Home SPORTS Premier League 2017-18 fans’ previews, part 1: Arsenal to Liverpool

Premier League 2017-18 fans’ previews, part 1: Arsenal to Liverpool

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Arsenal

Until we discover the fate of our Chilean Duracell Bunny it’s hard to know what to expect. If Sánchez stays, we’ll be feeling pretty positive. If not … more than anything else I’m just praying for the sort of motivated start to our campaign that could at least postpone the Wenger Out/In hostilities. The entire aerial banner industry must be waiting with bated breath for our first defeat.

Key players With Lacazette likely to be denied the time and space of Ligue 1 there’s doubt over whether our biggest signing (to date?) has the wherewithal to solve our holy grail quest for that elusive, 30-goal fox in the box. We’ll see. At least the Thursday night Europa League schleps could give youngsters such as Nelson, Willock, Bielik and Bramall a chance to grab some limelight.

Weak links Wenger’s apparent pursuit of the optimum jack-of-all-trades partnership in the middle of the park continues to deprive our rearguard of protection from a proper defensive midfield monster.

Headline generator A truculent Jens Lehmann might be good for a touchline barney or two. Otherwise, it’ll all be about Arsène’s inertia.

Favourite moment in 25 years of the Premier League Seeing Dennis Bergkamp gracing a red and white shirt every week – and the perpetual schadenfreude of nabbing Sol Campbell from the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road.

Predictions – we will finish: 3rd with Sánchez, 6th without. Top four: 1. Chelsea; 2. Man City; 3. Arsenal; 4. Everton. The bottom three: 18. Watford; 19. Brighton; 20. Huddersfield. First manager sacked: Marco Silva (Watford). Who will be promoted? Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Norwich.

Bernard Azulay; goonersdiary.co.uk, @GoonerN5

Bournemouth

It’s going to be hard to beat last season – but the signs are pretty good. We’ve added experienced Premier League players and held on to Eddie Howe and Josh King. So – so far, at least – it’s been a favourable, relatively quiet summer.

Key players Nathan Aké and Jermain Defoe are already big fans’ favourites, and Asmir Begovic is a fine addition. 20-year-old Connor Mahoney joined from Blackburn and looks good enough for the first team already, even though the club says he’ll play in the under-23s. King will be a marked man but we’re also hoping Callum Wilson makes a strong comeback from injury.

Weak links Goals from the centre of midfield. We may find that England Under-20s captain Lewis Cook features more this season, though: he has the ability to get forward and chip in. Elsewhere, signing another right-back would be reassuring: Adam Smith tends to get involved in a lot of bruising encounters.

Headline generator It used to be Harry Arter but he’s mellowed. Artur Boruc is always one to watch but otherwise it’s hard to say. Who would have thought Tyrone Mings would have ended up in so much trouble last season with Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

Favourite moment in 25 years of the Premier League For us it has to be beating Liverpool 4-3 last season with a last-minute winner. It was a dream having lost to them so many times.

Predictions – we will finish: 10th. Top four: 1. Chelsea; 2. Manchester United; 3. Manchester City; 4. Everton. The bottom three: 18. Burnley; 19. Swansea; 20. Huddersfield. First manager sacked: Paul Clement (Swansea). Who will be promoted? Middlesbrough, Reading and Fulham.

Peter Bell; afcbchimes.blogspot.co.uk @CherryChimes

Jermain Defoe



Jermain Defoe: fans’ favourite. Photograph: Mark Kerton/Action Plus via Getty

Brighton

We’re extremely well-prepared after years spent planning for this: an outstanding new stadium, and state-of-the-art training facilities. Everyone is fired up anticipating the season, it’s beyond exciting – we’re still riding the wave of joy from April when players joined fans on trains heading for the city to celebrate promotion. The chairman Tony Bloom, a lifelong supporter who has put millions into the club, is an absolute legend, and often stands with the crowd at away matches.

Key players Several: Anthony Knockaert – the little genius; Dale Stephens, who put his heart into last season’s promotion campaign after the club refused to sell him to Burnley; Solly March – only 23 but grounded, intelligent and level-headed; Connor Goldson and Tomer Hemed. Then there are calm, experienced heads such as Glenn Murray (who said winning promotion with Brighton was more fun than it was with Palace), Bruno, Liam Rosenior (chin up), Steve Sidwell (best fan song) and these days even Lewis Dunk – surely a future England defender.

