The Eagle Will Soar

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The rain seemed like it meant a little more as the clock wound down on Reinhardt University’s crushing 42-24 defeat to the St. Francis Cougars, heads hung low. However after a year like the one we had they should be raised in pride! For a fourth year program to make it to the Semi-Finals of the NAIA national tournament takes a special group of guys!

The early parts of the game were a tightly contested affair, with only a few touchdowns having been scored. After that a few costly mistakes, namely penalties, gave the Cougars the late 1st half lead of 21-7. After a pass interference call on the final play of the half, Reinhardt kicked a field goal from the 6 yard line on their untimed down to end the half 21-10. There was still plenty of hope amongst the supporters that the game could be turned around.

When the teams came out in the second half, Reinhardt drove down the field after receiving the kick. However the drive stalled out at the four yard line and the Eagles turned the ball over on downs. The next play was a killer as the Cougars broke off a 96  yard touchdown run to turn what was nearly a 21-17 game into a 28-10. After that it seemed as if the life had been sucked out of the RU sidelines.

The Eagles kept fighting, but to no avail as the Cougars of St. Francis just seemed to have more in the tank as the score got more and more out of hand.

One great testament to the leaders on this team is the fact that even though the game appeared to be out of reach by the time the rain started falling midway through the 4th quarter, the Eagles never stopped trying to win the game!

I have never been more proud to be a Reinhardt Eagle! It is very difficult to win 13 straight games, but now the work begins again! Good luck to the 16 seniors as they end their college careers. It is a shame it did not end in glory, but not everything does. All that matters is that you keep putting your best foot forward!

I know I speak from all of us here at  Reinhardt when I say congratulations on the fantastic 2016 season! Go Eagles!

Sacking Time

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In 2011, Jürgen Klinsmann was announced as the newest head coach of the USMNT. This move was met with great optimism as Klinsmann had previously coached at world power Germany. He brought along promises to bring the United States to the next level.

Well it has now been five years and I think we can all see how that has turned out. The Americans now sit dead last in the World Cup qualifying Hexagonal after losses to both Mexico and Costa Rica. My big question is: When did losing to Costa Rica become the next level? While Los Ticos are an improving side, they are still a team that we should be able to beat, or at least lose a close game with. They certainly should not be 4-0 better than us.

During Jürgen Klinsmann’s time in charge of the USMNT there has only been 1 success, a Gold Cup win in 2013. Since then the state of the National Team has gone downhill quickly.

A round of 16 appearance in the 2014 World Cup easily overshadowed the fact that the team should have lost almost every game they played in. While they did take Belgium to extra time in that round of 16, it was most due to the superhuman effort put forth from Goalkeeper Tim Howard who managed to save 16 shots. At this point Klinsmann could still get the benefit of the doubt as it was the first major tournament disappointment that he had led the Americans into.

A summer later the US attempted to defend their Gold Cup title as the host nation. Throughout the earlier rounds the Americans did not seem like a team that wanted to be playing. The loss in the semi-finals to Jamaica should not have happened, however it still put Klinsmann’s side in the 3rd place game which would have qualified them for the Confederations Cup in 2017. They blew this chance by losing to Panama in penalties. This was the point where Klinsmann would have been fired by any other country that has a well established soccer program, like the USA is trying to pretend they have.

Then there was the Copa America tournament, also hosted by the United States. After having an easier path to the semi-finals, the Americans faced off with Lionel Messi and Argentina. When Klinsmann was hired it was so that we could compete with teams of this caliber, well we didn’t. Right from the get go it was obvious that Argentina had the advantage, however they also outhustled n American side that was once known for their scrappy ability to stay in games. By the time the official graciously blew the final whistle it was 4-0 to Argentina. Again, with his body of work Klinsmann would have been fired at many other countries as he had not, yet again, been able to make a final of a major tournament.

