There are some great in-depth Premier League previews out there, but you might not have the time or attention span for them, and we understand. For that reason, here is exactly one thing that you need to know about each team before the season starts.
Arsenal — Introducing… verticality!
In the back half of the Arsene Wenger era, Arsenal were at their best when playing a fast, direct style. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really Wenger’s cup of tea, so the Gunners didn’t do it that often. Under Unai Emery, that’s likely to change.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had an impressive first half-season with Arsenal and should be even better with the benefit of a full preseason and a World Cup spent relaxing. The addition of Lucas Torreira fills two big needs — he’s both the closest thing to a true defensive midfielder that Arsenal has had since Gilberto Silva left in 2008, and he’s one of the best long passers in Europe. And Mesut Özil now looks likely to be stuck into his best role permanently, as a No. 10 behind a true goal-scorer, in front of a true holding player and a box-to-box midfielder.
Arsenal are unlikely to experience an instant resurgence — 10 years of bad transfer policy is hard to fix overnight — but they will make sense for once, and they will play fast.
Bournemouth — Counting on internal improvement
The Cherries have been buying up as many attacking players as they could over the past couple of seasons, but they’ve slowed their roll considerably. Defensive-minded players David Rico and Jefferson Lerna have joined, along with young midfielder David Brooks, but it was a quiet window for the Cherries, who had more outgoings than incomings.
Bournemouth’s success is contingent on the improvement of their 23-and-younger players who put in solid, but not quite spectacular campaigns last year. Nathan Ake, Jordon Ibe and Lewis Cook are expected to get better this year. Bournemouth’s light transfer activity suggests that manager Eddie Howe has a lot of faith in those players.
Brighton — Under construction, please excuse our mess
The Seagulls have signed 16 — SIXTEEN! — players this summer. Some of them are backups or will head to the academy, but around a dozen of them will compete for playing time this season. Most of them have experience in a top five league in Europe, but are not established stars. It’s tough to guess whether Brighton will finish 20th or 7th at the moment.
If there’s one Brighton player to keep an eye on, it’s Alireza Jahanbakhsh, better known as “Reza,” an Iranian international who’s coming off a 21-goal season for AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands. Buying top scorers from the Eredivisie is famously a bit of a lottery — sometimes you get Ruud van Nistelrooy, sometimes you get Alfonso Alves.
Burnley — More of the same
If you liked 2017-18 Burnley, you’ll like 2018-19 Burnley. No key players have left, and all the incoming players are more solid depth than game-changing — Joe Hart, plus Championship stars Ben Gibson and Matej Vydra. They’ll defend, dump and chase their way to a solid mid-table finish.
Cardiff City — Strong favorites for 20th
The least sexy of the three promoted teams also did the least transfer business. All of their signings are decent Championship players. They’re loaded with the type of dudes who make you say “oh yeah, that guy” or “he’s still in the league?”
Their manager, Neil Warnock, has guided several teams to relegation or close to it before he was sacked. They’re going to take their one year of Premier League TV money, then their parachute payment, and financially secure their future.
Chelsea — That midfield tho
It took a long time for Chelsea to get new manager Maurizio Sarri out of Napoli, so it took a long time for the Blues to get their transfer business settled. They probably wanted to make some changes to the attack and defense that they didn’t really get around to, so no one is expecting Sarri to work miracles in year one. A fourth-place finish would be fantastic.
But yo, that midfield. N’Golo Kante proved to any remaining doubters that he’s the best midfielder in the world at the World Cup, and he’s been joined by a couple of spectacular reinforcements. Jorginho was the lynchpin of Sarri’s excellent midfield at Napoli, and Mateo Kovacic has arrived from Real Madrid, where he was sensational whenever they actually let him play. That trio might be the best center of midfield in England when they get settled.
Crystal Palace — Which Max Meyer do we get?
When Julian Draxler was turning down contract extensions and gearing up to leave Schalke 04, all of the German papers said it was no problem. His understudy, Max Meyer, was the biggest teenage talent in all of German football. Better than Draxler, better than Thomas Müller, better than Timo Werner.
