With the 2016/2017 English Premier League season upon us, Osesax has come up with an analysis of title favourites and relegation predictions.
Welcome to the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP OF MANAGERS!
My title favourites are in three categories:
Pot 1: Manchester United / Manchester City
Pot 2: Chelsea / Arsenal / Tottenham
Pot 3: Leicester City / Liverpool
Manchester United are the title favourites for me. One; because they have the strongest squad and two, they have Jose Mourinho.
Having a spine of De Gea, Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is enticing, not to mention the equally quality supporting casts of Eric Baily, Ander Herrera, Henrik Miktayran, Anthony Martial, Lingard and the rest of them.
Jose Mourinho has everything to prove after his shambolic title defence with Chelsea last season. His pedigree did definitely take some beating and there are whispers he has lost his powers. What other way to prove these critics wrong by winning the title at the first time of asking at Manchester United? It’s a fantastic wedding at Old Trafford! Manchester United want to win, Jose Mourinho wants to win, how can this fail?
It will be interesting to see how Jose Mourinho approaches the Europa League. Thursday – Sunday football would be tough on many teams and I don’t know any top team in the top five leagues that has played Europa League football and won the domestic title at the same time. How serious Jose Mourinho takes the Europa League competition will definitely impact their chances of winning the league title.
Pep Guardiola is in an unfamiliar terrain here – having to build a team from the scratch with low quality players compared to his time at Barcelona and Bayern Munich and also taking over a team that are not automatic favourites for the title. It will be tough but if there’s anything Guardiola likes, it’s a challenge. I’m a big fan of the Spaniard and I’m convinced he’s going to do well in his three years at Manchester City.
Let’s face it, it’s going to take time before Pep ingrains his ideas and playing style into his City players especially after a Euro-2016-decimated-pre-season and little time to work on the training ground with Cup distractions in midweek. Therefore the first few weeks for City might not be smooth but it won’t be terrible all the same.
The City defence is a worry for me. Kompany can’t get fit to save his life, Mangala isn’t just City-quality, Sagna-Zabaleta’s powers have waned, and Clichy-Kolarov are both non-starters for me. I feel Otamendi will have a better second season and the only good news is new signing John Stones – and it must be said, even the English-man is still a work-in-progress. It will probably take about two transfer windows before Pep fixes his City defence to his taste.
City look well stock in midfield and forward areas. Pep is spoiled for choices here. And isn’t it interesting that Pep has surrounded himself with young-coach-able players in Sane, Sterling, Iheanacho, De Bruyne, and Delph? Look out for rapid improvements from these players as the season progresses.
Pep is in a new country with the most difficult league in the world. Ancelotti and Mourinho have walked into the country (incidentally both were with Chelsea) and won the title in their first season, so the title in Pep’s first season is not beyond him. But if I were a betting man, I won’t put my money. At the same time, if Manchester United fall short, be rest assured the name you would be seeing on top of the pile would be Manchester City.
Was last season a blip? Definitely! The Blues have Antonio Conte in charge now and the Italian is an astute manager whose tactical flexibility I am looking forward to.
Chelsea made the best signing of the summer for me by capturing Ngolo Kante from Leicester – and for a bargain fee too. The midfielder’s energy will be important in that Chelsea midfield this season. Eden Hazard looks reborn in pre-season and he faces a make or mar season for me. If he flops again this season, then he’s just a one-season wonder. Willian can continue his imperious form from last season and I feel his style would work well with Conte’s.
I feel Chelsea need a striker and their pursuit of Lukaku makes sense. Equally, another Centre-back signing is even more important. Terry, Ivanovic, Cahill aren’t the best Chelsea should be parading for me. Kurt Zouma (who I rate highly) can’t come back from injury soon enough.
Chelsea have no European distractions so they really should be grinding during the week in training while they overrun teams on weekends.
Chelsea are not big favourites for the title but if they make two more key signings this summer, combined with their easier schedule compared to the other teams, then I dare say they have got a chance. But really, after the lows of last season, I think Chelsea fans would be happy to just make a top-four place.
