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English Premier League 2017-18 Season Preview: Action Begins

English Premier League is not the home of mega stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Gareth Bale or Neymar but still, it is often touted as the best football league on the planet. The reason — its unpredictability.

Pratik Sagar | News18 Sports

Updated:August 11, 2017, 1:37 PM IST
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English Premier League 2017-18 Season Preview: Action Begins
Chelsea FC players celebrate with the English Premier League trophy after the winning the league in the 2016-17 season. (Getty Images)
English Premier League is not the home of mega stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Gareth Bale or Neymar but still, it is often touted as the best football league on the planet. The reason — its unpredictability.

Perhaps in no other league around the world will one find a team, which is fighting a gruesome relegation battle on one hand and troubling the top teams on the other, day in day out. The perfect example, that is still fresh in the minds of everyone is that of Leicester City.

Not to forget the enormous spending prowess of almost all football teams in English top flight. In the official figures released by the English Football Association last season, relegated club Sunderland earned 90 million pounds as part of the broadcasting rights, which was more than what German giants Bayern Munich received for lifting the title. However, the good thing about this is that even bottom-placed clubs are able to spend money on players and that helps in reducing the gap between teams, which in turn aids in intensifying the competition.

And to add to that, the Premier League is the home of the best coaches in the world. When winners like Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte, Pep Guardiola, Arsene Wenger, Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino are in the same league, fireworks become a regular phenomenon.

These ‘egos’ hate to lose and they will go to any level to see their side come out on top. These are the few reasons why the upcoming season of the English Premier League could be one of the most thrilling seasons in recent memory.

THE CONTENDERS

Rarely one would find that there are four or five top contenders fighting for the rights to be called as the best in the country. The top sides in England leave no stone unturned to get the better of their rivals and this competition is all-set to get tougher this time around.

Defending champions Chelsea are one of the favourites to lift the trophy but they will find it difficult to successfully bring back the title to Stamford Bridge that Antonio Conte won by a huge margin of seven points in his first season in England.

The Blues squad is too thin for the manager's liking and he has not been impressed by the way the management has gone about the transfer business this summer. Unlike last season, Chelsea will be featuring in the Champions League as well and it can be said that the number of world class players in their ranks is not close to what it is required to challenge on so many fronts.

Having said that, Chelsea have splashed the cash to bring in Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Antonio Rudiger, Ethan Ampadu and Willy Caballero but they have let too many players fly away from the Bridge. Nemanja Matic, Nathan Ake, Juan Cuadrado, Asmir Begovic, Dominic Solanke are among 21 players who have either permanently left Chelsea or are out on loan for the season.

But Chelsea remain a force to reckon with in the league and one should discount them at their own peril. The champions won't let go of their title so easily and players like Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and N'golo Kante will definitely have a big say in who becomes the Champions this season.

Chelsea's biggest rivals has to be the big spenders Manchester City for the league crown. Pep Guardiola's first season at the helm didn't go as per plan as they finished 15 points adrift of the champions. The former Barcelona manager took note of his ageing squad and has completely revamped it this summer window.

Manchester City have shelled out more than 200 million pounds to acquire the services of Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, Ederson, Danilo and Douglas Luiz.

City let in 39 goals in the premier league last season, which was the third highest among the top 6 teams. This is the reason why Guardiola made sure that his defense is stacked with world class talents and that has resulted in big money signings of Goalkeeper Ederson, full-backs Walker, Danilo and Mendy.

City's attack is one of the best in the league as they possess the likes of Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and now they also have Portuguese magician Bernado Silva — who won the French League last year with Monaco.

City's cross town rivals Manchester United finished a lowly sixth in the league last term but they are among the top favourites for the title this year. The reason — their heavy spending and manager Jose Mourinho's second season record.

United have already shelled out more than 100 million pounds to sign Romelu Lukaku, Victor Lindelof and Nemanja Matic. Before the start of the transfer window, Mourinho had said that he needed four players and they already have three in the bag.

The Red Devils needed a goal scoring forwards to replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic and in came Lukaku. Mourinho didn't have complete faith in injury-prone defenders like Phil Jones and Chris Smalling and so United signed Swedish defender Lindelof. And arguably their buy of the season could be Matic from rivals Chelsea as with him in the mid-field, Paul Pogba will be handed the license to thrill upfront, something which he did to great effect at Juventus.

Meanwhile, 'the special one' has won league titles in the second season of every club that he has managed in the past - Porto (2003), Chelsea (2006), Inter (2010), Real Madrid (2012) and Chelsea (2015).

But it won't be a simple task as Mourinho knows that United are a work in progress. Real Madrid schooled the Red Devils in the Super Cup on Wednesday and the manager will have his work cut out to ensure that it doesn't happen again in the league.

The aforementioned teams are there and thereabouts almost every season in the past few years, but there is one team which has changed the dynamics of the league with their consistent performances and are now known as one of the best in business - Tottenham Hotspur.

