The crystal ball is polished and it is that time of the year again – Premier League predictions.
A few surprises, plenty of imponderables and a slight excuse that it is still not transfer deadline day yet.
Disagree? Make your own prediction here.
So here we go – how the Premier League will pan out in 2019-20…
Last season – Champions
This season – Champions
Manchester City remain the team to beat – they showed resilience and brilliance to put together a 14-match winning streak to see off Liverpool last season and have strengthened in midfield with the addition of Rodri from Atletico Madrid.
Vincent Kompany’s presence, so vital in the run-in, will be hugely difficult to replace on and off the pitch but class in all parts of the field will make it a Premier League treble for the side who swept the board domestically last season and the perfect sign-off to David Silva’s brilliant career in England.
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Last season – Second
This season – Second
The other half of a rivalry that will be a battle for silverware for years to come. Liverpool will try to end what will be a 30-year wait for the title after falling agonisingly short despite losing only one league game last season, to the eventual champions.
The Champions League was more than consolation but this season the Premier League will be firmly in the sights of manager Jurgen Klopp and his players.
Liverpool may not have made the big eye-catching purchase as deadline day approaches but all their world-class stars such as Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah are secured and this is a team built to last.
Klopp’s team is not going away. It will be a fight to the finish but it may well be that the title will have to wait for another year.
Last season – Fourth
This season – Third
It was a strange pre-season for Spurs with some discontented utterances from manager Mauricio Pochettino, including a suggestion of a change of job title to coach because of a lack of influence over transfers.
This, however, is still a club and a team in fine shape.
Tanguy Ndombele, a club record signing at £53.8m from Lyon, could prove an outstanding midfield addition to a team packed with quality and with the power to add before the deadline.
Spurs reached the Champions League final last season, which will have whetted the appetite, and are now at home in a magnificent new stadium and will challenge this season.
The title? No – let’s not forget they lost 13 league games last season – but top three and time to end Pochettino’s wait for a trophy.
Now it gets difficult.
Last season – Third
This season – Fourth
The Premier League’s top three is pretty clear (when viewed through this crystal ball, at least) but it will be a real dogfight for that last Champions League place and several clubs may be involved.
Chelsea have taken a real gamble appointing the unproven Frank Lampard after one season in Championship management in which he took Derby County from sixth to sixth.
Has owner Roman Abramovich invested in romance with this former legend rather than realism?
And the biggest puzzle of all is how can Chelsea cope without the ‘X Factor’ provided by the now departed Eden Hazard?
The reason for this prediction is that Chelsea have an uncanny habit of achieving against the odds – remember the “disappointment” of last season under Maurizio Sarri when they only finished third and won the Europa League?
Never bet against Chelsea for a trophy either.
Last season – Sixth
This season – Fifth
For all the cheerleading and predictable talk about a “feelgood factor”, I have serious doubts that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the man to turn around this big beast of the Premier League – doubts voiced before the initial bounce was deflated into those embarrassing performances at the end of last season.
Solskjaer, rather like Lampard, is totally unproven but was the safe choice for United’s hierarchy.
Harry Maguire, at an exorbitant £80m for a central defender who is serviceable without being anywhere near the Van Dijk class, will provide leadership in a defence still containing familiar faces such as Phil Jones and Chris Smalling while Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James will provide youth and pace.
Can Solskjaer turn around United’s decline? A game-changing signing in the next day or two may help but currently I struggle to foresee a top-four place.
Last season – Fifth
This season – Sixth
The Gunners will challenge Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester United for a top-four place and will not go short of goals with Nicholas Pepe arriving from Lille for a club record £72m to augment Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.
Dani Ceballos on loan from Real Madrid could be a masterstroke but this Arsenal side, now without Aaron Ramsey, still lacks leadership, and manager Unai Emery must cure the old flaws such as travel sickness.
They blew their top-four chances late on last season and lost the Europa League final to Chelsea – hardly a catastrophic failure but can they take the next step?
