Sam’s Safe Space For Soccer Stoolies
Zero sleeps. ZERO SLEEPS! Today is the day that defending alternate champions Liverpool and N00bwich kick off the 2019-20 edition of the Premier League, and if you aren’t sporting an anticipatory sportsboner then shame on you, sir and/or ma’am.
So what are we in store for this season? Are City poised to win three – THREE! – in a row? Can the Reds find a way to leapfrog them this time round? Is there a dark horse? Can somebody not sitting at the cool kids (Big Six) table break the hegemony? What can we expect from The Babyjesus? Is Aston Villa more like Wolves or Fulham? Do either of the others promoted clubs have a shot in hell at sticking around? Who will win the golden boot? First manager to be sent packing? Which clubs will lift the auxiliary trophy (FA Cup) and trinket (Make-Belieague Cup)?
All the answers you seek can be found below.
However, before we get balls deep in the good stuff I have been advised by Mike Portnoy, Esq. to include some words of warning about the picks and previews contained herein:
• The transfer window closed yesterday afternoon. Thus, it was still open as I wrote most of this. More importantly, keep in mind that players can still be SOLD from EPL clubs to non-EPL clubs for a couple more weeks… *cough*… Eriksen… *cough*… Pogba?? Thus, only a big huge IDIOT would make predictions about how a season is going to play out with before the European transfer window officially closes
•Thankfully I am a big huge IDIOT
Now that that’s out of the way let’s get to it…
[[IMPORTANTLY: a quick reminder that any n00bies wanting to get into the EPL who have yet to pick a team to love and cherish should take a gander at Barstool’s Guide to Picking an EPL Club that was posted yesterday as it may be able to help your in your search for clarity]]
To help yog your memory, this is what the league table looked like at the end of last season:
The battle for the league title was a two-horse race from October to May and came down to the final game of the season when City locked it up, beating Liverpool by a single point. A single point. Just one. Dang!
Behind the two runaway leaders there was a little bit of a dogfight for the top four slots, though Arsenal and United never really looked like serious threats to grab them. Wolves emerged as the best of the rest, taking 7th place and locking down the last Europa League slot when Watford couldn’t slay the City beast in the FA Cup final.
The relegation battle was once again, I’m afraid to say, a bit of a yawner with Huddersfield being mathematically eliminated in roughly December and Fulham – even after spending a couple billy on players last summer – didn’t last much longer. Finally, Brighton eventually outlasted Cardiff sending the league’s only Welsh team back down and making way for the English Premier League to be factually accurate once again (for at least one season).
As always, there are a million interesting storylines that will be worth following going into the season. Here are just a few to keep your eye on:
1) City hangover (Part 2)?
They haven’t spent nearly as much on transfer this summer, in large part because they are still chock full of world class talent from the last few windows, but in addition to the traditional questions about a championship hangover you also just know that City’s failure once again in the Champions League (to bunk ass Harry Kane-less Spurs no less!) has been eating at Pep all summer… it will be interesting to see if perhaps an added emphasis on making waves on the continent may be an added distraction this season.
2) Will Liverpool’s busy summer be a problem?
If I had an extra inch or two I would have been dating 7s and 8s in college instead of 3s and 4s, but alas, such as life. Liverpool knows what I am talking about after coming that close to winning the league – both in that fateful game against City in January and in the final table. (Granted, winning the Champions League was not a bad consolation prize.) The club basically stood pat this summer, which not the end of the world when your roster is as good as Liverpool’s, but one possible concern is the number of key players who saw significant minutes in international competitions like Copa America and the African Cup of Nations. Just something to keep an eye on.
3) Can The Babyjesus help knee-capped Chelsea rise again (or at least keep their head above water)?
Transfer bans are a real bitch. Chelsea had some glaring holes and filled them by… watching their coach leave and best player head to Madrid. Probably not the ideal solutions. Then again there is a reason he is The Babyjesus.
4) Never mind Top 4 – can someone new break up the Big Six?
