If you’re new around here, summer Friday afternoons is when we occasionally go off the reservation and just write about whatever we feel like. Today…what you two talkin’ about? FOOTBALL!!!
By the time you read this, the Premier League season will have kicked off at the home of the greatest, bestest, most lovable, awesomest club in the world. But that doesn’t mean we can’t send you off into the weekend with some footy related silliness! So as is tradition now, let’s run through the Premier League to wrongly predict who will do what when!
Arsenal: If you know an Arsenal supporter, and you do because they’re the most annoying person in your life by some distance, you’ve seen this movie before. Every summer is slightly encouraging, especially now that Unai Emery is getting to mold his squad more in the way he wants. Nicholas Pepe and Dani Ceballos certainly look intriguing, especially the latter as the Gunners needed serious help in defense and he can certainly shield it.
But at the end of the day, this is still a team owned by Stan Kroenke that just isn’t going to run with the biggest of boys. I still don’t know what it is Granit Xhaka does for a living other than having a first name of “Granit.” The midfield lacks dash, because Ozil won’t ever play and won’t be interested when he does, and it lost a fair amount when Aaron Ramsey shuffled off to Italy. Aubameyang and Lacazette will still score, and thanks to Chelsea’s transfer ban and Spurs’s growing exhaustion there might be an opening in the top four for them. But it’s more of it coming to them than the other way around.
As we say every year, Arsenal’s season will go one of two ways. They’ll start out great, get everyone’s hopes up, and then everyone will get hurt and they’ll somersault over the line. Or everyone will get hurt early, they’ll stumble around until February, close with a flourish, and it will start all over.
Aston Villa: (Decided to go right to the source for this one, and asked old friend and longtime supporter Andrew Cieslak to give us the lowdown)
Aston Villa finally returns back to its rightful place in the Premier League after three long years in the desert. The Villans are the 5th most successful English club of all time but then again longevity is a hell of a drug. They returned to the top flight after kicking Steve Bruce to the curb midseason and bringing on Brentford manager and boyhood Villa fan Dean Smith (no, not that one) whose attacking style won hearts and minds and eventually the Sky Bet Championship Playoff Final.
This season the only real goal is survival and while simply hoping for three teams to end up with fewer points is one way to do things, Aston Villa decided to spend nearly 170 million Euros on 12 players this summer and may not be done yet. To those suggesting they’re “doing a Fulham” I’d ask what’s life like living in a fish bowl but they’d probably have a hard time understanding what with all the water and do fish even have ears?
Prying Douglas Luiz away from Manchester City is no small feat either but he’s still mostly potential. If Football Manager is any judge, he’s worth 90 million pounds more than Villa actually spent. With new keeper Tom Heaton in from Burnley, Tyrone Mings back on a permanent deal alongside long six foot four Belgian Bjorn Engels in central defense, and Jack Grealish and John McGinn in central midfield – it’s all about the spine. Will anyone be able to score goals? Your guess is as good as mine but if they don’t, it’ll be a long season.
Bournemouth: A lot of people’s second favorite team to watch, because Eddie Howe sends his charges out to play instead of just heading for the panic room, throwing their hands over the ears and hoping they get out alive. They also couldn’t defend for shit, which made them even more entertaining. They’ve bought a couple of the Championship’s more promising defenders to help with that, and with Callum Wilson and and Ryan Fraser they’re always a threat to get goals. They probably can’t finish higher than 10th, but given the size of this club that’s a minor miracle anyway. Great entertainers for when your team isn’t playing and you’re hungover on a Saturday or Sunday morning.
Brighton: I’d honestly forgot they existed. I was sure they had been relegated. Anyway, they fired Chris Hughton and hired Graham Potter, who everyone seems pretty excited about. They still count on Glenn Murray for goals, who’s as old as I am and that’s not a good thing for a pro athlete. Apparently there are some kids waiting to come through. They’re not appointment television, let’s say.
