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Around the Pitch: A Premier League Primer – Spurs, West Ham and Wolves Walk into a Bar

Here’s a look at 5 teams from this year’s PL and our expectations of each

Wolves vs Man City by quisnovus is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Around the Pitch: A Premier League Primer – Spurs, West Ham and Wolves Walk into a Bar


Estimated Reading Time: 11 Minutes

The Premier League made a successful return to play in order to finish out the 2019/20 season, and did so with flair. They backed social justice by kneeling before each kickoff, had Black Lives Matter patches on their kits, and played behind closed doors, with each home stadium looking like one big TV advertisement.

As we approach kickoff of the new season on September 12th, we’re going to take a walk around the league and check in on each club. Where did they finish last season? What are their realistic expectations? How will packing a full season into fewer months affect them?

Southampton

Kevin Michael Morin

The news of the club trying to lock up James Ward-Prowse and Danny Ings is exciting for the Saints. Ings was pure class last season. If he can stay healthy, he can compete for a golden boot again. But he’s going to need some help in order to do so.

It’s interesting to see how they’ve gone from League 2 to finishing in a European place to nearly being relegated. They’re a true roller coaster of a club with a spattering of young talent. It’s time to stabilize and be the next Leicester City. They have the talent; they simply need the mentality. That said, a top ten finish is totally plausible.

Andrew Mark Wilhelm

Danny Ings is the real deal. The fact that he didn’t get sold like many quality Southampton players before him is a good sign. Will it be enough to get them into the top 10? I’m not sure. The biggest signing they’ve made this offseason was completing a deal for Kyle Walker-Peters, who was on loan to them already from Tottenham but it took losing Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg to complete, which leaves them with a hole in their midfield they’ve yet to address. I see them finishing somewhere mid-table, possibly as low as 14th. Sorry, Ryan.

Joe Danbusky

After what can charitably be described as a shaky start to last season (highlighted by a 9-0 thrashing at the hands of Leicester City), Southampton settled in under Ralph Hasenhüttl and battled to an 11th place finish. That puts them back in more familiar territory after a couple of seasons flirting with relegation. Heading into this campaign, they’ll look to improve upon a fine run-in and hopefully crack into the top half once again. Danny Ings was brilliant last season, falling just short of Vardy in the Golden Boot race. With James Ward-Prowse holding down the midfield that also features names like Shane Long and Nathan Redmond, he should have ample opportunities to challenge for the award again.

Defensively the side has improved as well. They signed Kyle Walker-Peters from Tottenham and brought in Mohammed Salisu to bolster the back line. IF they can stay healthy and build on the momentum they had at the end of last season, their upward trajectory should continue. I think they crack the top half of the table, finishing between 8th and 10th.

Ryan Kelly

“The Turf would like to issue a correction. In a previous PL Primer, one of our staff members erroneously wrote that Crystal Palace would win the Premier League. This statement was actually meant to appear in the preseason prediction for the true PL champions, Southampton FC. 

We march on.”

Tottenham Hotspur

Kevin Michael Morin

I could say so much here. The additions of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Matt Doherty are strong ones. There’s so much talent on this squad, but they can’t seem to get over the hump. After some time under Jose Mourinho, I’m interested to see what Spurs are able to put together. They have the talent to win the league, but the mental toughness always goes on walkabout at the worst times.

The news that Josh King may find his way to North London could finally be the cover for Harry Kane that Tottenham fans have been screaming for. Mourinho’s insistence on playing Eric Dier in a CB pairing with Toby Alderweireld instead of Davinson Sanchez scares me. But I just have to cross my fingers and hope. My heart sees a league title, but it sees that every year before kickoff and then reality sets in. It’s going to be a dogfight. The key to a good finish is to perform against the top clubs. I know that’s obvious, but it’s not a foregone conclusion. A fifth place finish is likely, but I’m holding out hope for fourth.

Andrew Mark Wilhelm

All three of us here know the frustrations that come from Jose Mourinho as your club’s manager. (Only one of our clubs has any hardware to show for it though.) But, if the players buy in, results can be seen. And this Spurs side certainly has the talent for a good run. Adding Hojbjerg and Doherty is a pair of fantastic moves, and Son, Kane, and Lo Celso are all top class talents. It almost feels like if this side can’t finish 5th, then some of those players, namely Kane, are out the door. Luckily for Kevin and Spurs fans everywhere, I think 5th is exactly where they end up.

Joe Danbusky

Ah Kevin. I feel for you, man. You’re enduring what those of us faithful to Old Trafford had to put up with ourselves recently. Even Wilhelm can relate to the emotional roller coaster you must be riding watching your favorite team being led by “The Special One”. Maybe things will work out for Spurs, or maybe not. But hey, we get to watch “All or Nothing” for a peek behind the curtain at least.

All kidding aside – this squad is most definitely loaded. Every time I think of a position that Manchester United need to improve at, my first thought is ‘who does Tottenham have that we could poach?’ (especially when they parted ways with Pochettino). Watching their early season descent was a mix of joy, puzzlement, and confusion for me. It was hard to fathom a squad of such stature, who was on the brink of European glory, falling into the bottom half of the table.

