Take off your sunglasses. Finish your piña colada. Face it – summer’s over. Those days are gone. Autumn’s approaching and it’s almost time to dig out your ‘big coat’ again. But it’s not all bad news. The end of summer means one truly tremendous thing… THE RETURN OF THE FOOTBALL.
That’s right. The new Premier League season is almost here. The lower leagues are already under way and now it’s time for the big boys to get started. It’s been another mad summer of transfer ‘sagas’ and ‘swoops’ and as the first weekend of fixtures approaches, we find ourselves wondering how 2017/18’s going to go.
It’s all conjecture and guesswork though, isn’t it? No one really knows. You don’t know. We don’t know. Paul Merson certainly doesn’t know. At least we’re honest enough to admit that we can’t see into the future. But if you get caught in a conversation about the new season, you’re going to need some ammo. No one wants to hear ‘who knows, mate? Life is an enigma’ during a chinwag about the footy. So we’ve put together this handy blagger’s guide to the new Premier League season for you…
10 word season prediction: ‘The same old story. Fourth or fifth place. #WengerOut’
Potential hero: Alexandre Lacazette. ‘The Tape’ could be the difference this year. Especially if the head-turned Alexis Sanchez can’t get his (turned) head into games.
Potential villain: Arsene Wenger. Some love him, some hate him. The Frenchman is the wise old grandfather of the club. But he’s almost out of Werther’s Originals. No glory this year and he has to be gone. Hasn’t he?!
Most likely to: Inspire a thousand angry rants for a fan-run Youtube channel.
Least likely to: Tear through four managers before Valentine’s Day.
10 word season prediction: ‘Most people’s second favourite club stay safe and impress again.’
Potential hero: Jermain Defoe. He’s returning to a former club (18 goals in 19 loan appearances in 2000/2001…) and he’s a man who scores for fun.
Potential villain: Jordan Ibe. It’s not his fault he cost a club record fee of £15m. But it kind of is his fault that he’s yet to score in 22 games for Bournemouth.
Most likely to: Appoint ‘arry Rednapp as Director of Football in March.
Least likely to: Win a ‘Snazziest Club Badge’ award.
10 word season prediction: ‘This south coast mob are going south. To the Championship.’
Potential hero: Anthony Knockaert. The Belgian was pivotal last year. It’s vital for Albion that he gets fit again. And quickly.
Potential villain: Christian Benteke. Brighton and Crystal Palace, it’s pretty safe to say, ‘don’t really get on’. So if Mr. Benteke’s on his game in their two fixtures, he’ll quickly become a figure of hate at the Amex Stadium.
Most likely to: Provide the away day your other half suggests tagging along to and turning into ‘a bit of a weekend’.
Least likely to: Forget when Palace away is.
10 word season prediction: ‘A nine month struggle and last ditch final day survival.’
Potential hero: Tom Heaton. He’s forced his way into the England squad. And if the Clarets want to stay up (which we’re assuming they do), he’ll need to have yet another good year between the sticks.
Potential villain: Michael Keane. Alright, so only the toughest Burnley supporter would begrudge Keane his move to The Goodison Revolution, but his departure could spell a whole heap of trouble for them.
Most likely to: Sell out of pies and Jonn Smith’s on match days.
Least likely to: See their manager approached for a photo shoot by Attitude magazine.
10 word season prediction: ‘Not as easy this year, a real fight with City.’
Potential hero: Alvaro Morata. The stage is set for the Spaniard. A big money move to West London sees him going straight into the #1 striker position. Hard word and – above all else – goals and he could be a new Chelsea favourite.
Potential villain: David Luiz. The big-haired Brazilian has been on top form since he returned to Stamford Bridge. But with the loss of some key players over the summer, Chelsea look more vulnerable than last year. A few clangers here and there and Luiz could easily find himself on the wrong end of a few boos.
Most likely to: Go the whole season unbeaten.
Least likely to: Go the whole season without their manager running the length of the pitch screaming and waving his arms about the place.
10 word season prediction: ‘Flashes of brilliance, flashes of woefulness. A bottom half finish.’
Potential hero: Wilfried Zaha. He’s been sharp in pre-season and most Eagles fans are expecting big things from the little man this year. He’s threatened to have a phenomenal season a few times. This year it might actually happen.
Potential villain: Chris Hughton. It sure is hard to dislike the former Newcastle, Spurs and Norwich man. But the fierce rivalry between Palace and Brighton means that if Albion have a good year and finish above Palace, he won’t be a very well-liked man in Croydon.
Most likely to: Lose every game at home and still stay up somehow.
Least likely to: Tempt match day away fans into considering relocating nearby.