Mauricio Pochettino has a well drilled squad at his disposal, so much so that he doesn't feel the need to change it much in this transfer window. The only business that Spurs have done so far is that they have off-loaded Kyle Walker for 50 million pounds to City and there haven't been any incomings so far.

Harry Kane is arguably the best striker in the Premier league and with 29 goals last season, he was the golden boot winner as well. While Spurs’ young sensation Dele Alli also came up with the goods by netting 18 goals last season. To add to that, the brilliance of Eric Dier and Christian Eriksen in the midfield, the four make a fantastic forward line-up up for the Spurs.

Like their attack, Tottenham’s defense is one of the best in the league as well. Spurs only let it 26 goals last term, which was the least number of strikes conceded by any team in the English top flight. With Hugo Lloris in between the sticks and Belgians Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen in front of him, expect yet another shrewd season at the back for Spurs.

FIGHT FOR EUROPE

Arsenal may have won the FA cup last time and they beat Chelsea to the Community Shield this season, but it seems that their problems off the pitch will haunt them on the pitch in their quest for glory this year.

Majority of the supporters wanted manager Arsene Wenger to go but he recently signed a new contract, much to the dismay of the Gunners’ faithful. And to add to that, contract rebels Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, who were two of the most competent players for Arsenal last term, are not willing to put pen to paper on their respective extensions.

Chilean Sanchez was as prolific as ever last term as he scored 24 goals in the league, and if he leaves in these coming days, it will be catastrophic for Wenger’s side.

However, Arsenal have brought in French hot shot Alexander Lacazette - who scored 37 goals last year for Lyon in all competitions - to provide with the goods up front but it will be a Herculean task for even him to fire the Gunners to the title.

Having said that, Arsenal won't be playing in the Champions League for the first time in 20 years and that could help them in their quest for other honours this season.

Like Arsenal, there is one another club who could be forced into selling their best player this season - Liverpool. Barcelona have set their sights firmly on Merseyside hero Philippe Coutinho, whom they see as a replacement for Neymar, who signed for PSG in a preposterous deal worth 198 million pounds.

Coutinho slammed 13 goals and provided 7 assists last term and played more than a crucial role in Liverpool finishing fourth in the league. But if he does opt to move to Spain, the Reds will find it hard to fill in such big shoes.

The title maybe out of Liverpool's reach this season but they are more than capable of finishing in the top 6 of the table. Manager Jurgen Klopp has acquired the services of Mohammed Salah, who starred for Roma last term and also brought in young sensation Dominic Solanke from Chelsea, who was England’s best players during their Under-20 World Cup winning campaign recently.

Both Arsenal and Liverpool will be delighted if they manage to finish in the top 4 and guarantee themselves Champions League football, although top 6 is a definite reality for them.

Another team that is being tipped to finish in the top half of the table is Liverpool’s cross town rivals Everton, who have completely changed the look of the team for this campaign. The Toffees sold Romelu Lukaku for 75 million pounds to Manchester United and have invested the money smartly to bring in good talents.

Wayne Rooney returned to his boyhood club after falling down the pecking order at Old Trafford and is expected to lead the line. Another former Manchester United player, Michael Keane, who is regarded as one of the best defenders in the league, has signed for the Merseysiders. Dutch star Davy Klaassen too has opted to join the Ronald Koeman revolution at Everton, making then one of the teams to look out for this season.

BOTTOM THREE

Like the topsy-turvy title race every season, the relegation battle in the Premier League also is a joy to watch for the fans - unless their teams are involved in the dog fight. The 18th, 19th and 20th placed teams drop down to second tier and it is never a good feeling for the supporters to watch their teams say goodbye to the top flight.

But newly promoted side Brighton and Hove Albion could be one of those teams who end up biting the dust and return to the Championship. After a wait of 34 long years, Brighton has returned to the top flight and they deserved it as they have won 182 points in the last two second tier seasons.

However, the team lacks quality that is needed to play in the league and will be found wanting against most of the teams. Besides, in their last 10 matches of this season, when they could be fighting for survival, Brighton will come up against the likes of Arsenal, Everton, The two Manchester clubs, Liverpool and Chelsea which could prove to be their undoing.

Burnley are the other team who could fail in their bid to remain in the league. Last season, the Clarets managed to remain up simply by stacking up points at home (33) as their away form was scandalous to say the least. Burley won just seven points on the road and it could prove to be the main reason of their downfall this year. And to add to that, they have sold their best defender in Michael Keane and his absence will certainly hurt their chances of survival this year.

The third team which could make their way out of the league come May 2018 is Huddersfield Town. This will be their maiden appearance in the English top flight and their inexperience could be decisive. Manager David Wagner, who has served as the assistant of Jurgen Klopp in the past, has brought in as many as nine new players ahead of the start of their inaugural campaign. But most of their fortunes are relying on Steve Mounie, who was signed from Montpellier, for a club record fee of 12 million pounds. But if the striker fails to live to the expectations, the Terriers will be found wanting in the goals department and that could be the end of their campaign in the English top flight.
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