Weak links The atrocious Southern Rail service to the Amex. It’ll mean empty seats at the start of games as fans arrive late.

Headline generator Since Poogate, we’ve not been big on scandal. But Knockaert can throw his toys out of the pram.

Favourite moment in 25 years of the Premier League Palace’s run without a win in 2016.

Predictions – we will finish: 10th. Top four: 1. Arsenal; 2. Manchester United; 3. Manchester City; 4. Liverpool. The bottom three: 18. Bournemouth; 19. West Brom; 20. Huddersfield. First manager sacked: Mark Hughes (Stoke). Who will be promoted? Aston Villa, Fulham and Middlesbrough.

Steph Fincham, Observer reader

Glenn Murray



Glenn Murray: calm and experienced. Photograph: ProSports/REX/Shutterstock

Burnley

Having survived a Premier League season for the first time and seen the club continue to build, there’s every reason for cautious optimism. We’re moving in the right direction. It’s likely to be another difficult season but we can achieve success by staying up.

Key players We’ve added players who are going to bring us some real top-level experience: Jon Walters and Phil Bardsley from Stoke and Jack Cork from Swansea. There are youngsters to watch, too, including striker Dan Agyei, who emerged last season, making three sub appearances.

Weak links We’re not a top-six club so there will be weak links – but our strength comes from unity. There are areas to work on, though: we’re still looking for a replacement for Michael Keane, so we’re low on numbers in defence.

Headline generator We don’t tend to do rows or bust-ups, but Sean Dyche’s press conferences often produce some funny lines. He’s so relaxed in them and likes to have some fun with the journalists.

Favourite moment in 25 years of the Premier League It’s one that was as funny as it was embarrassing – an episode of Goals on Sunday in 2009 when our then manager Owen Coyle blamed referee Chris Foy for all the goals we conceded in a 5-3 defeat at West Ham. We were 5-0 down at one point, and properly dreadful.

Predictions – we will finish: 14th. Top four: 1. Manchester City; 2. Manchester United; 3. Chelsea; 4. Liverpool. The bottom three: 18. Stoke; 19. Brighton; 20. Huddersfield. First manager sacked: Mark Hughes (Stoke). Who will be promoted? Middlesbrough, Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday.

Tony Scholes, uptheclarets.com, @utcdotcom

Phil Bardsley



Phil Bardsley : top-level experience. Photograph: BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

Chelsea

I’m really not sure how to feel about this season. Conte has made no secret we needed to strengthen significantly and the club, in my opinion, have failed to deliver. We suffered very few significant injuries last season – to enter the campaign with this thin a squad is pushing our luck. Chelsea’s feast or famine approach to transfers continues.

Key players Hazard – so fans are holding their breath to see how long his injury will keep him out. And with Costa’s extended vacation, there will be a lot of pressure on new boy Morata. As for youngsters: I was disappointed but not surprised to see some of the most promising leave – especially Chalobah and Aké. Jérémie Boga is highly rated too but he also seems destined for a loan.

Weak links Victor Moses.

Headline generator If he returns, Costa. Stunts have included extreme jet-skiing with his dog and quad-biking through quagmires. He’ll be firing fireworks through his bathroom window next.

Favourite moment in 25 years of the Premier League A toss-up between the media love-in over Wenger’s 1,000th game ending in a 6-0 win for us, and the celebrations after our 2004-05 title win, where Robert Huth took it on himself to car-jack the groundman’s tractor and career around the pitch with £100m of talent holding on to the back for dear life.

Predictions – we will finish: 2nd. Top four: 1. Manchester City; 2. Chelsea; 3. Manchester United; 4. Liverpool. The bottom three: 18. Huddersfield; 19. Watford; 20. Burnley. First manager sacked: Craig Shakespeare (Leicester). Who will be promoted? Aston Villa, Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday.

Trizia Fiorellino, chelseasupportersgroup.net

Alvaro Morata



Alvaro Morata: under pressure. Photograph: Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images for ICC

Crystal Palace

It’s never easy to predict how Palace will do – just expect the unexpected. Frank de Boer is pushing a 3‑4‑3: last time we tried something that drastic, under Alan Pardew, we came very unstuck. We have more trust in FdB, though. With a new goalkeeper, central defender and backup forward we could do OK.

