Thursday, August 31, 2017

2017-18 Premier League Predictions post Transfer Deadline

   Three weeks ago, I wrote a Premier League predictions piece with plenty of transfer window to come. Because the transfer window ends after each team has played a few games, it meant that teams weren't as complete as they would be. Now, the transfer window has slammed shut, Big Ben isn't chiming anymore (but that was already the case), and Jim White has been cryogenically until this time next year. It's time to take a look at the Premier League as all of the transfer dust has settled.


20. Brighton and Hove Albion
19. Burnley
18. Huddersfield Town

No changes to this group despite Huddersfield and Burnley getting off to surprising starts. Brighton have made a bunch of moves, but their squad still lacks Premier League quality in many places. Burnley were incredibly lucky in their first two road fixtures, and that luck isn't likely to continue into the future, though they seem to have adequately replaced Andre Gray. And though Huddersfield is off to a flying start, it stands to reason that the better teams in the league will expose their frailties. None of their late transfer business really changes their place in the table.

Relegation fodder:

17. Crystal Palace (were 16th initially)
16. Newcastle United (were 11th initially)
15. Swansea City (were 17th initially)
14. Watford (were 14th initially)

Crystal Palace's transfer window was pretty shocking, and their start to the campaign was equally so. Frank De Boer is under pressure and though the Eagles will adapt to his system eventually you'd think, will he be around to see that happen? Newcastle had more transfer window drama and their squad is still very thin in places (see left back), but Rafa has enough there to keep them just out of the relegation places. Swansea's place is more secure after adding in Renato Sanches on loan, but also bringing back Wilfried Bony will help them replace the goals they lost when Fernando Llorente moved to Spurs. And Watford continued their trend of bringing in a hoard of players they'll probably never use, but their start to the season ensures that they're probably safe again. Marco Silva has the managerial talent and young Richarlison is quite the find.

Safe, but not secure:

13. Bournemouth (were 11th initially)
12. West Ham United (were 9th initially)
11. Stoke City (were 13th initially)

Bournemouth's start to the season is concerning, but they still have the attacking ability and the manager to get them out of their little funk, though it is concerning to see that they haven't really strengthened the squad outside of bringing in Jermain Defoe as a reserve. They should be OK though. The same is likely the case with West Ham, though Slaven Bilic is under immense pressure with his team looking quite poor. They haven't played a home game yet though, and they started slow last year though eventually got it right. Stoke City is so weird, because they seem to have stagnated but with shrewd additions like Jese and Eric Maxim Choupo-Mouting, they should be good enough to steer clear of the relegation mire, though again, that stagnation is a concerning prospect.

Best of the Rest:

10. West Bromwich Albion (were 14th initially)
9. Leicester City
8. Southampton
7. Everton 

How does Tony Pulis pull off what he manages to pull off? Signing Grzegorz Krychowiak on loan from PSG is a masterstroke, as is getting the highly touted Oliver Burke. Once they get 40 points, they will head to the beach until next season, but they could easily hit that Pulis magic number way sooner than in past years. No changes for Leicester, Saints or Everton despite their flurry of activity. Leicester somehow managed to hold onto Riyad Mahrez against the odds, and have given Arsenal and United good tests at their grounds already. Combine that with their ability to easily dispatch teams below them, they're a mid-table team easy. Southampton also somehow kept Virgil Van Dijk and strengthened their defense too with Wesley Hoedt. Mauricio Pellegrino is a good manager too, so Saints are going to continue to chug along as they always do, despite players and managers being rotated through almost interchangeably. And for Everton, in spite of their bonanza of a window, they haven't done enough to broach the top six and with Ross Barkley still at Goodison Park, there's unfinished drama ahead.

The Sky Six:

6. Arsenal (were 4th initially)

What a mess of a window. Here is their transfer window summarized in one tweet:
That's no good. Even though they brought in Alexandre Lacazette, that's fixing a problem that didn't exist, and they didn't strengthen elsewhere. Many of the same problems they've had for years still remain, and though they kept Alexis Sanchez, he's likely to leave on a free next summer. There wasn't much foresight or a plan this summer for Arsenal, and though they shifted out plenty of deadweight, they have more holes than they did a year ago. Problems are afoot at the Emirates.

5. Tottenham Hotspur

They did make transfer moves eventually, in fact they made five of them. They remade their depth options along the backline in signing Davinson Sanchez and Juan Foyth, replaced Kyle Walker with Serge Aurier and added Fernando Llorente in an odd move to get goals from the striker position behind Harry Kane. But they are still not exactly deep behind their best XI, and they will be tested in big ways on all fronts this year, and there's still the matter of that Wembley mental block. They need great form from players like Moussa Sissoko, Georges Kevin N'Koudou and a healthy Erik Lamela to replicate what they did last year, and as of this point that seems unlikely.

4. Liverpool (were 6th initially)

There is no team outside of Manchester United that has been more impressive starting their campaign than Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp always knows how to get Liverpool humming against the best teams, and their demolition of Arsenal was incredibly impressive. Adding Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to the mix is also good business for sure. However, the squad is still imbalanced towards attack, they have a purportedly unhappy Phillipe Coutinho in the squad and they never perform as they should against the league's worst teams. They have a chance to really grow this season, but that growth could still be stunted by problems of their own making.

3. Chelsea (were 2nd initially)

Chelsea's shocking opening day loss to Burnley at home has been mitigated by their wins against Spurs and Everton, but there's still something not right about this squad. It's thin in many places, especially striker, and their late additions in the forms of Davide Zappacosta and Danny Drinkwater aren't exactly inspiring. They're not in danger of falling out of the Champions League picture, but they are in danger of being lapped by the two Manchester clubs for the title because their squad is just not deep enough. However, Eden Hazard's return is something to keep an eye on.

2. Manchester United (were 3rd initially)

No one has been more impressive to start the season than the Red Devils. Nemanja Matic has freed up Paul Pogba to be Paul Pogba, and Romelu Lukaku is finishing the chances that United didn't finish last year. How they perform against the best teams in the league is another story entirely, but they could easily build up a huge head of steam going forward in advance of big games to come. The squad could use some improvement at the back, but everywhere else they look incredibly deep and incredibly imposing. Jose's second year magic might make its way to Old Trafford this campaign.

1. Manchester City

In spite of all of the moves made below them, and the distinct lack of Alexis Sanchez in sky blue, City remain favorites for the title. Their attack is devastating going forward as already evidenced, and with the fixes at the fullback positions, the squad is certainly more balanced. However, they may not have as much depth as they'd like, especially at centerback, which is a concern. But when Pep's team is playing a full flow, no one is beating them. And what may be terrifying is that City haven't come anywhere close to showing their best yet.

With the transfer window shut, the season can truly begin. There is plenty to be excited about for almost every team come the return of the Premier League, so now that the moves have been made and everyone's phones are down, let's get to the football.

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