Everton are out here going balls to the wall in the transfer window. Wolves kept their core and added a legit second striker to pair with (or perhaps deputize for) Raul Jimenez. West Ham has one of the deepest midfields in the league. Lester have a glut of exciting attacking talent. Watford made some sneaky good last minute moves. Aston Villa went and spent a BILLY trying to upgrade their squad. If someone is gonna do it, it’ll come from this group.
5) Cup o’ coffee for the n00bs?
Villa spent bigly this summer so a flameout would be a massive disappointed, but just about everybody and their mum are already pencilling Sheffield and N00bwich into the 19th and 20th league places this season. Then again that’s what everybody (and their mum) said about Lester in August 2015.
For better and worse the Premier League overlords have given in and implemented the much beloved-and-also-hated system. Most of you know where I stand on it (Objective? Good. Subjective? BAD) so I won’t belabor the point right here. In truth, the FA actually waited longer than a lot of leagues in an attempt to see what works and what doesn’t in the hopes that rollout would be as seamless as possible. We shall see. The “rules” for using it are pretty analogous to what we have seen in the last two World Cups so there shouldn’t be too many surprises… though complaints? Yeah, there will be a few – million.
Below are several proxies for how people think things will shake out this season. The first is a list of betting odds, which shows how the betting public thinks the clubs stack up heading into the season:
Next up is how the quant nerds over at FiveThirtyEight see things playing out:
Here’s the thing though, this is why nerds who don’t watch games and just crunch numbers can’t be trusted. According to their figures there is a 1-in-20 chance that either Arsenal or Manchester United get relegated this season. They also seem to think there is an almost 2-in-three chance that a non-Big Six team will finish in the top four and quality for Champions League. I mean, c’mon now y’all. I’m all for the Cinderella stories but to think those odds are legit is just stupid.
Now, without further ado, for the fun part………….. pissing people off with my official tentative preliminary predictions (going from bottom to top):
Best case: 17th
Worst case: 20th
The best team in the Championship went and did……… absolutely nothing this summer (basically). I assume that manager Daniel Farke isn’t going to make the same mistake as the last time the Canaries bounced up when they went balls to the wall every game, were remarkably entertaining to watch, but won nine (of 38) games and finished in 19th. Just not sure they have the talent to compete this season.
Best case: 16th
Worst case: 20th
Did well to stay up last season then unceremoniously dumped manager Chris Hughton without even saying thank you. That’s bad joo-joo right there. Needless to say his replacement Graham Potter, who came over from Swansea, has a tricky job ahead. The club was tough to beat at home and that was really the main reason they managed to stick around – well, that and a ton of goals from the ageless wonder Glenn Murray. (Sidenote: how am I the only one that thinks he looks like Roger from “American Dad!”? How is this possible??).
Anyway, the Seagulls two most notable moves involved trading a Belgium for a Frenchman, bringing in winger Leandro Trossard from Genk and loaning out one of their few difference makers (slash mental midgets) in Anthony Knockaert. This might make them a little more dangerous this season but – barring a serious resurgence from Pascal Gross and/or another ridiculous season (13 goals!) from Murray – is it enough to stay alive for another season? Meh, not convinced.
Best case: 14th
Worst case: 19th
This one admittedly involves a lottttttt of guesswork. Palace has not looked right the last couple seasons and is far too dependent upon Wilfy Zaha. It seems pretty clear that the Ivorian has been itching for a move to a bigger club (and bigger payday) for some time now. Did he hand in a transfer request? Did he not? I have no idea but Palace has held onto him despite plenty of (rumored) interest from the likes of Arsenal and Everton (among others), which frankly is playing with fire. Once a player – your one true star, no less – checks out mentally it is bad news for performance, productivity and the locker room dynamic. It has not come back to bite them yet but very well could this season. Adding guys like James McCarthy and Ayew-B, not to mention walking brainfart Gary Cahill, is all well and good, but this season will go as Zaha goes… maybe he plays like he dipped his balls in Icy Hot in the hopes of securing a big ass contract next summer and carries Palace to a mid-table finish… but on the other hand if he throws in the metaphorical towel it could be extremely bad news bears.