The Gunners were 10 points short of a title triumph last season and in a season of new managers at three of the top clubs; you would have expected Arsenal to be automatic title favourites this season if they made key signings in midfield, defence and attack plus their managerial stability and experience in the league.
But Arsenal are not title favourites, they have not made the key signings required and their managerial stability alone is all they have going for them.
Granit Xhaka was an astute signing and I feel many people don’t appreciate his quality. Arsenal are well stocked in midfield. But it’s their attacking-defensive options that leaves much to be desired. Bellerin and Monreal should continue in their fantastic form from last season, Koscielny is still dependable but Mertesacker and Gabriel will not do him any justice as partners in the centre of defence this season.
Arsenal have needed a championship – winning striker since Van Persie’s exit, the whole world knows this and their fans clamour for one but the most important person to correcting this anomaly won’t act. That’s a shame. Ozil-Sanchez-Giroud axis will score goals but it won’t be enough to win the title. Iwobi, Akpom and Walcott are not good enough Championship – winning supporting casts.
Overall, it’s going to be a typical Arsenal season, they will huff and puff but it won’t be enough to win the title. And you know what? The ever certain top four place looks in grave danger this season than ever before.
How did they lose second place to Arsenal last season? That was scandalous. And then many of their first team players had a summer to forget at Euro 2016 with France, Belgium and England. How the league finish and summer disappointments are handled by manager Pochettino will be important to their season.
Tottenham have the most stable team in the league. They have not had major departures and they have supplemented the squad in two major areas where they suffered last season – attack and defensive midfield.
It’s a ‘world championship of managers’ this season so Pochettino and his team will have a tougher season. The title is beyond them for me but they are favourites for the remaining two spots in the top four (after the two Manchester teams).
The Champions (doesn’t it still sound surreal to refer to Leicester as Champions?) have a tall order in defending their title but be rest assured, they won’t put up an embarrassing defence like Chelsea did last season.
Leicester’s title winning season was an exceptional, extraordinary achievement, it won’t repeat itself this season – and you can take that to the bank. Simply put, Leicester City won’t win the League and they won’t get a top-four place.
It’s important that Kante has been the only exit of their key players. They have everyone else available and they have signed players in readiness for their sojourn in Europe. The pace in their squad was frightening to see against Manchester United in the community shield and this could be Ranieri’s plan-B this season. The likes of Musa, Gray, Schullup, Vardy (together on the pitch at once) will scare many defenders – to death – with their pace this season.
Leicester City will not be embarrassed to not defend their title. All they have to do is put up a fight in Europe, have a more serious title defence than Chelsea did, get a top 7 place, and they would have had a fantastic season.
The Reds will not win the title. We can as well get that out of the way early enough. But they have a fair chance of getting a top four place.
Jurgen Klopp’s honeymoon in England is over. He has painted the Liverpool squad in his own image so no more excuses for him. It’s his first full season in England. He has had a full pre-season with his players and new signings and during the season he will get plenty time to work with his squad with the lack of European distractions. So really, what could Klopp’s excuse reasonably be if he doesn’t get a top four place? It’s all set up to succeed for him.
Signing a goalkeeper to compete with Mignolet was reasonable (too bad Loris Karius got injured in pre-season). Joel Matip is a good signing and Ragnar lavan looks solid. But hey, it’s horrendous to know a left-back hasn’t been signed yet.
Liverpool look lightweight in midfield for me. No name seriously stands out that. They look better and well stocked in attack. Sturridge, Coutinho, Wijnaldum, Mane, Firmino and Origi will get plenty goals between them.
Generally the whole Liverpool squad doesn’t have star quality (bar a couple) but it’s a Klopp template that worked wonders at Dortmund. But can he repeat the success at Liverpool? I doubt it.
Hull City are a sure banker to go down. Steve Bruce walked out on them; they have no coach as I type and they have an owner who wants to sell so he’s not investing in the team. And you look around the squad (not up to 15) and they are just a poor side all over.
Burnley are too good for the Championship but they are also not good enough for the Premier League. Sean Dyche has proven his class over the last four years and it’s a surprise no Premier League club has taken a gamble on him yet. No serious investment in the team means they will have another long arduous time in the top-flight.
Ariyo Ose covers the English Premier League for Papsonsports.