October 25, 2020

Lynq Sports

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Premier League Preview and Predictions

The 2019/20 English football season finished just over a month ago with Arsenal taking down Chelsea for the FA Cup title. Looking back, the weirdest part of that match will be that it was held in early August opposed to May, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic that swept the planet and still dominates our day to day lives. However, football will not be slowed by preventable things such as disease, and have already turned around to start the season, ceremoniously ignited with another Arsenal victory over Liverpool for the Community Shield.

The gap between those games was just 28 days. Normally the FA Cup is played in the ides of May while the Community Shield takes place close to when this year’s FA Cup occurred, a gap of about two and a half months. So while this unprecedented break in terms of length could see less recovery time and maybe more injuries, it’s also caused prices to drop. Teams have been ravenously active in the transfer windows, including the new call ups to the league.

Holders Liverpool still look indefatigable in their campaign to dominate the island, other teams are making strides. Manchester City finished the season with a hot streak, Spurs are back at full health, and United, Arsenal, and Chelsea are all spending to become stronger. The rest of England are beginning to understand and break down the top six, and the distance between the best and the rest has closed. The pandemic made for an exhilarating mad dash to the finish line, but the same type of play can be expected for the new season. So let’s examine why each team will and won’t succeed in 2020 and beyond, as well as the rest of the information you need to be caught up for the September 12th kickoff.

Arsenal

2019 Finish: 8th

2020 Title Odds: +4000

Arrivals: Gabriel Magalhães, CB, €26M; Pablo Marí, CB, €9M; Willian, RW, Free; Cédric, RB, Free; Dani Ceballos, DM, Loan

Departures: Henrikh Mkhitaryan, AM, Free

Preferred Formation: 3-4-3

2020 Outlook: A poor first half of 2019 saw Arsenal struggle to stick with the pack as their defense faltered time and time again. Things turned around for the club when Mikel Arteta joined as head coach and rearranged how the team functioned. Arteta took time to understand the personnel and what was needed and made the necessary adjustments.

Arteta closed the season with a 3-4-3 formation which saw Kieran Tierney and Héctor Bellerín playing as the left and right midfielder, respectively. However, it isn’t a certain thing that it’s what he wanted to do. Initially the new coach tried other formations with four at the back but might have been forced into a three man defense due to player skills. A 4-2-3-1 is much more popular among the best teams in the world right now and might be what Arteta prefers, but this formation has been successful against City, Chelsea, and Liverpool twice, so why change?

The defense looks to become much better as William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhães join the club permanently. The two joined from Ligue 1 and could form a dynastic pairing at center back. David Luiz will mentor for the time being, but his future isn’t with Arsenal for very long.

The midfield and attack were very good in the second half of the season. Dani Ceballos and Granit Xhaka were crucial pivots in the center of the pitch and were vital in advancing play and building up. Since Ceballos just returned for another season on loan, Arsenal might not need to chase Thomas Partey for a big transfer. The attack was spearheaded by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who poured in 23 goals in the Premier League. Alexandre Lacazette was a depend backup but did struggle to find a rhythm at times. Bukayo Saka broke into the first team with some great performances on the left wing and Nicholas Pépé became a great winger once he adjusted to the rigors of the Premier League. There’s still a hole where there ought to be a good number 10 and rumor has it that Houssem Aouar could be bought, but we might not want to hold our breath for that to happen. It’s likely that Arsenal have finished making moves for the offseason.

It should also be said that Emi Martínez was absolutely phenomenal in goal and could actually challenge Bernd Leno for the job.

With a full season of Nicholas Pépé and a better defense, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to win the Golden Boot at +600 could pay very well.

Player to Watch: William Saliba, CB

Aston Villa

2019 Finish: 17th

2020 Title Odds: +50000

Arrivals: Matty Cash, RB, €15.75M

Departures: James Chester, CB, Free; James Bree, RB, Unknown; Rushian Hepburn-Murray, CF, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-3-3

2020 Outlook: The final day of the Premier League saw two meaningful competitions: one to make the top four and one to survive relegation. Villa was involved in the latter and thanks to an Arsenal win and their own draw with West Ham secured a 17th place finish, one point clear of both Watford and Bournemouth. Dean Smith and his men can breathe a sigh of relief for now, but they’ll be in another struggle for relegation in 2020 and might be far more likely to drop.

There were plenty of issues that prevented the team from being better than 17th last season, but the most glaringly obvious was their defense. The Villains allowed 67 goals, outdone only by the last place Canaries. Center backs Björn Engels and Tyrone Mings are known, proven commodities, but both underperformed. The jump to the Premier League is a big one and it’s very difficult to stop the forwards in the league, but they still needed to be a bit better. Matty Cash is going to be a valuable defending addition on the right flank, but it will take more than an individual effort to make the defense right.

Tom Heaton was also a bit problematic in goal. He won six games with four clean sheets but still allowed 1.76 goals 90 minutes. So when it rained, it poured with the English keeper. 35 goals in 20 games is just far too many per match and I’m honestly a bit surprised they didn’t look to sign a new keeper considering Heaton and backup Pepe Reina’s age. Unless Ørjan Nyland is the answer in the future I would have opted to upgrade in net.

I’m a firm believer that this Villa midfield was one of the more underrated in the Premier League last season. John McGinn and Connor Hourihane were fixtures in the lineup and were essential to whatever success the team found. The Scotsman McGinn was an excellent facilitator of play and advanced the ball well, scoring and assisting three times last season. He’s a bit of a Jordan Henderson type play who won’t show up in the record books, but does help power a team. Hourihane was close to the same in a lesser degree. Hourihane played the important role of supporting Grealish on the right side, benefitting from the pairing with three goals and five assists in league play. The middle of the field is usually played by Douglas Luiz who has proven to be a very capable defender and pivot while also putting in a few goals and assists. His play is often overlooked but his youth and experience will make him a very valuable player in the future.

The front line was a bit disappointing. Jack Grealish performed well at times and was shut down at others, but when you’re the best player on the field it’s easier to key into you. Grealish’s 14 goal contributions led the team by far on the right side and his passing helped open opportunities for the other attackers. The other wing, generally manned by either Anwar El Ghazi or Trézéguet, was productive with ten goals and five assists from the position, but it could have been better. A season of coordination with McGinn will likely be enough to improve the numbers. The striker position was the most concerning in my eyes. Wesley, the 23 year old Brazilian, scored five times in the season and it’s just not good enough from a Premier League striker. A bid has been made for Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson. Wilson scored eight times last season but has more Premier League experience and could help Wesley develop while scoring goals himself.

Villa to get relegated at +185 is a very strong bet in my eyes.

Players to Watch: Douglas Luiz, DM, and Conor Hourihane, RM

Brighton and Hove Albion

2019 Finish: 15th

2020 Title Odds: +75000

Arrivals: Adam Lallana, AM, Free; Joël Veltman, CB, €1M; Jensen Weir, CM, €550K

Departures: Anthony Knockart, RW, €11.5M, Aaron Mooy, CM, €4.5M; Shane Duffy, CB, Loan; Martín Montoya, RB, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1

2020 Outlook: Brighton had a serious issue with scoring goals last season. They allowed just as many goals as Chelsea through the season, 54, but Brighton’s goal differential was -15 while Chelsea’s was 15. The 4-2-3-1 that Brighton employs is meant to facilitate wing play and distribution from the pivots in the midfield, but it wasn’t as effective as it needed to be. Neal Maupay scored 10 goals which led the team, but the regular wingers, Trossard and Groß, combined for just seven goals while the attacking midfielder, Aaron Mooy, scored and assisted only twice on the season. The addition of Adam Lallana will help mitigate some of those issues and make the loss of Mooy negligible, but the wings are still an issue in my eyes.

