Last season, I predicted Chelsea to win the league and Leicester to be relegated. So, let’s see how badly wrong I get it this time around!
Predicted Premier League Table:
- Manchester City
- Manchester United
- Tottenham Hotspur
- West Ham United
- Stoke City
- Crystal Palace
- West Bromwich Albion
- Swansea City
- Hull City
1st: Manchester City- Pep to reign in England?
The last 12 months for Pep Guardiola have seen widespread critics spring up. His failure to win the Champions League with Bayern Munich in his 3 year spell has seen many brand his time in Bavaria a failure. But Guardiola is a natural born winner. He knows how to deliver trophies, and that is exactly what City need. Almost every footballer on the planet would jump at the chance to play under Guardiola, to be taught by football’s master tactician.
Almost every footballer on the planet would jump at the chance to play under Guardiola, to be taught by football’s master tactician. Ilkay Gundogan will be a key addition to City’s midfield, which has a huge amount of depth, though the German international will miss the start of the season with a dislocated kneecap. Leroy Sane, a £37m arrival from Schalke, and Nolito, also join the competition for places in City’s midfield. Kevin de Bruyne will almost certainly keep his place in the side, meaning Gundogan, Nolito and Sane are competing with David Silva and Raheem Sterling for starting 11 places. As for Guardiola’s famed ‘pivot’ position, Yaya Toure is, somewhat surprisingly, still at the club. He will be competing with Fernandinho and Fernando for that key role in the engine room for Guardiola’s strategy.
City’s hopes rely heavily on Sergio Aguero remaining fit. According to Transfermarkt, the Argentine missed 12 games through injury last season. City cannot afford for that to happen again this time around.
Guardiola’s biggest concern will be at the back. City’s defence were torn apart by Arsenal in their final pre-season game. Vincent Kompany is constantly injured, Equalim Mangala simply isn’t good enough for City and Nicolas Otamendi did not live up to expectations last season. John Stones has arrived from Everton in a £47.5m deal. Stones has drawn comparisons to the great Franz Beckenbauer in the past and he looks like the perfect Guardiola defender. Can he solve the defensive issues City have?
City should win the title. They have the league’s best midfield and the league’s best striker. And, for the first time since their takeover, the best manager in world football.
2nd: Mourinho to turn United’s fortunes?
After the disastrous spells of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, United finally have the manager many believe they should have appointed after the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Mourinho has been quick to ring the changed at Old Trafford. Eric Bailly has arrived from Villarreal. He was given the man of the match award in the Community Shield on Sunday and he looks like a solid addition to United’s backline. Chris Smalling will likely partner Bailly at the back for United. It will be important for them to build a defensive partnership quickly, much like the Ferdinand/Vidic relationship of the Ferguson era. Under Mourinho, United are always going to be sound defensively.
Up top, one of football’s superstars has arrived. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, at the age of 34, is finally a Premier League player! 38 goals in 31 Ligue 1 games last season for PSG is a record Mourinho will be praying Ibrahimovic can replicate his goalscoring in the Premier League. United’s lack of goals is a key reason why they will not play in the Champions League this season. 49 goals from 38 games is not good enough; only Stoke scored fewer goals out of the teams in the top half.
In midfield, Manchester United look set to break the world transfer record to resign Paul Pogba from Juventus and Henrikh Mkhitaryan has also arrived from Dortmund. With Wayne Rooney set to spend the season in midfield, a return to form for the United and England captain would be crucial.
Mourinho has made the right moves in the transfer market, but the damage from Louis van Gaal’s reign was significant. Mourinho will be aiming for the title in his first season at the helm of United, but 2nd and a return to the Champions League would have to go down as an achievement.
3rd: Tottenham Hotspur- Their great chance gone?
Spurs will still be kicking themselves over their failure to bring the Premier League title to White Hart Lane. At the start of last season, there was an air of pessimism going around the Lane, but after a brilliant season, they collapsed during their run in. The title was there for the taking, but they even failed to finish above Arsenal in the end.
Mauricio Pochettino makes his Spurs team work harder than any other team in the league, and the fatigue told towards the end of the season. But Spurs’ side are a young one, and they will have learnt from last season. But this season’s competition will be much tougher with the arrival of superstars in Manchester and the almost certain return of Chelsea to the top table.
