Hey haters: I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!
I know, it seems like only yesterday that Chelsea was hoisting the league trophy, Newcastle fans were excitedly touching themselves after backing their way into another season in the top flight, and Liverpool was getting their ASSES handed to them by Stoke on the last weekend of the 2014-15 season.
But that was then and this is now, and now is only two – TWO DAYS – away from the start of the “next year” that Spurs fans always love to talk about. So do yourselves a favor and get some damn sleep tonight because come Saturday at 7:45am ET the shit is about to get really real all over again… which means that by 9:45am ET or so Spurs fans can start talking about “next year” all over again!
“Go on then, son. Where my picks at?”
Aright, keep your pants on. They are coming. A word of warning though about the following 2015-16 EPL preview…
A wise old man with a grey beard as long as his cane once told me to never make predictions before the close of the transfer window, particularly for those at the very top and very bottom of the league, because one addition or subtraction can make all the difference in the world. Then he suggested I stop gambling and get into a more sustainable business like toilet paper business. So I said “fuck you Gandolf, the people want their preview”… so time to give the people what they want (and make some damn money in the process).
Before we jump into the coming season though, you wanna know a dirty secret?
All things considered, last season was one of the tamest on record for the EPL. Chelsea dominated the league table from start to finish. The top four was essentially set in stone as soon as the first ball was kicked in August. Every single one of the Champions League participants were tripped up much, much earlier than they should’ve been. Even the relegation fight ended up being a bit of a snoozer thanks to Burnley’s wee-ness and QPR’s incompetence, leaving just three(ish) teams struggling to avoid the drop as the only thing of any real importance as the season wound down.
For those of you who haven’t been following the league for all that long, this may have marked an all-time low for the EPL in terms of “drama”, which is unfortunate and yet also strangely impressive if that really turns out to be a low water mark.
SIX SALACIOUS STORYLINES
As always, there are a million interesting storylines that will be worth following going into the season. Here are just a few to keep your eye on:
1) The Mourinho v Wenger catfight
The two managers have never liked one another but things really got kicked up a notch when Arsene Wenger got a little grabby with Jose Mourinho last season. They then got off to a fun start last weekend with their public “I didn’t shake your hand”… “No, I didn’t shake your hand” dispute after Arsenal won the Nobody Gives A Shit Shield.
2) Roberto Martinez and Everton… are who we thought they were?
Everton spent most of last season swimming in a bathtub of its own poop. Was the added pressure (and exertion) of playing in Europa League to blame, or is Roberto Martinez not quite the coach we thought he was? This season will go a long way towards answering this question.
3) Stoke just sprouted its first soccer pube!
We have all heard about the brilliance of Southampton and the shrewdness of Swansea, but Stoke – long known for playing an incredibly ugly, albeit modestly effective, brand of soccer – has spent the past two seasons retooling the roster in ways that fans at the Britannia Stadium will be wholly unfamiliar with. Have they turned a corner or was buying players like Ibrahim Afellay and Marco van Ginkel like putting (expensive) lipstick on a pig?
4) Can Brendan Rodgers survive until Halloween?
Talk about scary, take a look at the front end of Liverpool’s schedule:
5) Will any of the n00bs manage to stick around?
What’s particularly intriguing about this year’s batch of fresh meat is that they are all going about trying to stick around the top flight in completely different ways. Bournemouth is largely sticking with the squad that got them there, Watford is bringing in a bunch of foreign mercenaries, and Norwich is counting on their coach to be magical. Bold strategy, Cotton.
6) Cracking the Fearsome (Big-Money) Foursome
Ah yes, the age old question. Liverpool did it two seasons ago. Spurs have done it multiple times recently. But we are very much in the midst of a “rich getting richer” period of evolution in the EPL, where the top four – especially last year – were simply out of reach for the would-be contenders for a Champions League spot.
So as a quick reminder, here is how the clubs finished last season:
And this is the order in which the oddmakers currently have them finishing:
Ah yes, the money shot you’ve all been sitting there on your knees just dying for… FINALLY.
