Predicting Each Premier League Club's 2018/2019 Season

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterAugust 9, 2018

Predicting Each Premier League Club's 2018/2019 Season

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    The English transfer window is shut, the Premier League kicks off tomorrow. With squads finalised and pieces in place, it's time to ask the all-important question: How will the table shake out over the course of the campaign?

    Here, B/R takes a stab at predicting each and every Premier League club's season, highlighting potential top-scorers, key men and breakthrough stars while also assessing weaknesses. The teams are ordered 1-20 in accordance with where we think they will finish.

    Disagree with a selection, or think a certain team is rated too high or too low? Share your predictions below!

1. Manchester City

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    Top scorer: No prizes for guessing Sergio Aguero here. He's an elite-level poacher in a team that creates a tonne of chances. Expect 20-plus even if injury occasionally strikes.

    Key man: Kevin De Bruyne was one of the two best players in the Premier League last season, the heartbeat of an incredible 100-point side, and there's no reason for his role to diminish or change.

    Biggest weakness: Is there one to pick out? Perhaps that Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool appear to be both their kryptonite and their most obvious challengers for the title this season. 

    Breakthrough star: It'll take some relenting from Pep Guardiola, as he played a senior side in almost every game last term, but Phil Foden is the obvious candidate.

2. Liverpool

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    Top scorer: Who else but Mohamed Salah? Few will expect him to hit last season's levels, where he bagged a stunning 32 goals, but he will be served up a truckload more opportunities, so there's every chance he buries a load more.

    Key man: Salah's quality and importance is undoubted, but Roberto Firmino is the man who ties Jurgen Klopp's attack together. His clever movements and flicks unlock spaces for others to utilise.

    Biggest weakness: They're probably an injury to Virgil van Dijk away from having a very average-looking centre-back partnership. 

    Breakthrough star: With Ben Woodburn sent out on loan to Sheffield United, Curtis Jones is the most likely youth graduate to step in for a few minutes here and there. He looks a real talent.

3. Tottenham Hotspur

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    Top scorer: Harry Kane, obviously. He's a chance hoover and a quality finisher. No one in the Tottenham team will outproduce him.

    Key man: Spurs can probably function without Kane, given Heung-Min Son can operate up top, but they can't function without Christian Eriksen. The transitions aren't as smooth and defences are much harder to break down in his absence.

    Biggest weakness: The over-reliance on Mousa Dembele and Christian Eriksen is clear. It's almost a case of needing to ween themselves off these players nowadays.

    Breakthrough star: Tottenham's squad is pretty deep, but perhaps if injuries strike midfield then 17-year-old Oliver Skipp will get a chance. He's excelled on Youth League duty to date.

4. Manchester United

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    Top scorer: Expect Romelu Lukaku to start every game he's fit for, and expect him to score 20-plus goals once again. He's always been incredibly productive and that won't stop here.

    Key man: No matter who Manchester United buy, in which position, their best player will likely always be David De Gea. That he wins so many Player of the Year awards is revealing; he is almost always their most valuable performer over the course of the season.

    Biggest weakness: The atmosphere surrounding United right now is not positive. The current Jose Mourinho is starting to look a lot like the one we saw eventually sacked by Chelsea in 2015.

    Breakthrough star: If we count Diogo Dalot as ineligible for this as he cost just shy of £20 million, Tahith Chong becomes the pick. He's an incredible, fearless dribbler and a clever operator; he just needs a chance to shine. 

5. Chelsea

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    Top scorer: Who plays the lion's share of minutes up top is still a big question mark, but you get the impression Alvaro Morata will be given every chance to win the role. Maurizio Sarri's system makes it quite easy for strikers to score goals and boy does the Spaniard need them—he's got a lot of fans to convince he's the right man for the job.

    Key man: Eden Hazard is Chelsea's best player, their x-factor, and he'll need to be better than ever—scoring more than ever—if the Blues are to succeed this term.

    Biggest weakness: It's going to take Chelsea some time to adapt to Sarri's very different and complex style of play. There'll be teething issues and they'll concede some silly goals as players figure it out. It could lead to an up-and-down pre-Christmas period.