Well… that hasn’t happened. Through some combination of Schalke’s bad coaching, Meyer’s bad attitude, and scouts just plain getting it wrong, Meyer never reached true superstar status. But he’s still only 22, and his highlights are just silly:
Signing Meyer on a free transfer was an amazing coup for Crystal Palace. He clearly has the talent to become one of the best attacking midfielders in the Premier League. But if he plays like he did last season, he’s not even worth his wages.
Everton — More wild transfer swings
The Toffees’ big transfers last summer were mostly disastrous. Davy Klaassen, Wayne Rooney and Sandro Ramirez were unqualified busts. There’s still hope that Michael Keane, Cenk Tosun and Gylfi Sigurdsson can come good, but they didn’t have impressive debut seasons.
Has that put Everton off spending lots of money on boom-or-bust transfers? Goodness no. Richarlison, Yerry Mina and Lucas Digne have arrived for an eye-popping combined fee of £80 million. And even at the cost of just a small loan fee and his wages, Andre Gomes is a risky pickup given his poor form at Barcelona.
But the best signing of them all was probably a free transfer — Brazilian attacker Bernard from Shakhtar Donetsk. If Everton plays up to its talent level and pushes the top six this season, he’ll probably be a big reason why.
Fulham — SESS SESS SESS SESS SESS
You might have read a lot about Fulham’s £100 million transfer window, but the player to watch is one that was already there. Ryan Sessegnon is an 18-year-old left-sided maestro who dominated the Championship last season. He’s played quite a bit of left back in his career, but he’s now a full-time attacker and scored 15 goals last season. With that pedigree and his stellar left foot, he’s drawing comparisons to Gareth Bale.
If you’re wondering how Fulham paid for all those transfers, Sessegnon is how. They’ll be getting that £100 million back soon enough.
The comparisons between David Wagner and his former boss Jürgen Klopp won’t go away after this transfer window. Ramadan Sobhi gives the Terriers a tricky element they were missing up front, Juninho Bacuna adds some passing from deep, and Adama Diakhaby adds pure pace. Expect to see them make more progress to establishing what Wagner calls “The Terriers Identity.”
Leicester City — They say they want the old Foxes, girl don’t tempt me
Leicester’s attempts to evolve from what made their title-winning team great have gone poorly, but Claude Puel looks like he’s on his way to bringing them back.
A whopping three new central defenders have joined captain Wes Morgan and England hero Harry Maguire — Jonny Evans, Filip Benković and Çağlar Söyüncü. At right back, Ricardo Pereira is a huge upgrade. And while N’Golo Kante can never be replaced, the Foxes have a slew of athletic and tough defensive midfielders. Leicester is going to prevent goals.
James Maddison is an impressive creative talent, but in his first season in the Premier League, expect him to be a bit-part player, en route to stardom in 2020. This Leicester team looks set to just punt the damn ball up to Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho, and they’re going to 1-0 their way into your heart.
Liverpool — Jesus just watch this Naby Keita highlight video
Liverpool was already the most purely entertaining team in the Premier League, and they added this guy. They’re appointment viewing.
Manchester City — You only got a 99% on the test? FAILURE!
Everyone who works at Manchester City will know what it’s like to have Those Parents who demand straight A’s and your eventual graduation from Harvard med school. A Premier League title is not good enough for the Citizens. Spectacular attacking football and a couple trophies is not sufficient.
This team has the potential to be the best in the history of the Premier League. We are in the Guardiola era now. The drama in their season will not be whether or not they win the title, but whether or not they’re able to chase down a slew of Premier League records.
Manchester United — Jose already has his beach house reserved
United had a highly underwhelming transfer window, with CEO Ed Woodward failing to bring in any of Mourinho’s requested defenders. Fred should solidify the midfield and Diego Dalot is a spectacular prospect, but no one joined that will make United’s back line better immediately. That’s a problem, given that they have the arguably least talented defense among the Premier League’s top six.
The Red Devils have enough talent in goal, midfield and defense to overcome their CEO and manager’s mistakes. David De Gea, Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku can win games with seven players from the academy around them. But if any United fans were expecting progression, they’ll be disappointed. Smart money has Mourinho out of a job by May.
