20. Sheffield United
They’ve rightly won a lot of admirers, but do they have enough quality? The Blades have broken their transfer record four times this summer, culminating in the £17.5m arrival of Swansea’s Oli McBurnie – one of four Championship arrivals.
Ravel Morrison is comfortably the most interesting of all, but nobody is quite sure what version of the midfielder we’ll get in 2019/20. Sheffield United have a fine manager to steer them in Chris Wilder, but even the experimental 51-year-old might find this a challenge too far.
New manager, new style, but familiar failings could spell a very long season. In fairness, Graham Potter looks like a fine choice of manager to replace Chris Hughton and has at least tried to breathe life into last season’s insipid side.
But how quickly can £18m Belgian Leandro Trossard adapt? Is centre-back Adam Webster good enough for the Premier League? And can Neal Maupay translate goals in the Championship to impact at a higher level? These are all big questions – and the jury’s out until the Seagulls can start answering them positively.
18. Crystal Palace
Palace must improve their woeful home form to steer clear of trouble, but this has not been a good summer for them. They kept hold of Wilfried Zaha in the end, but the talismanic local boy was furious with his club’s demands that ultimately meant he missed out on a move to Arsenal and Everton.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka was sold to Manchester United and not replaced. Incomings have been decidedly ‘meh’: Victor Camarasa is the pick of the bunch on loan, adding to the unspectacular arrivals of Jordan Ayew (permanently), James McCarthy and Gary Cahill. This could hurt.
The attacking riches at Daniel Farke’s disposal could be enough to sneak survival, but right now it’s difficult to judge the Canaries. Their squad certainly lacks Premier League experience, although that might not faze a well-organised team with some fine individual talents (namely Emiliano Buendia, Max Aarons and last season’s 29-goal Teemu Pukki).
Very much a wait-and-see job at this stage.
“What if Rafa goes?” fans asked – and now they’ll find out. Steve Bruce became the unpopular Chosen One to replace him by Mike Ashley, but business since then has been a little more promising.
Newcastle lost returning loanee Salomon Rondon and the Leicester-bound Ayoze Perez but have attempted to replace their combined 23 goals/nine assists from 2018/19 with club record striker Joelinton, Nice winger Allan Saint-Maximin and – yes! – hometown hero Andy Carroll. Throw in an acclimated Miguel Almiron, and maybe it’s not all bad?
15. Aston Villa
Replace Tammy Abraham’s goals from last season and survival is realistic, not least with Jack Grealish and John McGinn providing such quality in midfield. It remains to be seen whether Brazilian striker Wesley is that player – but with only Jonathan Kodija and Keinan Davis in reserve, he’ll need to be.
Neutrals are expecting the unexpected from Villa in 2019/20; they’ve signed 12 players and spent over £140m, after all.
Eddie Howe will want progress, but another season of treading water awaits for the Cherries unless they can magically improve a defence that bettered only Fulham and Huddersfield’s last season.
Transfer business has followed a similar pattern: all five of their major arrivals (Harry Wilson on loan, plus Jack Stacey, Philip Billing, Lloyd Kelly and Arnaut Danjuma) are 23 or under and largely unknown quantities are this level. But it could be a lot of fun.
Expect improvements, shorn of last season’s European distractions. Finishing 15th was fairly welcome after a terrible start, and it seems more likely that the Clarets will improve rather than regress under Sean Dyche this term.
Re-signing Jay Rodriguez is arguably one of the deals of the summer, and a deadline-day loan for Chelsea’s Danny Drinkwater could be inspired if the central midfielder can rediscover anything like his Leicester form. A tall ask, maybe – but it shouldn’t define Burnley’s season.
It will be fascinating to see Ralph Hasenhuttl’s impact over a full Saints season. The south coast club looked far better under him than Mark Hughes last term, and they should improve on 2018/19’s dismal 16th-place finish.
Che Adams improves a blunt strike force, complementing Danny Ings (who joined permanently from Liverpool). Tying down Nathan Redmond to a new contract is also fine business, and they haven’t lost anyone they didn’t want to. In all, not much to dislike.
Much rests on how the Hornets start their season. The top half is a possibility, especially having kept key midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure and manager Javi Gracia (previously linked with Chelsea before Frank Lampard’s arrival).
They haven’t done all that much this window – late deals for Rennes’ Ismaila Sarr and freebie Danny Welbeck adding to their one for West Brom defender Craig Dawson – but then they needn’t have done.