10 word season prediction: ‘Big season expected. Probably just finish 7th or 8th again.’
Potential hero: Ademola Lookman. Everton have brought in some big name attacking players recently. But it could be the emergence of the young kid from Charlton that really gives the Goodison Park crowd a season to remember. The kid is class.
Potential villain: Wayne Rooney. He’s a blue, through and through. Well, apart from the 90% of his career he spent away at a bigger club, that is. Rooney could be a elder statesman at Everton, a father figure, a club captain. Or he could be a creaking mess who doesn’t have a set position and just kind of wanders about the place a bit, keeping younger, fitter players on the bench.
Most likely to: Regret selling their only consistent goalscorer.
Least likely to: Receive a phone call from Ed Woodward in January about ‘that bald lad up front’.
10 word season prediction: ‘Scrappy underdogs put up good dogfight, but get put down.’
Potential hero: Aaron Mooy. He’s Huddersfield’s record signing, so big things are expected from the dimniutive Australian this year. If he doesn’t deliver, it could be a tough season.
Potential villain: Nakhi Wells. The Bermudian has chipped in with some important goals for the Terriers since his arrival from Bradford City. But is he Premier League quality? With few striking options available to him, David Wagner might be forced to play the 27 year-old more than he’d like. And fans could lose patience if Wells doesn’t come up with the goals.
Most likely to: Have their coach driver get lost on the way to unfamiliar grounds.
Least likely to: Be the first game on Match of the Day.
10 word season prediction: ‘Comfortable mid-table finish. Not as fun as winning the thing.’
Potential hero: Ahmed Musa. With Jamie Vardy the main man and Kelechi Iheanacho a star buy, Islam Slimani may be forced out. But the Nigerian Musa, if he works hard, can quietly work away and have a top season if he establishes himself as part of a top three.
Potential villain: Demarai Gray. He’s a kid with a huge future. It’s just he doesn’t really want that future to be at Leicester. Everton and Bournemouth have had bids rejected. If Gray doesn’t get back on the clock – and soon – he’s not going to be quite as popular as he was.
Most likely to: Be the reason Gary Lineker flashes.
Least likely to: Provide their fans with their ‘best ever season’.
10 word season prediction: ‘Goals, goals, goals… Both for and against. Champions League spot.’
Potential hero: Dominic Solanke. Joining the likes of Firmino, Origi, Strurridge, Lallana and Mane… The former Chelsea youngster may struggle to get regular game time. But if he can impress, he could be a future Kop legend. Or at least a kid that does well for a bit, anyway.
Potential villain: Simon Mignolet. The Belgian ‘keeper has improved since his ‘little spell’. But he’s still more than capable of dropping a clanger – and a ball – when he wants. Back-up Lorius Karius hasn’t stepped up, so it’s another season between the sticks for Mignolet. With Reds fans behind him just waiting for him to get them in trouble.
Most likely to: Provide amusing press conference soundbites.
Least likely to: Park the bus and rack up a string of no score bore draws.
10 word season prediction: ‘It’s tight, but the spending pays off. Win the league.’
Potential hero: Gabriel Jesus. City have Aguero, Sterling, Sane, De Bruyne, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Bernardo Silva… They’re not exactly lacking in attacking options. But this little Brazilian is special. Seven goals in ten games last years shows that.
Potential villain: Claudio Bravo. Another top team with a dodgy ‘keeper… City have new boy Ederson waiting in the wings to replace the Chilean if he has another bad start. But will Guardiola make the change? He does seem to love Bravo. For some unknown reason.
Most likely to: Panic at being second in January and spend half a billion quid.
Least likely to: Panic at being second in January and sign Ben Watson on a free.
10 word season prediction: ‘Mourinho beats ‘second season syndrome’ as United push for title.’
Potential hero: Romelu Lukaku. With Zlatan and Rooney leaving, United need a proven goalscorer to bag the goals. And they’ve got one.
Potential villain: The Special One. Things started solidly if not spectacularly for Jose at Old Trafford. But he’s more than capable of losing his mind and attacking his own players and fans when things go badly. And his second seasons at clubs don’t tend to go too well. We think he’ll buck the trend this season, but there’s always the chance he’ll go into full-blown self-destruct mode.
Most likely to: Make Luke Shaw cry.
Least likely to: Take Rooney on loan in January.
10 word season prediction: ‘Rafa Benitez’s guile and tactics steers Magpies to mid-table safety.’
Potential hero: Dwight Gayle. The former-Peterborough United striker bagged 23 goals for Newcastle last season in the Championship. His goals could prove vital once again.
Potential villain: Jonjo Shelvey. This guy’s as unpredictable as they come. He could be your favourite player one week and then next? He might score an own goal and get sent off. If he loses his head, he’s more than capable of upsetting people/everyone.
