This Premier League season has already been a bit crazy. With Chelsea going on a 13-game win streak, teams looking like title favorites, only to fall away, and teams that we expected to challenge for Europe (Leicester and West Ham) fighting to avoid relegation. Only a madman would try to predict how the rest of this season will go. With that in mind, are you ready for some predictions?
1) One of the managers hired in 2016 will be fired in 2017
Almost any manager in the Premier League is under pressure at any time. It’s just the nature of the beast. With managerial stints getting shorter and shorter, it is almost a given that one of the managers hired in 2016 will not see 2018 in their current job. Here are the Premier League managers hired in 2016:
|Sam Allardyce – Palace||Antonio Conte – Chelsea|
|Pep Guardiola – Man. City||Ronald Koeman – Everton|
|Walter Mazzarri – Watford||Jose Mourinho – Man. United|
|Claude Puel – Southampton|
Among those, Conte, Guardiola, and Allardyce are unlikely to lose their jobs. Conte and Guardiola because both clubs are doing well and invested in these two managers long term (shocking for Chelsea, I know). That leaves four managers in varying degrees of threat. At this stage, we can assume that Jose Mourinho and Claude Puel will be safe in 2017.
Who’s left? Well, Watford’s Walter Mazzarri and Everton’s Ronald Koeman are the two that are underperforming and possibly in threat. Many fans at Everton have been unhappy with several aspects of Koeman’s management, while Watford have seemingly gone backwards since their incredible season last year. If either of these managers’ years continue like 2016 ended, their clubs will be looking for new managers quickly.
2) Sunderland will make a valiant effort at avoiding relegation, but fail
Sunderland have made it a habit of looking like relegation favorites by the midway point of the season, only to suddenly turn it on as the end of the season nears. They just love staying in the Premier League, I guess. This year, though, the damage has already been done, and Sunderland will almost certainly be relegated from the Premier League.
There was a chance that they could have overtaken Crystal Palace while Alan Pardew was still in charge, but Sam Allardyce is more than capable of arresting the slump, especially with the players he has at his disposal. Without other obvious alternatives, the three teams that will be relegated are quickly becoming a foregone conclusion.
3) The league’s top scorer will not come from a team currently in the top four
The top scorer race this year is still very close. Currently, the top scorer of the Premier League is Diego Costa. That’s not shocking because Costa has been incredible lately, but his form is greatly tied to Chelsea’s. This unprecedented run that Chelsea was on showed what a great player he is, but it is easy to play well when you have a run of results that backs you. Will he continue to be as reliable if the going gets tough? More importantly, will his behavior remain as squeaky clean if things aren’t going his way? Looking at Chelsea’s 13 game win streak, Costa only received one yellow card. The six games prior to that, he received four. Costa is reliably one of the more suspension-prone players in the league, and he is no stranger to the odd injury. It would be no shock if his goalscoring were to fall off a bit.
We should also note that, despite Costa’s goalscoring form, both Alexis Sanchez and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are one goal behind him. Added to that, Romelu Lukaku is a great goalscorer that can easily put his name back in the race with a brace, as he is want to do. As the season goes on, Chelsea may grow more into the defensive wall of team that Conte wants them to be, lessening the need for goals that would keep Costa in the race against players from more attacking teams like Sanchez at Arsenal or players that are responisble for a large percentage of their teams’ goals, like Ibrahimovic.
4) Tottenham will end the season with the Premier League’s best defense
This was perhaps the toughest call to predict on this list. In Tottenham and Chelsea, you have two teams that are very good at defending. They may approach defending in different methods, but they are the two best defensive teams in the league, hands down. So why do I believe that Tottenham, the current holders of the fewest goals in the league title, will retain their spot as defensive kings of the Premier League. Ultimately, it comes down to consistency over form. Before Chelsea began playing with their current three-at-the-back formation, they allowed 9 goals. In the 14 games following their change in formation, they allowed only six. That’s a great turnaround, but it shows that it was entirely down to the change in tactics and formations. What happens when teams begin to find weaknesses in that setup, as Tottenham did when they were the first team to defeat Chelsea in the league in four months. Remember, four of those six goals came in their last two games. It may be possible that teams are figuring out how to attack them.
As for Tottenham, they have been consistent throughout the season. You can pick any point in the season and they will have allowed roughly the same amount of goals. It may not be as extraordinary as Chelsea’s six cleansheets in a row, but it is sustainable and reliable. You can count on Tottenham to allow a certain amount of goals because their setup and players can be trusted to do just that. Their players trust eachother and have settled into that system for a few seasons now. Chelsea may have had a better run of defensive form over the course of 14 games, but Tottenham will maintain their run.
5) The distance between the top six and the rest of the league will soon be in the double digits
If you had asked us at the beginning of the season if this prediction would have been true, we would have laughed. After last season, nobody was going to take anyone in the Premier League for granted. That is precisely what has led us to this current situation. The top six are now looking at the rest of the league and taking that challenge very seriously. Leicester shocked the world last year, and the top six haven’t forgotten.
Right now, we are just past the halfway point in the league and 6th placed Manchester United are nine points clear of 7th plaed Everton. In order for that lead to hit double digits, United need to win in a week that Everton fail to win or United need to draw in a week where Everton lose. Everton, or another team below them, don’t seem likely to make up the sizable distance between themselves and the top six. The other option is that the top six becomes a top five, with one of the teams dropping a significant amount of points, rather than one of the lower teams gaining. This is the most likely of the two options, but still seems unlikely, with the stakes that are currently being fought for.
After all of that, the Premier League is a league unlike any other. If it is mathematically possible, regardless of how unlikely, don’t count it out until it literally cannot happen. I am completely prepared for these predictions to 100% be wrong, as is tradition with the Premier League. Remembering that, may I be the first to congratulate Leicester on retaining their title as Premier League champions!