Challengers . Contenders . Favorites
Get excited, EPL 2017-2018 is only TEN days away and it is prediction time!!
Pretenders: Teams that are competing for the title by virtue of being in the Premier league
Challengers: Teams that are genuinely competing for the title but will likely not win
Contenders: Teams that are competing for the title and may win based on how the chips fall
Favorites: Teams that have the edge to win the title; the ones to put money on
Tottenham. They finished the season with the best striker, least number of goals conceded, least number of games lost, and if this were high school, they would have been voted most likely to succeed in 2017/18. There were even talks of a power shift in North London. Could Tottenham really usurp Arsenal as the biggest club in the neighborhood? Short answer: No. Long answer: Even though they have retained all but one player and majority of the squad have been playing together for about 3 years, they have not strengthened. Yes, there is familiarity, and they have youth coming through the ranks, but other teams around them have improved their squads, and if their preseason showing is anything to go by, they will struggle in the new season. Add to that the fact that they will be playing virtually 38 away games in the new season at Wembley. For a team that won 17 out of 19 home games compared to 9 out of 19 away games, this could easily be a factor.
Liverpool. They had the most bizarre case of Robin Hood syndrome, where playing home or away was not the issue; instead, it was the caliber of teams they faced. They had the best record against their fellow Top 6 clubs but dropped so many points to the bottom teams that they left it till the last day to cement a Top 4 spot. What keeps them in the Challenger zone is that they have not shown any discernible improvement, particularly in defense where lapses cost them a higher finish. They still do not have a clear number one goalkeeper, and if the Coutinho transfer rumors are to be believed, they will have no replacement for him in that existing squad. There is still time, but as things stand they have effectively cemented Challenger status.
Arsenal. For the first time under Wenger (20 years), Arsenal finished out of the top 4 and below Tottenham. As a consequence, they have to endure Thursday night football and miss out on Champions League. Arsenal has finally responded to their fans’ requests by getting their first world class striker since RvP, and forcefully keeping their best players. However, they have managed to remain one player (defensive midfielder) away from being true Contenders. This year will take a higher toll than past seasons because they will be playing more matches and there will be less time in between games. Arsenal showed towards the tail end of the season that when it counts, they can best any team; but the question always remains: Can they sustain it throughout an entire season? If Wenger remains malleable to team formations and the squad can be properly rotated, Arsenal will have a good chance to sneak into Contender status during the season.
Manchester City. Guardiola was humbled in his first season in the EPL, and as a result he cleaned house completely. His current squad is barely recognizable with the offloading of all defenders pre-Guardiola except Kompany, and the influx of some “Pep-esque” defenders plus Kyle Walker. It is clear that there is only one thing on this squad’s mind: to win trophies. They have had a very favorable pre-season showing, however there are unknown elements to the squad that makes it difficult to grant them Favorites status. Too many changes too quickly may be to their own detriment.
Manchester United. They were renowned for having the most draws in the league (15), and the least goals amongst the Top Six teams. Mourinho has managed to make some changes: Rooney and injured Ibrahimovic are out; enter 2016/17 EPL second highest goal scorer, Lukaku and impressive defensive midfielder, Matic to provide more of a goal scoring threat and shore up the midfield. This squad is looking more like a team Mourinho can do real damage with. A leap from 6th to 1st is very possible.
Chelsea. After they lost 3-0 to Arsenal six games in, it seemed that there was no way the Blues were going to do anything important in 2016-2017. They turned their season around by playing the 3-4-3 formation effectively and ran away with the title. This year, they have not lost any incredibly important players, and they have managed to add Morata and Bakayoko. Even though several teams in the EPL have adopted the same formation and may have figured out how to play Chelsea, there is no glaring reason to believe they cannot defend their Title.
The Best of The Pretenders
Everton. Losing Lukaku was huge for them; however the return of Rooney, plus the young players, many of whom had good exposure last season should help them with a Top 10 finish.
West Ham. Chicharito and Arnautovic will provide more goal scoring opportunities for a team that struggled to score last season. Zabelata and Joe Hart both have some championship experience and will assist with better protection in the back. They are a team to keep one’s eyes on.
How would YOU rate the Top 6 teams?
by EeJay Enekwa
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