Victor Wanayama will slot straight into Spurs’ midfield alongside Moussa Dembele. The Kenyan will add some much-needed bite and power into the Spurs’ engine room. Vincent Janssen has also arrived from AZ Alkmaar. The Dutch international was the top scorer in the Eredivisie last season, netting 27 times in 34 league games last term. He will provide back-up to Harry Kane, who played in every Premier League game for Spurs last term.
Speaking of Harry Kane, that axis of Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen will be crucial for Spurs. Alli was the breakout star of last season and Kane was the winner of the Golden Boot last season, but both had a poor Euro 2016 campaign. They will both be determined to recover from that campaign alongside Christian Eriksen, who, after Denmark’s failure to qualify for Euro 2016, has had a nice break.
It will be Spurs’ last season at White Hart Lane before the stadium undergoes a rebuild. Will Spurs make history this season and capture their first league title in 55 years? Probably not, but they shouldn’t be counted out.
4th: Arsenal- Dull consistency from Arsenal:
Arsenal were extremely fortunate to finish 2nd last season after their North London rival’s collapse. The competition has moved forward, but Arsenal have stayed pretty much still.
Arsenal’s defence is not good enough to challenge for the title and nor is their strikeforce, yet Arsene Wenger has failed to strengthen so far in those areas.
Olivier Giroud is a competent striker, but he is not world-class, and that showed by his languid displays in the Euros. Arsenal will not win the title whilst Giroud is their main striker.
At the back, the ageing Per Mertesacker is out for the first half of the season with a serious knee injury suffered in Arsenal’s pre-season friendly against RC Lens, and there are definitely questions over Gabriel’s ability. As for Laurent Koscielny, it’s a case of he’ll do. A new centre-back is a must if Arsenal are going to have any chance of challenging for silverware.
Their midfield looks a strong one. The arrival of Granit Xhaka should solve their long lasting holding-midfielder problem. After a breakout season in 2013/14, Francis Coquelin has stagnated and a change needed to be made. He will join Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and, most importantly of all, Alexis Sanchez, in a strong looking 5-man midfield. Alex Iwobi, Joel Campbell and the supposedly fit-again Jack Wilshere will be pushing for places, but this season surely has to mark the end of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. They, like Coquelin, have stagnated and are no longer worthy of placed in Arsenal’s side.
But, there are simply too many issues in Arsenal’s side to be competitive. They will do the minimum and qualify for the Champions League in what will probably be the final season of the Arsene Wenger era.
5th: Chelsea- Conte to fall short?
Last season was a shocking one for Chelsea. They were widely predicted to retain the title, but they languished in the bottom half before Jose Mourinho’s sacking. Mourinho had seemingly lost the support of the dressing room and he simply had to go.
Gus Hiddink came in as interim manager and he delivered a 10th place finish. But now, Antonio Conte has arrived at Stamford Bridge after guiding an unfancied Italian side to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, where they lost to the Germans on penalties.
Diego Costa looked as if he simply could not be bothered last season, as did Eden Hazard. For Costa, it looks like the end of the road after the arrival of Michy Batshuayi. For Hazard, he showed glimmers of his true ability for Belgium at Euro 2016, particularly in the last-16 clash against Hungary. Conte simply must force the true Hazard to come to the fore.
Another player who simply did not pull his weight last season was Cesc Fabregas. The arrival of N’Golo Kante from champions Leicester will almost certainly see the Spaniard ditched to the bench, and his red card for a dangerous lunge in Chelsea’s pre-season clash against Liverpool won’t have helped endear him to Antonio Conte. Kante has come to Stamford Bridge with a glowing reference from Claudio Ranieri, the Leicester boss saying of his former player “he played as two players last season”. Nemanja Matic also had a poor season, but the support he will get from Kante should allow him to recapture the form of his early Chelsea days.
The Italians love defending, and in defence, Conte has a key decision to make; should Kurt Zouma start? If he decides so, who will partner him, John Terry or Gary Cahill? It would be a big decision to drop Terry, but it might be for the good of the side.
