It’s that time of the year again: we’re well into August and the new Premier League season is upon us.
After Gareth Southgate restored pride and optimism to a nation following England’s first World Cup semi-final appearance since 1990, the domestic season returns with anticipation at sky-high levels.
This year, the summer transfer window has slammed shut before a single ball has been kicked, allowing teams ample preparation time and insight into the squad they’ll have at their disposal until the following window in January.
With that being said, the questions on everybody’s lips are and always will be: “Who will win the Premier League?”, “Who will be relegated?” and “Who are the teams that will make up the top six?”
Here are our predictions to those very questions:
Champions – Liverpool
After an inconclusive domestic campaign last season, Jürgen Klopp’s reds have a point to prove. The German steps into his fourth season with the club and will be fully aware of the expectation resting on his team’s shoulders this time around. Last season saw Liverpool fall at the final hurdle on the European stage as Real Madrid lifted the Champions League for a third successive season under Zinedine Zidane.
But last season’s shortcomings appear to have been resolved during this summer’s recruitment. Some of the league’s most astute business has been conducted by Klopp who has finally drafted in a new no.1 through Roma’s Alisson for a whopping £67M – briefly the most expensive fee paid for a goalkeeper – along with bolstering his midfield three by capturing Naby Keita and Fabinho. The reds also added Xherdan Shaqiri to their ranks following relegation from the Premier League with Stoke City last term.
The strong foundation of this team was clear to see in the previous season but now Liverpool are covered in all areas across the park, while retaining the deadliest forward three in the world in Mohammed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané could feel like three new signings in itself.
There are tons of goals in this side, with the midfield looking more likely to contribute in this department this season. Defensive frailties could still be a worrying prospect with no fresh central defender drafted but not too much shade can be thrown towards World Cup finalist, Dejan Lovren. Alisson solves an enormous problem from last season which more than makes up for Liverpool’s lack of defensive acquisitions during this window.
Alisson (Roma, £67m)
Fabinho (Monaco, £40m)
Naby Keita (RB Leipzig, undisclosed)
Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City, £13.75m)
Yan Dhanda (Swansea City, free)
Ovie Ejaria (Rangers, loan)
Emre Can (Juventus, free)
Jon Flanagan (Rangers, free)
Jordan Williams (Rochdale, loan)
Adam Bogdan (Hibernian, loan)
Harry Wilson (Derby, loan)
Ryan Kent (Rangers, loan)
Danny Ward (Leicester City, £12.5m)
Shamal George (Tranmere, loan)
Ben Woodburn (Sheffield United, loan)
Taiwo Awoniyi (Gent, loan)
Paulo Alves (Wolves, free)
Andy Firth (Barrow, undisclosed)
Allan (Frankfurt, loan)
Danny Ings (Southampton, loan)
2nd – Manchester City
This is already a somewhat controversial pick. Pep Guardiola and his men the first team to ever surpass one-hundred points in a single season and they did so in the most glamorous of fashions. But The Centurions already face an unfavourable task of being the first team to retain the Premier League trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in 2009. And it’s believed they may already have exposed a weakness to their seemingly flawless approach.
Talk during the off-season has largely been focused on Pep’s desire to reclaim the Champions League – a trophy that has personally evaded him for 7 years and one that the Sky Blues have never conquered before. It’s here where City will be the downfall of their own success. Striking that balance between domestic and European competitions is always a difficult task – one that usually ends with success in one at the expense of failure in the other.
This won’t be any different for Man City whose impressive depth does appear to lay arguments to the contrary. However, Pep has already expressed his favouritism towards this trophy over the league and comparatively, the CL is for City what the Premier League is to Liverpool – the one that got away.
Pep’s transfer dealings have also been largely muted, with Riyad Mahrez the only notable addition to their roster. Both sales and purchases seem to be rooted in future talent with an array of loan moves made for a number of Man City’s bright youngsters.
Expect the title race to go right down to the wire and even for Man City to possibly lift that elusive European trophy, but Liverpool will narrowly edge them out for the club’s first-ever league title during the Premier League era.