The midfield is a shifting enigma for Brighton. Mooy generally plays in an attacking position and the central defenders sit back, but the formations change so often that it’s difficult to see a player find a rhythm at a position. Yves Bissouma and Davy Pröpper were the regular pivots in the 4-2-3-1. Pröpper and Dale Stephens were regular fixtures while Bissouma, Solly March, and Steven Alzate were more rotational. I’ve taken a liking to Alzate as he’s played adjusted to top flight football well and earned a call-up to Colombia. He had a bit of an injury earlier in the season but I like him to break out and become a star this season.

The Brighton defense was flatly great last year. Well, it was great for a non-top six team, but regardless. They were absolutely stellar at holding possession and were very comfortable in their own half. Between Dan Burn, Lewis Dunk, Shane Duffy, and Adam Webster, the back line were exemplary. Mat Ryan put up nine clean sheets on the season and that has a lot to do with the central defending in front of him. Shane Duffy did ask for and receive a loan for more playing time, but the addition of Veltman should help ease that loss. The fullbacks are generally used for defending purposes, though Tariq Lamptey might change that a bit. With Montoya headed to Betis, Lamptey will probably take over a ton of minutes at right back and help advance the attack after a very productive 500 or so minutes last season.

Players to Watch: Steven Alzate, MF, and Tariq Lamptey, RB

Burnley

2019 Finish: 10th

2020 Title Odds: +75000

Arrivals: Will Norris, GK, Unknown

Departures: Jeff Hendrick, CM, Free; Joe Hart, GK, Free; Aaron Lennon, RW, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-4-2

2020 Outlook: Burnley quietly moved up the Premier League ladder in 2019 to slide into 10th under Sean Dyche, their best finish since 2017/18. The defending was fine, where it should be for a team like Burnley, but the attack was underwhelming. James Tarkowski is probably the best player on the team right now at center back and it’s becoming more and more obvious thanks to inquiries from the likes of Leicester. Burnley are adamant that he won’t leave for less than his £50M release clause; his quality is undeniable. Phil Bardsley, Ben Mee, and Charlie Taylor round out the back four and were four of the top five rated players in Burnley’s squad. Bardsley is getting up in age and will likely lose his starting position to Matthew Lowton, though he won’t be outright disposed of. Nick Pope has been very reliable in goal and Burnley was approached by Chelsea about the keeper, but he won’t be going anywhere this window.

Dyche’s 4-4-2 saw the wings play much more attacking football which called for Ashley Westwood and Jack Cork to function as additional defenders and distributors, but neither did a great job. Cork had an especially poor season but since he’s the senior and established player, he still earned more minutes. Josh Brownhill, however, played well in his limited time and could be the heir to the position if Dyche takes to the idea. Brownhill is a better passer but will need to work on his tackling to be a better fit to the formation. Irishman Jeff Hendrick had a poor season equivalent to that of Cork’s on the right wing. Hendrick left the club on a free which leaves a massive opening for someone to step up or for a signing to occur. A signing isn’t apparently likely so we should expect to see someone like Jóhann Guðmundsson step into the role.

I want to take a moment to talk about Dwight McNeil because he may be one of the next big international wonderkids. At 20 years old he’s already shown a great confidence in his own skill and ability without becoming problematic. He scored twice and added six assists, a rarity for someone that young, and has garnered attention from truly giant clubs. It’s a bit shocking to hear but Juventus have been keeping tabs on the player which truly speaks to his talent. He’s obviously got a great eye for passing and controls the ball well. He’s comfortable with the ball at his feet and if Burnley can manage to hold him for a couple years, he could be the most expensive player in a transfer window at this rate of progression.

The forwards for Burnley showed some promising moments in 2019/20 but were equally difficult to watch at other times. Jay Rodriguez and Chris Wood certainly showed an aptitude for finding goal as they scored a total of 22 combined, but they were frustratingly absent at times. They didn’t play off of each other well, both having just a single assist on the season, so I wonder why they’re playing together instead of using another midfielder to facilitate play or open up lanes while the other is a substitute. I won’t complain since a 10th place finish is impressive, but things could have been better at the top of the formation.

Player to Watch: Dwight McNeil, LM

Chelsea

2019 Finish: 4th

2020 Title Odds: +1200

Arrivals: Kai Havertz, AM, €80M; Timo Werner, CF, €53M; Ben Chilwell, LB, €50.2M; Hakim Ziyech, RW, €40M; Malang Sarr, CB, Free; Thiago Silva, CB, Free

Departures: Álvaro Morata, CF, €56M; Mario Pašalić, CM, €15M; Nathan, LW, €3M; Willian, RW, Free; Pedro, RW, Free; Danilo Pantić, CM, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-3-3

2020 Outlook: Thanks to a win on the final day of the League, Chelsea moved into Champions League position after struggling to keep the pace for most of the season. Things started wrong with a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of United and slowly got better. Despite missing out on silverware altogether, Lampard’s men will be pleased to be in the Champions League next season.

The goalkeeping situation was one that’s just perplexing. Kepa was the man for the job at the beginning of the season and most figured he was just shaking the rust off with some bad misses. But he wasn’t. There’s a genuine issue with Kepa and the fact that he’s not just a bad shot stopper, he’s a terrible keeper. The bigger issue is that he was bought for a world record fee two summers ago and making a profit off his is impossible. It will be tough to offload the Spaniard but Lampard has committed to him for another season despite being benched for Caballero at times throughout the season. His chain will be undoubtedly short.

The defense was problematic last season, especially in the earlier stages. Kurt Zouma gave up a few terrible mistakes for goals and it wasn’t clear whether Christensen would be up to the task. As the season moved on though and the players felt more in-tune with the system, things began to pick up. The addition of Thiago Silva makes five genuine choices for centerback between Rüdiger, Silva, Tomori, Christensen, and Zouma, with more young stars waiting to emerge. The fullback situation is completely nailed down now, as well. Azpilicueta is, and always has been, the man on the right side, and despite the good play of Marcos Alonso, Ben Chilwell will take over on the left. Chelwell was bought for a hefty fee from Leicester and will look to improve both the defending and crossed ball success rates for the Blues.

The midfield and attack sort of blend into one for the most part, but there is almost always a true defensive midfielder on the pitch. Jorginho and Kovačić are the general choices, splitting time in the 4-3-3 or alongside each other in the 4-2-3-1, but when Kanté is healthy he’ll slide into the lineup for his pure quality and additional attacking skills.

Now, this is where things really begin to blend. The attacking midfield and wingers are so populated that it’s going to pose serious issues for Lampard to figure out how to get everyone adequate playing time while keeping everyone else happy. Despite Willian and Pedro moving on, Ziyech, Werner, and Havertz are joining a packed group of players, all of whom need game time to develop. Havertz and Mount will compete for time as the central attacking mids, Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi will be on the left wing while Ziyech is on the right wing. Then where do we put Abraham and Giroud behind Werner? All that goes without mentioning the likes of Drinkwater, Brakley, van Ginkel, Gimour, Kenedy, Loftus-Cheek, and Moses. How Lampard plans to make everyone happy while holding effective formations and teams is beyond me. Luckily I’m not getting paid to do so.

So this €200M+ transfer window tag makes a definite statement from the owner and club together: they’re gunning for the title. At +1200 is it really possible though? Liverpool and City didn’t get any worse and they both have aspirations to crush the competition. Manchester United picked up van de Beek and should be better after a full season together plus a full season of Bruno. Chelsea’s goalkeeper and defense are no sure thing to improve and it isn’t a sure thing that Werner and Havertz immediately translate. Champions League spot? Sure. Title? Unlikely. I also don’t like the odds of Werner winning the Golden Boot. With so many other threats to score around him he’s sure to have plenty of chances taken by others. Stay away from that bet.

Player to Watch: Kai Havertz, AM

Crystal Palace

2019 Finish: 14th

2020 Title Odds: +75000

Arrivals: Eberechi Eze, AM, €17.8M; Nathan Ferguson, RB, Free

Departures: None

Preferred Formation: 4-5-1

2020 Outlook: A free fall to close the season dropped Palace to 14th in the league. They were easily the worst team in the league after the shutdown, earning only a single point from their final eight fixtures and scoring just three times in that stretch. The only team to score less goals in the league was Norwich, and to make things worse, the quality of the defense indicates that the team could have been a top half side with better attacking play. I shudder thinking about the offense had Zaha been sold.

