The World Game team have filtered through the pre-season form guides and endless transfer gossip stories, to bring you our comprehensive club-by-club guide to the 2018-19 Premier League season.
Manager: Unai Emery
Position last season: 6th
Nickname: The Gunners
Ground: Emirates Stadium
Key signings: Bernd Leno, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Lucas Torreira
Key man: Mesut Ozil – Despite a turbulent off-season, culminating in his retirement from international football, the German will be key for the Gunners to have any chance of challenging for the title. The 29-year-old has been starring in pre-season and, with a point to prove, expect Ozil to start the new campaign strongly.
Why they'll win: Fresh off Arsene Wenger’s 22-year reign at the club, there is a hint of uncertainty around Arsenal’s Premier League prospects. But with uncertainty comes hope and after a couple of disappointing league campaigns, expect Unai Emery’s men to turn a few heads in the opening rounds, despite a difficult draw. Off the back of their first full pre-season at the Emirates Stadium, former Dortmund duo Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan will also be pivotal.
Why they'll struggle: Consistency has been an issue for the north London club over the past few seasons, particularly after Christmas. Emery’s quest to solve Arsenal’s persistent defensive problems will likely take longer than hoped and with Manchester City’s dominance set to continue, the Premier League title still looks a way off for the Gunners.
Manager: Eddie Howe
Position last season: 12th
Nickname: The Cherries
Ground: Vitality Stadium
Key signings: David Brooks, Diego Rico, Jefferson Lerma
Key man: Nathan Ake - The central defender won the Bournemouth player of the month seven out of nine times last season. One of the best defenders in the league under-25 (he’s just 23), and someone who will be pivotal for the Cherries surviving for a fourth straight year.
Why they'll win: There’s a lot of young talent that are starting to hit their prime years, like strikers Callum Wilson and Joshua King (both 26). There is also plenty to like about 21-year-old defensive midfielder Lewis Cook, one of the most promising English players out there. Bournemouth’s never-give-up attitude was immense last season, recovering 21 points from losing positions, more than any other side. If you combine all that, it could be a top-half finish for one of the smallest, if not the smallest, teams in the Premier League.
Why they'll struggle: They conceded 61 goals last season, the fourth-most of any side. If they struggle for goals, they’ll have a relegation battle on their hands with that kind of defence. Their two signings from Spain’s La Liga, Jefferson Lerma and Diego Rico, have clearly been brought in to help them with that, however if they don’t thrive, Bournemouth will be fighting to survive. And while they impressed the last three seasons, they are a small club, and according to transfermarkt.co.uk they have the 18th-most valuable squad. Eddie Howe can only maximise his squad for so long.
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION
Manager: Chris Hughton
Position last season: 15th
Nickname: The Seagulls
Ground: The Amex
Key signings: Percy Tau, Alireza Jahanbakhsh
Key man: Alireza Jahanbakhsh – the Iranian attacker could be the man to help Brighton unlock opposition defences after arriving at The Amex from Eredivisie side AZ Alkmaar for $29 million. His speed, skillful dribbling and eye for goal should take some of the goalscoring burden off Glenn Murray.
Why they'll win: In their second season in the Premier League, Brighton will remain focused on avoiding relegation and have a solid squad which should be able to get the job done again. The Seagulls demonstrated a relentless attitude towards defence last campaign and if they can repeat that, and add some extra goals to their repertoire, a mid-table finish is not out of the question.
Why they'll struggle: The question for Brighton is: where will the goals come from? Murray was the main man for them last season and if he or another player can’t match that then they might be in a bit of trouble.
Manager: Sean Dyche
Position Last season: 7th
Nickname: The Clarets
Ground: Turf Moor
Key Signings: Joe Hart, Ben Gibson
Key man: James Tarkowski – The defender enjoyed a career-best campaign in 2017-18 which earned him a first England cap and helped take the Clarets into European football for the first time in 51 years. Tarkowski seamlessly replaced Michael Keane last season and the 25-year-old will again be pivotal if Burnley are to recreate their heroics.
Why they’ll win: The Clarets astutely secured the services of manager Sean Dyche until the end of 2022, after leading his side into Europe in one of the most surprising feats of last season. Despite his unfashionable methods, one of the 47-year-old’s trademarks is maintaining a relatively small squad and keeping everyone involved.