Key players Wilfried Zaha has been at the top of his game in pre-season, and Jaido Riedewald is a strong buy from Ajax. We’ve also been linked with keeper Adrián and defender Calum Chambers, who could both make a difference. Youngsters Jason Lokilo, Luke Dreher and Nya Kirby may push for a squad slot.

Weak links Wayne Hennessey is still not filling fans with confidence: I’d be amazed if another keeper doesn’t arrive before the opener against Huddersfield. The other worry is that the new formation may not suit Christian Benteke, who was vital to our survival last season.

Headline generator I suspect a lot of the controversy will be the manager speaking out about the brutal treatment Zaha gets from defenders who have no answer to his pace and skill.

Favourite moment in 25 years of the Premier League Crystanbul (the comeback from 3-0 down at home to Liverpool to ruin their title hopes in 2014) will live long in the memory. And life under the dynamic management duo of Attilio Lombardo and Tomas Brolin in 1997-98 still raises a wry smile, some 20 years on.

Predictions – we will finish: 12th. Top four: 1. Chelsea; 2. Manchester City; 3. Tottenham; 4. Arsenal. The bottom three: 18. Burnley; 19. Huddersfield; 20. Brighton. First manager sacked: Slaven Bilic (West Ham). Who will be promoted? Aston Villa, Fulham and Middlesbrough.

Chris Waters, palacetrust.org.uk, @Clapham_Grand

Wilfried Zaha



Wilfried Zaha: top of his game in pre-season. Photograph: Power Sport Images/Getty Images

Everton

There’s a proper feeling of optimism after the way the club has gone about its business. Just worth keeping in mind we can’t expect it all to click straight away after throwing so much money around.

Key players Usually Lukaku has a place in this category. We’ll miss his goals but not his effort. In his place there are several quality attacking options – and with Sandro, Klaassen and Rooney pitching in alongside Mirallas, the goals should be spread around.

Weak links I honestly can’t see one. We now have a top-quality goalkeeper, centre-half, midfielder and striker – so everything’s looking better than it was this time last season. And the window still has time to run: we’re hoping to sign another striker, a defender and a midfielder before it closes.

Headline generator No doubt Rooney will make headlines whatever he does, good or bad. But I’m also hoping Klaassen, Sandro and Davies will get plenty of coverage for their goalscoring prowess.

Favourite moment in 25 years of the Premier League There are two. Tim Howard’s 100-yard goal against Bolton in 2012, and, obviously, a Duncan Ferguson moment. In 2004 Big Dunc took hold of Steffen Freund and threw him to the floor. After getting a second yellow, he then throttled Freund for good measure and aimed a gesture at the Leicester fans as he walked off. Cult status from us.

Predictions – we will finish: 6th. Top four: 1. Manchester City; 2. Chelsea; 3. Tottenham; 4. Manchester Utd. The bottom three: 18. Stoke; 19. Newcastle; 20. Huddersfield. First manager sacked: Mark Hughes (Stoke). Who will be promoted? Leeds, Hull and Aston Villa.

Steve Jones, @bluekippercom

Wayne Rooney



Wayne Rooney: focal point. Photograph: Carl Recine/Action Images via Reuters

Huddersfield

Little time was wasted between Christopher Schindler’s promotion-clinching spot-kick and a flurry of early window activity which saw us break our transfer record several times over. Much like last year, our business has been done swiftly to maximise the time the squad spends together. We’ve never been in better shape and, with David Wagner at the helm, fans are quietly confident we can upset the odds again.

Key players Aaron Mooy formed one of the Championship’s best midfield duos with Jonathan Hogg, so keeping him will go a long way to any success we have. And Tom Ince deserves his chance to step up. He’s been written off by some after fruitless top division spells early in his career but he became one of the second tier’s standout players last season. £8m for him could prove to be one of the summer’s bargains.

Weak links Our weakness last year was scoring goals – record signing Steven Mounié and the Belgian unit Laurent Depoitre should provide some firepower. But more broadly, having a squad that is largely untested at this level brings inevitable scepticism about our chances of survival. The squad will have to adapt fast.

