PL predictions: Pep & Aguero to inspire City; Liverpool unfancied

Date published: Thursday 11th August 2016 10:52 - Rob Conlon

With the Premier League getting back underway on Saturday, we get ready to embarrass ourselves once more and discuss the likely successes and failures of the next 10 months….

Use the story comment facility below or have Your Say to state your predictions…

Who will win the league?

Ian: If the transfer window had just closed then I’d say Manchester United. They’ve upgraded their manager and squad far more convincingly than anyone else. Jose Mourinho will drive on his new squad on while boiling enough p*ss outside of Old Trafford to remind United fans of the Fergie era. On the pitch, Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic can set the league alight. City look like being their closest rivals but Guardiola might need a year or so to teach the finer points of tiki-taka to the likes of Fabian Delph and Raheem Sterling. Chelsea still have plenty to do in the transfer market, as do Arsenal, but I wouldn’t rely on Arsene Wenger to do the necessary recruitment. Ask me again on September 1.

Michael: It’s tough to look past Manchester City, I think. I don’t think that Pep Guardiola himself is a guarantee of success, but he’s walking into a squad boasting what you’d consider archetypal Guardiola players in the likes of David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne. They will create chances galore and I think ultimately they’ll just have too much goal power to be stopped.

Rob: The story of the season is going to be in Manchester, where City and United could compete in one of the most entertaining title races for years. I’m going to tip Jedi master Pep Guardiola to get the better of the Premier League’s very own Darth Vader, Jose Mourinho.

Mark: I think the value is with Chelsea this season. There is no way Chelsea’s galaxy of stars can have another disastrous season and with Antonio Conte at the helm, there will no hiding place for any of them. With no European football on their agenda, the Blues can have a clearer run at the title compared to their rivals. However, I would still like to see them strengthen their defence before the window closes to ensure they are fully-prepared for the campaign ahead.

Oli: On paper, this should be a battle of the two Manchester clubs to see who will come out on top. I think at the moment United have the better team, but of course there is time for City to make more additions yet, and their squad as a whole looks very strong. I’m going to say Pep might make the difference here while Mourinho’s mega signings will perhaps take time to gel, so I think it will be the Blue half celebrating come May.

Pep Guardiola: Backed to win the league with Man City


And who, in order, will make up the rest of the top four?

Michael: I’ll back Chelsea to finish second. Antonio Conte is a brilliant appointment and he should get them very efficient very quickly. Manchester United will win the Premier League before Jose Mourinho is done with them, but I suspect it’ll be too early for them this time and they’ll have to settle for third. Arsenal to finish fourth because, well, Arsenal.

Rob: Manchester United will finish as runners-up to City. Chelsea will end the season in third, as things stand they are still a couple of players short of a sustained title challenge. I’ll back Tottenham to finish fourth as they were so impressive last season, but as Michael says, we all know Arsenal will pip them to it.

Oli: United will be runners-up to City I think, with Chelsea not too far behind them. Antonio Conte has proven that he can make the most of the squad he’s got, and the Blues have a whole host of talent for the Italian to deploy. As for fourth place, I really want to be bold and say this is the season where Arsenal fall apart, but we all know the Gunners will sneak in somehow!

Mark: I also have Manchester United as runners-up with their arch-rivals in third. The Red Devils have lacked edge and character since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, but with Jose Mourinho at the helm and Zlatan Ibrahimovic spearheading the attack I think they will have their mojo back. Guardiola has the most challenging job in his career so far and I think he will another summer transfer window before we really get to see the fruits of the Spaniard’s labour. Arsenal will finish fourth.

Ian: United, City, Chelsea, Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp is brewing something at Anfield and I’m quite certain they can achieve fourth, or perhaps third. Arsenal need two more players but I’d still struggle to see them out-performing Chelsea.

Antonio Conte: Manager targeting Premier League title


At the other end, who is going down?

Rob: Hull could make a good fist of recording the lowest points total with the club in total disarray, while Burnley will be described as “brave” a lot but have once more failed to add enough sufficient quality. Bournemouth’s lack of experience is a worry, but I’m going to opt for Watford to complete the trio. The Hornets endured a terrible second half of last season and Walter Mazzarri appears somewhat erratic.

Ian: Hull have had a shocker of a pre-season and I don’t envisage things getting any better for them any time soon. Swansea don’t appear to have heeded the warning they received last season, while Watford look a little too complacent after their creditable campaign. If I had to pick a bottom-three dweller between them and Burnley… er… Watford.

