10 things we think will happen in the 2018/19 Premier League
1. Change will be good for Arsenal
It will undoubtedly be weird seeing anyone other than Arsene Wenger manage Arsenal. Yet Unai Emery won't have the expectation problems that David Moyes did at Manchester United, and arguably a big reason to take the job was the prospect of getting much more from the talented group of players he has inherited. There are diamonds to polish at the Emirates.
Equally, you could say he has an imbalanced squad that a coach could tie himself in knots trying to get the best from, and a set of players who might be difficult to jolt out of their complacency. It could go surprisingly well; it could be a struggle. Either way, it’s better than the stagnation in the latter days under Wenger: at least it will be something different to the same thing over and over, to the slow erosion of a great manager’s reputation.
2. Fabianski will be the bargain of the season
What does £7m get you these days? About 11% of Alisson, and probably not a useful 11%. A couple of ribs, or something. Maybe a kneecap. Certainly not one of his arms. But you can get a whole Lukasz Fabianski, and of all West Ham’s transfer business this summer – which looks pretty comprehensive – this looks like the biggest bargain.
It’s always slightly difficult to assess how good a goalkeeper in a terrible team is, because of the 10 fumblers in front of him, but Fabianski was one of the few players to emerge from Swansea with any credit. The Hammers will feel much more secure with him in nets than Joe Hart.
3. ‘Love train’ corner ends with players tripping over each other
Mercifully it looks like most teams have learned lessons from the annals of bad World Cup transfers, and not signed anyone on the basis of a good summer in Russia. However, we’ll undoubtedly see some trends from the World Cup repeated in the Premier League – and one of them might be the emphasis on set-pieces.
That will mean at least one team will try England’s ‘love train’ corner routine, where three or four players line up behind each other and then scatter as the ball is played in, aiming to create chaos in the defence. Naturally, though, someone will get it wrong, trip over and end up in a great big penalty-area heap. Hopefully, for everyone else’s sake, Harry Maguire isn’t the man on top.
4. Burnley will struggle against relegation
Without wishing to diminish their achievement, it probably says more about the rest of the Premier League that Burnley not only finished seventh, but stayed there after going 11 games without a win in the middle of the season, and also lost three of their last five games.
Sean Dyche’s side were solid and admirable, but there’s no obvious whipping boy in the division, teams around them have improved and Burnley have left it late to do their transfer business (Joe Hart and Ben Gibson arrived this week). Throw in the potential ballache of Sunday-Thursday-Sunday football and extra games that the Europa League brings, and we could see a big drop-off in Burnley’s fortunes this season. Next, they face a tough two-legged affair against Istanbul Basaksehir in the third qualifying round.
5. Benitez to stay and continue working miracles
The greatest fear for most Newcastle fans these days is that Rafa Benitez will decide that working under Mike Ashley is simply too much bother, and will depart. However, there's also a temptation to think that if Benitez was going to jack it in, he would’ve done by now.
There’s also a sense that the Spaniard is sort of trapped in the job: a combination of him being a football and work obsessive, and his family living in England means his options are relatively limited. He’ll stay, and as long as he’s there, Newcastle will continue to overachieve.