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Monday, 5 June 2017

Tough season ahead for the top six


On August 12 another Premier League season begins. This season we have a large number of teams that are targeting to the title and it will be extremely difficult to guess their order. After all, after the last two seasons, we wonder who in general can give some forecasts that will come true.
The fixtures for the 2017/18 season will be released on June 14. The opening day of the new campaign is on August 12 and it will conclude on May 13, 2018.
Once again we have big managerial names doing battle, Mauricio Pochettino, Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Antonio Conte, Arsene Wenger, and many more. It is obvious though, that these are the top-level coaches who will fight out the race for the title next season and the top four spots for the lucrative UEFA Champions League qualification.
Chelsea won the title last season with Tottenham Hotspur once again the only title challengers, surely that will change next season as managers embed their philosophy into their relatively new clubs.
Mauricio Pochettino has had three seasons at Spurs and we have improved significantly with pundits no longer seeing us as a soft side. Even at the start of the season they still saw us finishing fifth, even though we were the only team to challenge Leicester City for the title. They overestimated the impact new managers would make, failing to realize it takes time to embed a new system.
Tottenham had a head start in this regard and by the end of the season they had all changed their tune and were marking us out as one of the best sides in the league. I for one, am interested to hear their prediction where we will finish next season.
What of our rivals?
Arsenal didn't qualify for the UEFA Champions League and now have the hindrance of Thursday night football in the UEFA Europa League, which we have seen effects teams, possibly to a greater extent than participation in Europe's premier competition. The FA Cup winners seem to have targeted the cups in recent years, almost giving up on title challenges to focus on top four finishes.
Will Sanchez leave, will Ozil leave with no UEFA Champions League football and will players seek alternative clubs to sign for instead of Arsenal now for the same reason? It is a dangerous time for Arsenal, they are staring at a slippery slope it could be difficult to recover from. With positions like centre-back needing to be strengthened, the situation could get much worse if midfield and striking stars leave. The backup players like Danny Welbeck are not top quality.
Manchester City, Chelsea,  and Manchester United are in the building stage with new managers last season now wanting to stamp their identity on each squad. We can expect to see a lot of personnel changes at these clubs this summer. Their success next season will depend how well new recruits adapt to each manage's requirements.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has won six champion titles in seven seasons with Spanish giants Barcelona, and German giants Bayern Munich. The hope is he can take City to the pinnacle of the game, they seek European glory perhaps over Premier League glory. Foreign owners, it seems, focus more on Europe, perhaps it is about kudos for them on a global stage.
Guardiola suffered more than 5 defeats in one season in a domestic league for the first time in his managerial career. He will now have a greater idea of what is required in the Premier League next season and we could see against Tottenham at White Hart Lane for instance how some of his players were struggling to adapt to his possession passing game.
I thought it was crazy the media suggesting they might go the season unbeaten after a good start, however, they had an easy fixture list and we were the first real test they faced. Next season they will be contenders, serious contenders.
Mourinho saved the season by winning the UEFA Europa League. If he hadn't taken the club back into the UEFA Champions League it would have been seen as a season of failure by the hierarchy. Their sponsors need the exposure, that's what they are paying big bucks for and there is only so long you can pay high wages to compensate for second tier European football. Eventually, the players would have stopped coming.
Next season, with perhaps a much-changed team, he will target the top four and perhaps a title tilt given the names that are being bandied about at the moment. How long will they take to setle in? They will certainly be a tougher team next season and will make the top four an especially tough arena next season.
Anthony Conte and Chelsea took the title thanks to a 13 game winning streak (which we ended) that blew all but Tottenham away, but the gap that had brought proved too much to bridge for us. They had no European football to disturb their rhythm, how will that affect them next season? How will Conte rotate his players? The squad will certainly be tested to a far greater degree than it was this season which makes it difficult to know how they'll perform.
They will once again be favorites with the bookmakers next season, along with Manchester City. To check the current odds throughout the summer click here.

Liverpool had an up and down season. They had a period losing games against teams they should have been beating which cost them dear, something Jurgen Klopp will look to eradicate next season with new signings. His side will know his system better and their pressing game will improve over the summer. In the same way that Brendan Rogers improved Liverpool in his second season so Klopp now looks to do the same.
Rafa Benitez is back in the top flight with Newcastle. The Crystal Palace Brighton derby is back on the footballing calendar. Huddersfield have a big catchment area and in days gone by were a top team, they were the first English club to win three successive titles in 1926. Romantics will want them to do well but they will struggle to stay in the league.
The Premier League is the most expensive, the most watched and described the best football league in the world due to its competitiveness. Next season six sides have a realistic chance of winning the title and all six look as if they are going to be stronger.
It looks as if we are in for another tough, but exciting and entertaining season.


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