Philippe Sandler (PEC Zwolle, £2.25m)
Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City, £60m)
Daniel Arzani (Melbourne City, undisclosed)
Pablo Maffeo (VfB Stuttgart, £9m)
Yaya Toure (Released)
Angelino (PSV Eindhoven, undisclosed)
Olarenwaju Kayode (Shakhtar Donetsk, undisclosed)
Ashley Smith-Brown (Plymouth, undisclosed)
Manu Garcia Alonso (Toulouse, loan)
Angus Gunn (Southampton, undisclosed)
Paolo Fernandes (NAC Breda, loan)
Jack Harrison (Leeds United, loan)
Aro Muric (NAC Breda, loan)
Bersant Celina (Swansea City, undisclosed)
Aleix Garcia (Girona, loan)
Tosin Adarabioyo (West Brom, loan)
Joe Hart (Burnley, undisclosed)
Thomas Agyepong (Hibernian, loan)
Lukas Nmecha (Preston, loan)
3rd – Arsenal
Adding to the unorthodox choices is Arsenal. The Gunners are undergoing a major transitional period following the departure of long-serving manager, Arsène Wenger. The Frenchman left behind an unmatched legacy despite a dreary few seasons in more recent times.
But the dawn of this new era should most definitely excite rather than fear supporters. The Gunners have hired an extremely able replacement in Unai Emery – once of Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain. A turnover in backroom staff along with the retention of key members including Assistant Head Coach Steve Bould, Goalkeeping Coach Sal Bibbo and Director of High Performance Darren Burgess, provides a solid base for Emery to build upon.
And for the first summer in a while, Arsenal have spent big. The arrivals of Sokratis Papastathopolous, Lucas Torreira and Bernd Leno have helped plug problematic holes that were carried over from Emery’s inherited squad with a mixture of short and long-term captures.
On the other end, departures will serve the club well also – Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Per Mertesacker were all too injury prone despite undoubted quality, while Calum Chambers will test his steel at fellow Premier League outfit Fulham on a season-long loan.
The 3rd and 4th places are probably as open as they’ve ever been. And with a fluid style of play and a settled squad, Arsenal should have no trouble climbing their way back into the European fold.
Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus, free)
Bernd Leno (Bayer Leverkusen, undisclosed)
Sokratis Papastathopolous (Borussia Dortmund, undisclosed)
Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria, undisclosed)
Matteo Guendouzi (Lorient – undisclosed)
Per Mertesacker (retired)
Santi Cazorla (Villarreal, free)
Takuma Asano (Hannover 96, loan)
Jack Wilshere (West Ham, free)
Vlad Dragomir (released)
Ryan Huddart (released)
Tafari Moore (released)
Hugo Keto (released)
Chiori Johnson (released)
Yassin Fortune (released)
Aaron Eyoma (released)
Alex Crean (released)
Marc Bola (released)
Kelechi Nwakali (FC Porto, loan)
Jeff Reine-Adelaide (Angers, loan)
Matt Macey (Plymouth, loan)
Chuba Akpom (PAOK Salonika, undisclosed)
Joao Virginia (Everton, undisclosed)
Calum Chambers (Fulham, loan)
Lucas Perez (West Ham, £4m)
4th – Chelsea
Another club looking to revitalise themselves with a longstanding managerial appointment are Chelsea. Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli side scored an incredible 275 goals during his three seasons in charge and expect a free-flowing attacking Chelsea side, even if it does take a while to fully integrate itself and work successfully.
Chelsea’s 5th place finish last time around should be improved upon with a number of high-profile additions made. Jorginho and Mateo Kovačić make up two thirds of a midfield three only rivalled by Liverpool, while 23-year-old goalkeeper Kepa Arrizibalaga is Thibaut Courtois’ replacement.
The loss of Courtois is an enormous one for the Blues. But Conte’s fractious relationship with his players is a thing of the past and Chelsea finally have someone in the driving seat once again who has a clear and understandable vision and a concrete way of playing.
Despite the improvement on last season, don’t expect Chelsea to hit the ground running as Sarri has already warned. While other sides drop off after the new year, Chelsea could pick up the pace and exploit their rivals’ complacency.
