While predictions seem easier now that the world’s most formidable league is in full swing, Chris Lierly and Andrew Noland came to the rational conclusion that getting paid was better for posterity.
1. Liverpool FC
So this is anything but objective, but Liverpool will win the League because of the most dominant attack in Europe let alone England. Mo Salah is coming off of the greatest season for a player in the history of the Premier League and will be playing alongside two attackers in Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, who never cease to surprise the world with their ferocious attack and odd antics. This year, the Gegenpress that Jurgen Klopp dominated the current champions with last year will show how dominant of a manger he is when that jovial German lifts the trophy at season’s end.
2. Manchester City
In terms of talent, City remains the best team in Europe. They kept together an attack and mid that rival the powerhouses of European football, and their defense holds their own while contributing to the attack themselves. Pep Guardiola is the best manager alive and one of the all-time greats, and adding Riyad Mahrez to his arsenal of weapons only further helps his chances. That said, the Catalonian mastermind will have to manage an incredible season to stay at second in a Premier League that promises to be a bloodbath.
Chelsea will be an important part of the aforementioned bloodbath. With new manager Maurizio Sarri at the helm, Chelsea will not look like the Chelsea of years past, beside the fact that they’re still owned by the same Russian oligarch. Their big change is swapping an erratic and emotional Italian manager for a cold and calculating Italian manager. Sarri’s namesake playing system will confuse teams all across England next year, but this year, it will mostly confuse his players. They will get to third mostly on Hazard and Kante’s talent alone.
4. Tottenham Hotspurs
Tottenham round out the real contenders to win the title this year. Putting them at fourth isn’t slighting them. This top four will likely come down to a very small point difference, and we probably won’t have a champion until the last few weeks. Tottenham have a chance to go far in Europe this year under the leadership of the newlywed Prince’s better-looking, better-playing and overall superior name-sharing countryman, Harry Kane (sorry, Meghan, we still love you). But seriously, this Spurs defense is scary, so whether they hold back the attacks of City and Liverpool will decide where they land.
If you thought my picks were comical before, you definitely think so now. Watford isn’t really a name that strikes fear into other managers’ hearts, but that could change this year. With three teams usually in the top seven (United, Arsenal and Everton) all looking to have historically bad seasons, Watford’s early season looks hopeful. Richarlison and the rest of the Golden Boys will finish just below the real contenders this season, and while the might not turn out to be a true Cinderella team, they will look a lot better than the teams formerly known as Manchester United and Everton.
6. Manchester United
Andrew really thinks Mourinho will be on his own Brexit path by the time of the break in January, but that’s because he has faith in humanity. No, Jose Mourinho will make it one more season before being replaced by the headbutting legend that is Zinedine Zidane. Until that happens, the atmosphere on the Red’s side of Manchester will remain hostile. Pogba will return to Juventus, Rashford will legitimately consider leaving, and Alexi Sanchez will have traded in Wenger for a much worse evil. Look forward to next year, Devil’s fans. You won’t have your stars, but you won’t have the man holding them back either.
Wenger’s gone, so to quote the country’s real patron saint. “The bloody dog is dead.” However, Unai Emery’s move from Paris to North London, though not completely voluntary, will not turn out near as rosy as the fans on Arsenal TV think it will. Mark my word, all of us will see “Emery Out” banners by the end of the year. They’ll finish seventh for many reasons. Aubameyang is fast, but not as fast as the BVB Aubameyang of three years ago, and he will have to rely on better passes and a better system to play as well as his past self. Mesut Ozil is currently in the worst slump we’ve possibly ever seen, and Emery will use 2018-19 as the season to prove just how incompetent he really is.
1. Manchester City
I know, I just went the ESPN route with this one: pick the safe team and act like it makes you a genius if it happens. Yeah, well, it’ll see me through when Pep finally overcomes his own third season curse. With the Citizens having another year under the Catalan coach’s tactical system, and propelled by the unmatched ability of the most underrated yet explosive striker in Sergio Aguero, the vision of Kyle Walker, and the successor to Messi in Kevin De Bruyne, this team will repeat. Their championship in the spring will spark hushed conversations in pubs all around England involving the word “dynasty.”
2. Tottenham Hotspurs
This is Harry Kane’s world now, and we’re all just along for the ride. I have Tottenham as runners-up because I predict them to make the next step in their march to English domination. Christian Eriksen is the linchpin of the London side, and Heung Min Son looks better and better with each game. With their Belgian duo in the backline, and Lloris looking impassable after a World Cup triumph, Tottenham look like a team with no weaknesses. In winter, when they actually do buy players to shore up their weakness at right wing and midfield, and continue to gel under Mauricio Pochettino, I anticipate their success will largely translate to European football. Their form will carry them just short of lifting the title in England, but they’ll look even better for the next season.
3. Liverpool FC
While many are predicting them to finish runners-up, if not declaring victory in spring for themselves, I’m predicting Jurgen Klopp to devote all his resources to European football. While this is undeniably a superteam, I don’t buy that Mohamed Salah and company can both accomplish the Herculean feat of conquering the Champions League and the ever-chaotic nature of the Premier League. Klopp will have to pick one or the other, and he wants the international trophy that has eluded him his entire career.
4. Manchester United
I admit, this is a bold prediction, considering their current form and my predicted fifth-place team’s current standing, but hear me out: come December, the loyal fans of Manchester United will be rewarded by witnessing Pogba dropkick Mourinho into a plane out of England forever. With literally any other competent manager, the Red Devils should rally and storm their way out of mid-table position into the final Champions League spot. Watch out, Europe: 2019 is the Year of Marcus Rashford.
A self-professed fan of the Blues, I think Chelsea need time to figure out and translate Sarri’s system into English football. Right now, they’re winning off the undeniable ability of superstar Eden Hazard, and while that might be enough for every other team, the other four teams I have placed above them possess not only the talent, but the cohesion to rob the Blues of crucial points. Come May, Chelsea will find themselves back in a Europa League position and waving good-bye to their Belgian hero.
Okay, yeah, I picked Watford here too. Although one can say that it’s too early in the season to be putting a resource weak Watford side anywhere near title contention, this is more a comment on the weakness of my surprise ranking than the virtues of the Hornets. They look impressive under manager Javi Gracia, and it is no fluke that they beat a Son-less Tottenham. Watford should finish high in the standings, led by a top-three goalscorer at the end of the season in Troy Deeney.
You can’t @ me, Arsenal fans —- I don’t have a Twitter. Paris San Germain barely survived Emery’s tenure, and I’ll tell you, there’s no eureka moment in which the Spaniard is the solution to Arsenal’s current woes. His obsession with tactics rather than people proved his undoing when he left the PSG locker room in shambles last spring, and he’ll do the same to the turbulent, ego-ridden London squad. I can easily see them losing every single game against any of the other “Big Six” teams, which mathematically already costs them thirty points. Ozil needs a man-manager, one that can slap him in the face and return him to his 2014 form, and Emery is more likely to stare at a whiteboard than look at the field. Arsenal will suffer their worst season in recent memory and face utter collapse as its fans riot. Although “Wenger Out” was definitely a step in the right direction, it doesn’t mean that Emery wasn’t also a step back.