Roy Hodgson’s side are barren of true talent, having just four players on the roster valued over €10M, three of which are attacking players. So what was wrong? WIlfried Zaha, who plays on the left wing and was chased by some of the biggest clubs in the world last summer, didn’t produce the goal contributions that he normally does. His passing was up, his dribble per game was up, and his crosses were way up, so it’s apparent that even though he wasn’t shooting as often, he was doing enough to create and didn’t have the finishers to help him out. Jordan Ayew was fine at the top of the formation and put nine goals in and finished 2nd in rating just behind Zaha, but that attack needs to produce more. Christian Benteke needs to have more than two goals on the season and Andros Townsend either needs to show better form on the right wing ro be replaced. The new transfer Ezi is listed as an attacking midfielder, but he put up very good numbers on the right side of the formation in limited matches. He’s a very exciting player but I’m not sure whether he’s the answer on the right.

The central midfield generally consisted of Luka Milivojević as the defensive mid, a position he excels in while still contributing to the goal scoring, with James McArthur and Cheikhou Kouyaté. McArthuer and Kouyaté are the facilitators in the middle and are meant to spur on the attackers while being release options for passes back. However, the duo contributed just a single goal and four assists over the course of the season. That isn’t their main job, but there needs to be more contributions and certainly better passing as they only registered 85 and 81 completion rates on the season. Now Eze is a candidate to step into one of these roles as is the Irishman James McCarthy, but the attacking issue runs deeper than just a player change.

The defense was respectable, truly. Only 50 goals is easily best on the lower half of the league and was better than some of the teams in the top half, but the unit is getting old, especially in the middle. Gary Cahill is 34, James Tomkins is 31, and Scott Dann is 33, so some help will be needed in the near future, but there’s no reason this same group couldn’t replicate the display in 2020. The fullbacks are in a bit better shape and are some of the higher quality players on the team. Martin Kelly and Joel Ward combine to defend on the right and are close to the same exact player, while Patrick van Aanholt has been very productive on the left, scoring three times, assisting twice, and winning a game with one of his last gasp efforts. Vicente Guaita was very reliable in goal, though both himself and Wayne Hennessy are getting up in age.

One of the biggest concerns I have for this Palace side is their lack of youth in the team. Nathan Ferguson joining from West Brom and Sam Woods from the academy help the defense and Eze and Pierrick both bring the median age down in the midfield, but they’re really the only younger players on the side. An older coach such as Hodgson might like footballers with more experience, but at some point they expire and need to be replaced. Establishing some new faces needs to be a priority for the club over the next two seasons or they’ll find themselves scrambling, and likely sent down. At +200 I actually think there’s a decent chance the London club gets sent down this season. Eze isn’t going to make that big of a difference and the promoted sides are better than most seasons.

Palace to get relegated at +200 could be a very good bet.

Players to Watch: Eberechi Eze, AM, and Max Meyer, AM

Everton

2019 Finish: 12th

2020 Title Odds: +75000

Arrivals: Allan; CM, €25M; Neils Nkounkou, LB, €270K

Departures: Morgan Schneiderlin, DM, €2.23M; Kieran Dowell, AM, Unknown

Preferred Formation: 4-4-2

2020 Outlook: It’s probably not fair to call a team that finished 12th in the league in 2019 “loaded,” but I’m going to do it anyways because I’m such a big fan of the roster. Starting at the back, Jordan Pickford is a great goalkeeper and rightfully England’s #1. The 2019/20 season wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but when there’s a good defense in front of him he’s one of the top keepers in the world. I’m also a fan of his backup, Jonas Lössl, who was on loan at Huddersfield and provides good coverage off the bench.

The central defense was very good, anchored by Mason Holgate and Michael Keane, both of which are young, experienced, and still improving. Holgate registered three assists while Keane drove home a pair of goals. Yerry Mina has also been utterly terrific from the position and combine for one of the more reliable central defenses in the country. The right fullback is Seamus Coleman. Coleman split time with Djibril Sidibé while the player was on loan from Monaco, but that has since expired, leaving Coleman as the main man. Jonjoe Kenny who returned from loan with Schalke will likely split time and begin transitioning into the starter on that side. Lucas Digne has a stranglehold on the left side and he’s very good there. He loves to get forward and dribble and cross, evidenced by his seven assists from that side. Nkounkou is meant to play as Digne’s backup but will likely play very sparingly considering Digne’s 35 starts last season.

The midfield was good and got even better in the window. Carlo Ancelotti got one of his men in with the big signing of Allan from Napoli. The 29 year old is a stellar defensive midfielder who will slot in nicely to the formation. Whether Ancelotti wants to keep the 4-4-2 or move to a formation with a defined defensive midfielder should be irrelevant as Allan can simply drop back regardless. Finding the right combination of central midfielders will be a bit of a problem though, as the combinations are truly vast. André Gomes and Tom Davies were the main minutes-getters last season but both underperformed at times. Schneiderlin, Delph, Sigurðsson, and Gbamin also need some time, though Gbamin is the only player who might be necessary when he returns from injury. A 4-2-3-1 with Allan and Gbamin in the defensive midfield and Gomes, Davies, and sometimes Sigurðsson rotating at the 10 could be very efficient.

The wingers and attacks could have been a bit better in the 2019/20 season, but Ancelotti is a good candidate to make them excel in their roles. Alex Iwobi, Bernard, and Theo Walcott were the main wingers for Everton with Bernard on the left, Walcott on the right, and Iwobi switching sides when needed. The trio were pretty ineffective, putting up just six goals and five assists combined. Those could be decent numbers from a single winger, not three of them. Maximizing their potential will be the most difficult task for Ancelotti this season as better production could make a big difference for the team. Playing two strikers at the top of the formation was very effective as both Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin netted 13 goals and a combined four assists. Both are very adept scorers and play well together, but maybe dropping one on the bench as a first sub while adding another midfielder could prove even more potent. I would also love to see Moise Kean have a bigger presence, though it could be tough to break past the two strikers ahead of him.

P.S. Everton just signed James for €22.4M from Real Madrid and he’s going to greatly improve the quality of the team. He’ll likely take over a majority of the minutes in one of the central midfield positions and has a chance to immediately be the best player on the team and elevate those around him. Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin will benefit directly while the wings will have many more opportunities from through runs.

Player to Watch: Tom Davies, CM

Fulham

2019 Finish: 4th in Championship; Playoff Winners

2020 Title Odds: +75000

Arrivals: Anthony Knockart, RW, €11.7M; Mario Lemina, DM, Loan; Harrison Reed, DM, €9M; Antonee Robinson, LB, €2.1M

Departures: Luca de la Torre, RM, Free; Magnus Norman, GK, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-3-3

2020 Outlook: Fulham were a very interesting team in the Championship last season. Their defense wasn’t particularly great and their attack didn’t blast anyone’s clothes off, but they found a way to win when things came down to it. They could reach down and pull out a result which might not seem deserved, but was by Fulham’s own doing. The attack, led by Aleksandar Mitrović, scored 64 goals, good for 6th in the Championship. Mitrović put in 26 as the man up top while ten other scorers accounted for the rest. Anthony Knockart and Ivan Cavaleiro were the wingers for most starts, both playing over 3,000 minutes and combining for 20 goal contributions. Bobby De Cordova-Reid and Aboubakar Kamara are the top replacements at those positions but probably aren’t ready for the rigors of the Premier League just yet.

The midfield had constants in the form of Tom Cairney and Harrison Reed. Cairney excelled with eight goals and three assists. Reed plays more of a defensive midfielder position and could share time with Mario Lemina and André Zambo Anguissa, though Reed is getting paid good money, enough to indicate a starting job. Harry Arter will also get time around the midfield, though he’ll need to improve his rating before getting into the starting roles. De Cordova-Reid was a starter in the right midfield when the position was called for, but again, he needs to improve as well.

