The World Cup is done and dusted, it’s time for the return of the most popular league in the world! The EPL kicks off in a few days and we have our 2018/19 season preview for the top English league. Four of our sagacious experts present you with their views on how it’ll all go down, take their words as gospel!
1. Who will be the top scorer/golden boot winner?
Andrew McCole, Gabriel Jesus: The top scorer in the Premier League this season will be Gabriel Jesus as Manchester City completes the turn from Sergio Aguero’s time at the helm to Jesus running the show for last year’s champions. I’d actively bet against a member of Liverpool taking the crown this year, as they function as more of a scoring unit than the crazy goal tally that Salah snagged last season. There’s also got to be a timeline on Harry Kane’s brilliance, too much pressure on Lukaku, and Chelsea can’t seem to truly settle on the leader of their front line. With Arsenal, I’m still not sure how they’ll line up and have no clue who else could jump to the top of the list from one of the clubs outside the top six.
Mason Morawitz, Harry Kane: As my Tottenham friend always says “In Kane we Trust”. I see many goals being bagged early this season. The World Cup will have left a bit of a salty taste in the mouth, giving him a wee extra wind in the sails. He’ll get world class service from Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli all year, and his nose for goal will continue to get finer with age. This is his year to show he is the best pure number 9 in the game; at this moment, it’s him or Robert Lewandowski. His big money deal from Real Madrid is likely to come if he snags the Golden Boot and continues to be a vocal leader for Tottenham.
Tise Okuo, Harry Kane: It should be a close fight between Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Mo Salah but I think the Tottenham man will win the crown again simply because Spurs will lean very heavily on him. He might be a bit jaded to start the season after a hectic summer and possible injury worries but he should get into gear soon enough to impact the race. The other competitors are on teams who will split the goalscoring responsibility more evenly than Spurs will. It’s almost inevitably a battle of the usual suspects for this crown and I think it’ll be that again. A possible darkhorse might be Michy Batshuayi if Chelsea hold onto him. He and Giroud could quickly take over the starting role from Alvaro Morata.
James Wilkinson, Harry Kane: It’s not really going out on a limb to say Harry Kane will win the Golden boot once again. He’s won it in two of the past three seasons, and narrowly finished second last campaign. Oh and he’s coming off a World Cup Golden Boot. A quick look around the league, and it’s hard to find a surer thing than Kane. I don’t expect Salah to have one of the greatest seasons of all time again. City will spread the goals around. All Harry Kane does is score. He’ll play every match and take all the penalties. Barring Injury, Kane lifts another (individual) trophy.
2. Who will be the MVP?
Tise, Mo Salah: I’m tempted to say Kevin De Bruyne but there are a few mitigating factors working against him with the biggest being the fact that City has so many bonafide killers that I doubt he stands apart from the crowd long enough to be chosen as MVP. i.e. his impact gets diluted. Outside of him, it feels like Mesut Ozil could be in for a really good season with Arsenal if injury stays away as he’ll have a mobile, and more reliable strikeforce for the first time in London and without the worry of international football, he should be a major player. N’golo Kante is an ever present but Chelsea have a new coach and in Jorginho, a dominant midfield central piece. Alisson should be really good for Liverpool alongside the new midfield pair of Fabinho and Naby but I’ll go safe again and go with Mohamed Salah who should be even better with more weapons around him.
James, Kevin De Bruyne: Last season you could make a real case that De Bruyne was the EPL player of the year. He was the best player on a team that set a record for points and spent much of the season unbeaten. Unfortunately for him, Mo Salah had a season for the ages. City brings back largely the same team that waxed the league last season, and De Bruyne figured to be the best player once again. He pulls the strings and remains one of the better scoring mids around. He may end up with double digit goals and assists, and will rightfully wear the Player of the year crown!
