This is the fifth consecutive season in the Premier League for Watford where four previous were quite similar in terms of their final position. They were usually positioned in the bottom half of table, and once they were dangerously close to the drop zone. Still, the previous season was the best of all, not only because they ended up at the 11th place but also because they reached the final of FA Cup. True, they have embarrassed themselves in the final as they lost to Manchester City by even 6-0, but it will be remembered that they played for the title. Watford didn’t oscillate much in the Premier League and was always positioned between the 7th and final 11th place. Manager Javi Garcia did a good job with the team, which was at one point close to qualify for the Europa League. That is why was logical that Garcia keeps his job, just like majority of players.
We should say right away that Watford didn’t go for a shopping spree and stopper Dawson from West Bromwich is the most famous name that arrived. They mostly returned their players from loans to other clubs, although most of them will probably be loaned again or simply sold. Watford has too many forwards on its roster as Okaka and Cucho Hernandez are back and it is known that Deeney and Deulofeu had dominated in that part of the team last season, and having also A. Gray the situation will stay like that in this season too. Everything is pretty clear in regard to the midfield, while above mentioned Dawson might be a starter as they purposely brought a stopper since they had deficit of defenders. It is possible that Watford will bring few other players but the most important for them that no new players have left the team.
Probable lineups Watford: Foster – Kiko Femenia, Kabasele, Dawson, Masina – Capoue, Doucoure – Deulofeu, Hughes, Pereyra – Deeney
Forecast: If this team stays together they shouldn’t even think about the survival struggle. They can hardly reproduce success in the FA Cup but in the Premiership they should be positioned closer to European positions than the bottom of the table. The most realistic is to again finish around the 10th place.
This club was the most pleasant surprise in English football last year. It was the first season for Wolverhampton in the Premier League after a break of couple of years and many had predicted a bitter survival struggle but the Wolves outdid themselves and instead of survival race they reached the Europa League qualifiers. They ended up at the seventh place and when we take a look at names of clubs positioned above them it is clear that they had practically achieved the best possible result. Big Six had large point advantage but Wolverhampton had made life more difficult to all favourites throughout the season. They won a point against every one of them except Liverpool, but they eliminated the Reds from the FA Cup in which they reached the semi-finals. It was season for remembering and it is clear why manager Nuno Santo has kept his job.
When a team like Wolverhampton has a great season it is common that great clubs target their best players. For the time being no one has left the Wolves and they even brought forward Cutrone from Milan and he is suppose to be a strong reinforcement. Problem is that R. Jimenez and Dendoncker were borrowed but that was solved with buying their contracts from Benfica and Anderlecth. It means that Wolverhampton practically hasn’t lost anyone and besides buying two important players they borrowed stopper Vallejo from Real Madrid so their defence is much stronger now. He will fit nicely to formation with three stoppers from which manager Santo doesn’t give up, just like from the play style that brought his so much successes.
Probable lineups Wolverhampton: Patricio – Coady, Vallejo, Boly – Neves, Dendoncker, Moutinho, Gibbs-White – A. Traore, Cutrone, Jota
Forecast: It would be unrealistic to expect that Wolverhampton repeats everything and end up at the seventh place. We won’t even thing about anything better than the 7th place due to strength of their rivals but the Wolves would be probably satisfied with a position weaker than the seventh. They showed how tough they can be and can reach mid-table without much trouble, which would be quite satisfactory result.
Previous season was stressful for Southampton. They spent the entire season in the bottom half of table and the highest position they reached was the 12th place, but that was at the very beginning. Later on they veered into the drop zone on several occasions and it was no wonder they replaced the manager in December. Since then the team is led by Austrian Ralph Hasenhuttl and they play a bit better but not good enough to have a peaceful end of season. Southampton didn’t have longer positive series and at the very end they had four-game winless streak. They finished the season having five points more than teams in the drop zone and now they don’t want to go through the same ordeal again. They haven’t replaced the manager while the team seems stronger and that is one of reasons why we list the Saints in mid-table group.