One big reason that the team is not successful in these big tournaments is the lack of consistency in formation. This leads to issues in remembering assignments which can lead to goals. Some of the formations that have been played by Klinsmann’s squad include the 4-4-2, the 4-3-3 and the recently added 3-5-2. Out of all these formations the system has the player for one of them, the 4-3-3. However it is the one that Klinsmann has done whatever he can not to play. His latest craze is the 3-5-2, which involves three good defenders who have familiarity with one another to play in unison. Without Geoff Cameron in the lineup there is only one other top level defender, John Anthony Brooks, on the roster. This hasn’t worked out well and has led to some ugly goals. One would think that after five years on the job Klinsmann would have figured out a formation by now.

With World Cup Qualifying taking place during tis international break, it was the perfect chance to seize control of the Hex with a home win against Mexico. This did not occur as the team came out in a disorganized 3-5-2 formation. The switch to a back 4 helped stabilize the team, however it did not come until after Mexico had scored the opening goal of the match. They found the equalizer in the second half, but it was not enough. In the 89th minute Mexico found the winner off a corner kick when Rafa Marquez was left open at the near post and guided the ball through Brad Guzan and into the goal. A loss that again could have gotten other coaches fired in serious soccer nations.

The losses continue to pile up as the Americans traveled to Costa Rica to play their second game in the Hex. Right from the opening kick the team looked overmatched and again unorganized in the back three formation. Then came the four Costa Rican goals. Really, a 4-0 defeat to Costa Rica. Jürgen Klinsmann should not have left the stadium with  job after that embarrassing display from his team. It doesn’t matter how much he accepts the blame, it is obvious that things are not gong to change.

At this point it is a decent time to look for a new coach for the national team as they have until March to figure out who to call up for the next round of matches in the Hex. If the team does qualify then it still gives a new manager a year and a half to figure out what players are worth taking to Russia. After the recent results it should be, but isn’t, painfully obvious that Jürgen Klinsmann is no longer the right person to lead the USMNT into the future.

A Tribe Like No Other

There are many words that can be used to describe the 2016 Cleveland Indians, but the best way to describe them would be resilient. Without a doubt this team, on paper, did not look like a playoff contender at the beginning of the season. Somehow they started winning games. No Michael Brantley, no hitting from catcher, a rookie center fielder. Somehow they managed to find ways to defy the odds.

Once September hit it was a forgone conclusion that the Indians would win their division. Then Danny Salazar leaves a game with a forearm strain. A few games later Carlos Carrasco leaves his start less than an inning in after being hit in the hand by a pitch. All of a sudden the Indians are facing the playoffs without their 2nd and 3rd starting pitchers.

Then they end up with the Boston Red Sox in round 1. The best hitting team during the regular season. Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Josh Tomlin led the Tribe to a sweep and the right to take on the Toronto Blue Jays for the pennant.

The Indians dispose of Toronto in 5 games and many wonder just how this team has come this far. Their incredible resiliency allowed them to face adversity and keep on pushing all the way to the World Series.

Both the Indians and the Cubs knew going in that after game 3 the Cleveland pitchers would be operating on short rest. This meant a longer series seemed to favor the Cubs. Cleveland jumped out to a 3-1 lead needing one win in three games, two being at home, to win their first title since 1948.

In the end it was not meant to be. The Indians and Cubs took us on an emotional roller coaster throughout game 7 before the Chicago Cubs were able to wipe away their over a century of sorrows with championship shirt.

For Cleveland fans, such as myself, this loss joins the losses to the Braves in 1995, the Marlins in 1997 to form a terrible trio of memories in the World Series as the organization looks for their first title since 1948.

There is hope for next season, as Brantley and Carrasco will be back from injury, as well as the core of the team. With these experiences the Indians will be able to put themselves in this position again next season. Hopefully with a different result.

Curse Broken

Game 7 of the 2016 World Series sent fans through a full range of emotions. For both sets of fans only Satan could have devised a more cruel, heart-wrenching affair between two organizations that are the very definition of championship starved. However, after ten long innings, and for the first time in 108 years:

The Chicago Cubs are World Series Champions!

