Five Random (English) Football Predictions For 2019.

It’s fair to say that 2018 has been a bit of a surprising year in football. From the first ever Superclasico at an international final to Manchester City’s “Centurions” side and Arsene Wenger’s departure from Arsenal, there have been many amazing moments that have helped shape 2018 to be an outstanding year in football. As incredible as each of these moments were, I don’t think many people could have predicted any of these events when 2018 had originally started. The following takes a look at five things that I predict will happen in English football, next year.

5) England features in at least two finals

Before you stop reading this post, exit this page and proceed to call me crazy, I feel like I need to mention that this is the most outlandish and bizarre prediction that I have for English football in 2019.

Apart from the obvious Europa League and Champions League finals that will take place in May and June, respectively, there are two other notable finals that will be contested in 2019 – the first ever UEFA Nations League final and also the 2019 Women’s World Cup. While some will obviously call me biased and/or foolish, I would say that England actually does have a good chance of being represented in at least two finals.

First and foremost, London clubs Arsenal and Chelsea are deservedly the current favourites to win the Europa League. Apart from the threat posed by Italian sides Napoli and Inter, I think there’s a big gap in quality between this quartet and the other teams in the competition so there’s a strong chance that at least one of the London clubs will make it to the final.  Also, while an English side in the Champions League final seems unlikely, Liverpool proved last season that with just a bit of luck, anything is possible. If either Liverpool or Manchester City strengthens heavily again in the winter transfer window, I wouldn’t be surprised to see either of them reach the semi-finals of the competition at a minimum.

In regards to the international tournaments that will be contested next year, England are only a win away from reaching the final of the Nations League. I know it’s a cliche statement, but anything can happen in a single football game, next year could be the year England actually reaches an international final. Also, regarding the 2019 Women’s World Cup, it’s fair to say that England will be desperate to go one step further than the side that reached 3rd in 2015. Despite the fact that they’ll be without important midfielder, Jordan Nobbs, for the tournament, there’s still enough quality in Phil Neville’s side to repeat the success story from 2015.

4) Carl Jenkinson becomes the “sole survivor“.

Now this one’s just for a bit of a laugh.

In 2014, Arsenal finally ended their nine-year wait for a trophy after they beat Hull City 3-2 in the FA Cup final. Goals from Santi Cazorla, Laurent Koscielny, and Aaron Ramsey secured the silverware for the club. Going into 2019, only five Arsenal players remain at the club that won a winners medal back in 2014: Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal, and Carl Jenkinson.

Taking into consideration the current transfer rumours and contract situations at Arsenal, I wouldn’t be surprised if the club sold Mesut Ozil and Laurent Koscielny within the next nine months. Also, given their contract situations, I’d imagine that both Aaron Ramsey and Nacho Monreal will leave the club in the summer when their deals expire.

With Carl Jenkinson’s contract expiring the following year, and his high wage preventing smaller clubs from signing him, I really wouldn’t be surprised to see the right-back become the sole-survivor from that infamous 2014 FA Cup-winning squad.

3) Petr Cech announces his retirement

With just over six months remaining on his contract and no sign of an extension or transfer away insight, 2019 could be the final year that goalkeeper Petr Cech plays football.

At 36 years of age, Cech has done it all in English football. The goalkeeper has won numerous trophies during his prestigious career including the Premier League title on four occasions, the FA Cup; also on four occasions, and most importantly the Champions League. In terms of individual awards, the Czech-goalkeeper has seen his name feature in numerous team of the season and team of the year lists and other goalkeeper-related accolades.

While his career at Arsenal has been rather underwhelming, there’s no denying the fact that the goalkeeper is both a Premier League and Chelsea legend. At 36-years-old, there’s not exactly much else that the goalkeeper can achieve in his career. Taking into consideration the fact that Petr Cech joined Arsenal due to his desperation to remain in London, it seems pretty certain that the goalkeeper will want to remain in England’s capital for the foreseeable future.

With his contract nearing its expiration, I’d be very surprised if any London club would even be interested in signing the then-37-year-old. Also, I doubt the Czech-goalkeeper would want to be a backup player for at least another twelve months. Assuming he doesn’t receive a rewarding offer from a London club, I think the goalkeeper would choose to hang up his clubs – and maybe even rejoin his beloved Chelsea in a background role.

