The English Premier League 2016-17: What to expect

 

Nakshatra Pain

 

The English Premier League has always been one to surprise us; unexpected outcomes are often, if not regularly, witnessed.

No matter how many battles you win in the league, it is tenacity that decides the winner of the war. A consistent team, that has soaked up all the pressure throughout the course of arduous fixtures, and yet managed to score and win at will, ultimately goes on to become victors in the long run. Especially in the Premier League, which is probably the most physically demanding and open of all the leagues in the world, a team has to put in that extra effort to always better their previous best.

The 2015-16 Premier League season had everyone, including famous retired footballers and pundits, scratching their heads. Two teams, with almost the same line-ups as the previous season and with completely different outcomes with respect to their positions in the league table, headed in opposite directions. The former champions ended up showcasing the worst title defense in Premier League history while the team that had finished 14th after getting promoted the previous season, cantered to the coveted trophy. And when their paths crossed, the eventual champions fared better.

So what to expect from the new season? Surely it cannot be another Leicester City fairytale or something similar? Or would the so-called big-spending ‘giants’ add to their trophy tally?

One must suppose that the bigwigs in the league, like Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City have all learnt their lesson and will not underestimate any of the smaller teams. After the Leicester City dream run, while the heavyweights have become wary, other teams have been given hope. Ambition is the key to success and Leicester has certainly kindled that fire in the heart of most teams.

Last season, after putting in a string of good results initially, Leicester’s performance was deemed to be a fluke. They proved those claims wrong by staying strong till Christmas, and though they raised a lot of eyebrows, there were still doubters. They put all doubt to bed though, and not only did they win the title, they raced to it with a couple of games to spare.

In the end, they had 23 wins, 12 draws and 3 losses throughout the course of the league.

However, that season showed that a title defense in the Premier League is hardest part.

Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City have spent big (and still are) to make sure they do not repeat their mistakes. Chelsea themselves have made a Leicester City weapon their very own in the form of N’golo Kante. It will be interesting to see how the player touted as the next Claude Makelele fares in a big club after a big money move.

Riyad Mahrez, with 17 goals, 11 assists and the PFA Player of the Year award looks at an uncertain Leicester City future. They seemed to have slacked defensively, which showed in their 4-0 defeat at the hands of PSG and then a 4-2 humbling against Barcelona in the pre-season friendly matches.

With Leicester looking to fall apart, the bookies have given them 33-1 odds to win the league. It looks highly unlikely that Leicester will be able to defend the title, even though they have signed a talented forward in the form of Ahmed Musa in a record-breaking transfer for the club worth 16.6 million pounds.

Most of the pundits have predicted that either of Chelsea, Manchester United or Manchester City will win the league.

One thing to be noticed though, is the steady improvements of Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United. While both teams have had their share of disappointments, they have achieved a lot in the league, with Spurs finishing 3rd, bettering their 5th from the previous season and The Hammers finishing 7th bettering a previous 12th place finish.

This they have done more with the help of pure raw talent and less of big spending. For sure, Harry Kane and Dimitri Payet have become world-class players by developing their game from within their respective clubs.

These clubs can be considered as serious title contenders next season.

And of course, we have Arsenal and Liverpool.

While, in my opinion, Liverpool, even with an experienced manager in the form of Jurgen Klopp has still got some development to do in their game play to become genuine title contenders, Arsenal are one of the most consistent teams in England. One has to go back as far as the 1995-96 season when they last finished outside the top four, coming 5th in the league on that occasion.

So, even if they have not exactly had a trophy galore for the past few seasons, they are always genuine title contenders with a strong squad.

Everton, under Ronald Koeman, may fancy their chances but might have to hold on to Romelu Lukaku, who looks destined for Chelsea.

Southampton, after losing their manager and strikers Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane, look deflated.

However, this season, more than a battle of teams, it will be a battle of managers.

For almost all the top managers in the world have gathered in the Premier League.

And these are managers who do not stop at just watching from the sideline. One can expect a lot of aggression, antiques, and verbal volleys especially from the likes of Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Kolpp Antonio Conte and Arsene Wenger. And with them at it, it will be hard even for someone like Pep Guardiola to keep his cool. The new season looks set to be tactical, with the masterminds shouting out instructions.

Of course, Antonio Conte started using a megaphone earlier in his managerial career to shout out orders, so he is one who is obviously up for the task!

Rough play, hard tackles, exquisite skill, splendid saves and varieties of ups and downs are part and parcel of the Premier League. Add to that the sudden upsets and game-changing masterminds, this season is one for fans and neutrals alike to crave for.

To that effect, from the 13th of August, we can expect a new form of war to begin.