Last year, Transfer Deadline Day was moved to the day before the first Premier League game of the season.
For fans and clubs, this provides an exciting day after which a line can be drawn. Each team knows exactly which players will be available to them before the start of the season. We still get all the Transfer Deadline Day fun without a transfer saga overshadowing the opening of the league season.
For us content types, it means we have a small window to get our preview and prediction pieces out there. We’ve just about recovered from an exhilarating Transfer Deadline day yesterday (wow, Arsenal), and now that all the squads are set in stone and the odds have been updated, we can finally preview the season.
Below, we take a look at the Premier League title race, the fight for European competitions, and the relegation scrap.
The Title Race
Nobody expects anybody other than Manchester City or Liverpool to occupy the 1st and 2nd positions of the Premier League table come May. The only question is in what order they will be. According to Paddy Power, it will be Manchester City, who are the 4/9 favourites. Liverpool come in at 11/4, and this is probably accurate. However, Liverpool are desperate for the league, and City are desperate for the Champions League. Each want what the other has, and this may result in some priorities being shifted to and away from the League and Europe by either team.
Regardless, it promises to be a close battle between two of the best Premier League teams we have ever seen. All neutrals really care about is that it keeps going right until the end, ideally the final day. If it’s half as good as last year, we have another treat on our hands.
The Fight for Europe
Given the current British political climate, it’s ironic that at least six of their most decorated football teams will be clamouring to get into Europe this season.
Unless Spurs somehow manage to throw their ‘best of the rest’ status away, they should finish 3rd. The real ‘race’ is between Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea.
After a strong transfer window, Arsenal look the most likely to sneak into 4th place. Chelsea and UTD are wildcards this season and the Gunners should be able to capitalise. Under new manager Frank Lampard, Chelsea are 17/10 to qualify for the Champions League. Manchester United are evens and Arsenal are 6/5 to return to Europe’s top table.
Those three teams will have to look over their shoulder for the entire season. Everton, Leicester and Wolves are all quietly putting together quality teams, and are positioning themselves to take advantage should one of the traditional top 4 teams underperform this year. Unai Emery, Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer and Frank Lampard will all be secretly very worried about the chasing pack.
Everton come in at 14/1 to finish in the top 4, while Leicester and Wolves are both 16/1. Expect this one to play out similarly to last season. It will likely go on until the last day and when all is said and done, only a few points will separate 3rd and 6th.
The Relegation Scrap
Of the three promoted teams, only Aston Villa look like they will be able to survive. Their pedigree, combined with their sensible summer signings, bring their relegation odds to a 6th-favourite 9/4.
That leaves Brighton, Sheffield United and Norwich City as the most vulnerable teams in the league. Brighton have hung on for a while, but after losing Chris Houghton, their inconsistency could come back to bite them. They are 17/10 to go down.
Sheffield United played expansive football in the Championship, and that is notoriously difficult to transfer to the Premier League. They are in danger of becoming whipping boys like Fulham last year and are 4/5 favourites to be relegated.
Norwich are in a similar position, and their team has too many Championship players, and not enough Premier League ones. The Canaries are the second favourites to go down at 11/10.
Of course, Newcastle are always a good bet to have an absolutely disastrous season. At 2/1 they could get sucked into it. Burnley could be vulnerable too, if Sean Dyche’s style of play demotivates the players, which must surely happen at some point. At 15/8, Burnley could go either way.