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2017-18 Premier League Season Preview: The Contenders


Liverpool

Manager: Jurgen Klopp
Club Value: €457,500,00
Key Players: Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane, Joel Matip, Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino


Last season Liverpool were perhaps the closest example of Jekyll and Hyde a football club could be. The Reds were unbeaten against Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United, yet managed to lose to clubs like Hull City, Crystal Palace, Swansea City and Leicester City. Liverpool still finished fourth in the table, but with several points dropped to teams in the bottom half of the table, you could make the argument that last season was a disappointment for the Merseyside club.

Liverpool employed Jurgen Klopp’s Gegenpress style of play, which at times worked out very well with pacey players like Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho pressing high up the pitch. However, goalkeeping was lackluster for periods at a time. Loris Karius was brought in the supplant Simon Mignolet, but was ultimately outperformed by the incumbent as Mignolet recorded nine clean sheets to Karius’ three.

Reds supporters shouldn’t be complaining about significant losses this summer via the transfer window. Lucas Leiva (Lazio, $7 million) and Kevin Stewart (Hull City, $5 million) have been the only notable players Liverpool has sold this summer.

While Liverpool had one of the more dangerous attacks in the Premier League a year ago, that didn’t stop them from adding to it in hopes to make one of the best in the league. Mohamed Salah (Roma, $48 million) earmarks a rather quiet transfer window for Klopp. Salah recorded 15 goals and 13 assists in Seria A last year at Roma. The Egyptian gives Klopp another winger with pace at his disposal.

A finish outside the top four could leave Klopp without a job. Liverpool are sort of a wild card. They have enough talent to challenge for a Premier League title, but have shown they struggle at times against clubs in the bottom half of the table. If Liverpool want to safely secure Champions League qualification, they’ll need to iron those issues out.

Manchester City

Manager: Pep Guardiola
Club Value: €615,000,000
Key Players: Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, Ilkay Gundogan

Manchester City may have been one of the biggest disappointments in the league a year ago, despite finishing third in the table. Pep Guardiola was brought in to replace former manager Manual Pellegrini, which signaled the club had it’s sights set high. Guardiola’s previous stints at Barcelona and Bayern Munich saw him raise plenty of silverware, which led many to think he would do the same for Manchester City in his first season with the club.

With the arrival of Guardiola came his possession based play style. City, who had the highest average of time spent with possession, stayed on the ball to and forced their opponents chase. Guardiola’s play style was met with criticism as City players seemed more interested in passing the ball rather than creating chances to score.

Kelechi Iheanacho was seen as a young and promising forward the Premier League. The 20 year old Nigerian has tallied 12 goals and five assists in 1,278 minutes played in the top flight. He was one of the more efficient scorers in the Premier League, but that didn’t stop Manchester City from selling him to Leicester City for £25 million. Iheanacho wasn’t the only player sold by City. Aleksander Kolorav was sent to Roma for £4.5 million and Nolito sold to Sevilla for an undisclosed fee.

While City have been quiet in terms of selling players, they’ve thrown some money around this summer to bring a few new faces into the club, specifically defenders. Danilo (Real Madrid, £26.9 million), Kyle Walker (Tottenham, £45 million) and Benjamin Mendy (Monaco, £49.2 million) were brought in to help bolster the City backline which struggled at times last season. It’s likely that Walker and Mendy will see the most time at both fullback positions while Danilo should help add some depth.

Pep Guardiola’s men will once again head into the season as title favorites. This is likely the most talented side in the League that should at the very least find itself in the top four come next May. However, will Guardiola’s ego get in his way and prevent him from making tweaks to his system which some times showed it wasn’t the best for navigating through a Premier League campaign?

Tottenham Hotspur

Manager: Mauricio Pochettino
Club Value: €460,500,000
Key Players: Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Hugo Lloris, Victor Wanyama, Toby Alderweireld, Christian Eriksen

For the first time in 22 years St. Totteringham’s Day was canceled in North London as Spurs finally finished ahead of Arsenal in the Premier League table.Tottenham followed up an impressive 2015/16 season with an even better 2016/17. The North Londoners had a run play over the final 13 matches that saw them take 36 of a possible 39 points as they looked to overtake Chelsea at the top of the table. Ultimately, Spurs would finish seven points behind champions Chelsea.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side may be one of the most balanced team in the league. The Spurs attack was one of the best in the Premiership, led by the duo of Harry Kane and Dele Alli, which saw the two combine for 47 goals and 16 assists. Kane led the league in goals last year, finding the back of the net 29 times. On top of a dangerous attack, Tottenham also was the best defensive sides as they only conceded 26 goals, which was fewest in the league. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was the benefactor of this as he ranked second in the league with 15 clean sheets.

Tottenham has been rather quiet in terms of buying and selling players in the summer transfer window. Defender Kyle Walker was sold to Manchester City for £45 million. Kieran Trippier should see significant time at right back as he figures to be the replacement for Walker.

Spurs have yet to bring someone into the club on transfer, but even so they still figure to be right in the conversation for title contenders this season. Champions League play will test their depth, but if they cn manage to stay healthy, there’s no reason for Spurs to be in the thick of things at the top of the table come next April and May.

Chelsea

Manager: Antonio Conte
Club Value: €595,800,000

Key Players: Eden Hazard, N’Golo Kante, Thibault Courtois, David Luiz, Cesar Azplicueta

Chelsea bounced back from a disappointing 2015/16 campaign with one of the best seasons we’ve ever seen from a Premier League club. Antonio Conte’s side finished the season with 93 points and won a total of 30 matches, which is the most wins from a Premier League club in one season. After implementing a 3-4-3 formation following a 3-0 drubbing to Arsenal, Chelsea went on to win 13-consecutive matches in the league.

Conte’s change to a 3-4-3 formation is the biggest reason Chelsea won the league. It essentially allowed players like Victor Moses and Marcus Alonso to get forward when attacking and also gave Chelsea a back-five when they wanted to sit back and absorb their opponents pressure. The freedom to allow Moses and Alonso to get forward, to go along with N’Golo Kante making it difficult for the opposition to operate in the midfield, also helped Chelsea become one of the better counter attacking clubs in the league.

As of now, only one significant piece from last year’s club has been sold in the transfer market (We expect that to change at some point with Diego Costa submitting a transfer request last week). Nemanja Matic was sent to the northwest of England where he’ll reunited with former manager Jose Mourinho at Manchester United for an undisclosed fee. Along with Matic, defender Nathan Ake (£19.3 million) was sold to Bournemouth, following a short loan stint he had with the club.

With Costa on his way out at some point, Chelsea needed to find his replacement. After swinging and missing on Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea found there man in Alvaro Morata. The Real Madrid striker cost the West Londoners £70 million. Morata only saw 1,331 minutes last year for Real, but he made most of them, scoring 15 goals to go along with five assists. Chelsea also added Monaco midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko for an undisclosed fee. Bakayoko figures to slot in next to Kante in the midfield with Matic on his way to Manchester United. The Blues were one of the better defensive sides in the Premier league, only yeilding 33 goals. Still, that didn’t stop Chelsea from adding another defender. Roma’s Antonio Rudiger was added to club for an undisclosed fee. Rudiger should challenge for starting minutes and add depth to one of the better backlines in the league.

After the several additions made this summer, Antonio Conte’s side will have the depth to challenge for multiple trophies this year. Should Chelsea fail to capture any silverware this year Conte could find himself on the hot seat.

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