After the leadoff homer by Dexter Fowler it seemed like it would be the Cubs night, however a couple errors by star 2nd baseman Javier Baez allowed the Indians a chance to stay close. Then came the 6-1 lead. There is no way the Cubs can blow that right? Oh wait, soon it became 6-3 and suddenly it was time to bring on the fireball hurling Aroldis Chapman. Then the unthinkable happens, Chapman actually gave up a hit! A home run  to tit the game at 6 in the bottom of the 8th inning! Out of nowhere the Indians ties the game off Chapman of all people. The hard-throwing left hander would pitch a scoreless ninth inning before the rain would cause a delay.

This rain delay caused the momentum, which had shifted in the Indians favor, to level out some. Bryan Shaw, who finished regular innings, would go on to load the bases before two runs scored to make it 8-6 Cubs in the middle of the 10th inning! Carl Edward’s Jr. was brought in to see the game out, and it appears he will do just that after he got two quick outs. Then Brandon Guyer gets on base, then steals 2nd. 8th inning hero Rajai Davis singles home Geyer to make it a 1 run game with 2 outs. A pitching change is made and Michael Montgomery is able to get Michael Martinez to ground out to end the game.

After that. Extreme jubilation for a fan base that no longer had to wait for their hero’s to bring home a championship! The goat is forgotten. Steve Bartman can be forgiven (maybe not quite yet). All because the Cubs won the World Series!

One Game: Win or Lose

commissioners-trophy

One game is all that remains to decide it all. One game to end a streak that predates entire generations of two fan bases.  One game to see who takes home the coveted Commissioners trophy. One game.

For so many people there are childhood memories of playing baseball Sandlot style with friends, imagining that it is Game 7 of the World Series. For a precious few these dreams are given a chance to be fulfilled as they are able to make it to the MLB. Still many of these players will never taste the glory of victory that comes with lifting the Commissioner’s trophy at the end of a 162 game regular season and a grueling three rounds of playoffs. As October gives way to November there are two teams who remain that can do just that: The Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians.

For the Cubs fan base it has been 108 years. Generations of fans lived and died without seeing their beloved Cubbies win the World Series, however their hope has endured. Revitalized by the development of youth brought in by Theo Epstein, and led by Joe Maddon, the Cubs are one game away from ending the longest drought in professional sports. With one win these young Cubs can make half a city forget about goats, and maybe even allow the misdeeds of one Steve Bartman to slowly fade away.

For the Indians fans base it has been 48 years since their latest World Series title. Only one member, 1st baseman Eddie Robinson, from that team is till alive as Tribe fans hope to close out what could be a fairytale summer in Cleveland. The Cavaliers brought the city their first championship since the Browns won the Super Bowl in 1964. Now despite all the team has been through this season, the Indians stand nine innings away from winning the World Series at home. Memories of the Atlanta Braves, and Florida Marlins may finally begin to fade away as Terry Francona leads his young team into this, final game of the 2016 MLB season.

As the curtains close on the final act of the 2016 season we are left with one game. One final chess match between managers Maddon and Francona. One final game to end a drought. 54 outs. Only one can be crowned 2016 MLB champions. One Game.

On to the Series


Carlos Santana reacts to making the final out to send the Cleveland Indians to their 1st World Series Appearance since 1997
Carlos Santana reacts to the final out of the ALCS

The 2016 season has been a bumpy ride for the Cleveland Indians, but thanks to their manager and their team chemistry the Tribe have reached the World Series.

The biggest part of this team has been the decision making skills of manager Terry Francona. Tito has had plenty of experience in these high pressure situations and it has shown, most importantly when it comes to pitching decisions.

In Game three the Indians started Trevor Bauer, however after two thirds of an inning his stitches had ripped out and he was unable to continue. Tito spent the next 8 1/3 innings putting his best relief pitchers through more innings than most would be use to, however they answered the call by only allowing two runs on seven hits.

One of the most surprising, but important decisions of Game 3 came in the 7th inning when Francona brought in closer Cody Allen to help get the Tribe out of a tough inning. Not only was Allen able to get out of that inning, but he also got the first two outs of the eighth inning as well.

One of the biggest reasons that the Indians are headed to the World Series is the play of Andrew Miller. The righty was acquired by the Tribe at the trade deadline, and has proved to be a major piece of the puzzle for the team. He was awarded the ALCS MVP award, but promptly told everyone that he did not deserve it, and that the team around him was the reason he was able to accomplish what he did.