Burnley: The fairytale ended, as they were no longer able to bore teams to death and allow Sean Dyche to pull a mini-Allardyce routine and talk about how great he is for parking the bus because his team costs so little. You lose your credibility when you actually put Joe Hart in goal for a portion of the season, but at least he figured that one out. Hart is still around. They’re still going to try and grind out points by being as obstinate as possible and nick goals where they can. It won’t be pleasant for anyone other than Burnley supporters.
Chelsea: (Our new guy Wes French is a blue. We went to him for this one…before we fire him).
Chelsea are in some deep shit for the 2019-20 campaign. Let’s go over the good and the bad from the last 4-5 months or so:
- GOOD: Backdoored into the EPL top 4 with a not-as-inept a finish as MUFC and Arsenal; Beat Arsenal in the Europa League to win a trophy, land a seeded spot in UCL draw AND keep Arsenal from UCL participation; Retained on-loan Mateo Kovacic and signed Christian Pulisic in the January window, which is really good because….
- BAD: …Chelsea received a TWO WINDOW transfer ban that has been upheld and saw no new signings in the summer which just so happened to coincide with club talisman Eden Hazard leaving for his dream club Real Madrid, and Manager Mauricio Sarri leaving after one season to return to Italy and lead Ronaldo’s Juve. David Luiz also had a fit last week and was sold to Arsenal for nothing to become their headache.
So, yea. Chelsea tried to buy some good PR with the supporters and hired club legend Frank Lampard to oversee the youth movement after his nearly bringing Derby from the bottom half of the Championship to one win away from Premier League promotion. Chelsea’s loan army is sort of what got them the transfer ban in the first place, but it’s also what they’ll look to use as a deterrent from dropping out of the top four in 2019. The Blues have a history of loaning young players and academy prospects forever and then selling, but now the likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Kurt Zouma and many others will be relied upon to help Chelsea avoid an embarrassing campaign.
The Blues will have more than enough minutes to spread out, especially with youths they actually held and played in Callum Hudson-Odio and Reuben Loftus-Cheek each working back from Achilles injuries. The focus should be on development, with goals of contending for 4th place and securing at least some type of european participation when they are allowed to recruit new signings again, be it the winter or next Summer. Expect a lot of variance from this team this season, with a lot of frustration and some dazzling moments sprinkled in.
Crystal Palace: (Again, we went to a direct supporter for this one, longtime guy The Beverly Brewmaster. Not sure what it says something worse about, me for knowing a Crystal Palace supporter or him being one)
Palace lost its best Clash-themed chant when Aaron “Sharif don’t like it” Wan-Bissaka was sold to Man U, but the real question this offseason was how Wilfried Zaha would answer “should I stay or should I go?” It finally appears that Wilf will stay in Red and Blue… at least until the January transfer window. That’s a big deal considering Palace’s 0-274 record (approximately) without him.
But considering the lack of significant moves besides AWB’s departure, it appears the Pride of South London are destined for another season where middle of the table is the ceiling. While Luka Milavojevic and Andros Townshend can provide moments of excitement, depth at the back and at striker is a concern (especially when Christian “HOW DID HE MISS THAT?” Benteke is pretty much your only option up front). Oh, and the word on the street is that chairman Steve Parish is short on cashflow. Of course, hope springs eternal at Selhurst Park, so in the immortal words of Principal Skinner, “Prove me wrong, Crystal Palace. PROVE ME WRONG.”
Everton: (Somehow, our old head of Cyber Division, Matthew Killion, ended up a blue. So we let him do this one, and it’s a tidy reminder why we don’t let him do anything anymore)
Allow me to preface this preview a bit before we really get into it. I’ve loved this game my whole life but I didn’t start to really pay attention to EPL until about two seasons ago when I decided I needed a team to follow to get me hooked. I chose Everton. Was it the best choice? Who can say? Am I enjoying it? Hell yeah. Do I know how to truly evaluate a team? Hell no. I’m basically the baseball fan still stuck looking only at RBIs, pitcher wins, and batting average. Maybe I chose Everton to see how White Sox fans feel being the perpetual little brother living in Cubs/LFC shadows. Maybe I chose it just so I could have yet another reason to fight with Fels. You can never have too many of those. So take this with as many grains of salt as you’d like.
