A new season finally kicked off Friday as Manchester United’s 2-1 victory over Leicester City ushered in the 27th edition of the Premier League.
As expected, early table predictions consist of the usual culprits up top: United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, and Chelsea seem poised to round out the league’s best six sides, though the exact order – and more specifically, who emerges as champions – will likely remain a guessing game until May.
Here’s one reason why each of England’s expected contending sextet will win the league this season, countered by one reason why they won’t.
Pro: Pep Guardiola’s men are the team to beat in the Premier League on the back of their record-smashing 100-point campaign, and with the only change to the Centurions being the arrival of Riyad Mahrez, Manchester City remain the division’s best side on paper.
Con: If there was any drawback to the club’s success last season, it’s that Guardiola’s side was perhaps too good. The Citizens had 16 representatives at the World Cup – the most of any club in the world – and their shorter summer break could produce drastically tired legs as a gruelling campaign wears on.
Pro: The addition of Fred adds some needed defensive stability to Manchester United’s midfield, taking some pressure off Nemanja Matic. It also permits World Cup winner Paul Pogba the freedom to finally dictate the Red Devils’ play, much like he did for France while anchored by N’Golo Kante.
Con: Jose Mourinho has never survived three consecutive full seasons at any club. For one reason or another, the Portuguese boss has either imploded after his second year or simply walked away, and the potential of the Red Devils’ campaign derailing in the process is real. True to history, drama has already hounded Mourinho this summer as the manager didn’t hide his dismay at his team’s hierarchy failing to add his preferred transfer targets.
Pro: Liverpool undeniably had the best transfer window among the top six contenders. They went all out for Alisson, reinforced their midfield with both Fabinho and Naby Keita, and even added to their attacking depth with Xherdan Shaqiri.
Con: While Alisson is a tremendous upgrade over both Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet, Liverpool opted not to reinforce the center-back depth in front of him. Dejan Lovren and Virgil van Dijk have proven to be one of the most solid defensive pairings in England, but an injury to either could be troublesome with only Ragnar Klavan and the oft-injured Joel Matip available as backups.
Pro: After finally ending their winding saga with Antonio Conte, Chelsea secured former Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri to lead the charges, bringing with the Italian gaffer his “Sarri-ball” tactics as well as coveted midfielder Jorginho. Expect the 59-year-old boss to completely revamp the London club’s identity in a positive way.
Con: While Sarri’s quick-tempo style is effective and aesthetically pleasing, he needs the right personnel (as well as time) to pull it off successfully. Mateo Kovacic is yet to prove he can perform in an advanced role, and Alvaro Morata will need to completely erase his goalscoring woes of last season.
Pro: Led by a new face for the first time since 1996, Arsenal made a handful of savvy, hard-nosed signings like Lucas Torreira and Stephan Lichtsteiner, the latter of whom will also provide crucial veteran leadership to a squad with just four other players currently aged 30 or older.
Con: Despite making sensible signings, the Gunners are still in the midst of a massive transition phase, and the culture shock of the coming season without Arsene Wenger could be too great to overcome, regardless of Unai Emery’s recent domestic successes with Paris Saint-Germain.
Pro: Tottenham once again managed to keep hold of Harry Kane through the summer, and if the 25-year-old continues his goalscoring form in the Premier League, there’s truly no telling how far the World Cup’s Golden Boot winner can take the north London club – provided he also stays healthy.
Con: Spurs were shockingly silent during the transfer window, earning the dubious distinction of becoming the first team to not make a summer signing since said window was introduced in 2003. Though it’s not necessarily a bad thing for a club to be confident in its crop, failing to add new players means opponents know exactly what to expect each week until January at the earliest.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)