Premier League 2019-20 fans’ previews, part 2: Man City to Wolves | Football
As long as Pep is manager I’ll stay wildly optimistic. I’m confident we can win the league for the third season in a row and cement this team’s reputation as the best of the Premier League era.
Key men/weak links De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva were the standout players from our last two title-winning seasons. De Bruyne’s return is massive boost: he’s an absolutely ridiculous footballer. At times, it can genuinely look as if he’s playing a different sport to everyone else. And Foden is just too good not to get more game time this season. Keep an eye out, too, for Eric García given our troubles at centre-half – which is the one gaping hole in an otherwise incredibly well-assembled squad. Letting a man of Kompany’s stature leave without signing a replacement is baffling, especially given Laporte’s injury. I appreciate there are few high quality options (Maguire was crazily overpriced) but it does feel we’re taking a big unnecessary risk by going into the season with only three senior centre-halves.
We need to sign Alderweireld would have been ideal. And if we allow Sané to leave without signing a replacement, suddenly we’re short in two positions.
Headline maker Benjamin Mendy, particularly now he’s back on social media. Hopefully, he’ll be back out on the pitch soon, too. Though, given journalists’ interest in our ownership and Abu Dhabi, there’s every chance they could garner the most headlines.
VAR: good or bad? Referees clearly need help but the system is far from perfect. At least, from a selfish point of view, City (and Sterling in particular) should win a lot more penalties.
The slump at the end of last season was pretty embarrassing. Ole said then there were players who had played their last game for the club but he can’t shift them due to their inflated salaries. The result is a bloated mess of a squad. Pre-season has shown us he has a clear strategy of how he wants United to play, at least, with a high press creating space for the forwards. But I still can’t see us coming higher than sixth again.
Key men/weak links We’ve finally found a replacement for Gary Neville in Wan-Bissaka, who looks like he’ll make an instant impact. And, especially if Lukaku isn’t replaced by a new signing, Mason Greenwood could break through. He’s such a natural talent.
We need to sign So much still needs to happen. In an ideal world I’d swap Pogba for Verratti from PSG, Lukaku for Dybala, and, after finally landing Maguire, if we can add Maddison from Leicester too then job’s a good ’un!
Headline maker Unless he goes, the Pogba circus will roll on.
VAR: good or bad? I’m against it. There’s enough interference already.
• Shaun O’Donnell Observer reader
We were actually optimistic after the final whistle of last season, when we’d just beaten Fulham 4-0 and Rafa was in the dugout. But with the best manager we’ve had in years gone, along with leading scorers Rondón and Pérez (and seemingly any hope of a takeover) we’re set for another relegation battle. This time, though, it will be with a “head coach” who seems better suited to the Championship.
Key men/weak links There’s a lot of pressure on record signings Joelinton and Almirón to score and it’s essential that defenders Schär and Lejeune give us a solid platform. Bruce’s appointment also represents a second chance for Jonjo Shelvey. It’ll be a big season, too, for rising star Sean Longstaff (and perhaps his brother Matty) so long as Ashley doesn’t decide to cash in…
We need to sign A minimum of two proven scorers, plus cover at full-back.
Headline maker There’s only one candidate. The next classless Ashley gaff and resultant eruption of fan hostility is always just round the corner.
VAR: good or bad? Relegations and livelihoods can hinge on a refereeing error, so it’s not before time. Though it’ll be a shame if it disrupts the flow.
Predictions… We will finish: 16th. Top four: 1. Man City; 2. Liverpool; 3. Tottenham; 4. Chelsea. Bottom three: 18. Brighton; 19. Southampton; 20. Aston Villa. First manager sacked: Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
• David and Richard Holmes Observer readers
We’re optimistic. Most outside Norfolk have us down as absolute certs for relegation but if we can use our momentum and adapt our pleasing-on-the-eye style for the brutalities of the top flight, we’ll do OK. We still feel like unwelcome guests at a swish party, though.
Key men/weak links Pukki ripped up the Championship and we’re obviously hoping that will continue. And our little Argentinian Emi Buendia is electric. Also look out for young Max Aarons, Jamal Lewis, Ben Godfrey and Todd Cantwell. As for weak links: our style of play, both full-backs pushing on, can leave our defence exposed and will need adapting. We’re not what you’d called water-tight and so, while I wouldn’t single out any individuals as weak links, as a defensive unit we’re vulnerable at times.
We need to sign Our budget is the division’s smallest, so we’ve had to be creative. We’re still after a defensive midfielder, though.