Departure of left back Targett was the biggest loss, while forward Gallagher left as well, who anyway wasn’t the manager’s first choice. Midfielder S. Davis is veteran and his departure isn’t a big loss, just like of defensive midfielder Clasie. It would be a problem is forward Ings decided to return to Liverpool but being aware of competition it hasn’t been difficult to persuade him to stay and Southampton bought his contract from the reigning champion of Europe. The Saints have in the attack Adams from Birmingham, while Carrillo is back from loan to Leganes. Djenepo will strengthen the left flank, while Boufal, Soares and Hoedt are back, although it is questionable will all of them stay in Southampton. As the things stand now they are stronger and have right to hope for a better position than last year.
Probable lineups Southampton: Gunn – Soares, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Bertrand – Lemina, O. Romeu – Ward-Prowse, Hojbjerg, Djenepo – Ings
Forecast: The Saints want to avoid new survival struggle, which is why they made number of changes in the team, but the most important is that they retained the key players. Those who left didn’t leave void behind them and they definitely brought better ones, so their position should be closer to the mid-table than the drop zone.
West Ham plays similarly for years and its final position in the table shows that clearly. They deviated from the pattern only once in previous seven seasons when they reached the Europa League qualifications, while in all other cases they ended up between the 10th and 13th place. West Ham won the 10th place last season after a very weak start but they stabilised form and spent the rest of season around middle of table. It can be said it was objective positions for the Hammers, although they would like to go higher which is what they will try to do this season. Experienced Manuel Pellegrini continues to lead the team and he will try to squeeze maximum from a slightly changed team in order to make one step further.
West Ham has brought two strong reinforcements and it could be said that they paid them a lot. They have brought excellent forward Sebastien Haller from Eintracth Frankfurt, although he is just a replacement for experienced Arnautovic who went to China. Lesser loss was departure of midfielder Obiang but they brought young Spanish midfielder Fornales from Villarreal. Several older players have left, like Nasri, A. Carroll and L. Perez, while midfielder E. Fernandes was sold who was anyway loaned last season. New goalkeeper is Spaniard Roberto but he will be reserve for Fabianski, while stopper Oxford is back from Augsburg. It can be expected that starters will be only Fornales and Haller.
Probable lineups West Ham: Fabianski – Fredericks, Balbuena, Diop, Cresswell – Rice, Wilshere – Yarmolenko, Fornals, F. Anderson – Haller
Forecast: Two valuable reinforcements is on what West Ham fans base their optimism, but the team have left several players and it is not realistic to expect much better season that the previous one. They finished the previous season right in the middle of table and that is what we forecast for them in this one, as they shouldn’t do any worse as they are have a stronger team now.
This is another team that spent the entire previous season in the bottom half of the Premier League table. Newcastle did quite badly at the very beginning when it didn’t win in first 10 rounds and had hit the bottom of the table. Still, despite such weak start and series of negative results they didn’t want to replace manager Rafael Benitez and he led the team throughout the season. In the meantime he consolidated the team and Newcastle played much better so in the end it didn’t struggle to survive although they were constantly positioned in the bottom half of table. They had plenty of points more than teams in the drop zone but nevertheless they changed the manager and Benitez had to leave. New manager is Steve Bruse with whom they want to do more than they did last season.
Newcastle made practically only two changes in the team and both took place in attack. They have sold A. Perez to Leicester and in that way they lost the only true striker, while Rondon left for China but instead they have brought Joelinton from Hoffenheim and it can be said that Newcastle is not much weaker in attack. If the Brazilian plays like he did last year in the Bundesliga it would be in fact a big plus for them and they should be more efficient. They also sold forward Joselu, while several borrowed players have returned to their clubs. Midfielder Saivet has returned from loan and that would be it regarding trading at St. James Park till the moment when we wrote this text, but it wouldn’t be a big surprise if they bring more players as Newcastle should have one more forward to give manager Bruce needed width of bench.