Jorginho (Napoli, £50m)
Rob Green (free)
Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic Bilbao, £71.6m)
Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid, loan)
Matej Delac (AC Horsens, free)
Mitchell Beeney (Sligo Rovers, free)
Wallace Oliveira (released)
Trevoh Chalobah (Ipswich Town, loan)
Nathan Baxter (Yeovil Town, loan)
Reece James (Wigan Athletic, loan)
Dujon Sterling (Coventry City, loan)
Lewis Baker (Leeds United, loan)
Danilo Pantic (Partizan, loan)
Jonathan Panzo (Monaco, undisclosed)
Jake Clarke-Salter (Vitesse Arnhem, loan)
Jhoao Rodriguez (Tenerife, loan)
Mason Mount (Derby, loan)
Kenedy (Newcastle, loan)
Jamal Blackman (Leeds, loan)
Jeremie Boga (Sassuolo, undisclosed)
Kasey Palmer (Blackburn, loan)
Mario Pasalic (Atalanta, loan)
Nathan (Atletico Mineiro, loan)
Jacob Maddox (Cheltenham Town, loan)
Victorien Angban (Metz, loan)
Kyle Scott (Telstar, loan)
Todd Kane (Hull, loan)
Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid, £31.5m)
5th – Spurs
Almost no transfer activity on both fronts during the summer has resulted in Tottenham being the first club to never make a signing during a summer transfer window since its introduction in 2003, and leaves them in a worrying as the season approaches.
The only identifiable target for the Whites was Aston Villa’s talisman, Jack Grealish, who after a succession of undervalued bids, remains at his boyhood club for the time being. Levy played hardball with Pochettino’s only target, seeking to capitalise on Villa’s financial woes but significant investment in July saw a stern “no sale” message sent to any potential suitors.
It’s not all doom and gloom for Spurs fans, though. Harry Kane enjoyed a strong World Cup tournament which saw him win the golden boot as the competition’s leading goalscorer. Levy pulled off a masterstroke in contracting Kane to a new deal before the tournament began which sees him contractually a Spurs player until 2024 at least.
He will also be hungry to reclaim his PL golden boot after having the award stolen from under his watch by Liverpool’s Mo Salah. But recurring problems surrounding squad rotation and sustainability will haunt Spurs for another successive season and could force them into a revised plan with their recruitment this time next year.
Keanan Bennetts (Borussia Monchengladbach, undisclosed)
Anton Walkes (Portsmouth, £200K)
Reo Griffiths (Lyon – undisclosed)
Christian Maghoma (released)
6th – Manchester United
Jose Mourinho could be on the brink of experiencing his dreaded third season syndrome once again as United’s off-the-field troubles slowly bubble closer to the surface. His constant tirade of excuses is growing tiresome amongst a large number of the club’s supporters and their rocky pre-season could well be an indicator of things to come.
They look a million miles away from mounting a challenge again during this campaign, with a quiet transfer window and underwhelming signings in through the door. Areas remain unaddressed and Mourinho’s philosophy is quickly being exposed as a repetitive disaster. Given Manchester United’s spending, particularly since Mourinho has taken charge, there are simply no excuses for failure – which Jose has already began to lay the foundations for.
Expect an unsettled squad, with no concrete starting XI and a host of rotations throughout the season. They will slip up numerous times and embarrassingly so, will miss out on European football.
Diogo Dalot (Porto, £17.4m)
Fred (Shakhtar Donetsk, undisclosed)
Lee Grant (Stoke City, free transfer)
Michael Carrick (retired)
Joe Riley (Bradford City, undisclosed)
Dean Henderson (Sheffield United, loan)
Sam Johnstone (West Bromwich Albion, £6.5m)
Daley Blind (Ajax, £14m)
Matty Willock (St Mirren, loan)
Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (Scunthorpe, loan)
Joel Pereira (Vitoria Setubal, loan)
Axel Tuanzebe (Aston Villa, loan)
Timothy Fosu-Mensah (Fulham, loan)
20th – Cardiff City
Despite finishing second and gaining automatic promotion to the promised land, the Premier League new boys are odds-on favourites for the drop.
Neil Warnock’s non-glamorous brand of football was a success in the Championship but has proven to falter at the highest level in English football over the years.
His disciplined side will struggle for goals which is a common problem that many newly-promoted sides suffer from.
Their additions this summer also haven’t turned any heads due to the ongoing financial constraints the club find themselves under.