Mason, Kevin De Bruyne: This is the easy one. Kevin De Bruyne rose a class above the rest of the midfielders last season with his ability to do anything his team needed. Most impressive are his plays in the counterattack, linking with the back line and always knowing where his runners are in behind the defense. A nice 3 or 4 iron service as my college coach used to tell me to hit, with pace and a purpose. Underrated is his finishing – capable of netting 15-20 goals if he chooses to let them fly, having the ability with either foot from 25 yards out or more. Almost always stoic and locked in, I see a continued upward trend for KDB with the superfluous attacking options around him. He was the clear #1 draft favorite amongst 8 friends in a fantasy premier league draft this evening (if that means anything).
Andrew, Mesut Ozil: The best player in the Premier League is a tough call. De Bruyne will be magnificent again, but all of City’s talent will make sure that none of their players receive this award (even if they deserve it). Sadly, with how my luck goes, it will probably be Arsenal’s Ozil. Whenever I bury a player or talk about how terrible they are, they inevitably succeed in a ridiculous way. Who did I give the most hate last year? Ozil…so, as goes my time being an EPL fan, he’ll have a sick 18/19. If you guys want somebody to do really well next year, either let me root for them on my team or have me write about how useless they are, people should practically pay me to aid their team at this point.
3. Who will be the breakout star?
Mason, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang: Anyone who’s been following the soccer scene the past 2-3 years has surely heard of Aubameyang, but I’m foreseeing a Mohamed Salah 17-18 type performance (a known player taking over a new league). The writing is on the wall, leading an attacking system that is absolutely perfect for him to flourish. His catalyst, long-time Dortmund friend Mkhitaryan will be on his right all year, add in Ozil/Ramsey who can find the knifing passes into space. If Pierre and company get off to a blistering start, watch out for my dark horse.
James, Richarlison: Everton spent last season desperately in need of a spark. Wayne Rooney did not cut it, and the loss of Romelu Lukaku sent the club into a malaise they only just managed to recover from. Enter Richarlison, who not only has an INCREDIBLE soccer name, but has the game to match. In the half season Marco Silva was at Watford, the Brazilian looked like a budding star. Once Silva left, he fell off the map. Now he moves to Everton with a new manager who happens to be, oh look Marco Silva! His blend of skills is incredibly unique, and he was one of only 7 EPL players to average 1 successful dribble and 1 successful aerial battle per 90 minutes last season. Everton need a star to flirt with the top 6 again, and I expect their newest addition to fit the bill.
Andrew, Domingos Quina: The possible breakout stars this season contains a ridiculous group of talented players. My gut tells me Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon, the Community Shield makes me think Phil Foden, but I’m going to go with Domingos Quina from West Ham. Quina was incredible at the U-19 World Cup and represents the generation of players ready to carry Portugal once CR7 hangs up his boots. If he gets a chance at a very new-look West Ham squad, there’s no doubt that he’ll be playing at a much bigger club after this season.
Tise, Lucas Torreira: Chelsea have a bonafide budding star in Callum Hudson-Odoi whose speed will terrify quite a few opponents but he’s young and will possibly fade by the second half of the year.
Arsenal on the other hand have a fresh midfield pair in Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi. Guendouzi has really caught the eye but his number of games will likely end up being limited because of who’s ahead of him in the pecking order. Torreira should be key in most games for the Arsenal. Expect him to take the EPL by the scruff of the neck kind of like Kante did some years back.
4. Who will be the most outstanding young player?
James, Dele Alli: It’s hard not to pick Leroy Sane, but I expect a larger role for Dele Alli to deliver him this award for a third time. Spurs have..how do I put this lightly..not added much top level talent this summer. If Spurs are going to continue to flirt with title contention and Champions League runs, Dele will need to play a bigger role. Last season was viewed as a step back, but it was still a solid season for the young provocateur. Expect Spurs to utilize his attacking abilities even more as a way to unlock packed in defenses, and you’ll see a reversion to his statistical form from 2017. Numbers win awards, so while Dele is likely to improve again this year, his numbers need to show the same, and he’ll take home some silverware at the end of the season.
