Barclays Premier League Preview & Predictions – 2015/2016

BPL PreviewIt’s nearly upon us. The magnificent match days. The waiting around for team sheets. Watching the 3pm kick off and reliving every highlight of every game with Gary Lineker on the BBC before switching the channel when Amish comes on. I’m of course talking about the start of the new Barclays Premier League season. Last season saw a lot of drama such as the Premier League such as Manchester United’s implosion at The King Power Stadium to Tottenham’s very own Harry Kane, who burst on the scene in November and scored 30 goals in all competitions and the Premier League trophy found a new home in London in dark blue colours, after a 5 year stay in Manchester in which it ping-ponged between sky blue and red. In less than a week the Premier League season will be underway and the same age-old questions are spouting out, who’ll win the league? Who will be dragged into the relegation dogfight? Who’ll be the first to be sacked? Regardless of what happens, I’m excited for the next 38 match days.

League Winner: Chelsea FC

Chelsea’s number one shot stopper Thibaut Courtois has gone from strength to strength in recent years and done well in his debut season, keeping a joint top of 13 clean sheets in the league and had BPL veteran Petr Cech to help guide the Belgian international, as he successfully took the big Czech’s number one spot in the team. Now Cech has moved across London to Arsenal, Chelsea brought in Asmir Begovic from Stoke City, who’s been consistently good for Stoke and will now compete with Courtois. New boy Asmir Begovic has been brought in by Jose Mourinho as a back-up to the former Atleti keeper but could easily take the fight for the number one shot stopper blow for blow with Thibaut as he kept 7 clean sheets for Stoke last season, and this will help Courtois grow as a player with Asmir’s years of BPL experience.

Chelsea’s defence was airtight last season, shipping away only 32 goals in the Premier League and they did their bit on the other side of the pitch as well, the Chelsea defenders contributing nearly 20 goals and accumulated 8 assists. Their preferred back line was Azpilicueta Terry Cahill Ivanovic. Azpilicueta kept out new signing Filipe Luis out of the side, who’s been flogged off back to Atletico Madrid since. Used as an inverted full back, he’s a right footer who plays on the left side, a position in which he excelled when he was initially played there due to Ashley Cole’s injury woes although last season, Cesar did not follow the normal full back blueprint, as he does not get up the pitch as often as a modern full back does, being pinned back to being almost an another centre-half in addition to Terry and Cahill, which probably didn’t help the park the bus claims made by rival fans and the media alike. Azpi made on average, 3 tackles and 2 interceptions a game with an impressive 83.5% passing accuracy, although made 0.2 crosses a game, which just shows how much he didn’t push forward. Ivanovic is the more offensive minded of the two full backs, the Serbian being the other outlet for width apart from the wingers. The Serb is known for his strength and tough demeanour, although he isn’t the quickest off the mark, he is a powerful figure pushing forward and carrying the ball. His aggressive play style makes him a great defender as well as an attacker, making 2.3 tackles a game and 1 interception on average, this coupled with 0.9 key passes a game, makes him a threat going forwards and backwards. The central defensive partnership of Gary Cahill and John Terry last season was mainly the latter covering for the former and John Terry at the ripe age of 34, played every single Premier League game last season and was impeccable during the whole course of the season. Terry made 5.7 clearances a game and 0.8 blocks on average, showing how he put his body on the line for the team and also scored 5 goals last season. becoming the Premier League’s highest scoring defender of all time. Providing Terry can maintain the standard he set himself last season, Chelsea’s defence will be up to the task and efficient as last season.

Chelsea’s midfield is the main reason I say they will retain their status as Premier League champions. Their midfield is perfectly mixed with a dominator like Matic, creative sparks like Cesc Fabregas and Oscar and eccentric wide men like Willian and last season’s player of the year, Eden Hazard. Chelsea play with a 5 man midfield. consisting of 2 central midfielders and 3 attacking midfielders ahead of them, two wide players and a centre attacking midfielder. Chelsea’s most preferred central midfield pairing is Memanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas, a partnership that worked wonders last season, as the presence of Matic, who would stay back and help the defenders and break the play, allowed Cesc Fabregas to get forward and float around the 18 yard box to work his magician-like touch. The lynchpin in Matic and the catalyst in Fabregas. However, I still believe Matic’s effort in the Chelsea team is not as widely recognised as it should be, as he isn’t just a powerhouse in midfield who can scare pretty much any opponent, he is also more than capable on the ball as he completed 86% of his passes in the league last season. The Serbian won 101 tackles as well as making 73 interceptions, showcasing his dominance in the midfield, and standing at 6’4, won 51% of his aerial duels as well as making an immense 129 clearances, further proving his importance in the Chelsea team. Nemajia’s partner, Cesc Fabregas, was bought in last year’s summer window for £30m from Barcelona and has been a revelation since his arrival at West London. He was seen as Frank Lampard’s replacement to put that spark back into the team and although he isn’t as much as an attacking force as old Frankie, he was possibly the most influential player on the way to Chelsea’s title triumph. He finished as the Premier League best goal creator, finishing the campaign with 18 assists along with 3 goals, made him one of the most potent chance creators in the league with a total of 93 goal scoring chances and 73 key passes made by the former Arsenal man. Oscar and Willian are played in attacking positions but are very defensive minded, especially Willian. Mourinho has said he wants more creativity in his midfield which both aren’t currently offering. Although, both provide great work rate going backwards and forwards, and offer that Brazilian flair. Eden Hazard is arguably the best player in the Premier League, and was recognised as it when he was awarded the PFA Player of the Year last season. He is the explosive player on the wing who can carry the team on his own to a win, as he showcased this best at home against Manchester United, where his single goal separated the teams and all but secured their first league title in 5 years with a few games to spare. He finished the season with an 87% passing accuracy and made 180 successful take-ons, also was fouled 113 times, which shows how dangerous he is when playing.

