Dan Wiseman is sitting in the now legendary Gameweek Preview blog chair on a weekly basis this season (more frequently at Christmas – but shhhhh don’t tell him that). Take it away Dan…
So TFG’ers, here we go again. We are just two days away from start of the brand-spanking new 2018/19 Premier League season. Last campaign was typically full of controversy and drama, but above it all, rose the irresistible Manchester City – who passed their way to a Premier League and EFL Cup double in some style.
Since then though, we all played witness to the source of our ongoing football hangovers – the 2018 World Cup. It was an incredible tournament, wasn’t it? Full of goals, attacking play, VAR penalties and England corner-kick dreams. Though VAR will play no part in the EPL this season, hopefully the quality of football will…
Going into the new season then, and Pep Guardiola hasn’t been resting on his laurels. Despite finishing a comfortable 19 points clear of runners-up Manchester United, City have bolstered their squad by adding Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez (finally) and defensive prodigy Phillipe Sandler to the ranks ahead of a campaign in which they will surely set their sights on some much-anticipated European success. Don’t think that this will effect their league form however – they’ll still be a strong choice for your pick on any of this season’s match weeks. The Sky Blues did, however, miss out on the signature of Italian midfielder Jorginho, who opted to link up with his former Napoli manager, Mauricio Sarri: Antonio Conte’s successor at Chelsea.
Jorginho has undoubtedly been Sarri’s marquee signing, with his only other piece of business culminating in the signature of Rob Green (yes, Rob Green). The priority for Chelsea this summer though, was to keep hold of Thibaut Cortouis and Eden Hazard, who were both linked with big-money moves to Real Madrid. At the time of writing, their attempts to keep them at Stamford Bridge have been successful, so if all goes well for the Blues, backing them to make a return to the top four this year seems sensible.
Also banking on a Champions League finish are Liverpool and Man United, who have had very contrasting transfer windows. Whilst the Merseyside outfit have seen the likes of Alisson, Fabinho, Naby Keïta and Xherdan Shaquiri arrive at Anfield this summer, Jose Mourinho has been noticeably frustrated with his club’s performance in the market. As it stands, only Fred, Diogo Dalot and Lee Grant (just when you thought Rob Green was shocking enough) have signed for United this summer, which has lead to ‘The Special One’ being even more grumpy than usual in his pre-season press conferences. It seems that another sub-par season is on the cards for United, whilst Liverpool will fancy their chances at finally winning the league.
Back down in London, and there are more differences to be found. Arsenal, after the departure of Arsene Wenger, have had a busy transfer period under the guidance of Unai Emery – the man selected to be the official Arsenal scapegoat for the 2018/19 season -, bringing in Bernd Leno, Sokratis, Mateo Guendouzi, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Lucas Torreira for a respectable total of £79M. Whilst a mouth-watering strike partnership of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Aymeric Aubameyang seems to finally be in harmony, the defensive issues seem to remain a potential issue, with both Sokratis and Leno partial to the occasional error during their time in the Bundesliga.
For Tottenham though, the new stadium seems to be the only change being readied over the summer, with Mauricio Pochettino yet to make a single signing. At the moment, it seems to be a tricky campaign ahead of Spurs: with no additions to the squad, the ability to perform consistently in the Champions League and the Premier League is toughened. The goalscoring responsibilities still remain firmly on Harry Kane’s weary shoulders, whilst the fanbase grow impatient with a lack of silverware, all from inside a daunting new ground.
This must be music to the ears to all of TFG’s West Ham fans, who after an incredible summer, could well see The Hammers plotting their own arrival onto the European scene. Manuel Pellegrini has assembled a dangerous-looking side ahead of his first season in charge, which could feature a central-midfield partnership of Jack Wilshere (who arrived on a free transfer) and Mark Noble – potentially the best Cockney duo since Chaz & Dave – surrounded by the likes of Felipe Anderson, Issa Diop, Andriy Yarmolenko, Lukasz Fabianski and Ryan Fredericks, who are all new arrivals.
As always though, there will be three new teams joining the Premier League this year. Stoke, Swansea and West Brom were all relegated to the Championship back in May and replacing them are newboys Cardiff, Fulham and Wolves, who between them, have spent almost £160M on new talent. Fulham and Wolves have carried out the majority of that spending, with Alfie Mawson, Andre Schurrle, Jean Michael Seri, Fabri and Alexandar Mitrovic heading to Craven Cottage, whilst Wolves have continued to build on their Portuguese theme, by adding (rather amazingly) Rui Patricio, Joao Moutinho and Raul Jimenez to their squad, as well as making the loan deals for Diogo Jota, Leo Bonatini and Willy Boly permanent for the upcoming season.
Other notable transferred players from the Premier League include Richardson and Lucas Digne, who have both arrived at Everton from Watford and Barcelona respectively, Ricardo Pereira, who has joined Leicester from Porto, Max Meyer, who has been snapped up by Crystal Palace after his Schalke 04 contract expired, Jannik Vestergaard, who arrives at Southampton after leaving Borussia Monchengladbach and Terence Kongolo, who has left Monaco to join Huddersfield Town.
Right then, lets put transfers aside, and get down to business. I’m sure that you have all been thinking about it constantly over summer, spending your holidays away from the pool with your phone out, eagerly awaiting the Premier League’s fixture list announcement so you can begin to plan out your pick for the first match week of the season. Or at least, we all have, here at TFG HQ.
The first weekend of this exciting new season will feature some very intriguing fixtures, with some being rather difficult to predict. The opening game of the season will see Manchester United take on Leicester City at Old Trafford, but although the bookies make Mourinho’s men strong favourites going into this one, I see a potential upset on the cards. Alternatively, one of my personal potential picks would be to see Bournemouth beat newsboys Cardiff at home, a day later, on Saturday. Wolves to beat Everton in a televised kick-off on the same day is another interesting choice, whilst Chelsea away to Huddersfield and Watford at home to Brighton also represent a solid selection for your first pick of the season.
After this week however, your pick is completely your decision. Whatever your reason for playing TFG this season, whether it be to test your footy knowledge, to gain the office bragging rights, or even to escape from the annual disappointment that is attempting to organise a fantasy football team, we hope it is everything you hoped it would be. It promises to be a season unlike any other, but whoever wins it, is your decision. That, is the beauty of ThatFootballGame – enjoy!