Another Premier League season is upon us, kicking off on Friday night when newly promoted Norwich head to Anfield to take on the European champions Liverpool, and despite our mixed performance last year we have decided to put our collective heads on the block once more and predict the outcome.
Who will win the title? Manchester City are looking to retain their crown again but will face stiff competition from Liverpool once more, while Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United have all spent heavily to reinforce their squads and close the gap.
Who will finish in the top four? Chelsea begin the season as something of a mystery, with a new manager in club legend Frank Lampard and the lack of additions to the squad due to a transfer ban. Christian Pulisic has come in but Eden Hazard has departed, and Lampard faces a huge task keeping them in the Champions League places.
We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.
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Who will be relegated? Newly promoted clubs Norwich City, Aston Villa and Sheffield United have all strengthened over the summer and will be fighting hard to finish above those sides who narrowly survived last year, like Brighton, Burnley and Newcastle.
And what will refined pundits like Danny Mills make of VAR as the technology is deployed in the Premier League for the first time? We answer all these crucial questions, and more.
Miguel Delaney (chief football writer): Manchester City, by six points.
Mark Critchley (northern football correspondent): Manchester City. Without Kevin De Bruyne or cover for Fernandinho, they still recorded the second-highest points total ever. Last year was Liverpool’s chance, I think.
Ben Burrows (sports editor): Manchester City. They were the best team last year without Kevin De Bruyne. This year they’ll have him and they’ll win it again.
Lawrence Ostlere (sports features editor): Liverpool. Logic says City with a fully fit Kevin De Bruyne, but Liverpool have the momentum of the Champions League and want it, a lot.
Samuel Lovett (sports reporter): Liverpool. Having backed them last year, and seen them come so close, feel like it’d be rude not to double down.
Jack Rathborn (sports reporter): Manchester City. Liverpool’s pre-season and the belated introduction of their starting front three suggests they will not start as fast as last year and the addition of Rodri makes the champions even more formidable.
Tom Kershaw (sports reporter): Manchester City. Liverpool can run City close again and Pep Guardiola’s side will not have the steel of Vincent Kompany to rely on as they did towards the end of last season. However, with the addition of Rodri alongside Fernandinho and the return of Kevin De Bruyne, Guardiola should equal Alex Ferguson’s feat of three successive titles.
Adam Hamdani (social media editor): Man City.
MD: Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal.
MC: Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea. Any one of the top six could take that last spot, really. Manchester United will improve. I’m afraid Arsenal have spent north of £100m without but still do not have a defence.
BB: Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester United. Liverpool remain comfortably the best of the rest but Tottenham have strengthened enough to keep the pressure on. I’m not a paid-up member of the Solskjaer fan club but they’re better than a rebuilt Chelsea and a ramshackle Arsenal. Just.
LO: Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea. I can’t see United refinding that Ole bounce, and Arsenal still seem like a collection of loose parts under Unai Emery.
SL: Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United.
JR: City and Liverpool, then Spurs, with Arsenal prevailing thanks to a now more than competent centre-back pairing in Sokratis and Luiz.
TK: City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham. Even with Arsenal’s transfer signings and Manchester United’s time to regather, Tottenham should have the longevity to outmatch both. Chelsea can be a rejuvenated force under Frank Lampard and surprise many.
AH: Man City, Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal.
MD: Crystal Palace, Newcastle United, Sheffield United.
MC: Brighton, Crystal Palace, Newcastle United. So, all three promoted teams to stay up? That does not feel quite right, but this is maybe the toughest relegation to call in years. Most expected to finish in the bottom half look organised enough to put up a fight. Except Newcastle.
BB: Newcastle. Norwich. Sheffield United.
LO: Newcastle, Sheffield United, Burnley. Fancy Burnley to do that thing Stoke and West Brom did where they finish in the top half, realise there is little else to achieve, before sliding down the table and out of the league over a two-year period.
SL: Sheffield United, Brighton, Crystal Palace.
JR: Sheffield United, Norwich and Newcastle (where are the goals coming from?).
TK: Crystal Palace, Newcastle, Sheffield United. With Aaron Wan-Bissaka gone Palace may wilt under Roy Hodgson. Steve Bruce is no more inspiring while Sheffield may struggle to keep pace.
AH: Sheffield United, Norwich, Crystal Palace.
Player of the season?
MD: Kevin De Bruyne.
MC: Kevin De Bruyne. He’s simply the best player in the league and will show that once again this year, provided there’s no more injury misfortune.
BB: KDB. The best player in the league will, if injury free, show why.
LO: Raheem Sterling.
SL: Bernardo Silva.
JR: Kevin De Bruyne, now he is ready to emerge as City’s most important player again after missing half of City’s games last season through injury.
TK: Kevin De Bruyne. After a season mired by injury, the Belgian should return to his best and prove himself as the best player in the Premier League if he can steer clear of the treatment table.
AH: Kevin De Bruyne.
MD: Harry Kane.