Most likely to: Sell out their stadium for a Monday night game against Burnley.
Least likely to: Feel sorry for Sunderland languishing down in the Championship.
10 word season prediction: ‘A tougher season than usual ends up in mid-table obscurity.’
Potential hero: Manolo Gabbiadini. The 25 year-old scored four in eleven for the south coasters last season and could well carry on where he left off last year.
Potential villain: Virgil van Dijk. The ‘wantaway’ defender wants, well, ‘away’. Whether he gets it or not – repeated demands to leave a club doesn’t generally do much for a player’s PR.
Most likely to: Sell their entire squad to Liverpool in January.
Least likely to: Tempt fair weather supporters into making the away day to St. James’ Park.
10 word season prediction: ‘A tough start… They’ll survive but it won’t be pretty.’
Potential hero: Jack Butland. Stoke City could very well find themselves with England’s number one this season.
Potential villain: Saido Berahino. Let’s hope it’s a clean slate for the man. But if he carries even the merest hint of the attitude he showed at West Brom to Mark Hughes’ squad, Sparky and the fans will give him fairly short shrift.
Most likely to: Inspire a Sky Sports pundit to say ‘they actually play pretty good football now, Geoff.’ Despite the fact that everyone’s known this for three seasons now.
Least likely to: Stop being the barometer for whether flash players can get stuck into mid-week games in bad weather.
10 word season prediction: ‘Paul Clement’s wily enough to keep the Swans up. Just.’
Potential hero: Gylfi Sigurðsson. He’s the club’s best player. If he stays, he keeps them up. Probably.
Potential villain: Gylfi Sigurðsson. He’s the club’s best player. If he leaves, they go down. Maybe.
Most likely to: Force opposition fans to make jokes about ‘needing their passport’ on away days.
Least likely to: Get over losing their best player.
10 word season prediction: ‘Lack of investment and Wembley make for a tougher season.’
Potential hero: Christian Eriksen. Harry Kane, rightly, gets a lot of love at Spurs. Delle Ali gets lauded. As does Lloris, Alderweireld and, well, most of the players. But perhaps the most talented and important player in Tottenham’s talented squad in the little Dane. And this could be the year everyone finally notices.
Potential villain: Vincent Janssen. The Dutch ‘striker’ is already a bit of a joke character, despite being a decent footballer. But the weight of expectation and a lack of goals has created somewhat of a vent for Spurs fans when things don’t go right. Son Heung-min can back up Kane, but patience might wear quickly wear thin until Janssen can turn things around.
Most likely to: Blame their woeful ‘home’ form on some sort of gypsy’s curse.
Least likely to: Go broke, given their spending habits so far this summer.
10 word season prediction: ‘Surely it’s a more settled year for The Hornets. SURELY.’
Potential hero: Marco Silva. He didn’t manage to keep Hull up last year, but he nearly did. The former Sporting Lisbon boss is a sound appointment at Vicarage Road. And he could turn out to be a fan’s favourite a la Quique Flores.
Potential villain: Marco Silva. Watford fans are almost as fickle as their board. Walter Mazzari was made a bit of a hate figure last year, despite guiding them to an easy mid-table finish. If Silva doesn’t impress the Hertfordshire faithful, he could find himself an unpopular man.
Most likely to: Tear through half a dozen managers by Christmas.
Least likely to: Have their chairman say, ‘a contract’s a contract. We’d best honour it.’
10 word season prediction: ‘Another good showing by Pulis’ men. Pushing for Europe? Almost.’
Potential hero: Jay Rodriguez. A long lay-off through injury at Southampton has most of us forgetting about the former Burnley striker. But before his injury, he was pushing himself into the England squad.
Potential villain: Guochuan Lai. When the Chinese businessman paid £175m for Albion last year, much was expected. But recruitment has been limited and many fans question just how far Lai is prepared to go to back the club.
Most likely to: Be the Premier League club you forget exists.
Least likely to: Have their manager poached by Barcelona.
10 word season prediction: ‘Bilic goes early – it ends messy. They survive… Just about.’
Potential hero: Marko Arnautovic. One club’s loss is another club’s gain. The big man could link up well with the likes of Carroll and Lanzini.
Potential villain: Mark Noble. He’s a West Ham legend, so this sounds strange. But plenty reckon his legs have gone and he can’t cut it at the top level anymore. Picking him based on loyalty is sweet, but potentially dangerous.
Most likely to: Blow bubbles.
Least likely to: Admit they didn’t ‘win the World Cup back in ’66’.
So, there you go. More than enough armoury to get you through the first few weeks. Enjoy the new season!