    Breakthrough star: There isn't a Chelsea fan out there who isn't hoping this will be the year of Callum Hudson-Odoi.

6. Arsenal

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    Top scorer: Be it from a central position or out wide, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will sniff out goalscoring chances and tuck them away as he always has done. That he managed to get 10 in 12 starts in the second half of 2017-18 has fuelled expectations he could top 25 in a full campaign this term.

    Key man: After a summer of tumult on the international stage, Mesut Ozil will find nothing but love and affection from Arsenal. He was handed the captain's armband in pre-season as Unai Emery poured his faith into him, and it could translate into a big season.

    Biggest weakness: Central defence, despite reinforcement, is still a concern. New signing Sokratis Papastathopoulos had a very error-prone 2017-18 campaign, and he's going to pair up with the similarly mistaken-ridden Shkodran Mustafi.

    Breakthrough star: Arsenal have three or four players poised for a potential breakout so picking one is tough, but Matteo Guendouzi's impressive pre-season is hard to ignore.

7. Everton

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    Top scorer: January arrival Cenk Tosun has this unerring ability to convert half-chances in the box, so he'll likely lead the scoring charts, but Richarlison and Theo Walcott could both hit double figures as well. It might be tight.

    Key man: In a talented squad across the board it's hard to pick just one, but based on how good Watford's full-backs were under Marco Silva, Seamus Coleman's attacking instincts could be completely unlocked in this system.

    Biggest weakness: What's the starting XI, how quickly can Marco Silva decide it and how will he pick it? This is a bloated squad and cohesion may be hard to come by early on.

    Breakthrough star: This is one packed squad, and after big investment during the summer, Marco Silva won't have too much room for error. Kieran Dowell, who has featured a little in pre-season, might have the best shot at a few minutes here and there.

8. Leicester City

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    Top scorer: One of the easiest picks of all. Jamie Vardy scored 20 in the league last season and will be fed chance after chance in his quest to do it again.

    Key man: After an incredible summer with England, all eyes will be on Harry Maguire. Claude Puel is pretty defence-orientated and tends to procure plenty of clean sheets, so the centre-back will be given a spotlight to shine in.

    Biggest weakness: The post-Riyad Mahrez uncertainty is something Leicester are going to have to deal with quickly. They've recruited well over the summer, but no player they can sign is at Mahrez's level. Is James Maddison the new focal point? Will Demarai Gray fully step up? Is Adrien Silva acclimatised and ready? They need someone from somewhere to take a hold of things.

    Breakthrough star: Bought for no small fee, James Maddison looks the obvious Plan A at shifting the focus of this team in 2018-19. He's been brilliant for Norwich City as the No. 10; now, can he step up and produce the same magic in the Premier League?

9. West Ham

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    Top scorer: Once moved to a central striking position last season Marko Arnautovic couldn't stop scoring, and it looks like he's going to continue in that role in 2018-19. New signing Lucas Perez will likely be a rotation or backup option.

    Key man: When you spend north of £40 million on a playmaker you ramp up expectations. Felipe Anderson is this summer's headline arrival and needs to settle in quickly. Anderson has the drifting/floating ability to thrive in Manuel Pellegrini's free-flowing attack.

    Biggest weakness: Incredibly, they've probably got weaker in swapping Cheikhou Kouyate (sold to Crystal Palace) for Carlos Sanchez (signed on deadline day).

    Breakthrough star: Like Everton, West Ham's squad is packed with senior options, so youth probably won't get a look in—particularly given Domingos Quina's gone out on loan and Reece Oxford may leave, per Sky Sports. Perhaps Toni Martinez is given a go at some point.

10. Wolverhampton Wanderers

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    Top scorer: Leo Bonatini and Raul Jimenez will fight it out for the starting striker spot, playing patches of minutes here and there, but one player who looks set to play whenever fit is Diogo Jota. He netted 17 in the Championship last season and shouldn't have an issue with the step up in quality.

    Key man: He walked the Championship last season, now it's time for him show his quality in the Premier League. Ruben Neves will dictate the rhythm of Wolves' midfield from deep. 

    Biggest weakness: When you consider how strong Wolves are in goal, in defence and in midfield, it draws to light the fact they're lacking a genuinely excellent striker. It probably won't cost them, but it probably is top of the list of things to address in the future.

