2016-17 Premier League Predictions

premier league logo

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.

 

 

Going For Gold

USWNT Olympics

The site of the final group match for the USWNT took place in the Brazilian city of Manaus. After their 1-0 victory over France in Belo Horizonte on Saturday the team was assured of a place in the quarterfinals of the Olympic soccer tournament. Needing only a draw to win the group, manager Jill Ellis had ability to rest some of her more important players to ensure they were as fresh as possible for the next round.

The match against Columbia took place without five of the usual starters. Defenders Julie Johnston, and  Meghan Klingenberg, midfielders Tobin Heath, Allie Long, and forward Alex Morgan were all rested for parts of the match, although Long and Morgan made appearances in the second half. In their place were Whitney Engen, Ali Krieger, Lindsey Horan, Megan Rapinoe, and Christen Press.

The early part of the game was spent in the Columbian’s defensive half until a rash challenge by Megan Rapinoe brought a free kick just outside the American 18 yard box. Columbia capitalized on this opportunity by putting the ball between Hope Solo’s legs and into the back of the net to give Columbia their first ever goal in the Olympics as well as their first goal against the United States.

Less than 10 minutes later Rapinoe was taken off in a pre-planned substitution and 18-year-old Mallory Pugh was put into the match. With her ability to play both wings, Pugh was able to interchange with Chrystal Dunn to cause some extra confusion for the Columbian defense. This confusion led to Dunn’s goal where she was left unmarked on the back post after a shot by Carli Lloyd ricochet into the 6-yard box. The American’s found this equalizer mere minutes before halftime to give some hope to the team going into the break.

Out of the locker-room Jill Ellis made her second of three subs by taking captain Carli Lloyd off in favor of forward Alex Morgan. This helped the team pile on the pressure which was eventually capped off when Dunn sent in a cross from the left side. First half sub Mallory Pugh found herself on the ball before she cut along the top of the 6-yard box and fired home the go-ahead goal. With that goal she became the youngest player in USWNT history to score at the Olympics.

The rest of the game featured mostly possession by the Americans, with a few counter-attacking opportunities for the Columbians. In the 90th minute Kelley O’Hara made a reckless tackle deep in the defensive half which led to another dangerous free kick opportunity for Columbia. When the ball was struck, Solo appeared to be cheating towards a cross rather than a shot and that led to her being out of position as she watched the ball sail into the net for a late equalizer.

Despite Hope Solo’s shocking struggles, missed opportunities were the biggest story of the game as the Americans had countless chances in the offensive zone that resulted in goal kicks and one could wonder how different the outcome would have been if some of those chances had been put home. In the end it did not matter as the Americans are through to the Quarterfinals as the champions of their group.