With the new Premier League season now just hours away, Metro has put together a list of our boldest, most random and perhaps even controversial predictions for the campaign ahead.
Can Gabriel Jesus compete for the golden boot? Will the man who replaced him at Manchester City – Erling Haaland – struggle? And are Chelsea at risk of missing out on the top? Get ready for the hottest of hot takes…
Chelsea to finish outside the top four
‘If you want to fight for the same position you need to improve, you can never stand still. If you stand still, other teams will overtake you.’
Thomas Tuchel has already fired a warning shot to Chelsea’s hierarchy ahead of the new season and it’s clear he knows he is in for a choppy ride unless more fresh faces are brought in.
The loss of Antonio Rudiger is a major one. The 29-year-old, who joined Real Madrid on a free transfer this summer, was a leader in Chelsea’s dressing room and one of Tuchel’s trusted lieutenants on the pitch. Cesar Azpilicueta, another source of reliability for Tuchel, had wanted to join Barcelona and the Chelsea manager has even admitted that he is keeping the Spaniard against his will.
Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly have arrived to compensate for the key departures in Chelsea’s defence and attack but Tuchel is adamant that further reinforcements are required.
A 4-0 defeat to Arsenal in Orlando 12 days ago led to another angry response from Tuchel, who claimed his side are ‘not competitive like this’. Even for a pre-season fixture, Chelsea’s attack looked stagnant and that has been a running theme throughout their summer preparations.
Tuchel will certainly be looking over his shoulder at Tottenham, who finished three points behind Chelsea in the Premier League last season and have significantly strengthened Antonio Conte’s squad this summer.
Arsenal also appear to be heading in the right direction under Mikel Arteta and the signings of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko will also bolster a side that had a poor start to the season last year, but ended up just five points behind Chelsea by the end of May. — Chris Davie
Injury-prone Erling Haaland to struggle
Erling Haaland is predicted to make a massive impact at Manchester City this year after the striker’s big-money move from Borussia Dortmund, but there is good reason to think he will flop.
The 22-year-old has a stinking injury record, missing 10 games in 2020-21 through four separate spells on the sidelines and suffered even more last term with hip flexor and muscular problems, missing 16 matches.
Some Dortmund fans have even claimed that Haaland has not been the same player since his injury struggles last season and teased City supporters for overspending on him.
It is also worth noting that City play a very different style to Dortmund. Haaland has arguably been at his best when given space to attack on the counter, using his pace and strength to latch onto through balls, whereas City prefer to dominate possession and build-up play.
You only need to look at players such as Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo, who took time to find their feet under Pep Guardiola, as well as Jack Grealish who has not really stood out since his £100m move.
Rio Ferdinand has even raised concerns over Haaland’s ego, and we all saw his shocking miss from close range during City’s Community Shield defeat to Liverpool. — Liam Grace
Tottenham to challenge for the title
Across the last nine matches of the Premier League season, Tottenham picked up just three points fewer than the long established big two of Manchester City and Liverpool.
Six wins – including a blood-and-thunder north London derby victory – two draws and just one loss secured fourth spot and Champions League football. They scored 22 goals and, crucially, conceded just four – half as many as City.
Sure, it is much harder to maintain that kind of form over a full campaign, but Antonio Conte has spent the summer tailoring the squad to fit his style and needs as well as overseeing a gruelling pre-season campaign that has further embedded his philosophy.
Of the new additions, Yves Bissouma brings steel and control in midfield; Ivan Perisic offers final-third quality and a devilish cross; Clement Lenglet’s silky passing looks an ideal fit for the back three; and Richarlison provides genuine cover and competition across the frontline.
And that front three, of course, are arguably the most lethal and dangerous in the division. From the dramatic win at the Etihad in February onwards, Harry Kane, Dejan Kulusevski and golden boot winner Son Heung-min had 51 goal involvements between them in just 16 matches. If there is one weakness, though, it is the lack of a creative spark in midfield.
Nevertheless, Kane looks as sharp as ever and ready to vanquish his August demons, Cristian Romero looks primed to cement his credentials as one of the league’s best defenders and there is a massive amount of optimism around a club who now have proven winner at the helm. Cue a 1-0 loss against Southampton on Saturday. — Ewan Roberts
All three promoted teams to stay up
In 30 seasons of the Premier League, there have only been three occasions where all three of the newly promoted teams have survived, but there is reason to believe that this campaign could make it four.
