The Premier League season is upon us. Starting with Arsenal-Leicester City on Friday, a total of 380 matches will be played over the next 275 days to determine a champion. Unlike previous seasons, nobody is really considered as a major favorite. In fact, while Manchester City is considered as a slight favorite to win the Premier League, the consensus “big six” teams all have realistic chances to win it all. (Liverpool and Arsenal have the longest odds at 10/1.)
Considering this season is likely to be so unpredictable, The Comeback staff took a crack at trying to predict what is going to happen in England this season. No doubt, we’ll probably be wrong on a lot, but that’s what makes the Premier League so exciting. You never can tell how a season will play out.
Apart from a vote for Chelsea and Manchester United, the staff gravitated toward Manchester City winning the Premier League and Pep Guardiola getting his first PL trophy. If that happens, it would mean first division league titles in Spain, Germany and England for Guardiola. While winning the Premier League wasn’t exactly what Sheikh Mansour hired Guardiola for, a Premier League title will be a nice consolation prize if Man City falls short of the Champions League.
As far as the rest of the top four, all six writers have Manchester City and Chelsea in our top four. Manchester United also fared high with four votes. And then rivals Tottenham and Arsenal grabbed half the votes while Liverpool brought up the rear with two votes to finish in the top four.
Phillip Bupp: 1st Manchester City, 2nd Manchester United, 3rd Chelsea, 4th Tottenham
Pauly Kwestel: 1st Chelsea, 2nd Manchester City, 3rd Arsenal, 4th Liverpool
Randy Capps: 1st Manchester United, 2nd Manchester City, 3rd Chelsea, 4th Arsenal
Matt Lichtenstadter: 1st Manchester City, 2nd Chelsea, 3rd Manchester United, 4th Arsenal
Jeff Snyder: 1st Manchester City, 2nd Tottenham, 3rd Liverpool, 4th Chelsea
Harrison Prolic: 1st Manchester City, 2nd Chelsea, 3rd Manchester United, 4th Tottenham
Golden Boot winner
— Romelu Lukaku (@BigRedRomelu9) August 8, 2017
We all went rather conventional in our predictions for the Golden Boot. According to us, it’s down to Tottenham’s Harry Kane or new Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku. Recent history should prove half of us right. Kane is the defending back-to-back Golden Boot winner and was 2nd the season before that. While Lukaku has finished in the top five in goals the past two seasons with Everton. Now that he’s with Manchester United, it could be enough to put him over the top.
Phillip: Harry Kane/Tottenham
Pauly: Harry Kane/Tottenham
Randy: Romelu Lukaku/Manchester United
Matt L: Romelu Lukaku/Manchester United
Jeff: Harry Kane/Tottenham
Harrison P: Romelu Lukaku/Manchester United
First manager to be sacked and when
An unfortunate evil in modern soccer is the sacking of a manager. Last season, six managerial changes between five teams took place during the 2016-17 season. Among the six of us, three managers stuck out and received two votes each. Marco Silva from Watford, Stoke’s Mark Hughes and West Ham’s Slaven Bilić may be on the hot seat sooner rather than later.
As far as when they’ll be sacked, recent history would tell us it’ll happen right before October’s international break but most of us are giving them until November before the hammer drops and someone gets sacked.
Phillip: Marco Silva/Watford, the October international break – Watford tends to get rid of managers at even the slightest sense of trouble. Watford has a relatively easy schedule where they face Liverpool and Manchester City at home but a couple losses here could make the ever unsatisfied owners looking for another change.
Pauly: Slaven Bilić/West Ham, November – Lot of new players coming in. If they need time to mesh and the team gets off to a bad start, Bilić could be on the hot seat.