    Breakthrough star: Wolves probably ended up a senior body light in central midfield, which could mean Nuno Santo has earmarked Morgan Gibbs-White for a fair role. That would be fantastic; the England Under-17 world champion has flashed great potential over the last year.

11. Fulham

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    Top scorer: Expect the goals to be shared around this Fulham side, with Ryan Sessegnon, Andre Schurrle and Tom Cairney all bagging their fair share, but Aleksandar Mitrovic should reach double figures and lead the lot.

    Key man: Undoubtedly it's Tom Cairney, the true lifeblood of this team. He makes Slavisa Jokanovic's mesmerising midfield tick. Without him they just don't look the same.

    Biggest weakness: This may change with the additions of Calum Chambers and Alfie Mawson, but Fulham have been quite poor defending crosses—something every Premier League team should be well aware of.

    Breakthrough star: Highly rated by the England and Fulham youth setups respectively, Matt O’Riley looks best placed to be the one that follows in Ryan Sessegnon’s footsteps to the first team. Comfortable in possession and with a maturity well beyond his 17 years, he could break into this midfield setup in 2018-19.

12. Bournemouth

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    Top scorer: Like with Charlie Austin (Southampton) it's very fitness-dependent, but a full, unhindered season of Callum Wilson should mean Bournemouth net enough goals to be safe from relegation.

    Key man: Bournemouth score plenty and always have; it's never been an issue. It's keeping things under lock and key at the other end that's been the issue, and if that's to change, Nathan Ake needs to have an even bigger season than last time.

    Biggest weakness: With concern areas left-back and midfield bolstered during the window, the only remaining question mark in this Cherries side is at right-back. Simon Francis is 33 and a little error-prone, while Adam Smith has struggled to maintain a run in the side for a while. This is an area other sides can pinpoint.

    Breakthrough star: Eddie Howe uses the Football League as a recruitment ground fairly often, and this season's Lewis Cook is David Brooks. You'd imagine he'll be introduced slowly, but once he does gain a foothold in the side he'll show everyone what he's capable of.

13. Brighton

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    Top scorer: With a lot of strikers on the books and Chris Hughton a willing rotator, we look more toward the midfield and land on Alireza Jahanbakhsh. He's the most likely of the lot to get on the end of chances regularly.

    Key man: Brighton have bought a lot of players this summer, so some early cohesiveness may be difficult to find. In times like these, your leaders' influence is as crucial off the pitch as it is on it. Lewis Dunk will have to pick up where he left off in 2017-18.

    Biggest weakness: Cohesion issues aside, Brighton's away form last season was dreadful—they collected just 11 points on the road, the lowest in the league. That has to change. 

    Breakthrough star: Yves Bissouma was signed to very little fanfare, but give it half a season and people will become much more appreciative of his talents.

14. Burnley

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    Top scorer: Burnley have depth in the forward position following the recruitment of Matej Vydra so this is a tough call. The Europa League commitment clouds the position further. Given the faith shown in him by Sean Dyche, Chris Wood is probably the safest call here.

    Key man: Last season, the Clarets went from relegation candidates to European chasers, and key to this transition was the signing of Jack Cork. He minds the midfield expertly, gives them an in-possession threat, and even pops up with the odd goal.

    Biggest weakness: The full-backs are very strong crossers and forward runners, but quite weak defensively and allow a lot of crosses into the box themselves. It's a problem Burnley coped with last season thanks to their brilliant centre-backs, but stretched across several competitions this season it might become a serious issue.

    Breakthrough star: Sean Dyche hasn't tended to place his faith in much youth over the last few years, but if there's one in the squad who stands a chance of grabbing a few minutes here and there, it's Aiden O'Neill.

15. Southampton

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    Top scorer: If he stays fit for at least half the season, Charlie Austin will be the top scorer for Southampton. He's a reliable poacher who Mark Hughes will try to lean on up front, the only question is whether his hamstrings hold up.

    Key man: With much of Southampton's XI still up in the air after a busy summer, the club will rely on one of its few constants: Ryan Bertrand. He's emerged as a leader, a some-time captain, and he's still one of their best players.

