Reshaping Arsenal: Life after Alexis Sanchez
The much bigger change waiting to happen at Arsenal
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It's that time of the year again. Time to wrap up the passing year and make predictions for the new one. And why not make it interesting with a few out of the box predictions? Here are mine for the Premier League in 2018.
Man City won't lose a single game in 2018
Going through a whole Premier League season is unlikely as only Arsenal in 2003/04 has done it previously, but with more than half of 2017/18 played and still no losses for Manchester City, it does look achievable for Pep Guardiola's team. Certainly, it wouldn't be a surprise anymore. But managing to stay unbeaten for a whole calendar year does look like an unlikely achievement. Yet, it doesn't seem unthinkable with this team
City was close to its first defeat of the season on the final day of 2017, when Luka Milivojevic wasted an injury-time penalty for Crystal Palace, and Guardiola himself has said that he doesn't think it's possible to have an unbeaten Premier League season. However, they are well on their way to getting there.
Guardiola's words also point to the fact that a full calendar year without losses looks too big of a task even for this City team, but there's a certain special aura around the team that makes me think that they won't be beaten anytime soon.
The failed Milivojevic penalty was one of many signs of unexplainable luck the team has had so far. Raheem Sterling has scored what seems like a countless amount of late goals, some of them very lucky like the winner against Huddersfield. I can see this luck carrying them through all the way to 2019.
Swansea won't be relegated
Swansea City faces one heck of a challenge to remain in the Premier League. They were bottom of the league at Christmas and teams who have suffered that fate rarely make it out from the relegation zone by the end of the season, plus they have been downright awful. But there's still almost a half of the season to go and as demonstrated by quite a few struggling teams, things can change quickly.
The club waited too long to sack Paul Clement - even chairman Huw Jenkins admitted it this week - but maybe it was simply fate that led them to Carlos Carvalhal. The 52-year-old was let go by Sheffield Wednesday right before Christmas and had the Swans gotten rid of Clement sooner, they might've hired somebody else.
Carvalhal, while having no previous Premier League experience, seems like a good fit for Swansea. He's been known for playing attractive football in the Championship and hasn't also abandoned his mentality when taking on the top flight clubs in various cup competitions.
Swansea has been the lowest scorer in the Premier League so far with only 13 goals, but the offense should get a nice boost by Carvalhal. They already showed some good defensive ability earlier in the season, recording four clean sheets in the opening eight fixtures. It's been the lack of goals that has held the team back and if Carvalhal manages to get them scoring again, then they should shoot right up the table.
Huddersfield will get relegated
Scoring has also been a worry for Huddersfield, though that hasn't bothered them much so far. David Wagner's team was the best promoted side at the halfway mark, sitting 11th and on 22 points. However, a big chunk of the points was picked up at the start of the season, when they were still an unknown quantity to the whole league, and 2018 could bring dark times.
Huddersfield famously started with two straight wins and three clean sheets in a row, which set them on their way to getting nine points from the first six games. They were hard to break down and the tight defense provided them with a solid base to get points on a consistent basis.
However, once the honeymoon was over, the Terriers lost seven of nine matches, failing to score in six. Their defensive record has dropped like a rock and is now among the worst in the league, while they have also scored more than just three sides. If you can't score nor defend, then you have no place in the Premier League.
Wagner's team also faces a struggle because of their away record. They have lost only three times at home, but have just two away wins. Last season, Burnley ended up being among the best home teams in the league, but it took them until the end of April to get their first road win of the season and the poor away form nearly doomed them. They shared the worst record with Watford among teams that weren't relegated.
Tottenham won't make the top four
Tottenham is currently fifth, so the prediction might actually not look bold at all, but they finished second last season and that would make their drop surprising. Harry Kane's hot form also makes it unlikely that they will miss out on the Champions League places. However, there is every chance it happens. Playing in Europe this season is the main reason.
During the Champions League group stage, Tottenham managed to win both games before and after European fixtures just twice. They have drawn two games following a Champions League match – against relegation battlers Swansea and WBA – and they have also lost two just before a big European night. Though, these were against Manchester United and Arsenal, both tough fixtures and away from home as well.
Spurs have had a surprisingly good European campaign. After failing miserably in the Champions League a year ago, they managed to win their group ahead of Real Madrid and Dortmund, losing only two points. Having already beaten the current title holders, there's no reason why they can't win it all. And that's where the team's focus should be in 2018.
Mauricio Pochettino has drawn a lot of plaudits, but he still hasn't won anything as a manager. No doubt, the various club records are nice in the league, but they don't mean much without holding the Premier League trophy in your hands come May. That won't happen to him and the Spurs players again this season and with that in mind, why not sacrifice the league for European success?
Alvaro Morata will win the Golden Boot
Kane finished 2017 with two consecutive hat-tricks and he'll likely top the scoring charts for the third season in a row, but Alvaro Morata seems to have a good case for the Golden Boot as well.
There are currently eight goals separating Kane and Morata, with a bunch of players between them, but the Spaniard has been forced to miss a few games. Recently he didn't play against Huddersfield and Southampton. Kane combined for five goals against these two.
2017 ended with a pretty poor run for Morata with only two goals in seven league games, but he showed signs of heating up again, getting two goals in three games, one in the League Cup. His run of six goals in his first six Premier League games is far from a match to Kane's recent streak of six in two games, but it's still an impressive feat. One which proved that the former Real and Juventus man can be a consistent goalscorer in England.
Mohamed Salah is currently the closest challenger to Kane with 17 goals, but don't be surprised if it ends up being Morata in the end. Jürgen Klopp has already rotated his forwards quite frequently and the Egyptian could carry a lighter load during the second half of the season. Meanwhile, Morata should get all the minutes he can handle as Antonio Conte doesn't trust Michy Batshuayi for some reason and there's no other competition at the club.