Premier League 2018-19 Preview: Tottenham – Wolverhampton Wanderers

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Tottenham Hotspur

Last Season: 3rd; Top Scorer: Harry Kane (30); FA Cup: Semi-final; League Cup: Fourth Round; UEFA Champions League: Last 16

This is the season of…

Expectations. After three successive top-three finishes, Spurs are no longer surprise packages. Last season they weathered the Wembley storm, and ended up as the highest-placed London side in the country. They haven’t been active in the transfer window so far, but the squad is more than formidable, the move to the new stadium is just about done and dusted, and they have players buoyed by World Cup exploits in the side. Fans are expecting, as are the rest, it’s time to deal with that new weight on their shoulders.

Who’s in…

Anthony Martial, Jack Grealish, Mathias de Ligt… have all been linked. Spurs haven’t made any signings so far.

Who’s out…

It’s been quiet either way, no arrivals and no departures. Even the expected exits of Mousa Dembele and Toby Alderweireld haven’t happened yet.

The Gaffer (Mauricio Pochettino)…

Has taken them a long way from the seemingly spineless side of the past, but there’s still much room for improvement. Continues to debunk claims that Spurs need a trophy sooner rather than later, but in the sometimes black and white sport, it may well be the case.

Dream season…

Spurs finally go top of the pile, finishing the season as champions.

Nightmare season…

Pochettino is finally lured away, Spurs revert to their old, inconsistent selves, and peter out of every competition.

Key man…

Harry Kane and his goals remain, and he’s showing there’s more to his game than that lately, but Spurs look a different side up front without the creative nous of Christian Eriksen.

Needs to step up…

A third successive season of reaching double figures for goals, yet it was obvious Dele Alli’s form suffered last term. A return to his consistent best would be welcome.

Verdict: Nothing in the market so far, but Spurs have more than enough about themselves to make a better fist of the title race. 3rd

 

Watford

Last Season: 14th; Top Scorer: Abdoulaye Doucoure (7); FA Cup: Fourth Round; League Cup: Second Round

This is the season of…

Continued Pozzonomics (FourFourTwo’s made-up word). For the fifth season in a row, Watford will begin the season with a manager different from the one that started the last. Their trigger-happy approach hasn’t failed them thus far, the lowest they’ve finished in the Premier League in this run was 17th- and even that season, survival had been achieved a while back- but for how long will their method keep serving them?

Who’s in…

Gerard Deulofeu’s loan from Barcelona has been made permanent, Ben Foster is likely to be the first-choice goalie after joining from West Brom, and Adam Masina arrives from Bologna, while Marc Navarro has been signed from Espanyol.

Who’s out…

Richarlison has left to join former Hornets boss Marco Silva at Everton. Costel Pantilimon, Mauro Zarate and Nordin Amrabat have all left the club on permanent bases, while there’s a hundredth loan move for Tommie Hoban, and Jerome Sinclair also leaves the club temporarily.

The Gaffer (Javi Gracia)…

Came in at the start of the year to steady the ship, and did just that. The team’s form under the Spaniard has been anything but consistent so far, and he’ll know not to get too comfortable in the Vicarage Road hot-seat.

Dream season…

Managerial consistency, and Gracia leads Watford to Europe against all odds.

Nightmare season…

Gracia departs early, and this time Pozzonomics fails, and Watford are sent back to the second tier.

Key man…

Abdoulaye Doucoure made himself indispensable in midfield last term, and was even the side’s top scorer.

Needs to step up…

Troy Deeney went from underrated striker to the butt of (self-inflicted) cojone jokes in one season.

Verdict: Chopping and changing hasn’t failed so far, but it’s hard not to sense the tactic has an expiration date. 18th

West Ham United

Last Season: 13th; Top Scorer: Marko Arnautovic (11); FA Cup: Fourth Round; League Cup: Quarter-final

This is the season of…

Daresay optimism? It’s hard to say all is well at West Ham: the chairmen are still sources of fury to the fans, Karren Brady is still Karren Brady, and the London Stadium still hardly feels anything like home. But this summer has looked promising, from the appointment of a manager that’s certain to provide the forward style of football the fans have craved, to the new signings that have been unveiled thus far. West Ham are not without their problems, but after the previous seasons they’ve had, the fans have every right to be optimistic.

