Given I’ve done one of these for each season since I started writing the blog, I thought I’d best keep that tradition up. As ever, I’m indebted to the good people of FourFourTwo magazine for their in-depth pre-season analysis – any wrongly formed opinions in this post are mine alone however.
Come 4:45ish on Sunday 21 May 2017, I think the Premier League table will look something like this:
1. Manchester City
2. Manchester United
6. Tottenham Hotspur
7. Leicester City
9. West Ham United
10. Stoke City
15. West Bromwich Albion
16. Crystal Palace
17. Swansea City
20. Hull City
Attempting to briefly justify my choices, Manchester City have Pep Guardiola. And Pep doesn’t tend to not win things. They have also made a few lovely signings although £47m for John Stones is madness. I think Manchester United with Mourinho in charge will improve, though I’m still not convinced the Portuguese is a long-term solution for United. Pogba, Zlatan and Mkhitaryan are all fantastic buys. I enjoyed the cut of Antonio Conte’s tactical jib at Euro 2016 and he should do something similar with Chelsea, while having Jurgen Klopp at the helm for an entire season, and no European distractions, should help Liverpool back into the top 4.
Given the improvement of the sides around them, I think this might be the season Arsenal do the relatively unthinkable and finish fifth. Yet again they have failed to add players in the positions they need. Spurs had a fantastic season in 2015-16 even with the terrible ending, and they should be in the hunt for the top four again though finishing a touch short. Leicester will have a decent bash at defending their title but they can’t have the same luck with injuries and form as they did last season, and Kante is a huge miss. Everton, with new money and a new manager, should round out the top 8.
In ninth I fancy West Ham United, with their excellent manager and lovely (if terribly named) new stadium. Stoke meanwhile I reckon will make the top half – their addition of Joe Allen is a good one. Of the three promoted sides, Middlesbrough appear most capable of hanging around in the Premier League – Negredo and Valdes are fantastic acquisitions for a club that size. Southampton meanwhile will have the cliched “transitional” season, with a new manager and a new squad to attempt to knit together.
I think David Moyes will (and would like him to) recapture some of his credibility with a solid and not overly relegation-threatened season for Sunderland. Bournemouth’s capture of Jordan Ibe is particularly interesting and I fancy Eddie Howe to enhance his reputation that little bit more. West Bromwich Albion will be every inch the Tony Pulis side yet again – reliably dull and doing just about enough to stay up. I imagine Alan Pardew will continue, meanwhile, his record of oddly inconsistent seasons with Crystal Palace.
Just about staying up will be Swansea City – Francesco Guidolin’s first full season will not be easy. Going down I expect Watford to find the transition to yet another new manager a transition too much, with Burnley and Hull City not having the squad strength or depth to cope with life in the top division.