2) Manchester United will go all out in the next nine months

This one seems a bit obvious considering the fact that it’s Manchester United, but I think the next nine months will essentially be very expensive for the Red Devils. Following on from the departure of Jose Mourinho as well as the club’s decision to appoint Ole Gunnar Solskjær as their caretaker manager until the summer, I think the club already has their preferred candidate in mind.

Unsurprisingly, it seems like Manchester United will do whatever it takes to lure Mauricio Pochettino to the club from Tottenham, which on its own will cost a reported £40 million. Given the financial struggles that Tottenham are facing, I’d be very surprised if the Argentinian remained loyal to the club considering the lengths the Red Devils will likely go to, to secure his signature.

Assuming Pochettino is the man that Manchester United wants, I can see the club offering the 46-year-old an abundance of perks from a complete say in who should be sold (which Mourinho reportedly lost in his last year in charge), a significant pay rise, and most importantly an initial transfer budget of at least £200 million.

I’d be very surprised if Manchester United kept their position in the Champions League for next season and following on from the chaos during Jose Mourinho’s tenure, it’s going to take quite a bit of time and money before they’re challenging for the Premier League title once again.

1) Liverpool will win in the Premier League

Due to Liverpool and Manchester City’s recent Premier League results, I’ve had to completely rewrite this section and now this prediction doesn’t even seem that random or extreme. Anyways, my most confident prediction heading into 2019 is that Liverpool will finally lift the Premier League title, their first league title in 29 years.

While it’s easy to laugh at Liverpool for their failure to win a trophy in recent years, the work that Jurgen Klopp has done to completely transform this team deserves a lot more praise than he has actually received. The Red’s back-five is arguably the best in the league, their midfield is very solid, and their attack is outstanding too. The current Liverpool team is quite obviously the best its been in at least the last decade. If Liverpool fails to win at least one trophy, this season, serious questions need to be asked.

While many will be quick to mention that their financial situation has helped their recent surge, you need to take a look at the bigger picture that has helped them reach this position.

Firstly, the fact that they somehow convinced Barcelona to sign Phillipe Coutinho for a whopping £104 million, which will potentially rise to £140 million through add-ons, was a marvellous piece of business from the Reds. Personally, I don’t think the Brazillian was even a top-five player in the league prior to his departure and wasn’t worth close to what was paid.

Due to incredible business like this, as well as generating more than £160 million by selling players like Raheem Sterling, Mamadou Sakho, and Jordon Ibe, to name a few, the Reds put themselves into a position where they changed their transfer policy. Rather than go crazy with spending like they did following Luis Suarez’s transfer to Barcelona, Liverpool completely changed their attitude towards transfers which has now helped them become the team they are today.

Their transfer policy of signing top young players (26 and younger) with high ceilings has benefitted them in the long-term because now many players have reached the top of their game, or are close to doing so. The likes of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Alisson, and Andrew Robertson, have all been incredible this season and are some of the best players in their respective positions.

Liverpool arguably has the best team in the country and are exceeding everyone’s expectations so far. While Manchester City could turn things around, my final prediction for this list is that Jurgen Klopp’s men will finally lift a trophy this season, and it will be the Premier League title.

My League Predictions For The 2018/19 Premier League Season.

20th – Cardiff City: Probably the weakest team in the Premier League overall and Neil Warnock has a bad record in the league too. They’ve made some decent signings in Harry Arter and Bobby Reid but I’d be shocked if they managed to stay up.

19th – Southampton: Really surprised at how much they’ve declined in the last few years. The current squad is the weakest it’s been for a while and Mark Hughes is a bad manager. Most of their signings have been average at best.

Continue reading “My League Predictions For The 2018/19 Premier League Season.”

5 Under-23 players to look out for in the 2018/19 Premier League season.

The wait is almost over, after months of patience and anticipation we’re just under a week away from the return of the Premier League. With the summer transfer window also concluding in the coming days, now seems the perfect time for fans from across the globe to cast their predictions ahead of the new season. If you’re eager for my thoughts you’ll have to wait a little more, but for now here’s my perspective on five under-23 players you should look out for ahead of the new season.

