaye Doucouré is a powerful presence in midfield who, after an impressive season, has signed an extended contract with the Hornets.

Transfer business: Gerard Deulofeu is the biggest name among the arrivals but losing Richarlison to Everton is a blow.

Manager: Javi Garcia took over in January and has had a pre-season to hone the planning he is renowned for. He is the fourth Watford manager in three Premier League seasons, so he will know a good start is needed.

Weakness: Inconsistency has been a hallmark of Watford’s recent seasons and the impatient owners need to give Garcia time to stabilise.

 

West Ham

Key player: Winger Marko Arnautovic was a bright spot in a dark season and fellow winger Michail Antonio has a an eye for goal.

Transfer business: Seven new arrivals so far including record-signing Felipe Anderson, from Lazio. Jack Wilshere on a free from Arsenal will be a good addition if he stays fit – but that’s a big if.

Manager: Manuel Pellegrini is vastly experienced and has won the Premier League before, with Manchester City. In his first season with West Ham, a top half finish would be par.

Weakness: West Ham have not got to grips with life at the London Stadium and the pitch invasions during the 3-0 defeat to Burnley were a season low point.

 

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Key player: Ruben Neves, the 21-year-old midfielder, was Wolves star last year and seems to have all the attributes to thrive in the Premier League.

Transfer business: Some eye-catching buys for Wolves including Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio and countryman João Moutinho. They are the latest clients of super-agent Jorge Mendes to move to Wolves.

Manager: Nuno Espirito Santo had his players playing the way he wanted in their runaway Championship title run, and will be determined to prove his methods in the Premier League.

Weakness: Scoring goals was no problem last season, but at the higher level Wolves look short of a striker who can consistently find the net.

 

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