Best case: 15th
Worst case: 20th
Make no mistake, this is going waaaaaay out on a limb. Everybody seems to think Sheffield has not done nearly enough this summer and are poised for a very rough season. Finishing outside the relegation zone would feel like winning a trophy for Blades fans – as well it should since it is actually about a million times more important in the long run. Their strong suit will be the continuity they have from keeping their entire squad together, which keep in mind had BY FAR the best defense in the Championship last season. Playing for draws on the road and hoping to nick some wins at home is a strategy that has worked before. Gonna need a little luck but they don’t call me Ballsy Magee for nothing.
Best case: 14th
Worst case: 18th
Mike Ashley let the best manager he could have ever hoped to attract walk this summer (Rafa Benitez) and replaced him with a guy who has been fired from every English midlands team in existence. Tubby kings doing tubby king things. To be fair, after letting Rafa and Ayoze Perez walk, Ashley did splash some cash a highly touted striker in Joelinton (from Hoffenheim) and winger Allan Saint-Maximin (from Nice). Without them I’d say this club may be heading for the drop but them plus Miggy Almiron just might offer enough offensive firepower to keep the Magpies safe for another summer in the hopes that Ashley finally sells the damn club to a real owner. Or maybe they still get dropped. Not out of the realm of possibility.
Postscript: right at the death Newcastle also went out and brought Andy Carroll back into the fold. Not sure how I feel about that move. He still should have a little left in the tank (if only because he’s 6’4” and jumping is easier than running) and his best years were at St. James… but he’s the wrong side of 30, injury prone and wasn’t exactly a world beater at West Ham. I donno. I’m gonna mark that one a big fat “incomplete”.
Best case: 11th
Worst case: 17th
Spectacular 2017-18 season followed by massively disappointing (albeit somewhat predictable) 2018-19 campaign. The club brought in a few recognizable names including Jay Rodriguez (from West Brom) and Erik Pieters (from Stoke), but it is safe to say you didn’t splurge when your biggest move is adding Danny Drinkwater on a five-month loan (gotta assume he found a local detox facility and Chelsea told him to come back after he sobered up).
That said I trust the Ginger Genius Sean Dyche to find a way to batten down the hatches, especially at home, and particularly now that the Clarets won’t be distracted by Europa League pipedreams.
Best case: 10th
Worst case: 18th
Higher ceiling but lower floor than a club like Burnley, mostly because it will depend on whether the team can conform to the aggressive style that made Ralph Hasenhuttl such a successful manager at RB Leipzig. He did well to right the ship after being hired last December but the club was quietly bad the last couple months of the season, which makes me a little nervous. Not a ton of business this summer other than making Danny Ings loan permanent and trading Charlie Austin (sold to West Brom) for Che Adams (bought from Birmingham City). Sounds like the recipe for another season of shooting for mediocrity. That’s not a criticism. Mediocrity can be a beautiful thing. Nice house with a white picket fence in the suburbs populated by 2.3 kids, a dog and a wife you have missionary style sex with every other Sunday is nothing to sniff at in this crazy age we live in.
(13) ASTON VILLA
Best case: 9th
Worst case: 18th
Credit where credit is due, the Villans put their money where their mouth is and brought in quite a number of new and shiny players. Wesley, Tyrone Mings, Douglas Luiz are guys with legitimate Premier League-level potential. So could they emerge as the next Wolves and elbow their way directly into the top half of the table in their first season back with the big boys? I think that is a possibility. In the end though this pick may be more about me being once bitten twice shy after I thought Fulham – which was similarly full of expensive new buys – was going to be a solid contender last year (finishing 11th)… and WOOF did they poop the bad in a bad way. I have a hard time imaging that ALL of Villa’s big signing flame out the way that Fulham did but at the same time it is probably a little underappreciated how impressive and improbable Wolves’ immediate success was last season. Following in those footsteps would be a tough task. I am going to split the baby and say Villa will manage to stay far enough away from the relegation zone to feel comfortable and live to fight another season.