MC: Mohamed Salah. It is difficult to look beyond the winner of the last two Golden Boots, even if he had to share it in May. I’m expecting more than last year, though maybe not as many as his first season.
BB: Mohamed Salah. Liverpool will score a lot of goals and my money will be on Salah getting most of them.
LO: Harry Kane.
SL: Mohamed Salah.
TK: Mohamed Salah. After a slight dip at the start of last season after a disappointing World Cup campaign, the Egyptian looked sharp in the Community Shield and can return to his lethal best. Few players will be gifted more goalscoring opportunities.
MD: Tanguy Ndombele.
MC: I imagine Rodri’s going to receive a lot of plaudits, but a slightly less obvious choice would be West Ham’s Pablo Fornals.
BB: Kieran Tierney. One of Scotland’s two world class left backs instantly upgrades Arsenal’s defence and at £25m is an absolute steal.
LO: Tom Heaton. Admittedly not a thrilling choice, this, and maybe he’s not even much of a bargain at £8m, but goalkeepers always seem a little undervalued in the market and if Aston Villa keep enough clean sheets to stay up, it will probably be because of Heaton.
SL: Youri Tielemans. The Belgian showed what he’s capable of last season and, at 22 years of age, he’s only going to get better with time. Leicester have done well to secure his services on a permanent basis.
JR: Pablo Fornals, will add real quality to West Ham’s midfield.
TK: Dani Ceballos. Despite an extortionate loan fee, the Real Madrid midfielder is extremely well regarded and provides a replacement for Aaron Ramsey that few thought the club could find or afford. Having played at such a high level, it shouldn’t take him too long to adapt to the pace of the league.
AH: Kieran Tierney. Scotland’s captain joins injured but his long term value will far exceed the £25m Arsenal spent to bring him in. A top signing.
MD: Gary Cahill – this is relative, though. I think Palace will struggle, and Cahill isn’t what he was.
MC: Joelinton. A club-record £40m for a striker who scores a goal every four games is steep.
BB: Joelinton. £40m? Not for me, Clive.
LO: Joelinton. He might be productive in a productive team, but that’s probably not Steve Bruce’s Newcastle. Also worth noting Aston Villa have spent £10m on a man called Marvelous, who could well go the way of Isaac Success.
SL: Moise Kean. I’m going on a hunch here: it’s surely telling that Juventus, one of Europe’s biggest and best teams, would be so willing to let a 19-year-old academy product leave for £29m, which, by today’s standards, is relatively low. It’s a deal that could be too good to be true – though I’d love to be wrong.
JR: Leandro Trossard, for £18m, will likely take time to adjust due to his size and Brighton do not necessarily have that luxury.
TK: Allan Saint-Maximin. The Newcastle signing is undeniably talented but has an iffy and indecisive end product. Do six goals and three assists in Ligue 1 justify the fee?
Who’s had the best transfer window?
MD: West Ham United.
MC: Tottenham. Buying a midfielder was a great idea.
BB: Arsenal. Somehow managed to parlay a £40m transfer budget into a £70m player, two £25m players and one of Real Madrid’s best young players. Bravo.
LO: Wolves have quietly had a great window. Kept all their best players, signed last year’s best loanees Raul Jimenez and Leander Dendoncker, and added young talent in Patrick Cutrone, Pedro Neto and Bruno Jordao.
SL: Arsenal. The deadline day addition of Kieran Tierney was what swung it. Hat tip to Tottenham and Everton too.
JR: Arsenal. Added four starting calibre players (and a fifth next year when William Saliba arrives) despite Ramsey’s departure and now look favourites to sneak into the top four.
TK: Arsenal. Ceballos, Nicolas Pepe and the addition of Kieran Tierney, and Arsenal have somehow managed to inject their side with new life despite all the supposed gloom surrounding their budget. Aaron Ramsey’s departure remains a huge mistake but that was decided before this window opened.
First manager sacked?
MD: Roy Hodgson.
MC: Roy Hodgson. The difficult summer Crystal Palace have suffered has hardly been his fault alone, but chairman Steve Parish is not afraid to move early in the season if his side makes a poor start.
BB: Steve Bruce. Mike Ashley apparently loves him but Mike Ashley often does weird things. Sacking Bruce months after hiring him wouldn’t even be in the top 100.
LO: Javi Gracia. Watford finished the season badly and if they start slowly this time it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see the impatient Pozzos do something about it.
SL: See ya later Roy. Your time is up.
JR: Without an obvious candidate due to the faith Norwich and Sheffield United will show in Daniel Farke and Chris Wilder, perhaps Marco Silva, if Everton do not hit the ground running, the club will think they can upgrade given the talent they’ve acquired.
TK: Roy Hodgson. The last of a dying breed with an unfavourable hand dealt this transfer window.
AH: Roy Hodgson.
Is Frank Lampard going to be good?
MD: Er… he’s good for Chelsea right now, as his legacy means this extremely transitionary season will get basically no backlash no matter what happens.
MC: It’s not that he’s good or bad, just that he’s just entirely unproven at this level.
