Here we are again, everyone's favourite piece of the year - to read back in May.
With the new season so close now, a group of VAVEL UK writers gathered together to make some predictions ahead of the 2017/18 Premier League season.
In recent years we've had Leicester City win the league after being tipped for relegation, and Memphis Depay flop like a fish out of water after one of our writers predicted that he'd be the best newcomer.
Oliver Emmerson, Alex Turk, Chris Lincoln, Aaron Stokes, Charlie Malam and Danial Kennedy all put their heads on the line with their forecasts for the new season, and here they are.
Starting off with number one, league winners?
Chris Lincoln (CL): Manchester City - I think this will be the season Pep gets an extremely talented set of players working in tandem at Man City. They have sheer quality all across the pitch, along with a strong squad depth, and if they click together the title could be heading back to Manchester.
Alex Turk (AT): Manchester City - I'm jumping on the bandwagon and going with Manchester City. Chelsea would be my pick if they had greater depth and didn't alienate key players like Nemanja Matić and Diego Costa, but I just can't see past Guardiola in his second season in England. City's attack was dangerous enough anyway last season, but is now terrifying with the addition of Bernardo Silva and potential arrival of Alexis Sánchez from Arsenal. The full-back positions have been completely rejuvenated over the summer so we'll be seeing more of the style the manager is wanting to play, and that style should take a third Premier League title to the Etihad Stadium.
Oliver Emmerson (OE): Manchester City - Any of the top six could win the league, for wholly different reasons. I'm backing City as once their new signing's settle, I think the defensive side of things will get a little better and they can sweep their way to the league due to their array of talent going forward.
Charlie Malam (CM): Manchester City - For the second successive year I’m saying City. I’m expecting a closer title tussle this year but City’s summer strengthening, and that they have shed many of their older, declining players - should allow Pep Guardiola to get them playing to his vision. That, I think, will be just enough to see off the close challenge of Manchester United and Chelsea.
Aaron Stokes (AS): Manchester City - The league is tougher than ever to call this year but I think Manchester City look the best squad on paper. They have improved their defence, which has let them down over the last few years, and the attacking options they have signed make them look like a real force. I can’t see Manchester United getting anywhere near them this year.
Danial Kennedy (DK): Manchester City - Pep Guardiola will have been disappointed that he missed out on silverware during his first season at the Etihad Stadium, and the coach won’t be looking for a repeat this time around. Guardiola has spent big in the transfer window and with the players they already have I feel it is too much to beat.
Who'll round out the top four?
CL: Chelsea, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur - Chelsea should be pushing for the title again but I think a lack of alternative options in their squad could let them down with extra fixtures due to their Champions League commitments.
Manchester United should improve under Jose Mourinho and I can see them breaking back into the top four but unable to challenge the two sides in blue. Tottenham Hotspur have kept with the same players that have pushed the eventual champions all the way in the last two seasons, but a lack of new signings to strengthen their squad could see them slip to fourth. Liverpool and Arsenal to just miss out due to leaky defences in both squads.
AT: Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Chelsea - In second I have Spurs, based on how I think they'll suffer another early European exit meaning a lot less games to play. The squad is still incredibly strong despite no new signings, and I don't think Kyle Walker will be hugely missed, so they're on course for another respectable finish in my eyes.
Manchester United are my pick for third place. The Red Devils probably would've finished in a similar position last term if more chances were taken, because the same amount were created than teams like Liverpool and Spurs but just lacked that clinical touch in the final third.
Finally, I think it'll be reigning champions Chelsea who take the final Champions League place. The fact that Antonio Conte's squad only contains 26 players is seriously worrying, and will be there downfall this season. The re-introduction on European football will increase the number of games needing to be played and the time in between each, and things can deteriorate pretty quickly when fatigue starts to kick-in. I think the starting players they have are too good for them to slip out of the top four, but this season will serve as a clear reminder to Roman Abramovich about how to manage a squad properly.
OE: Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United - Chelsea won't quite have enough to retain their title after a disappointing transfer window, but Antonio Conte is their real magician, he'll keep them in a good position. Liverpool are simply going to score too many goals not to get into the top four, they've added Mohamed Salah to one of the Premier League's most potent attacks, whilst I'm backing Romelu Lukaku to deliver the goals that see United back into the top four.
