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Nouse Predicts... Premier League

The Nouse Sport team give their predictions for the 2018/19 Premier League at the half-way stage of the season

Patrick Hook-Willers - Sport Editor and Tottenham Hotspur fan:

Top 6:

Champions: Liverpool - I hate Liverpool with a passion but there are too many parallels with the Leicester season for me to ignore. Everyone in the media irrationally loves them, the FA are bending rules to benefit them and it's Tottenham up against them in the title race. They are ruthless in attack and highly organised in defence, and they are riding a wave that other teams are buying into and going into games feeling as though they've already lost. I pray I'm wrong but I can only see them losing one or two games from here on in...

2. Manchester City - Despite sitting third at the half way mark, Manchester City will throw another £100m at their issues next month and go on a blistering run.

3. Tottenham Hotspur - Tottenham won't throw any money at improving and the small squad will lead to an inevitable burn out and they won't sustain a title charge, unless the new stadium opens ASAP.

4. Manchester United - United are seemingly resurgent under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer and the new lease of life will see them steal a top 4 berth.

5. Chelsea - Chelsea are faltering after some early season promise, and their attentions will turn to the Europa League as they look for a back door route to the Champions League as well as yet another trophy.

6. Arsenal - Arsenal have improved marginally under Unai Emery, but the same problems still seem to haunt them, defensive errors and a lack of aggression when it matter are still visible to all, and as a result they will finish comfortably sixth.

Relegated:

18. Fulham Fulham have been largely woeful for the entire season, and despite Claudio Ranieri making a slight change, they are still four points adrift at this stage, and he won't be able to make this team work well enough to avoid relegation as those in and around the battle like Burnley and Southampton have a higher potential, and they will miss out on safety by around six points.

19. Cardiff City - Cardiff are a highly uninspiring team with a highly uninspiring manager, although they are three points above the bottom three at half-way, they will fall away when Burnley get their act together and will eventually give up and sink like a stone.

20. Huddersfield Town - The Terriers are many neutral's favourite team, playing aggressive and attractive football, but sadly they won't be able to recreate their heroic survival of last season. They lack teeth in attack and grit in defence and as much as I want them to stay up, I feel they will finish comfortably last.

 

George Cook - Sport Editor and West Ham United fan:

Top 6:

Champions. Liverpool - After being top at Christmas in 2009 and 2014, Liverpool went on to spectacularly bottle the title in the remaining half of both seasons. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s going to be the case this time around. They finally seem to have a solid defence, midfield and attack, after lacking one of the three in previous years. It’s going to take something spectacular to spot them. Get ready for open top bus parades every day, southern Liverpool fans who’ve never been to a game gloating, and Sky Sports running documentaries about it every night.

2. Manchester City - Pep Guardiola’s side had the title wrapped up so early on last season, they didn’t seem to face any pressure at all. This season couldn’t be more different. They certainly have the attack to outscore Liverpool, but injuries have highlighted their vulnerabilities. Fernandinho’s absence has caused them all sorts of problems, and they don’t seem to have anyone who can get close to his level of performances. The 3rd of January will be massive when Liverpool visit the Etihad. If Jurgen Klopp’s side come away with three points, that’s it. That is of course unless the City board throw another few hundred million into the pot…

3. Tottenham Hotspur - Although they sit in second at the moment, I think Tottenham will fade slightly in the second half of this year’s campaign. Nonetheless, 3rd would (written through gritted teeth) be yet another brilliant season for Mauricio Pochettino, especially given the chaos surrounding the new stadium. Many people are assuming he’s all set to move to Old Trafford in the summer, but he seems to be determined to see this project through at Spurs, and with the new stadium around the corner (finally?) he’s going to have a real good shot of doing something with this side.

4. Chelsea - Taking the last Champions League spot should go down as a solid accomplishment for Maurizio Sarri, although I’m sure the stubborn Italian won’t see it that way. The Premier League is the best league in the world, and to come here and guide Chelsea to fourth with this team is hugely impressive. On paper, they should perhaps be finishing third, above Spurs. However, I personally feel that of the top four, Chelsea are the most likely to drop points against teams lower down the table, as we saw in their defeats to Wolves and Leicester.

5. Arsenal - Unai Emery’s reign at Arsenal begins after years of Arsene Wenger at the helm, so naturally it is going to take some time for things to progress beyond the Frenchman’s style. Scoring is certainly not a problem, with the likes of Pierre Emerick Aubameyang leading the line, but they have inherent vulnerabilities that will take several transfer windows to address. Despite this, fifth is a solid finishing position, and they look like one of the favourites in the Europa League, so could well qualify for the Champions League via this route.

