Ranking all 20 Premier League clubs as the new season kicks off
The Premier League is back after nearly three months away with new clubs, players, and managers alike to watch this season. But which team stands to come out on top and which will find themselves in desperate trouble? Here, we've ranked all 20 clubs before the matches get underway.
1. Manchester City. The title is City's to lose. Unless Pep Guardiola and Co. focus too heavily on the quest for Champions League glory at the expense of domestic consistency, they'll become the first club since Manchester United in 2008-09 to repeat as champions.
2. Liverpool. The Reds are perfectly equipped to be the closest challengers to all-conquering City. The additions of Alisson, Naby Keita, Fabinho, and Xherdan Shaqiri all improve the squad drastically, and make the Merseyside outfit one of the deepest teams in the league.
Related: Why Liverpool are the only real threat to Manchester City's throne
The Champions League chasers
3. Chelsea. Nobody's quite sure how Sarri-ball will turn out at Stamford Bridge. The main conclusion from the Blues' underwhelming Community Shield defeat to City was that they look incomplete without World Cup winner N'Golo Kante in midfield. Thibaut Courtois may have left, but Eden Hazard remains for now. Should the Belgian exit before the end of August, the Blues could miss out on the Champions League.
4. Arsenal. It's the first season since 1995-96 in which Arsenal won't be managed by Arsene Wenger, but preseason signs under Unai Emery have been positive. Signings such as Lucas Torreira have instilled confidence in a sunny transition, and though many eyes will be on Mesut Ozil's recovery after his horror summer, the Gunners could lead the second bracket of teams.
5. Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs made history as the first Premier League team to fail to sign anyone in the transfer window, and the club will tread water as a result. Almost all of Spurs' success rests on Harry Kane, but even if he scores 20+ again, they could fall back.
6. Manchester United. Looking for a team who arguably did worse than Spurs? Brazilian midfielder Fred was United's only signing likely to threaten the starting XI, and the defense looks flimsy for a team of the Red Devils' stature. The club hierarchy reportedly blocked Jose Mourinho's preferred signings, and the relationship between manager and board appears fraught. Mourinho's third-season curse will continue, and he won't be at Old Trafford beyond next summer.
Related: Are United already feeling effects of Mourinho's 3rd-season syndrome?
The Europa League hopeful
7. Everton. Ah, strange, unpredictable Everton. With a new manager in Marco Silva and a variety pack of signings including Richarlison, Yerry Mina, Bernard, and Kurt Zouma, the Toffees will be hoping to shake off the malaise of last season and retain their Europa League spot while playing a more enterprising brand of football. It's certainly attainable, but things will have to click. Richarlison, particularly, will need to live up to his eye-watering price tag.
The mid-table cluster
8. Fulham. Wow, Fulham. Talk about promoted sides going at it with their summer business. The club signed 12 players this summer, making several high-quality acquisitions. The likes of Jean Michael Seri, Luciano Vietto, Sergio Rico, and Andre Schurrle have rocked up to the Cottage, and if even half of Slavisa Jokanovic's foreign signings acclimate, his side could go from the Championship playoff final to the fringes of European qualification in the space of mere months.
9. Wolves. Like Fulham, Nuno's side have gone for it all guns blazing. The club's continued Portuguese revolution, spearheaded by super-agent Jorge Mendes, allowed for the arrivals of international stalwarts Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho, while dribbler extraordinaire Adama Traore will be one of the most exciting players to watch in the league this season. Relegation shouldn't even enter the discussion for this promoted side.
Related: Portugal-infused Wolves can take Premier League by storm
10. West Ham. A club seemingly perpetually on the brink of implosion could enjoy a renaissance this year under Manuel Pellegrini. The Hammers' signings have been mixed - Issa Diop, Lukasz Fabianski, and a fit Jack Wilshere should all add quality to the starting XI, while the jury is out on untested big-money purchases such as Andriy Yarmolenko and Felipe Anderson - but if the club can find some semblance of stability, it will return to the top half.
11. Leicester. Riyad Mahrez may finally have gotten his long-desired exit, but Jamie Vardy has signed new terms, Kasper Schmeichel remains, and signings such as Jonny Evans and Ricardo Pereira improve the XI. Much may depend on whether Rachid Ghezzal can help fill the boots of his Algerian compatriot, but the Foxes will likely be buried in mid-table obscurity, and that's just fine.
