Premier League 2017/18 - Will blue be the colour of the winner's ribbons again this year?
After another crazy summer of multi-million pound transfers the English Premier League kicked off with a bang on Friday night when Arsenal dramatically beat Leicester City 4-3.
An eye-watering £1,034 Billion pounds has been splashed out by the 20 Premier League clubs in the transfer window so far as all the sides, with the exception of Tottenham Hotspur, bolstered their squads for the gruelling season ahead.
Last season Chelsea, under the stewardship of Antonio Conte, ran away with the title for their 5th Premier League success and will be looked upon as one of the top sides again to challenge for the main prize. They do have the added distraction this season of being back in the Champions League after a year's absence which many pointed to as a reason behind their success last year, so it will be interesting to see how the Blues cope with the added fixtures. So far they have lost key players like Nemanja Matic and legend John Terry as well as many fringe players but have shelled out over £100 million on the likes of Antonio Rudiger, midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko and striker Alvaro Morata. If they can keep the likes of PSG and Barcelona away from Eden Hazard they will be a contender again. They will also need to avoid more slip-ups like the 3-2 home loss on the opening weekend to Burnley.
Crystal Palace survived another season in the Premier League before handing the reins to Frank de Boer and he has added wisely to the Eagles squad which should make them a safe candidate for mid-table. However a 3-0 hosing at home from Premier new boys Huddersfield on Saturday wasn't the start the Dutchman was looking for.
After a tough first season at the Olympic Stadium, Slaven Bilic's West Ham United will look to be a fixture in the top 10 this term and with the quality of the Hammers squad now this looks almost as good as a surefire bet. Joining the Irons for the 2017/18 are England goalkeeper Joe Hart on loan from Man City, experienced defender Pablo Zabaleta, Austrian attacking midfielder Marko Arnautovic and possibly the bargain of the summer, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez. A 4-0 defeat at Old Trafford wasn't the best way to start off the new campaign though.
The battle for North London supremacy once again falls on the shoulders of Arsenal and Spurs. With White Hart Lane closed for renovation, Tottenham are playing their home games at Wembley and will hope for more joy than they had there in the Champions League last season. Runners-up in the Premier League last season, so far Pochettino's not brought anybody into the squad and lost Kyle Walker to Man City for £50million, but Tottenham traditionally do their business late in the window so look for Daniel Levy to make some serious bank transfers to other clubs in the coming weeks. In 20 year old, Kyle Walker-Peters, they look to have unearthed another gem from the Tottenham production line and started with a 2-0 win at Newcastle United.
For Arsenal, it's as you were in the "should he stay or should he go" saga that is Arsene Wenger's future as Gunners boss! Winners of the Community Shield last week, Arsenal added French hot-shot Lacazette to their striking ranks and so far have held onto Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. After the disappointment of finishing 5th and missing out on Champions League football, Arsenal will hope to follow in Manchester United's shoes and win the Europa League as well as getting back in the top 4, though their fans will understandably want more than just top-4 status.
The south coast has another team joining the Premier League this term in the shape of Brighton and Hove Albion. Chris Hughton's side finally came up to the top flight (for the first time since 1983) after a couple of close shaves in recent years. The Seagulls like to play attacking entertaining football but will have to hope their cosmopolitan squad can survive in the top division despite their lack of big league experience. A tough opening day loss to Man City at the Amex Community Stadium gave them a taste of what to expect this season.
The hottest seat in the Premier League seems to belong in the Manager's office at St Mary's Stadium, as Southampton replaced Claude Puel with another manager, this time Mauricio Pellegrino. The Saints biggest transfer of the summer was the £15.4million signing of midfielder Mario Lemina from Juventus though don't be surprised if Virgil van Dijk leaves in the coming weeks.
Another season in the Premier League beckons for AFC Bournemouth and Eddie Howe has spent big this summer as the Cherries establish themselves as a Premier League team. After a great 9th place finish last term, Bournemouth have added Asmir Begovic, Nathan Ake and striking sensation Jermain Defoe to their side.