6. Manchester United - Chaos on and off the pitch I the reason why Manchester United will finish sixth. Jose Mourinho’s sacking has led to United legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer taking charge until the end of the season, whilst a new manager is considered. He’s started well, with comfortable wins over Cardiff and Huddersfield. However, it was only Cardiff and Huddersfield. Even if they keep up this form, they seem just a few too many points away to reach the top four.

Relegated:

18. Burnley - Burnley fans will have been waiting and waiting for their team to rediscover the performances they were capable of delivering from last season, but they’ll now be fearing what could await them. The 5-1 home defeat to Everton would never have happened last season, and no one (especially Sean Dyche) seems to be able to stop the rot. Given their small budget too, the January transfer window many not be of much use unless they can get an excellent loan deal. It would be a real shame to lose Burnley – a traditional club with a small but loyal fanbase.

19. Fulham - When they won the play-offs against Aston Villa at the end of last season, I thought Fulham would offer some real excitement this season, with the likes of Ryan Sessegnon and Andre Schurrle in their ranks. They have still offered excitement, unfortunately it’s just been the destruction of their defence by pretty much every team they’ve played against. Their defence is shambolic, and their attacking players like Mitrovic are struggling to take their chances. A drop straight back down for Fulham awaits, surely?

20. Huddersfield Town - Huddersfield’s first game of the 2017-18 season was an incredible 3-0 away win against Crystal Palace. They upset plenty of other sides in the League last season too, and I for one thought David Wagner’s side would be OK this season. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look to be the case. They are struggling to score beyond belief, with the lowest amount of goals scored in the League. Unless this changes right now, which is unlikely, a return to the Championship looks to be on the cards.

 

Alex Woodward - Deputy Sport Editor and Leeds United fan:

Top 6:

Champions: Manchester City - Of the last ten teams to be top at Christmas, only two have failed to win the title. Liverpool in 2008/09 and Liverpool in 2013/14. I expect them to make it three from three and to see Manchester City be the first team retain the crown since their neighbours did it in 2010/11. This might not seem to be the best pick after poor losses against Crystal Palace and Leicester, but if any team can turn it around, it’s City. The best team in the league with the best manager.

2. Liverpool - Yes they are six points clear, yes they are undefeated and yes they tick all the boxes for a title team (strength all over the field and on the bench, great manager and fortress home ground). Yet I still feel compelled to pick Manchester City over them. This is the best Liverpool have been since the days of Daglish and Barnes and getting over 90 points is now almost expected, I don’t feel entirely comfortable about putting them second and wouldn’t be surprised if Liverpool goes on to comfortably beat City in the title race.

3. Tottenham Hotspur - It is unreasonable to say that Tottenham cannot win the title because of how little they spend, it is possible to build a title-winning team on a low budget. It is reasonable, however, to suggest that Spurs cannot win the title because of the quality of the teams that are above them. In most other seasons this team could have strolled to the title. This year though, it is a case of right team, wrong season. Their main issue is their lack of depth and quality outside of the starting 11. Liverpool and City and too good for Spurs and the clock will roll over to 59 seasons without a title.

4. Chelsea - There is no doubt that Mauricio Sarri has been brilliant in his first half season in the Premier League and that again, Chelsea look revitalised under a new manager. Whilst the win against City may have given the Shed End fans hope of a sixth title under Abramovich, they are 11 points behind and there is no real reason to think that that gap will get much shorter throughout the rest of the season. A return to Champions League football should be welcome, but knowing Chelsea fans, it probably won’t.

5. Arsenal -We’re back to the days of ‘Arsene who?’ as the man who lead the club for 22 years has been quickly forgotten in wake of Unai Emery’s good start to life at the Emirates (it is worth noting that 38 points from 19 games would usually not be 13 points from the leaders). For £1,700, football at the Emirates is finally becoming interesting again. However, this is not enough for the title this year, though, like all teams above, they have the blocks in place for a title run in the next few seasons.

6. Manchester United - Third season syndrome has hit again and Mourinho is out. Bringing in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to save the day in the last minute will be bringing 90s nostalgia back to Man United fans. However, this will not be enough to get them a place in the top five. Not only is the defence abysmal (31 goals conceded), they're also six points from fifth with an inferior squad and manager. Go for the FA Cup, it's your only chance of a trophy.

Relegated:

18. Burnley - Form is temporary, class is permanent. Last year’s Burnley side pulled off nothing short of a miracle in finishing 7th in the Premier League. However, this year they have been brought down to earth with a bump. Their team is arguably the second weakest in the league on paper, and whilst we don’t play football on paper and whilst Sean Dyche is a great manager, stats don’t lie. 12 points from 19, 3rd worst attacking record in the league, second worst defensive record in the league. Burnley look doomed for the drop.

