EPL Title Contenders, Relegation Battlers, Key Players and Ladder Prediction
Lacazette! Lacazette! Lacazette! The word that inspires Arsenal fans to believe for another season, but unfortunately the Gunners will need three Lacazette’s to push for the title. Although the Frenchman brings a quantity of goals with him (37 in 45 games for Lyon in 2016/17) and fits nicely into the Wenger system of pace and creativity down the wings and through the middle, the team as a whole still only has a big 3 of Sánchez, Özil and now Lacazette. For a team that scores goals, but concedes its fair share the addition of another striker won’t assist in a title run.
Key Player: Mesut Özil
Top Goal scorer: Alexis Sánchez
Predicted Finish: 4th
2016/17 had every fan chanting, All hail the KING! If Josh King cannot rediscover and perform at the superhuman level he did last season. Bournemouth will struggle this term. However, the classy Norwegian possess the ability to jump even higher into the stratosphere with his creative skills and goal scoring prowess. With the signing of Jermain Defoe from Sunderland over the off-season, the two could form quite a lethal partnership up front giving Bournemouth’s attack diversity. In addition to this, Asmir Begović in goals could prove to be a vital shot-stopper once again, aiding Bournemouth in improving on their 67 goals conceded in the league in 2016/17 (5th worst by any club).
Key Player: Josh King
Top Goal Scorer: Jermain Defoe
Predicted Finish: 9th
Having lost the least amount of games (9) in the championship in 2016/17, Brighton possess some promise for top flight survival. Names like Anthony Knockaert, Glenn Murray, Steve Sidwell and Sèbastien Pocognoli give hope to ecstatic fans eager for the Premier League to begin. However, for Brighton to stay up they must make their home turf a fortress, where most of their points will be won. The reliance on older players is also of concern, with 33 year old Englishman Glenn Murray producing 23 goals last season in his 45 appearances from a total 46 league games. Although a fight will be put up, Brighton will narrowly miss safety.
Key Player: Anthony Knockaert
Top Goal Scorer: Glenn Murray
Predicted Finish: 18th
Solid enough to survive the 2016/17 campaign, 2017/18 won’t be as kind to The Clarets. Having had scoring troubles for most of the season, only returning 39 goals as a collective unit, ranking them 4th worst in the league, ahead of the three relegated sides (Sunderland – 29, Middlesbrough – 27 and Hull – 37). Although Burnley struggle to score, opponents also find it had to hit the back of the net against the outfit from Turf Moor, having only conceded 55 goals in 38 league games. For Burnley to see out the Premier League season and gear up for another, and not be in the Championship come the same time next year, the likes of Sam Vokes, Andre Gray, Robbie Brady and Steven Defour have to increase their goal tallies. Unfortunately this may not happen!
Key Player: Robbie Brady
Top Goal Scorer: Sam Vokes
Predicted Finish: 19th
The boys from Stamford Bridge look set to march on in 2017/18. A consistent first XI in seasons past seemed to propel them to the league title with the best winning record (30). With the Champions league factor coming into play, this shouldn’t deter Chelsea in the league as the squad has fantastic depth and diversity to combat many fixture situations. The acquisition of Antonio Rüdiger from AS Roma has made an already rock solid defence even better, while also possibly allowing the ever reliable Azpilicueta more freedom to bomb forwards and be another attacking option, possibly on the same threat level as left sided Spanish teammate Marcos Alonso. With all the usual weapons of Hazard, Costa, Willian and co at their disposal, they will be hard to beat yet again.
Key Player: Cesar Azpilicueta
Top Goal Scorer: Eden Hazard
Predicted Finish: 1st
Palace need to find more consistency in 2017/18. The last campaign was underwhelming for a side that looked decent on paper. Finishing 14th with only Hull (22) and Sunderland (26) losing more games than their 21 loses, Palace will look to secure more draws this term by locking up defence and continuing to have a consistent backline. Winning 12 games that put them equal with a host of sides for wins, all the way up with Southampton who finished 8th, the Eagles could secure more wins should Benteke and Zaha both be high goal scorers, with Benteke possibly breaking the 20 goal barrier and Van Aanholt chipping in his fair share of valuable goals. However, if injury strikes to any big name player in the squad, Palace could be in trouble.