5) Matteo Guendouzi | Club: Arsenal | Position: Midfielder | Age: 19

After Arsenal announced the signing of Matteo Guendouzi from Lorient, I don’t think anyone could have imagined that the 19-year-old would hit the ground running so quickly. While he has only featured in preseason fixtures, Guendouzi has typically been one of the best players on the pitch and looks set to make his debut for the Gunners on Sunday against Manchester City.

Overall, Guendouzi has a good reading of the game and also looks very composed when on the ball. His movement on the pitch also looks impressive thus far with him always trying to create a passing option for a teammate. In addition, his passing during preseason fixtures has also been a joy to watch. Similarly with Granit Xhaka, the 19-year-old can always play a simple pass but he also has the intelligence and technique to produce a long pass that puts a player further up the field through on goal.

When he’s played, Guendouzi has helped balance the team and will likely get a lot of opportunities with the first-team during the season – especially with Arsenal contesting in the Europa League once again.

Matteo Guendouzi

4) Issa Diop | Club: West Ham | Position: Defender | Age: 21

Out of all of the players that West Ham have signed this summer, Issa Diop could definitely go on to become the best of the lot. After last season’s antics, the Hammers needed to bring in a top defender and they couldn’t have done much better than signing Diop.

Despite his young age, Diop has had a pretty successful career thus far. The Frenchman has played an integral role in the heart of the defence for France at youth level as well as for former club Toulouse where he made 85 appearances for the club and captained the side last season.

With a host of top European clubs previously interested in the defender, West Ham inherits a top prospect that should bolster their defender for years to come. As you’d expect from a 6ft 3in defender, Diop is an imposing figure and also strong in the air, yet he’s also comfortable on the ball and can help West Ham build-up play from the back.

I expect the 21-year-old to be one of the first names on the teamsheet for the Hammers, and it’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts to life in the Premier League.

Issa Diop

3) Ryan Sessegnon | Club: Fulham | Position: Wide Midfielder| Age: 18

In case you didn’t know, Ryan Sessegnon is only 18-year-old! Be prepared to hear that statement on numerous occasions from commentators this season. Sessegnon is arguably the most exciting player coming from England and the praise he’s received is certainly justified.

Similarly, with Diop, Sessegnon is no stranger to first-team football like most young players and has shown tremendous loyalty to Fulham in the last two years. Sessegnon’s versatility has been significantly beneficial for manager Slaviša Jokanović. Despite initially playing as a left-back, Sessegnon has also flourished as a wide midfielder as well as a winger – both on the left flank.

Assuming the young Englishman will take up the left-wing spot for Fulham this season, it’ll be exciting to see how he links up with new recruits Aleksandar Mitrović and André Schürrle in attack. It’s fair to say that Fulham will have a very underrated attack next season and Sessegnon will be integral to this.

Ryan Sessegnon

2) Ben Chilwell | Club: Leicester City | Position: Left Back| Age: 21

And here we are now with a natural left-back and yet another Englishman. In a league that lacks top performers in the left-back position, this season could be the perfect opportunity for Ben Chilwell to establish himself as one of the best players in the league in this role.

Although the 21-year-old has typically lacked game time for the Foxes, he finally became their first-choice left-back towards the end of last season, replacing Christian Fuchs until he was forced out of the squad with an injury in May. With the latter slowly declining, now is the perfect opportunity for Chilwell to get the consistent game time that he needs and try to establish himself as one of the best left-backs in the league.

From an Arsenal perspective, I’d absolutely love for us to sign him in next season’s summer transfer window.

Ben Chilwell

1) Diogo Jota | Club: Wolves | Position: Winger/Forward | Age: 21

Last but not least, while most football fans will probably be interested in seeing how Rúben Neves performs for Wolves this season, I’d like to draw your attention to a different Portuguese player who will also be playing at the Molineux Stadium, this season.

For Wolves, the 21-year-old has typically been deployed on the left flank in attack acting as an inside forward but has also played down the middle when Leo Bonatini has been unavailable. On the left flank, Jota likes to cut inside and dribble towards the goal (or produce an opportunity for a teammate)

Last season, Jota scored seventeen goals and produced six assists as Wolves went on to lift the Championship title. While he was unlucky to not be featured in the Championship Team of the Season, you can’t deny the influence he has had on the club. Stepping up now to the Premier League, it’ll be exciting to see how Jota performs against better opposition.

Diogo Jota