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Following Manchester City’s stroll to Premier League glory last season, the question is if anybody can stop them?

Here is our take on this seasons campaign and some of the best bets.


Winners

It’s hard to look past Man City defending their crown but at their current price, it isn’t one I’d be rushing to back it.

The squad remains pretty stable with Benjamin Mendy returning from his injury to add further strength in depth while the addition of Riyad Mahrez gives Pep Guardiola more options in how to shuffle his attacking pack.

We saw vast improvements in both Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane last season under Guardiola’s stewardship and if he can manage to get more out of Mahrez then this City side will once again be full of goals.

Ederson proved himself a solid proposition between the sticks during the title-winning campaign but there are still question marks that if he was injured, would Claudio Bravo be a suitable replacement as back-up to the Brazilian.

However, that’s the only real and small detractor for the Citizens despite the aging of Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero.

Liverpool look the most likely side to challenge City this time around and were probably unlucky to finish fourth last season because to the eye they were one of the better sides to watch.

Jurgen Klopp had added to his squad wisely during the summer with Naby Keita and Fabinho offering energy in the midfield to suit the high pressing style.

Xherdan Shaqiri could prove a steal at the price they paid with him being an upgrade on what they had last season as back-up to the likes of Mo Salah, Saido Mane and Roberto Firmino.

The most problematic area for the Reds was in goal. They finally got their man in Alisson from Roma to replace Loris Karius and that now gives them a more solid looking spine on paper meaning they should be competing.

The Reds were unbeaten at Anfield last season and if Klopp’s men are able to do the same once more then they will give City plenty to think about at the top of the table.

All that was lacking for Liverpool was converting draws into wins against sides they should be beating. They drew twice with relegated West Brom and also were held by Stoke at Anfield.

They only lost five times, only Man City lost fewer but they drew 12 games, the most of the top six sides.

Tottenham have had a quiet window so far without any incomings but talk of Jack Grealish could give more support to the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli.

Spurs under Mauricio Pochettino have improved year on year and returning to White Hart Lane could see another strong season but with the squad they have and balancing Europe, it could be a tough ask keeping tabs on City and Liverpool.

It is slightly surprising that some of the bigger names remain at the club without talk of moving elsewhere. Christian Eriksen is the crucial cog in this side and with him remaining, given the partnership he has formed with Kane, then there is a chance of Spurs winning silverware.

You do have to worry that nobody has yet joined while the late returning players from the World Cup mean it is unlikely to be a settled squad for the first few weeks.

Chelsea and Arsenal are both hard to judge given the managerial changes both have seen during the off-season.

It’ll be strange seeing someone different on the touchline at the Emirates given Arsene Wenger’s longevity but Unai Emery could be the man to bring the glory days back to Arsenal if given time.

Emery was quick to address certain areas in the squad like goalkeeper, centre-back and holding midfield, so that should be reassuring to the Gunners faithful.

With Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette in this side then there should be goals scored and I do think Arsenal could surprise a few this season with how they’ll play under Emery, so don’t write them off in terms of making the top four.

Across the capital was the worst kept secret with Antonio Conte’s departure and Maurizio Sarri’s appointment.

I’ll be honest in saying I’m not sure what to expect but it is likely to take time if it follows the same blueprint as to what helped see Napoli rival Juventus in recent seasons.

This does look likely to be a season of transition at Stamford Bridge and with talk of Thibaut Courtois going AWOL to force a move plus rumours surrounding the futures of Eden Hazard and Willian then we might see youth given a chance.

Given Sarri will be looking to play with a different system to Conte, the first question surrounds whether he has the right players to suit his ways.

While you have to doubt the striking options currently at the Bridge. The Blues only really have Alvaro Morata, who failed to convince the majority last season, Michy Batshuayi is likely to go out on loan, as is Tammy Abraham so that only leaves Olivier Giroud.

Sarri has managed to find something in Pedro during pre-season, so that is one bright note for the Blues but it could be a season of change.

Man United finished second last season but it wasn’t a season where they were fluent with Jose Mourinho’s dour tactics leading to criticism from some quarters.

Of the top six, only Chelsea scored fewer goals than Man United but one thing the Red Devils did do well was in their defensive quarter and the majority of that can be put down to David de Gea.