Infographic comparing Hazard and Ronaldo

Infographic comparing Hazard and Ronaldo

As strong as Chelsea’s team is, they are still a little lightweight in terms of strikers. They currently have three strikers, Loic Remy, Radamel Falcao and Diego Costa. Loic Remy was brought in from QPR last year as back-up to fellow summer signing Diego Costa and said he eyed a first choice spot in Jose’s team but has done very little to warrant a cemented place in the Chelsea line-up. Loic made 19 appearances for the Blues last season, and even though only 9 of them were starts, he netted 7 times which isn’t the worst record ever, considering the somewhat limited time he had on the pitch. He however registered 0 assists and took 1.6 shots a game and 0.4 dribbles on average, showing that he doesn’t really offer Chelsea another apart from raw speed and pace. The last player who moved from Manchester United to Chelsea was Juan Sebastian Veron and that was a signing that didn’t work out for either side. Although it wasn’t a direct switch, Falcao is in serious danger of being another Veron in becoming an easily forgotten chapter in both teams’ history. Last season while on loan to Manchester United, he netted a woefully disappointing 4 goals and 4 assists in 29 appearances. For such a dramatic deadline day arrival, his stint in Manchester was underwhelming to say the least, and Jose bringing him in is a huge risk, even for a great manager like Mourinho. Finally I come to the other former Atletico Madrid striker with chronic injury woes, Diego Costa. During the first half of the season, Diego tore the league apart, averaging a goal every 2 games although at the turn of the year, the goals dried up. He become more sluggish and his injuries caught up with him at the back-end of the season. Despite this, he scored 20 goals and got 3 assists, although with his dodgy hamstrings coupled with Falcao’s dodgy knee and Remy’s one-dimensional play, this could prove a stumbling block on the way to retaining their Premier League crown.

Infographic comparing Chelsea's current strikers.

Infographic comparing Chelsea’s current strikers.

Top 4 Predictions

  1. Chelsea
  2. Manchester United
  3. Arsenal
  4. Manchester City

Chelsea

Notable Outs:

  • Petr Cech to Arsenal – £10m
  • Filipe Luis to Atletico Madrid – £15m
  • Didier Drogba to Montreal Impact – Free

Notable Ins:

  • Asmir Begovic from Stoke City – £8m
  • Radamel Falcao from Monaco – Season long loan

I think Chelsea will finish top of the tree once again for the 2nd year running, although not by such a landslide as last year. Although they have lost a vast amount of experience in losing Petr Cech to fellow Londoners and top 4 rivals Arsenal for £10m, who ended an 11 year association with Chelsea. Jose moved swiftly to bring in the experienced Asmir Begovic, who is a suitable back-up to Courtois. The defence is as strong as it was last season, although they will want to bring in Terry’s successor soon, which could happen should they secure John Stones from Everton. Chelsea’s midfield is second to none and should have no problem breaking down teams just like last season with Hazard only due to get better, expect big things from the tricky Belgian.

Manchester United

Notable Outs:

  • Radamel Falcao to Monaco – Loan deal expired
  • Luis Nani to Fenerbahce – £4.2m
  • Robin van Persie to Fenerbahce – £3.8m
  • Rafael to Lyon – £2.1m

Notable Ins:

  • Memphis Depay from PSV – £25m
  • Matteo Darmian from Torino – £12.7m
  • Bastian Schweinsteiger from Bayern Munich – £14.4m
  • Morgan Schneiderlin from Southampton – £25m
  • Sergio Romero from Sampdoria – Free

After a turbulent debut season, Louis van Gaal successfully guided Manchester United back to the Champions League, albeit still needing to win a qualifying round to secure their place. The Dutchman spent big money last summer and has done the same this summer, investing the money needed into the squad that Sir Alex wasn’t bothered to and David Moyes didn’t have time to. He may have sealed the central midfield shaped crack in the team by bringing in Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin, although he has a new problem in David De Gea. Is he going to Real Madrid or not? Even if the De Gea situation is sorted, Louis’ team seems a little light up front, with only Wayne Rooney and James Wilson as the recognised strikers in the squad.