The defense was of a good quality in the Championship but I’m afraid they’ll be absolutely cooked in the Premier League. The right fullbacks, Cyrus Christie and Denis Odoi, are mainly defenders and rarely get up to assist the attack. However, Joe Bryan on the left is more of a modern back, playing in 42 matches while scoring thrice and assisting on seven goals. Bryan may be up to snuff, but the rest of the defense still has me concerned. American Tim Ream played in all but a single match for Fulham last season and did well enough. Alfie Mawson and Michael Hector played on the right side of the pairing and were generally a bit better than Ream, but still not good enough for the Premier League. I fear that they’ll struggle against the likes of Everton and Villa who both have good forward play and I prefer not to think of what might happen against City and Liverpool.

Fulham are an even +100 to get relegated and I have to admit that it’s a pretty likely thing. The attack is decent and some good money was spent in the midfield to make things a bit safer, but the defense just isn’t good enough. I doubt that there’s enough money to make any significant move for a starter and a backup won’t do much for the Cottagers.

Fulham to be relegated at +100 is a safe bet.

Player to Watch: Josh Onomah, AM

Leeds United

2019 Finish: Championship Champions

2020 Title Odds: +20000

Arrivals: Rodrigo, CF, €30M; Hélder Costa, RW, €17.7M; Robin Koch, CB, €13M; Illan Meslier, GK, €6.5M; Joe Gelhardt, CF, €1M; Cody Drameh, RB, €440K; Jack Harrison, LW, Unknown

Departures: Laurens De Bock, LB, Loan

Preferred Formation: 4-1-4-1

2020 Outlook: Leeds were the winners of the Championship last season and they didn’t really bother making it too competitive. They were ten points clear at the end after winning their final six matches and had a goal differential for 42, nothing to sneeze at. They’re also exactly what the FA want in a promoted team, spending nearly €60M on players to improve an already good roster. Marcelo Beilsa is incredibly creative and intelligent as a manager and won’t be settling for the bottom half of the table. Think of What Sheffield did this season, but a better finish to the season. They’re going to be dangerous.

Starting from the back, Illan Meslier and Kiko Casilla are going to take on the duties in net. Casilla was the keeper last season and was very effective, but at age 33 he will need replacing in the not so distant future. Meslier is 20 years old and joins from Lorient with potential to be a very good stopper in the future. He was cheap and worth the risk as he can be tested against some of the mid-tiered teams in the league.

The defending bang on as the club allowed just 35 goals on the season. Liam Cooper is the captain and left center back, but Ben White’s loan has ended and has returned to Brighton. How should Leeds replace him? Try with a €13M defender out of Germany, Robin Koch. Koch immediately becomes the best defender on Leeds, not to mention his tag was cheap and he’s only 24. The player will elevate those around him and bring some top flight experience to the club. Luke Ayling was the club’s top rated player on the right flank with four goals and four assists. He’s a decent defender who crosses a whole lot and draws even more fouls. He’s going to fit in at the Premier League level. Stuart Dallas played the same way on the left side, touching in five goals with three assists. Both are quality defenders but excel in the system that Liverpool and Barcelona have revolutionized that allowed the backs to play as attackers.

In the 4-1-4-1 that Leeds emplay, Kalvin Phillips plays as the defensive midfielder. At just 24 he’s one of the best players on the team and is a very good defender. He can get forward and passes well as a pivot, but playing with the center backs while defending counters and sitting back during attacks is where he excels. The central midfielders of choice were Pablo Hernández and Mateusz Klich, both very productive players. Hernández was great with nine goals and nine assists while Klich was also very good with six and five. Hernández is getting old at 35 but still seems to have his legs beneath him. There are plenty of players who can make a difference at that position but those two will be seen the most.

The attackers are very good for Leeds and got even better in the offseason. Costa played for Leeds on loan last season and was made permanent from Wolves. Costa plays on the right and contributed four goals and four assists, but has a chance to become better this season. Jack Harrison was the lan on the left side with a very solid six goals and eight assists at just age 23 and will be a staple on that side of the pitch. Patrick Bamford was good at the top of the formation with 16 goals and a pair of assists, but he may be supplanted by the new signing Rodrigo. Rodrigo is immediately the best player on the team after joining from Valencia in the offseason and ought to take the top spot as striker. Rodrigo can also play on the right side and could start there as Costa becomes acclimated to the pressures of the top flight. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating this team because they’re very good and will finish the season with a couple of Top 6 wins on their resume.

Player to Watch: Jack Harrison, RW

Leicester City

2019 Finish: 5th

2020 Title Odds: +15000

Arrivals: Timothy Castagne, RB, €21M

Departures: Ben Chilwell; LB, €50.2M; Bartosz Kapustka, AM, Free; George Thomas, AM, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-1-4-1

2020 Outlook: Leicester may not have surprised us the way they did while winning the title in 2016, but they did show out in a way that they hadn’t since that season. The Foxes were holding pace with Liverpool for a while and holding with City for second after that, but post-restart the drop-off was lethal. Leicester missed out on the Champions League with a loss to United on the final day, an ultimately disappointing finish to an elating season. Brendan Rodgers’ side suffered some critical injuries which may have hampered their abilities down the stretch, but he and those in the club should still be happy with their production considering they have a good chance to replicate the performance in the coming season.

The defense was one of the biggest surprises of the season and were genuinely exciting to watch. The 4-1-4-1 serves essentially the same function as Liverpool’s 4-3-3 with the fullbacks taking up the wings with the ball. Ricardo Pereira played 28 matches before getting knocked out for the season with injury, but he should be great when he returns. The 26 year old scored three times with two assists and was very dangerous with the ball at his feel. Across from him was Ben Chilwell who put on similar performances, but now wears a Chelsea kit. Christian Fuchs is the only true left back on the squad and I doubt Leicester want to move forward with him as the starter at 34 years old. Timothy Castagne was signed in the window but he plays primarily on the right. James Justin played at left back just once last season but is also a primarily right-footed player. The center backs were very good. Jonny Evans was dependable and played in every match while Çağlar Söyüncü turned into an absolute monster. They were both unbelievably good passers and formed one of the more formidable trios when Casper Schmeichel was added to the fray.

The midfield was also very impressive. Wilfred Ndidi was very, very strong both as a defender and passer playing as the pivot of the team. He was beaten very infrequently and could be one of the next big sales out of Leicester. The central midfielders in the four wide midfield were James Maddison and Youri Tielemans. Maddison impressed as a #10 as he usually does, scoring six times and assisting thrice. He was a good facilitator of play and kept the tempo, though I might have liked to see more assists. Tielemans functioned as another attacker and was pestilent to opposing defenders. He understands space and played very well considering it was his first Premier League game. Tielemans flipped the stats of Maddison, finding more space with his passes for the wingers and Vardy.

Speaking of Vardy, he won the Golden Boot. 23 goals and five assists for the 33 year old  indicates that he’s still one of the best target men in the world, but he’s getting old. I don’t feel great about it since he was a late-bloomer, but I feel that we’ll start to see the tread on those legs soon. He may still find the net 20 times this season, but he has to start breaking down soon, right? Moving onto less dangerous subjects, Harvey Barnes and Ayoze Pérez were the first choice wingers for Rodgers. Pérez wasn’t as great as he could have been, but still rated well according to goal contributions, scoring eight times and assisting four times. Barnes played better football generally and scored six times to eight assists. Kele Iheanacho scored five times as the backup to Vardy and should be seeing the same type of minutes this season.

Player to Watch: Hamza Choudhury, DM

Liverpool

2019 Finish: Champions

2020 Title Odds: +160

Arrivals: Kostantinos Tsimitas, LB, €13M

Departures: Dejan Lovren, CB, €12M; Ovie Ejaria, CM, €3.9M; Adam Lallana, AM, Free; Nathaniel Clyne, RB, Contract Expired

Preferred Formation: 4-3-3

2020 Outlook: If you haven’t paid attention to football recently, Liverpool got really good, really quickly, winning the Champions League two seasons ago and the elusive Premier title last season. It’s safe to say that they’re a top five side on planet earth and maybe even top three. Jürgen Klopp has brought a new culture to the team and a slew of trophies with it.