Best bet may be a domestic cup.
Last season – Eighth
This season – Seventh
Everton ended Marco Silva’s first season strongly and attractively, illustrated by home wins over Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United – and he has been backed in the markets, so owner Farhad Moshiri will expect a top-six challenge and domestic cup run at least.
Idrissa Gueye will be a real loss but Everton have secured the classy Andre Gomes on a permanent basis, added the talented Jean-Philippe Gbamin from Mainz and secured one of Europe’s emerging teenage talents in striker Moise Kean from Juventus.
If they can get it right in the final days of the transfer window, and that must include adding a central defender, they could have a real crack at that top six and beyond.
Last season – Ninth
This season – Eighth
Optimism abounds at Leicester thanks to Brendan Rodgers’ fine start as manager after succeeding Claude Puel and some shrewd summer work in the transfer market.
The Foxes are another club with genuine top-six aspirations.
Maguire is a loss but they have recouped a serious fee and the additions of the gifted Youri Tielemans, such a success on loan last season, and striker Ayoze Perez from Newcastle builds on a squad that offers a potent mix of youth and experience.
Rodgers will also want to prove his worth after moving from Celtic so I fully expect a very satisfactory season at The King Power Stadium.
Last season – Seventh
This season – Ninth
I had rare success with a surprise prediction last season when I said then Premier League newcomers Wolves would finish seventh. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side delivered and proved an excellent top-flight addition, backed by quality signings and an attacking style.
No longer a surprise package and with a Europa League campaign to navigate, I’m not going so high this season but fully expect a top-10 finish, especially with the addition of striker Patrick Cutrone from AC Milan to support those who excelled last season such as Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota.
West Ham United
Last season – 10th
This season – 10th
It was a season of relative serenity at West Ham under the experienced Manuel Pellegrini, whose air of calm made it a solid first season in charge.
The addition of Spain attacker Pablo Fornals from Villarreal and striker Sebastien Haller from Eintracht Frankfurt for a club record £45m will add quality and creativity, and you can bracket the Hammers with those other clubs who might fancy breaking into the top six if they get the wind in their sails.
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Last season – 11th
This season – 11th
Yes – you have read it right, Watford supporters. No relegation tip this year… which may of course be bad news.
The painful embarrassment of that 6-0 FA Cup final loss to Manchester City aside, it was a very decent season for Javi Gracia’s team, a well-organised team at a well-run club.
Troy Deeney remains the talisman and Gerard Deulofeu delivers the magic. Another good mid-table finish in the offing.
Last season – 16th
This season – 12th
After losing their sure touch with managerial appointments after the failure of Mauricio Pellegrino and the short-lived reign of Mark Hughes, Southampton look to have got it right again with the charismatic Austrian Ralph Hassenhuttl.
He ensured their survival last season with a high-energy style that he will have further engrained in close season, an approach that saw a revival for the likes of Nathan Redmond.
If the excellent Danny Ings can stay fit and Che Adams can transfer his striking talent from the Championship with Birmingham City to the top flight, and Moussa Djenepo can adapt, then watching Southampton may be very entertaining this season.
Last season – 14th
This season – 13th
It was the usual mix of top-class victories and heavy defeats that sums up Bournemouth’s Premier League life under manager Eddie Howe last season – and I do not see anything different this time.
Keeping Ryan Fraser (so far) is crucial, while England striker Callum Wilson’s new contract is a real vote of confidence in the Cherries’ future. The absence through injury of David Brooks for three months is a blow.
Philip Billing’s arrival from Huddersfield will add stature but the goalkeeping looks a weakness. A late move there – Jack Butland from Stoke perhaps – would give more solidity.
Last season – promoted
This season – 14th
If you had a pound for every time you heard “doing a Fulham”…
Fulham spent more than £100m losing their identity and their Premier League status last season and Villa’s similarly expensive sweep of the transfer market has brought the same accusations.