Let’s start with the top of the table. As you can see from the graphic above, the oddsmakers aren’t going out on any limbs, which is no surprise because they are simply taking their cues from where the nameless, faceless, know-nothing sheep throw their money (ie, too much flowing in on a certain team and they simply move the odds accordingly). But you and I know better. “Why’s that?” you ask… simple:
[Now for my favorite part: pissing a bunch of people off]
In my mind there is a pair of buckets of three-team buckets (in alphabetical order):
TOP BUCKET – “TITLE CHALLENGERS”
Chelsea, Gunners and United
NEXT BUCKET – “GIMME DAT FOURTH SLOT”
City, Liverpool and Tottenham
TOP BUCKET – “TITLE CHALLENGERS”
I can smell City fans shitting themselves in anger at the perceived disrespect at this very moment. But hold your horses, I’m going to get to that. First, let’s start with the wannabe table toppers.
Why they could win the title: What are you, stupid? They just did it with the same damn squad.
Why they won’t win the title: It’s almost as if Mourinho expects his midfielders to score 20 goals each this season. Injuries, mostly involving Diego Costa, were the only reason the league title was in any doubt at all last season, and yet the only addition to back up Costa (and Remy) was something called a Falcow.
Why they could win the title: Because they are stacked up and down the field, especially in the midfield where when one angry little midget goes down, another little guy is ready to step right in and take his place.
Why they won’t win the title: Francis Coquelin is a nice player and Olivier Giroud has nice hair, but the club simply doesn’t have the cover at DM or the firepower up top to list the trophy this year.
Why they could win the title: The club is staaaaaaaaaaaacked, particularly in the midfield, and have the best goalkeeper in the league… and probably the world.
Why they wouldn’t win the title: All the pressure is on Wayne Rooney to shoulder a lot of the load up top right now, and there is the chance that David De Gea bounces to Real Madrid before the end of the transfer window. Assuming that doesn’t happen though…
**PREDICTION: UNITED WINS THE LEAGUE**
(Important note: This was a very close call between United and Arsenal… and if DDG heads out then I will absolutely most likely probably have to re-evaluate my pick. One thing I will not be changing: my belief that Chelsea is NOT going to repeat.)
NEXT BUCKET – “GIMME DAT FOURTH SLOT”
Why they could finish 4th: Sterling and Fabian Delph are nice additions, and Kevin de Bruyne could be a big help, plus they have two of the most influential players in the league in Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero. What’s more, the owners also have more money than they know what to do with and won’t be afraid to spend it in the January transfer window if things are headed in the wrong direction.
Why they won’t finish 4th: There are way, way too many question marks and possible concerns for club at the moment. I’ve said all summer that City is in trouble, because even if Yaya sticks around he is perpetually one forgotten birthday card away from becoming a locker room cancer. I think it’s only a matter of time until he melts down again, and (manager) Manuel Pellegrini is no doubt sick of everybody questioning his job status and will have one foot out the door by March when it becomes clear the club is dying to spend billions to bring in Pep Guardiola to replace him.
Why they could finish 4th: Brought in some sneaky good talent over the summer transfer window, and midfielder Dele Alli (age 19) could be a breakout success this season. Provided they hold on to Hugo Lloris and Harry Kane stays healthy the club will be within shouting distance of the top four.
Why they won’t finish 4th: Because owner Daniel Levy has (thus far – fingers crossed) neglected to bring in another striker to complement Kane.
Why they could finish 4th: Because they club has made some smart acquisitions over the summer transfer window – eg, Nathaniel Clyne, Roberto Firmino, James Milner and Christian Benteke – moves that it could afford to make after selling Raheem Sterling for an ungodly sum.
Why they wouldn’t finish 4th: Make no mistake, Liverpool is a much better team than they were coming into last year (not to mention that crap squad that finished it), but Daniel Sturridge will be a key cog in a fully functional Liverpool squad, and I’m not convinced he has any hamstrings left after breaking them all last season.
**PREDICTION: LIVERPOOL FINISHES IN 4th**
(Important note: Daniel Levy has a borderline fetish with waiting until the last minute to bring in guys so I absolutely reserve the right to change my pick depending on what happens… same goes for City if they decide to splurge on a last second addition. As of right now at this very moment though, Liverpoo strikes me as the best of the rest – until Sturridge hears another pop, then bye-bye Brendan!)