Best case: 9th
Worst case: 16th
They can score, sure, but can they defend?
Time for Eddie Howe to prove why every British paper under the s*n has been bending over backwards these last few years to not criticize their English managing golden boy. The recent injury to David Brooks is a bit of a downer, but the Cherries will nevertheless be a lot of fun to watch with Wilson, King and Mighty Mouse Fraser combining for not one iota of fear (albeit without adding much defensive support either).
Best case: 8th
Worst case: 16th
The Hornets return a solid core led by Doucoure, Pereyra and Deulofeu, but really hadn’t done much in the transfer window and – as I said in the Guide to Picking an EPL Club earlier this week – there were gonna be some big questions about where the goals would come from… but a late flurry of moves to add Danny Welbeck (for free no less) and a big-money signing of Ismaila Sarr (from Rennes) both struck me as fantastic 11th hour signings. Welbeck was desperately in need of a new place to restart his career and a club like Watford seems like the perfect place for him, where he won’t necessarily need to be The Man with guys Troy Deeney and Andre Gray still kicking about. Could things go south? Yeah, sure, and the bookies have been pretty down on the club coming into this season, but they showed last season in their run to the FA Cup final while also pushing for a top half finish that they have a knack for exceeding expectations.
<<<<<<<<<< HALFTIME >>>>>>>>>>
Aight, we back.
(10) WEST HAM
Best case: 7th
Worst case: 13th
I have said this before and ended up feeling foolish but I like what West Ham did this summer. The departure of Marko Arnautovic was probably addition by subtraction since he made it pretty clear he wanted a big ass payday somewhere else in January, and when that didn’t happen was pretty much going through the motions. The additions of striker Sebastian Haller (from Frankfurt) and attacking mid Pablo Fornals (from Villarreal) should add some oomph to a team that already had plenty of creative players including Felipe Anderson, Manuel Lanzini and Jack Wheelchair (when his legs work). Call me crazy but I think the Hammies are looking pretty dangerous this season. Defensively, well, I’m not saying that they are going to push for a Champions League slot but Declan Rice is a stud (and probably will get sold for a bundle soon) and the back line is settled and experienced. In fact I think I just talked myself into moving them up one slot. (Update: I later moved them back down… so #10 it is.)
Best case: 7th
Worst case: 11th
The addition of Ayoze Perez (and making Youri Tielemans signing permanent) were nice moves but, after the Foxes sold Harry Maguire for a buttload and did squadoosh to replace him, this season may now boil down to one thing: Brendan Rodgers’ ability to teach up young kids like Çağlar Söyüncü who will be the yin to Jonny Evans’ (or increasingly ancient Wes Morgan’s) yang in the middle of their defense. I heard some people suggesting that Lester could push for a top six slot and let’s just say I have some serious reservations about whether they are up that kind of jump defensively. To be fair Rodgers gets a lot of shit for some of the dumb/shadeball things he says and does (off the field) but he has a pretty solid track record when it comes to getting the most out of unproven talent. So never say never. But until I see it, though, I have a little trouble believing that they can go much higher than 7th.
Best case: 6th
Worst case: 12th
This team was good last season – damn good – and they appear to have only gotten better by adding a second striking option in Patrick Cutrone (from AC Milan). My big concern for Wolves is that this will be their first time dealing with the distraction and added workload of Europe League. This can be a legitimate problem for teams that aren’t as deep as the Big Six – just ask Burnley about their experience last season. Fact is Wolves should be good enough to make some noise in that competition, and they will no doubt feel some pressure to ogive it their best shot based on the ambitious chatter from management, but that could have an impact on their domestic form. So even if one or more of the Big Six have an off year (and I would not be surprised if that’s the case), I still think Wolves will have a tough time sneaking by them – even if Raul Jimenez comes up with another standout year like last season.
