So far, we’ve previewed:
- 2019-20 Preview League promoted teams
- 2019-20 Preview League relegation candidates
- The flotsam & jetsam middle-of-the-pack teams
Now it’s time to focus on some teams that can make some noise. These clubs are positioned for a breakthrough this season.
Leicester City 2019-20 Premier League Preview
Last Season: 9th in Premier League
Last relegated season: 2013-14
Stadium: King Power Stadium
Nickname: The Foxes
Manager: Brandon Rodgers
Key Additions: Youri Tielemans, Ayoze Perez
Harry Maguire James Maddison
By the end of the 2018-19 season, only Manchester City and Liverpool were playing better soccer than Leicester City.
Leicester was in fine form. If not for once-in-a-lifetime Vincent Kompany strike, they likely would’ve drawn City and handed the Premier League title to Liverpool.
Heading into the summer, the Foxes were among the teams who could’ve and should’ve challenged for a top 6 spot this campaign. Did they make the right moves this off-season to breakthrough?
A bit of Leicester City history:
- The club was founded in 1884.
- In 2016 they became a global story for winning the Premier League after starting the season 5000-to-1.
- While that’s their only Premier League title, they’ve won the second division 7 times.
- They’ve won the League Cup 3 times (most recently in 2000) and have been runner-up twice.
- They also have 4 FA Cup runner-ups.
- Beloved club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha died in a helicopter crash outside of King Power Stadium last year.
Why you should like Leicester City:
- If you’re a fan of underdog stories, their 2015-16 season is an all-timer.
- To that point, they’re the only team outside of the big 6 other than Blackburn Rovers (’94-95) two win a title in the Premier League era.
- Great fans, which matters.
Leicester City betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)
- To win Premier League: +25000
- To finish top 4: +2000
- To finish top 6: +400
- Relegation: +2500
Leicester City Outlook:
Leicester have done well to make themselves an automatic top 10 team. At +2500, relegation isn’t a remote consideration.
For Leicester now, it’s all about what they can do to crack the top 6. Selling their prized center-back Harry Maguire to Manchester United didn’t help their cause on that front. It was good business though. And they made other summer moves which should keep them in the top half of the table.
Youri Tielemans is a solid buy from Monaco and will form an impressive pairing with James Maddison. Getting Ayoze Perez from Newcastle was good business as well. At 26, he’s hitting his prime. Surrounded by more talent, he should improve upon his 12 goals from last year.
And while losing Maguire certainly hurts, he wasn’t even arguably their best (Ricardo Pereira) or second best (Ben Chilwell) defender last season.
Leicester should comfortably be a top 10 team again this campaign. The following teams in this post have done just a bit more to challenge for a top 6 spot.
Wolverhampton 2019-20 Premier League Preview
Last Season: 7th in Premier League
Last relegated season: 2017-18
Stadium: Molineux Stadium
Manager: Nuno Espírito Santo
Key Additions: Pedro Neto, Patrick Cutone, Leander Dendoncker, Bruno Jordão
Best Player: Raúl Jiménez
The 2018-19 Wolverhampton season should be studied as the “here’s what to do” template for all recently promoted Premier League teams.
Wolves ownership invested in the team’s success, making smart transfer decisions from undervalued markets. In all, they spent $128M on acquisitions / loans last season.
The money was well spent. Wolverhampton finished 7th in the Premier League with a +1 goal differential, earning a Europa League qualifier birth. They were particularly strong against the big 6, taking more points from England’s top squads than any other (non big 6) club.
The run of success has continued into the preseason, as the Wolves defeated Manchester City on pks for the Premier League Asia Trophy.
With Europa League qualification challenging the Wolves’ depth, have they done enough to their squad to crack the top 6 or even top 4?
A bit of Wolverhampton history:
- The club was founded in 1877.
- They have three first division titles, dominating the 1950’s. Their last title was the 1958-59 season.
- Wolves have captured the second division title four times, most recently in 2017-18.
- They’ve won the FA Cup 4 times, with the ’59-60 season being the last.
- Wolves claim 2 League Cups, with the last coming in 1979-80.
Why you should like Wolverhampton:
- If you’re a new Premier League fan and don’t want to latch onto a big 6 team, go with Wolves. Their name, badge, uniform and team building process are all badass.
- Their team song is Jeff Beck’s “Hi Ho Silver Lining” –hallelujah to that.
- They play a Liverpool Jr style of aesthetically pleasing soccer.
Wolverhampton betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)
- To win Premier League: +15000
- To finish top 4: +1600
- To finish top 6: +350
- Relegation: +4000
It’s astounding that just a year after coming up to the first division, Wolves are +4000 to be relegated. That’s a testament to the management and players.
But will they actually be better this year?
Wolves were a buying club this summer. They only lost one player so far (Kortney Hause to Aston Villa). They made Jimenez permanent then added younger, pre-prime talent.
