The Premier League promises to be what it always is, unpredictable. Even then, this year is even more so and after last year who are we to write off anybody? It’s as difficult a league to call as any of the five major ones. Our writers give their take on the top four and relegation battles.
Top 4: Man City, Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal
The Premier League title looks set to return to Manchester this season as both clubs have improved significantly in the off season. The rest of the league can only hope City do not hit the ground running as the quality at Pep Guardiola’s disposal is simply jaw-dropping. Jose Mourinho and United will definitely try to spoil Pep’s party, however. With Paul Pogba’s record breaking deal finally complete, Mourinho has the four signings he feels will allow United to dominate England once again. Antonio Conte’s Chelsea are poised to have a good domestic season, but they lack the quality that the Manchester clubs have at the moment. Much will depend on how the Italian sets his team up, however the rest they will be afforded between games should not be discounted. Arsenal should round out the top four in seemingly typical fashion. The Gunners’ still have pressing needs to address in their squad but have failed to do so thus far. The addition of Granit Xhaka will be a boon but he alone will not be enough to push them much higher in the table.
Relegation: Hull City, West Brom, Burnley
The promoted teams from the Championship are normally favourites for relegation the following season and this year does not seem to be any different. Unlike Middlesbrough who have bought wisely to strengthen for the Premier League campaign ahead, neither Hull nor Burnley have followed suit. A quick U-turn is expected for both those clubs with league stalwarts West Brom looking set to join them. With influential players James Morrison and Chris Brunt out due to injury, and having let both Stephane Sessegnon and Victor Anichebe leave the club this summer, the Baggies look set for a difficult season ahead which should result in their relegation.
Top 4: Man City, Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal
Expect the regular suspects to come to the party. Spurs should get better with a young maturing squad and Liverpool could have a better season than the last. However, it shouldn’t be enough for the latter to make the top four. Arsenal could retake their rightful position of fourth, edging Tottenham for a UCL place. Chelsea will have a steady season under Antonio Conte. They could struggle to score enough goals to bring home the title, but will return to UCL football next season. The Manchester teams will have a fiery rivalry, especially with the two characters managing both clubs in the same city. If Pep Guardiola gets the ‘playing the ball out from the back’ spot on and get the team to gel quickly, then they will do enough with to edge Man United for the title. Currently they also possess a bit more overall squad quality.
Relegation: Sunderland, Burnley, Hull City
There has likely never been a season where all three promoted teams go straight back down and this one will not be an exception to the rule. Middlesbrough have gone about ensuring that this doesn’t happen and should finish comfortably in mid table. Burnley and especially Hull City will not be so lucky and they won’t escape relegation. Bournemouth may have second season syndrome, but with a very good young coach in Eddie Howe they will survive again. Watford will need their front two to once more carry the load, and they should survive. So should Crystal Palace who have made some astute signings. West Brom, being a team that is ‘there’, should be safe as Tony Pulis knows how to survive. This leaves the ‘mosquitoes’ of the league in Sunderland. Every season they flirt with relegation but this could finally be the season the survivalists are relegated.
Top 4: Man United, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool
Everyone must be thinking of the same top two. Rivals from La Liga, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho take the clubs with the most hype and powerhouse players into new eras. Man City have the strongest eleven if fit but therein lies the uncertainty. They have just too many players who have questionable injury records or are over 30. Jose will find a way to eke it out. Antonio Conte can actually lay claim to being the best manager tactically in a manager’s league. However, his team is just a bit short after a disaster year to eclipse the Manchester clubs. Will this be the year Arsenal miss top four? With a powerful attacking five or six, Jurgen Klopp and co. will disrupt the status quo this season. Arsenal? If they sign Shkodran Mustafi and find a consistent attacking presence on the right the edge could go back to them.
Relegation: West Brom, Sunderland, Hull City
Sunderland and Hull City look certain relegation favourites, just not having the squads and talent that is littered across the league this season. Another that could struggle is Watford but the strikers kept them respectable last season and should do enough to keep them up this season. The matter of the third team doesn’t appear clear cut with Burnley being easy names to call. However, they possess last season’s leading goalscorer in the Championship, something that could prove the deciding factor. In contrast, West Brom have a seemingly stalling Saido Berahino with a lot to prove, José Salomón Rondón, and Rickie Lambert. Burnley stay up and West Brom play in the Championship next season.
