With the Premier League returning this evening, Mongoose COO Laura Pollard (LP) sat down with so called ‘football aficionados’ Tom Shaw (TS) and Milo MacKean (MM) to walk through their predictions for the upcoming season.
LP: Right lads, fair to say last years predictions were a bit hit and miss to say the least. However, we will give you the benefit of the doubt, and allow you another shot at this. So, let’s get started. As with last year, we will begin with the Premier League champions; who’s your money on?
MM: A new Premier League season brings a new wave of expectations and excitement, but for the sake of these 2018/19 predictions, my answer for who will be crowned champions in May remains the same; Chelsea Football Club. Before I’m called a homer, hear me out. The signings are there, Jorginho, Kovacic, Arrizabalaga - all the lads. The stars are returning your Hazards, your Loftus Cheeks, your Girouds but there is a new man in charge and boy are we excited. Sarri Ball has landed in SW6 and if the squad can get to grips with his playing style quickly, it could be some of the most exciting football the Premier League has ever seen. Kante tackling, Jorginho passing, Hazard and Willian just continuously back-heeling it to each other - if all else fails it’s going to be great to watch. Mourinho’s spluttering, negative football didn’t work in challenging City last year so maybe, just maybe, the free flowing tika taka fast pace Sarri Ball is the answer!
TS: For me, it’ll be City lifting the Premier League trophy again in May. Guardiola’s men were streets ahead of the chasing pack last season and they’ll just be too good again this time out. On the face of it, Mourinho looks to be up to his old tricks again, as the red half of Manchester appears to be in complete disarray. Every cloud though, Manchester United have just signed Chivas Regal Scotch Whiskey as a new global partner so Sir Alex Ferguson can at least drown his sorrows as he watches from the stands as the Cityzens waltz to back to back titles!
LP: I’m with Milo here, I reckon the Premier League trophy will be being paraded around the streets of West London come May. Right, good start boys. Let’s focus on the other end of the table. The three clubs to go down please!
MM: This is difficult one as I feel like there are a lot of teams that could be there or there abouts, but I have plumped for Southampton, Cardiff and Watford this year. Saints and Mark Hughes is not a good match, they scraped survival last year and I don’t think they will be so lucky this time! Same with Warnock and the Bluebirds, we know the drill by now, Warnock gets a team promoted and then fails massively (keep reading for my Warnock prediction) so it’ll be one and done for the South Wales outfit. And finally, Watford, Javi Gracia in charge and still unproven, added to a team who got a lot of cash from the Richarlson sale and spent it on, let’s be honest, not a lot. Wheels to come off early and a new manager to have to take charge of a disinterested squad. Doomed.
TS: Great minds, I have Cardiff to be relegated as well. Warnock undoubtedly has a point to prove in the Premier League but his unattractive, route one style of football just doesn’t cut it at the highest level, so expect the Bluebirds to be playing Championship football again next year! I predicted Huddersfield and Brighton to be relegated last year and I’m sticking to my guns, but with added conviction. A proven goal scorer is often the key to staving off relegation, and as neither team have one within their ranks, I think it’ll be a case of second season syndrome for them both. Surely 34-year-old Glenn Murray can’t keep Brighton up again, can he?
LP: Poor Cardiff, seemingly doomed before they have even kicked a ball! So, we have just heard about clubs in danger of the drop, what about the managers in danger of losing their job. Who is going to get the axe first? Tom you take the lead this time.
TS: This is a tough one! Sadly, not because I don’t think any of them will get the sack, but rather that we really are spoilt for choice. For me though, it’s a race between Claude Puel (Leicester City) and Javi Gracia (Watford) to be the first man to go. Whilst both clubs are no strangers to a mid-season sacking, I’m going to go for the Watford board to be the first to press ‘panic’. After a stop-start opening to the season, which features more stopping than starting, it’ll be a case of ‘gracias Gracia, adios’ before the end of October.
MM: I’ve gone down a different route, and this person has already been mentioned earlier in this predictions piece; it’s that man Neil Warnock. The forever good (understatement?), at Championship level, rubbish in the prem. The Cardiff squad is not much changed from last season, and the four players they have brought in have been from the Championship. Expect a slow start and the trigger to be pulled on poor Neil before the end of September. Little extra nugget for you readers here, I would like to bet that Jose Mourinho will not be Manchester United manager at the start of 2019, just a hunch!
LP: Poor Neil and Javi! The Mourinho prediction is a semi-hot take, Milo, I like it. For me I think Mark Hughes at Southampton could be in trouble, their owners have visions of competing at the top, something Mark Hughes is allergic to. Right, time for some individual awards, who is going to walk away with the Golden Boot?
