Former West Brom and Palace coach Ben Garner gives his take on upcoming thrills and spills of typically unpredictable Prem
THE new season is upon us and with it all the thrills and spills of the typically unpredictable Premier League.
But is it so unpredictable? Will Manchester City storm to the title again?
Here, former West Bromwich Albion Assistant Head Coach and Crystal Palace First Team Coach Ben Garner gives his view.
He worked in the Premier League for the past five seasons, achieving two top 10 finishes and a lowest finishing position of 14th.
So who better placed to give SunSport an inside view ahead of the 2018/2019 season?
It will be very interesting to see how much of an impact the World Cup has particularly at the beginning of the season.
A number of teams have had disrupted pre-seasons with reduced squad numbers due to the involvement of their players in the World Cup.
As a coaching staff you are trying to balance preparing the team for the opening matches of the season and instilling key principles of play whilst at the same time making sure that individual players have had adequate recovery and then preparation in order to cope with the demands of a full Premier League season, both mentally and physically.
I honestly don’t think there is a ‘good’ time to play the top six but it could certainly be advantageous to play them in the early weeks of the season before all of the players are up to full fitness and the teams fully find their rhythm.
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Manchester City will be looking to make further improvements this season.
Historically Pep Guardiola has been incredibly driven, not allowing any complacency from his teams but in fact always striving to get even better.
He will be looking to adapt and evolve the playing style to get even more out of the team.
The positional play that he coaches in order to dominate the ball and to be able to press quickly on transitions is very demanding but it has been proven how effective this can be in the Premier League.
Tactically he always adapts as he learns more about the league and his opponents.
There is far greater tactical flexibility in how Manchester City play than they are given credit for both in preparation for games and within the games.
The aim is to always dominate the game with the ball trying to pin the opponents back and bring their own defensive line as high up the pitch as possible. How they do this and which spaces they target depends on what the opposition do.
Liverpool will be fearless in how they attack the league and without doubt they will be challengers on all fronts this season.
They demonstrated how effective they can be against Manchester City and indeed against anyone in Europe.
Although much of the plaudits of Jurgen Klopp’s team are around the intensive pressing and incisive counter-attacks that they brilliantly deploy, he also likes his team to have a structured build-up play.
Virgil Van Dijk was a signing that very much fits this philosophy and goalkeeper Alisson could prove as effective an addition as Ederson was for Manchester City last season.
To play in the way that these managers demand the composure, decision-making, and distribution of the goalkeeper are essential.
Manchester United have not strengthened the squad as Jose Mourinho would have liked if reports are to be believed.
But never write off a Mourinho team. He is a winner and has proven over and over again that his teams win trophies.
His success has generally been achieved when he seems to really ‘love’ his players and although there are very talented players at Manchester United they may not be the specific and functional players that he craves for the system he wishes to play. The other huge strength of Mourinho is his adaptability in order to win.
He has great flexibility in his approach to win specific games and is willing to significantly alter the team tactics and style of play in order to win games and trophies.
Tottenham’s talented young squad is continually improving under Mauricio Pochettino. The philosophy of the Argentine is very clear and the fitness levels of his players need to be very high in order to play in this way.
Due to the depth of their squad being smaller than their rivals they work exceptionally hard on their physical preparation and recovery.
When you consider their net spend on transfers is just £50m since Pochettino took over the club they deserve a great deal of credit.
The challenge for them is competing with their rivals and trying to win trophies without spending vast amounts of money.
They will be focused on harnessing the unity of the group and improving the young players they have within the squad and potentially bringing further players through from the Academy.
Chelsea are making a transition from the Antonio Conte philosophy to that of Maurizio Sarri.
How quickly and successfully this is done will dictate their season. Conte always impressed with his tactical knowledge and the clarity of what he wanted. He instilled his desire to win and was successful in winning trophies.
Sarri arrives not with trophies but with great plaudits for his style of play and the performance of his Napoli team who kept pushing Juventus so hard for the scudetto.
I was at the Etihad when his Napoli side played Manchester City last season in the Champions League and it was one of the best games I have ever been to.
Both managers were steadfast in their playing philosophy and both sets of players were exceptional.
The intensity and bravery of the pressing combined with the speed and quality of the passing was outstanding. Tactically it was a joy to watch.
When I faced Manchester City with West Bromwich Albion 10 days later Pep Guardiola described Napoli as the best team he had ever faced. The challenge from inside a club is not only being able to implement a new philosophy and style of play but also convincing the players that it will be successful.
Arsenal are another club going through a huge transitional period after the legacy of Arsene Wenger.
Unai Emery has proved his coaching credentials and may benefit from having had a more settled pre-season than his fellow coaches.
Arsenal may be able to gain some momentum in the early weeks of the season and this can make such a difference to the confidence within the group.
Emery will be trying to get across his ideas, his principles, and also gain as much knowledge as possible about the Premier League. He will potentially be more structured in his approach with a high level of detail on defensive organisation.
It is very difficult for any other team to break into this top six but there will be clubs looking to do just that.
Everton will make interesting viewing under Marco Silva especially with the money they are spending on players.
The challenge of remaining in the most competitive league in the world is the difficult task facing the majority of the teams in the Premier League.
From experiencing the previous five seasons I can tell you that it is a relentless process.
Every game poses a different challenge and if the team doesn’t play to it’s maximum it is very, very difficult to earn any points.
The psychological demands of the league are enormous. Some teams will have to cope with heavy losses, deal with a run of defeats, and maintain performance levels with injuries to key players.
As coaching staff, there are a number of instances that you have to work through and always stay strong for the players.
You can play one of the top teams, put in as good a performance as you can only for a moment of absolute brilliance in the last few minutes leave you with nothing to show for it.
There are times when a refereeing decision costs you points.
Even international breaks can be vital. There were times over the last few seasons when during an international break I might only have five or six players training.
The importance of looking after these players with the quality of the work and making training special for them is just as important as monitoring those players that are away representing their countries.
Some of those players wouldn’t return until 24-48 hours before the next Premier League game with jet lag and tiredness after flying from the other side of the World.
You then need to bring this all together to achieve a collective performance in the demanding world of the Premier League.