As for my predictions for how the rest of the table will shake out:
PICKS IN BRIEF FOR THE REST OF THE LEAGUE
EVERTON (7th): Big bounce back year for the Toffees and Martinez. They had WAY too much talent to begin with, made some nice signings, and don’t have the Europa League to distract them.
STOKE (8th): As mentioned above, nice moves in the offseason may be helping to change the club’s mindset – not to mention aspirations, especially if Bojan Krkic can stay healthy this time around.
SWANSEA (9th): Could easily finish one slot above or below, for the most part this club screams “upper-middle class” louder than driving an Audi.
CRYSTAL PALACE (10th): Alan Pardew + Yohan Cabaye = mid-table
SOUTHAMPTON (11th): Prepare to be the posterchild for “Careful what you wish for” in nabbing a Europa League slot… my guess is the club struggles in much the same way as Everton did last season.
WEST HAM (12th): My bet is they spend much of the season at the bottom of the upper half before slipping a bit at the end after Southampton gets its shit together.
NEWCASTLE (13th): Toughest club of all to predict. Will Steve McLaren be the right boss to pull them out of their funk? Yes, in the sense they are unlikely to be bottom feeders, but no, they aren’t about to recapture the magic that had them fighting for Europa a couple years ago.
BOURNEMOUTH (14th): Think they might have what it takes to stick around. Dominated the Championship last year adding some interesting new players (like Chelsea’s on-loan Christian Atsu) in with they believe is a solid core from last season. Good luck, young fellas.
WEST BROM (15th): Possible loss of Saido Berahino – cough, SPURS, cough cough – may hit the club harrrrrrrrd, but Tony Pulis knows how to get jusssssst enough out of a club to keep them in the EPL (though not enough to do any better than that).
VILLA (16th): Some nice moves late in the transfer window but the loss of Delph and Benteke is going to be hard to overcome. Club is going to be in a dogfight to stay out of the relegation zone.
WATFORD (17th): Hired guns for abroad will come in and do just enough.
SUNDERLAND (18th*): Why don’t you get better? I just don’t get it. (Oh, right, you’re poor.)
LESTER (19th*): Club was on the verge of being feel-good story of the league going into this season… then some guys got a little racist-y with some hookers (on camera), which led to all sorts of problems, including the recent sacking of the manager. Not a good look. Bad feeling about the Foxes this season.
NORWICH (20th*): You’re cute.
Player of the Year: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)… he’s just too damn good to go with anyone else.
Young Player of the Year: The obvious choice is Harry Kane (Tottenham – F), who I disqualified because (a) he won it last year and (b) he’s too good. Next best bet is Memphis Depay (United – MF), who is going to have a damn good year (at least he better if the Red Devils are gonna have a shot), but picking a favorite is boring. Next I considered John Stones (Everton – D) and Jordan Ibe (Liverpool – MF), who have shown glimpses of brilliance, but instead I’m digging waaaaay down the list and going with Ross Barkley (Everton – MF).
Top Goalscorer: Wayne Rooney (United)… the offense is going to flow through him, and flow through him it must if – I feel like I’ve heard this before – the Red Devils are gonna have a shot. If you are feeling particularly frisky and looking for a longshot though then I’d suggest going with Loic Remy (Chelsea), who at 40/1 could be a steal given Costa’s injury woes and Hazard/Fabregas/Oscar feeding him balls in front of net.
So there you have it: the greatest 2015-16 EPL preview & betting guide that Barstool will ever post in the history of forever.
For those of you who don’t like soccer, why the hell are you still reading at this point? Isn’t there some co-ed spikeball you could be playing/watching? For those of you who do, I’m sure you are just DYING to leave comments pointing out where all I messed up and why I am mentally challenges for not predicting your club will do better… have at it in you animals.
Other recent “related” posts to get you ready for the season:
Barstool’s Guide to Picking an EPL Club (July 31)
Barstool’s Interim Guide to the EPL Transfer Window – With Grades! (July 17)
Sam U.L. Army