    Biggest weakness: If Austin does get injured, and his career history suggests that's not unlikely, Southampton will lack a clear source of goals. Manolo Gabbiadini and Shane Long have been far from reliable in this area.

    Breakthrough star: It's arguable he already broken out once, but if Josh Sims can steer clear of injuries in 2018-19, he'll likely make an impact. He's a mazy dribbler, an intelligent player and a threat to goalkeepers.

16. Crystal Palace

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    Top scorer: Up until last season, each and every one of Christian Benteke's seasons in England had been either decent or excellent. We're willing to write 2017-18 off as a strange occurrence and back him to re-find his shooting boots now.

    Key man: The best and most influential player on this team is Wilfried Zaha. Not only is he a devastating dribbler and a rapidly improving goalscorer and creator, but he's also a youth product and links the fans to the pitch. When he's on the grass, nothing is impossible.

    Biggest weakness: Last season they were incredibly reliant on Zaha, and this summer they've done little to change that. Jordan Ayew is an attempt at it, but it's likely not enough.

    Breakthrough star: With Aaron Wan-Bissaka making a splash last year he's probably ineligible for this section, so we've plumped for midfielder Nya Kirby. The 18-year-old impresses for England's young teams and could step up in the same way Hamza Choudhury has for Leicester City.

17. Newcastle United

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    Top scorer: Expect this one to be a close-fought thing—and not in a good way. Salomon Rondon to claim the title despite not reaching double figures.

    Key man: To survive this season Newcastle United will need to be defensively stingy once again, and Jamaal Lascelles is the Alpha of this defensive line.

    Biggest weakness: The Magpies lack genuine star power in the attacking positions due to a refusal from the chairman to invest. They don't have poor options, but the players Rafa Benitez will go to work with this season won't be able to win too many games by two-goal margins or more.

    Breakthrough star: Don't expect one given Benitez's situation at Newcastle, but if anyone has a chance, it might be 20-year-old midfielder Sean Longstaff, who has featured a little in pre-season.

18. Watford

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    Top scorer: Andre Gray, though it may not be a dizzying total in the end.

    Key man: His 2017-18 was ravaged by injury, but when he did make it onto the pitch, Will Hughes sparkled in an attacking midfield role. He's primed for a big season.

    Biggest weakness: Can they score enough goals? With no striker acquired during the window, it'll be on Troy Deeney and Andre Gray. Neither managed more than five in the league last year!

    Breakthrough star: Ken Sema, bought from Ostersunds this summer, has had a fantastic pre-season and qualifies as a "secret weapon" of sorts for Watford.

19. Huddersfield Town

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    Top scorer: Huddersfield Town scored the joint-fewest goals in the Premier League last season (28) and yet aside from Adama Diakhaby—who it could be argued is more of a winger—the club haven't bolstered the strikeforce. It's between Steve Mounie and Laurent Depoitre again, so we'll back the former to edge it.

    Key man: David Wagner's system depends on Aaron Mooy. He creates most of the chances, sees most of the ball and dictates most of the attacks.

    Biggest weakness: It's really, really hard to see them scoring enough goals to stay up. They're going to find it hard to win games they don't keep clean sheets in.

    Breakthrough star: He's not a new name to Town fans, but most neutrals are still blissfully unaware of Philip Billing due to injury cutting him down last season just as he was gaining steam. The 2018-19 season provides the 22-year-old with a fresh chance.

20. Cardiff City

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    Top scorer: He may not play as a striker all the time, but new signing Bobby Reid had the most prolific 2017-18 season of any current Cardiff player. He's more likely to top the charts than any of their workhorse target men.

    Key man: Set piece prowess and defensive resilience were the Bluebirds' calling cards last season and likely will be again this term, so towering central defender Sean Morrison has a big part to play again.

    Biggest weakness: Despite the late acquisitions of Harry Arter and Victor Camarasa, it's hard to see this Cardiff side having enough quality to stay up.

    Breakthrough star: None of the youth have a chance under Neil Warnock, so we'll tip Callum Paterson here. He's vastly experienced for a 23-year-old, but he's never played on a stage like this.

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