Who’s in…

Manuel Pellegrini is the new man in the London Stadium dugout, and has been active in the transfer window. Jack Wilshere joins from Arsenal on a free, Lukasz Fabianski is a long overdue upgrade to the goalkeeping department, as is Ryan Fredericks at right-back. Issa Diop arrives from Toulouse, while Andriy Yarmolenko and Felipe Anderson have been signed from Borussia Dortmund and Lazio respectively. Lucas Perez joins from Arsenal.

Who’s out…

Transfer-wise, no one (major) so far- James Collins and Patrice Evra have been released-, although Manuel Lanzini is likely to miss the whole of the new season due to injury.

The Gaffer (Manuel Pellegrini)…

‘The Engineer’ would walk into any ‘underrated managers’ list. Won the league title and two League Cups in his previous spell in England, with Manchester City, the Chilean also has a knack for taking less-fancied teams and having them punch above their weight.

Dream season…

It finally clicks, West Ham thrill their way to seventh spot, alongside League Cup success.

Nightmare season…

Things get no better, the London Stadium continues to feel alien, and the Hammers spend another season trying, unsuccessfully this time, to keep their heads above water.

Key man…

His first season at West Ham didn’t get off to the best start, but there was no stopping Marko Arnautovic once he got going. It’s no overstatement to say they’d have been relegated without his goals, and the Austrian will surely benefit from now having similar players around.

Needs to step up…

For two successive seasons Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate in midfield have performed well below standard. Wilshere’s arrival means increased competition, and a cause for them to up their game.

Verdict: Whisper it quietly, but West Ham look to finally be on the right track since moving to their new home. A season of goodwill is not too much to ask. 9th

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Last Season: 1st (Championship); Top Scorer: Diogo Jota (17); FA Cup: Third Round; League Cup: Fourth Round

This is the season of…

Buoyancy. It seems like an exaggeration to say Wolves have been touted for a top-half slot in this upcoming season’s Premier League since way back as January, but it’s hard to ignore the signs at the Molineux. The Fosun investment played its part, as well as the influence of Jorge Mendes, but Wolves have a side likely to face no relegation trouble in their first season back in the Premier League since 2012. The bounce at the Midlands club doesn’t seem likely to leave anytime soon.

Who’s in…

Goalkeeper Rui Patricio has joined from Sporting Lisbon, Joao Moutinho has arrived from Monaco, while loan moves for Ruben Vinagre, Willy Boly, Leo Bonatini and Diogo Jota have all been made permanent, and Raul Jimenez joins on a temporary basis from Benfica. Adama Traore arrives from Championship side Middlesbrough on a club-record deal, and Leander Dendoncker joins from Anderlecht.

Who’s out…

Benik Afobe, days after Wolves made his loan from Bournemouth permanent, has joined Stoke on loan with an option to be bought, so make of that what you will. Less insane loan moves see Rafa Mir and Roderick Miranda respectively join Las Palmas and Olympiakos until the end of the season, while Carl Ikeme has retired from football after 18 years at the club, following his battle with acute leukaemia.

The Gaffer (Nuno Esprito Santo)…

The former Valencia and Porto manager joined the club last summer, and led them to promotion at his first attempt. Has gone up against the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus before, so wouldn’t be fazed by upcoming challenges in the English top-flight.

Dream season…

The return to the Premier League is a relative stroll, as Wolves comfortably finish in the top-half. Perhaps they even do a Leicester.

Nightmare season…

Wolves underperform, Esprito Santo leaves, and having found Premier League hard, they are relegated with games to spare.

Key man…

Top scorer last season, it was no surprise Wolves rushed to make Diogo Jota’s loan from Atletico Madrid permanent.

Needs to step up…

How skipper Danny Barth adapts to the top-flight will be an interesting watch.

Verdict: There’s a feel-good factor around the Molineux, as is the quality and capacity to improve, and in a league where the sides outside the top six suffer from congestion, Wolves will more than fancy themselves. 11th

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