With the transfer window open and teams still set to strengthen their hands we try and predict how the Premier League table will look next May.
How will the Premier League table look on May 13?
Matt Briggs: All the signs are that this season’s title race will be closer than ever.
Liverpool have strengthened their forward line with Mo Salah, who has already shown he has enough in his locker to be a hit second time around in the Premier League. They still have Philippe Coutinho and if Jurgen Klopp can add a centre-back they will be hopeful of a top-four finish, but it will ultimately prove too difficult.
There are too many other good sides around and Arsenal, who have made a shrewd acquisition in the signing of Sead Kolasinac and splashed the cash on Alexandre Lacazette are also set to miss out.
Last season’s champions Chelsea are set to lose Diego Costa and Alavro Morata has looked way short of Costa’s standards to date, while Antonio Conte is desperate to add to his threadbare backline after losing John Terry and Kurt Zouma. Antonio Rudiger should serve them well but they do look short of numbers and fourth is the best they can hope for with Champions League football added into their schedule.
Man City have spent heavily on full-backs, who will most definitely make them more competitive, while the guile of new boy Bernardo Silva, plus Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Leroy Sane should see them go well, but I think there will be two better teams.
Manchester United have undoubtedly strengthened their hand with Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic arriving. Those two are likely to thrive at Old Trafford, but Victor Lindelof may not be the answer to their centre-back problems. Still, I’m expecting Eric Bailly to step up a gear this season and Paul Pogba has looked the part in pre-season and threatens to take the league by storm. If Zlatan Ibrahimovic is added to their squad again in January, I think they will take some stopping, but I think one team may finish above them.
And I’m going to stick my neck out and go for Tottenham. Mauricio Pochettino’s men have been the model of consistency over the last two seasons and they are far and away ahead of their rivals if you collate their points from the last two campaigns.
They have not added to their squad, but have only lost Kyle Walker, who arguably would have struggled to get in ahead of Kieran Trippier anyway.
Moving to Wembley may well prove to be a stumbling block, but there defeats there last season in the Champions League were hardly by pub teams. Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen turned them over at the Arch and I think too much has been made of their ‘hoodoo’. Pochettino will have their mindset correct and I think they will deal with the move and finally win the title they should have done in 2015/16.
At the bottom it’s hard to ignore the new boys. Brighton’s new signings are few and far between and unlikely to see them survive. Huddersfield on the other hand have approached the league with signing after signing, but it’s difficult to them all bedding in together and making sufficient impact to see them stay up.
Burnley may well be the other casualties after a pretty quiet summer. New boys Jack Cork, Jon Walters, Phil Bardsley and Charlie Taylor are unlikely to be enough to see them get anywhere near last season’s amazing 16th-placed finish.
Stoke and Swansea also look set for a season of struggle, but may just escape the drop.
2. Man Utd
3. Man City
9. West Ham
12. Crystal Palace
13. West Brom
James Marshment: I may have agreed with the assessment about Spurs being contenders but for two pretty major factors.
Firstly, their lack of recruitment this summer (at the time of writing) is a concern. For all the good that Mauricio Pochettino has done at Spurs, they’re still unable to attract the true top-drawer players that the teams they are competing against all can. Don’t get me wrong, I love what Pochettino has achieved, but Daniel Levy’s frugality means they just won’t splash out £50m / £60m on one player like all their rivals seemingly will. Then there’s also the wages factor. If they have a £100,000 a week ceiling, they’re always going to always be looking at those second drawer players.
Secondly, I also think the move away from Wembley cannot be overlooked. But rather than the act of playing under the Arch being the problem, I think the actual issue is their leaving of their White Hart Lane fortress. They were immense there last season and you simply cannot transfer that form to another stadium, be that Wembley, the Nou Camp or Clapham Common!
With all that in mind, I actually think they’ll be hard pressed to finish in the top four again, let alone win the league.
Instead, my money is on Manchester City, who have done exactly what they needed to and reinforced their major Achilles heel in their defence. Kyle Walker will be an instant success, while Ben Mendy should also effortlessly slot in on the left.
I also believe (or foolishly hope) John Stones might finally find his feet in this City defence this season and his pre-season form, at least, has been good. The new keeper could well prove a tad dodgy though…. if he isn’t a letdown, it could be their year because their midfield and attacking options look ridiculously strong.
As for the major challengers, I can see Man Utd vastly improving and I find myself agreeing with Jose Mourinho in that having five teams in the Champions League will be a major leveller this season.