Mason, Leroy Sane: Of all the young players to have the chance at winning this, Leroy Sane has a solidified starting place in the Man City lineup. His workrate, spatial awareness to keep the team shape wide and blistering pace is going to continue to pay dividends for City. I can only see his finishing getting better from here, with more confidence on the ball he’ll be having a few more attempts at goal this season. Add to this all – a bit of additional bite to his game having been snubbed entirely from the Germany World Cup roster and yeah this could be fun to watch for the defending young player of the year. My clear 2nd choice would be Marcus Rashford, I’m expecting continued growth from him if given the consistent starting opportunities.
Andrew, Leroy Sane: Young player of the year is Leroy Sane’s to lose, as he looks to become the fifth player to repeat for the award. The story from Sane’s World Cup exclusion will become the most annoying, repetitive piece of commentary that we’ll hear this season.
Tise, Wilfred Ndidi: Outside of the obvious Alli and Sane calls, Callum Hudson-Odoi seems a great choice here but who knows how much game time he’ll get for Chelsea once the big boys get back in the groove. Gabriel Jesus will be in the discussion once again but can he take the next step to greatness? If he does, he should win this title but I’ll go with Leicester’s Wilfred Ndidi who is a tackling machine and should be even better this season. Unlike Gabriel Jesus, he’s the undisputed starter at his position and should play a lot for the Foxes.
5. Who is your dark horse pick to win the title?
James, Liverpool: There are only two horses in this race, and Liverpool is the darker of them. Liverpool has a world class attack. That much is not up for debate. They will be able to put pressure on even the staunchest of defenses. They spent the offseason shoring up a midfield that caused them issue last season, and Naby Keita paired with Fabinho should vastly improve play in the center of the park. With Alisson between the pipes, they’ve addressed all of their weaknesses. Imagine if they get any sort of contribution from Adam Lallana, Daniel Sturridge, or Nathaniel Clyne – three players who missed the entire season last year due to injury. All three have looked good in preseason, and getting something out of just one of those guys would boost this team’s ceiling. They can compete with the World’s best teams, and might just finally top the EPL again.
Tise, Arsenal: We’re not likely to see a Leicester-style win. The defending champs are likely to win it all again. Liverpool are not really a darkhorse after their showing in the last few years. West Ham could be a really good side if they stay fresh and healthy, they’ve a great coach in Pellegrini and that squad with Wilshere, Lanzini, Felipe Anderson, Quina, Chicharito, etc could be sneakily good BUT the big boys this year are not what they were when Leicester won (they were all largely sick in one way or the other which allowed the Foxes sneak in). I’ll go with Arsenal here. New manager, new central midfield, loaded attack, angry #10, it could be a surprising win for the Gunners.
Andrew, ABMC: Anyone But Manchester City. The darkhorse to win it all is anybody not named Manchester City. A ridiculous point tally last season and a reload in player talent over the summer means that the blue side of Manchester is even more prepared to sit at the top of the table than last season. If there’s a team not wearing light blue dancing around at the end of the season, it’ll be an upset.
Mason, Arsenal: In terms of weapons, there’s a plethora; namely Pierre Emerick Aubameyang who looks to capitalize on his first full season with the club. Lacazette could be the best striker in the world who doesn’t have a guaranteed starting spot at the moment, and a Mesut Ozil/Mkhitaryan creative monster in the making if they both stay locked in for more than half the season. A beefed up Petr Cech in goal looks the best shape of his life, veteran Lichtensteiner at wing back and Sokratis at CB; Arsenal may just have a enough defensive stability to field a “complete” starting XI.
6. Who will finish in the top 4?
Tise, MCFC, LFC, AFC, MUFC: I have Spurs dropping out of the top four and being replaced by Arsenal. Spurs are going to need Harry Kane to stay healthy all season and I think that may be a struggle for them. Liverpool and City have spent well and look good so should be there. United? They may suffer from that 3rd season Jose syndrome and are yet to find a way to truly integrate Pogba but that’s still a loaded squad. Arsenal have the chance to be superb under Emery. The other contenders are Chelsea who may take a while to get their feet under them for a variety of reasons; Leicester who have Ndidi and Vardy but no Mahrez; and Everton who have bought well but still feel a bit lightweight.