Josh Murphy (Norwich City, undisclosed)
Greg Cunningham (Preston North End, undisclosed)
Alex Smithies (QPR, undisclosed)
Bobby Reid (Bristol City, undisclosed)
Victor Camarasa (Real Betis, loan)
Harry Arter (Bournemouth, loan)
Greg Halford (released)
Omar Bogle (Birmingham City, loan)
Lee Camp (Birmingham City, loan)
19th – Huddersfield Town
Wagner’s men marginally survived last season through a combination of spirited performances and a strong team cohesion. But the prospect of surviving for a second season in the top flight could prove too great of a feat.
There have been no marquee signings for The Terriers despite a raft of potentially astute signings being made. Unfortunately, potential does not guarantee you safety and the time it could take to blood in these new signings could prove costly for the Northern outfit.
As the joint lowest scoring team in the league last season with 28 goals alongside relegated Swansea City, there doesn’t appear to have been any real attempts to fill this looming void during the transfer window.
Florent Hadergjonaj (Ingolstadt 04, undisclosed)
Jonas Lossl (Mainz 05, undisclosed)
Terence Kongolo (Monaco, undisclosed)
Ramadan Sobhi (Stoke City, undisclosed)
Ben Hamer (Leicester, free)
Juninho Bacuna (Groningen, undisclosed)
Erik Durm (Borussia Dortmund, undisclosed)
Adama Diakhaby (Monaco, undisclosed)
Isaac Mbenza (Montpellier, loan)
Dean Whitehead (retired)
Robert Green (Chelsea, free)
Jack Boyle (released)
Denilson Carvalho (released)
Dylan Cogill (released)
Luca Colville (released)
Cameron Taylor (released)
Tom Ince (Stoke City, £10m – £12m with add-ons)
Sean Scannell (Bradford City, undisclosed)
Tareiq Holmes-Dennis (Bristol Rovers, undisclosed)
Joel Coleman (Shrewsbury, loan)
Jordy Hiwula (Coventry City, undisclosed)
Jordan Williams (Barnsley, undisclosed)
Scott Malone (Derby County, undisclosed)
18th – Watford
Choosing a team to finish third bottom was the most difficult decision. After the other two favourites were picked, the third and final spot was one that neither of the two other promoted sides would be expected to fill.
While many have predicted Brighton & Hove Albion to face the drop, Watford feel like they could be living on borrowed time. After a rocky couple of seasons and a manager merry-go-round that has seen the London club switch managers twice in just over a year, Javi Garcia is now deemed the man to take the club forward.
Ben Foster is a strong addition who joins after recently being relegated with West Brom, along with Gerard Deulofeu who makes his switch permanent from FC Barcelona for just under £12m.
However, the loss of their talisman Richarlison has yet to be worthily reinvested which could leave The Hornets sorely lacking. Last season’s 14th place finish was largely flattering but there will be an increase in quality amongst the bottom half of the table and Watford will be one of three teams to be axed.
Ben Wilmot (Stevenage, £1.5m)
Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona, £11.5m)
Marc Navarro (Espanyol, undisclosed)
Adam Masina (Bologna, undisclosed)
Ken Sema (Ostersund, undisclosed)
Ben Foster (West Brom, undisclosed)
Domingos Quina (West Ham, undicslosed)
Dennon Lewis (Falkirk, free)
Brandon Mason (released)
Costel Pantilimon (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed)
Mauro Zarate (Boca Juniors, undisclosed)
Richarlison (Everton, £50m)
Tommie Hoban (Aberdeen, loan)
Nordin Amrabat (Al-Nassr, undisclosed)
Jerome Sinclair (Sunderland, loan)
Randell Williams (Wycombe, loan)
Dodi Lukebakio (Fortuna Dusseldorf, loan)
Harvey Bradbury (Oxford United, free)
Daniel Bachmann (Kilmarnock, loan)
Despite Spurs’ expected underachievement, few will question Kane’s hunger to reclaim his title. Off the back of a new contract signing and an unforgettable World Cup where the Spurs man claimed the Golden Boot, he’ll be looking to continue his hot streak domestically.
Mo Salah, after an unbelievable season that produced excellent goals and assists levels, will produce similar numbers again, albeit slightly less than his debut season, narrowly seeing him missing out on retaining his award for a second season.