Randy: Mark Hughes/Stoke, early November
Matt L: Mark Hughes/Stoke, by the end of November – Stoke have not strengthened really at all this summer and seem to have hit their ceiling under Hughes. The great halcyon days of Stokealona are probably done, and the club might need a freshening up in order to avoid going stale. Because none of the promoted clubs are going to likely sack their coach even if things are going badly, Sparky seems to be the first in my mind that’s under threat.
Jeff: Marco Silva/Watford, around November. Watford seem to like a new manager.
Harrison P: Slaven Bilić, in October – West Ham made some good signings this summer, so any slip up like last year will cost Bilić his job.
Huddersfield Town is the underdog darling of the Premier League this season. They are back in the top division for the first time since 1972 and has David Wagner as the second American Premier League manager, they are bound to get some support in the United States. Well, you better enjoy them while you can because all but one of us feels like they are heading back down to the Championship.
After Huddersfield Town, we as a group are a bit undecided on the other two spots. Everyone feels Newcastle will remain in the Premier League but the other newly promoted team, Brighton & Hove Albion, along with Burnley, Crystal Palace and Swansea City are candidates to go down. Watford, with their 17th place finish from last year, got a single vote.
Phillip: Burnley, Crystal Palace, Huddersfield Town
Pauly: Huddersfield Town, Crystal Palace, Swansea City
Randy: Huddersfield Town, Brighton & Hove Albion and Swansea City
Matt L: Brighton & Hove Albion, Burnley, Huddersfield Town
Jeff: Swansea City, Watford, Brighton & Hove Albion
Harrison P: Burnley, Huddersfield Town, Crystal Palace
Trying to figure out who promotes from the Championship can be a bit of a crapshoot. Most of the 24 teams are relatively even and a good stretch of matches can be the difference between Premier League glory, retaining in the second division or getting relegated.
For instance, Brighton and Huddersfield Town were in the Championship the season before their promotion run. Brighton was 3rd in the 2015-16 season and lost out in the playoffs. Huddersfield Town was 19th and only had 51 points. They finished with 81 points, finished 5th and won the Playoff Final to promote.
So, who is going to promote this season is anybody’s guess. Middlesbrough, who was relegated from the Premier League last year, and Fulham, who was in the playoffs last season, got the most votes with four. Sheffield Wednesday, who had been in the playoffs the last two years was just behind with three votes. And then you have various teams including Aston Villa, Leeds United, Reading, Hull City and Wolverhampton Wanderers with a vote or two each.
Phillip: Sheffield Wednesday, Reading, Leeds United
Pauly: Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds United, Hull City
Randy: Fulham, Middlesbrough, Aston Villa
Matt L: Middlesbrough, Fulham, Aston Villa
Jeff: Middlesbrough, Fulham, Wolverhampton Wanderers
Harrison P: Fulham, Middlesbrough, Sheffield Wednesday
FA Cup and EFL Cup winner
Just like the Premier League, the two English cups are likely going to be dominated by the top teams. And between those teams, it’ll probably be wide open. There is some hope for Everton as two of us chose the Merseyside team in blue to win a trophy but regardless of team, nobody has more than two votes in each competition so if a team can avoid some of the early round pitfalls, just about any of these teams can be adding to their trophy case.
Phillip – FA: Arsenal, EFL: Manchester United
Pauly – FA: Manchester United, EFL: Manchester City
Randy – FA: Manchester City, EFL: Everton
Matt L – FA: Manchester United, EFL: Everton
Jeff – FA: Liverpool, EFL: Chelsea
Harrison P – FA: Arsenal, EFL: Manchester United
Player of the Year
— Kevin De Bruyne (@DeBruyneKev) August 8, 2017
It’s a safe bet that someone from the Premier League champs is going to be named Player of the Year. In fact, the award has been given to a member of the championship winning team in 15 of 23 years. That explains why we have all chosen someone from the team we feel will win the Premier League. What’s interesting is that only Kevin De Bruyne received multiple votes.