Arsenal

Notable Outs:

  • Lukas Podolski to Galatasaray – £1.8m
  • Abou Diaby to Marseille – Free
  • Carl Jenkinson to West Ham – Loan
  • Yaya Sonago to Ajax – Loan

Notable Ins:

  • Petr Cech from Chelsea – £10m

Arsenal have strengthened significantly since Robin van Persie’s departure as they finished 3rd for the first time since he left, and look more and more like title contenders every season. With former Chelsea man Petr Cech now inbetween The Emirates sticks, they look a lot more solid at the back and with Laurent Koscielny staying at the club following Real Madrid links, they look to be even more solid than last year. They still need another defensive midfielder in my eyes as Francis Coqulin is still relatively unproven in the Premier League and still need a world-class striker who can offer more to the team play as opposed to Giroud’s static target man play.

Manchester City

Notable Outs:

  • Alvaro Negredo to Valencia CF – £19m
  • Stevan Jovetic to Inter Milan – Loan

Notable Ins:

  • Raheem Sterling from Liverpool – £44m
  • Fabian Delph from Aston Villa – £8m
  • Patrick Roberts from Fulham – Undisclosed fee

Manchester City have a point to prove after their more than disappointing title defence last year, finishing 8 points champions Chelsea, reminiscent of the 2012/13 season, where they finished 11 points behind cross town rivals Manchester United. After a history of buying English players purely to fit within Premier League rules and sticking them on the bench, they’ve bought 3 Englishmen but this isn’t the case of old, at least two of these players will be starters for City, baring injury. Joe Hart claimed the golden glove award last season so City are in safe hands in terms of in-goal but their defence is a shambles, judging on last season. Kompany out of sorts, Mangala struggling to adjust to English football and Zabaleta on the wrong side of 30, it’s time they had a defence refresh as they up top they have last season’s goal boot recipient Sergio Aguero but who himself has injury problems, for these reasons, I don’t see City doing too well this season.

Relegation Battle: Bottom 3 Prediction

  • Sunderland
  • Norwich
  • Bournemouth

Sunderland

Notable Outs:

  • Connor Wickham to Crystal Palace – £7m

Notable Ins: 

  • Sebastian Coates from Liverpool – £2m
  • Jeremain Lens from Dynamo Kiev – £8m
  • Younes Kaboul from Tottenham Hotspur – £3m

Sunderland always seem to avoid relegation from the skin of their teeth every year it seems but this year, I think this is the year their luck is going to leave them at the bitter end, much like Wigan Athletic a few years ago. Sunderland have a slow and sluggish team, the arrival of Lens will help change that but I feel that he won’t be enough to save them from the drop. Especially when your first choice centre back have a combined age of 69, two years older than Dick Advocaat, the Black Cats manager, who’s 67 years young.

Norwich City

Notable outs:

  • Ignasi Miquel to Ponferradina – Free
  • Mark Bunn to Aston Villa – Free

Notable Ins:

  • Robbie Brady from Hull City – £8m
  • Jake Kean from Blackburn Rovers – Undisclosed fee
  • Youssouf Mulumbu from West Brom – Free

Norwich City. What a boring and depressing team. Any team that plays in yellow deserves to be relegated. All joking aside, for as long as the mind can remember, Norwich have always been an easy 3 points for teams and branded as the league’s  whipping boys and although they’ve made some relatively good signings, I don’t see them staying up with much of a fight.

Bournemouth

Notable outs:

  • Josh McQuoid to Luton Town – Free
  • Brett Pitman to Ipswich Town – Undisclosed fee

Notable Ins:

  • Artur Boruc from Southampton – Free
  • Adam Federici from Reading – Free
  • Christian Atsu from Chelsea – Season long loan
  • Joshua King from Blackburn Rovers – Free
  • Tyrone Mings from Ipswich Town – £8m
  • Sylvian Distin from Everton – Free

Bournemouth’s first season ever in the Premier League will be an experience and a half for everyone involved but will end in sadness and sorrow, in my eyes, in the form of a damning bottom place relegation back to the Championship. They’ve bought in some serious quality in terms of signings, considering most of them are on a free transfer such as former Manchester United player Joshua King and Distin from Everton, an experienced defender and leader as well as buying Mings, a player who was linked with the top dogs in the Premier League such as Arsenal. However, Bournemouth will give it all they have to fight for survival and expect The Vitality Stadium to be a tough place for any team to go and get three points from.

Overall, I’m looking forward to the new Barclays Premier League season and I fully expect to be full of drama, suspense and controversy. And Goals. Obviously.

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