By now, you’ve probably seen our staff predictions for the 2019-20 Premier League season. But everybody knows either Manchester City or Liverpool are going to win the league, a group of Arsenal writers are going to pick the Gunners to finish in the top four, and at least one of the newly promoted teams is going right back down.
I mean, as predictions go, those are fine. But let’s face it: you want piping hot takes. You want predictions that will make you a lot of money if you can find someone to give you odds on them. You want the banter that will make you the star of your soccer-centric group text.
- The Invincibles record will fall. City and Liverpool are that much better than the rest of the pack, and one of them will win-draw against the other.
- Liverpool will not concede more than a goal in any league game this season. Virgil van Dijk is that good.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette will combine for 45+ league goals. Arsenal is going to need every single one of them. Have you looked at the Gunners’ defensive depth chart lately? That was written before the close of the window, now I feel...okay about Arsenal’s defense. The potential for catastrophe is still there.
- Sokratis will lead the Premier League in yellow cards, red cards, and VAR-awarded penalties. It’s a brave new replay-assisted world, and I don’t think the Greek defender is going to enjoy living in it. The most likely reason this prediction fails - Sokratis doesn’t adjust his game and gets benched.
- Sheffield United will give Derby County a run for their money. In 2007/08, Derby County completed the worst season since England went to three points for a win in 1981, racking up 11 points and recording one single solitary win, while conceding 89 goals.
Fast forward to now, look at this roster, and tell me it’ll be good enough to get a point total in the teens. I’m skeptical.
- Ole Gunnar Solskjær won’t last the season. This may not be a scorching hot take, but after he signed his permanent deal last season, the Cinderella slipper he put on when he took over as interim fell off, and Manchester United reverted to being...whatever they are. That trend won’t improve this year, and I have a feeling that by January, someone else will be setting out the cones at Manchester United.
- Pepe will lead the league in assists. Arsenal were third in goals scored last season. The acquisition of this promising winger bolsters an already fierce attack, and there is no reason to think 15+ assists is out of the question. The expectations could not be higher for the Ivorian starlet.
- Arsenal will win away twice against a top six team. It may not look that bold, but Arsenal have not won an away game in the past five(!) seasons against the top six. I have confidence our mentality is evolving, and that Arsenal find a way to take all three points at Stamford Bridge and White Hart Lane.
- FA Cup will be won by a team outside last season’s top eight. The importance of playing in Europe next season (2020/21) has never been higher. Don’t be surprised to see a gritty and well-organized team (West Ham, Leicester, etc.) hoist the cup at Wembley, while the top of the table focuses elsewhere.
- Solskjær is out by Boxing Day. After the group stages end in European competitions is when there tends to be a phase of managerial turnovers. Unless Ole gets impressive results in the first three months, then there may be a new gaffer on the United touchline come December 26th. Déjà vu for United with Jose.
- VAR will decide the Premier League title - The opening weeks of the new system in the Premier League will seem chaotic at times and settle in by the winter. But late season matches will see a key, game-changing decision overturned by VAR and shift the title into new hands.
- Norwich Surprise - Picked to be relegated after not spending much, the Canaries end the season safely in 14th place. A summer of strengthening sees the side push for the top half of the table in 2020/21.
- Steve Bruce is the first manager to go - Not the man for the style of play Newcastle need or want with their exciting attacking players. By November the results aren’t there and a new manager is brought in who saves the season.
- Former players thrive as coaches - Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Frank Lampard both end up creating successful seasons for both of their clubs. They connect with the fans and boardroom, singling a new era of Premier League manager.
- The top six will be closer to a top eight - Last season showed that the middle of Premier League was as competitive as the top end. Wolves, Everton, Leicester and West Ham all finished within five points of one another and will close the gap between them and the rest of the top six, putting considerable pressure on the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal.
- Arsenal will win some silverware - The Gunners have quality depth in the attack in what feels like the first time in a while. Pepe will adjust to the Prem and finally bring a wide presence to the Gunners. The promising youth will make their names in cup competitions and propel Arsenal deep across multiple fronts. While the Gunners won’t win the title, they should finally bring home European hardware in the Europa League while also finishing in the Top 4.
- ...but so will Spurs - Tottenham came perilously close to winning the Champions League last season, but the soccer gods intervened and ensured another trophy-less campaign for Arsenal’s cross-town rival. But let’s face it - Spurs have been knocking on the door for quite some time under Pochettino. While the league will still come down to Liverpool and Manchester City, Spurs should have enough firepower to be able to lift the Carabao Cup for their first meaningful silverware in approximately 1,000 years.
