Premier League Preview | Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Leicester, Liverpool
We have previewed each Premier League team ahead of the 2019/20 season.
In the first entry, Ben Smith assessed Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Brighton and Burnley.
Here, he turns his attention to Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Leicester and Liverpool.
Big, big change at Chelsea.
Maurizio Sarri is gone.
Whether he left of his own accord or jumped before he was pushed is unclear. He leaves Chelsea having guaranteed Champions League football as well as winning the Europa League and the reigns have been taken up by former player and club legend Frank Lampard.
Lampard had quite a successful season at the helm with Derby last year, leading them to the play-off final at Wembley before suffering a heartbreaking defeat at the hands of Aston Villa.
He has come across really well in his interviews so far and he conveys the kind of strong ambition that any club seeks in a new manager.
The biggest hurdle in the close season for Chelsea has been their transfer ban. This, coupled with the loss of talisman Eden Hazard, has left the squad lacking some freshness.
The defence is ageing and there is also a question over where the goals are going to come from.
It will be interesting to see if Lampard backs youth and gives the likes of Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham a shot in the starting eleven, or if he opts for the more senior players like Pedro and Olivier Giroud.
The team will certainly benefit from having N’Golo Kante back in his regular position at defensive midfield as the Sarri experiment never really looked effective.
From a neutral perspective you would hope that Lampard will be given a proper crack at this new challenge. He has been given a three-year contract and the club should allow him those three years no matter what.
Chelsea have had a turbulent few seasons and now more than ever they need some consistency – where better to find that consistency than an ambitious young English coach who knows the club inside out?
Unfortunately for Lampard, history would suggest that the club will remove him from his post as soon as results turn against him, which is a crying shame.
On the field, Mateo Kovacic will have to deliver a bit more than he did last year, as will Jorginho. In attack a lot will be expected of Christian Pulisic, and Olivier Giroud is certainly going to have to be more ruthless in front of goals.
I think Frank Lampard will make a really good manager. Whether he is given the chance to reach his potential at Chelsea is up for debate. This season I think they may struggle at times because of the demands of both the Premier League and Champions League on a squad that hasn’t had any new investment.
I also feel the squad doesn’t have enough goals in it.
For these reasons I think Chelsea will miss out on the Top 4 this season.
Dreadful window for Crystal Palace, arguably the worse of any team in the top flight.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka has left for Manchester United and they have failed to find adequate players to join the club on a permanent basis.
They have aggressively refused to let Wilfred Zaha leave the club for anything less than £100m, which would be a record transfer fee between two English clubs. Allegedly Everton offered £80m plus Tosun and McCarthy but were turned down – this is astounding.
Aside from the fact that Tosun would have been a better option than Christian Benteke, £80m would have been an incredible windfall for Palace to use on building the rest of the team.
They now have an unhappy player who has submitted a transfer request in order to force his way out.
His performances surely won’t be at the same level as they were last season and having a star man who wants to leave can only have a negative impact on the rest of the squad.
They have added James McCarthy in a separate deal, as well as adding the veteran Gary Cahill.
These players have experience but worrying injury records and may just be over the hill in terms of reliable Premier League quality.
Palace don’t fill me with any confidence at all.
They were wildly inconsistent last year and that was with Zaha firing on all cylinders. I think this season may be a step too far for the Eagles.
The experience of Roy Hodgson certainly makes a difference but their squad isn’t great at all.
Everton are in the next group after the Big 6 – a mini league between themselves, Leicester, Watford, West Ham and Wolves.
All of these five clubs will have hopes of trying to push on this year and break into the top six.
Along with West Ham, Everton have spent huge amounts of cash over the last few years and their fanbase will be beginning to get a bit restless.
This summer they have completed the permanent signing of Andre Gomes after a successful loan spell and have also added the experience of Fabian Delph, who joins from Manchester City.
In Moise Kean they have a young striker with lots of potential and he has the ability to become a cult hero at Goodison over the next few years.
Everton’s first six games are all against mid table teams, they don’t play one of the big boys until the final weekend in September when Manchester City visit.
I feel these first six games will be pivotal in Everton’s season.
If they start well the squad will be brimming with confidence and they can be in a very healthy position by the time they play the big guns. If they start slow, like last year, they will spend the whole season playing catch up.
It is also a big season for Marco Silva as manager.
The settling in period is now over. If he is to turn Everton into a top team then it has to happen now. He has spent heavily in order to shape the squad that he wants, he and his players must now produce the goods.
Last season Everton consistently failed to recover from setbacks. After losing a game they were expected to win, they would nosedive into a run of three or four defeats on the bounce.
This season they need to be more consistent and they must show the ability to bounce back after defeat.
I see Everton having a similar season to last year, I think they will finish 8th once again. They should put some of their focus into the FA Cup this year, their fans have waited a long time for some silverware.
Brilliant window for Leicester.
They managed to secure the permanent signing of Youri Tielemans and also added the crafty Ayoze Perez into their already potent attack.
They have obviously lost Harry Maguire to Man United but have received a world record fee and shouldn’t be too badly affected.
This has been Brendan Rodgers’ first pre-season with Leicester and his first full season at the helm.
He has quietly gone about assembling a seriously strong team and one that will cause opposition players a lot of problems throughout the season.
Their midfield has so many options now and they have some really exciting youngsters in Choudhury, Chilwell, Maddison and Harvey Barnes. Rodgers is and always has been an ambitious manager. He will not be setting his sights on the Top 10, he will be looking to force Leicester into the top six.
They have a very tough start – they will play Chelsea, Man Utd, Spurs and Liverpool in the first eight games.
We will know a lot more about Leicester come the end of September. One thing I know for sure is that none of the top six will enjoy their trips to the King Power. Leicester will make it extremely difficult for visiting teams and will no doubt cause a number of upsets during the course of the season.
I believe Leicester are the best placed of anyone to launch an assault on the top six. I think they will have a very good season and will be a formidable force when playing at home.
I’m not convinced they will have enough to break into the elite group at the top but a particularly bad season for the likes of Chelsea or Man United could leave the door open.
Remarkably quiet window for Liverpool with only a small outlay on two young players in Sepp Van Den Berg and Harvey Elliott and the acquisition of backup goalkeeper Adrian on a free transfer.
Going in the opposite direction are Alberto Moreno and Daniel Sturridge, whose contracts have expired, and Simon Mignolet who has permanently left the club to join Club Brugge.
The Kopites have also allowed Harry Wilson to join Bournemouth on a year long loan deal.
Jurgen Klopp probably feels there’s very little strengthening that Liverpool can do.
Their 97 points last season was impeccable and they have kept hold of all of their most prized assets during the summer window. Despite a shaky pre-season they looked back to their sharpest during last weekend’s Community Shield, particularly in the second half.
I expect their formidable front three to continue terrorizing defences again this year and it is very likely they will remain unbeaten at Anfield once more. That said, they were fortunate with injuries last season and would be rattled by any injuries to the likes of Alisson, Van Dijk or Mo Salah.
Last season’s title race was insane and the points tallies were unprecedented.
I do not see it continuing in the same manner this year.
I think City and Liverpool will still be the two to catch but I believe the winning totals will be a lot lower, purely because there has never been a league with so many difficult away games.
Places like Leicester, Everton and West Ham are going to be extremely hard, let alone visits to the other teams in the top six.
I expect Liverpool to push very hard again but ultimately I cannot see them toppling this Guardiola side. They’ll continue to be a driving force in Europe and could well achieve back to back Champions Leagues.
They are unlucky to be in an era in which Manchester City are so strong and I feel they will miss out on the most elusive prize to Pep once more.