Michael: Ah, now, an appropriate question for the expertise and experience of a Sunderland supporter. Let’s see. Well Hull have had pretty much as bad a season preparation as you can get, haven’t they. Manager walking out, no signings, losing players they want to keep, really, it’s been wretched for them. I think Burnley are a decent side but over the course of a season they may come up short again.

The final spot is tough to predict, and I could make cases for Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and Swansea, but I’m going to go for Watford. They were heavily reliant on Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney last season and I think Nathan Ake is a big loss to them. Much will depend of how well Walter Mazzarri gets to grips with the Premier League, but I have to pick someone so it’ll be them.

Oli: Hull are beginning to look condemned already to relegation with a disastrous summer that has seen all their progress dismantled. It was always going to be difficult, but now the odds are stacked well against them, and I back them to be bottom. I can also see Burnley returning to the Championship, though Andre Gray could have a say in that. Watford meanwhile may feel the effect of a shocking second half to last season, and Mazzarri could flop big time, so the Hornets are my third pick.

Mark: I’m trying to find one positive for Hull City ahead of the new season but I am probably more likely to find Narnia at the back of my wardrobe before I do. They are doomed. Burnley will make firmly establish themselves as the new yo-yo club and the third club for the drop is giving me a headache. My tentative selection is Sunderland, whose poor preparation (through no fault of their own I may add) could leave them playing catch-up in the second-half of the season.


Who will overachieve and who will underachieve?

Ian: I have no idea what to expect from Everton – they could easily fall into either category. At least one of the promoted trio tends to overachieve and that could be Middlesbrough. I think Tottenham might struggle to match last season’s achievements.

Michael: Underachievement is an easy pick. I don’t predict doom and gloom for Leicester, but in the context of being defending Champions, I think anywhere outside the top six or seven will be underachievement and that’s where they will finish.

For me, Middlesbrough have bought well and have a good manager there, and I can see them surprising many. They won’t pull up any trees, but I’m expecting a very respectable campaign from them.

Mark: I’m particularly sweet on Middlesbrough, too. Their solid Spanish contingent can guide them toward a similar season to Watford had last year. As for the underachievers? I’ll go for Crystal Palace. I am not convinced in the slightest that Alan Pardew can turn them into a team capable of European qualification which should be the target for them.

Rob: Ronald Koeman had Southampton consistently punching above their weight and I think he will do the same with Everton, who are bound to bring in a couple of more signings before the end of the window. Despite their takeover, the Toffees have gone slightly under the radar as yet but I expect them to be back among the Europa League.

The loss of Koeman will see Saints fall back to mid-table or perhaps even lower. This will be the season where they fail to sufficiently replace the key players – and manager – they lost. Their lack of goals without Mane or Pelle is a worry. Likewise, West Ham have had a busy transfer window without adding any particular star quality, which could see them be overtaken by the likes of Everton.

Oli: Middlesbrough have done good business and I can see them finishing comfortably above the bottom three, which would be great progress for a side that has struggled to get out of the second tier for so long. Look for Everton to rebound too under Ronald Koeman – the Dutchman worked minor miracles with Southampton and the Toffees look like they have money to burn.

In terms of underachievers, I think it will be difficult for Spurs to match what they did last season, and they could slip a few places. Otherwise, my gut feeling says West Ham might find their stadium move more of a bump in the road that initially thought, and I wouldn’t put a bottom-half finish beyond them.

Ronald Koeman Everton


Who will be top scorer?

Michael: As I mentioned before, I think Manchester City will create masses of chances under Guardiola and Aguero will be the main beneficiary. The Golden Boot will be his.

Oli: Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He has shown that he can score goals in every country he has been, and coming off the back of his best season for PSG, Zlatan will have no problem coping with the physicality of the Premier League. Plus, he will have Martial, Pogba, Rooney and Mkhitaryan all feeding him.

Rob: If Sergio Aguero can stay fit then he could break the 30-goal barrier. If he continues to pick up niggling injuries then the door could open for Diego Costa, who showed signs of returning to his s***housing best (a compliment) in the second half of last season.

Mark: To avoid a complete Aguero love-in, I’ll opt for Everton (or Chelsea’s!) Romelu Lukaku. He has four solid Premier League campaigns under his belt now and this is definitely his year to break the 20-goal mark and beyond. 60 goals in 149 Premier League games is a phenomenal record for a 23-year-old.

Ian: I’d like to suggest someone other than Aguero but I’d only be being contrary for the sake of it.

Sergio Aguero Manchester City 1


Which manager will be sacked first?