It’s going to be very close between Arsenal and Chelsea for the final Champions League spot, and for me, it’s almost too close to call. It could come down to the wire!
6th: Liverpool- Klopp’s first season, but are Liverpool good enough?
This will be Jurgen Klopp’s first full season since arriving at the Kop, and after demolishing Barcelona 4-0 at Wembley in their final pre-season game, expectations will be high.
Klopp has no excuses now that he has had a full pre-season and a summer transfer window. The Liverpool squad is now firmly his own, built towards his own high-intensity philosophy.
Joel Matip stands out as a great signing. A free transfer from Schalke, he will provide steel to Liverpool’s backline. Ragar Klavan also looks like a good capture after a great pre-season. It will be nice to see Liverpool move away from the erratic, and often thuggish, Martin Skrtel. A concern will be Alberto Moreno, who is a defensively vulnerable left-back. He’s clearly a liability for Liverpool.
Meanwhile, a £34m move for Sadio Mane from Southampton looks borderline insane. It’s a massive overpayment, but it will all be worth it if he produces the goods, though he went on a 16 game goal drought last season. With the price-tag Liverpool have paid for him, he cannot afford a similar drought.
Roberto Firmino also has the pressure of a price tag weighing him down. He cost Liverpool around £30m last summer, but he did not get anywhere close to justifying that with mediocre performances. He needs to have a better season this time around. Hopefully his displays this season will be better than his haircut!
They look like a stronger team than this time last year, but with the competition getting better too, they probably won’t have enough in the tank to challenge for Champions League football.
7th: Southampton- Recruited well, but will Puel deliver?
Southampton’s success has seen their manager poached yet again, and now it’s time for Claude Puel to keep the good times coming at St Mary’s.
I’ve already gushed over Southampton’s signing of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, but I also think the signing of Nathan Redmond is an astute one. He has looked very good in pre-season and he’ll be a great replacement for Sadio Mane. The club did brilliantly to get £34m for the Senegalese, and they have reinvested it wisely.
Graziano Pelle has also departed for the riches of the Chinese Super League, but he won’t be a great loss. Charlie Austin is a natural goalscorer, and he will surely more than make up for Pelle’s departure.
With this seemingly being another period of transition, 7th would be an overachievement, but the Saints are definitely capable of it. A Europa League campaign will make things tougher, but if Southampton can deliver consistency, then they are capable of finishing as ‘the best of the rest’.
8th: West Ham United- Welcome the new look Hammers:
Last season gave the Bolelyn Ground the send off that it deserved, but now the Olympic Stadium era has begun! 54,000 season tickets have been sold, and expectations will be high.
Dimitri Payet looks set to remain in East London, even after being one of the key driving forces in carrying France into the final of Euro 2016 this summer. Had it not been for the rise of Leicester, Payet would have won the player of the year awards at the end of last season.
Slaven Bilic is one of the best managers in the league, virtually any club in the league would love to have him as a part of their set up. Having Bilic at the helm and having one of the most enviable squads should spell success for the Hammers’ maiden season at the Olympic Stadium. A cup run to christen the new stadium maybe?
9th: Everton- Koeman coup not enough to return Everton to Europe:
Ronald Koeman’s move to Everton looks like a sidewards move. The Toffees are a club with great potential, but it won’t be realised this term. John Stones has gone, and they may find it hard to resist bids for Romelu Lukaku later in the window.
Wales captain Ashley Williams has already arrived to replace the departed Stones, and on the face of it, it looks like a great deal for Everton. Having sold Stones for £47.5m, they have replaced him for just £12m. In Williams, Everton have gained one of the most experienced and reliable centre-backs in the Premier League. A solid defender is hard to come by, and that is exactly what Williams is. He was phenomenal for Wales at Euro 2016 this summer, and Ronald Koeman will be hoping for more of the same from him.
The Coleman, Jagielka, Williams, Baines backline looks imposing. Koeman’s Southampton’s side was one of the best defensive sides in the league whilst the full-backs threatened up the pitch. We can expect more of the same from him.
Under Roberto Martinez, Ross Barkley’s development stagnated. This is a vital season for the young England international. He needs to impress Sam Allardyce ahead of a new international campaign. Koeman’s system should suit Barkley more than Martinez’s, so this is a great opportunity for Barkley to shine.