The goalkeeping for Liverpool is generally great with Alisson in net, but an injury to the Brazilian forced Adrian into net, and as is tradition for Liverpool backups, he scared us pretty good. He struggled with his passing and made some monumentally horrific decisions at times. Luckily he was playing behind Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, two of the best defenders in the world. van Dijk was a monster again but did take a bit of a step back from his monster 2018/19 season. However, the more entertaining of the back four were the fullbacks, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson were stupendously entertaining again, combining for 25 assists. Both are merely average defenders but that’s not what Klopp asks them to do. Both are strong dribblers and clearly great with the ball at their feet, feeding their winger’s goal obsession. With Robertson 26 and TAA 21, there’s still even more improvement possible which is a scary thought.It should be mentioned that Kostantinos Tsimitas was bought by the Reds and plays left back. Robertson isn’t going anywhere but Tsimitas could turn out as a great player considering Klopp saw fit to take him on.

The three man midfield had two permanent fixtures and one that rotated a bit more. The permanent ones were Jordan Henderson and Fabinho. Henderson was on the right side of the three and won Player of the Year in the eyes of the pundits. His statistics weren’t ridiculous with four goals and five assists, but he made the team tick, owning the midfield and doing everything at a high level. Fabinho was great again as a defensive midfielder and was integral in helping keep the box clear. The last line of defense before the central defenders was Fabinho and he played great football as a pivot. The other position rotated a bit. Oftentimes it was Gini Wijnaldum, though Oxlade-Chamberlain and Keïta were both playing there routinely.

The attackers are one of the more well-known trios in the world, mainly attributable to their effectiveness. Sadio Mané and Mo Salah were incredible yet again, combining for 37 goals and 17 assists while Firmino was stellar on the interior with nine goals and eight assists. Firmino often gets a lot of flak thanks to his lack of stats for a top team, but his job is to draw a defender to open up for the wingers and clean up whatever they can’t finish. He’s unbelievably good at his role and needs to be treated as such.

As always, Mané and Salah are Golden Boot threats. Salah is the favorite to win the award at +550 and Mané is +1400, but I don’t think either will take the award. With the midfield and fullbacks getting better, they’ll have an eye for goal, and so will Firmino. The team is too good for a single player to stand out like that and I doubt anyone will win the trophy. However, Liverpool sit at +160 to win the title again, second to Manchester City. I think that City is going to win the trophy with a vengeance this season, but betting Liverpool to repeat is not a bad bet at all.

Player to Watch: Trent Alexander-Arnold, RB

Manchester City

2019 Finish: 2nd

2020 Title Odds: +100

Arrivals: Nathan Aké, CB, €45.3M; Ferran Torres, RW, €23M; Yan Couto, RB, €6M; Issa Kaboré, RB, €4.5M

Departures: Leroy Sané, RW, €45M; David Silva, CM, Free; Claudio Bravo, GK, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-3-3

2020 Outlook: After a few quiet transfer windows, Pep and the lads decided to make some moves. Most of the action was taking in players, but the Leroy Sané saga has finally come to an end with the winger headed to Bayern. Club legend David Silva also decided to not extend his contract and return to Spain while Claudio Bravo did the same.

The attack for City is the story to read, as it usually is. Sergio Agüero and Gabriel were absolute mercenaries at the top of the formation combining for 30 of City’s 102 goals on the season. Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling were both great on the wings with Mahrez surprising and stealing the starting job from Bernardo. Mahrez netted 11 goals and nine assists and just played terrorizing football on the right wing. Sterling was incredible as usual, scoring 20 times and developing his game into that of a juggernaut.

There were plenty of combinations to go through in the midfield, but Kevin de Bruyne was in as often as possible. He scored 13 goals and assisted a ridiculous 20 times, tying Thierry Henry’s record. He’s still one of the best players in the world despite a down 2018/19. With no David Silva it’s probable that we see more of Phil Foden and Pep might even tinker with the formation to help get better positioning for his star group. Rodrigo and Güdoğan are going to be staples as pivots in the center and as central defenders in front of a fresh defensive line.

The City defense was a big topic in the minds of many last season with Stones and Laporte injured for good portions of the season and a lot of questionable plays made by the defenders. Laporte played well when healthy and Stones was usually reliable, but Otamendi wasn’t very good and Stones is getting old, not to mention possibly topped out. Pep solved the issue by picking up Nathan Aké from the relegated Bournemouth. The central defender should walk into the starting lineup beside Laporte and make life especially hellish for anyone able to get as far as that line. Eric García may be the first in the rotation, ahead of both Otamendi and Stones. The fullbacks aren’t quite at the level of Liverpool, but they’re very good regardless. Kyle Walker is a constant threat on the right side, able to carry the ball up field while swinging in deadly crosses. A pair of backups and possible future replacements were bought, but should not be minded this season unless in early stages of tournaments. Across on the left side is normally Oleksandr Zinchenko, but a string of poor showings early in the season opened things up for Benjamin Mendy to take over the spot. Cancelo could still manage some appearances, but he’s clearly secondary to the regular starters.

I really love the way Sterling has developed this season and I actually favor him to be competitive in the Golden Boot race. He’s +1200 at the moment which is a good bet, but I think he’ll miss out because of the weapons around him. He’s the best scoring threat on the team thanks to his ridiculous slew of skills, but with Mahrez, Agüero, Gabriel, Bernardo, Foden, de Bruyne, and now Ferran Torres to compete with, I think he’ll just be edged.

I do expect City to win the title. I felt as though they were the better team to close the season and are ready to mount an assault of revenge. The defense is better, the attack is just as good as ever, and everyone seems to be healthy. It’ll be a tight race at the top but City at +100 is the way to bet.

Player to Watch: Kevin de Bruyne (as always), AM

Manchester United

2019 Finish: 3rd

2020 Title Odds: +800

Arrivals: Donny van de Beek, CM, €39M

Departures: Alexis Sánchez, CF, Free; Tahith Chong, RW Loan

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1

2020 Outlook: Like Chelsea, Manchester City didn’t start the season very well and it took a few pulls of the cord to get the motor running, but once it did, it was fantastic. Granted, the final pull was by the hand of Bruno Fernandes, but it got running nevertheless. Ole Gunnar Solskjær struggled to find the right formations and was hesitant to use some players at first, but once he expanded his team and actually tinkered with formations and positions he found a spot good enough to earn 3rd place and the Champions League with it.

The defense was shaky and the big investments haven’t paid off yet. Harry Maguire was a bit of a fridge in the back and clearly has off the field issues, but he’s still one of the better defenders in the country and easily the best on the team. Victor Lindelöf was very good beside Maguire as well. The combo did well in the air and just played solid all-around defense, but Maguire has yet to live up to his world record fee. The fullbacks were good, but not great. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was a bit overshadowed by the pricier players but was still very good on the flank. His four assists were tied for fifth on the team and his defense wasn’t bad by any stretch. Luke Shaw was fine on the left though he didn’t look great at times. His defense was standard but he didn’t contribute to any goals this season, so either he needs to contribute more to the attack or he should be a very good defender, he can’t be neither at United.

The midfield was decent to begin with but became very good when Bruno joined the fray. Playing a 4-2-3-1 fit the Portuguese 10 very well as he scored and passed fluidly, cutting through defenses with ease. He did score a bunch of goals on penalties so that number might need to be looked at skeptically, but his impact was undeniably the reason United finished in the Champions League position. Eight goals and seven assists in half a season are not a fluke. Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay were generally in the defensive midfield though Pogba was more likely to drift forward while McTominay was a pivot and defender. Pogba is obviously great and could start on any team, but injuries limited his contributions. Donny van de Beek will have to slot into the team somewhere, and although he is a very good player and a bargain, I’m not sure he’s a good fit. He’s a true central midfielder and unless Ole plans to change the look of the team for the Dutchman, I don’t see him fitting very well. Fred and Nemanja Matić were both frequents while Pogba was down and even after, but they might get less time with van de Beek in the fold.