Oli: Walter Mazzarri is the stand out, so I will say him. Watford could be looking down rather than up this season as I’ve mentioned, and the pressure might just be too much for the Italian. Otherwise, look to West Brom and their new ownership to have a serious think about whether Tony Pulis is the man for them…

Michael: Well, I’m going to go for someone how hasn’t even been appointed yet. At the time of writing, Hull have no manager. Whoever gets the job will be first out. The Tigers’ owners seem easily bonkers enough to do something like that.

Rob: Francesco Guidolin’s future was up in the air towards end of last season with Swansea cavorting Brendan Rodgers, and having lost Andre Ayew and Ashley Williams the Welsh club’s prospects look bleak. If Fernando Llorente and Borja Baston fail to hit the ground running then the Italy could be an early casualty.

Mark: Walter Mazzarri is a bit of a risky appointment by Watford’s owners. He has a tough act to follow in Quique Sanches Flores and had been out of work for a while following his sacking by Inter Milan in 2014. Is he the man to deliver on the owners’ lofty ambitions. I doubt it.

Ian: Mazzarri and Guidolin are obvious candidates, but I have a nagging feeling about Mark Hughes at Stoke. I’ve absolutely no confidence in David Moyes at Sunderland but I can’t see them getting shot of the Scot quite so quickly. And then there’s Tony Pulis. West Brom’s new Chinese owners may decide that they want their own man in, and Pulis is not a man to stick around if he senses he’s not wanted. Having skirted around a quarter of the Premier League managers, I’ll say Pulis will go first.

Tony Pulis West Brom


Of the players signed so far, which one will enjoy the most success?

Rob: John Stones has the attitude and attributes to thrive at a top club, despite his numerous critics. Jerome Boateng became one of the world’s best defenders under Pep Guardiola and I think Stones can do the same. Also a shout for Bournemouth’s Lewis Cook, who is a supremely talented youngster and is already battle hardened after two years in the Championship with Leeds, where he consistently stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Mark: I’ll avoid the obvious and sniff out a bit of value for money. I really like West Ham’s capture of Sofiane Feghouli from Valencia on a free transfer. At 26 he is entering into the peak of his career and has more than enough ability to nail down the Hammers’ right flank this season. He creates plenty of goal-scoring opportunities and has already hit the ground running during pre-season by finding the back of the net twice.

Ian: I’ve no shame, so I will focus on the obvious – Paul Pogba. He’s £89million for a reason: he’s a brilliant footballer, and exactly the type United have so badly lacked. And N’Golo Kante can’t fail at Chelsea.

Michael: It’s tough to comparatively define the term ‘success’, but I think Eric Bailly has all the hallmarks to really make his mark at Manchester United. He looks to have all the tools he’ll ever require and Mourinho’s tactics always rend to help defenders shine. When you look at the kind of money thrown around this summer, I think he’ll be right up there in terms of top signings.

Oli: I’ve already picked Zlatan to be top goalscorer, so technically it should be him! But I can also see another couple of United additions impressing mightily – namely Mkhitaryan and Bailly. The former will cause defenders havoc with being the double threat of goals and assists, while the latter is the defender that United have been craving.

Paul Pogba: Midfielder has returned to Manchester United


And which signing is going to prove the biggest failure?

Mark: Failure is probably a bit too strong a word to use but I do think Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi is overpriced at £33.2m. He will struggle to justify that price tag, even more so with Diego Costa set to be the main man this season.

Michael: Although I think he’s an exceptionally talented player, I do worry about Georginio Wijnaldum at Liverpool. I’m really not sure he has the energy or desire for Jurgen Klopp’s high-intensity pressing game and he may fall out of favour quite quickly.

Oli: I’m with Mark on this; I think Batshuayi, although talented, is not quite worth his price tag, and that will weigh on him if the goals dry up. He’s also not guaranteed a starting spot, which makes things difficult.

Rob: Henrikh Mkhitarayan is an undoubtedly classy player, but he could be the victim of Wayne Rooney getting shoehorned into the Manchester United side. It was strange to see Jesse Lingard and then Juan Mata be given a chance on the right wing ahead of the former Borussia Dortmund man in the Community Shield.

Ian: I also worry a bit about Mkhitaryan. It seems like it’s him or Rooney for the No.10 role and that’s the captain’s to lose, despite his first touch seemingly getting worse. Fernando Llorente has had a stinking couple of years and I can’t see that changing at Swansea.

Georginio Wijnaldum: Vows to score 10 for Liverpool

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