Premature Superlatives: Premier League

When August comes around and the European countries start their footy seasons, it almost doesn’t feel real. After laboring through yet another dull preseason those first few weeks take some adjusting to. But now that we’ve gone through the first impressions and survived the first international break, it’s starting to feel real. Real enough to make some analytically crafted high school style predictions at least. 

Most Likely to Succeed: 

Club – Manchester City 

Relax, it’s not a Premier League Champions prediction. But realistically, this squad has been one of the most consistently successful sides in all of Europe over the past few years. Two straight Premier League titles, four of the last six EFL Cup titles, and a domestic treble last season, it’s almost an obvious choice. 

But isn’t this supposed to be an obvious choice? Recent success ranks pretty high on the qualifications for this one, believe it or not. On one hand, if they do win again, it’s boring because it’s what we all expected. However, watching the mighty crumble under the weight of expectation is what makes sports great. So, I’ll pile on as much expectations on this team as possible. They’ve earned it. 

Player – Kevin De Bruyne

De Bruyne gets a similar deal as his club had above. The recognition of talent is balanced with the burden of expectation. But the Belgian midfielder has become somewhat of a mage with the Man City kit on, even with his high standards. He’s topped the Premier League in assists in two of the last three seasons, and has overall contributed to exactly 20% of the goals the club has scored since he was signed. 

The magic De Bruyne brings to the field comes through in the unquantifiable aspects of his game. His work rate in balancing his defensive duties provides him a foundation to launch is attacking creativity from. You’re telling me these are given justice by being labelled as just one assist or key pass?

Most Dependable

Club – Leicester City

Four weeks in and the Foxes are nestled in sole third place on the Premier League table. I don’t think anyone expects them to stay there long, but Leicester likely won’t be too far off as the season goes along. They’ve already shown glimpses of why they are capable of taking advantage of an open ended top six whose eyes are all on Wolves.

Even if Leicester ends up falling short of that top six race, they’ll likely finish quite safely mid table. Most of the core of this year’s squad has carried the club over the past couple seasons, but now they have some new pieces to add as reinforcement. Young center back Caglar Söyüncü forms a decent pairing with Prem veteran Johnny Evans. The partnership of Ayoze Perez and Jamie Vardy sounds like it’d have potential to, at the very least, generate an above average and creative attack. 

Player – N’Golo Kante 

All things considered this is probably a cold take, but a take I’m presenting nonetheless. People used to describe Cafú as having three lungs because of his outrageous stamina. If that was the case then Kante probably has about four or five. What makes Kante so dependable is that nearly infinite aerobic capacity mixed with his equally abundant work rate to do a lot of the dirty work for his squad.

The results of his work and dependability have more than paid off. Two PL titles with two different teams, a World Cup trophy, and a European trophy all in the span of four years doesn’t come easy. Regardless of whatever Chelsea ends up achieving by the end of the season, don’t be surprised if Kante is an essential part of it.

Best Glow-Up

Club – Everton

Ah, yes, Everton. The eternal epitome of “what if”. The Merseyside club puts together squads that are always decent but never really spectacular, which continued last campaign symbolized by their eighth place finish. However, Everton this season feels more capable than ever to finally turn the corner and intrude upon the unstable elites of the league. 

The Toffees revamped their attack by adding Arsenal academy graduate Alex Iwobi and young Italian rising star Moise Kean. Midfield reinforcements came in the form of Premier League veteran Fabian Delph, whose experience can be an essential part of pulling the strings with league standout Gylfi Sigurdsson. With their start being traditionally mediocre, a glow up from Everton feels imminent at this point. 

Player – Rob Holding

I am well aware of the fact that Rob Holding has yet to play a minute for Arsenal’s first team so far this season. The young English defender only appeared on the field for the Gunners a total of 10 times in the Prem last season. But all things considered, Holding seems poised to have a season that puts him on the map in Europe.

Two of the bigger factors in this prediction certainly make it seem like the stars are aligning. Arsenal’s back line was led by Per Mertesacker and Laurant Koscielney for years, but those days are long gone thanks to the Frenchman’s messy exit over the summer. Sokratis provides stable defending on good days, but the remaining options are David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi. The combination of opportunity through the needs of the team and not having a high standard to compete against, Holding could be well on his way to being Arsenal’s best defender this season. 

Most Flirtatious

Club – Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham have been the biggest flirts in all of Europe over the past few seasons, and it doesn’t seem like much will change this year. The pieces the Spurs added over the transfer window will likely keep them among the top of the league. Tanguy Ndombele has already shown some of his worth in the midfield and Ryan Sessegnon is a serious young talent who can develop into a world beater. 

But we’ve already seen how Tottenham is still not quite at the level to bring home major trophies. The loss at home to Newcastle speaks for itself. However, the two draws away to Manchester City and Arsenal are keeping Spurs from reaching the highest level. Many would see results like these as a decent start to the season, but Pochettino’s squad was lucky to earn points from the fixtures. Winning those kinds of games is what separates the trophy winning teams from the others.

Player – Wilfried Zaha

The Ivorian winger has been labelled a prospect for what seems like the last 6 years. After his initial stint at Manchester United, Zaha got loaned to Crystal Palace with a small stint at Cardiff right in the middle so he could “develop”. Cut to today and the 26 year-old is still at Palace, tallying the days until that massive contract runs out in summer 2023. 

Zaha provides a threat for Crystal Palace that is hard to ignore. His intelligent dribbling and deceiving movement is what gives Palace a chance in most of their matches. But as long as the club keep his price tag high, he’ll always seem like too great a risk. This season feels as though Zaha will continue to impress, and even gain more transfer attraction, but nothing will likely come out of it. 
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