Looking at xG models then it suggests the Red Devils overachieved given the amount of xGA (expected goals against) with de Gea’s heroics in goal earning points for the side.

Mourinho has currently failed to add a centre-back to his squad, which could prove problematic but the signing of Diogo Dalot is one for the future given the aging full-backs already at the club.

Fred offers a different dimension in midfield and could be given more of a free reign if the rumours of Paul Pogba leaving come true.

There is just about enough in forward areas but an injury to one of Romelu Lukaku or Marcus Rashford would leave them short.

Mourinho has lost his right-hand man in Rui Faria, which won’t help his moods, plus it’s worth noting his frosty relationship with Ed Woodward over the clubs transfer dealings, so things don’t look particularly rosy at Old Trafford.

Verdict:

It’s hard to look past Man City and Liverpool look the most likely to challenge given their wise spending.

People doubt Arsenal under Emery, however, he’s bought wisely to key areas that the Gunners needed to strengthen. If he can get Mesut Ozil motivated and the attacking trio scoring then in what looks an open race for two spots, there is some scope in the price of backing Arsenal to make the top four.

Manchester City/Liverpool Straight Forecast – 7/2 Unibet

Arsenal Top 4 Finish – 2/1 - Various


Relegation

Cardiff surprised the Championship last season by sustaining their challenge and finishing as runners-up.

Neil Warnock will set his side up to frustrate in plenty of games this season and when you look at their squad, there isn’t much to shout about.

Tying Junior Hoilett down to a new contract was a wise move given the impact he had on the side during their promotion campaign.

The Bluebirds have added players good at Championship level but unproven in the top-flight, which has to be a worry.

They conceded the joint-fewest goals last season but Warnock has strengthened defensive areas by adding goalkeeper Alex Smithies and left-back Greg Cunningham.

In more advanced areas, Josh Murphy has joined from Norwich while Bobby Reid, who scored 19 goals last season has signed from Bristol City in a bid to bolster the number of goals scored.

Their only previous season in the top-flight ended in relegation and it has to be expected that the same fate awaits them this time around.

Wolves and Fulham are the two other promoted sides but I feel both of them can be skipped over given the calibre of players they’ve signed.

Both play an exciting and entertaining brand of football. Wolves have the Portuguese influence and Joao Moutinho could be an excellent signing for their midfield.

Fulham finally got Aleksandar Mitrovic on a permanent deal after he was scoring for fun when joining the Craven Cottage club. They’ve also signed Andre Schürrle and Jean-Michael Seri who bolster their options, so I would be surprised if the Cottagers were involved in a relegation scrap.

Huddersfield will be down there battling once more and you have to feel that they may get found out earlier this season.

The Terriers were bound by hard work and togetherness last season but with a lower budget than most then it is hard to see how they’ll compete considering the signings others around them have made.

They only scored 28 goals last season, the joint-fewest along with relegated Swansea, while they also conceded nearly 60 goals. With those figures, it is puzzling that they survived.

When you look further back to last season then you’ll see they picked up a fair share of their points before Christmas.

It shows that the David Wagner tactics with the high press saw them struggle in the latter stages of the season, so you’d have to expect a quick start from Huddersfield to get points on the board early before a slide towards the end of the campaign.

With their season starting with games against Chelsea and Man City then that theory may struggle.

With Chelsea at home being their opening game then things don’t get much easier with Tottenham and Liverpool travelling to Yorkshire in Huddersfield’s first five home games.

A difficult start for the Terriers, who are unlikely to record the same amount of points by Christmas as they did last year and that could lead to trouble come the end of the campaign.

Despite concerns with Cardiff and Huddersfield as two prime candidates for the drop, I’m drawn in by a side that struggled last season, who seems a fair price.

That side is Southampton and the main reason they survived in the end was by winning the ‘six-pointer’ against Swansea in the back end of the season.

However, during pre-season, it has been noted that Mark Hughes has gone to three at the back and that is a dangerous ploy from the Welshman given it cost him his previous job and it in the end cost them their Premier League status.

At Stoke, Hughes reverted to the back three, which didn’t succeed and it saw the Potters concede goals for fun.