10. West Ham
Improve their consistency and the Hammers are an outside bet for Europe. Like those above them, they too will be pleased with their summer lot: Sebastien Haller is the headline arrival up front and looks capable of finally ending the club’s miserable run of signing inadequate strikers.
Manuel Lanzini is fully fit after missing most of last season, and will get to share some of the creative load with new signing Pablo Fornals. Chuck in Felipe Anderson and Manuel Pellegrini’s side could be exciting indeed – going forward, at least.
Consolidation, with a run in Europe, may be on the cards for Nuno Espirito Santo’s relatively thin squad. The Portuguese has done some shrewd business this window, however: Jesus Vallejo looks a solid arrival to bolster Wolves’s central defensive options, and Milan’s Patrick Cutrone is the Raul Jimenez alternative they were crying out for.
With a team capable of going reasonably far in the Europa League, might those exertions prevent them from achieving more on the domestic front? History suggests yes.
After 2018/19’s green shoots of growth, it’s time the Toffees kicked on. And the signs look promising – namely, in the form of striker Moise Kean, who could transform Everton’s attack following his £29m move from Juventus.
Losing Idrissa Gueye has been an expected blow, as was not re-signing Chelsea loanee Kurt Zouma on a permanent transfer. On the flip side, Fabian Delph, Andre Gomes, Mainz midfielder Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Monaco loanee Djibril Sidibe all look like smart acquisitions. They’ll be aiming much higher than this.
Frank Lampard will get Blues fans onside – and he’ll need to. It could be a long season. A transfer ban meant Chelsea have been restricted to tying up last season’s underwhelming loanee Matteo Kovacic, having lucked out in January by agreeing a deal for Christian Pulisic.
It’s therefore on Lamps to make the best of what he’s got with a ragtag bunch of returning loanees and promising youth players. Big seasons lie ahead for Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic.
Revitalised under Brendan Rodgers, the Foxes are gunning for the top six this season. They may have lost Maguire to United, but made their summer with the brilliant permanent acquisition of last season’s mercurial loanee Youri Tielemans.
Ayoze Perez has joined from Newcastle to back up Jamie Vardy, while Belgian playmaker Dennis Praet arrived on deadline day from Sampdoria in a bargain £18.5m deal. The only way is up.
5. Manchester United
Manchester United fell five points short in the top-four race last term, and we think they’ll miss out on the Champions League qualification spots this time around too. The presence of Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka should tighten up a backline that leaked 54 goals in 2018/19, but there are still question marks over their midfield quality and striking options, with Romelu Lukaku set to join Inter.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may be a club legend but he’s yet to prove himself in a managerial capacity outside the Norwegian league. Another campaign without Champions League football beckons in 2020/21.
Arsenal’s deadline-day signings of David Luiz and Kieran Tierney have significantly boosted their top-four chances. We don’t expect Unai Emery’s side to keep more clean sheets than the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham, but the defensive unit now looks a lot stronger than it did at the start of the week.
A frontline of Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is up there with anything else the league can offer, and that firepower should ultimately make the difference in the race for the Champions League.
Tottenham have beefed up their midfield this summer, with Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso both exciting acquisitions. Mauricio Pochettino’s men should score plenty of goals with Harry Kane, Dele Alli and (for now) Christian Eriksen still around, and a centre-back partnership of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen is among Europe’s best.
Still, it will be a big ask for Tottenham to break into the top two, particularly if they have another run to the latter stages of the Champions League.
Liverpool came so close to winning the Premier League title last term, and it will be tough for them to match their 2018/19 tally of 97 points. Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane all had busy summer with their national teams, and Jurgen Klopp may have more injuries to contend with this time around.
Nevertheless, the Reds should be good enough to push Manchester City all the way – just as they did in last weekend’s Community Shield. Their season, however, will probably end in another near-miss.
1. Manchester City
Manchester City have accumulated an unprecedented 198 points in the last two Premier League campaigns, and they head into 2019/20 with their strongest ever squad. Rodri and Joao Cancelo are astute acquisitions from Atletico Madrid and Juventus respectively, while Kevin De Bruyne is poised to re-establish himself as the division’s best player after an injury-hit year in 2018/19.
Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona and Bayern Munich teams were relentless in their pursuit of silverware, and we can’t imagine complacency setting in at any stage of the season. City look well placed to make it three championships in a row.
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