Will Kane wrestle back the Golden Boot from Salah? RealSport’s Premier League predictions
It’s prediction season and RealSport’s football writers have taken their shot at predicting what will happen this coming Premier League season.
Mohamed Salah dominated the headlines last season with a series of stunning performances in all competitions resulting in him picking up a plethora of awards.
This season though, Harry Kane will have eyes set on the Golden Boot having picked up the same award in the summer at the World Cup in Russia.
Elsewhere, Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne is the RealSport writers’ consensus pick to take home the Player of the Year award — another accolade that Salah picked up last season.
Here are our predictions for the way that the new Premier League season could unfold:
Player of the Year
Jon Mackenzie: Kevin De Bruyne
“In one way I believe I deserve it, because I have been very consistent in my form,” said Kevin De Bruyne when asked about his chances of winning the Player of the Year.
He was clear, though, in remarking how he plays a different role to the one played by the eventual winner, Mohamed Salah: “To compare us, I don’t know. With the statistics how are we going to compare ourselves? It’s totally different.”
De Bruyne is, of course, right. Where Salah is direct, pacy, efficient and productive in advanced areas, the Belgian’s game is more subtle, controlling the Manchester City buildup play from his ‘free eight’ position.
That isn’t to say that De Bruyne isn’t also direct, pacy, efficient and productive but that Salah does it in more noticeable areas. If both are on the top of their game this season, expect the battle for Player of the Season to be an exciting one.
Oli Stein: Kevin De Bruyne
Sergio Aguero has Gabriel Jesus. Raheem Sterling now has Riyad Mahrez. David Silva has his namesake Bernardo.
The point here is that all of Manchester City’s key players tend to have a capable backup. All except Kevin De Bruyne.
There is no replacing the Belgian and his importance to the Citizens is impossible to replicate. If City retain the title, it’ll be in no small part down to De Bruyne’s efforts.
Connor Bromley: Kevin De Bruyne
He missed out on the award last season and that will only make him hungrier to win it this time around.
City may not be able to improve upon their 100 point haul last season but De Bruyne can definitely take his game to the next level and score 20+ goals.
Nestor Watach: Kevin De Bruyne
We know what we’re getting from the Belgian who has been remarkably consistent for some time now.
Last season, De Bruyne will have been disappointed not to pick up the Player of the Year award. In almost any other season, he would have been a worthy winner but Mohamed Salah put in a historic campaign.
Barring such freak circumstances this time around, the award should be his.
Sam France: Kevin De Bruyne
If City win the league again this season, it’s safe to assume De Bruyne will be their key man once again – doing that twice in a row should be enough to ensure the Player of the Year award.
Mo Salah will score plenty of goals but he is unlikely to break his own Premier League record. Either of the two could have won it in 2017/18, so to see the Belgian take the prize this time around would hardly be a surprise.
Jon Mackenzie: Mohamed Salah
It’s hard not to just jump on the Harry Kane bandwagon when picking a top goalscorer in the new season.
There are, however, a couple of mitigating factors. Spurs are yet to sign anyone. They’re losing Son Heung-min for stretches of the season – certainly for the Asian Games. Harry Kane has looked fatigued over a long World Cup summer and hasn’t returned to anywhere like the form that he was hitting before his injury early in the year.
Mohamed Salah has been hit by injury too but his was peripheral – a shoulder is less important than an ankle to a footballer.
Add to this the fact that Liverpool should score a lot of goals this season and you’re left with the distinct possibility that Salah could retain his award.
Oli Stein: Harry Kane
The only thing stopping Harry Kane from winning a third Premier League Golden Boot in four years is himself.
Despite the disappointment of the World Cup, Kane isn’t a mentally weak player. In fact, he has one of the strongest and most determined mindsets in the game.
Barring injury, he should match last season’s tally of 30.
Connor Bromley: Harry Kane
This is a bit of a boring answer but Kane is the best striker in the Premier League and, as such, should reclaim his Golden Boot.
Spurs have a new stadium that they hope will usher in a new era — Harry Kane will want to put his stamp on that new era.
Nestor Watach: Sergio Aguero
After a long season, injuries, and a dispiriting World Cup, the Argentinian was looking remarkably sharp in the season’s curtain-raiser.
He might be rotated with Gabriel Jesus, and Guardiola might have doubts about other aspects of his game but Aguero has shown reliability and consistency in scoring goals for over a decade now.
Still the most potent goalscorer in the league’s most creative team, if he stays fit, it should be him.
Sam France: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
With Mohamed Salah and Harry Kane both having Champions League duties to worry about, Aubameyang could be due for a bumper year in the league.