Why they’ll struggle: Burnley have ultimately been inactive during the transfer window, aside from the late addition of Joe Hart from Manchester City. Add to that the difficulty of playing in Europe as well as the Premier League, and a mid-table finish could be beckoning for the Clarets.
Manager: Neil Warnock
Position last season: Promoted from Championship (2nd)
Nickname: The Bluebirds
Ground: Cardiff City Stadium
Key signings: Bobby Reid, Josh Murphy, Alex Smithies, Greg Cunningham
Key man: Junior Hoilett – the club’s top scorer with 11 goals in all competitions last season. The 28-year-old has lots of experience in England’s top flight having already played five seasons there during spells with Blackburn Rovers and QPR. Cardiff’s chances in front of goal are likely to be very limited, so the Canadian will need to be ruthless.
Why they’ll win: Warnock is a seasoned and canny manager who knows what it will take to survive. They have retained last season's key players, and the squad have embraced his style. His win percentage with Cardiff is 50.6% - the highest of his managerial career.
Why they’ll struggle: Cardiff are the bookies’ favourite to be relegated and they haven’t spent big money on reinforcements like the other promoted sides, Fulham and Wolverhampton. Last time they won promotion to the Premier League (2013-14) they finished last and fell straight back down.
Manager: Maurizio Sarri
Position last season: 5th
Nickname: The Blues
Ground: Stamford Bridge
Key signings: Jorginho, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Mateo Kovacic
Key man: Eden Hazard – Without the Belgium international, N’Golo Kante’s countless interceptions would matter for naught. With enough pace, trickery and creativity to cut opposing defences in half, should Hazard show up, expect Chelsea to show out.
Why they’ll win: Not since the days of Carlo Ancelotti have the Blues been built to attack and Sarri’s iteration could prove just as successful. The arrival of ‘Sarriball’ at Stamford Bridge is sure to excite fans, with the likes of Hazard and Willian set to shine inside a system better suited to their styles. Chelsea’s high-speed, possession-based play will have Jorginho and Fabregas licking their lips and Kante ready to clean up the crumbs.
Why they’ll struggle: Sarri’s interrupted pre-season and limited time with returning 2018 FIFA World Cup stars could leave the club facing an uphill battle from the get-go. The 59-year-old has been prone to slow starts in the past and, as the seven managers before him quickly found out, that’s something owner Roman Abramovich isn’t a fan of.
Manager: Roy Hodgson
Position last season: 11th
Nickname: The Eagles
Ground: Selhurst Park
Key signings: Vicente Guaita, Cheikhou Kouyate, Maximilian Meyer
Key man: Wilfried Zaha – Speculation surrounding Zaha’s club future has been rife following a fruitful 2017-18 campaign. However, as it stands, the 25-year-old has a home at Palace and will look to build on last season’s feats with another respectable portfolio of Premier League performances.
Why they’ll win: After Frank de Boer’s ill-fated tenure last season left the Eagles suffering inside the relegation zone and in the midst of a record-breaking seven-game losing streak, Hodgson swooped in with immediate effect. The veteran’s faith and tactical fortitude propelled Palace to safety and, if chairman Steve Parish’s expectations for the upcoming campaign are anything to go by, Hodgson will have no problem repeating the trick.
Why they’ll struggle: For all their attacking talent, Palace lack a genuine goal-threat. Striker Christian Benteke managed just three league goals last season, seven behind defensive midfielder Luka Milivojevic who led the way with 10, and failure to improve on such numbers could prove costly.
Manager: Marco Silva
Position last season: 8th
Nickname: The Toffees
Ground: Goodison Park
Key signings: Richarlison, Lucas Digne
Key man: Gylfi Sigurdsson - The Icelandic midfielder had a tough time last season in his first campaign at Goodison Park but will be determined to put those struggles behind him to be the main creative outlet for the Blues. Played out of position on the left by Ronald Koeman, Sigurdsson was returned to his preferred playmaking role by Sam Allardyce and the results showed. This season under Silva, Sigurdsson has the chance to become what the club envisioned he would be when they spent a club record $78 million to sign him.
