2018/19 Premier League Preview, Part 3
The Magpies finished 10th in their first season back in England’s top flight and will look to build on their top half finish in 2018/19.
Newcastle did not rest on their laurels despite a successful return to the Premier League, acquiring seven players in the summer transfer window, highlighted by Japanese forward Yoshinori Muto.
Muto scored eight goals and registered two assists in 27 appearances and will be a welcome addition to a Magpies side that featured no double-digit goal scorers in the league last season.
Dwight Gayle’s move to West Brom leaves a big gap in the heart of the black and white attack. He finished as the ‘Toon Army’s’ second leading scorer and coupled with the permanent move of striker Aleksandar Mitrović to Fulham, Rafa Benitez will be reliant upon several players stepping up to fill the void.
Key player: Jonjo Shelvey
Featuring no out and out superstar, Shelvey will be called upon by Benitez to help lead Newcastle in their battle to climb the table.
While his tendency to float in and out of games is concerning, there’s no doubting Shelvey’s ability when focused. The English midfielder will need to register double-digit goals and assists combined (he netted just once last season with three assists) if Newcastle are to crack the stranglehold of England’s elite squads.
If Shelvey can form successful partnerships with the team’s leading scorer from last season Ayoze Pérez (eight goals) and summer signing (on loan) Salomón Rondón, United can climb in season 2018/19.
Ins: Yoshinori Muto
Outs: Aleksandar Mitrović
Expected finish: 9th
Surviving relegation last season by just three points, the Saints will be facing an uphill battle once again this season in order to avoid the drop.
Charlie Austin led the line for the Saints in 2017/18 but failed to find the net often, scoring just seven goals in 24 appearances, 14 as a substitute.
Three of their summer signings were strikers, signalling their intent to improve their goal scoring record, but the loss of centre-back Virgil van Dijk midway through last season will still be felt in 2018 and beyond.
The losses of the talented Jordy Clasie and Dusan Tadic will hurt the club, however, and as a result will find it tough going this season and will more than likely spend much of it in and around the drop zone.
Key player: Charlie Austin
Arguably the biggest name on Southampton’s roster, Austin will need to replicate his form from the 2014/15 season that saw him net 18 times in 35 appearances if Southampton want to avoid relegation.
The lack of star power on the Saints is evident, meaning Austin will at times be a one-man army, forced into unfamiliar roles.
The striker has scored just 14 league goals in his past three seasons so it will be a tough task for him to reach at least 10 goals, but it’s what is required for Southampton to remain a Premier League team beyond this season.
Ins: Danny Ings
Outs: Jordy Clasie
Expected finish: 20th
The smallest of the ‘Big Six,’ Tottenham has had an interesting summer as they failed to sign a single player to help improve their squad that finished last season third.
Spurs have a treasure trove of young talent, headlined by two of England’s brightest stars in Harry Kane and Dele Alli, but have so far failed to make a serious charge at a Premier League title, despite finishing second in 2015/16.
Their core of Kane, Alli, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, defender Toby Alderweireld and midfielders Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen are as talented as any core in the league, but may regress on the back of deep World Cup runs for the English pair, Frenchman Lloris (started for France in their World Cup Final victory) and Alderweireld, who not only helped Belgium reach the semi-finals but was constantly rumoured to be on the move to Manchester United.
Led by manager Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham has played some of the best football stylistically in the league over the past few seasons. However, it has mattered little as time and again, when results are needed in grind-it-out fixtures, Spurs have often come up short.
Their talent and chemistry alone should see them comfortably qualify for Champions League football, but a title challenge might just be out of the equation given the strength and depth of Manchester City and Liverpool.
Key player: Harry Kane
The prolific striker is one of the best talents out of England in some time and punctuated his dominant goal scoring run over the past four seasons by reaching 30 goals for the first time in his league career.
As a two-time Premier League Golden Boot winner, it is safe to say Kane will likely reproduce his outstanding form that has seen him score 100 goals in the past four seasons alone.
Kane’s goal scoring ability will keep Spurs in most fixtures even if they are playing poorly. He may just need to reach even greater heights if he wants to help Spurs to their first league title since 1961.
A failure to do so would be disastrous and could see Kane moved onto to a club such as Real Madrid in the offseason as he enters his prime.