CM: Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur - I think United, with José Mourinho's typical second season success, will finish second very close behind title-winners City. Álvaro Morata won’t be able to match Diego Costa’s consistency for crucial goals, leaving Chelsea slightly further behind in third. In fourth, I’ll back Tottenham Hotspur to narrowly pip an improved Arsenal (dependent on Alexis Sánchez's future) to fourth despite their temporary move to Wembley, with Liverpool dropping to sixth, a substandard defence once again their main downfall.
AS: Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur - The top four is another tough one to call. Arsenal don't seem to have strengthened enough at present and as mentioned, I can’t see United challenging with the signings they have added so far. Spurs have a massive contingent of talented English players, Chelsea have the wisdom of Antonio Conte and Liverpool have brought in some top players. Those three to join City in the Champions League spots.
DK: Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur - It looks to be a Manchester themed title race this season, but I think that the red side will be pipped to the post by their bitter rivals but second will be a massive improvement on the last few campaigns. The rest of the top four will belong to North London with Arsenal coming back in depending on if there star players will remain at the Emirates Stadium, Spurs haven’t made any singing's just yet but they have enough quality already to keep their place in the Champions League status.
Who do you see being relegated?
CL: Huddersfield, Brighton, Burnley - Huddersfield and Brighton look certainties for relegation after their shock promotions. The third spot is a tough one to call as Crystal Palace under De Boer and Swansea keeping hold of Gylfi Sigurdsson should both be stronger. Burnley look favourites to finish 18th for me unless they can find a replacement for Michael Keane in defence.
AT: Brighton, Huddersfield, Burnley - It's written in the stars that Brighton will be finishing rock bottom of the Premier League this season. A disappointing amount of intent has been shown throughout the transfer window and I simply don't think they have players that are capable of remaining in the top flight for more than one season.
I've got Huddersfield to finish 19th. The Terriers have looked good in pre-season and have done some terrific transfer business, but from being the fifth best team in the second tier of English football last season to finishing above at least three other Premier League teams this term just doesn't seem realistic from where I'm standing.
I can see the gap between 18th and 15th being extremely tight this year, but I'm expecting Burnley to narrowly fail to escape the drop. They were impressive in 16/17, but after losing key men like Michael Keane and Andre Gray without really signing replacement I can see them being relegated on the final day.
OE: Brighton, Burnley, Huddersfield - A slightly different order to those above as I think Huddersfield will edge closer to survival than many think, but I worry for all these teams. Huddersfield nor Brighton don't look paritcularly strong, whilst Burnley have lost key men in Gray and Keane. If I was a Stoke City fan, a bad start would leave me worried.
CM: Swansea, Burnley, Brighton - I like Paul Clement but I think Gylfi Sigurdsson’s eventual departure will hurt Swansea too much and they’ll go down as a result. Joining them I think will be new-comers Brighton & Hove Albion and an Andre Gray-less Burnley, both suffering from a lack of goals and creativity. I believe Huddersfield Town will narrowly stave off the drop but Stoke City might find themselves nearer to the bottom three than ever before. The ongoing politics at Newcastle United, and lack of signings, means they might be in the thick of it too.
AS: Huddersfield, Burnley, Swansea - I can’t see new boys Huddersfield Town fairing too well in the big time. I also think Burnley may have had their time in the top flight. The final position is harder to call. Swansea City will be hugely affected if Gylfi Sigurdsson leaves and I feel they may not be able to recover.
DK: Huddersfield, Brighton, Stoke - The first season in the Premier League for Brighton and Huddersfield could prove to be a one-time occasion, they both have signed well and in numbers but I feel that lack of top-flight experience could prove to cost them. Stoke City have been one of the staples of the top-flight for the last decade but I do believe that their time could be up, Mark Hughes hasn’t really invested in his squad and having lost their main goal scorer Marko Arnautović and if they fail to spend the money they got for Austrian they could struggle.
A surprise package, to upset the odds?
CL: Everton - Everton have made some shrewd signings and could push for a top six spot despite losing Romelu Lukaku to Man United.