However, this feels like a teething year for Wolverhampton. They won’t surprise anyone this campaign. They have the talent to compete for the Europa trophy and should prioritize that competition. Look for a minor domestic step backwards this year with some head-turning Europa results.
West Ham 2018-19 Premier League Preview
Last Season: 10th in Premier League
Last relegated season: 2011-12
Stadium: London Stadium
Nickname: The Hammers, The Irons
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini
Key Additions: Sébastien Haller, Pablo Fornals
Best Player: Felipe Anderson
West Ham are one of the 20 top revenue clubs in the world. Their stadium packs in 60,000. They have all the makings of a sleeping giant.
Either West Ham or Everton are cracking the top 6 this year. Both made key additions this summer. While Everton has more top-to-bottom talent, West Ham have a proven, world-class manager in Manuel Pellegrini. He’s won trophies in the Premier League. Whether or not that pushes West Ham past Everton is hard to say, but Pelligrini has gotten it done in England.
A bit of West Ham history:
- The club was founded in 1895.
- Their “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” is a top 3 English football song.
- The highest they’ve ever placed in the top English division is third place (1985-86).
- They’ve won the second division twice.
- West Ham does have 3 FA Cups, the last being 1980.
Why you should like West Ham:
- The Hammers. I mean, come on. Badass.
- Their fans are among the best at adapting songs to players, with “Achy Breaky Heart” to Dimitri Payet being of recent note.
- It’s a club on the rise.
West Ham betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)
- To win Premier League: +50000
- To finish top 4: +6600
- To finish top 6: +1100
- Relegation: +1100
West Ham Outlook:
At +1100, oddsmakers give West Ham as much a shot of being relegated as finishing in the top 6.
West Ham needs goals (don’t we all?). Only Marko Arnautovic hit double digits last season, and he had 10. Felipe Anderson tallied 9. The Haller transfer is a key addition for them as he’ll generate goal scoring opportunities through key passes as well as via finishing.
West Ham need a couple of more pieces. They’re rumored to be the #1 suitor for Aaron Long. That would help.
But they really need one more offensive weapon along the lines of Haller and Anderson. With the statistical best goalkeeper in the Premier League last season, Lukasz Fabianski, and a solid if not spectacular backline, West Ham is right there. On the cusp.
Declan Rice’s maturation may play a huge role in how this season goes. A leap from the already impressive 20 year-old might be the missing offensive cog they need.
However, there are plenty of if’s here.
IF they stay healthy and IF Haller integrates as well as expected and IF Rice makes a leap–West Ham can crack the top 6. If one of those factors don’t happen, they probably will not.
Everton 2019-20 Premier League Preview
Last Season: 8th in Premier League
Last relegated season: 1953-54
Stadium: Goodison Park
Nickname: The Toffees
Manager: Marco Silva
Key Additions: Moise Kean, Jean-Philippe Gbamin, Fabian Delph,
Andre Gomes (made permanent)
Best Player: Lucas Digne
Everton is going for it.
Maybe they feel the pressure of falling too far behind their Merseyside rivals, Liverpool. Maybe they are starting to realize, as one of the top 20 revenue generating clubs in the world, that they don’t need to be sellers. Maybe it’s a combination of things.
The Toffees are making moves with an eye to the top 6. Maybe even the top 4.
A bit of Everton history:
- The club was founded in 1878.
- The only clubs who have been in England’s top division longer than Everton: Arsenal and Manchester United.
- They’ve won the first division 9 times, with the last being 1986-87.
- They’ve won the second division once.
- Everton has 5 FA Cup wins, with the last being in 1994-95.
- They even have one European Cup (now Champions League) in 1984-85 (they won England’s first division that same year).
- In the movie Creed, Goodison Park is where the final fight scene takes place.
Why you should like Everton:
- Because you have like Robin instead of Batman?
Everton betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)
- To win Premier League: +15000
- To finish top 4: +1600
- To finish top 6: +350
- Relegation: +4000
Going into this post, I was still leaning towards West Ham as the team most likely to crack the top 6.
While I like Pellegrini more as a manager than Silva (by a ways)… and I think Haller for this season is the best addition of the two clubs…Everton’s squad is valued at almost $200M more than West Ham. That’s a big chasm.
Everton has some “ifs” to answer just like West Ham though.
What if Moise Kean, who has never played outside of Italy, doesn’t adapt quickly? What if Jean-Philippe Gbamin is just ok? (not a huge if there, either) What if they miss Idrissa Gueye waaaay more than they anticipated? (also not a huge if)
Still, that potential Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Kean combo could be lethal. Lucas Digne is probably sick of hearing how Andy Robertson is the best left-back in the world when he was statistically better last season.
There’s a reason Everton is +350 for a top 6 spot: because they’re that close, and probably will be right there at the end of the season.