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Tipstrr's Premier League Preview

The Premier League. Some say it’s the best league in the world. Equally some say it’s quite boring and not what it used to be, but those people probably watch Rugby. Or the one where you hit the apple about with that wooden stick. You can’t please every bored, middle aged man who doesn’t want to go shopping with his wife on a Sunday; but the Premier League comes pretty close. 

They say you can’t win or lose a title on the back of one game which ties in with all the clichés, like ‘it’s a game of two halves’ or ‘there’s 38 (or 46) games in a season’. That totally goes against the approach adopted by every pundit on the planet for all of the last season, because Leicester were doomed when they were beaten heavily by Arsenal twice. And they weren’t a likely title winner until they were seven points clear with a few games to go, either. 

Leicester City did something remarkable. Something we are led to believe can never happen again. Something that will never be repeated in terms of the sheer scale of the odds they defied. Well, the latter may only be true because bookmakers up and down the country have carefully priced each of this year’s potential winners in fear of a financially damning repeat.  

Can you imagine if Leicester City lifted the Champions League and the Premier League this year?  

ASSESSING THE FIELD 

To sit here and systematically evaluate every team in the Premier League this season is something that would be worthy of a good degree dissertation type piece, but lets keep it more manageable. 

Instead we’re going to skip the less important details, like how many teams might struggle to do it on a windy, rainy Tuesday night in Stoke, only for the Potters to lose their away games and finish bang in the middle of the table (again). No. Instead we’re going to get down to looking at the business ends of the table and consider where you just might make some money this season. 

We want to take a look at the title contenders, who’s aiming for those European places and who might be facing a morally devastating – yet somehow financially rewarding – drop on the final day of the season. With the sheer amount of quality in the Premier League these days, you might say writing about how has a chance of grabbing a Europa League spot is as good as covering the entire league anyway. 

Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United are all believe to be potential candidates for the title, whilst it would be unfair not to discuss Leicester’s chances. After all, they’re the reigning champions. And it forces us to consider if there’s the possibility of another outsider putting the cat amongst the pigeons, or if it could be Tottenham’s season. 

The Champions League places are primarily considered to be up for grabs by those mentioned above, but there can sometimes be a fine league between the Champions League and Europa League. The (these days) usual suspects chasing those Europa League spaces could well be Southampton, Everton, West Ham, et al.  

Interestingly, Leicester City are considered to be a side strongly odds against at a price of 2/1 for a top six finish which I can understand; but I do think it also holds value. But let’s start at the top and work our way down. 

?TITLE CONTENDERS AND ODDS 

Leicester won the Premier League title with just on average 42.4% of the possession. That beats a previous record set in 2007, and it’s quite remarkable with the attacking talent in today’s English top flight. 

Man City are 3.60 favourites with Betfred and you have to accept that as fair. The fact they have a vastly experienced manager like Pep who will preach the right style of football is a plus, but we also have to acknowledge this is probably the best squad in the league for the third season in a row. That didn’t stop them from massively underperforming at times last year, but I do believe the Spaniard is to bridge that gap. It’s hard to imagine a Pep Guardiola team coming up that short, if at all.  

Man Utd are 4.60 with Bwin whilst Chelsea are 7.50 with Paddy Power. There’s not a massive gap in those prices, but I believe the gap that is there is called the Mourinho factor. Whilst it’s my belief United will far surpass last year’s achievements in terms of performances, it’s a stronger field and I don’t know adding Jose Mourinho is enough. United have also moved to add Zlatan who is a goal threat, and Paul Pogba is probably one of the top three midfielders in the world right now. But who’s to say one of those players doesn’t go down injured and end United’s hopes? Or things don’t quite work out for Jose like we automatically assume they will? They didn’t at Chelsea. 

And it’s a new era at Chelsea. Antonio Conte couldn’t lead his Italy side to a title, but the way his team will perform may not be all that different from a certain Chelsea side that lifted the title not too long ago. A Conte team is always one that knows how to defend and is always hard to beat. It may not be a case of utter dominance in the possession category like he’s used to in some games, but Chelsea will be capable of sitting off and picking their moments well against the fellow big guns. You should absolutely believe Conte is clever enough to lead a talented side to the title, and Chelsea should be second favourites about United for me. 