Probable lineups Newcastle: Dubravka – Yedlin, Lascelles, Schar, Lejeune, Ritchie – Hayden, Shelvey, Almiron, Atsu – Joelinton
Forecast: All changes took place only in attack so far and they lost two and brought one but very good forward. Newcastle shouldn’t be weaker, especially if everything fit nicely into its place. They have new coach and it is hard to tell how it will go but they should be positioned around middle of table, although we forecast that will not win better place than last season.
Everton is a team from which is expected to attack positions of Big Six every season and that is exactly what happened last year, however, the Toffees failed. They didn’t even finish at the 7th place given that Wolverhampton left them at the 8th position. Everton finished at the same position for the second season in a row after winning the 7th place three seasons ago and objectively they cannot do much better. They went down to the 11th place last season and were the 6th for only couple of rounds in the first part of the season. Everton lost just once in last eight rounds and that improved their final position, although the general opinion is that they should have done better. They didn’t change the manager and Portuguese Marco Silva will lead them in this season again with objective to at least reach the Europa League.
Everton sold important midfielder I. Gueye to PSG for a big compensation but there is now a gap in that part of the team despite buying contract for Portuguese A. Gomes from Barcelona. Given that Goems played for them last year they practically gain nothing and they lost a lot with departure of I. Gueye. They had loaned midfielder Lookman to Leipzig and then sold him, just like Vlasic to CSKA Moscow. Loan for S. Ramirez has expired and that is loss for attack where Niasse and Miralles are back from loans. Still, the first choices are Calvert-Lewin and Tosun, if they don’t bring someone new. Bolasie and Onyekuru are back, and they have bought Delph from Manchester City. Lossl is new goalkeeper but he will be reserve for Pickford. The most important for Everton is that G. Sigurdsson and Richarlison stay for one more season.
Probable lineups Everton: Pickford – Coleman, Y. Mina, M. Keane, Digne – Schneiderlin, A. Gomes – T. Wallcott, G. Sigurdsson, Richarlison – Calvert-Lewin
Forecast: Everton also makes the same results for years. They should have at least won the seventh place, right behind the Big Six, however, they failed to do so in two previous seasons. They hope to eventually squeeze in between the best six teams but they didn’t succeed in that for long time and we will simply forecast that Everton will win the 7th place in the end.
Leicester is the last team that managed to squeeze in between best English teams in way that it sensationally won the title in 2016. After that came expected downfall and one season after they finished at the 12th place, while in last two Leicester won the 9th position. That was not good enough even for the Europa League, but it can be said that was objective achievement. Leicester spent the entire previous season being positioned between the 7th and 12th positions, meaning they didn’t oscillate a lot. They did change the manager and Brendan Rodgers replaced Puel in February this year, who in turn satisfied the club management and will lead the team in the new season. They want to make one step further and join the race for the Europa League.
Forward Okazaki left but he was anyway a veteran and his departure wasn’t a big loss, while no other players left in the meantime. Leicester brought new forward A. Perez from Newcastle and they are definitely stronger in this segment. Slimani is back from loan to Fenerbahce and if he doesn’t leave again he will be quite good option for attack. Leicester did the best job with buying contract of midfielder Tielmans from Monaco, after he played the entire previous season for Leicester. Ad. Silva is back, just like stopper Benkovic and it is clear that Leicester is stronger in all parts of the team, unless someone leaves in the meantime, where we firstly have in mind stopper Magurie for whom many clubs show interest.
Probable lineups Leicester: Schmeichel – R. Pereira, Maguire, Soyuncu, Chilwell – Ndidi, Mendy – Albrighton, Tielemans, Maddison – Vardy
Forecast: Leicester is besides Everton the only team that can rightfully hope to make something more and disturb the six best teams in the league. If they finish among six best it would be a success, however, that will not be easy and objectively they should be positioned around the 7th and 8th place. Weaker than that would be failure with players they have.