Headline maker It’s too obvious to say Delia but she and her husband have been known to blurt. Wouldn’t be without them, though. And Daniel Farke, all charm and charisma, can deliver a great one-liner.
VAR: good or bad? I like the principle but there are definite refinements needed. It was horribly overused at the women’s World Cup. “Clear and obvious” has to be the overriding theme, and it needs to assist the referee rather than make the decisions for them.
Predictions… We will finish: 15th. Top four: 1. Man City; 2. Liverpool; 3. Tottenham; 4. Man United. Bottom three: 18. Newcastle; 19. Sheffield United; 20. Brighton. First manager sacked: Steve Bruce.
We’ll be everyone’s pick to go back down, but I’m confident and looking forward to the challenge. How can you not, given everything we’ve seen from this manager and team in the last three years? We’ll continue playing our front-foot football – get ready to hear the phrase “overlapping centre-backs” every time we’re on TV – and being aggressive in trying to win games rather than hanging on for a point. We’ve also added several pacey, skilful attackers in this window.
Key men/weak links Jack O’Connell’s defensive brilliance and marauding runs from centre-back will be vital; David McGoldrick’s skill and movement helps to knit everything together, and as for Billy Sharp … he just scores goals. New signings Callum Robinson and Oli McBurnie also look like they’ll have a big impact.
We need to sign With McBurnie’s arrival we’re well set in attack. Add in a defensive midfielder and someone with the athleticism and skill to challenge Chris Basham at centre-back and that’s the perfect window.
Headline maker Chris Wilder’s brutal honesty might shock a few neutrals.
VAR: good or bad? The women’s World Cup was worrying, to say the least. I don’t like matches being altered because someone’s big toe was offside or a defender’s arm was in the way of an 80mph shot from three yards away. Are we just making football worse rather than better?
Predictions… We will finish: 16th (safe with a game to spare). Top four: 1. Man City; 2. Liverpool; 3. Tottenham; 4. Chelsea. Bottom three: 18. Brighton; 19. Norwich; 20. Newcastle. First manager sacked: Steve Bruce.
I’m relatively confident we won’t be in as much danger as last season. We have a manager everyone (except perhaps Charlie Austin) believes in and we’re looking pretty sharp. There are still a few concerns defensively but it’s going to take a while to undo the last three years’ poor recruitment decisions.
Key men/weak links Che Adams looks a good fit up front; our full-backs will provide width; and Nathan Redmond will look to maintain last season’s Player of the Year form. It could be a big season for Jake Vokins, too.
We need to sign An imposing holding midfielder to give our creaking defence more protection. Oriol Romeu has done a decent job there but he’s still not a patch on Victor Wanyama or Morgan Schneiderlin. When we were good we won games in midfield and we haven’t been doing that for a while now.
Headline maker Austin and Mario Lemina could cause a few issues. There’s a training ground bust-up waiting to happen there.
VAR: good or bad? I’m an unashamed VAR fan and think it will go some way to redressing the unconscious bias in referees’ decisions when they’re dealing with smaller clubs.
Predictions… We will finish: 12th, at least double figures above the bottom three. Top four: 1. Man City; 2. Liverpool; 3. Tottenham; 4. Chelsea. Bottom three: 18. Newcastle; 19. Brighton; 20. Sheffield United. First manager sacked: Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
With the stadium finally done, a proper pre-season and the novelty of a signing or two, this feels like a new chapter. Couple that with the continuity provided by a manager entering his sixth year and a talented squad largely intact and injury-free, Spurs are in a good place – especially if Eriksen stays. It would be a disappointment if we’re not challenging for silverware again.
Key men/weak links Home-grown Harrys. While the myth that Spurs are dependent on Kane has been well and truly debunked, there’s no doubt his all-round play, goals and leadership are central to our identity. And the underrated Duracell bunny-like Winks is the heartbeat of the side at its best. Also watch out for progress from Oliver Skipp, Troy Parrott and Japhet Tanganga. Weak links? Both full-back positions. On the right Juan Foyth could be given an extended run, ahead of the (erratic) Serge Aurier and Kyle Walker-Peters after Keiran Trippier’s departure. Ben Davies is reliable on the left but Spurs need a more dynamic option with Danny Rose’s tenure uncertain. And we may have seen the best of Wanyama.
We need to sign Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon would bolster the left-hand side of defence and Giovanni Lo Celso of Real Betis is another likely incomer.