Not from here – yes it is ambitious and contains risk but manager Dean Smith has also signed players he knows in the likes of Jota, Ezri Konsa and the likes of Tyrone Mings and Anwar El Ghazi, who were on loan last season.
Plenty of eyes will be on the likes of Wesley, Trezeguet and Douglas Luiz – but Villa have also secured one of the best deals of the summer in signing an experienced goalkeeper of quality in England’s Tom Heaton from Burnley for only £8m.
Jack Grealish has Premier League quality and John McGinn can make a big impact.
A season of consolidation is in prospect at one of the great old clubs.
Last season – 15th
This season – 15th
Sean Dyche has done a superb job keeping Burnley in the Premier League, especially last season when he kept his nerve after a horrible spell up to Christmas. A smart manager who knows how it works and how to get the best out of his squad, he will keep Burnley up again.
The return of Jay Rodriguez to his home town club will provide goals and quality and the return to fitness of Nick Pope meant Burnley could sell Heaton.
It’s a big season ahead for Pope. I predict survival for the Clarets.
Last season – 12th
This season – 16th
Strange times at Crystal Palace. Manager Roy Hodgson will always provide solidity and, more likely than not, safety – but when will Eagles supporters and their hierarchy want more?
They stayed up in comfort last season but so far it has been an unfulfilling summer with the departure of Wan-Bissaka and the confirmation of Jordan Ayew’s signing hardly one to get the pulses pumping, although Gary Cahill will at least add experience to the defence.
If the unsettled Wilfried Zaha is still at Selhurst Park at the weekend then their chances of a decent season instantly improve but currently looking like another season where mid-table consolidation is the best a superbly supportive fan base can hope for.
Last season – Promoted
This season – 17th
There is always at least one prediction that goes against the grain and this is mine.
Sheffield United are plenty of people’s tips to go down but I am going with the Chris Wilder factor and the stirring surroundings of Bramall Lane to keep the Blades in the Premier League.
Wilder revels in his “old school” managerial persona. Do not be fooled.
He is smart, meticulously prepared, has proved his tactical flexibility and his impressive record shows a manager waiting for this chance to show that he can sit comfortably at the highest level.
Phil Jagielka’s return will provide experience, while Oli McBurnie, at a club record £20m from Swansea City, will be relied upon for potency.
Brighton and Hove Albion
Last season – 17th
This season – 18th
Brighton’s dip in form that plunged them into trouble last season cost manager Chris Hughton his job and brought a new face and approach in the highly rated Graham Potter.
Leandro Trossard from Genk is part of the new look while heavy responsibility will fall on the shoulders of new central defender Adam Webster, signed from Bristol City in a club record £20m deal – especially if Lewis Dunk leaves.
Potter has many supporters and Brighton is a club to admire – but last season’s decline must mean worries this time around if they do not make a good start.
Last season – Promoted
This season – 19th
Now this is one prediction that may well come back to bite me given the exciting football played by Daniel Farke’s side in the vibrant atmosphere of Carrow Road last season. The Canaries will be a colourful addition to the Premier League.
Can Farke make this style work in the top flight? Plenty will hope so.
So much will depend on whether Teemu Pukki, who scored 29 goals last season, can make the transition to elite level. If he can then I shall order a large helping of humble pie in advance.
Last season – 13th
This season – 20th
Where do you even start? Where will this all end?
Rafael Benitez, predictably, has gone and Steve Bruce finally becomes Newcastle United manager in a blizzard of discontent from supporters who, contrary to belief, do not want too much – just a little of what they genuinely deserve.
Bruce is experienced and a realist. He will know he must make a big early impression or this has the potential to be a very miserable existence for the Toon Army under the continued ownership of Mike Ashley.
Joelinton, a club record signing at £40m from Hoffenheim, steps into the spaces vacated by Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon. He carries a huge burden, while French winger Allan Saint-Maximin, a £16.5m signing from Nice, will be the man Bruce hopes can be the provider.
When will the torture end for Newcastle’s supporters? It may get worse before it gets better.
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