Why they'll win: Silva has a big challenge ahead of him to transform Everton back into the force they have long threatened to be. The addition of Digne and Richarlison gives the Blues needed firepower and will help them play a high tempo style which could catch their opponents off guard. Jordan Pickford is also sure to further his development after a brilliant World Cup with Engalnd and will be one to watch.
Why they'll struggle: Another major upheaval at Goodison Park hasn't given fans much to be optimistic about, with Marco Silva the fifth coach to take the side in the past two seasons. There is a lot of pressure on Silva's shoulders to change the narrative at the club, but if his topsy-turvy results at Watford are anything to go by, it could be a long campaign for the blue half of Merseyside.
Manager: Slavisa Jokanovic
Position last season: Promoted from Championship (3rd)
Nickname: The Cottagers
Ground: Craven Cottage
Key signings: Andre Schurrle, Jean Michael Seri, Aleksandar Mitrovic
Key man: Ryan Sessegnon – Fulham’s wonderkid had a breakthrough season for the Cottagers last season and was unlucky not to have earned himself a spot in England’s World Cup squad for the tournament in Russia. The wide player will be determined to prove that last season wasn’t a flash in the pan and that all the hype is warranted.
Why they’ll win: Fulham’s billionaire owner Shahid Khan has put his money where his mouth is and stocked up Jokanovic’s squad after their promotion to the Premier League, giving them a roster strong enough to match it with anyone. Known for an exciting brand of football based around fast passing and quick transitions, Fulham could be one of the true surprise packets this season.
Why they’ll struggle: Fulham’s defence is their Achilles heel and, despite boasting good depth in the other two thirds of the pitch, could be undone by their weakness at the back.
Manager: David Wagner
Position last season: 16th
Nickname: The Terriers
Ground: John Smith’s Stadium
Key signings: Adama Diakhaby, Erik Durm, Terence Kongolo, Ramadan Sobhi
Key man: Aaron Mooy – The Socceroos star will again by key to the Terriers’ chances of Premier League survival. Despite off-season links to fellow English top-flight clubs, West Ham and Newcastle United, expect the Aussie to again be the go-to man for Huddersfield, particularly with his dangerous deliveries from set-pieces.
Why they'll win: Huddersfield survived the Premier League last campaign despite many believing they would go straight back down to the Championship. The signings of World Cup winner Erik Durm and fellow defender Terence Kongolo - now on a permanent deal - will help shore up their defence, along with Mooy pulling the strings in the midfield.
Why they'll struggle: While the Terriers started last season strongly, a similar opening looks grim with first-up fixtures against Chelsea and away to champions Manchester City. Huddersfield also scored the joint-lowest goals last campaign, managing just 28, and it’s difficult to see Wagner’s men being able to pull off another great escape.
Manager: Claude Puel
Position last season: 9th
Nickname: The Foxes
Ground: King Power Stadium
Key signings: Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, James Maddison, Danny Ward, Rachid Ghezzal
Key man: Jamie Vardy – The England international now represents Leicester’s main threat thanks to the departure of Riyad Mahrez. With 20 league goals to his name last season, Vardy will need to produce a similar total if the Foxes are to continue their push for European football.
Why they’ll win: Puel seemed to anticipate Mahrez’s exit with the signing of Maddison and the attacking midfielder will be an important player alongside Wilfred Ndidi in the heart of midfield. This, coupled with the continued emergence of Demarai Gray and Fousseni Diabate on the wings, should have the Foxes in good stead for a top half finish once again.
Why they’ll struggle: Fans aired their frustrations at the back end of last season after Leicester fell away from the final UEFA Europa League spot with just one win from their final seven games. And with no glaring weakness in Puel’s team this time out, failure to hit the ground running could cost the Frenchman dearly.
Manager: Jurgen Klopp
Position last season: 4th
Nickname: The Reds
Key signings: Naby Keita, Fabinho, Alisson
Key man: Roberto Firmino – despite Mohamed Salah’s sheer number of goals, no player is more important to Klopp’s gegenpressing system than the Brazilian forward. His tireless tactical running, and constant harassing when the Reds lose possession, lays the platform for everything positive they do.
Why they’ll win: Their blistering attack. En route to last season's UEFA Champions League final, Salah, Firmino and Sadio Mane scored 10 goals each to become the most prolific trio in the history of Europe’s elite competition. That record speaks for itself.