Outs: Keanen Bennetts
Expected finish: 4th
Finishing last season in the middle of the bottom half (14th) of the table, the Hornets had a busy summer in their bid to move up, led by captain Troy Deeney.
Their best signing of the transfer window secured the permanent move of former Barcelona winger Gerard Deulofeu, having spent the second half of last season on loan at Vicarage Road.
Four of Watford’s seven new signings were defenders, addressing a key issue from last season that saw the Hornets defence concede the second most goals (64) at an average of 1.68 per game.
The loss of Richarlison to Everton will hurt the club; he led Watford in assists (four), total shots (95, the next best was Abdoulaye Doucouré with 47) and finished second in goals with five, but the addition of Deulofeu should be ample cover and possibly provide an upgrade.
The league title is out of the question for the club, but a deep F.A or Carabao Cup run could prove their season a success, provided they keep their place in the Premier League.
Key player: Troy Deeney
Choosing a club’s captain as their key player may seem an easy choice given how highly he is rated already, but Deeney is the soul of Watford and wears his heart on his sleeve.
The talented striker has scored double-digit goals in two of his three Premier League seasons but managed to find the net just five times last campaign.
Deeney put his disappointing season down to injuries and dealing with online abuse aimed at his youngest daughter but enters this year “buzzing.”
Fourth on Watford’s all-time goal scoring list, the club will need Deeney to rediscover his scoring prowess. A 10 goal plus season will likely help keep the Hornets in the top flight and deem their season a success.
Ins: Gerard Deulofeu
Expected finish: 16th
West Ham United
Made famous to the general public by the film ‘Green Street Hooligans,’ the Hammers roller coaster 2017/18 included fans storming their London Stadium pitch, fighting relegation, managerial change three months into the season before ultimately surviving and finishing 13th.
David Moyes guided the club to safety but was not retained, Manuel Pelligrini entering the upcoming season as the Hammers new manager.
Felipe Anderson became the club’s most expensive transfer at £36 million and, along with the signings of Jack Wilshere and Issa Diop, gives the Irons real depth and leaves them in a strong position to finish in the top half of the Premier League table.
West Ham are the classic club that rarely lives up to expectations or overplays and finishes higher than first thought. One of many clubs that have been boosted over the transfer window with new signings, they will face tough competition in trying to move up the table.
However, if their new signings can gel then the London club will be one side no team wants to face.
Key player: Marko Arnautovic
Mexican star Javier Hernandez will likely garner a lot of the headlines given his illustrious career, but it is Arnautovic that can help guide West Ham up the table.
He finished the 2017/18 league season with 11 goals from 31 appearances and was voted ‘Hammer of the Year.’
The formation of strong partnerships with Anderson and Wilshere will be vital given the talent both players possess, and if Arnautovic can build on his play from last season, he should have ample opportunity to net 15 league goals.
Ins: Felipe Anderson
Outs: Cheikhou Kouyate
Expected finish: 14th
Their last Premier League season saw the Wanderers finish last and spend the next six seasons in the Championship and League One.
But on the back of a dominant campaign that saw them win the 2017/18 EFL Championship, Wolves are well placed as a team to watch this season.
The club signed 12 new players this offseason; headlined by winger Adama Traoré and veteran goalkeeper Rui Patrício, in an effort avoid relegation and remain in the top flight.
Led by talented young midfield Rúben Neves, who was included in the Championship’s Team of the Season, Wolves should be the best out of the three newly-promoted squads.
The addition of midfielder João Moutinho is underrated, his veteran leadership and poise will be invaluable to a squad that features a lot of young talent.
Should all go to plan, Wolverhampton will be an instant hit in the Premier League and have the ability to play the role of giant killer.
Key player: Rúben Neves
One of the players of the season in last year’s EFL Championship, Neves was nominated as both Championship Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year and is one of the most talented young players in the Premier League.
The former FC Porto player was a shock signing for Wolves last season but showed why he was so highly valued, and if the league new boys want to make an impact they will need the midfielder to recreate his form from last season.
He netted six times but added just one assist and he’ll need to add to that total in this campaign. But given his performances last season, there’s no doubt that a player of his ability should be able to do so.
Ins: Adama Traoré
Outs: Benik Afobe
Expected finish: 10th