While Game 3 was a fantastic example of Terry Francona’s genius from the dugout, the Game 5 performance of young Ryan Merritt was something that can help the team throughout the next round. Before the game Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista said that Merritt would be “shaking in his boots” when he took the mound at Rogers Centre on Wednesday evening. The opposite occurred as the young lefty threw 4 1/3 shutout innings before handing the game off to the rock-star bullpen. With unproven players like Merritt, only one major league start before Wednesday, showing that they can step into the spotlight when needed, the Tribe look poised to give their next opponent a difficult test.

It may be team chemistry and it may have a little to do with the man calling the shots, but there is one thing for sure, the underdogs are still among the teams that have a shot at bringing home the title. Their opposition will easily be the favorites in this upcoming series, but that has not seemed to mind the Indians before, and it should not bother them now.

Welcome to October

In most cases it took 162 games to decide who was worthy of battling for post-season glory. For the San Francisco Giants and the Toronto Blue Jays it took an extra game to decide who would have the right to face each conferences number 1 seed. Now it is time for the real games to begin!

In the National League we have two matchups that have the potential to be straight pitching duels.

San Francisco Giants v. Chicago Cubs

This matchup pits the best team in baseball against the team that has won the World Series in the past 3 even years. The Cubs had the best pitching staff in baseball. Led by aces Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, Chicago was first in the league in ERA(earned runs average), Opp. BA(opponents batting average), and WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched). They were assisted by a lineup that was in the top 5 of the league in both runs scored and OBS (on base percentage). This combination of pitching and hitting led the Cubs to win 103 games.

Their opponents, the San Francisco Giants, had to rely on the Wild Card game to gain entry to the playoffs and therefore will not be able to count on a game 1 performance from ace Madison Bumgarner. This season, the Giants have counted on their pitching staff, who was 4th in baseball in ERA and WHIP. Where the Giants will struggle is at the plate. They were middle of the league in all hitting stats this year.

Because of the large difference in quality of these teams, the Chicago Cubs are the easy choice to move on to the NLCS.

Los Angeles Dodgers v. Washington Nationals

This series appears to be set up as another pitching duel. The Dodgers staff was 5th in ERA and 2nd in WHIP and Opp. BA. This was without having Clayton Kershaw for most of the season, but he is now back and looks ready to go for the post season run. On the other side of the field,  the Nationals pitchers were also top five in these three pitching stats this season. They are led by Max Scherzer and are looking to advance to the NLCS this year.

The other key component for these teams is hitting. Both teams are fairly even here as well. They spent the season being middle of the road at the plate, which makes this series likely to be dominated by pitching.

In the end, the Dodgers will be able to prevail as they have a deeper rotation to call on and that will allow their stars to be more sharp when they are called upon.

In the American League there are two vastly different series. The Toronto Texas series appears to be more of an uneven series, while the Boston Cleveland series seems to be evenly matched between the two teams.

Toronto Blue Jays v. Texas Rangers 

This series is not going to be a matchup of top pitching staffs. The Rangers were in the bottom 1/3 of the MLB. On the other hand,  the Jays are top 5 in pitching this year.

When it comes to performance at the plate, both teams rank in the top 10 in most categories.  Because of this, there is no edge at the plate due to the reliance on power hitters by both teams.

Despite having to play in through the Wild Card game, the Toronto Blue Jays will be successful in this series as they are the more well rounded team. Their pitching strength will help them keep the Rangers off the board, while their bats will give them a lead to work with. This series will be worth some extra attention not only because of the caliber of teams that are playing, but also because of their history. Earlier this year these teams had a brawl in their final meeting, which led to quite a few susensions, but also seemed to spark the Rangers to get to this point.

Cleveland Indians v. Boston Red Sox

This series features two teams with top tier pitching talent. Both of these staffs were inside the top 10 in ERA, WHIP and Opp. BA throughout the course of the 2016 season. With that being said, the Red Sox have the edge here since the Indians have two of their top pitchers, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, out for the rest of the year.