Key Player: Patrick Van Aanholt
Top Goal Scorer: Christian Benteke
Predicted Finish: 13th
The big issue of Romelu Lukaku! The Belgian juggernaut up front was instrumental in Everton’s set-up during his tenure at the club. Now at Man Utd, what can Everton do to replace him and his goals? 25 goals in 2016/17 is hard to find, seeing as the next best was Ross Barkley with 5 goals to his name. Transfer activity has been decent from Ronald Koeman, with the acquisition of Wayne Rooney and Sandro Ramirez up front, Michael Keane in defence and outstanding young keeper Jordan Pickford. Should Everton not find a 20+ goal a season striker their league position will come down to solid defence, clean sheets and ball possession. With Coleman and Bolasie to return from injury after the beginning of the season, Everton will virtually have 2 capable players in every position on the field but without a world class scorer they will have to settle outside the top 4.
Key Player: Ashley Williams
Top Goal Scorer: Wayne Rooney
Predicted Finish: 7th
Finishing 5th in the Championship and just scraping into the Premier League through the play-offs, Huddersfield look destined for a one and done season in the top tier. Not conceding goals is the best chance of avoiding relegation. This is something that Huddersfield are capable of however, it the lack of goals that will be their downfall. The reliance on Elias Kachunga with 12 goals last season and both Aaron Mooy and Tommy Smith contributing 4 goals each from midfield and defence won’t be enough, as the Huddersfield supporting cast players are of a lower standard than required to make a push up the table in the top flight. Although there will be fighting spirit, it will be back to the championship next season.
Key Player: Aaron Mooy
Top Goal Scorer: Laurent Depoitre
Predicted Finish: 20th
Anything could happen with Leicester in the 2017/18 season, as no one expects them to perform well – which seems to be when the foxes perform their best. There is potential for the former Premier League Champions to return some sort of glory to the club. Smart signings so far in Vincente Iborra (7 goals and 2 assists) from Sevilla and Harry Maguire (2 goals and 2 assists) from Hull to sure up midfield and an ageing defence respectably could give Leicester some new life. However, with Mahrez out of form and Vardy containable, the “pump the ball forward” for the paceman up front tactic needs to change for the new life and possible potential to be capitalised on.
Key Player: Jamie Vardy
Top Goal Scorer: Jamie Vardy
Predicted Finish: 14th
Champions League inclusion could be the downfall of a very good Liverpool side in the 2017/18 season. Boasting a strong starting XI with fantastic chemistry, Jürgen Klopp’s squad depth will be tested. Mohamed Salah will be an interesting signing having scored 19 goals and registering 12 assists in all competitions while in Italy with AS Roma in 2016/17. For the Reds, it seems like they are on a yo-yo in recent times, they have a top four season where a title could be on the cards then they slip back into the pack the following season. Yet again this could happen! The utilisation of Daniel Sturridge could be vital, with the Englishman only starting 7 games last season, collecting 3 goals and 1 assist with 2 shots on target per game. Versatile across the front line, Sturridge could allow perennial starters Sadio Manè, Phillipe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino, who all hit double figure goals returns last season to have rest games and freshen up.
Key Player: Sadio Manè
Top Goal Scorer: Roberto Firmino
Predicted Finish: 6th
Finished 2016/17 in three’s. Third position on the ladder, third most amount of goals scored (80) and third least goals conceded (39). In the coming season, Man City have a high potential to improve and push Chelsea in a title chase. With a healthy Agüero and Jesus up front, goals are going to flow for the blue side of Manchester with the two scoring a combined 27 goals in 41 appearances, at 6.9 shots per game in seasons past. However, if either have extended injuries, the workload will be shifted to midfielders Kevin De Bruyne, Yaya Toure, Leroy Sanè and new arrival Bernardo Silva. If this occurs, City will have to be solid at the back with experienced captain Vincent Kompany needing play every EPL fixture. Unfortunately for City fans this has been an extremely rare occurrence, meaning that the club will fall just short of recapturing the title.