[Note: we should get a very early look at how the Europa Dreamers truly stack up when Wolves and Lester face off… on Sunday!]
Best case: 4th
Worst case: 9th
This is not hate. This is simply facts. The transfer ban came at a VERY bad time for Chelsea, which just lost their manager and best player.
I’m not saying Frank Lampard will not work out, and I’m definitely not saying The Babyjesus is anything less than the second (or maybe first) coming of our American Soccer Lord and Savior. But I suspect that Chelsea are in for a much tougher season than most of the bookies seem to think. Several things I will be watching out for – apart from dissecting Pulisic’s every touch – are (1) what will become of Jorginho now that his biggest fan and protector Maurizio Sarri is gone, and (2) are some of the relative babies called in from Chelsea’s loan army ready to produce? The pressure is going to be on guys like Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (not to mention TBJ) to help Olivier Giroud shoulder the load of scoring goals. Long story short this team strikes me as being good not great with too many unproven holes to finish in the top four again (especially with the responsibility of Champions League on the docket this season).
Why they could win it: The Babyjesus
Why they wouldn’t win it: Holes galore, inexperienced manager, inability to make moves in January… need I go on?
Well that seems unnecessary
Best case: 5th
Worst case: 10th
Talk about a glow up. Moise Kean, Alex Iwobi, JP Gbamin AND Djibril Sidibe? Go on with yo bad self, Everton!
In all seriousness though, let’s not forget that the Toffees already had some nice puzzle pieces in place led by among others Richarlison, who was an instant sensation (when not getting sent off) since coming off from Watford, and Gylfi Sigurdsson, who spent one season wallowing in poop before coming alive in a big way last year. Add in less heralded guys like Morgan Schneiderlin, Andre Gomes, Theo Walcott and Dominic Calvert-Lewin supported a surprisingly solid backline (assuming they avoid injuries) that includes one of the better fullback tandems around in Lucas Digne and Seamus Coleman, plus one of the better keepers in the league and – wtf – this Everton squad is looking pretty damn good…. on paper.
That last little caveat is important. Everton have done this before and gone all in on summer transfers only to shit the bed in a big way. But last time I checked they didn’t do anything too stupid like pay WAY too much to bring in a fan favorite like Wayne Rooney, so I gotta say I can’t help but like what the Toffees got going on over here. Now, I’m not saying it’s going to happen. But is it at least semi-plausible that their glow up coincides with a possible blow-up (or two) from the Big Six leading them to compete for a Champions League slot? Meh, possibly. “Compete” is the important word there because I just don’t see them slipping past the requisite THREE members of the Big Six that it would take to make top four. Nevertheless, can’t help but think it is an exciting time to be a fan of that “other” Liverpudlian team.
Why they could win it: N/A
Why they wouldn’t win it: They went out and got some more BDE talent – for a non-Big Sixer but the gulf between them and Man City (among others) is still immense
Best case: 3rd
Worst case: 8th
This is what I said about United coming into last season (when I picked them to finish 5th):
“Something doesn’t smell right at Old Trafford at the moment.”
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Something still ain’t right about United. They actually did some smart moves on the transfer market in shoring up a shite defense, even if they paid waaaaaaaaaaaay too much Harry Maguire. On the plus side, (1) it aint your money and (2) he and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are probably just what the doctor ordered to rapidly improve the backline. Shaw/Maguire/Lindelof/AWB plus DDG? Gotta admit, that’s not a bad little unit they have put together (assuming Shaw didn’t start eating all the chips again).
However, there are several flaws in the United ointment this season. The first and most obvious, and one that nobody seems to be talking about, is the fact the Red Devils let Ander Herrera walk this summer without even thinking about bringing in a new bulldog to replace him. Then they went and sold Romelu Lukaku without bringing in another striker, ostensibly handing the reigns over to a combination of Rashford, Martial and Mason Greenwood. I’ll admit the latter did some impressive things in preseason, but are you really going to lean on a 17yo for big goals in big games this season? Not a big fan of that. Probably not and, as much as I like Martial and especially Rashford as players, I really would have thought that a club with as much money as United would bring in a replacement out and out striker. And don’t even get me started on Paul Pogba. There is enough smoke to the transfer rumors to think that he was at least open to bouncing, so what he is going to bring to the table – apart from converting a lot of penalties – is anybody’s guess.