The attack was very good. Bruno Fernandes makes this team much better, but the front line was doing very well even without him. Anthony Martial is the man at the top of the formation and the Frenchman is thriving in the position. Reared by plenty of world class footballers, he can just be himself and it’ll work well. He was great with 17 goals and six assists and should be seen as the top option going forward considering his youthfulness. A combination of Dan James and Mason Greenwood played on the right wing and both players were very good. In his inaugural season James put up nine goal contributions including six assists while Greenwood netted ten goals. And to finish with Rashford, he was utterly fantastic and seems to be heading towards a great battle with Sterling as to whom should be England’s top left winger. Rashford scored seventeen goals last season with seven assists and should only be getting better.

I actually wouldn’t mind a bet on either Rashford or Martial to win the Golden Boot. A full season of Fernandes with another year of top experience behind them can only do great things, and assuming the health of the team they have a great chance to score tons of goals. Martial is +1400 and Rashford is +1600 so it isn’t a wild shout and both weren’t far off Vardy’s total this season. I don’t personally think they’ll take the award but I think either could be close and the value is worth it.

Player to Watch: Mason Greenwood, RW

Newcastle United

2019 Finish: 13th

2020 Title Odds: +50000

Arrivals: Callum Wilson, CF, €22.25M; Ryan Fraser, LW, Free; Jeff Hendrick, CM, Free; Mark Gillespie, GK, Free

Departures: Jack Colback, DM, Free; Freddie Woodman, GK, Loan; Jake Turner, GK, Loan

Preferred Formation: 5-4-1

2020 Outlook: Steve Bruce and company had an admittedly tumultuous time in the 2019/20 season thanks to rumors of club sales and the whole story behind them, but they did surprisingly well not to get relegated and now the side are making good signings to improve the squad. Bruce had arranged the side in a defensive 5-4-1 with most of the front five attacking while the back line generally stayed home. Jetro WIllems at left back could carry the ball forward and cross at times as he finished the season with two goals and assists, but his partner at right back, Javier Manquillo, only had a single assist, indicating a more defense-heavy assignment.

The goalkeeping, while usually very dependable with Martin Dúbravka in net, was not the case this season. Newcastle allowed 58 goals which was 7th worst in the league and a number too high while playing three center backs. Dúbravka played in every match and though there were a lot of goals that weren’t his fault, he could have been better. Dúbravka may miss the start of the season with injury but is expected back October 1st. The central defense rotated five main players, but none of them really separated themselves from the pack. In order of games played, Federico Fernández, Jamal Lascelles, Fabian Schár, Ciaran Clark, and Paul Dummett were the main choices for Dyche and did alright, generally. Lascelles is the most well known thanks to his English background, but Clark was arguably the best player of the five. No additions were made and none of the players are concerningly old, so we ought to see a lot of the same next season.

Isaac Hayden and Jonjoe Shelvey were the central midfielders in the formation and did well in the position. Hayden dropped into more of a DMC position oftentimes, acting as a pivot and outlet, though he did push forward with the attack as well. Shelvey was actually very efficient in his role this season, doing a great job distributing and managing the play of the offense to the tune of six goals and two assists. Jeff Hendrick has joined the team on a free and should be able to get minutes as a backup to Shelve, though there will be competition for those leftover minutes. The brothers Longstaff will compete for them as Sean backed up Shelvey in 2019 and Matty began to get minutes behind Hayden. Nabil Bentaleb also took minutes in the midfield but could be the player pushed out of favor.

The winger situation was already good for Newcastle but it just got even better. The right wing was populated by Miguel Almíron on most occasions and he was okay in his first season from MLS, scoring four times with two assists and playing a huge portion of the minutes. Moving right to left, the striker position was a bit of an issue last season. Joelinton joined the team on a huge fee from Germany and started a whole lot of games, but he really struggled to score, netting just two goals and two assists. Those were Joelinton’s totals in 27 matches while Dwight Gayle was able to score four times in just ten games. In efforts to mitigate those issues this season, Callum Wilson was just brought in from Bournemouth for another large fee and will likely take the starting job from Joelinton. I doubt Joelinton will be relegated to the depths of the bench but he will see his starts reduced. And on the left wing we have probably the most talented position for the club. Allan Saint-Maximin was brought over from Nice and really impressed in his frist Premier season. His three goals and four assists were just scraping the top of what he’s capable of and he became much better while adjusting to the different style of play in England. Think of the progression of Arsenal’s Nicholas Pépé. Also, Newcastle just signed Ryan Fraser, also from Bournemouth, to help play on the left win as well. He wasn’t great last season but is still a smart passer and could help Almíron and Saint-Maximin progress their games and better adjust to the Premier League, so I love the signing.

Newcastle aren’t far off from being relegation favorites and it’s easy to understand why it might be the case, but I don’t think this season is one for the team to be sent down. The attack was completely fresh last season and with the new transfers and experience I expect Newcastle to score a lot more often than their low total of 38 last season. I also believe that the midfield and center backs will be able to have a better feel of each other for build-up and possession play, so don’t lay any money on Newcastle for relegation. 

Player to Watch: Allan Saint-Maximin, LW

Sheffield United

2019 Finish: 9th

2020 Title Odds: +75000

Arrivals: Aaron Ramsdale, GK, €20.5M; Wes Foderingham, GK, Free

Departures: Luke Freeman, AM, Loan

Preferred Formation: 3-5-2

2020 Outlook: The Blades were the big surprise of the 2019/20 season as one of the newly promoted sides. Their gutsy defense allowed them to actually be in the hunt for a Champions League position late into the season before sputtering close to the finish line, though they still finished top 10 while allowing just 39 goals on the season, a total bested by only Liverpool and the Manchester clubs. Chris Wilder’s philosophy has been proven successful in the top flight so adjustments and player improvements should only make things better.

Only, the personnel actually need to get better for improvements to be made. Sheffield had Manchester United loanee Dean Henderson in goal last season and he was stupendous, but he went back to his own club and forced Sheffield to pluck Aaron Ramsdale from the Cherries. Ramsdale is very good, but he isn’t better than Henderson. Regardless, the back three was obviously very proficient in allowing very few goals. The top three players were hardly ever substituted which could lead to worse endurance if not taken care of properly, but all three players managed the load well. Chris Basham didn’t miss a single match on the left of the trio while posting the best rating in the club. John Egan and Jack O’Connell were the other two centrally and on the right, respectively, and scored the second and third highest ratings on the team, also respectively. They were very good at winning aerials and played off of each other well, something that many center back pairings cannot accomplish.

The midfield was listed as five players  but it was mainly just the three central players while the outsiders were more of wingers who dropped back when out of possession. John Lundstram was at the middle of the formation and played as that position usually does: as a defensive midfielder. The player functioned as a pivot and distributed to the other central midfielders while also supporting the center backs when needed. He did push forward often and actually scored five goals with three assists which is pure excess from the Englishman. Sander Berge, the young Dane, is the primary backup for Lundstram and has the talent to burst on this season and potentially take the position. Oliver Norwood and John Fleck were the central midfielders who controlled the offensive flow. They were the main decision-makers and the metronome that the attack played to. Fleck was the more attack-minded player with five goals and two assists while Norwood was more content to set up with only one of each.

The two striker positions away a lot of action from a bunch of players, but the two most common were Ollie McBurnie and David McGoldrick. McGoldrik was always a common part of the team but McBurnie took a while to break in as he was new to the team last season. McGoldrick suffered from some shoddy finishing and finished with just two goals and assists while McBurnie scored six times. Frenchman Lys Mousset has the chops to take the spot from McGoldrick as he scored six times with four assists in just 11 appearances. He should see more time anyways with Billy Sharp on the verge of 35 years old. The wingers are most often Enda Stevens and George Baldock. Both had two goals and combined for seven assists. The numbers were okay for Sheffield’s tight defense, but I don’t know how well that will play as teams begin to better understand Sheffield’s team.