Chelsea again won’t be far away, while Liverpool’s attack should ensure a top-four finish can be matched. They will need to close the gap to the top though and show signs that Jurgen Klopp is making further improvements.
As for the other end, Huddersfield are everyone’s favourites to go down, but I’ve (stupidly!) tipped them to finish in the dizzy heights of 13th. I think the Premier League is really weak as a product right now, especially beyond the top seven, with many of the teams much of a muchness – despite what Sky might tell you!
David Wagner is a clever guy and they’ve bought well so far. I don’t think they have much to fear and if they can copy the Burnley model of being solid at home and anything else being a bonus, then they’ll have little trouble. Easier said than done though, right!
Instead, I’m going to go with Swansea to finish bottom because without Gylfi Sigurdsson, I don’t think this team is anything. Brighton and Burnley to join them, for me, with Watford just about surviving.
1 Man City
2 Man Utd
8 West Ham
11 West Brom
15 Crystal Palace
Rob McCarthy: Boy this season is tough to predict, especially when you are trying to nail the hole table before the transfer window has closed, but I really think we are in for an enthralling title race in what is the 25th season of Premier League football.
The top six could are all pretty much interchangeable but I like what City have done in the transfer market so far and their firepower looks incredible. If Pep can sort out their defensive issues, which mainly consists of Vincent Kompany staying fit for the majority of the campaign, then it will be their title come May.
Chelsea will not give up their crown easily, however, and I can see it going down to the final couple of weeks of the season.
The key for Antonio Conte’s men is how quickly Alvaro Morata settles into life in the Premier League and although he won’t be the physical force that Diego Costa is, Morata will bring Chelsea’s playmakers into the game more and there should be a fairly even spread of goals across that attack.
Manchester United will certainly be more of a threat this season with Romelu Lukaku leading the line and if they signed Gareth Bale (a possibility at the time of writing) then I would have them in top spot ahead of City. But I can only discuss how their team looks right now and I expect Paul Pogba to really flourish with more help around him and someone leading the line who he seems to have a strong relationship with.
Now if Tottenham had been playing at White Hart Lane and not Wembley this season then they would have been my pick to finish top.
Having finished 3rd and then 2nd last year, the natural progression would have been to snatch top spot this time around – particularly when everyone else around them is spending millions to improve their first X1, something Spurs do not really have to do.
The Wembley factor is too big an issue for them to overcome, especially given last season’s troubles playing there, and dropped points at home will ultimately cost them. Having said that I genuinely think that just making the top four would be a fantastic achievement for Maurcio Pochettino’s men, given they have no real home advantage to speak of.
Liverpool have pace in abundance and can counter attack teams to death but I believe they will still struggle to break down teams that ‘park the bus’, while there is still some defensive fragility there that makes me think they will miss out on the top four. I do, however, expect them to go well in the Champions League (should they get through qualifying) and predict that they could get the latter stages of that competition and cause some shocks along the way.
Arsenal have more firepower after bringing in Alexandre Lacazette but their many issue remains the man in charge. They should have ditched Arsene Wenger at the end of last season and I have a feeling this WILL be his last in charge – probably after winning the FA Cup again!
Down at the bottom there will be a real scrap to avoid the drop but I believe that Brighton, Watford and Huddersfield will ultimately slide into the Championship.
I’m a big admirer of what Chris Hughton has done with the Seagulls but The Amex will be a lovely ground to visit down on the coast and I can see Brighton really struggling to make it the fortress they need to pick up enough home points, while Watford were only saved last season because Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Hull were so bad.
Huddersfield will provide the odd shock result at the John Smith’s but a lack of real quality will likely prove to be their downfall.
1. Man City
3. Man Utd
8. West Ham
10. Crystal Palace
14. West Brom
Ross Gibson: Although the chasing pack have strengthened impressively, the two Manchester clubs in particular, I feel that Chelsea have every chance of retaining the title. The signing of Antonio Rudiger will provide good competition for Gary Cahill and David Luiz, whilst the signing of Alvaro Morata come prove an astute replacement for Diego Costa, should he leave as expected.
Manchester City have spent massive amounts to improve their defence, and themselves and their city rivals will certainly be there or thereabouts.
Spurs could find life a little difficult at home this season, after such an incredible final year at White Hart Lane. The move to Wembley may mean teams who haven’t played there often step up their game on the hallowed turf. That combined with the fact that Spurs have had a poor transfer window so far, making no signings, and are also rumoured to potentially lose star players like Dele Alli and Eric Dier, having already lost Kyle Walker to City – all doesn’t bode well.
