To predict clubs’ fortunes ahead of the new Premier League season is always difficult. Every club will look to improve on the previous year – whether it’s an improved style of play, hitting the ground running under a new manager, or building on past success, the new season is one of cautious optimism for some and intense worry for others. We’ve predicted three teams who might take a step up and impress this season, and three that will underachieve:
Second-season syndrome is a very real thing in the Premier League. So often, teams will be promoted from the Championship and impress in their first season, leading to a difficult second season which sees them struggle and, in some cases, relegated again. We’ve seen it with Huddersfield, Leeds and Sheffield United in recent seasons, and plenty of fans and pundits alike are expecting the same with Brentford this season. Having said that, we’ve gone bold and predicted them to improve.
Brentford’s recruitment has been typically impressive this summer, seeing the arrival of highly-rated full-back Aaron Hickey, Lazio goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha, 21-year-old Hull City winger Keane Lewis-Potter, and Burnely stalwart defender Ben Mee. Every new player is an improvement on the position last season, and with Thomas Frank at the helm, they’ll likely blend seamlessly into the first team. The improvement of the playing staff, alongside continuity and understanding of playing style, sets Brentford up with what could be a second impressive season in as many years.
Patrick Vieira’s first season in South London was about stability. Tasked with the job of overseeing one of the biggest rebuilds in the Premier League, Vieira managed to capture the hearts of Eagles fans who will go into the new season hugely optimistic as to where their club can go. Finishing twelfth in a transition year in which the new squad and coaching team had to learn to work together, and grew each game with experience and familiarity, was an excellent start for Vieira, who will now target loftier ambitions.
Palace have also done some excellent business in the transfer window, improving and adding further talent to their young squad, with Chris Richards joining from Bayern Munich, Sam Johnstone from West Brom, Malcolm Ebiowei from Derby and Cheick Doucoure from Lens. These players, much like with Brentford, will certainly have an impact on the first team and give Vieira’s side much-needed depth ahead of what will be a long new season. Their aim will be to break into the top half of the table, and it’s looking likely they could do so.
One promoted side always tends to impress despite expectations, and this season it’ll be Forest. Steve Cooper finally gets his crack at the Premier League having taken his Swansea side so close last year, and he certainly has the talent to stay there for at least the next couple of seasons. It’ll be a hugely important year for their talisman Brennan Johnson, who signed a new deal with the club after being linked to big moves away.
Despite a large portion of the promoted squad no longer being at Forest, the likes of James Garner and Djed Spence seeing their loan deals expire, they have been adequately replaced. The signings of Dean Henderson and Jesse Lingard both from Manchester United, as well as highly-rated Huddersfield midfielder Lewis O’Brien, are huge improvements to the squad and add a lot of quality to a team with an organised and confident style of play, putting them in good stead from Premier League survival.
Brendan Rodgers looks fed up. Their summer hasn’t gone anywhere as well as some may have hoped, and the squad is falling apart. Losing Kasper Schmeichel – their captain and first-choice ‘keeper – with no view to replacing him at the time of writing, will be a big shock to the system and will be a massive loss to the club. Combine that loss with Ricardo Pereira being injured (again), and both James Maddison and Wesley Fofana being subject to intense transfer speculation – Leicester City could be in trouble.
It was a strange season last time out for the Foxes, who never really seemed to hit any run of form, despite ultimately finishing 8th. Not improving the squad, while others around them have taken huge steps forward, combined with an unhappy manager, seems like a disaster for Leicester and could see them really struggle to impress. Don’t be surprised to see them drop down the table.
Chelsea, much like Leicester, seems to be another club struggling over the summer. The transition out of the Abramovich era hasn’t been as straightforward as many may have thought, and Thomas Tuchel has been frustrated during pre-season, both with missing out on big transfer targets and with the players in the current squad. Long-term target Jules Kounde has signed for Barcelona, the club who also frustrated the Blues in their pursuit of Ousmane Dembele, poached Andreas Christensen at the end of his contract and potentially secured Marcos Alonso from them too. After such a turbulent transfer window, it can be difficult for any club to settle – let alone one challenging for Champions League football.
The signings of both Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly could be difference makers, but with Thomas Tuchel accusing his side of “lacking a level of mental commitment” and being “not competitive” after a heavy 4-0 defeat to London rivals Arsenal in pre-season, it’s not a happy position to be in so close to the new season and doesn’t bode well for the West London club.
You’d like to think it can’t get much worse for Everton this year. A turbulent season last time out revealed a lot about the club, the mix-and-match squad built by a multitude of managers across the last five or six years left them without an identity and struggling towards the bottom of the league. We don’t think Frank Lampard is the man to help them with that. The scenes at the end of last season, after a comeback win over Crystal Palace, were good to see, but long-term it’ll be difficult.
Much like Chelsea, the manager has been scathing in his criticism of the players and squad. Everton lost 4-0 to MLS side Minnesota in their pre-season campaign, further compounding the thoughts of both fans and neutrals alike going into the new season, largely expecting them to struggle and even go down. If they can secure the signings of Idrissa Gueye and Amadou Onana it will help, but we still predict them to be in trouble this season.
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