The Saints have conceded 13 goals across pre-season and even though it’s hard to gauge anything from that, it might suggest it may take time as the players continue to get hang of their new responsibilities.

One saving grace for them is their start to the season with just Liverpool and Chelsea to play in their opening ten games that takes them up until November.

That said, I wasn’t totally convinced that they were strong at the back last season and looked shaky at times. The acquisition of Jannik Vestergaard will hopefully sort that out.

Another concern is about their forwards. Can Charlie Austin remain fit for a season? Does Shane Long score enough goals?

Manolo Gabbiadini seemed out of favour when Hughes took over at the club but he scored the goal that sealed safety, so maybe given more opportunities but he’s had his injury problems.

Losing Dusan Tadic is a blow for the Saints given he was their most likely creative force in recent seasons. The signings of Mohamed Elyounoussi and Stuart Armstong will see a fair share responsibility in creating those chances but if Hughes does play with wing-backs then where does Elyounoussi fit into the system?

Having beaten just one top ten side last season then the Saints will look to profit against those sides in and around them in the table but the change of formation has backfired for Hughes previously and could haunt him once again.

If a club loses its fans then it can have a negative effect on the players performances and that could hamper Newcastle given the dissent aimed towards Mike Ashley.

The Toon owner has been looking to minimise spending where possible to boost his profits and manager Rafael Benitez has been vocal about his concerns with his playing squad.

Kenedy had a successful loan spell and returns for another, just like goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.

The signing of Ki Sung-Yeung on a free could prove a pivotal piece of business. He’s tidy in possession and his involvement should allow Jonjo Shelvey more freedom. The fact they’ve played together in the past in a midfield that flourished suggests that a shrewd piece of business.

Hard working Yoshinori Muto could play a useful foil to Salomon Rondon and if they strike a partnership then you’d imagine they’d have enough to finish in mid-table.

The concern has to be with the crumbling relationship between owner and fans. Once the fans turn then the players can use that as an excuse for poor performances and lapses in concentration but I do believe they’ll be playing for Benitez and the fans, so have enough to survive.

Southampton to be Relegated – 7/1 - Various

Relegation Treble: Cardiff, Huddersfield & Southampton – 50/1 – Sky Bet


Other Markets

Here’s a look at some supporting markets that are of interest:

Sergio Aguero Top Goalscorer – 15/2

I know it’s something I went for last season but he’s just hard to ignore with four places at quarter the odds available on each-way bets given his record since joining Man City.

A general record of 143 goals in 206 Premier League appearances tells its own story and he’s hit 20+ in five of his seven seasons, so for me, it’s a no-brainer.

The 30-year-old bagged 21 last season to see him finish third on the scoring charts behind Mo Salah and Harry Kane.

In a side that scored 106 goals last season and similar is expected this, plus the chances created then I just find him hard to ignore at this price.

 

Everton to Finish Bottom Half – 5/2

This might surprise some given Everton have finished inside the top-seven in nine of the last 14 campaigns but I just think they’ll struggle this campaign.

Marco Silva is highly regarded as a manager but as soon as he was linked with this job last season, his head was turned and he seems like a character that can be easily distracted by talk.

There have been times in games where you question his tactical nous and the Everton faithful are relentless, so any signs of failure they’ll be letting him know.

Lucas Digne offers something different at the back to the aging Leighton Baines but it’s the centre-backs that have to worry you with 35-year-old Phil Jagielka and Michael Keane not being the most solid.

Seamus Coleman is returning from a serious leg break and sometimes we see those sorts of injuries taking their toll on a player, so that might see his performance levels reduce.

For everything good about Gylfi Sigurdsson there are concerns raised about his injury record after missing a large chunk towards the end of the season, plus without him the midfield doesn’t look the most creative.

Richarlison is an expensive purchase and in the final third can be very wasteful while the Toffees only real forward option is Cenk Tosun, who did well since joining from Besiktas but there could be a reliance on him for goals.

There seems to be a lack of depth to the squad in key areas and although many are expecting a top-half finish at the minimum, there are stronger sides on paper, so I’m happy to chance this bet, especially with how some rivals have strengthened.

 

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