MM: What did I say last year? “Death, taxes and Harry Kane scoring 30 goals in the Premier League”. Rinse and repeat this year please. England’s Golden Boy, fresh off the back of the superbly taken Golden Boot at this summer’s World Cup, is likely to repeat such antics back on English soil. Easy.
TS: It’ll be that man Sergio Aguero. After an injury plagued World Cup campaign with Argentina, he started the season in style, bagging a brace in the Community Shield last weekend as City lifted their first trophy of the season. Their squad is awash with creative players, so providing he stays fit, he’ll get plenty of chances and we all know that City’s record-breaking goal scorer just doesn’t miss!
LP: Played it safe there both of you, really leftfield with those predictions… With a blockbuster transfer window, there are bound to be some hits and some misses. Why don’t we start with the hits, slight subjective I realise, but could I have your signing of the season please?
TS: Expect Leicester’s James Maddison to be a massive hit at the King Power. With memories of Riyad Mahrez turning full-backs inside out a thing of the past, the foxes’ latest recruit will thrive in a more prominent role. Fresh from single-handedly keeping Norwich City afloat in the Championship last year, the 21-year-old is definitely one to watch. A bargain at £20million in the current market!
MM: I’m going to turn my attention to one of the newly promoted sides for this one, Fulham have recruited extremely well this summer and spent a decent bit of cash doing so. One name in particular stands out for me and that is Jean Michaël Seri. Fulham have played a blinder here; Seri was on the verge of joining Barcelona last summer and even this year has been linked with Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal. He’s physical, extremely athletic and can go box-to-box, he will give Fulham something they don’t have, and I for one, am excited to see the Seri/Cairney relationship blossom.
LP: That’s more like it, stick your necks on the line! Now, Milo, your flop of the season shout from last year could not have gone much worse could it? Who have you got for 2018/19?
MM: As you say, this prediction couldn’t have gone much worse for me last year with Salah essentially becoming the best player in the world and winning every award going…! But that will not deter me from making a choice this year, and that is Richarlson. Signed for Everton this summer for £50million (yep that’s right 50. Million. Pounds) to reconnect with ex-boss Marco Silva, the Brazilian has a serious weight on his shoulders. Five goals and four assists in 38 appearances in his first Premier League season, and he has not hit the back of the net since November, one could say he flopped last year. Can you be a double flop? We will soon see. Alternatively, he will be picking up the PFA Player of the Year award, a la Salah, and I promise to never predict anything football related again.
TS: Like Milo, I’m definitely not convinced by Richarlison (especially at that price!), and I also don’t see Riyad Mahrez getting much game time in a star-studded Manchester City side. For me though, it’s between two Brazilians; Alisson Becker (Liverpool) and Felipe Anderson (West Ham United). It’s a flip of a coin, but I’m going to go for Felipe Anderson. Serial underachievers West Ham have invested heavily, but with Manuel Lanzini out injured for much of the season, it’ll be down to the central-midfield man to fill that void, and I just can’t see him justifying the £35million price tag on his head. Expect him to be training with the reserves before the end of 2019 and packed off on-loan to a non-descript Italian club next January!
LP: I’m excited to see how that plays out! Milo, you mentioned the PFA Player of the Year award so why don’t we move on to that. Tom, you’re up first?
TS: After scoring the goals to lead his side to consecutive Premier League titles and winning the Golden Boot in the process, it can’t be anyone else. Sergio Aguero to add yet another award to his ever-growing collection and be given Freedom of the City (well the blue half anyway)!
MM: This prediction last year was again ruined by Mo Salah, without the Egyptian, Kevin De Bruyne (my prediction in 2017) would have cantered to the POY award. So, I am going to stick with the Belgian. City will be there, or thereabouts, and another year under Pep will no doubt improve KDB even more (if that’s even possible). I thought he should have won it last year, he WILL win it this time around.
LP: Two City players, Pep will be proud! Right the final chance for you to embarrass yourselves again, PFA Young Player of the Year please? Milo take the lead
MM: Another slightly leftfield prediction for this, but it’s a young English sweetheart who captured the hearts of one side of the Mersey last season and quite rightfully went to the World Cup with the Three Lions! It’s young Trent Alexander-Arnold. With Liverpool looking like they will have another good season, AA is bound to be a regular feature for Klopp’s side having beaten out Nathaniel Clyne last season. If Liverpool do well so will young Trent.
TS: It’s all starting to sound very sky blue, but my tip for PFA Young Player of the Year is Manchester City’s Leroy Sane. After inexplicably missing out on Germany’s World Cup squad (which, in hindsight he probably isn’t too disappointed about), he’s had the summer off and a full pre-season under Pep Guardiola to boot, so expect him to hit the ground running in his third season in England.
LP: Perfect, here’s to another season of exhilarating football from the best league in the world. For all those out there who like a flutter, above is what not to bet on! Good luck lads, may the best Senior Account Executive win.
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