Arsenal find themselves priced at 7.50 with Coral and others, which makes them the same price as Chelsea. There’s something else I cannot agree with. Arsenal are a model of consistency, but that consistency involves building up fans hopes before settling for the Champions League. It’s admirable that Arsene has such a good recording of reaching the UCL, but I wonder what he’s really added to his squad that makes Arsenal a likely title winner? They finished the season 10 points behind Leicester, who won the league with a below average points total. 

They fell 10 points short in what was statistically speaking one of the lesser Premier League seasons. They do have a lot of creativity with the likes of Mesut Ozil, who created more chances last season than any other player in the history of the league with 146. I worry if Giroud is the man to take enough of those chances, whilst Mertesacker and co need to keep it tighter at the back. 

Liverpool will hope that a bit of Jurgen’s ‘heavy metal’ style of football will bring them success as a 10.00 shot with Betfed. But I do believe that without having quite as good a squad as those above, Liverpool do have what it takes to challenge for a title given their support, their mentality and the ideas that Klopp will instil in them. You might question me in ranking Liverpool’s chances above Arsenal also; but it isn’t that. Arsenal are stuck in a routine whilst every other team in the Premier League have new found ideas and enthusiasm this season, especially Klopp and Liverpool. 

Can Leicester retain the title? Or can Spurs come from the back of the pack to lift the trophy? I honest believe it will be hard for both. The League has gone from going slightly weaker than usual to stronger than ever. The number of experienced managers and big money signings is frightening. Leicester are a team who have several key players and a set way of playing. It only takes one injury, and they have to find a way to balance the league with some huge European dates that lay ahead. They do not have the required strength in depth to really compete in both competitions. And Tottenham, at least for me, are a nearly team. They have some fantastically entertaining players but I have to think their overall standard just isn’t quite up scratch. 

LOOKING AT RELEGATION CANDIDATES 

The odds for relegation are as followers: Hull 1.73 with StanJames, Burnley 2.00 with Bet365 and SkyBet, Boro 3.25 with BoyleSports, Watford 3.30 with Paddy Power, West Brom 3.60 with Ladbrokes, Sunderland 3.60 with Sportingbet 

Sunderland, Bournemouth and Palace escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth last season. I have to think Crystal Palace are a team capable of much better, and they’ve given more confidence in them being able to keep teams out with the addition of Steve Mandanda and Tompkins – but I’m struggling to feel positive about the Black Cats and the Cherries. 

Burnley have entrusted the vast majority of last season’s promotion winners, which was something that failed them last time around. Flanagan is a reasonably good addition, but I think Burnley will be hoping their manager’s contagious passion and enthusiasm keeps the club afloat. It wouldn’t surprise me if it does.

Middlesbrough are a side favoured for the drop also, but I think they have enough goals in their side at this level to survive. It’s a step up from the Championship, but they’re a squad full of Premier League performances. If Barragan and co can perform well, I’ve no doubt both Alvaro Negredo and Viktor Fischer are double digit goal scorers who can keep them afloat. Watford are also a team that I believe have far too many goals in their side and should survive again.

Sunderland concern me. They’ve added next to nothing, and they’ve lost some depth. Last year’s players did underperform and some had to go, but I think even some of the released players would be capable of better things under different stewardship. Avoiding relegation at the last has become a habit for the Black Cats, and you’d have feared for them if it weren’t for Big Sam. 

There are promoted teams with less quality than Sunderland no doubt, but those teams at least have spirit and momentum. But the side that worry me the most is West Brom. No one will cry over the departure of Sessegnon, Lingard and Anichebe, but three times have many players have left than have come in, and that is shocking. West Brom and those just above the red line were spared by the fact that some huge clubs seriously underachieved last season; but I see no such candidates in this year’s league.

The state of things at West Brom were probably best summed up with a lifeless pre-season loss to non-league Torquay last week, which sparked outrage on social media. West Brom were booed by the fans at the game. A defence that wasn’t good enough last season has seen nothing added to it and looked leaky on the day. Good luck against Zlatan and Sergio. 

PREDICTED TOP 8 

  1. Manchester City 
  1. Chelsea 
  1. Manchester United 
  1. Liverpool 
  1. Arsenal 
  1. West Ham 
  1. Tottenham 
  1. Leicester? 

PREDICTED BOTTOM 3 

      18. Sunderland 
      19. West Brom 
      20. Bournemouth 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016