Newcastle United — Wow, Mike Ashley sucks
The biggest question on the minds of Geordies remains: How long can Rafa Benitez put up with this crap? Newcastle sells out one of the biggest grounds in the country and should have no trouble attracting sponsorship, but apparently owner Mike Ashley won’t sanction big-time signings. Five players have arrived, but none of them cost eight-figures. The Magpies sold more than they spent.
Newcastle’s squad is almost certainly good enough to stay in the league, but presumably Benitez has ambition beyond that. His work with Newcastle has rehabilitated his image, and he can probably get a better job any time he wants.
Ashley wants to sell the club, but can’t find a buyer willing to meet his terms. Benitez wants to stay at Newcastle and build something, but he isn’t being allowed to. For now, everyone’s just stalling.
Southampton — Learning from mistakes, or on the way down?
The Saints’ scouting and player development system was once the envy of the Premier League. Now they battle relegation while playing boring football and signing retreads from bigger clubs. But this window has looked a bit more Old Southampton.
Stuart Armstrong, Mohamed Elyounoussi and Jannik Vestergaard are prime-age players who arrived on reasonable fees from abroad. Unlike Manolo Gabbiadini, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Mario Lemina and Oriol Romeu, they arrived while on an upward trajectory.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that Mark Hughes is the manager. His last two teams have badly underperformed their talent level. If gambling is legal where you live, a small bet on the Saints to go down might be good value.
Let’s have a round of applause for the first team to ever make zero transfers. That’s right, zero. Not even a high-potential kid for the academy on a tiny fee. Not even a cheap loan. Zero signings.
Back in 2015, Daniel Levy guaranteed that the costs of Tottenham’s new stadium would not cut into the transfer budget. That might be true — perhaps Spurs just couldn’t close on their targets on time — but fans are understandably skeptical after this summer. Hey, at least the new stadium is done on time.
And importantly, Spurs didn’t lose anyone, despite expectations that they’d face fights to keep some of their star players. Last summer, Danny Rose gave an interview in which he stated that basically everyone in the team except for Harry Kane would rather compete for trophies and make big money elsewhere than help build up Tottenham. But manager Mauricio Pochettino has done an impeccable job of keeping his cult together, so this year’s Spurs will be the same as last year’s Spurs.
Watford — Sorry, I have nothing
Richarlison is out, Gerard Deulofeu is in. Otherwise, it’s the same team that finished 14th. They did well to hold on to Abdoulaye Doucouré, and they’ll be counting on some internal improvement from Nathaniel Chalobah and Will Hughes. They have a bunch of guys who make you think “that’s a decent young player” before you look him up and realize he’s actually 27.
Like Newcastle and Cardiff, this is a holding pattern team. Unlike Newcastle and Cardiff, I don’t know why they’re a holding pattern team.
Joining Brighton in the “7th or 20th?” category is West Ham, who seriously wilded out in the transfer window. I’m just going to screenshot Wikipedia because I want you to look at this list of players and there honestly isn’t a better way to present them.
This is the kind of stuff I do when I’m playing Football Manager 18 at 4 a.m. because I’m a dumbass who accidentally had a p.m. espresso. I couldn’t possibly guess if Diop, Wilshere, Yarmolenko, Felipe Anderson and Lucas Perez will be great or atrocious for this team. The Hammers might have just put together the dream window that establishes themselves as a European contender or flushed £100 million down the toilet. I don’t have a clue.
West Ham rules.
Wolverhampton Wanderers — [Jorge Mendes voice] Look at me, I’m the captain now
Wolves are owned by a Chinese consortium called Fosun, and one of their chief advisers is super agent Jorge Mendes. This relationship is apparently totally fine with football authorities, and it’s led Mendes to funnel some sensational talent to the West Midlands. Wolves dominated the Championship last season with Portuguese stars like Ruben Neves, Ivan Cavaleiro, Diego Jota and Helder Costa leading the side. This season, even more Mendes or Mendes-adjacent clients have joined, along with some non-Mendes clients who are just very good.
Veteran midfield Joao Moutinho is the headline addition, but he might not even be the most exciting pickup. Rui Patricio, Raúl Jiménez, Adama Traore, Leander Dendoncker and Jonny are likely to be just as important. Wolves have an absolutely loaded squad, and most expect them to steer well clear of a relegation battle.