BB: For Chelsea fans: Yes. For Chelsea’s prospects this season: TBC.
LO: I think expectations are handily low for him and the transfer ban was a blessing in disguise in that respect. Shipping out David Luiz shows he’s not a soft touch, and I think he’ll galvanise the club with his faith in youth.
SL: Of course! He’s a club legend! If results don’t go his way, it’s the players’ fault. If they do, he’s a genius. Simple.
JR: Yes, but he’ll have to be really good, immediately, to keep Chelsea in the top four and progress in Europe. The limited expectations could play into his hands.
TK: You can’t make a firm call on that yet but, even if Derby fell short, he had an impressive first season as a manager and has the perfect coaching team behind him at Chelsea. Expect the feel-good factor to last a lot longer than with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
AH: For the kids, yes. For the entertaining football, yes. For the results? Probably not. I see Chelsea finishing outside the top four.
Danny Mills’ verdict on VAR?
MC: I mean he’s not going to like it, is he?
BB: He’ll think it’s the only feasible and logical step for a game so obsessed over the minutiae that it simply had to happen. Of course he won’t. He’ll hate it.
LO: “It’s just a laughable decision, it really is!” Is it though, Danny?
JR: “It’s not the most glamorous form of technology.”
AH: “Good for the sport but slows down the game.”
First player booked for excessive use of the VAR signal?
MD: Wilf Zaha.
MC: I don’t know, are there any proper cry-arses anymore? Who gets a lot of yellow cards these days? Jose Holebas?
BB: Zaha. Obviously Zaha.
LO: I am almost certain it will be Granit Xhaka, probably late on in the first half while already on a yellow card.
SL: Ravel Morrison.
JR: Jordan Henderson.
TK: Mohamed Salah.
AH: Marcus Rashford.
What are you most looking forward to? What are you dreading?
MD: Looking forward to lovely goals. Dreading the tedious attrition that so much online football discussion has become.
BB: Looking forward to the build-up to a European Championship hosted across 12 countries. Dreading a European Championship hosted across 12 countries.
LO: Looking forward to seeing how Graham Potter gets on at Brighton, someone who is completely different to any other coach in the league. Dreading international breaks now there’s no more #Nations.
SL: Looking forward to those weekends when I’m not in the office but at home on my sofa, with my feet up, Sky Sports on the TV, a can of Stella in my hand and a distinctly average serving of fish and chips from my local. Dreading a life of loneliness and the unshakeable feeling that I’ve wasted my youth. And the return of Sam Allardyce in some capacity.
JR: Looking forward to the reaction when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer picks Ashley Young ahead of £50m Aaron Wan-Bissaka at some point. Also the return of Callum Hudson-Odoi. Dreading the debate surrounding whether VAR is a mistake.
TK: Looking forward to seeing how the league’s new signings fare and the crop of academy graduates making their breakthrough. Dreading the endless debate and disagreement over what is and isn’t a handball.
MC: Looking forward to seeing how City and Liverpool’s rivalry develops. Dreading seeing how City and Liverpool’s rivalry develops.
AH: Watching Nicolas Pepe run really fast with the ball at his feet and seeing Slabhead smash some balls. Least looking forward to watching Arsenal away, at any point, especially against Liverpool.
How will English clubs fare in Europe?
MD: Two semi-finalists in the Champions League.
MC: City have been the best team across the five major leagues for two years now. It’s time for them to win the Champions League. Liverpool will pay more attention to the league if it still looks winnable by February.
BB: Manchester City will be the best of them but they still won’t win it.
LO: I fancy the Premier League will have a losing Champions League finalist, probably Manchester City.
JR: Well, again, with at least one finalist in each competition.
SL: Very well indeed. Manchester City won’t win it, because, well, they never do. But that won’t stop them from progressing through the competition before suffering an inevitable upset. Liverpool will give it another good crack and make it to the final where they’ll be beaten by a resurgent Atletico Madrid team. You heard it here first.
TK: Manchester City and Liverpool can both reach the latter stages of Champions League, Tottenham might not have the same puff this time around while Arsenal will spontaneously combust in a far-flung Europa League tie.
AH: One team in the Champions League final, two in the semis.
Who will be promoted from the Championship?
MD: West Brom, Fulham, Brentford.
MC: Fulham, Brentford, Leeds.
BB: Fulham. West Brom. Leeds.
LO: Leeds, West Brom, Brentford.
SL: Leeds, Fulham and West Brom.
JR: Leeds, Cardiff and Rooney FC.
TK: Leeds, West Brom, Fulham.
AH: Leeds, West Brom, QPR.
Is the Premier League the best league in the world?
MD: In terms of overall technical quality, yes.
MC: If it is, then only by default.
BB: Yes. But not by as much as it thinks it is.
LO: Just about, but its great selling point was its competitiveness, and it’s in danger of becoming as predictable as the rest of Europe. Though this article might prove otherwise.
JR: Yes – but mainly due to places 7-10 now all possessing Champions League talent.