19. Huddersfield Town - David Wagner should be commended for the job he has done at Huddersfield, taking a club at the wrong end of the Championship and turning them into a Premier League side on a shoestring budget and whilst playing exciting football. Huddersfield are a forward-thinking club, but this season they will be going backwards to the Championship. Ironically the issues for them are in the forward department, 12 goals in 19 is by far the worst record in the league, no one player has scored more than three. Hopefully for them, they will have more goals in the second tier.

20. Cardiff City - It turns out trying to run a Premier League team on as little money as possible is not the best idea. I hear you saying that they are currently out of the relegation places, but 15 points from 19 games isn’t exactly worth celebrating. Warnock has done better than expected with the team he has, but with stronger teams below them on what seems to be an upwards trajectory, I don’t think it will be long until Cardiff slump back to the position we would have expected at the start of the season.

 

Will Hadley - Deputy Sport Editor and Leeds United fan:

Top 6:

Champions: Liverpool - The Reds are on top and won’t be passed for the rest of the season. Solid defences win titles and with just seven goals conceded in the league so far it’s hard to imagine City passing them when Guardiola’s men seem to have become allergic to clean sheets. I would say an invincible season might be on the cards if it wasn’t for how unbearable Liverpool fans would be if they manage to pull it off. Let’s all pray it doesn’t come to that.

2. Manchester City - Last year’s champions have looked uncharacteristically shaky during the christmas period, with Fernandinho’s injury exposing a rare lack of depth in his midfield role. It’ll be a second-placed finish for City with even mid table teams now realising that they can be beaten if you’re brave enough to take the game to them.

3. Tottenham Hotspur - Poch’s team have bounced back from a run of poor results early this season and look to have found excellent form going into the new year. Maddeningly for Spurs fans I would bet on them finishing with a club record of PL points this season, but such is the strength of the top two, it won’t be enough to catch City or Liverpool.

4. Chelsea - Despite early success it’s clear that ‘Sarriball’ is going to take some time for this Chelsea squad to come to grips with, although they should easily finish in the top 4 thanks to the leaky defences of Arsenal and Manchester United. Their need for a better striker is obvious though and should be their top priority in the January window.

5. Arsenal - That 22-match unbeaten run was always a bit misleading given that a fair amount of it involved beating the likes of Carrier Bag FC on Thursday nights. In any case Emery will need a few windows to sort out Arsenal’s squad and ‘de-Wenger’ the club, finishing above Manchester United is realistic though.

6. Manchester United - As much as I would love to see Manchester United get relegated in the same season that the mighty Leeds United are finally promoted it seems that Solskjaer has steadied the ship in the red half of Manchester. However, brushing aside Cardiff and Huddersfield does not make this squad ready to challenge for the Top 4 and against stronger opposition their comical back line will be exposed. Finishing sixth is the best they can hope for.

Relegated:

18. Fulham - Just after joining Fulham Claudio Ranieri told the press ‘I need a clean sheet like I need pasta’. Well he’s had his clean sheet, their only one all season, but it won’t be enough to stabilise the mess Ranieri has found in West London. A back line hastily assembled at the end of the summer with little thought for either quality or chemistry will be Fulham’s undoing, and I’d put money on them conceding over 90 league goals by the end of the season.

19. Burnley - 'Dycheball' cannot go on forever and it seems as though formerly rock solid Burnley have come unstuck this season. When your defence is the only thing you have going for you, and you suddenly lose the ability to defend, it becomes difficult to justify your presence in the Premier League. I’ll be glad to see the back of this relentlessly negative team that seems to think that ‘proper football’ involves trying to break the legs of every opposition player that keeps the ball for more than 5 seconds.

20. Huddersfield - Having scored just 12 goals in their first 19 league games it’s difficult to see how Huddersfield can drag themselves out of the depths of the relegation zone whilst being so inept going forward. I think there’s a case to made that any team that loses at home to Newcastle whilst having 74% possession should be immediately relegated no matter their league position, luckily though it seems that the Terriers will be going down through the standard route.

 

Rhys Carey -Sport Correspondent and Liverpool fan:

Top 6:

Champions: Manchester City - They sit third at the minute and are seven points behind the leaders, Liverpool. But as much as I don’t want to say it, I can’t see Liverpool going unbeaten for the whole season meaning there will be a chance for one of the chasing pack to win the league. That team will be Man City as they have one weakness and that is no back-up to Fernandinho, something which they will rectify during January as they have money to burn and won’t allow a third transfer window to pass without addressing the only weakness in the best squad in England.

