Three-horse race for the title
With regards to the title race, we think things may be a bit closer this time than last season.
Manchester City should still be favourites, though Kevin De Bruyne’s injury makes things a little more interesting. Yes, this is a squad packed full of world class talent, but don’t underestimate the Belgian’s importance to Pep Guardiola’s side.
Elsewhere, they continue to rely on an injury-prone Sergio Aguero, an ageing trio in David Silva, Fernandinho and Vincent Kompany, and a Leroy Sane whose confidence will surely have taken a hit after missing out on Germany’s World Cup squad.
Liverpool, meanwhile, have improved immensely, not just this summer, but after their slightly rocky start to last season. Just look at these stats since their 4-1 defeat at Tottenham last season:
Liverpool’s defensive stats since getting beat 4-1 at Wembley by Tottenham pic.twitter.com/qXQmZiVOtL
— LFC News (@LFCNews747) August 22, 2018
Virgil van Dijk made all the difference after his January move, and Alisson is clearly a major upgrade on Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius in goal. On top of that, they have more craft and creativity in midfield with the signing of Naby Keita (more on him in a bit) to go behind that front three that ripped teams to shreds last season.
Okay, so none of this is that controversial, but we’d also throw Chelsea into the mix as serious title challengers. Recent history shows they tend to have a great season followed by a crap one, and Maurizio Sarri is a very exciting managerial appointment.
They probably could have done with more in the transfer market, but Sarri is innovative enough to work with what he’s got, and if anyone can turn Alvaro Morata into a goal machine, it’s him.
Even if City win the league again, as is likely, it’s not going to be a 19-point gap again. Guardiola won’t have faced competition quite like this anywhere else, and we’d say this will go down to the final two or three games, with Liverpool and Chelsea sure to be close behind.
New signing for Player of the Year
Mohamed Salah did it last season, and we wouldn’t be too surprised if another new signing did it this time around.
One contender could be Keita at Liverpool, who just looks an insane talent:
Naby ? pic.twitter.com/bva1tap6iC
— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) August 24, 2018
Jorginho also looks a superb purchase for Chelsea, though no-thrills players like him perhaps tend to be overlooked. Then again, N’Golo Kante won it in 2016/17, so it can’t be ruled out.
Riyad Mahrez at Manchester City might also be a contender. The Algerian has won it before and if he can have that kind of impact at his new club, he’s as good as any attacking player in Europe.
Kepa to be biggest flop
One signing we’re calling out straight away to be a flop is Chelsea’s new goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
The 23-year-old is pretty much the definition of a panic buy, arriving late on as a replacement for Thibaut Courtois without too much planning seeming to go into this expensive addition, making the inexperienced shot-stopper the most expensive player of all time in his position.
The Spaniard kept a clean sheet on his debut against Huddersfield but was unconvincing in the 3-2 win over Arsenal. It’s early days yet, but we get the feeling this one just isn’t going to work out. The price tag and the pressure that comes with it is huge, he hasn’t had a proper pre-season to settle in, and the defence in front of him isn’t necessarily the most convincing either. Tough times ahead for Kepa.
England’s next star duo
Kevin De Bruyne’s injury presents a real chance for Phil Foden at Manchester City, and that’s already led to talk of an England call-up in the near future, according to the Sun.
We’d also throw James Maddison into the mix. The 21-year-old looked one of the best players on the pitch on his Premier League debut away to Manchester United, and is one well worth keeping an eye on at Leicester City this term.