In third part of my Premier League 2017/18 season preview and predictions, I look at those challenging for European qualification and who I think will get that final Champions League spot.
8. West Ham United
Hammers fans expected big things from West Ham last season, but Slaven Bilic’s side failed to build on an impressive seventh place finish two seasons ago. However, I think they will be back in the mix for European qualification this season.
Former Croatia manager Bilic came under heavy pressure at a few stages last season, but I think the board were tight to stand by him. However a bad start to his season, then the owners will be forced into action.
However, I don’t think the Hammers should be in trouble this season after a very good transfer market, including bringing in Man City pair Joe Hart and Paolo Zabaleta, along with former Man United striker Javier Hernandez for £15m.
The ex-Bayer Leverkusen striker knows the Premier League well and will cause any defence problems. Marko Arnautovic is another big money signing to add to their attacking options that already includes quality players, such as Andre Ayew and Michail Antonio.
However, I do think they need some defensive improvement at the London stadium to challenge for Europa League qualification. I think they will have a good season, but they will fall just short of reaching Europe.
Ronald Koeman wasted little time in splashing the cash to bring new faces to Goodison Park but despite splashing out nearly £100m on players, a big void has been left up front in the Everton line-up.
Man United snatched Romelu Lukaku from Everton in a £75m deal with the Belgian having scored 25 goals last season but despite the arrivals of Sandro Ramirez and Wayne Rooney, they are really going to miss the ex-Chelsea man’s presence up front.
However, the rest of the squad look in really good nick with promising defender Michael Keane a £30m arrival from Burnley looking to make an impact in defence, alongside the experienced duo of Ashely Williams and Phil Jagielka.
Davy Klassen was also a big money signing from Ajax to add to an impressive depth of midfield options that include Morgan Schneiderlin, Idrissa Gueye and youngster Tom Davies, who looks set to have a big season for Everton.
However with Lukaku gone to Man United and Ross Barkley’s future also in doubt, I reckon Everton will only still be among the mix for Europa League qualification.
The Reds enjoyed a decent season last year as they clinched a return to Champions League action but with the Manchester clubs upping their game ahead of the new season, Liverpool look set to miss out on the top four this season.
Jurgen Klopp has not made much improvement to the squad with Mohamed Salah being the only big game signing to Anfield, but the ex-Chelsea man and Saido Mane could be a lethal force down the wings for Liverpool over the next ten months.
However, there is still a question mark over their defensive options and with Philippe Coutinho looking set for a move to Barcelona as Neymar’s replacement, the Brazilian playmaker’s exit will be a blow to the Reds’ Champions League hopes.
Furthermore, they also lack that big name up front that others around them have. Daniel Sturridge can never seem to stay fit and while Roberto Firmino has been handed the number nine shirt, he is not a striker.
I think the Manchester clubs will be back in top form this season and I don’t think Liverpool will be able to keep up with the title hunters. A top four finish is the best they can hope for, but I still think that will be too hard for them achieve.
Despite much talk of the future of Arsene Wenger leaving Arsenal after failing to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 20 years, the Frenchman is here to stay at the Emirates Stadium for the forseeable future.
The league’s longest-serving manager was a lucky man to keep his job and now the hard work for him over the first few weeks of the season will be trying to fend off interest in star man Alexis Sanchez.
It is hard to predict whether the Chilean attacker will be at Arsenal beyond the transfer deadline, but it would be foolish of them to let an amazing player leave for free next season if the has made it clear he wants out of the club.
Arsenal brought in Alexandre Lacazette in a record deal for the club over the summer and fans will hope he turns out to be an inspired signing. However I also reckon Olivier Giroud will be out to prove a point should his fellow Frenchman struggle to find the net.
It will be a close fought fight for that fourth place but if Sanchez goes, Arsenal will struggle to keep in touch. Even if he stays, I think Wenger and co. will miss out on Champions League football once again.
4. Tottenham Hotspur
Spurs came so close to a first Premier League title for the second season running and while fans will hope it is third time lucky, I think Tottenham will fall just short of a title challenge this season.
There is no doubt that they have got some of the best players in the league in the shape of young player of the season Dele Alli and 29-goal man Harry Kane, while Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen form a solid partnership in defence.
With other sides around them splashing the cash, Spurs have failed to bring in a single player in the transfer window and while they have a very close-knit, high quality squad, I think one different factor this season could have a huge impact.
Tottenham will play their home games at Wembley Stadium with White Hart Lane being redeveloped, so it will be interesting to see how they get on in their temporary home. I think it will take time for them to settle, which could cost them being in the title mix come the end of the season.
I don’t think they will be able to keep up with champions Chelsea and the Manchester clubs in the race for the title this season, but I think they have more about them than Liverpool and Arsenal to snatch the final Champions League spot.
Now that you have figured out who the my top three is going to be, who do you think will become Premier League champions? Come back to Balls and Brawls tomorrow for the final part of my Premier League season preview.