With the Tribe losing the edge in pitching, they will also be behind the eight ball at the plate as Boston was 1st in the MLB in runs scored, BA, OBS, and Slugging percentage. The Indians were not too far behind, placing in the top ten for each stat, however if they can not get runners on base then the most aggressive base running team in the majors will not be able to get runners in good position to score enough runs to beat Boston.

In the end Boston will come out of this series victorious due to the fact that the Indians have a weakened rotation and have been less successful at the plate than the Red Sox have been this year.

Positives from a Negative

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Cody Kessler steps into through with defenders bearing down on him

As week three comes to an end tonight with the Falcons, Saints rivalry game, there are some teams that look set up for success this season and there are some that appear set for another miserable year. Among the teams in the second category are perennial cellar dwellers, the Cleveland Browns. With that being said, there are some positive things with this edition of the Browns.

The first thing is the balance they have found on offense. Through three weeks they average 144.7 yards per game, which is 4th in the NFL. These yards are not just coming from handing the ball off a million times as they actually rank 2nd in the league with 5.7 yards per attempt. One thing that crippled the Browns last year was their inability to run the ball, but with this new, more experienced coaching staff in place it appears that the balance is back on this side of the ball.

Another positive from the early part of the year has been the development of ex-QB Terrelle Pryor. His size and speed were something that the receiving corps lacked last season. He worked had during the offseason to become as sure-handed as possible in order to be a top notch wideout. This was on full effect yesterday as he caught 8 passes for 144 yards against the Dolphins. That is not where his usefulness ended, as he also went 3-5 for 35 yards passing and ran for another 21 yards on 4 carries. He even played one down at safety at the end of the first half. With versatility like that, Pryor is easily one of the most dangerous players on the team.

The final positive on the offensive side of the ball came from the position with the most change already this season. Number 26 on the QB list, aka Cody Kessler, made his first career start as the

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Cody Kessler calmly delivers the ball while under pressure from Dolphins defender Andre Branch

different third player to start a game under center this year. Despite this a shaky offensive line that got him pummeled almost every down, he looked calm in the pocket and took care of the ball well after his early fumble. If he can continue to withstand the hits that he will be taking then he could develop into a solid QB at a position of much turmoil for the franchise.

 

On the defensive side of the ball there was one really big positive. Even without star corner Joe Haden the team was able to force three turnovers and even score a touchdown. This is due in part to the lay of rookie Emmanuel Ogbah. The Oklahoma State product was in the backfield on multiple occasions and overall looked solid throughout the game. In about a month, when preseason and weeks 1 and 2 star Carl Nassib comes back from a broken hand, this will be a strong pass rush.

As the season goes on the Browns players should continue to build on these things and hopefully it will lead to some wins down the line. Under the tutelage of Hue Jackson this is likely to continue as he has experience with keeping players motivated despite shaky play.

O’er The Land of the Free

Week three of the NFL preseason always brings a lot of drama as it is the final time fringe players have to impress the coaching staff before the first round of roster cuts are made. However, that was not the main storyline that came out of this slate of games, in fact it was about a player who may not even be the starting quarterback for his team come week 1.

On week 3 San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick was spotted not standing during the national anthem. The media immediately began ripping him apart for it. The interesting part is, where were all these critics during the first two games of the preseason? He was sitting during the national anthem then.

For the final week of the preseason the 49ers played in San Diego, who just happened to be holding Military Appreciation night. Kaepernick came onto the field to a chorus of boos, but held firm in his belief that he would sit for the anthem. This week was different for the onetime star quarterback as he was not the only one sitting in protest. Joined be teammate Eric Reid and Seattle defensive back Jeremy Lane, Kaepernick should now have the courage to remain sitting the rest of the season, unless of course the 49ers cut him which could be a possibility thanks in part to the lackluster performances he has turned in the past couple of seasons.

All in all this is just about as big a non-story as you will find out there for two reasons. The first is that the NFL does not mandate players stand during the pledge, so he will get no punishment from the league. The second is that he is using his first amendment rights that are one of the pillars our country was created on. So many brave men and women have died to protect our freedoms and all of a sudden people want to take these away from certain individuals just because thy don’t agree with them. This is the United States of America for heavans sakes, “The land of the FREE“. It is about time we acted like everyone has these rights instead of just those people that benefit us.