Finally, the worst part is we no longer have Jozay Mourinho to provide us with the entertainment that has been sorely lacking from pretty much all United games over the last few years. Sad!
Why they could win it: N/A
Why they won’t win it: Waaaaaaaaay too many question marks to compete with the crème de la crème this season, including a manager who is still – shall we say – unproven
Once more for old time’s sake
Best case: 3rd
Worst case: 7th
The funny thing is that this is a team that will have Shkodran Mustafi and David Luiz as their starting CBs, and yet some people are going to run to the comments or better yet twitter and accuse me of “being biased” for “only” picking them 4th. Look, I like Kieran Tierney and think he makes the club’s defense better, but “better” is not the same thing as “good” and I suspect strongly that this fact will be driven home to people by 1:30pm CT on September 1st. Why? Well, because at that point Arsenal will have just played (at)Liverpool and (vs)Tottenham in successive weeks and we should have a MUCH better idea about how strong the team – and specifically their backline – really is.
Now that I have said some mean things, I will even it out by saying some nice things. Arsenal are probably going to be the most entertaining team in the league to watch this season. Their offense should be downright scary. Nicolas Pepe is dangerous and they already feature one of the league’s best strikeforces in PE Aubameyang and Al Lacazette. The fact is the respect I have for their offensive prowess is the only explanation I can come up with for why someone would consider predicting the Gunners to finish in the top four this season. So really this is just a big old compliment, Arsenal fans.
Why they could win it: N/A
Why they won’t win it: Defense
Best case: 1st
Worst case: 3rd
Some people are definitely gonna be big mad about this one but this is why I am paid to make the tough, objective calls. And let me say this: I think that Liverpool absolutely has a shot to win the title this season. It would take some luck, of course, but I am definitely not counting them out. The Reds are (still) stacked and probably hungry after coming so damn close last season. Their defense are shaping up to be the (or perhaps one of the two) best in the league once again. Tottenham’s squad is less proven. I get it. I get all that. However, as I alluded to earlier, some key guys just gone done playing a LOT of games this summer, which – based on how several Spurs players (notably Harry Kane) struggled mightily all last season after not really getting much time off – could prove to be a real problem for Liverpool this campaign. It won’t even necessarily be obvious right off the bat, but Liverpool’s stars have played a TON of soccer over the last couple seasons and by the time the spring rolls around it is very possible we might see some tired legs or, worse, injuries.
Why they could win it: Great defense, solid midfield, great offense
Why they wouldn’t win it: Mental and physical exhaustion
Alas, that’s illegal
Best case: 1st
Worst case: 4th
Spurs outperformed all expectations last season. They were banged up, including being without their best player (Harry Kane) for a crucial stretch, and were a flawed squad to boot with huge holes at both full back positions… and yet they still managed to secure a top four finish and finagle their way to the Champions League final. They have now had a full summer (unlike last year) to rest up and Daniel Levy actually spent some serious money on great additions in midfielders Ndombele Tanguay, Giovani Lo Celso and – crucially – defender Ryan Sessegnon.
Haters won’t like to admit it but this is a dangerous and deep team. Anytime I make a prediction that puts Tottenham in a positive light it inevitably brings cries of “bias” from the peanut gallery. However, my track record speaks for itself. I have NEVER picked Spurs to win the league, and am not even doing so this season. But for the first time since I have been writing these blogs the club has at least an outside shot at it.