Player to Watch: Sander Berge, DM

Southampton

2019 Finish: 11th

2020 Title Odds: +25000

Arrivals: Kyle Walker-Peters, RB, €13.3M; Mohamed Salisu, CB, €12M

Departures: Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg, CM, €16.6M; Harrison Reed, DM, €9M; Mario Lemina, DM, Loan; Cédric Soares, RB, Free; Maya Yoshida, CB, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-4-2

2020 Outlook: Southampton’s game plan was essentially to go down shooting in the 2019/20 season, and it actually worked. Despite allowing 60 goals they were able to finish 11th by posting 51 of their own. The defense was abysmal but the attack smoked opponents, so all was well I suppose? This is a bit of the Unai Emery approach when he admitted he would rather win a game 5-4 than 1-0. My thoughts on that type of play is always, “Why not win 5-0?”

So let’s start with the bad and get better. The defense was just poor. Agnus Gunn and Alex McCarthy were fine in goal and McCarthy actually showed some really good moments, but both need to be consistently better in their shot stopping. It doesn’t help that the center backs were bad, though. Jan Vestergaard, Jan Bednarek, and Jack Stephens were the central defenders. Vestergaard was decent and Bednarek was consistently average, but Stephenshad a poor season. Luckily all three are young and have time to grow, but they can’t allow as many good looks for opposing attacks as they did in 2019. Maya Yoshida left the club after six appearances but Mohamed Salisu was bought from Valladolid to maybe ease the hardships. Cédric was the team’s main right back but he was taken by Arsenal on a free which leaves an opening for Kyle Walker-Peters and Yan Valery to take more minutes. The left side was manned by Ryan Bertrand who really struggled at times. He played a ton of minutes but only registered one goal and assist so it’s possible that he’s beginning to decline as he’s past age 30.

The midfield, especially the defensive portion, has taken some hits. Harrison Reed and Mario Lemina have both left for Fulham, Reed permanently and Lemina on loan. To make things worse, Pierre-Emile Höjbjerghas left for Spurs which indicates an opening for Oriol Romeu who has the talent, but hasn’t shown it yet. James Ward-Prowse is the other central midfielder and played excellent football. He really handled the offense and excelled with the ball at his feet, creating for others while still earning five goals and three assists. Nate Redmond and Stuart Armstrong were truer midfielders than most and the position suited them very well. Armstrong replicated JWP’s line but could have been a bit better off the ball and with his passing. Redmond was one of the top players on the team with four goals and four assists Moussa Djenepo and Sofiane Boufal are both backups for those midfield positions.

There are two forward positions and both are filled by strikers. Danny Ings was absolutely constant at the top of the formation and did a ton of heavy lifting with 22 goals, nearly winning the Golden Boot. Beside him would either be Shane Long, Che Adams, or Michael Obafemi. Neither was particularly better at scoring than the others, though the latter pair are very young with plenty of time to develop. The youth of this team has so much potential and I can’t wait to see how various players develop.

P.S. I wouldn’t be upset one bit at a +2000 flyer on Danny Ings to win the Golden Boot.

Player to Watch: Moussa Djenepo, LW

Tottenham Hotspur

2019 Finish: 6th

2020 Title Odds: +5000

Arrivals: Giovani Lo Celso, CM, €32M; Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg, CM, €16.6M; Matt Doherty, RB, €16.8M, Joe Hart, GK, Free

Departures: Kyle Walker-Peters, RB, 13.3M; Jan Vertonghen, CB, Free; Oliver Skipp, DM, Loan

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1

2020 Outlook: Spurs were another team who’s version of the 2019/20 season was filled with tumult. Mauricio Pochettino was sacked from office less than a season removed from a Champions League Final berth while the on field product waffled with Harry Kane injured again and new additions unproven. The buys of Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso, and Steven Bergwijn were all smart and very good buys, but we didn’t see them pay off one bit last season. In fact, Ndombele has been rumored to already be negotiating out of the club which needs to be prevented considering his talent is second to maybe only Harry Kane on the team. Regardless, Spurs finished sixth and are getting ready to participate in the early stages of Europa League thanks to Arsenal’s FA Cup win. Mourhino isn’t starting from scratch this season, but expect new things from North London’s other team.

The attack, as is tradition for Spurs, was good, scoring 61 goals. It’s especially good considering the number of injuries and the Christian Eriksen saga that ended so poorly. Harry Kane put home 18 goals in his 28 appearances which is nothing new for the english #9, though his injury issues weren’t a new concern either. Son Heung-Min continues to be one of the most watchable players in the world with his 11 assists and 10 goals from the left wing and even adjusted to play striker while Kane was injured. Lucas Moura handled most of the business on the right wing but had a bit of an off season. The Brazilian didn’t have a chance to perform his late-game heroics and only managed four goals and four assists on the season. Steven Bergwijn made himself useful on all fronts of the offense but played his best football on the wings.

Dele Alli made a resurgence under Mourinho and we ought to all be thankful considering he’s a great player to have in football. He made 21 league appearances and closed with eight goals and four assists. His scoring potential is massive and if he can continue to create for others he’ll be one of the best #10s in the world. Erik Lamela made some appearances as the attacking mid as well but wasn’t nearly effective as needed. The central midfield positions are going to be very busy this season with a huge number of players able to fill the positions. Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko were the players of choice last season and Winks will be tough to budge from the starting lineup, but Sissoko will certainly cede his job to others. Tanguy Ndombele, Eric Dier, Lo Celso, and Höjbjerg all need time and it will come from that position. Depending on who is playing the role will shift a bit, but Winks will always be the more defensive player while the other is given more creative freedom to express.

The defense wasn’t great last season and could take a step back this season as well. No Jan Vertonghen is a big hit but Davinson Sánchez is ready for a full-time starting job and playing beside Toby Alderweireld is a good spot to be in. Both were smart defenders and Eric Dier is always ready to fill the spot at a drop of a hat, so there’s help if needed. Juan Foyth and Japhet Tanganga are young but have Premier League experience, so don’t be surprised for them to earn a bit more playing time this season as well. The fullbacks for Spurs were both good and bad. Serge Aurier was fantastic on the right side with a goal and five assists. His pace is tough to match and he’s a menace to defend. Matt Doherty was bought which is a curious decision considering Aurier’s quality, but he should slot in somewhere. The left side of the formation struggled to be great. Ben Davies was subpar in the starting position and Danny Rose was even worse behind him. I had figured that if a fullback was to be bought he would play on the left side, but I suppose Mourinho has a plan in mind.

Player to Watch: Dele Alli, AM

West Brom Albion

2019 Finish: 2nd in Championship

2020 Title Odds: +100000

Arrivals: Matheus Pereira, RW, €9.1M; Cédric Kirpé, CB, €1.1M

Departures: Jonathan Leko, RW, €1.1M; Nathan Ferguson, RB, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1

2020 Outlook: West Brom were second in the Championship despite a small payroll and were very good at scoring goals, but not the best at stopping them. Their 4-2-3-1 is conducive to amplifying the power of the offense, but the fact that there isn’t a single defender on their squad valued at €5M is a very concerning factor for me. Slaven Bilić has clearly demonstrated a knowledge on how to win, but winning in the Championship versus the Premier League are entirely different beasts and I fear that we may have a Norwich situation on our hands.

Now, the defense wasn’t too bad in the Championship, but keeper Sam Johnstone was. He played in every match and registered just a 6.5 rating on the season which isn’t ideal. The central defense was manned Semi Ajayi, Kyle Bartley, and Ahmed Hegazi. Ajayi and Bartley took the majority of the minutes and were pretty impressive, but remember, Championship. They’ll likely do alright against the weaker side but won’t have a chance against the better teams. The fullbacks were more rotational. Dara O’Shea and Dranell Furlong were the main men on the right. They combination went for five goals and an assist. The left had a three-man mix of Conor Townsend, Nathan Ferguson, and Kieran Gibbs. Ferguson left on a free which could be a huge mistake, but the others were fine with a goal and three assists to their title. They’ll struggle against Premier League midfielders and attackers but shouldn’t be glaringly bad.