Why they’ll struggle: A lack of ruthlessness against the smaller sides. It proved to be a big issue last season - they dropped plenty of points against sides that had struggled: Stoke City, West Brom (twice), Newcastle, Swansea, and Watford.
Manager: Pep Guardiola
Position last season: Champions
Nickname: The Citizens
Key signings: Riyad Mahrez
Key man: Pep Guardiola - David Silva might set the tempo, Kevin De Bruyne might create the chances, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling might cause panic for opposition defenders and Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus will bang in the goals, but we all know who runs the show. Guardiola took English football to a new level last season when his City team finished on 100 points and broke numerous records in the process.
Why they'll win: They have the best coach, on paper the best squad and most importantly the young nucleus of the team are going to be as hungry as ever for success.
Why they'll struggle: Early predictions have City seemingly destined to defend their title. However, nothing is guaranteed in the Premier League. Overconfidence could prove costly as could Guardiola's constant drive for perfection. It is a long season and stranger things have happened.
Manager: Jose Mourinho
Position last season: 2nd
Nickname: The Red Devils
Ground: Old Trafford
Key signings: Fred, Diogo Dalot
Key man: Jose Mourinho – The controversial United coach comes into his third season in Manchester under a cloud after a pre-season where his complaints and attacks on players were bigger news than the club’s poor performances. However, if anyone knows how to win when the heat is on, it is Mourinho. If he can get the most out of recent World Cup winner Paul Pogba, then United might finally be able to challenge cross-town rivals Manchester City for the title. United’s fortunes this season rest on whether Mourinho can get himself and the squad reading from the same songbook. However, if the Portuguese manager implodes just as he did in his third season of his second stint at Chelsea, then it could be a long and painful season for the red half of Manchester.
Why they’ll win: Despite all the negativity in pre-season, Manchester United still posses some of football’s best players with stars such as Alexis Sanchez, Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and David De Gea on their roster. These players can all decide a game on their own, and if they are all firing, then the Red Devils could be on track for their first title since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Why they’ll struggle: Mourinho holds the key to both United’s successes and failures this campaign. If his public battles with the club, the players, the media and the fans continue then it might be another case of third season syndrome getting the better of the self-appointed “Special One”.
Manager: Rafael Benitez
Position last season: 10th
Nickname: The Magpies
Ground: St James’ Park
Key signings: Yoshinori Muto, Fabian Schar, Salomon Rondon
Key man: Jonjo Shelvey – The former Liverpool and Swansea midfielder is used to life in the Premier League and will again be the fulcrum of the Newcastle midfield this season. Shelvey always had the ability to dominate matches and has become a more complete player under Benitez.
Why they’ll win: Rafa Benitez is Newcastle’s biggest strength and the veteran manager knows how to get the most from his squad. Schar, Muto and Rondon are quality signings and Benitez was wily enough to achieve mid-table comfort last season working with less.
Why they’ll struggle: Newcastle still lack a striker who can bang in goals regularly at Premier League level. Dwight Gayle, Ayoze Perez and Joselu all have their qualities but none of them reached double figures for goals in the league last season. New attacker Muto will need to hit the ground running.
Manager: Mark Hughes
Position last season: 17th
Nickname: The Saints
Ground: St. Mary’s Stadium
Key signings: Stuart Armstrong, Mohamed Elyounoussi, Angus Gunn, Jannik Vestergaard
Key man: Mohamed Elyounoussi – The 24-year-old will slot straight into the starting line-up in place of the departed Dusan Tadic. Saints manager Hughes described Elyounoussi as “an exciting… new dimension to our attack” and will hope he can extend his proven track record of goals and assists in the Premier League.
Why they’ll win: Hughes helped Southampton to survival late last season and his Premier League experience will be key in establishing some stability at the club this time around. While Vestergaard’s arrival fills the void at the back left by Virgil van Dijk, Armstrong and Elyounoussi will no doubt improve an attack that averaged less than a goal per game last season.
Why they’ll struggle: Strikers Charlie Austin, Manolo Gabbiadini and Shane Long managed just 14 goals between them last season, and Hughes will have his work cut out should this goal-drought drag on. As the old saying goes: you can’t win if you don’t score.
