After 48 days away, the Premier League is back!
At the top end of the table, Liverpool were crowned champions while Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea filled up the Champions League places with Leicester and Tottenham securing Europa League places. At the bottom end, we said goodbye to Premier League regulars Watford and Bournemouth who were relegated on the final day to follow Norwich back into the Championship.
They were replaced by three familiar faces as Leeds United finally make their long awaited return to the Premier League as champions, their first venture into the top division for 15 years. They were run close to the title by West Brom, who were relegated from the Premier League in 2018 while Fulham have bounced back at the first attempt yet again following a playoff win over local rivals Brentford.
Having already predicted the top 6 I’m now going to break down and predict what I think the bottom 3 will be and why, taking into account any business that is expected to happen before the window closes.
West Ham United
Likely line-up: Fabianski; Fredericks, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Rice, Noble, Soucek; Bowen, Antonio, Anderson
After scraping survival last season with a game to spare, you’d have thought that West Ham would look to build on their deficiencies to improve their league position. Instead, they’ve sold one of their brightest talents to a direct rival and signed nobody. Grady Diangana was sold to West Brom and sparked outrage from members of the playing staff towards the board, including captain Mark Noble. With the expectation at the time that the club would invest the money on new signings, it was soon reported that the club were refusing to meet the asking price of Brenford’s Said Benrahma. They’ve since had two bids rejected for Burnley defender James Tarkowski and it’s unlikely they’ll be able to secure the deal, with the Clarets looking for £50million for the England defender. With moves up in the air and no real concrete targets anymore, things look bleak. I’ll be shocked if David Moyes survives the whole season and with no reinforcements and a new manager, it’s hard to look beyond West Ham returning to the Championship for the first time since 2012.
Overall it’s not for a lack of talent on the pitch, more the big mess off it that will cause them to suffer and go down.
West Bromwich Albion
Likely line-up: Johnstone; O’Shea, Ajayi, Bartley, Gibbs; Livermore, Sawyers; Diangana, Pereira, Robinson; Deeney
After bottling the title at the end of the Championship season, West Brom only got automatic promotion because Brentford messed up on the final day. But throughout the season they were scintillating under Slaven Bilic. They scored goals, they attacked well and they played entertaining football. In the Premier League though, they will struggle. They’ve made two first-team signings while also turning Pereira’s loan permanent and that could be their saving grace. If the Brazilian can maintain his form from the Championship then they will score goals in this division whether they end up signing Troy Deeney from Watford or not. Robson-Kanu and Charlie Austin both have Premier League experience as does the manager and that could be a key reason for any success they have. With that said, the overall squad is deeply lacking in depth and quality and with the fixtures as congested as they are it will be tough for West Brom to maintain any sort of form. If they can stay solid at the back and change their style slightly to ensure they concede as little as possible then they may have a chance, but with the personnel in their squad they are better built for attacking.
Overall, they’re just not strong enough. Not enough quality and depth and not enough goals in the side. Bilic is a good manager who could switch up their approach but that would likely take away from their most talented players and could be counter productive. They’ll put up a fight, but ultimately they return to the Championship at the first hurdle.
Likely line-up: Areola; Aina, Hector, Ream, Robinson; Reed, Lemina, Cairney; Cavaleiro, Mitrovic, Decordova-Reid
After gaining promotion in his first full season as a manager, Scott Parker marches Fulham into the Premier League for a real test. The squad is thin and despite five summer signings so far, it lacks real quality and Premier League experience. They’ve made a good signing in goal with Alphonse Areola returning from his loan at Real Madrid to head to west London from PSG. A World Cup winner (despite not playing in the tournament), Areola has plenty of top level experience having played in the Champions League 19 times. There’s plenty of potential at full-back with Robinson and Aina, but neither of them are top flight proven and it’s a risk. In midfield the club have added Mario Lemina on loan from Southampton to boost them a little but once again the club are lacking real quality there and then in attack they will rely heavily on Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Serbian has been their top goalscorer every year since joining permanently in 2018 and did well last time out in the Premier League with 11 goals. He’ll have even less support in attack this time around though and with such a severe lack of goalscoring threat it’s hard to see where they secure points.
Overall, they look destined to struggle. They’re a good defensive unit as you’d expect with Scott Parker as the manager, but they just have such a lack of quality in the side and lack a consistent goal threat beyond Mitrovic that I can’t look past them going straight back down once again.