The midfield is where things may get dicey. The 4-2-3-1 is often played by teams with subpar central defenders so that the defensive midfielders are able to assist. Well West Brom’s defensive midfielders struggled mightily in the Championship and I really don’t think they’ll fare well in the Premier League. Romaine Sawyers was the real defender of the two and he was beaten often, posting a very poor rating on the season. Jake Livermore ventured up a bit more often and found goal three times with four assists, but he wasn’t very helpful in the defense either. The blossoming of those players will make or break the season for West Brom. The attacking midfield was on a bit of a rotation but that could change this season thanks to the prolificity of Matheus Pereira. The midfielder was unbelievable with eight goals and a whopping 16 assists last season. At just 24 years old the player seems ready to dominate, and while the adjustment might take a moment in the Premier League he will certainly be effective during this season.

The attack, as we mentioned, was good and fueled by Pereira. However, the striker position was a huge issue. Hal Robson-Kanu and Charlie Austin formed the rotation and combined for 20 goals, but they were really bad otherwise. Their passing was subpar and they both could have finished more goals. Age isn’t on the side of either player and they’ll need to be more effective if they’d like to combine for even half as many goals as last season. The winger situation is a bit better. On the right side is Scotsman Matt Phillips. He’s very dependable with the football and was able to put away seven goals and six assists last season. He would do very well to replicate those numbers this season. The other side is mainly seen to by Grady Diangana but was shared with a couple other players. The sharing was mainly thanks to Diangana’s age as he was very, very good at just 22 years old. His eight goals and six assists were very good, even in the Championship, and he could break out with bigger numbers in the Premier League. He’s that good.

I said a lot of very nice things about the attack, but don’t let that distract you from the issues I brought up with the defense. Things are very bleak for the side and there are very few links to better defenders at the moment. West Brom are favorites to be relegated at -105 and I’d be foolish to advise a bet otherwise. Take West Brom to be relegated.

Player to Watch: Grady Diangara, LW

West Ham United

2019 Finish: 16th

2020 Title Odds: +50000

Arrivals: Tomas Soucek, DM, €16.2M

Departures: Albian Ajeti, CF, €5.5M; Jordan Hugill, CF, €3.3M; Roberto, GK, Free

Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1

2020 Outlook: West Ham weren’t far off from being relegated, pulling eight points from their final four matches, and they’re lucky they survived because there’s a ton of value on the team and it would have been pluck away from pennies had they gone down. David Moyes could have lost his job, but he survived and kept it. The attack was pretty good, as it should have been, but the defense was exposed, as it deserved to be. Things could get better, but it isn’t very likely.

The defense was backed by the Pole Łukasz Fabiański and he was off the entire season. He really struggled on shots he normally saves and just could have been much better than he was. The fact that the defense wasn’t great didn’t help, but he deserved much of the blame. Issa Diop and Angelo Obgonna were the top choices for Moyes’ formation with Fabián Balbuena playing most of the rest. None of the players were good for any consistent portion of the season. The three combined for six goals and an assist, but were probably responsible for at least that many goals being let by. Ryan Fredericks was the top right back and was really good on the attack with three assists, but he is so often busy defending that he can’t get up the field as often as I would like to see. The left back combination has a bit of the same issue as Aaron Cresswell and Arthur Masuaku. They combined for three goals and an assist but had to defend much of the time, not to mention their passing was below average.

The midfield was a staple for the Hammers. Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek were an incredible pairing at defensive midfield, good enough that the team brought in Soucek permanently. Soucek ventured forward more with three goals while Rice is probably the best defender on the team. The Englishman was also able to flex his passing muscles with three assists from his deeper position. They’re very integral to the way West Ham’s season finishes. Mark Noble was the most common central midfielder for Moyes, though things were a bit of a mess in terms of team selection. There were tons of different players who went through the middle and none of them seemed very adept. Manuel Lanzini and Felipe Anderson seemed to be the best for the role but weren’t employed often enough to find a rhythm. That position will be one to figure out come this season.

The attack was nice and inspired some hope for the upcoming season. The left side was a rotation of Anderson and Pablo Fornals. They combined for three goals and nine assists which are decent numbers, but the play of Fornals was otherwise very poor. Anderson was a bit better outside of the glamor stats but I would like to see them pass better and open more space off the ball. The right side was another platoon of Yarmolenko, Bowen, and Snodgrass. The production of those three was actually very good as they combined for 11 goals and 10 assists, but Yarmolenko lost a step. Snodgrass seems to be the winger of the future on that side. The striker position was also platooned by two very effective players in Sébastian Haller and Michail Antonio. Antonio posted the best ratings on the team with 10 goals and three assists while Haller made his mark with seven and one. Haller is  the striker of the future but he won’t be taking more of Antonio’s minutes just yet.

Player to Watch: Declan Rice, DM

Wolverhampton Wanderers

2019 Finish: 7th

2020 Title Odds: +15000

Arrivals: Fabio Silva, CF, €40M, Marçal, LB, €2M; Matija Sarkic, GK, Free

Departures: Hélder Costa, RW, €17.7M; Matt Doherty, RB, €16.8M; Morgan Gibbs-White, Loan; Conner Ronan, CM, Loan

Preferred Formation: 3-4-3

2020 Outlook: Wolves continue to impress this season since they’ve been up with a 7th place finish, just hardly missing out on continental football with a loss on the final day. Their Portuguese ties have given them a very stout defense with a very opportunistic attack. The 3-4-3 is a bit unconventional but it fits the personnel of the team perfectly and Nuno Espírito Santo’s scheme perfectly.

Rui Patrício was the man in goal and is usually one of the most reliable keepers in the world, though he was a bit off last season. I doubt it’s anything to worry about but if it keeps up there might be some problems. The back three was fine, but I might have liked to see a player bought to make improvements. Willy Boly was stellar on the right and Romain SaÏss was very consistent in the middle, but Conor Coady had an off season on the right. Like Patrício I don’t think it’s much of an issue, but it’s something that’s worth watching, as well as the reason I might have liked a move considering Coady played all 38 matches last season. Marçal was brought in at left back and could help Coady there and Ryan Bennett returned from his Leicester loan, but they’re not the answer to the possible question.

The midfield was packed with quality and despite the loss of Matt Doherty, things will be okay. Rúben Neves plays as a defensive midfielder with a lot of sauce and skill and pairs very nicely with João Moutinho next to him. Neves scored twice and assisted twice but excels when he sits back, disarms attackers, and begins an attack. Think Casemiro. Moutinho plays further forward and spurs the offense with creative passing and use of space. His six assists were tied for second on the team and his distribution kept the offense cohesive. On the right side was Matt Doherty and he’ll need to be replaced. It’s yet to be seen who could step into the spot considering he played 30 matches and the rest of the reps were filled by Adama. Jonny was the player to beat on the left with 31 appearances and a generally good season. It would be nice to see more than two goals and two assists, but he plays good defense anc cannot be criticized for it. Leander Dendoncker is also critical to the midfield and can play in either position. He’s a dependable defender with a good knack for scoring with four goals on the season.

The group of forwards are one of the most exciting in the world. Adama could be the fastest player to ever don cleats in a top league and he’s turned into an incredible footballer. He can beat anyone in a foot race and has turned that advantage into great chance-making skills. He scored four goals and assisted nine times and we shouldn’t be surprised to see the player improve again this season. Opposite Adama is Diogo Jota who anchored the wing. He isn’t the best passer in the world and plays inverted a bit, but his seven goals will make up for the single assist. Finally, in the middle is the Mexican #9, Raúl Jiménez. He’s probably the most underrated striker in the world as he put away 17 goals and six assists, and he has a very good ability to find his teammates. He’s unselfish and makes those around him better players. 

Player to Watch: Adama Traoré, RW