16th August 2016
Managers making the headlines as new Premier League season begins
With the football season now under way, and following a summer of Hollywood-style managerial appointments and another world-record transfer fee, UCFB academics have predicted Pep Guardiola to guide Manchester City to league success in his first season in England.
They’ve also named managerless Hull City among the favourites to be relegated come May, despite their surprising opening day 2-1 win over champions Leicester City.
Following the Foxes’ heroic league triumph last time out, and after a summer where the new managers have largely made the headlines rather than the new players, the upcoming season is shaping up to be as unpredictable as the last.
Leicester shocked the world last term with arguably the greatest football story of all time. Claudio Ranieri’s men were tipped for relegation at the start of the season, and were 5,000-1 to be crowned unlikely champions. But a team inspired by Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez romped home by ten clear points.
But it’s the managerial appointments in Manchester that have occupied the back pages during pre-season. Pep Guardiola has swapped the Allianz Arena for the Etihad Stadium, home of UCFB Etihad Campus, as he attempts to win a league title in a third country. His wounded and bitter rival Jose Mourinho has finally landed the job he’s always wanted – Manchester United – following a disastrous season at Chelsea which saw him get the sack.
As expected, both managers have spent big this summer, reshaping their squads after performing well below par last season. Manchester City have spent over £150m on the likes of John Stones, Ilkay Gündoğan and Leroy Sane, while Mourinho has smashed the world transfer record by re-signing former United youth product Paul Pogba from Juventus for £89m. Both clubs have so far spent nearly £300m this summer.
At Chelsea, it’s another season and another new manager. This time, it’s former Italy boss Antonio Conte who has been charged by hard-to-please owner Roman Abramovich to win with style. The Blues finished 10th last season, the worst ever defence by a champion in the Premier League era. After spending big again during the pre-season, with Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi and Leicester’s N’Golo Kante arriving in west London, anything less than a genuine title and Champions League challenge will be deemed a failure.
No one quite knows how defending champions Leicester will perform this season. Kante, Vardy and Mahrez were vital to their success last year, but with Kante gone, plus the added pressure of Champions League football, can they successfully defend their title?
The usual suspects will make a push for the top four once again. Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool have the same managers as last term and will be expected to be pushing the summit, and Everton have welcomed Ronald Koeman into the dugout from Southampton. The Dutchman will also be expected to challenge for a top four spot in his first season at the club.
Also hoping to push for European places this term will be West Ham and Southampton. The Hammers will hope their new home at the Olympic Stadium can inspire them to finish higher than last season’s impressive seventh place, while new Southampton boss Claude Puel will hope to continue the club’s upward trajectory that was started by Mauricio Pochettino and Koeman.
Stoke City, West Brom, Swansea and Crystal Palace will all be hoping for steady mid-table finishes or better, especially Palace who after a great start last season found themselves languishing towards the bottom come the business end of the season.
Middlesborough, Hull City and UCFB partner Burnley are back in the big time after winning promotion from the Championship. Like most promoted teams, a successful season will be maintaining their league status come May. But as Watford and Bournemouth proved last time out, the new boys can mix it with the old guard in the modern Premier League era.
Sunderland, who make a habit of just surviving, will be hopeful of not being in a relegation battle this season under David Moyes, who’s taken over after Sam Allardyce took his dream job with England.
Nick Wilde, Head of Academics at UCFB Wembley
Champions: Manchester City
Rest of top four: Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea
Relegated: Sunderland, Bournemouth, Hull
Top scorer: Diego Costa
Player to look out for: Harry Kane – after a disappointing European Championships, Harry will thrive under the care of the best manager in the Premier League, Mauricio Pochettino.
Neil Silver, Head of Complementary Curriculum, Employability and Media at UCFB
Champions: Manchester City
Rest of top four: Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham
Relegated: Hull, Watford, Middlesbrough
Top scorer: Sergio Aguero
Player to look out for: Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Having achieved so much elsewhere, he will want to prove himself in the Premier League.