Goodison Park was a fortress under David Moyes and in Roberto Martinez’s first season at the club, but it has lost its aura over the last two seasons. Everton won just 5 of their 19 Premier League games in front of their own fans last term, that must change if Everton are to climb the table.
10th: Leicester- The Champions to crash back to Earth:
Last season was incredible. Many, including myself, predicted Leicester to be relegated after the underwhelming appointment of Claudio Ranieri. But Leicester and Ranieri proved everyone wrong, winning the league in argubly the biggest shock in the history of club football. It was a fairytale, and with Leicester amongst Europe’s elite this season in the Champions League, the good times will continue to roll in the East Midlands.
However, whilst Ranieri has managed to keep most of the title winning squad, with N’Golo Kante being the only notable departure, the squad has not been improved. Nampalys Mendy is a very similar player to Kante, and Ahmed Musa’s pace up front will terrify defenders. But these signings are not enough to keep Leicester at the top.
Leicester were poor in the Community Shield defeat to Manchester United. They tore the top teams apart last season, but they seemingly returned to the small club mentality in that game, sitting back and allowing United to dominate. It will be a shame if that is repeated in the Premier League or Champions League.
Good luck to Leicester in the Champions League, but last season was a one-off. It will never be repeated again.
11th: Stoke City- Cold Tuesday Nights at the Bet365 Stadium:
Stoke have been the model of consistency under Mark Hughes, finishing 9th in all 3 of his seasons in charge at the Potteries, but with the opposition getting better, that run could be broken.
Joe Allen is the big name arrival, signing from Liverpool for £12m after being one of the best players at Euro 2016. He never got the chances he deserved at Liverpool, and a move to Stoke will do him the world of good. He can now be the engine in midfield, a role he thrived in with Wales this summer and with Swansea when he was at the Liberty.
Hughes has gotten the best out of his side over the last 3 years, but with the money mid-table sides are spending thanks to the new television deal, it will be a tough task to keep Stoke in the top half of the table.
12th: Crystal Palace- Will Palace find consistency?
Crystal Palace’s new year slump was alarming. They went from 5th on New Year’s Day to finishing in 15th. They failed to win a league game until April and they were dragged into a relegation fight.
Palace’s slump cost manager Alan Pardew his shot at the England job. It cannot be allowed to happen again. To accomplish that, Steve Mandanda has come in, looking a bargain at £1.5m, and Andros Townsend has also arrived at Selhurst Park.
Palace under Pardew have been wildly inconsistent. If they are to crack into the top half, they have to find some rhythm.
13th: Watford-New Season, New Manager for the Hornets:
Yet again under the ownership of the Pozzo family, Watford start the season with a new manager at the helm. Quince Sanchez Flores was harshly dismissed, though they, like Palace, suffered a New Year slump, going from 7th to 13th.
Walter Mazzarri is the new man in charge at Vicarage Road, and he has a decent squad to choose from.
Odin Ighalo has signed a new 5-year deal after Watford spurned interest from China for his signature. His fellow strike partner Troy Deeney has also signed a new 5-year deal. Between then, they scored 28 goals in the Premier League last season and their partnership is one of the most fearsome outside of the ‘Big 6’.
Watford may lack a bit of quality in midfield though. That will prevent them climbing up the table, but they will have enough to survive.
14th: West Bromwich Albion- Dull football, but typical Pulis:
Last season, West Brom survived comfortably, but it was not exactly engaging to watch. It’s classic Pulis, but Baggies fans will want to see a transition from ‘Pulisism’.
Salomon Rondon’s return of 9 goals last season was disappointing considering that the club spent a club record £12m on him last summer. He showed glimpses of quality, but he lacked consistency. Saido Berahino clearly wants to leave West Brom, so Ronon will be even more important this time around. A 15-goal return will be an expectation placed on his shoulders.
Expect to see a few youngsters in West Brom’s squad. Jonathan Leko impressed when he broke into the team late in the season and Welsh striker Tyler Roberts will also be pushing for involvement.
It won’t be pretty for West Brom, but under Pulis, they definitely won’t go down!
