The Premier League is back, with a new name and a whole lot more money. The rich got richer over the offseason, with Manchester United grabbing two of the biggest names out there and Chelsea grabbing everyone’s favorite manager. But the poor got richer too, with teams like Sunderland and Middlesbrough making big splashes of their own.
There are two schools of thought here: “lol it doesn’t matter because nothing makes sense and a team like Leicester City can win on the backs of a tactless forward and a 5’7” Frenchman.” Or, “lol it doesn’t matter because one of four teams is going to win the whole thing anyway.”
It’s a long season, and a lot can happen over the grey British winter, except for Arsenal going undefeated.. But here are 10 things that might happen. Or, are at least a bit more probable than a freaking Leicester City claiming the title.
Manchester City will win the title
Don’t bet against gravity, or Pep Guardiola. If Vincent Kompany is back and healthy, the boys with the new logo have the best defense on the island. Ilkay Gundogan is outrageously, frustratingly, competent if you’re playing against him. Nolito is an absurd depth signing. They will be very good, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be the top goalscorer in the league
This is more “not bloody likely” than “bet the house on it,” but goodness it will be a lot of fun to have a smug Zlatan on top of the footballing world again. He’s getting old, of course, but everyone who remembers 2013 will know he owns English defenders. Zlatan remembers. He never forgets.
Leroy Sane will be Britain’s new phenomenon
Oh good for Man City. They really needed another promising youngster after their brutal 4th-place finish in 2016. But in all seriousness, Sane will be learning from two of the finest in Jesus Navas and David Silva — and he has fresher legs than either of them. We get to witness the rise of the first great sporting Leroy of his generation/not from Texas.
Granit Xhaka will be become a star
Arsenal has needed a defensive midfielder for seemingly forever. They finally got one. And oh man, he’s a good one. Between the pun-friendly name, the stern good looks, the fascinating backstory and the fact that he’ll be a life raft for England’s most media-friendly team…get ready to hear a lot about Xhaka. Some of which may even be pronounced correctly.
We will witness the End of Things with Brad Guzan
The American Polar Bear is 31, which means entering the prime for most goalkeepers. But he had a horrific season with Aston Villa last year, and Middlesbrough’s Spanish manager may lean more towards stalwart Victor Valdes or promising Tomas Mejias.
Taking all that into consideration, he won’t have an easy time keeping young Americans like David Bingham, Ethan Horvath or Bill Hamid at bay either. It could be a long winter for the Polar Bear.
Americans will fall in love with Bournemouth
Emerson Hyndman may be the most interesting – which is not to say the most promising – American prospect and he could get serious Premier League minutes at age 20. Junior Stanislas and Jordan Ibe are fun-as-hell wingers of the sort it’s easy to fall in love with in a few quick minutes of early-morning watching. And the team itself, playing in a tiny stadium on England’s south shore, are basically the backdrop of a top-notch British murder mystery. Broadchurch A.F.C., but with a bit more competent policing and an American pulling strings in midfield.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan is the new shibboleth for true soccer fans
The 27-year-old Armenian was one of the most fun people to watch in the Bundesliga for the past few seasons — a clinical winger that relied more on smarts than speed. Now that he’s at Manchester United, he’s going to gain a few million more fans. Which means thousands of pendants correcting the pronunciation of his name. (It’s “Mikh-tar-yenne” in English, according to the dude himself)
Southampton is going to start hot and stay lovable
The Saints have been surprisingly competent for a few years now, punching above their weight in the Premier League. They’ve added Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who is not a rakish aristocrat but a tidy midfielder. Nathan Redmond should be fun to watch, and Virgil van Dijk is still named Virgil van Dijk. There’s a lot of pieces that have had time to gel together. And a few new toys as well. I don’t know where this metaphor is going, but look, there’ll be good soccer in Southampton.
Stoke City will be the biggest threat to “pull a Leicester”
Stoke-upon-Trent has long been a byword for the least-pleasant experience for a visiting team. A gloomy town in the heart of England, I can best describe Stoke City as “the team my friend from Cleveland identified strongly with.”
So none of that is too wonderful. But the Shaqiri-Bojan-Arnautovic trio in the Potters’ midfield was wonderful last year. I remember back when Brian Phillips wrote “Right now Bojan is a star and a loser and there’s no telling which result will finally be more repeatable.” That was 2011 — nearly six years later there’s still no answer, which is the most compelling answer of all.
Joe Allen and Ramadan Sobhi should give the team enough depth to ruin a lot of cold rainy nights in Stoke. I should say that I’m a bit in love with Ramadan Sobhi, who is both hellaciously talented and insane enough to, in the middle of Egypt’s biggest rivalry, balance himself on the soccer ball. At the age of 18.
Young madmen are the best madmen, and a dude who can start a riot in Cairo can survive the rain in England. Sobhi adds a bit of flavor and guile to what has historically been one of the most gutty sides in Britain. You shouldn’t bet on anyone to surprise in the Premier League, but if you do — bet on Stoke.
This post was composed by freelance writer and swell guy, Asher Kohn. Reach out to him and discuss all the soccer happenings from around the world on Twitter at:@AJKhn. Catch up with all of the latest MLS and EPL happenings on SiriusXM FC.
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