2016-17 Premier League Predictions

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The day is August 12th, the year 2016. The year of the fairytale has come to an end and in just one day’s time the roller coaster ride that is the Premier League season will be underway. For many fans this is an exciting time of year that is full of promise especially after last year’s success for Leicester City which proved that anyone has a shot at lifting the trophy if they make pull the right strings. Will anyone there be another shock at the end of the season or will one of the perennial powers walk away with another trophy?

Starting from the bottom of the table these are my picks for the 2016-2017 Premier League season.


Relegated

20- Hull City

With only a few weeks left before the season started Manager Steve Bruce resigned after being overlooked for the England Managerial position which left the team in a bit of a bind. Not only did the team lose it’s manager, but it has yet to make a significant signing which will make it hard for the club to stay up this season.

19- Burnley

Last season’s second tier Champions will struggle to replicate the same success this year as they have yet to make a top midfield signing to replace their leader Joey Barton who left the club for Celtic. The team under Sean Dyche plays very defensively which is the same way it favored during the 2014-15 season which saw the club relegated back to the second tier. Even with the goal scoring prowess of Andre Gray, this season will end the same way that year did with Burnley unlikely to avoid a quick return  trip to the Championship.

18-West Bromwich Albion

Last season ended with the Baggies stumbling across the finish line with three losses and two draws in their final five matches. As of right now the team has held on to promising young striker Saido Berahino and he will be the team’s key player as they look to avoid the drop. However with the lack of signings the club will find themselves on the wrong side of the relegation dogfight at the end of the season and back in the Football League Championship for the first time since the 2009-10 season.


Safe From Relegation

17- Swansea City

This season will be a struggle for the Welsh club as they look to avoid taking the plunge back to the second division in English Football. After selling two of their better players from last season in Centre back Ashley Williams and forward Andre Ayew the club is turning the team over to some younger players like Mike van der Hoorn and Borja Baston who were brought in to help usher the team to higher levels. In the end these players will take some time to adapt to the style of play in the Premier League, but they will figure it out in enough time to save the season and live to fight for at least one more season in the English top flight.

16- Sunderland

This season will be an adventure for the Black Cats as they have another new manager this season after Sam Allardyce left to take charge of the English national team. Replacing Big Sam at the Stadium of Light is veteran Premier League manager David Moyes. He has experience at Everton and Manchester United and will give the team strong leadership that will see them stay up. Since being announced only a couple of weeks ago the team has solidified their defense with the signings of Papy Djilobodji from Chelsea and Paddy McNair from Manchester United. He also landed left midfield player Adnan Januzaj who excelled when Moyes was in charge at United but has struggled to find playing time since. With all this Sunderland will still be involved in the relegation dogfight, but not as much as in previous seasons.

15- Crystal Palace

This season will likely be similar to last year as the North London club has made one key signing in winger Andros Townsend, but are in need of a new defender and striker before they can challenge for a top ten finish. After spending most of the summer linked to Liverpool striker Christian Benteke there is still no deal in place, however if they can land the Belgian their season could finish better than this. For now it appears they should be solidly safe as a mid-table club.

14- Middlesbrough

The final of the newly promoted sides has had a much better summer than their counterparts Burnley and Hull. Signing veteran striker Negredo on loan and promising forward Viktor Fischer will help lead the line for the team, while signing former Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes and American Brad Guzan to lead from the back the team looks to have made the right moves to make their stay in the top flight last longer than one season.

13- AFC Bournemouth

After finishing the season in poor form, the team has a healthy Callum Wilson at striker and last season’s record signing Max Gradel on the wing so they can almost be counted as new signings from last year. They added winger Jordan Ibe from Liverpool to help complete their front three while bringing Leeds youngster Lewis Cook in to bring some depth to the midfield. This along with the continuity among the staff will help the club achieve a better finish this year.