James, City, Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal: The top 4 has two locks – City and Liverpool – one probable lock in Spurs, and then three teams all with a number of reasons to doubt them. Arsenal makes the cut after doing some solid business this summer and adding an experienced manager in Unai Emery who can inject some new life after the Wenger era. But this top four is really more about what the remaining teams don’t have than what the included teams do. The curse of year three with Jose Mourinho is very real, and there is already a dark cloud hanging over Manchester United after a tumultuous preseason. Expect them to come out of the gates decent, but fade as Jose gets more and more irritable. This will be his last season in Manchester. Chelsea bring back much of the same team from last year – barring late swoops for their stars this window – but I expect the managerial situation could hurt them. Sarri is a talented manager, but his late arrival to the team could cause them to stumble a bit. Any loss of their top players late in the window will set them back even further.
Mason, LFC, MCFC, THFC, AFC: In terms of the deepest team in the league – without questions Manchester City have the attacking options to form two world class lineups, but it’s not going to be nearly as easy this go around with everyone gunning for the champs. Liverpool have added exactly what they needed into their team and have the best and most influential manager in the league; I see their upward trend continue to the tippy top. A quality season (20-25 goals) from Harry Kane insures Spurs make the top 4 and have the edge over Arsenal. Mourinho will make the season all about him, continuing to siphon the emotional gas from Man United; and Chelsea’s new system will take some getting used to.
Andrew: The top four this season will be Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea. Out of Arsenal and Chelsea, I’d think that the blue side of London will be most likely to have a boost from new management.
7. Who will win the 2018/19 EPL?
Mason, Liverpool: Sometimes great coaches can have an effect on players; unlocking their ability in a way that amplifies the sum of the team’s intangible parts. Jurgen Klopp and the display Liverpool made at times last season in the PL and on their Champions League run was something that’s stuck in my head. The team’s willingness to work high in defense and provide options for their teammates in attack are a thrill to watch as a neutral party. The front three of Firmino, Salah, and Mane has the most chemistry of any front three in the league. Add the likes of Keita, Shaqiri, Fabinho to deepen and add a bit of flair to the midfield where they needed it in front of Jordan Henderson (assuming he’s still a starter). Most importantly the shot stopper, good with the ball at his feet, with the Brazilian Alisson who can start their counters. It’s Man City’s title to lose, and Liverpool will be the first to answer the call.
Andrew, City: How could you bet against Manchester City? How? This feels like City’s time to create a dynasty and perhaps finally obtain the Champions League glory that they’ve been hoping to obtain for quite some time. As long as Pep is at the helm, the squad is kept fresh, and talent keeps lining up at the Etihad, the sky is certainly City’s limit.
James, City: It’s impossible for me to look at the EPL and pick any other club to win it all. City’s dominance last season was impressive, awe inspiring even. They spent the summer without any major losses in the transfer market. They added Riyad Mahrez to an already stacked attacking lineup, and add Benjamin Mendy back from injury. Throw all of that into another year of Pep’s system, and I like what he’s got cooking. Health permitting, I think there are only two reasons to have any pessimism about City’s chances. One, David Silva is getting older, and plays a key role for this squad. This could be the year he starts to decline. Two, it’s possible some complacency could set in. It’s hard to reach the mountaintop again after you’ve already done it. If the club drops off slightly from the way they started last season, and the squad decides they can coast a bit, there might just be a chance they get caught. I don’t think either off those reasons are compelling enough to dethrone the Champs, and we’ll see Manchester City lifting their second trophy in as many years!
Tise, Man City: The EPL is the toughest league to win in Europe but Pep Guardiola is a maniac. His side could be even better this season after adding Riyad Mahrez. Liverpool ought to push them but somehow the Reds always get in their own way. I’ll stick with City to repeat.