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino
Position last season: 3rd
Ground: Wembley Stadium/Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Key signings: n/a
Key man: Harry Kane - The ‘one-season wonder’ has scored 105 Premier League goals in the last four seasons. His consistency has been absurdly brilliant. Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Mousa Dembele all play massive roles in Spurs’ success, but if Kane was to get injured for a lengthy spell then Tottenham would almost have to kiss the top four goodbye due to a lack of depth in that position.
Why they'll win: Tottenham's starting XI is extremely strong and the fact that the majority of them have spent numerous years under Pochettino now means they’ll be stronger than ever. Harry Kane will almost certainly score 20 goals plus, while Lucas Moura, who came in the January transfer window last season, could thrive now that he’s had a pre-season with Spurs. Players like Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies have had more time under Poch and look ready to thrive, while the new stadium really could provide a huge home ground advantage.
Why they'll struggle: Tottenham have been unable to make any signings this transfer window and could be caught out if injury takes down any of their established stars. New stadiums can prove tough, just ask London neighbours Arsenal and West Ham. While their competitors in the top six all look stronger than ever with the exception of maybe Manchester United and Chelsea, Tottenham have a team and a coach that could win the league, but knocking off this City team as well as a formidable Liverpool will be an incredible challenge.
Manager: Javi Gracia
Position last season: 14th
Nickname: The Hornets
Ground: Vicarage Road
Key signings: Ben Foster, Gerard Deulofeu
Key man: Abdoulaye Doucoure – won the club’s Player of the Season award last year for his wonderful performances which saw him finish top scorer with seven goals, as well as four assists. The all-action 25-year-old will need to be top of his game if the Hornets are to avoid a relegation scrap.
Why they’ll win: The Hornets proved they can counter-attack extremely effectively during their bright start to last season. They badly need to recapture that weapon, meaning now-permanent signing Deulofeu needs to fill the void left by Richarlison.
Why they’ll struggle: Watford ultimately finished 14th last season, thanks largely to dreadful form towards the end. Some consistency will be desperately needed, and it’s uncertain whether manager Gracia is the man to shore things up given that he’s lost twice as many games as he’s won since taking over. The Spaniard is only on an 18 month contract.
WEST HAM UNITED
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini
Position last season: 13th
Nickname: The Hammers
Ground: London Stadium
Key signings: Felipe Anderson, Issa Diop, Lukasz Fabianski, Jack Wilshere, Andriy Yarmolenko
Key man: Felipe Anderson – The Brazilian winger joined from Lazio for a club-record fee and West Ham fans will be expecting big things from the 25-year-old. After signing with the Hammers last month, the crafty attacking midfielder - who scored 34 goals in 177 appearances in Italy – said he aims to become a “legend” at the club.
Why they'll win: With new manager Manuel Pellegrini at the helm, and approximately $175 million worth of signings arriving in the transfer window, the Premier League season can’t start soon enough for West Ham. It would be a surprise to find the big-spending Hammers stuck at the wrong end of the table again.
Why they'll struggle: West Ham endured a difficult season last campaign, which included the sacking of manager Slaven Bilic, and despite Premier League winner Pellegrini taking over; it may take some time for the players to gel under his leadership. Add to that a difficult draw to start the season, which includes clashes with Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal all in the opening seven rounds.
Manager: Nuno Esprito Santo
Position last season: Promoted from Championship (1st)
Ground: Molineux Stadium
Key signings: Joao Moutinho, Rui Patricio
Key man: Ruben Neves – It was incredible that a player of his standard was plying his trade in the Championship last season, but in the Premier League he now truly has a chance to show his class. While his long range goals filled highlight reels throughout their campaign last season, Neves’ ability to control games with his passing is what will prove most important if Wolves are to succeed.
Why they’ll win: An ambitious brand of football with two premier central midfielders calling the shots in Neves and Moutinho has Wolverhampton well placed for their return to the English top flight. Their slick ball movement and drive to pass their opposition out of the game should have them in good stead for a strong season in the Premier League.
Why they’ll struggle: A difficult start to the season against Everton, Leicester and Manchester City could force Wolves to revert to a more pragmatic style and away from the formula which has brought them success so far. Wolves have had a sudden rise but it may prove to be a little too much too soon when up against the big boys of the Premier League.