12- Southampton

One team that will be a disappointment this year is Southampton. After finishing 6th last season the Saints let three of their top players leave this summer and they will all be missed this season. However they may be in better shape for the future as they spent the money on some top young players this season. They still have a solid team, but with a new manager they will struggle to make the top ten this season and ultimately fail and finish 12th.

11- Stoke City

A 9th place finish season last year was a good result for a team that works hard for manager Mark Hughes. Hughes solidified the midfield by bringing in Welsh star Joe Allen to fight for a position in the side. A similar season appears on the cards for the Potters as they really have not improved in any position from last year.

10- Watford

One of last year’s newcomers Watford avoided the drop with a 13th place finish. Their acquisition of young attackers Isaac Success and Jerome Sinclair will allow them to rest stars Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney in some of the cup competitions which will leave them fresher for league games. This will help propel the team to their first ever top ten finish in the Premier League.

9- Everton

Last season’s 11th place team has managed to hang on to star man Romelu Lukaku and brought in new manager Ronald Koeman who has had previous success with Southampton the last two years. Despite not bringing in a new keeper, Everton still has a solid back line and managed to replace John Stones, who had yet to break into the starting 11, with Swansea captain Ashley Williams to challenge for a spot in Koeman’s back four.

8- Leicester City

Last season’s fairytale champion’s will come to a crash landing this season as they add another competition to the schedule. The team lost the engine of their midfield when N’Golo Kante signed for Chelsea after the Euros. However the team has brought in  some solid payers, but the fact that the team is not deep enough means that a grueling schedule will leave the reigning champions with too much ground to make up in the latter stages of the season leaving them just outside of European competition for next year.

7- West Ham United

A very well balanced side that has improved in every way from last season except in their final placement on the table. Slaven Bilic’s side will challenge for an automatic Europe spot but ultimately fall short, although cup competition success could be a possibility for the Hammers. They will ultimately finish 7th again this season.

6- Liverpool

The first full season under Jurgen Klopp will feature a side with more confidence offensively especially with the signing of Georginio Wijanaldum joining with their creative players. The focus will be on defense which looks to feature newcomer Joel Matip in place of the departed Martin Skirtel, but new keeper Lorius Karius will miss the beginning of the season after breaking a hand which will place the success of the team in the unsure hands of Simon Mignolet. That will be enough to keep Liverpool out of the top five at the end of the year.


Automatic European Qualifiers

5- Tottenham

Last season’s third place finisher is due for a little drop this year as some of the top team’s are back with improved rosters, while Spurs only brought in a backup striker and a defensive minded midfielder who may not be able to break into the Mauricio Pochettino’s league starting 11. That along with having to add Champions League fixtures to the schedule will leave the North London just outside the top 4 when al is said and done.

4- Manchester United

He’s back! No I am not talking about Paul Pogba, I am referring to  Manager Jose Mourinho, who after a disastrous first half of last season at Chelsea is back in the Premier League with Manchester United. While he has spent a boatload of money on players, his preference to have a small squad will bite this team in the butt as he has quite a few players that find themselves injured just as much as they are healthy. This will leave the team in the top four which will qualify them for the playoff rounds of the 2017-18 Champions League.

3- Chelsea

After a disappointing season new manager Antonio Conte will look to change the formation of the team. He has brought in Leicester engine N’Golo Kante who looks to be a key piece in the middle of the Blues 4-2-4 formation. New signing Michy Batshuayi should push striker Diego Costa and fill in nicely when the Spaniard is unavailable through injury or suspension. This should see Chelsea return to the Champions League after a season without European competition.

2- Arsenal

This season should see Arsenal finish in a very familiar position after failing to bring in a striker for yet another season. They did address the issue at holding midfield by signing Granit Xhaka from Borussia Monchengladbach. They will start the season with Calum Chambers and Rob Holding as their only centre backs, however if they can weather the storm then they will finish near the top in what could be Arsene Wenger’s final campaign with the Gunners.


Champions

1- Manchester City

At the end of the season there is one team that has improved even more than the rest of the competition and that is Manchester City. They replaced solid manager Manuel Pellegrini with world class manager Pep Guardiola. A flurry of top signings will see the Citizens celebrating another title as they have a manager and the depth to be successful in all the competitions they will be participating in.