Headline maker After Lloris’s out-of-character drink-drive incident last season, expect the unexpected. Meanwhile, Daniel Levy’s refusal to pay over the odds for players continues to annoy elements of the fan base, when inflated ticket prices should be of more concern.
VAR: good or bad? Spurs were involved in what was possibly VAR’s nadir, an FA Cup tie at a snowy Wembley against Rochdale in February 2018 that, as Pochettino said, was “a bit of an embarrassment”. Thankfully things have improved since then, and so long as it evolves in a common sense fashion, it’s a good thing.
Predictions… We will finish: 1st (The manager’s watchword is “believe” after all). Top four: 1. Tottenham; 2. Man City; 3. Liverpool; 4. Man United. Bottom three: 18. Newcastle; 19. Brighton; 20. Sheffield Utd. First manager sacked: Roy Hodgson.
• Richard Barnes @barnesrichard
We’ll do just fine. We have a splendid, likeable team with plenty of options, a smart, down to earth coach and an extraordinarily well-run club. Slipping into the bottom half at the death last season was aggravating, but as a result we’re not bundled in with Wolves, Leicester and Everton in accounts of “the chasing pack”. Which might be no bad thing, coming up on the blind side. Because we are in that chasing pack.
Key men/weak links Testimony to the club’s success is the ability to identify and – hopefully – attract Ismaïla Sarr after a two-year pursuit, and Tom Dele-Bashiru’s decision to turn down a new deal at Man City to join us on a six-year contract (henceforth a “reverse Sancho”). Troy Deeney remains key as a leader and figurehead but we increasingly have strong cover across the pitch and a small army of promising kids pushing for inclusion, albeit from some geographical distance.
We need to sign I’d be happy as we are.
Headline maker Troy, always.
VAR: good or bad? A grotesque short-sightedness borne of an easily manipulated tendency for everyone to think that the world is somehow biased against them and it’s all someone else’s fault. A convenient panacea, a magic bullet presented with the consequence that multiple babies get thrown out with bath water. And VAR will be dreadful, too.
Predictions… We will finish: Top half. Top four: 1. Man City; 2. Liverpool; 3. Tottenham; 4. One of seven. Bottom three: 18. Newcastle; 19. Sheffield United; 20. Brighton. First manager sacked: Marco Silva.
Unusually, most Irons fans are feeling cautiously optimistic. Pellegrini has made a couple of statement signings in £24m Fornals – the sort of playmaker fans should love – and £45m striker Haller. Add those two to Anderson, Lanzini, Rice, Antonio and a fit-again Yarmolenko and we should be a real attacking force. Several stale squad players have been shifted and even Jack Wilshere is currently fit. So we can hope to improve on last season’s 10th.
Key men/weak links Much will depend on how Haller settles. It’ll also be exciting to see Anderson combine with Fornals. Rice will be the key defensive midfielder and Diop will be vital in defence. The biggest problem will be fitting so many attacking midfielders into the team. Young playwright Ben Johnson could make a breakthough at full back, with the left-back slot a bit of a problem: Masuaku and Cresswell are OK going forward, but have struggled defensively. Fabianski had a great season last time, but his form covered-up a lot of frailties in front of him.
We need to sign A couple of squad full-backs and a centre-back would be useful. And an understudy for Rice.
Headline maker David Sullivan will inevitably say something indiscreet, and Michail Antonio is bound to do a silly celebration.
It’s going to be difficult to repeat last season’s seventh-place finish, given the (hopefully) busy schedule Europe may bring – but with Nuno in charge, anything’s possible. If we can keep our relatively small squad fresh we will be in and around that position again.
Key men/weak links He struggled in the first half of the season but with a slight change in position Diogo Jota showed what every Wolves fan knew he was capable of. He’s a match-winner and defenders must hate facing him. João Moutinho’s experience will be key again, while youngsters Morgan Gibbs-White and Rúben Vinagre should benefit from our increased fixture list.
We need to sign A creative spark who can help us break down teams who set up to defend deep. We’ve been linked with Dani Olmo – the type of name that fits in with our recruitment approach.
Headline maker Expect more questions about our links with agent Jorge Mendes.
VAR: good or bad? The official line is that VAR should impose minimum disruption. It’ll take some getting used to but, if that’s how it works, I think it’ll be beneficial to the game overall.
Predictions… We will finish: Top 10. Top four: 1. Man City; 2. Liverpool; 3. Tottenham; 4. Arsenal. Bottom three: 18. Crystal Palace; 19. Newcastle; 20. Sheffield United. First manager sacked: Dean Smith.