Top 4: Tottenham Hotspur, Man City, Liverpool, Manchester United
As this season sets up to be a hotly contested one, the name of the game is expected to be project progression and systems.
Spurs are considered title favourites because of the timing and progression of their project, and how that relates to their rivals. Last season, the belief in Mauricio Pochettino’s methods from players, Thursday night fixtures, squad depth and Harry Kane’s lack of goal scoring form were issues at different points. Those issues have been addressed. Manchester City is stacked with quality players in each position and they seem to suit the way Pep Guardiola likes to play. He has also instilled key policies which should see the fitness issues of injury prone players improve.
Liverpool fits the “progression and systems” bill. However, they’ll need another season under Jurgen Klopp before really making a title push. Not having any European football to contend with will be a big boost for them. Manchester United is going through a reboot under new management. Jose Mourinho’s squad lacks it’s usual look with steel in the midfield that has been important for him in the past. All things considered, the transfer window is still open and much may change.
Relegation: Hull City, Burnley, Middlesbrough
Hull City and Burnley have hardly made improvements to their squads so far this summer and in a league that is showing signs of enhanced competitive quality, that is indicative of them finishing at the bottom. Hull City also has the added stress of managerial woes. Hull City’s only hope may come in finding a specialist in rescuing clubs from relegation.
Middlesbrough, though having proactively improve through the transfer market, will find it difficult to get above last season’s survivors. The influx of players may require time to gel and given the circumstances of doing it while facing tough weekly games, it may likely be too much to ask. However, if their approach to player acquisitions has been systematic, team chemistry should be forged quickly and Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City may find themselves in the Championship instead next year this time.
Donald ‘DV’ Sutherland
Top 4: Arsenal, Man City, Man United, Chelsea
This may come as a shock to some but this writer is not of the opinion that it’s either the Gunners acquire a top striker or the title is beyond them. Injuries have been the main culprit to their woes and this season will be the year where it eludes them with a fresher squad with quality in depth across most positions. City and United both possess a similar injury concerns but things won’t be as fortunate for them. Both sides will be adjusting to new managers but the Pep philosophy will edge the Citizens ahead. Chelsea rounds out the top four as it’s expected that Antonio Conte will add some necessary defensive reinforcement to a very good team, regardless of last season’s slump.
Relegation: Burnley, Sunderland, Hull City
Burnley will be in for another rude awakening as the league welcomes them once again. With most of the Premier League clubs bringing in players from other top flight divisions, the Clarets have yet to join the party. As things stand, their stay at top won’t be for very long. The same goes for Hull City. Sunderland may have appointed veteran Premier League manager David Moyes but that won’t be enough for a team in dire need of quality. They have played with fire long enough and this season will see them burned.
Top 4: Man United, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal
It’s difficult to look past the two Manchester Clubs for the top two. Both have just appointed two of the best managers in the world, and have spent good money on strengthening their personnel. United look to have the edge as city will take time gel as a unit, especially defensively. Eden Hazard looks to be over the hip injury that plagued him for most of last season, and with no European responsibilities, One would expect Chelsea to regain Champions League football. They’ve solved one of their major problems in defensive midfield by bringing in N’Golo Kanté but currently are still lacking in a few areas, namely full back and striker. Much has been made of Arsenal’s lack of activity, but Wenger has always looked for value where he can. Granit Xhaka will add some more steel to the midfield so expect them to continue this incredible run of securing Champions League football. Although, they should be forgiven if they start the season shaky with players returning late from Euro exertions.
Relegation: Watford, Burnley Hull City
Leicester City had better odds at being relegated this time last year than winning the league, and they did the improbable. However, normal service is expected to be resumed this season. Sean Dyche for all his admirable work in getting Burnley straight back up, will know just how much tougher this will be this time around, and it is hard to look past them for immediate relegation back to the Championship. Hull City will not find it easy this season. Minimal investment in signings and the manager and one of their better players Mohamed Diamé leaving the club, they are a club in turmoil. Watford should complete the relegation trio. They’ve kept Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney, but their form in the latter part of the 2015/16 season was alarming. A change in manager and the time it takes to adapt to new methods may just hinder them enough.