The widespread opinion on the forthcoming 2019-20 Premiership in the football media is that it will be business as usual, with the usual suspects dominating the top of the table and new newly promoted teams camped out at the foot of the table trying desperately to avoid the dreaded immediate drop back from the promised land into the Championship.
The bookies completely agree too, with all of them unanimously having Manchester City as the odds-on clear favourites to retain the title, with Liverpool widely tipped to come in second place again, and then much longer odds to Spurs and then further down to Chelsea, Manchester Utd and Arsenal.
As for relegation, the tipsters have got promoted Sheffield Utd and Norwich City as odds - on to go straight back down. For instance, William Hill have odds as low as 4/6 on Sheffield Utd to be relegated. Of the newly promoted clubs, there's only Aston Villa who they give a bit of a chance of survival, with Burnley and Brighton seen as more likely to go down in their eyes.
One other thing that's worth noting from the bookmakers is the predicted Premiership top- scorer. To emphasize the lack of new names that have been brought into the league this summer, the top scorer odds is basically a list of all the candidates from last year; Kane, Sala, Aguero, Aubameyang, Sterling, Rashford etc. Bet365 have 4/1 odds for Harry Kane topping the goal-scoring charts, Salah at 5/1 and Aguero at 11/2. You have to go all the way down to Arsenal's Nicolas Pepe to see a new name in the list! Bet365 have odds of 33/1 for Pepe to be the Premiership Top Goalscorer, and this is mainly because he's expected to play out wide rather than down the middle.
That's the widespread opinion, and in general we tend to agree, but with some exceptions...
At the top of the table we fully expect Manchester City to be the team to beat again.?Pep Guardiola and his staff have brought in just one major signing, Rodri from Atletico Madrid, but it looks like a really good one. He's basically been brought into the club as a long-term replacement for Fernandinho, and so he should fit into their system seamlessly. City were so impressive last year, and have such a strong squad, that it seems like the old saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" completely applies to their summer plan. And despite summer-long rumours of interest from Bayern Munich in a big money move for Leroy Sane, they've managed to keep hold of the talented German, so the squad is no weaker than last season.
Most pundits are expecting Liverpool to provide the strongest challenge to Manchester City once again this season. For instance, PaddyPower have odds of 5/2 for Liverpool to go that one step further this season. Liverpool are certainly a good shout for the Top Goalscorer award. PaddyPower has Mohammed Salah at odd of 4/1, Sadio Mane at 14/1 and Roberto Firminho at 33/1. Given the injury problems of the favourite, Harry Kane, all three Liverpool players could definitely challenge for the award if they get click like the last couple of seasons.
Whilst we expect the Reds to be up there with a top three finish we've got a sneaky feeling that they won't be able to match last season's heroics. The sheer physical effort that their players put in last year on the title assault, coupled with their incredible Champions League victory, must have taken a toll. Their high-energy tactics can be a joy to watch but it felt like their players were running on empty at the end of the season and summoning all their will and energy for the final push. Take into account that key attacking players Mane, Salah and Firmino have had hardly had any real recuperation period because of their participation in the Africa Cup of Nations and the Copa America, and we feel it's going to be a slow start for the Reds this year. And as was proved last season, once City get any sort of a gap in the table it's nigh on impossible to close it, such is their quality. Despite the extra money made from last year's Champions League victory, Jurgen Klopp has resisted the temptation to spend big this summer and will be hoping that some of lasts season's signings such as Nabby Keita and Fabinho can impress, having had a season to bed-in and get used to the demands of the Premiership. Klopp does have the bonus of the return of Oxlade Chamberlain though, who was in great form before his long injury lay-off. He'll be hoping that this will be like a new signing.
And what of the others? Well, Spurs look to have made a great signing in Tanguy Ndombele from Lyon. They've also still got Danish midfield maestro Christian Eriksson in their ranks, with many expecting a summer departure to Real Madrid was imminent following his quotes about seeking a new challenge at the start of the break. Whilst their squad doesn't have the depth of City or Liverpool their starting XI is as good as anyone's, so if they can keep everyone injury -free then we expect them to continue to challenge as they have done in the last few seasons. Retaining the services of Pocchettino has probably been the best bit of business they've done all summer, especially given the vacancy at Juventus earlier in the summer and the rumours that the Turin giants were going to make the Argentinian their priority.
It's a big season for Ole Gunnar Solksjaer and his Manchester Utd side. Things tailed off dramatically for him after the great start that he had to his Old Trafford managerial career. Despite the incredible price that they've paid Leicester City for Harry Maguire, making him the world's most expensive defender, they have at least identified a position that's been a huge problem for them over recent years. The ongoing "will he, won't he" saga surrounding the futures of both Paul Pogba and Lukaku hasn't helped Solksjaer's summer planning, but some of their pre-season performances have been pretty decent and we've got a feeling that United will once again be capable of fighting their way into the Champions League spots this year.
Club legend Frank Lampard has inherited a tricky situation at Chelsea with this season's transfer ban, but it does give them him the opportunity to field some of the array of young talent that the club has, whilst who knows what will happen with Arsenal. The north London outfit still don't seem to show any interest in strengthening their defence, but they do admittedly have some fantastic attacking talent. Betfair are offering odds of 45/1 for Arsenal to be the Highest Scoring Team in the 2019-20 Premiership race, and given their fire-power up front that is pretty good odds.
We expect Everton, Leicester City and Wolves to be the best of the rest. All three clubs are going to be dangerous opposition to the big boys and look like they could potentially mount a challenge for the European places.
As for relegation, well the clear favourites to go down are Sheffield Utd and Norwich City. However, we expect Chris Wilder's Blades to be one of the real surprises of the seasons and have a hunch they will stay up. Our money is on Norwich City, Brighton, Newcastle and Southampton to struggle, going against the grain somewhat with the bookmakers odds.