• Dani Ceballos will make everyone forget about Aaron Ramsey - At least, we need him to. Losing Ramsey’s nuanced yet effective attacking prowess inherently stunts what was already an area on the pitch with on-the-cusp-yet-not-quite-fully-there players at that position.
Ceballos, wearing number eight this season, possesses a similar skill set to the last guy who wore that shirt, a knack for finding space and having the ball at his feet looking ahead for open teammates, but not quite the nose for a goal - unlike his predecessor.
It’s imperative Emery maximizes Ceballos’s talent in advancing the ball forward, because he has a world-class front three that should and will link play and movements together that can open up even the stingiest of defenses in the league.
• Mesut Ozil and Unai Emery discover they need each other more than they possibly, ever knew - Ozil and his head coach have more or less said that whatever issues they had last year that things are in a much better place ahead of this season. I don’t think I need to convince you that happy players play better than unhappy ones, or that happy coaches are more effective than unhappy ones.
Emery’s contract is worded as such that the club can cut him loose after this season without any financial obligations, and given that the club vastly exceeded everyones’ transfer window expectations the pressure is on Emery to demonstrate that, with a nearly fully-remade first team fit to his preferred style of players, he’s the kind of coach that told the Board and Stan Kroenke he’d be able to steer them back into the Champions League.
If one is to take their words about each other during the preseason at face value and Ozil’s put the past in the rear view, and Emery understands how to position him among the many intricate, moving parts in the attack...well, his presence looming in the midfield alone - by itself existing in its own silo, of sorts - is such that we might always just a second away from turning nothing into something, in the matter of a blink of an eye.
- Freddie Ljungberg, not Unai Emery, will lead Arsenal to 4th place. With a wealth of attacking talent and some defensive improvements, Arsenal look good to finish in the top 4. But having failed to utilize his attacking players to their fullest potential last season, Unai Emery will do the same again. With Arsenal on the outside looking in in December, technical director Edu will sack his former manager, and give the reigns of the club to his former teammate, Freddie Ljungberg. Actually utilizing the attacking talents at his disposal his knowledge of Academy prospects, plus well-placed phone calls from a certain former French manager of the club, Freddie will see Arsenal climb into the top 4.
- Manchester United will finish behind Everton. Look, I don’t think Everton or Wolves make the jump into the top 4, nor make a permanent entry into the big 6, but Everton is going to finish ahead of Manchester United. Ole might be at the wheel, but his Sir Alex Ferguson Fan Account act isn’t going to work for long. At some point, the players will work out that this is the guy who got relegated with Cardiff, and then sacked by Cardiff for being 20th in the Championship. Maybe they already have. Either way, United are going to suck this year.
- Shkodran Mustafi will captain Arsenal in at least one game this year. I don’t have much to add here, but honestly, I’d find it incredibly funny.
- Arsenal will make a splash January signing. We’re top 4 come January 1st, Raul pulls out the Rolodex and splashes the cash on a significant signing
- adidas makes us proud to wear a kit in public again. Ok ok ok, I know they’ve already been released, but damn I LOVE KITS (and team gear), and I live in Portland (hello adidas employee store) so I’ve been setting aside funds for Arsenal gear since rumors emerged about the new contract.
- Patrick Vieira will be the manager of Arsenal Football Club in 2020. That was fun to get that off my chest.
Scott Willis (@oh_that_crab):
LATE ADDITION BECAUSE LIFE GETS IN THE WAY OF BOLD PREDICTIONS SOME TIMES
- Wolves will get dragged into the relegation battle. This might be more tepid but Wolves didn’t make a of additions that will improve their starting 11, they have Erupoa League that will stretch their smallish squad and their performance against the top teams won’t be repeated. That is a recipe for a disappointing season and I think that they will be safe but the early Spring will show them within shouting distance of the drop.
- Spurs will drop to third among the London teams. I’m stupidly high on Chelsea. The loss of Eden Hazard will hurt but Michy Batshuayi + Tammy Abraham + Christian Pulisic should come close to equaling the production of Hazard + Oliver Giroud + Gonzalo Higuain. I think that they should still have a solid defense and one of the best mid fields. I also think that while Spurs have added some good players they have ridden their luck to get to their high finish last year and maybe it snaps back the other way this season.
- Raheem Sterling wins the golden boot. Manchester City are going to score a lot of goals, Sergio Agüero is still really good but father time comes for everyone and he will start to decline this year. The City system is set to maximize Sterling and he will become the main threat for the hard loss crosses to tap in. Sterling who will score 25+ goals this season and probably get player of the year honors.