Nottingham Forest, returning to the top-flight for the first time in 23 years, have backed their highly rated manager Steve Cooper with many impressive signings, including Jesse Lingard, Dean Henderson and Omar Richards.
Off the back of a record-breaking 43 goals in 44 Championship games last season, Aleksandar Mitrovic may finally be ready to set the top-flight alight for Fulham, as the Cottagers look to avoid a third straight relegation.
Bournemouth are the favourites to finish bottom of the table and will struggle the most to beat the drop, but Scott Parker is a decent coach, and the Cherries can never be underestimated.
Their chances of survival have also been greatly helped by the quality, or lack thereof, of their opponents, with Everton and Leeds set to once again be involved in the relegation scrap, having lost their best players over the summer.
Brentford have been tipped to suffer second-season syndrome, while Southampton are also among the favourites to go down given their decline in recent seasons, while one cannot also rule out the possibility of Leicester being in trouble having so far failed to sign anyone. — Callum McAvoy
Anthony Martial to be reborn under Erik ten Hag
Erik ten Hag’s first summer at Old Trafford has been dominated by talk of Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure after the 37-year-old requested to leave the club.
Ronaldo had been part of Ten Hag’s plans but plans change and as one door closes, another opens. Emerging at the entrance is Anthony Martial.
He was deemed surplus to requirements before Ten Hag’s appointment but an impressive pre-season – which saw Martial find the net three times – will see the Frenchman start the campaign as the club’s first choice centre forward.
But while the goals were more than welcome for a striker that managed just two in 23 appearances for United and Sevilla last term, it was Martial’s work-rate and industry that struck a chord.
Never before have supporters seen the Frenchman harry and harass opponents like he did on United’s pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia, while his interchanging with Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford had fans drooling.
There is speculation that Martial could miss United’s opener against Brighton, which would be a damaging blow to the Frenchman’s hopes of hitting the ground running this season.
But nevertheless, the campaign is a long one and it’s one Martial can make his own if he continues to absorb Ten Hag’s ideas. His talent has never been in doubt. — Sean Kearns
Harvey Elliott to nab World Cup spot
An 18-year-old Harvey Elliott began last season as one of Jurgen Klopp’s first choice midfielders, starting three of the opening four Premier League fixtures as a Reds side that would go to challenge on four fronts until the end of May laid the foundations for its campaign.
Elliott’s progress was unfortunately halted by a serious ankle injury suffered against Leeds United in September, but he still returned to the side in the latter stages of the season and scored a penalty in the Carabao Cup shootout victory over Chelsea, as well as starting away at Inter Milan in the Champions League knockout stages.
Now 19, Klopp has already demonstrated his trust in both Elliott’s ability and character, and the teenager has staked a claim for regular starting XI involvement again with another strong pre-season.
With James Milner and Jordan Henderson another year older and the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita and Thiago Alcantara all prone to spells absent with knocks, the first part of my prediction is that Elliott will make around 25-30 Premier League appearances for Liverpool, more than most of his midfield colleagues.
His dribbling, shooting, and left-footedness all render him a unique option as one of Klopp’s ‘number eights’, and will also earn him an unexpected spot on the plane to Qatar as one of the final names in Gareth Southgate’s 26-man England squad. — Dan Austin
Gabriel Jesus to win Premier League golden boot
Arsenal have got themselves a bargain in Gabriel Jesus. The striker has been acquired from a title-winning Manchester City side for just £45million, and crucially fills the void left by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
The Brazil international has been on fire in pre-season, scoring seven goals in just five outings – including a hat-trick against Sevilla in the Emirates Cup.
Arsenal missed a whopping 42 big chances in England’s top flight last season, with main striker Lacazette netting just four times in the 2021/22 campaign.
Jesus will almost certainly better that tally, but more crucially provide the sharpness and link-up play to help the outstanding youngsters around him thrive.
He already knows Gunners boss Mikel Arteta having worked alongside the Spaniard at the Emirates Stadium, and joins the north London club’s Brazilian contingent including Gabriel Magalhaes, Gabriel Martinelli and fellow summer signing Marquinhos.
Most importantly, Jesus will be the main man after playing second fiddle to Sergio Aguero at City. Now, he is ready to fulfil his huge potential and score a bucket load of goals. The rest of the Premier League need to watch out. — Mike Stavrou
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