12. Burnley. Europa League distraction will take its toll on Burnley, who made just three signings this summer. The addition of Joe Hart jumps off the page, but not in any way that should excite supporters of the Clarets. The English shot-stopper is past his best, and once Tom Heaton and Nick Pope return to fitness, the former Manchester City No. 1 will be third in the pecking order at Turf Moor. Burnley's success or failure this season will, once again, hinge on whether defensive warlock Sean Dyche can implement a system that stymies the opposition.
13. Watford. Meh. A collection of underwhelming signings did little to improve Watford's status as one of the more forgettable teams in the league. Gerard Deulofeu was plucked from Barcelona permanently, and he'll need to replace the production of Richarlison, who departed for Everton. Manager Javi Gracia has a big job on his hands to get the Hornets' mishmash of players to gel.
The danger zone
14. Crystal Palace. The arrivals of Cheikhou Kouyate and Max Meyer amount to massive midfield upgrades, and with Wilfried Zaha staying put, and Christian Benteke incapable of being any worse than last season, hopes are high in Croydon. Roy Hodgson has been rewarded with an extension, and perhaps finally the Eagles can look past some poor shot-stopping with Vicente Guaita's move to Selhurst Park. Aaron Wan-Bissaka looks like a player.
15. Newcastle. You have to feel for Rafa Benitez. Owner Mike Ashley is clearly unwilling to sanction any significant signings as he continues to search for a buyer to take the Magpies off his hands. Some of the club's summer business was shrewd; getting the likes of Fabian Schar and Ki Sung-Yeung on the cheap, or, in the case of the latter, for free, is nice work. But Benitez surely wants more than to simply avoid relegation, and while Newcastle is talented enough to stay in the top flight, unless they find an owner who will open up the checkbook, that's the ceiling for this club and its rabid supporters.
16. Brighton. The Seagulls signed 16 new players this summer, leaving their bench boss Chris Hughton with the massive task of integrating the arrivals into a team that needs to get off the ground quickly to avoid being stuck in the relegation dogfight all year. Whether they can stay up will depend heavily on marquee acquisition Alireza Jahanbakhsh, the Iranian attacker who led the Eredivisie with 21 goals for AZ Alkmaar last season. It's famously difficult to judge forwards from Holland's top flight - you could be getting Luis Suarez or Vincent Janssen. Brighton, obviously, will be hoping the 24-year-old is more a reflection of the former than the latter.
17. Southampton: Southampton have become part of the Premier League's fabric in the last six seasons courtesy of a bountiful academy and perennial overachieving. Last year provided the Saints their closest brush with relegation, and with the club's creative fulcrum, Dusan Tadic, off to Ajax, all eyes are on former Basel winger Mohamed Elyounoussi. Towering centre-half Jannik Vestergaard from Borussia Monchengladbach could quietly be one of the better signings of the summer, helping to bolster a threadbare backline.
The desperate strugglers
18. Bournemouth: A season removed from finishing five points off eighth, Bournemouth's four-year top-flight run is at risk courtesy of a spotty backline that kept just six clean sheets last season, joint-worst with Stoke City. Newcomer Diego Rico will give much needed competition at left-back to Charlie Daniels, and club-record signing Jefferson Lerma is a box-to-box stud who should help move the ball forward as Eddie Howe's charges look to outwork and annoy opponents. The Cherries did recover 21 points from losing positions last year, tops in the league.
19. Huddersfield Town: The Premier League's most efficient tackling side, Huddersfield Town enter a second top-flight campaign desperate for goals. The Terriers failed to score in 21 of their 38 matches last season, bagging goals in just six of 19 away fixtures, an issue David Wagner will hope to address while remaining faithful to the high press. Perhaps £8-million man Adama Diakhaby and Egypt international Ramadan Sobhi will be the difference.
20. Cardiff City: The Bluebirds are back in the top flight five years removed from finishing dead last in the Premier League on a scant 30 points, and Neil Warnock and Co. may need a miracle to avoid the fate of a yo-yo club. Cardiff City spent a pittance of fellow promoted sides Wolves and Fulham, splashing in the neighborhood of £30 million on four Championship-level players. The odds aren't in Warnock's favor, though a straightforward start to the season with matches against Bournemouth, Newcastle, and Huddersfield Town could help.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)