Key Player: Vincent Kompany
Top Goal Scorer: Sergio Agüero
Predicted Finish: 2nd
Draws, draws and more draws! That was the case in the last EPL season. The loss of King Zlatan briefly frightened United fans as the big Swede contributed 17 league goals. However, the signing of Romelu Lukaku has left followers with the thought of winning the title again. Champion’s league shouldn’t trouble the Red Devils to much as superior squad depth gives players freedom to have rest games and freshen up. However, with all this considered, the nucleus of the team remains similar to season 2016/17 that played a slow possession game with very few goals scored (54), quickly becoming a boring snooze-fest of a team to watch. Big name players need to step-up in the coming campaign– Pogba (5 goals, 4 assists), Martial (4 goals, 6 assists), and Mkhitaryan (4 goals, 1 assist). The Lukaku factor cannot change the course of the whole team.
Key Player: Paul Pogba
Top Goal Scorer: Romelu Lukaku
Predicted Finish: 5th
The best team in the Championship last season, Newcastle are back where they belong with something to prove. Boasting a phenomenal amount of Premier League experience and high level talent, the magpies will slot straight back into life in the top flight. Dwight Gayle has improved exponentially since his last EPL matches, having scored 23 goals in last year’s season, with the ever reliable Matt Richie contributing a further 12. Multiple options in all positons allows Newcastle to be versatile with their game plans and frustrate almost all oppositions in the league. Whether it be pacey wing play or direct attacks through the corridor of the field, expect Newcastle to win a fair share of games and easily stay up.
Key Player: Matt Ritchie
Top Goal Scorer: Dwight Gayle
Predicted Finish: 10th
Though matter who Southampton buy or sell they always perform with a high level of consistency. Holding onto central defender Virgil Van Dijk who won 4.7 aerial duels per game, will be essential for the saints to keep their defensive stats solid, having only conceded 48 goals in 2016/17. Surprise package of 2016/17, Nathan Redmond produced 2.2 shots per game in becoming Saints top goal scorer (7), ahead of forwards Charlie Austin, Manolo Gabbiadini, Shane Long and Jay Rodriguez. With Southampton’s style of play down the flanks looking for crosses to a target man, Gabbiadini could flourish in his first full season in the Premier League, however there is a big jump in standard for Southampton to improve on last year’s finishing league position of 8th – 15 points less points than 7th and a 25 +/- goal difference.
Key Player: Dušan Tadić
Top Goal Scorer: Manolo Gabbiadini
Predicted Finish: 8th
After building an impressive squad of players and moving up the table in recent years, Stoke have hit a bit of a wall. Generally miserly in defence, Stoke conceded a relatively large amount of goals (56) in 2016/17, which eventually became the team’s downfall. With only an average of 47.2% possession in seasons past, Stoke will have to improve on their defensive prowess in 2017/18 in order to turn some of their 11 draws (second most) last season into wins. The return of Jack Butland in goals will aid in this becoming a reality. However, creative attacking players Xherdan Shaqiri, Marko Arnautovic and Joe Allen need to see more ball in attacking areas rather than being relied on to create scoring opportunities against the run of play or out of impossible situations. Both Shaqiri and Arnautovic can become double figure goal scorers should this occur, but without a style of play philosophy change, The Potters only seem to be headed down the table.
Key Player: Xherdan Shaqiri
Top Goal Scorer: Marko Arnautovic
Predicted Finish: 15th
Everything about the Swans revolves around a certain crafty Icelandic attacking midfielder, and without him pulling the strings, the Welsh based club will struggle in 2017/18. With the exception of Fernando LLorente’s 15 goals last season, Gylfi Sigurdsson led Swansea in all attacking stats in the 2016/17 campaign – 9 goals, 13 assists and 3.1 shots per game. The 70 goals conceded last campaign was second worst in the league, only to Hull’s 80 and without some strong and composed central defender signings, Swansea look set to have another tough season in defence. Despite poor defence and a heavy reliance on two players in attack, the Swans will see another season in the Premier League.