Phillip – Sergio Aguero/Manchester City
Pauly – Eden Hazard/Chelsea
Randy – Romelu Lukaku/Manchester United
Matt L – Kevin De Bruyne/Manchester City
Jeff – Gabriel Jesus/Manchester City
Harrison P – Kevin De Bruyne/Manchester City
Manager of the Year
When it comes to winning Manager of the Year, you likely have to do one of two things. You must either win the Premier League or do something miraculous with a team that nobody saw coming. You can do both like Claudio Ranieri at Leicester City, but it’s usually one or the other. Some notable managers who won the award without winning the Premier League included Tony Pulis in 2013-14, who took a promoted Crystal Palace team to 11th in the table and Alan Pardew in 2011-12, who took Newcastle United to a shock fifth-place finish.
That kind of explains our picks. We either went with a manager from a lower table team who we feel will over-perform and surprise many or picked the manager of the team we think is going to win the Premier League.
Phillip – Rafa Benitez/Newcastle United
Pauly – Antonio Conte/Chelsea
Randy – Jose Mourinho/Manchester United
Matt L – Pep Guardiola/Manchester City
Jeff – David Wagner/Huddersfield Town
Harrison P – Pep Guardiola/Manchester City
Phillip – Leroy Sane/Manchester City: Sane is somewhat of a known player, but I have been high on him since seeing him play at Schalke (and signing him up in FIFA) and feel there is way much more to him than we saw at Manchester City last season. I feel he’ll get way more playing time and a better chance to make an impact and maybe even get them some trophies.
Pauly – Will Hughes/Watford: Doesn’t get enough credit for the player he is thanks to years of toiling away at Derby County and dealing with knee injuries. If he stays healthy he’ll make an impact.
Randy – Josh Onomah/Tottenham – Spurs’ quiet transfer window means that the young midfielder will get a chance to build on his solid work in the U20 World Cup.
Matt L – Gabriel Jesus/Manchester City – He really would have been both of these things last year if it wasn’t for his injury, and with Pep seemingly giving him the main striker role, it’s likely that he’ll be absolutely dominant in the goal scoring department this season.
Jeff – Bernardo Silva/Manchester City – Everything I have seen of this player is class. Much like how Jesus was a revelation for Manchester City last season, Bernardo Silva may be the player to really surprise us.
Harrison P – Michy Batshuayi/Chelsea – He’ll get plenty of chances especially if Diego Costa is on his way out.
Best Young Player (23 or younger)
Phillip: Dele Alli/Tottenham – Unless Dele Alli gets injured or gets sold to a team outside of England, he’s likely to win this award every season until he turns 24.
Pauly: Dele Alli/Tottenham – Dele is one of the outright best players in the league and at 21 years old, it’s almost impossible to see anyone else winning the PFA Young Player of the Year for the next two years.
Randy: Dele Alli/Tottenham – Has a stranglehold on this award, and he’ll win it again.
Matt L: Gabriel Jesus/Manchester City – He really would have been both of these things last year if it wasn’t for his injury, and with Pep seemingly giving him the main striker role, it’s likely that he’ll be absolutely dominant in the goal scoring department this season.)
Jeff: Dele Alli/Tottenham – Another year older and another year better. Dele has been an absolute revelation for Tottenham since breaking out on the scene. We can expect him to continue that trajectory, especially if he can sort out his penchant to
Harrison P: Gabriel Jesus/Manchester City – He’ll score plenty, especially if he gets to see more of the pitch than Aguero, who seems slightly unsettled.
Most Disappointing Player
Phillip: Romelu Lukaku/Manchester United – Like Paul Pogba last year, I just cannot see Lukaku living up to the hype and that hefty price tag in his first season with Man United. Pogba seemed to improve toward the end of the season and at least salvaged his first season so hopefully Lukaku can do the same. But I’m pretty sure there’s going to be some struggles before things work out.