Last year there were three different Everton teams. The first third was getting their feet under them with their new manager Marco Silva whose defining features are a kryptonite level weakness to defending set pieces and wrist watches that are so large Flavor Flav wants to wear them around his neck. They showed some moderate success going 6-4-3. Then the middle of the season was absolutely abysmal as the team managed only 11 points going 3-2-8. It seemed Marco could be one and done. Yet the final third was one of hope and promise (6-3-3). It’s important to mention those final 12 include draws with Liverpool and Tottenham, two shutout victories against Chelsea and Arsenal and a complete dismantling of Man U at Goodison. They were close to claiming the final Europa spot but fell short to the surprising Wolves team. So which team shows up this year? The one that goes toe to toe with the top of the table or the one that loses to Millwall in the FA Cup?
The subtractions have been somewhat substantial, the most obvious being Idrissa Gueye moving to PSG. Gueye was a monster in the midfield proving himself to be one the leagues best tacklers. His ability to win the ball will be dearly missed. His lack of ability to maintain possession however shouldn’t be overlooked. Kurt Zouma is also gone leaving a massive hole at center-back which Everton looked to fill by signing Marcos Rojo… yikes. Lookman showed promise in brief flashes but evidently couldn’t be bothered in training.
Signing up Andre Gomes gives them great control in the midfield and an even better head of hair. Fabian Delph comes over from Man City where he wasn’t likely to get a chance to crack regular playing time in that stacked midfield. At 29 and a low transfer fee he’s a good potential low risk high reward player but don’t expect him to light the world on fire. Transfer window is still open while I’m writing this but the hopes of signing Zaha from Palace seem to be fading after their shocking dismissal of an offer involving Cenk Tosun (shocking, I know, but gotta love the balls of trying that move). Clearly the biggest addition was signing Moise Kean who at only 19 is already a dynamic and thrilling player who will add a desperately needed finishing touch to complement players like Richarlison and DCL.
There’s clearly hope that the toffees can build on a superb end to last season which could put them firmly in the top-six with a dare to dream shot at Champions League. There’s also just as likely a chance they hold down that 8th spot and fail to improve at all… or god forbid drop. Whichever way it goes, at least I’ll have Fels to yell at.
Leicester City: Oh Brendan Rodgers. There is a ton of young talent here, and he’s basically perfect for that as a manager. He’s also the manager who gets your team just good enough to break your heart, I think. Ayoze Perez is an intriguing signing to take up the Riyad Mahrez role that they never really filled last year. However they just sold their main centerback in Harry Maguire and his huge fucking head to United, and there probably isn’t time to fill that gap. Youri Tielamens is a stud in midfield though and will make up for a lot of shortcomings. James Maddison has been the next pretty young thing for a couple season and flashes coming good on that every so often. The fullbacks get forward effectively, so like any Rodgers team they’re going to be incredibly fun…at both ends.
Liverpool: The greatest team in the world…that’s probably going to finish second again. They’re decision to not sign anyone is actually understandable, because it’s hard to get quality players to show up to simply back up. There’s some new competition for places thanks to those returning from injury in Joe Gomez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Adam Lallana (he said very optimistically as the biggest Lallana fan in the world), but they’re still doomed by any injury to the front three. The hope is that a more settled Keita and Ox being back will mean more goals from midfield, but that’s a bit flying on the wings of maybe. It’s hard to fathom that Robertson and Alexander-Arnold can be as good again as they were last year, and any dip in form or injury will have Gomez, Milner, or Henderson playing fullback unless some kid comes through from the heavens. They’re also going to be exhausted. The other worry is that it will be difficult for Virgil Van Dijk to be the best player in the world again (he was last season, and you can take your Messi fanboys and shove it), so he’ll need a touch more support and a touch more rest. If it’s going to take more than 97 points to win the title, you’d be hard-pressed to really believe that Liverpool can even match that total again. But then again, doubting Jurgen Klopp generally doesn’t work out.