2. Liverpool - Despite sitting top and being the best Liverpool team in my memory I think Liverpool will fall just short in what will be a very close title race. Despite the depth in their squad, the Reds are yet to win any silverware and I can’t see the first trophy for this talented team coming at the expense of the best English team I have ever witnessed.

3. Tottenham Hotspur - The forgotten team in the title race, that have somehow got themselves into second place with no one noticing, will finish third. Spurs’ starting eleven is as strong as Liverpool’s and Man City’s, but a lack of investment in the squad is going to see them found out as legs get weary from almost two seasons non-stop playing after much of their squad starred at the World Cup.

4. Arsenal - Arsenal are better than most people have realised. With two of the league’s best strikers and a strong midfield, Arsenal will need goalkeeper Bernd Leno to improve, and stop resembling compatriot Loris Karius, while addressing a defensive crisis if they want to deliver the Champions League position their attack deserves.

5. Chelsea - How Chelsea were keeping pace at the top for so long baffles me. Their goal at times has led a charmed life with teams having real trouble shooting on target against them rather than facing great defensive work. Couple this with the lack of an out-and-out goal scorer, with Eden Hazard single-handedly keeping his side in the top 4, Chelsea could have a difficult second half to the season.

6. Manchester United - The appointment of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at United appears to have revitalised the Red Devils, although the quality of opposition they have faced so far has meant that United have been allowed to play attacking football while not exposing their very shoddy defence. Indeed, if any team that finishes in the top half of the table doesn’t score against United it will be because of David De Gea.

Relegated:

18. Fulham - The money that Fulham spent in the summer was ridiculous for a newly promoted side and that’s what makes it crazy that Fulham will get relegated. Things have gotten better for them since Ranieri came in, but they are still conceding too many and not winning matches, a combination which means disaster is looming.

19. Huddersfield Town - To win a football match you need to outscore your opposition, something which is difficult when none of your strikers can score. If they can sign someone who will put the ball in the net, then Huddersfield might get out of danger but having lost their last five games and being bottom of the league does not bode well for Huddersfield.

20. Cardiff City - How are Cardiff not bottom of the league? They’ve been using a right-back as their first-choice striker for most of the season and have exceeded everyone’s expectations by sitting in seventeenth place, just one position above the relegation zone. I genuinely believe that this is as good as it will get for Cardiff because from what I’ve seen they are poor defensively and even worse going forward, a very worrying combination for a football team.

 

Chay Quinn - Deputy Editor and Manchester United fan:

Top 6:

Champions: Liverpool - They’ve finally found some grit. For all their flair in past seasons, a mettle is one thing that has eluded them is now at Anfield in the form of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker. I expect it to be close but the long wait should come to an end this season for the Reds.

2. Manchester City - Man City around the top is a certainty given the billions they have funding their day-to-day business. Begrudgingly I say that their squad is immense and their style brilliant. Despite their festive flop they will certainly recover, albeit too late to defend their title.

3. Tottenham Hotspur - Tottenham will hold themselves to a high standard after finishes of third, second and third in the last three seasons. However the quality of Liverpool and City will eclipse them, as much as I am desperate for them to win the league and save my brain from melting with a Liverpool/Leeds Premier League and Championship double...

4. Chelsea - Chelsea comes as the lesser of three evils to a United fan, and although their early season form has now waned, having players like Eden Hazard, N'Golo Kante and Pedro in their side means they will have enough to sneak into the last Champions League place.

5. Manchester United - Man United would need to find exceptional form for a long period of time under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to qualify for the Champions League. I don’t think it will be far off but a bridge too far for the Norwegian I suspect.

6. Arsenal - Arsenal as still brittle as ever in the post-Wenger era. Now that United are getting their act together with the hero that is Solksjaer, sixth is where Arsenal's fate lies in what will prove to be a transitional season.

Relegated: 

18. Burnley - It’s massively tight in the last five places and I will raise some eyebrows by not suggesting Fulham but I think they’ve the talent in Ranieri and the playing staff to turn their fortunes around. Burnley seem to be in disarray after a brilliant season last year, however they do not have enough quality left in the squad to avoid the drop, while Sean Dyche seems to have lost the ability to manage, an ability I feel he won't regain in time.

19. Huddersfield Town - Huddersfield don’t have anything potent in attack and are very weak at the back, in fact their entire squad looking at sixes and sevens, without any real evidence of know-how on how to win football matches.

20. Cardiff - Cardiff don’t have enough about them to stay in the Premier League and it is not unfair to say that their survival would be nothing short of miraculous.

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