As far as why I don’t think Spurs will close the gap on City, the answer is pretty simple: I just don’t have enough faith in the full backs. The addition of Sessegnon is an important move given the loss of Kieran Trippier, but he is still 19yo and may need some time to fit in. That means guys like Danny Rose (LB) and Kyle Walker-Peters (RB) are going to be playing a lot of minutes. Rose has yet to re-find the form he was in several years ago before a serious ankle injury and KWP is still an unproven commodity.
[Sidenote: Spurs would suddenly get significantly less deep if Christian Eriksen ends up getting sold by the end of the transfer window. Will it happen? I’m not sure, but it would be VERY unlike Daniel Levy to leave money on the table… and letting Eriksen leave for free next summer would be doing precisely that. So we’ll see. If he leaves that definitely weakens the squad but thankfully additions like Tanguay and Lo Celso provide some cushion.]
Long story short: Spurs are a legit threat to win a trophy this season and have three world class CBs that could form the backbone of a serious defense… but I have too many questions about the wings to pick them over City.
Get a load of this big dumb idiot
Why they could win it: Dangerous and deep
Why they probably won’t win it: Fullbacks; another Kane injury; at the end of the day they are still Spurs
Best case: 1st
Worst case: 3rd
I mean, they are just so damn good. Even after the unfortunate loss of Leroy Sane to Bayern a knee injury, this team is stacked to the gills with talent. So while I know that Liverpool have a shot at redemption and I think that Spurs might have an outside shot at unexpected glory, in the end I just can’t help but go with the heavy favorite because there is a reason they are such a heavy favorite: OIL MONEY and the ridiculous amount of talent it can buy (plus a very talented manager able to handle all the ego-massaging who can seemingly do no wrong).
Except for this
By the way, not only was City the deepest team in the league all last season, but they then went and got even deeper (and better) this summer by adding defender Joao Cancelo from Juventus and Fernandinho 2.0 (aka Rodri from Atleti). This club. This friggin club. Every fibre of my being wants to pick against them winning three in a row. I just can’t. Just so damn much quality.
Why they could win it: Because they are really, really, really good
Why they wouldn’t win it: Injuries to a half dozen players at once; distracted by Champions League, FFP regulators suspend all club operations; Chernobyl 2.0
RANDOM PRESEASON AWARDS
Player of the year: Tottenham’s Harry Kane
Golden Boot: Sergio Aguero, edging out Kane and Arsenal’s Aubameyang
Golden Glove: Arsenal’s Bernd Leno………… hahahahahahahaha PSYCHE! Old boy is going to get shelled on a daily basis (in practice and in games). No, my real guess is a repeat performance from Liverpool’s Alisson. I suspect the Reds may struggle a little more than last year on offense but that defense still looks scary good.
First manager fired: Sky high expectations mean that Everton’s Marco Silva is probably a savvy dark horse (same for Villa’s Dean Smith), but I am going with Newcastle’s Steve Bruce, in part because of how instinctively pissed off the Toon Army is at all times these days thanks to Mike Ashley being a tubby mess but also because Newcastle’s early season schedule is ROUGH. They play Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool, United and Chelsea (plus Wolves, Lester and Watford) all in the first 10 – TEN! – games. No bueno for Brucey.
FA Cup winner: Spurs
Make-Belieague Cup winner: Liverpool (beating Everton in a Merseyside Dærby for the ages)
****SAM’S ARMY PODCAST****
For the people asking about if/when Sam’s Army will rise from the ashes, the answer is… I don’t know just yet but the tentative plan is for me and a new (SURPRISE) co-host – he is Chicago-based so no more Skype-related problems – to drop an episode recapping opening weekend and looking forward to the week ahead on TUESDAY. Anyway, I have one very quick but very HUGE favor of you (and all your friends, family, coworkers and neighbors):
1) Follow link below
3) That way when an episode drops you’ll be the first to listen!
Okay, that’s it! Easy peasy! The first episode – reminder: just a “beta launch” – is available NOW:
So there it is. You now possess the answer key for the entire upcoming season. Thankfully we both know better than to think that I got any of it right… but you’re welcome for being able to get rich fading me!