Mourinho’s appointment was met with an equally mixed reaction but seemed to do the trick in the short term. By season’s end, they’d secured a spot in the Europa League by finishing 6th. With the benefit of a full season, it’ll be interesting to see what Jose can muster moving forward. Will the story be about Tottenham, or Jose Mourinho? If it’s a “team first” season, I can see Spurs in the top 5.

West Bromwich Albion

Kevin Michael Morin

West Brom are runners up of the English second tier, and they’ll need to continue that momentum in order to sustain a multi-year run in the top flight. A lackluster preseason shows that the short turnaround could be tough for the midlands club. They’ll need to bring in some depth, otherwise they’ll be playing with tired legs before December. And that doesn’t bode well. A relegation battle seems most likely for The Baggies. Only time will tell.

Andrew Mark Wilhelm

West Brom and West Ham are destined to spend the entire season next to each other on the table for no other reason than to confuse me. Unfortunately for both of those teams, I think they’ll be straddling the relegation line. The showing they made finishing 2nd in last years Championship table is enough for me to predict they finish on the right side of that line in 17th.

Joe Danbusky

Normally, the biggest challenge facing clubs who get promoted into the Premier League is the stark upgrade in the quality of the competition. It’s been two years since West Brom were last in the top flight, and they return with not a lot of Premier League experience among the squad. They will have to continue their scrappy style of play if they hope to avoid the drop. In the Championship they excelled in terms of both goals scored (2nd, with 77 goals) and goals conceded (3rd fewest, giving up only 45). While it’s unlikely they’ll find themselves near the top in scoring, if they can continue to be stout defensively, they could prove to be a pesky opponent.

They also drew 17 matches last season – they’ll need to turn some of those into victories if they expect to stick around. It will likely be a dogfight near the bottom all season, and I fear it may not end well for the Baggies.

West Ham United

Kevin Michael Morin

While they were able to stay up, The Hammers vastly underperformed this past season and were lucky to escape relegation. Michail Antonio played the role of savior, and is likely going to need to do so again for West Ham to get back to a top half of the table finish that is expected of them. There’s a solid youthful core in the squad, but there’s also a good chance the likes of Declan Rice and Issa Diop could be scooped up by another club before the end of the transfer window. If that happens, another bottom half finish is likely for the East London club. Possibly even relegation.

Andrew Mark Wilhelm

If what I said about West Brom ends up being true, then West Ham is the top of teams being relegated. Hopefully Declan Rice is no longer on this squad when that happens. Coincidentally, if he’s not, it’s almost assured to be true. Issa Diop will have to have the best season of his career to avoid relegation, providing he stays a Hammer for the duration of the campaign. Things don’t look good for David Moyes’s club.

Joe Danbusky

Survival. It’s why David Moyes was brought in and Manuel Pellegrini was shown the door. After getting off to a dreadful start, the Hammers made the change in December of 2019. Of course, it was a familiar situation for Moyes, who had done the exact same thing in 2017. That season he brought them from relegation to 13th before mutually parting ways at the end of the campaign. This time around, he eked out a 16th place finish, allowing their Premier League run to continue.

Michail Antonio continues to lead the charge for the squad. He’ll need players like Pablo Fornals and Sebastien Haller to step up and provide some support if they’re to succeed. If they’re able to hold on to Declan Rice, it would be HUGE for their competitive chances. They’ll also have to hope they don’t get stung by any major injuries, as their depth is lacking somewhat. Their place in the table may very well depend on what happens with Rice, but 12th-14th seems a likely landing spot for the Hammers.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Kevin Michael Morin

Wolves may be the most exciting club to watch. If they can somehow manage to hold on to Adama Traore, Raul Jimenez, and Ruben Neves, they’re fighting for Europe again. No question in my mind. Nuno Espirito Santo has built a fast paced, pressing squad that can match up with anyone on their day.

The biggest question mark is the defense, though. Losing Matt Doherty to Spurs creates a hole that will need to be filled quickly. Goal difference was the decision maker that kept them out of Europe this season, so they’ll be looking to convert a handful more opportunities. That starts from the back. Another top 10 finish should be on the horizon, though.

Andrew Mark Wilhelm

Wolverhampton Wanderers are something of an enigma. This year’s squad looks a little like Chelsea’s did last season. Goals can come from many, many places in the likes of Traore, Jimenez, and new to the side Fabio Silva, but are they going to be able to stop enough goals to win matches? The loss of Doherty is large, and the addition of an aging Marcal will only do so much to make up for it. Still, this is a great team with hopes of playing in Europe. A top 10 finish is likely, with them finishing in 8th by my projections.

Joe Danbusky

These guys stressed me out all season. They spent a good chunk of the season jockeying for position with my Red Devils. They play an exciting style of football and have a number of talents (as mentioned above) who can help the team continue to compete for Europe.

Their loss of Matt Doherty will hurt – and seeing how the vacancy is filled will be something to keep an eye on. For some time now, the faithful have expected that their stars would be off to greener pastures and bigger squads, but for the most part their first team is still in tact. That familiarity has benefitted them for the last two seasons, and should continue to do so moving forward. And I just have to say – Adama Traore is a BEAST.

Without the rigors of a European campaign this time around, I think Wolves will be able to mount another strong campaign. Once again, they’ll finish in the top half, likely between 6th and 9th.

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