It’s nearly that time again. The summer has come and gone, and the football season is almost upon us. The Premier League sides are now back in the full swing of pre-season training and the internet is awash with transfer speculation – don’t you just love it?
Given what’s happened so far this summer, we thought we’d whet your appetite for the year ahead and give you five pre-season predictions to keep an eye on as the season gets underway.
Norwich to run out of steam upon top-flight return
Few could have predicted the season that Norwich City would have in the Championship last year. Daniel Farke’s German revolution saw the Canaries upstage the likes of Leeds United and Aston Villa to claim the Championship title – and in some style in the end. The Norfolk club, owned by celebrity chef Delia Smith, have never been flush with cash and they don’t appear to be spending too big for their return to the Premier League either. Their biggest signing thus far has been German keeper Ralf Fahrmann, from Bundesliga side Schalke.
You just wonder whether City’s clutch of untried, untested Germans will be cut out for Premier League football. They relied heavily on their young, attack-minded full backs last term, but both Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis are both likely to be on the back foot more in 2019/20. The jury’s also out on whether Finnish striker Teemu Pukki can replicate his 29-goal season in the Championship. You have to wonder whether the Canaries would be happy to simply pocket the parachute payments and return to The Championship a much stronger club off the field.
Sheffield United to beat the drop
At a biggest possible price of 2,500/1, a wager on Sheffield United to win the Premier League is hardly a value bet, given that Leicester’s odds were double that amount in 2016. It suggests there is a 0.04% chance of the Blades winning the title in their debut season back in the top flight.
However, at odds of 6/4, Sheffield United are a decent shout to survive in their first season back in the top tier since 2004. Boss, Chris Wilder’s refreshing style of play will be a breath of fresh air among the big boys. However, tailoring that system against the top six will be key to picking up precious points against the elite.
Aston Villa to push for a top-half finish
If Norwich are at one end of the spending spectrum, Aston Villa are well and truly at the other end. Dean Smith’s Villa are back in the big time after a few years in the second tier and their new owners are determined to make a bold impression. Smith has sought to retain the services of centre back Tyrone Mings in a £20m-plus deal from Bournemouth. He’s also snapped up another young centre half from former employers Brentford, in the shape of Ezri Konsa.
At the other end of the pitch, Smith’s also brought plenty of flair to the party, with the unpredictable Jota signing from Villa’s bitter rivals, Birmingham City. Brazilian front man Wesley has signed from Club Brugge, while the club is hoping to secure a work permit for talented Brazilian Douglas Luiz. At a best price of 5/1, a top half finish for Villa is certainly achievable.
Newcastle set for the wooden spoon
It never rains but it pours for the long-suffering Newcastle United supporters. The footballing gods aren’t content with giving them Mike Ashley as an owner, they’ve let Rafa Benitez leave the club, to be replaced at the helm by Steve Bruce. A decision that must surely rank in the Premier League’s biggest ever managerial downgrades. The Magpies have recently sold their top striking talent Ayoze Perez to Leicester City, which is almost certain to leave them short of goals this term.
Whether the wily Bruce can wheel and deal in time before the transfer window closes to add some more firepower remains to be seen. At a best price of 12/1 to finish top ten, if United don’t start the season well, the wheels could soon fall off at St. James’ Park and a bottom-placed finish wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility. Combine that too with any of the free bet promotions offered at the start of the season and you could really take advantage of any turmoil on Tyneside.
Marco Silva to be the first manager to be sacked in 2019/20
The Everton faithful were somewhat restless with boss Marco Silva for much of last season. Despite several big-money signings and considerable ambition shown, performances on the pitch didn’t materialise; at least until the back end of the season. A run of just two defeats in their last nine league games helped the Toffees to a more respectable 8th-place finish, but before that it wasn’t looking good for The Blues. Nearly everyone has to worry about job security at some point, especially with automation set to replace many labour forces. For managers, results are everything. Without them, they can expect their job to be at risk.
Whether that end-of-season form will have given Marco Silva some additional credit in the bank with supporters remains to be seen. But one thing’s for sure, if the team isn’t pushing for European football this term, the Portuguese’ future is almost certain to be looking bleak. Surprisingly most bookies have at least seven or eight managers listed as more likely to leave their post first than Silva, but at 16/1 we think this is a great value bet.