Key Player: Gylfi Sigurdsson
Top Goal Scorer: Fernando LLorente
Predicted Finish: 17th
A lot of jokes were made about Spurs after the 2016/17 season “applying pressure”, however Tottenham fans can stay positive in the fact that they will eventually capture the EPL title as overall they possibly have the best, most diverse squad in the league. Last season they were the highest goal scorers (86) and had the best defence (26). With goals and assists coming from multiple areas of the field, Spurs always had a player step-up when others form dipped. The cohesion between the attacking front four aided them in scoring so many goals, Kane (29), Alli (18), Son (14) and Eriksen (8). Along with this, the four also combined for 35 assists throughout the season. Defensively Spurs have recently lost Kyle Walker to Manchester City. His marauding runs into the box down the right touchline always provided another outlet with him teeing up another 5 goals through his 5 assists. A simple change to Kieran Trippier, who also provided 5 assists in his 12 appearances at right back shouldn’t disrupt the solid backline. The utilisation of Moussa Dembèlè in centre midfield will be interesting as when he plays that position, Spurs have won over 90% of their matches as his strength, dribbling and 90+% passing accuracy is hard for oppositions to handle.
Key Player: Moussa Dembèlè
Top Goal Scorer: Harry Kane
Predicted Finish: 3rd
Although Watford have a decent enough defence, that can frustrate opposition attackers from scoring while scoring a handful of goals themselves, it is the going forward options that has frustrated supporters. Last season’s acquisition of Frenchman Étienne Capoue sparked life into The Hornets, thrusting them up the ladder for the opening portion of the season. However, Capoue’s form dropped off and so did Watford’s wins. With only Troy Deeney getting into double figures for goals, Marco Silva will need to bring in another striker or goal threat for Watford to perform any better in 2017/18. League survival will be a tough battle however, the lack of quality in other squads along with Watford’s fighting spirit and ability to protect leads when they do get them will keep them up.
Key Player: Heurelho Gomes
Top Goal Scorer: Troy Deeney
Predicted Finish: 16th
The big surprises of 2016/17, West Brom supplied some entertaining football despite only having on average 40.7% possession per game. With not one squad player providing double figure goals or assists returns (best Rondón 8 goals and Phillips 9 assists), The Baggies finished the season amazingly in 10th position on the back of solid defence. Player durability also allowed West Brom to build extremely high team chemistry, with a very consistent starting XI. If Matt Phillips can provide the energy and attacking threat he showed in the past season, along with Nacer Chadli lifting even further, to levels that were seen during his stint at Tottenham, West Brom can sustain last year’s league position as a mid-table team.
Key Player: Matt Phillips
Top Goal Scorer: Salomón Rondón
Predicted Finish: 11th
After an annoying start to the 2016/17 campaign with the Dimitri Payet saga, West Ham finished respectably. With acquisitions of Robert Snodgrass and José Fonte, Sofiane Feghouli and André Ayew in the past season, the Hammers will look to build in the coming year. The unearthing of Michail Antonio’s attacking abilities has finally given West Ham a pacey option up front, giving them diversity. Argentine playmaker Manuel Lanzini is tipped to be a top player in the coming season having scored 8 goals from midfield last campaign. His partnership with Snodgrass could be instrumental, with the wand of a left for from Snodgrass providing plenty of service for Antonio and Andy Carroll to attack. If Sofiane Feghouli stays fit, his pace and dribbling ability can cause chaos to any teams defensive lines. Unfortunately, West Ham players seem to not be able to be consistently available to play through injury or suspension, having the second worst discipline record in the league last season– 78 yellow and 5 red cards. This could again be the cause of the team’s table demise.
Key Player: Manuel Lanzini
Top Goal Scorer: Michail Antonio
Predicted Finish: 12th
So here is the Predicted final standings of the Premier League table for the 2017/18 season
Now it is your turn to predict how you think the final EPL table will look!.
Show your knowledge and predict your outcome by commenting on the article or via Twitter - @WFC_LS_Potzi @WFC_17 @WFC_Seb
By Luke Scali - (Twitter - @WFC_LS_Potzi)