Headline generator Michael Hefele, the very definition of cult hero.

Favourite moment in 25 years of the Premier League Emmanuel Adebayor running the full length of the field in 2009 to celebrate in front of a fuming section of Arsenal fans. As hilarious as it was unnecessary.

Predictions – we will finish: 16th. Top four: 1. Manchester United; 2. Manchester City; 3. Chelsea; 4. Arsenal. Bottom three: 18. Stoke; 19. Brighton; 20. Swansea. First manager sacked: Mark Hughes (Stoke). Who will be promoted? Fulham, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough.

– Alex Taylor, @AlexJT27

Tom Ince



Tom Ince: deserves this chance. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images via Reuters

Leicester

Having won the league in 2016 and finished mid-table either side of that season, it’s hard to know what to expect. But the bulk of the 2015-16 side remains and we’ve been making signings this summer that we should have made last year. So there’s no reason we can’t be the best of the rest.

Key players Jamie Vardy remains our star up front: he’ll be expected to lead our charge, especially in the likely event of Mahrez’s departure. As far as youngsters go, Demarai Gray has shown flashes of brilliance in the last season-and-a-half, while Wilfred Ndidi is quietly going about replacing N’Golo Kante in the middle of the park.

Weak links Our main weakness is one we can only really inflict on ourselves. If the players perform at anything other than full throttle they are decidedly average and capable of losing to anyone. But the opposite is true if they stick to their high-octane style. It’s something Ranieri didn’t quite get last season.

Headline generator I imagine all eyes will be back on Vardy but that being said there really aren’t any caricatures or prima donnas on Filbert Way. That’s just not how we do things.

Favourite moment in 25 years of the Premier League Watching Wes Morgan and Ranieri lift the trophy at Filbert Way. Yes, I’m still talking about it! Truly the greatest sporting story ever told.

Predictions – we will finish: 7th. Top four: 1. Manchester City; 2. Manchester United; 3. Chelsea; 4. Tottenham. The bottom three: 18. Watford; 19. Burnley; 20. Huddersfield. First manager sacked: Tony Pulis (West Brom). Who will be promoted? Fulham, Sheffield Wednesday, Derby.

Chris Whiting, thechriswhitingshow.wordpress.com, @ChrisRWhiting

Jamie Vardy



Jamie Vardy: still the star up front. Photograph: Craig Brough/Action Images via Reuters

Liverpool

We’ll do OK. It’s pretty much Klopp’s side now. I can’t see us repeating recent seasons where we’ve finished on a high in May only to collapse by autumn. If we beat Watford next week we’ll be on our way. And it’s great to be back in the Champions League – we’ve just got to navigate the qualifier against Hoffenheim.

Key players We’ve been relatively quiet in terms of completed transfers but there’s been a lot of noise over those we haven’t signed – especially Virgil van Dijk. Of those we have got, Mohamed Salah has shown why he looks a perfect fit for Klopp, Dominic Solanke has shown why he could become No1 striking understudy already, and Andrew Robertson has allowed James Milner a sigh of relief. And I still (want to) believe Daniel Sturridge will play every game and finish with the golden boot.

Weak links We’re still suspect defensively and need a top-class central defender. Simon Mignolet had a good second half of last season but a changing back four in front of him, when injuries kick in, is a scary prospect.

Headline generator Sturridge – the usual about it being in his head, moving on, finished at Anfield – with the first knock. Also Klopp for his touchline antics and broken glasses; Coutinho for his brilliance.

Favourite moment in 25 years of the Premier League Robbie Fowler’s five-minute hat-trick against Arsenal in 1994; Loris Karius’s goal‑kick that went straight out for a corner last season; and The Kop’s ode to Steve Bruce and the size of his head.

Predictions – we will finish: 1st. Top four: 1. Liverpool; 2. Manchester City; 3. Chelsea; 4. Arsenal. The bottom three: 18. Burnley; 19. Swansea; 20. Huddersfield. First manager sacked: Craig Shakespeare (Leicester). Who will be promoted? Fulham, Sunderland and Middlesbrough.

Steph Jones, Observer reader

Mohamed Salah



Mohamed Salah: perfect fit for Klopp. Photograph: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Part two: Manchester City to West Ham

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