15th: Bournemouth- Eddie Howe’s reputation to continue to soar.
Arguably the best young manager in the game, Eddie Howe has worked miracles with Bournemouth, taking them from League 1 to Premier League survival. He is destined for the top with many tipping him to succeed Arsene Wenger at Arsenal when he eventually leaves.
Callum Wilson was sublime before injury wrecked his season. If Wilson can remain fit, Bournemouth could be set for a good season.
Howe has made some astute additions to his side. Jordan Ibe has looked dazzling in pre-season, and he has a score to prove after never getting the chance to have a solid run in Liverpool’s side.
Bournemouth are good enough to push on now. I’ve predicted a 15th place finish for them, but with a bit of luck, they can go a fair bit higher than that.
16th: Swansea City- The Swans looking to survive, not thrive:
New owners, new (permanent) manager and a need for a new leader. It’s going to be a tough season this time around. The period of Swansea being the darlings of the Premier League is well and truely over.
Ashley Williams is a massive loss. He is one of the biggest leaders in the Premier League, and now that he’s gone, it’s hard to see who is going to replace him. Andre Ayew is also gone.
Fernando Llorente is a great signing for Swansea up top. The striker position was a major weakness for the Swans last season, with Bafetimbi Gomis, Alberto Paloschi and Eder failing to fire. Llorente is a natural goalscorer, exactly what they needed.
This is a season of transition for Swansea. If they can survive this season, then they could return to the top half of the table next season, but it’s hard to see them do any better than survival this season.
17th: Middlesborough- A welcome return:
It has been 7 long seasons since ‘Boro were last in the Premier League, but their finally back!
Jordan Rhodes will finally get his chance in the top flight after spending his career bullying defenders in the Football League. 92 goals in 189 Championship appearances for Ipswich, Huddersfield, Blackburn and ‘Boro is a tremendous record for what is a very tough division. Will he be able to replicate that kind of form in the Premier League?
Karanka stuck with a rigid 4-2-3-1 system, so it will be interesting to see whether he will change things with Alvaro Negredo’s arrival. The Manchester City flop arrives at the Riverside with a point to prove after a lacklustre season. He found the net 23 times in 48 appearances in all competitions for City, but only 9 0f them came in the Premier League.
A tough run-in (Arsenal, Bournemouth, Man City, Chelsea, Southampton and Liverpool) could be troublesome, but Boro have what it takes to stay up. Aitor Karanka is a great manager and he will find a way to keep Boro afloat.
18th- Sunderland: The Black Cats’ lives to run out?
Sunderland have flirted with danger for what seems to be an eternity, but this season will be the season their luck runs out. Sam Allardyce, an expert at keeping poor teams in the Premier League, has departed Wearside for the England job, and David Moyes has come into replace him.
But Moyes still seems to be bitter about his dismissal by Manchester United. He seems more interested in settling a score with them rather than his new side. Instead of batting off questions from the media about his time at United, he seemed more than happy to take a dig at them, claiming that he was unfairly treated at Manchester United at his Sunderland unveiling. It smacked of bitterness, and after his subsequent failure with Real Sociedad in Spain, he should consider himself lucky to be back in work.
The arrival of United’s Adnan Januzaj and Paddy McNair is interesting. The emergence of Adnan Januzaj under Moyes was one of the few positives of his spell at United, but the Belgian winger has stagnated since then. The question is after being in the United bubble, are they geared for a relegation fight? I sense not.
Some of the deadweight has been shipped out (Wes Brown, Steven Fletcher and Danny Graham), but there is still a lack of quality at the club. Jermain Defoe will always find the net, but one man is not enough to survive. Sunderland are going down. It’s about time that they are put out of their misery.
19th- Burnley: Straight back down for the Clarets:
Sean Dyche has done a great job at Burnley, but they lack Premier League class. A lack of signings to a squad that were not tipped for promotion last season in the Championship will see Burnley struggle.
20th- Hull City: What the heck is going on??
Steve Bruce has gone with a matter of weeks to go until the start of the season, fans are protesting about the ownership situation and their squad is threadbare. Hull are a club in crisis despite their promotion. At this rate, they could struggle to even surpass Derby’s record low of 11 points.