AT: Everton - I think Everton are going to surprise a lot of people this season, but in a bad way. Yes they've made good additions, but have relied heavily on Romelu Lukaku for goals in recent history and the players they've brought in will get no where near last season's tally anytime soon. Sandro Ramirez looks a huge talent, but whether he'll be able to instantly perform in such a demanding league in comparison to La Liga is yet to be seen. Wayne Rooney's grand return is nice, but if you took his reputation away he's not much of an upgrade on Ross Barkley if one at all. So many fans are predicting Everton to finish 7th and maybe even push into the top six, but I honestly can see them finishing lower if all these new signings don't show up.
OE: Newcastle United - I'm a huge fan of Rafa Benitez and his work, firmly of the belief that in the right circumstances (Valencia, Liverpool, Newcastle), he can deliver great things for a club. I wouldn't be surprised to see the newly promoted Toon finish in the top half, maybe even accompanying that with a cup run.
CM: Crystal Palace - It will take time for de Boer’s methods to fully but I think keeping Wilfried Zaha is pivotal, while the arrivals of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Jaïro Riedewald are likewise positive. If they click and play to their potential, they'll be challenging for a top-half finish I think.
AS: Chris Hughton's Brighton - One of the new boys could cause a shock or two. Chris Hughton is a hugely under-rated manager, with valuable Premier League experience. Although they haven’t got a great squad on paper, I feel the likes of Anthony Knockeart and Davy Propper, coupled with the excitement of playing top flight football can carry them to a mid-table finish.
DK: West Ham United - West Ham disappointed many last season especially after their excellent final season at Upton Park, but despite their generally poor campaign they finished just one point off eighth. Fans have been crying out for The Hammers to spend money and they haven’t disappointed adding the attacking options of Arnautović and Javier Hernández and if they can hit the ground running it could be one to remember.
Onto the players, who will win Player of the Season?
CL: Paul Pogba - This is the year for Paul Pogba. After a season settling back into Manchester, I think the midfielder will come to life with an element of pressure lifted off his shoulders. He showed glimpses of his talent last season and looks like he could forge an exciting partnership with Lukaku if their off-field relationship is anything to go by.
AT: Kevin de Bruyne - De Bruyne is the focal point of the most exciting attack in the division at Manchester City, and I think he'll be right in the middle of their title winning campaign. If he avoids injuries, 15+ goals and 15+ assists can definitely be achieved in my eyes and that should be enough to claim the coveted individual award. Other players expected to impress include Kane, Alli, Pogba, Lukaku, Sanchez and others, but for me it's the Belgian's to lose.
OE: Philippe Coutinho - I've said Kevin de Bruyne for the last two years and he always leaves me wanting a little more. Assuming Coutinho stays, I'm backing him to elevate his game even further in a deeper role. With the talent of Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, plus new signing Salah ahead of him, Coutinho could have a season to remember.
CM: Harry Kane - Just edging out Kevin De Bruyne to win this award, I think Kane will win the Golden Boot given his remarkable consistency in front of goal. Doing so would see him win the gong for the third straight season, becoming only the third player in the Premier League era to do so after Thierry Henry (2003-2006) and Alan Shearer (1994-1997). It’d take some doing for another player to outdo that, though De Bruyne is capable. Paul Pogba will have a fine season too.
AS: Sergio Aguero - Despite rumours of him exiting the club this summer, Sergio Aguero will have a fantastic support team feeding him this campaign. It wouldn’t be hard to see the Argentine scoring 20+ goals for City this season with the likes of Silva, De Bruyne, Silva, Sterling and Gundogan setting chances up on a plate for him.
DK: Kevin de Bruyne - With the amount of quality that Guardiola has at his fingertips it is difficult to pick out an individual but I feel that the season could belong to De Bruyne. The Belgian has been consistently brilliant since arriving from Germany, he has been excellent in pre-season and if he continues on that form it could be a special one for the 26-year-old.
How about the best new signing?
CL: Alexandre Lacazette - The Frenchman has a proven track record of scoring goals in Ligue 1 and I don't think he will disappoint at the Emirates this season. If Alexis Sanchez stays, the pair could form an exciting partnership in an Arsenal team that is running short of World class players these days.
AT: Marco Silva - If the ex-Hull City manager hadn't taken over at Vicarage Road in the summer I'd be seriously tipping Watford for relegation, maybe even more so than Huddersfield Town. The signings he's made have been exciting, and definitely worthy of safety, but I still think they'll find themselves in a tough battle to avoid the drop. 14th or 15th is where I'm expecting Silva to finish in his first season in charge, which I'm sure everyone linked with Watford will take.
