A wiser man than me would think better than to predict the Premier League table a year after claiming that Burnley would finish bottom and West Brom would achieve comfortable mid-table safety in 2017-18, but here we are…
1 Manchester City
It’s unlikely to be as comfortable as last year, but Manchester City look in excellent shape to be the first team to retain the Premier League title in 10 years. Riyad Mahrez has been the only significant signing, but in truth the squad barely needed any additions – they are a group of players that Pep Guardiola has bred a winning mentality into. With quality in bucketloads everywhere you look, they’ll be very hard to stop once again.
Liverpool have spent by far the most money in the Premier League this summer (Naby Keita, Fabinho and Alisson were all at least £40 million), but in reality it’s the only way they might be able to catch Manchester City. They certainly look like the best placed side to try and do so, with the attacking trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah the most exciting frontline in the league.
3 Manchester United
United have some world class players at their disposal, giving them the potential to make a title challenge. But they probably won’t because they could try telling Jose Mourinho that. The Portuguese manager has been critical of his squad in pre-season and downplayed his side’s chances, how much could that harm a very talented squad’s chances of success?
Unai Emery could be the breath of fresh air Arsenal need after the club stagnated in Arsene Wenger’s last couple of seasons in charge. The former PSG boss has instantly fixed the areas the Gunners were lacking in for years by bringing in Sokratis Papastathopoulos at centre-back and Lucas Torreira in holding midfield, whilst the attacking options he has at his disposal have huge potential to take the club back in to the Champions League.
5 Tottenham Hotspur
After becoming the first club in Premier League history to not sign anyone in the summer transfer window, Tottenham will be hoping the squad that has achieved three consecutive top three finishes can keep pace with the rest of the top six who have all improved their sides. With the likes of Jan Vertonghen, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Harry Kane, it’s not a bad squad to be relying on, but you can’t help but think they may pay the price for not dipping into the transfer market.
It will be interesting to see how Maurizio Sarri, who has never lifted a trophy in his 28 year managerial career, copes at Chelsea where winning silverware is almost essential. The Blues’ recent seasonal cycle suggests that they’ll do well this year after under-performing in 2017/18, but preparation has been far from an ideal with a couple of key players hinting they would rather their future was away from Stamford Bridge.
Everton and Marco Silva have finally been united, and it looks to be a promising match. The 41-year-old showed glimpses of his managerial nous in the short-term at Hull and Watford, but can he have prolonged success at Goodison Park? He is now dealing with a squad of much better quality, and the deadline day arrivals of Bernard, Yerry Mina and Andre Gomes could well push the Toffees into Europe.
8 Leicester City
After two years of rumours, Riyad Mahrez has finally departed Leicester and it will be interesting to see how the Foxes cope without him. They’ve replaced him well by signing both James Maddison and Rachid Ghezzal, whilst Jamie Vardy still remains and is likely to hit double figures for the fourth year in a row. With a strong defence too, led by Harry ‘Slabhead’ Maguire, the 2016 champions may be looking at a return to Europe.
9 Wolverhampton Wanderers
In truth, Wolves had a Premier League-quality squad in the Championship last season, so they look well placed to adapt to life in the top flight strongly. Another Jorge Mendes-influenced transfer window in which Rui Patricio, Joao Moutinho and Adama Traore have been the star arrivals, along with permanent deals for last season’s standout loanees, means Nuno’s men are good bets to be only the fifth promoted team since 2006 to finish in the top half.
Having brought in Jean Michael Seri, Andre Schurrle, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Sergio Rico amongst a host of others, Fulham make a pretty strong case for some of the best transfer business done in the Premier League this summer. With those names joining teenage sensation Ryan Sessegnon and talismanic captain Tom Cairney, the Cottagers could have an exciting first season back in the top flight.
11 West Ham United
Life at the London Stadium has been underwhelming so far for West Ham and their fans, but things appear to be looking up after Davids Gold and Sullivan finally showed intent in the transfer market by bringing in Felipe Anderson (a £36 million club record signing), Issa Diop and Jack Wilshere amongst others. Premier League-winning manager Manuel Pellegrini is also an impressive appointment.
12 Crystal Palace
The turnaround that Roy Hodgson oversaw at Selhurst Park last season was quite remarkable, and showcased the impressive quality Palace have within their ranks, most notably Wilfried Zaha, who netted five times in the final six games. They might fancy their chances of qualifying for Europe for the first time ever, but may fall short with sides around them being slightly more active in the transfer market.
Burnley are unlikely to top a magical 2017-18 when they qualified for Europe, mainly because their adventures on the continent may distract them until at least December. Matej Vydra has added to their wealth of striking options and Joe Hart has added to their wealth of England goalkeepers, so the squad is certainly well placed to challenge for another top half finish though.
Last season Southampton came the closest they’ve come to dropping out of the top flight since promotion in 2012, and have attempted to rectify that by making some strong signings this summer in the shape of Mohamed Elyounoussi, Jannik Vestergaard and Danny Ings. It should see them steer clear from safety, but they’re unlikely to get back into the top half just yet.
15 AFC Bournemouth
Incredibly, Bournemouth’s squad remains largely the same from the one that got them promotion from the Championship three years ago – indeed they’ve only made three further additions this summer. But Eddie Howe knows how to get the best out of this group of players, and whilst relegation might look more likely this season than before, the Cherries get results when it matters and should survive.
16 Newcastle United
At around minus £30 million, Newcastle had by far the lowest net spend in the Premier League this summer, so it’s easy to see why fans’ frustrations towards Mike Ashley are increasing by the day. The lack of investment and continued comedy behind the scenes won’t help the Magpies, but Rafa Benitez has done a magnificent job at St. James’ Park and if he remains (a big if?), he’ll guide the squad, that in fairness does have potential, to safety.
17 Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton may have been the busiest Premier League club in the transfer market this summer, but there is a big question mark over the quality of many of the Seagulls’ 16 new arrivals. The squad could take some time to gel at the start of a potentially difficult campaign and home form will be key to survival – but it will be far from comfortable for Chris Hughton’s side.
Watford have bought players from as far ranging as Bologna, Ostersunds and er… Stevenage this summer, so it’s difficult to predict how the Hornets will get on. That’s usually the case though, and their emphatic start to last season (one defeat in eight) before their dreadful end (one win in nine) shows how it really can go either way. But an ageing squad, the loss of Richarlison and a disruptive switch of manager being almost inevitable makes dropping out of the Premier League a very real possibility.
19 Cardiff City
Many people have commented that Cardiff have been signing Championship quality players this summer, which might be true, but the likes of Bobby Reid and Josh Murphy certainly deserve their chance in the Premier League after setting the second tier alight. Are they good enough to keep the Bluebirds up? Neil Warnock has said it will be his greatest achievement in management if they survive the drop.
20 Huddersfield Town
Huddersfield’s emphatic start to life in the Premier League effectively kept them up last season, and they’ll need to be quick off the mark again to have any chance of surviving the drop once more. The squad hasn’t massively improved over the summer, and the quality of the teams coming up means the Terriers are likely to struggle. But they’ve defied the odds two years in a row, so who am I to write them off?