Premier League Preview: Top Four and More

In this portion of my Premier League preview I’m going to give you my predictions for the coveted top four, who will be the odd teams out of that race to top off the top seven, players to watch (not always the best players but possible breakout stars or key players), and more.

If you missed my initial preview where I went into the newly-promoted teams, you can find it HERE.

The Top Four

4th: Arsenal (+5000 to win, +135 top four)

Last Year’s Finish: 5th Place, 70 points
Players to Watch: Nicolas Pepe, Lucas Torreira
Key Signings: Nicolas Pepe, Dani Ceballos (loan), Kieran Tierney, David Luiz
Key Departures: Laurent Koscielny, Alex Iwobi

After coming one point shy of the top four last season behind their arch rivals Spurs and losing in the Europa League Final to Chelsea, it was clear that Arsenal needed to change some things going into their 2019/2020 campaign. Stan Kroenke and the Arsenal brass finally whipped out the paycheck and spent well beyond the $55 million they said their budget was. They’ve been linked with dozens of players across all positions and it made for a thrilling summer for Gunner fans.

Although it will be paid in installments, they brought in record signing Nicolas Pepe for $91 million to add to their already potent attack. The Ivory Coast international burst onto the scene last season for Lille where he scored 22 goals and added 11 assists. They also brought in central midfielder Dani Ceballos from Real Madrid on loan, someone who fits Emery’s system a bit better than Ozil and it gives them some more depth at the position in general.

But Arsenal’s biggest issue last season was obviously their defense as they ranked 9th in goals conceded and allowed 4 goals to Chelsea in the Europa League Final. Mustafi has been a huge problem at the back for them and Emery can’t decide if he wants to play 4 at the back or 3/5 with wingbacks. But with the signings of Kieran Tierney and David Luiz, their defense has gotten a bit better and now they have more options on a game-to-game basis.

I think this Arsenal team can really thrive in Emery’s second season and I can see their offense being the third best in the league. I would take the over on their point total of 68.5 at (-130) and to make the top four at (+135).

3rd: Spurs (+2000 to win, -180 top four)

Last Year’s Finish: 4th Place, 71 points
Player to Watch: Tanguy Ndombele
Key Signing: Tanguy Ndombele, Giovanni Lo Celso, Ryan Sessegnon
Key Departure: Kieran Trippier

To the surprise of many, Spurs opened up their checkbook this summer for the first time in a few years. They’ve been pretty cheap the last few seasons since they were opening their $1+ billion stadium and rightfully so. Last year was a bit odd for Spurs though since they barely came in 4th place in the league but made their first ever Champions League Final. Although they finished with no trophies, I’d call it a success. I wrote a recap for Spurs’ season for the International Champions Cup which you can find HERE, if you want to get a better picture of how it all went down.

Spurs signed Tanguy Ndombele earlier in the window, the central defensive midfielder they’ve been needing for some time now, for $65 million from Lyon. Since then they’ve also added one of the future studs for England Ryan Sessegnon and the Argentine who shined at Real Betis Giovani Lo Celso. Sessegnon brings them pace and versatility on the left hand side and Lo Celso brings them more depth in the attacking midfield position.

Spurs didn’t have a single definitive issue last season other than the injuries they had, primarily to Harry Kane and heir depth, and dropping a few results that could have resulted in draws rather than losses (13 losses with 2 draws). They’ve now addressed their depth issue with their new signings and I think they’re finally the team they’ve envisioned being for the last few years. I don’t think they have what it takes to compete with City and Liverpool but I do think they are a cut above the rest of the top six. I would take Spurs making the top four even with the steep price of (-180).

2nd: Liverpool (+280 to win, -1800 top four)

Last Year’s Finish: 2nd place, 97 points
Player to Watch: Sadio Mane
Key Signings: None
Key Departures: None

What a season Liverpool had in 2018/2019. The Reds won their 6th Champions League trophy in June and had the 3rd best Premier League season of all time, although they couldn’t finish top of the table due to City’s historic season. They didn’t make any summer signings simply because they simply didn’t have to and because they’re more than happy with what they have and I don’t blame them.

The one thing that Liverpool need to do to beat City this year is take points from them in their two matches. Last year they took one point from two matches and their loss at the Etihad in January ended up being their only loss in the campaign. Luckily for them, their manager Jurgen Klopp is one of the best in the world and he has been successful against Pep Guardiola in past years. They’ll need to win at Anfield in November and probably get points in April in Manchester if they want their shot at their first league title in over 30 years. Their front three is one of the best in the world and they boast one of the best center backs in recent memory in Virgil Van Dijk.

