Henry Rounce: English Premier League season preview 2018/19

OPINION: As a new EPL season looms, Henry Rounce casts an eye over the contenders and pretenders.

Manchester City are undoubtedly the favourites for the upcoming season, after their brilliant campaign that saw them romp to victory by a whopping 19 points earlier this year.

They've got a very similar, settled squad this time around, although they've added to their goldmine of attacking talent with the signing of former Leicester City winger Riyad Mahrez.

While there's added pressure for Pep Guardiola's men to make a serious run in the Champions League, their supremely gifted line-up has more than enough firepower to multi-task and prosper.

Liverpool are the most likely to challenge for the title. They've retained the brilliant front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and the electric Mohamed Salah, who single-handedly tore oppositions teams to shreds last season. 

Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson should fix their problems between the sticks, while midfielder Naby Keita could be an absolute game-changer. Manager Jurgen Klopp's also added the enigmatic Xherdan Shaqiri and the versatile Fabinho to round out a formidable-looking side.

Liverpool's new Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson.
Liverpool's new Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson. Photo credit: Getty

A few questions still remain about their defence, but the assuredness of Alisson and a bit more punch through the midfield has them well placed for a big season.

Tottenham Hotspurs have shrugged their shoulders during the transfer window, putting their faith in the same group that finished third last season. English stars Harry Kane and Dele Alli are coming off impressive World Cup campaigns, while wingback Kevin Trippier is in the form of his life.

There could be a bit of fatigue after their exploits in Russia, but that shouldn't be a long-term problem for them. With their inactivity in the transfer market, they don't have a team capable of challenging for the title, but they'll be top four for sure.

Manchester United are a mystery. Manager Jose Mourinho's been in a shockingly grumpy mood during pre-season and the seemingly impending Portuguese meltdown is worrying for their fans. 

There's a famous scene in the Batman movies where the Joker stumbles down the road, after blowing up a hospital, with chaos and smoke billowing out from behind him. You get the feeling Mourinho will be in a similar position at some point, trudging out of Old Trafford, after a series of catastrophic decisions and leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.

They've added Brazilian midfielder Fred to their team - a quality signing that could allow a bit more room for Paul Pogba. The Frenchman will be permanently surrounded by the spotlight, and his relationship with Mourinho will be one of the hottest talking points. 

Can Paul Pogba continue his hot World Cup form with Manchester United?
Can Paul Pogba continue his hot World Cup form with Manchester United? Photo credit: Getty

The main highlight for Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez last season was his transfer announcement video that featured him playing the piano on the hallowed Old Trafford turf.

After that, he looked lost, after his mid-season switch from Arsenal. Yet Sanchez could be the difference, if he finds his groove and gets the freedom he craves from Mourinho. 

Arsene Wenger's departure from Arsenal means there's a new manager prowling the side-lines at the Emirates - and it'll be a strange sight without the contemplative Frenchman in the dugout.

Spaniard Unai Emery's accepted the challenge after a spell at PSG and he's got a big job to fix the misfiring Gunners.

Just how he fits strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette together will be intriguing. With their plethora of creative options, Arsenal will remain one of the best teams to watch, but it’s difficult to see them challenging for the title and perhaps a Champions League spot.

Chelsea have a new manager, a new goalkeeper and a new style of play. Italian Maurizio Sarri’s made the move from Napoli, where he instilled some of the most attractive football in Europe. 

New Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri.
New Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri. Photo credit: Getty

They've splurged over NZ$138 million on Spanish keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, while highly-rated midfielder Jorginho's also joined the team.

The key for Chelsea will be adjusting to Sarri’s style of play, which is expected to take some getting used to. There are also concerns for 'The Blues' up front, with pressure on Alvaro Morata to deliver.

From a Kiwi perspective, Chris Wood and Burnley face a challenging battle, after last season's seventh-place finish. They’ve got the added difficulty of the Europa League, which won't help their thin squad.

'The Clarets' are well-marshalled by manager Sean Dyche and they’ll have to be extra creative to keep their players fresh for both competitions.

Burnley don’t score many goals, so Wood's proficiency up front is crucial.

Burnley's Kiwi goal machine Chris Wood.
Burnley's Kiwi goal machine Chris Wood. Photo credit: Getty

All Whites defender Winston Reid will miss the start of the season with yet another injury, as his cursed time with West Ham continues. Former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini is the new man at the helm, while they’ve added solid signings in Jack Wilshere and Lukasz Fabianski.

West Ham are up and down at the best of times, but they should have enough to avoid relegation.

Of the promoted clubs, Wolves and Fulham are ones to look out for.

Wolverhampton Wanderers won the championship last season to earn automatic promotion, thanks to the Portuguese revolution at the club. Rui Patricio is a great pick-up in goal, Ruben Neves is a talent and experienced midfielder Joao Moutinho could be one of the signings of the summer.

A trip to Crave Cottage to face Fulham is always tricky and their business in the transfer market has been shrewd. Former Chelsea winger Andre Schurrle, defender Alfie Mawson and striker Aleksandar Mitrovic are all good transactions.

Gifted 18-year old winger Ryan Sessegnon is one to watch and it’ll be fascinating to see how he fares in the pacy Premier League.

Henry Rounce: English Premier League season preview 2018/19


Champions: Manchester City

Second: Liverpool

Third: Spurs

Fourth: Manchester United

Fifth: Arsenal

Sixth: Chelsea


Cardiff City, Huddersfield Town, and Watford.

Henry Rounce is a Newshub sports reporter.