Swansea, under the management of Paul Clement, managed to pull off a great escape and stay in the Premier League when they looked doomed to relegation. It does look like another tough season beckons for the Welsh outfit and it wouldn't be a shock if they don't escape from the trapdoor this time round.
Watford are another team that look to be in for a tough season this campaign and will hope new manager Marco Silva can keep the Hornets up. They did smash their transfer record to sign Burnley striker Andre Gray but it will take a lot for the Hertfordshire side to avoid being sucked into the relegation dogfight again this term. They will certainly need plenty of performances like the one they gave on Saturday lunchtime in an entertaining 3-3 draw with Liverpool at Vicarage Road.
Burnley's return to the top flight saw them survive in 16th place and score some memorable wins last season. Sean Dyche has added experienced pros like Phil Bardsley and Jon Walters to his line-up but the loss of Michael Keane and Gray could be too big for keeping the Clarets up again. But the underdog tag suits the Lancashire side, as demonstrated in the 3-2 triumph at Stamford Bridge.
Once a hotbed of football, the Midlands now only has 3 Premier League sides, in the shape of Leicester City, West Brom and Stoke City. Leicester had a memorable season as defending champions, going far in the Champions League but almost going down. Caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare managed to steady the Foxes ship though and saw the side finish in 12th place. They have added the likes of Harry Maguire and Kelechi Iheanacho to their squad and have resisted any moves for Riyad Mahrez, so far...
Stoke City have quietly went about their business this summer, adding the experienced Darren Fletcher to their side but they will find it tough again to get out of the bottom half of the table.
For West Bromwich Albion fans, finishing 10th last season was a change from usually being in a relegation battle and they will hope for more of the same. So far they have signed Jay Rodriguez from Southampton but will have to be careful not to revert to type and slide down towards relegation danger.
Winners of the playoffs, Huddersfield Town will start the season as the favourites to return to the Championship though David Wagner has spent big this season ahead of their new challenge, landing the likes of Tom Ince and Aaron Mooy. Don't expect miracles from the Terriers though more wins like the one at Crystal Palace will go a long way to silencing the experts tipping them for the drop at the first time of asking.
Manchester looks to be everyone's choice of where the title will end up this season, but what side of the city it will be taking the silverware remains up for debate. Pep Guardiola has strengthened Man City's backline with the signings of Kyle Walker, Danilo and Benjamin Mendy as well as spending over £40million on Bernardo Silva. They have one of the most impressive attacking lines in the league with the likes of Jesus, Aguero, Silva and de Bruyne so will be a big contender for the championship.
Over at Old Trafford, Jose Mourinho has improved Manchester United's chances of getting back to the top of the tree by picking up striker Romelu Lukaku from Everton for £75million and Swedish defender Victor Lindelof as well as Matic from Chelsea. The Red Devils were in form beating West Ham 4-0 to start the 2017/18 the right way.
Everton have spent big this summer, taking Michael Keane from Burnley, Jordan Pickford from Sunderland and Davy Klaasen from Ajax, though the biggest signing in the eyes of Toffees supporters will be the return of local boy Wayne Rooney who has come home from Man United for an undisclosed fee. Look to Everton to be comfortably in the top 7 this season.
Rivals, Liverpool have so far resisted the overtures of Barcelona for Philippe Coutinho while signing Mohamed Salah from Roma. Jurgen Klopp's men will hope to qualify for the Champions League proper as well as sustaining a title challenge this term. They can't afford to drop too many points like the two lost at Watford on Saturday.
Last but not least, one of the most famous names in English football is back in the Premier League. Champions of the EFL Championship, Newcastle United are back dining at the top table and will hope to stay there for a long time. Certainly with one of the best managers in world football, Rafael Benitez, at the helm, the Magpies should be the pride of the North East for a long time to come and will entertain the Premier League audiences this season.
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