Two of Liverpool’s summer signings, Dom Solanke and Mohamed Salah, have been in fine form in pre-season, and could bring plenty to the attacking side of the team. Liverpool’s title hopes, however, could be severely damaged if Philippe Coutinho does make his move to Barcelona.
Arsenal looked impressive against Chelsea in the Community Shield, but they are also rumoured to lose a key player in Alexis Sanchez. It could be a struggle for the Gunners to keep the pace with some of the sides above them over the course of the season, but if new signing Alexandre Lacazette hits the ground running, they still have every chance.
At the other end, Swansea look set to lose Sigurdsson, and with the Iceland international so heavily involved in so many of the Swans goals last year, once that is removed you can only see them struggling.
Burnley could surprise me, like they have done before, but the loss of Michael Keane will hurt the defence, and this may be the season they bow out of the Premier League.
Most people have already written off Huddersfield, but the Terriers’ summer signings have been quite impressive, and I am yet to see anything to prove me wrong in my thinking that Brighton will have a poor season. There is still plenty of time to change that though in the transfer window.
2 Manchester City
3 Manchester United
8 West Ham
13 West Brom
15 Crystal Palace
Dan Wilkinson: We are closing in on another tantalising season of Premier League football guaranteed to provide plenty of ups and downs. Therefore, it is natural that every football fan in the world tries to second guess what the most unpredictable league in the world has in store for us.
The blue and red of Manchester have once again blitzed the transfer market. City have splashed their cash on continental class in Bernardo Silva and Benjamin Mendy. Whilst, United have backed proven Prem star, Romelu Lukaku, to fire them up the table.
Liverpool and Arsenal have also added great attacking quality to their squads – none less than £36.8m on Roma’s Mohamed Salah and £52m on super striker Alexandre Lacazette. Whilst Tottenham seem happy to rely upon their extremely-talented youngsters Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Harry Kane.
Nevertheless, it is Chelsea that will come out on top this year. Why? They possess an invaluable advantage. Stability. They have retained much of the 2017 title winning XI who will no doubt start quickest out of the blocks.
It is not so much Chelsea’s quality that will lead them to retaining the title, but the difficulties that the other obvious contenders must face.
The multitude of signings at the two Manchester clubs will lead to slow starts to the season as the teams attempt to gel. Additionally, even managers as gifted as Mourinho and Guardiola may struggle to deal with the egos in both dressing rooms. Expect bust-ups, drama and madness resulting in frustration.
If it not for Tottenham being Wembley-bound this season, they may have been the predicted champions of 2018. However, they have only won two of their last 10 at the prestigious arena and it is for that reason alone I think they’s suffer a downturn. The inevitable dropped points at home -unheard of last season –will halt their title challenge. Therefore, it is difficult to see past a 3rd or 4th placed finish.
Finally, Liverpool and Arsenal both lack what is intrinsic to a serious title challenging XI. A back four. Or back three nowadays. There is no doubt that they will both produce some mouth-watering attacking displays this year, but ultimately their capacity to leak goals will see them miss out on the Champions League spots. It may not be too long until we hear the infamous cry of ‘Wenger out’ ringing around The Emirates.
Switching our attention to the bottom half of the table, it appears that newly-promoted sides Brighton and Huddersfield may struggle. They will undoubtedly bravely battle for every point against the Premier league’s finest. However, this may not be enough in what is likely to be a very competitive season.
Joining these two clubs appears to be a toss-up between Swansea, Crystal Palace and Burnley.
Swansea have handled the Sigurdsson transfer poorly and will have little time to replace their talisman should the deal go through. With goals being sparse, should Llorente not produce more heroics for The Swans this season.
Palace have a new manager in Frank de Boer. A great player and successful manager at Ajax. However, it may prove a difficult transition into the Premier League for the Dutch legend. Especially at a club with a tendency capitulate such as Palace.
Finally, despite the great work that Sean Dyche has done at Burnley, it is likely to be a difficult season for the Clarets. They are limited to a tight budget and therefore cannot convincingly compete in the modern day transfer market. Dyche’s shrewd work bringing in proven quality such as John Walters may just keep them afloat but it will be a long hard season for Burnley.
2 Manchester City
4 Man Utd
10 West Brom
11 West Ham
16 Crystal Palace