OE: Bernardo Silva - Given what he's done for the club, it wouldn't be ridiculous to say that David Silva is the finest player in Manchester City's history. He's getting old though, and I think they've replaced him perfectly with his namesake, who showed last season for AS Monaco the sublime skill-set I expect him to bring to the Premier League.
CM: Mohamed Salah - Having said Dmitri Payet in 2015-16 and Zlatan Ibrahimović last year, I feel like I’ve got a streak to maintain here. I’m going for Liverpool new boy Mohamed Salah, for his pace and end product. With the front-line he helps form with Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané, I think he’ll push for double figures in goals and assists. I do think Sandro Ramirez at Everton, Kelechi Iheanacho at Leicester City and Arsenal's Sead Kolašinac will both be strong contenders too.
AS: Sandro Ramirez - If Sandro Ramirez can adapt to life in the Premier League quickly, he could be the signing of the season due to the small fee Everton paid for him. A highly rated youngster, the Toffees may have found themselves a real gem.
DK: Romelu Lukaku - The Belgian has established himself as one of the deadliest strikers in the Premier League in the last few seasons with Everton, Lukaku has made the big money move to United and with more quality players around him and providing chances it could prove the difference in the title race.
And finally, Young Player of the Year?
CL: Gabriel Jesus - At just 20-years old, Man City's Gabriel Jesus looks like he could be one of the best players on the planet in future years if he can stay fit. Despite injury problems last season, the Brazilian looked a natural finisher when he did take the field for City and has the pace and craft to go with his goalscoring ability. The biggest challenge for Pep Guardiola will be fitting a formation around both him and Sergio Aguero.
AT: Gabriel Jesus - I feel like Gabriel Jesus will complete the transition into Manchester City's no. 1 striker this season, replacing Sergio Agüero, and he'll be scoring plenty of goals while he's at it. The Brazilian sensation has enjoyed a meteoric uprise since bursting onto the scene in the second half of the league season last term, and was scoring goals with every shot he was taking at one point. With superstars like Leroy Sane, Bernardo Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Agüero around him, the world is his to take and I think he'll thrive under the pressure. Huge campaign ahead.
OE: Leroy Sané - It'll likely be a player from a top six club that wins this, and I think Sané has what it takes. I expect City to win the league and I think he'll play a huge role, breaking from Guardiola's rotation policy to become a starter every week, continuing his sublime development.
CM: Leroy Sané - City promise to be one one of the most entertaining attacking teams in the league, with Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sané their stand-out youngsters. Sané is my pick on the basis that he’ll likely play more football, Jesus facing more competition up top, and that he was sublime in the second-half of last season. Do that all season long this year, with the other talents around him in the final third, and Sané's return should be plentiful.
AS: Dele Alli - It would be very surprising if Dele Alli wasn’t a huge part of Tottenham’s success this coming season. With each passing year he looks more and more like he could become one of the greatest players to ever don an England shirt.
DK: Dele Alli - Alli has risen as one of the prince's of English football in the last two seasons and I don’t think it will be any different this time around, the forward was deadly last year and I feel that he will be one of the stars of the top-flight once again.
|Name||Champions||Top Four||Relegated||Surprise Package||POTY||Signing of the Year||YPOTY|
|Chris||Man City||City, Chelsea, United, Spurs||Huddersfield, Brighton, Burnley||Everton (in a good way)||Pogba||Lacazette||G Jesus|
|Alex||Man City||City, Spurs, United, Chelsea||Huddersfield, Brighton, Burnley||Everton (in a bad way)||De Bruyne||Marco Silva||G Jesus|
|Olli||Man City||City, Chelsea, Liverpool, United||Huddersfield, Brighton, Burnley||Newcastle||Coutinho||Bernardo Silva||Sane|
|Charlie||Man City||City, United, Chelsea, Spurs||Brighton, Burnley, Swansea||Palace||Kane||Salah||Sane|
|Aaron||Man City||City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs||Huddersfield, Burnley, Swansea||Brighton||Aguero||Sandro||Alli|
|Danial||Man City||City, Arsenal, United, Spurs||Huddersfield, Brighton, Stoke||West Ham||De Bruyne||Lukaku||Alli|