Given Unai Emery is likely to focus on the league, Aubameyang may well be rested during Arsenal’s European excursions which could spell trouble for Premier League defences.
He is undoubtedly one of the best strikers in world football and his early form for the Gunners has been incredibly promising.
Signing of the season
Jon Mackenzie: Naby Keita
There can be no two ways about it: Naby Keita will take the Premier League by storm this season.
Having helped RB Leipzig to a second-place finish in the Bundesliga in their debut season, the Guinean national marries together an ability to break presses through dribbling with a creativity that will bolster an already prolific Liverpool side.
Not only is he productive, though: he looks great whilst doing so. By the time the season comes to a close in May next year, expect the Naby Keita fan club to have grown considerably.
Oli Stein: Naby Keita
The Reds initially signed Naby Keita this time last summer which meant that, when he did eventually join his new teammates, it went somewhat under the radar. However, once he debuts in the Premier League, that perception will swiftly change.
Not only does Keita reinforce the midfield defensively — he made the third-most interceptions and second-most tackles at RB Leipzig — but he adds another element of creativity to Liverpool’s midfield, making as many key passes (39) as Emil Forsberg.
He provides a crucial link from midfield to attack not seen since Philippe Coutinho and is one of the most press resistant midfielders in the game.
Connor Bromley: James Maddison
He starred for Norwich City last season, earning a Premier League move in the process.
Leicester have bought themselves a quality young player who is likely to thrive at a higher level. Can he get himself ten + goals? I can see no reason why not.
Nestor Watach: Jean Michael Seri
The former Nice midfielder nearly moved to Barcelona last summer. In a side looking to keep the metronomic turnover of possession in the post-Xavi and Iniesta era, he would have been a suitable addition.
A brilliantly cultured central midfielder, it’s astonishing that a promoted team have been able to secure his services. His agility and vision will have many noticing the Ivory Coast international.
Don’t be surprised if he’s sold at a 100% profit to a top six side next summer.
Sam France: Adama Traore
Traore may well be the best dribbler in world football; he may well be its fastest player to boot.
Two years ago at Middlesbrough, he was a raw youngster and struggled to turn his mesmeric runs into goals and assists but he now has a great season in the Championship under his belt and a system that seems well suited to his talents.
Don’t be surprised to see some of the European big boys casting glances his way by the end of this season.
Flop of the season
Jon Mackenzie: Jose Mourinho
For the first time in Premier League history, we have a top six stacked with pro-active managers who will look to take the game to their opponents.
The exception is Jose Mourinho. Once at the cutting edge of football management, the Portuguese looks jaded in recent months.
Calling out players, the board, the owners and the press, he looks to be on course for his by now parodic ‘Third Season Syndrome’. For many of the Manchester United fans, the end – were it to come – could not happen early enough.
Oli Stein: Adama Traore
Wolves’ new club-record signing is a phenom with the ball at his feet.
He completed 243 dribbles in last season’s Championship — which is an achievement in itself — but often these daring runs lead him into trouble or simply pan out into nothing.
However, Adama is a high-risk, high-reward signing. He struggled to translate mazy dribbling into tangible end product last time he appeared in the Premier League and there’s every chance the same occurs.
He is, though, two years more mature since his last top-flight season.
Connor Bromley: Felipe Anderson
West Ham paid a pretty penny for Anderson and he has ‘flop’ written all over him.
He was a fringe player at Lazio last season after he fell out with their head coach and, though he did well, it is always a worry to buy a player who has fallen out with previous managers.
Anderson has quality, but can he show it? With his price tag, it will be expected that he contributes goals and assists regularly. But if he fails to produce, he will be the flop of the summer.
Nestor Watach: Sokratis Papastathopoulos
With Laurent Koscielny injured and a lack of great options elsewhere, the 30-year-old Greek will be relied upon by Arsenal this summer.
He’s experienced but was poor at Dortmund last season and does not have the quality needed to marshall the defence.
Adapting to a new league with a questionable partner and goalkeeper behind him, he will find this season difficult.
Sam France: Kepa
This isn’t to say that Kepa won’t be a good long-term replacement for Thibaut Courtois but I’m not even sure it’s possible for him to live up to his world-record transfer fee.
Any mistake he makes will be lambasted and meme-ed within seconds on Twitter, and he could end up in a Loris Karius-style downward spiral of confidence.
Remember how long it took for David de Gea to look like a good signing? He cost about £50 million less than his 23-year-old compatriot and the scrutiny he faced early on at Manchester United was immense.
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