I think that they do have a shot at the Premier League title this season and I think taking them at (+280) isn’t a bad bet, but I personally wouldn’t bite until it hits (+300). I also think that the points over/under is about right at 86.5 and I wouldn’t bite unless the line moves. With that being said I do expect them to challenge City for the title for the whole season and we may get a similar title race (without the obscene amount of points) as last year.

Champions: Manchester City (-200 to win, -6500 top four)

Last Year’s Finish: Champions, 98 points
Players to Watch: Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne
Key Signings: Rodri, Joao Cancelo
Key Departures: Vincent Kompany, Fabian Delph, Danilo

Manchester City became the first team to win back to back titles since their cross-town rivals Manchester United did it 10 years prior. Not only did they do that, but they have now had the two best seasons in top flight history statistically during that run and they don’t look to be stopping anytime soon. They won the three domestic trophies (Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup) but they ultimately fell short in the Champions League quarterfinal round.

Their two main summer signings were predicated on the need for depth and players who fit Pep’s system. City signed Rodri at central midfield to be Fernandinho’s long-term replacement and for depth in case either were to get hurt, and Joao Cancelo at the outside back position to possibly replace Walker and to provide more quality going forward. Sadly they lost Fabian Delph, Danilo and most notably club captain Vincent Kompany. Obviously losing your club captain of 10 years is something no club can replace overnight and there will surely be some growing pains but there are still veterans like Aguero and David Silva who will likely replace him.

So what does City need to do in order to retain their Premier League title? Well not much at all to be honest. If they keep playing the same brand of football and can ease their new signings in,, I really don’t see much change other than the natural regression in points from the last two seasons. Yes, losing Leroy Sane to an ACL injury might hurt the team in the short term and its rotation, but Pep prides himself on the “next man up” philosophy. City have a wealth of options at that position (Sterling, Mahrez and Bernardo Silva) and I expect Pep to manage that issue just fine.

I think City are the clear cut favorites to win the title again (hence the egregious odds of -200), but I think that price is way too expensive of a future to buy in on. Instead I think the best play for them is the Over 92.5 points (-115), a mark they’ve cleared by 8 and 7 points the last two seasons. I can see them getting 93-95 points.

The Odd Teams Out

5th. Manchester United

There are too many holes in the team, the squad still has little to no cohesion right now and the board didn’t sign anyone this summer. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer currently has too much pressure on him and I don’t think they can keep up with the teams above them. It could be another painful transition year for the Red Devils, but they do improve on last season’s performance where they came in 6th place.

6th. Everton

What Everton have done this summer has been nothing short of spectacular. Adding Moise Kean from Juventus could solve the striker issue they’ve had since Lukaku left, adding Delph gives them a veteran presence in multiple positions, Gbamin replaces the loss of Gueye in the central midfield and they even added Alex Iwobi to give them support on the wings. I think they shock a lot of people and land in the 6th spot. Take the over on their points at 54.5 (-105).

7th. Chelsea

I know, I know, Chelsea in 7th what am I crazy? No, I’m not. Losing arguably the most impactful player in recent Premier League history is not going to over well with a team who is bringing in a new, inexperienced manager. People are also forgetting they’ll have to balance a Champions League schedule as well, which won’t be easy for a team who is lacking depth. What will be great to watch though is our BabyJesus Christian Pulisic’s first Premier League season. But sadly they are my team who will disappoint for this season and I’m betting their under points at 66.5 (-115).

Team In Trouble

Newcastle United

It all starts with owner Mike Ashley who not only stopped investing in the club, but let go legendary manager Rafa Benitez only to appoint Steve Bruce who hasn’t managed in the Premier League since the 2014/15 season with Hull City. They let one of their star strikers Ayoze Perez go and they didn’t bring in anyone that moves the needle. They might even be at risk of relegation if Ashley and the Magpies don’t figure things out.

If you’re not as jazzed as I am about this upcoming Premier League season then you need to get your head checked. Spots 1-2 might be a lock but 3-6/7 are in total limbo and the fight for the Champions League spots will be thrilling let alone the likely title race we will have again between City and Liverpool. Strap in folks, we’ve got 10 months left.

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo 

Nico

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