Pauly: Javier Hernandez/West Ham – Chicharito has already proven he can score in England, but in order for a poacher like Hernandez to score, he needs to get the ball in the box and have a good team around him. West Ham doesn’t have that.
Randy: Roque Mesa/Swansea City – Came in for big money (for Swansea) from Las Palmas, but may not be suited for the Premier League’s rugged style.
Matt L: Alexander Lacazette/Arsenal
Jeff: Alexandre Lacazette/Arsenal – This isn’t so much of a slight to Lacazette, who is a brilliant player, but a worry for Arsenal. I have a feeling he’ll play well, but be let down by his teammates. For a player that many expect to break 20 goals this year (seriously, been seeing that predicted a lot), he may struggle to break 15. A good season, though disappointing.
Harrison P: Wayne Rooney/Everton – I don’t think much is expected of Rooney, but Everton need to find a way to replace the goals that Lukaku scored. That part of Rooney’s game might be gone.
Most Disappointing Team
Phillip: Crystal Palace – Crystal Palace was lucky to remain in the Premier League. They had to rely on Sam Allardyce getting himself on tape teaching who he thought were businessmen, how to get around various transfer rules so he could get in with Palace and use is innate ability to keep teams in the Premier League. And they essentially had four teams who were way worse than Palace who were going to relegate by default.
Now Palace has Frank de Boer who is an excellent manager but still has a group of players who I wouldn’t be confident in putting my Premier League chances in. Palace may have hopes to move up the table, they should be worried about not dropping down.
Pauly: Manchester United – Any time you spend all that cash and don’t win is going to be a disappointment. Jose Mourinho couldn’t get goals out of Zlatan, Rashford, Martial, Mata, and Pogba, that doesn’t leave a lot of confidence to think Romelu Lukaku will suddenly be the difference. Could easily be looking at a third straight season outside the top four.
Randy: Stoke City – Losing Marko Arnautovic is a blow for a team lacking in attacking options.
Matt L: Tottenham – For now, because they haven’t made any transfer moves and are needing depth pretty badly, they fall here. If/when they strengthen, I might change this. Stoke would be my other disappointing team considering the stability that they’ve achieved recently. But considering how stale they are, that might change.
Jeff: Arsenal – Arsenal are in a dangerous situation. Yes, they brought in a quality left back and a great striker, but are in
danger of letting go their best second striker in Olivier Giroud and losing one of their consistently better midfielders in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. What’s even more concerning is their two best players, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, are on the last year of their contracts. They’ll be able to start negotiating with other teams in January and may even leave on the cheap.
If they don’t sign new contracts soon and the team starts to play poorly, things will become toxic and the players’
futures will be a massive distraction.
Harrison P: Liverpool. It’s going to be tough with their competition getting better. If they lose Philippe Coutinho, then there will be even more problems. Still don’t have a true number 9 and their keeper situation is a question mark.
Shock of the Year
Phillip: One of the big six managers isn’t lasting the entire season. I’m not sure who it will be, but something happens that gets one of them sacked or they resign.
Pauly: Wayne Rooney scores more than 15 goals. To put it nicely, Rooney has looked completely off the pace the last two years. Returning home to Everton, where he’s the best player and will face significantly less pressure, will reinvigorate Rooney as he makes a push to get on the plane to Russia 2018.
Randy: Everton’s flirtation with the top four.
Matt L: Tottenham doesn’t finish in the top four.
Jeff: No Manchester United or Arsenal in the top four again. I addressed why I worry for Arsenal above, but Manchester United haven’t added enough to fully improve for this season. Yes, they’ve added Lukaku, but he’ll be replacing Zlatan
Ibrahimovic’s goals. Have they added enough to supplant the other four, who have strengthened or, at the very least,
kept their quality? I’m not sure.
Harrison P: Leicester challenge for Europe. They aren’t winning the league again, but they had a great turnaround last season under Craig Shakespeare. It’s going to be a crowded midtable, and they could surprise a few people but charging into the top half.