With the season set to kick off on Saturday, supporters have an array of storylines to look forward to.
Will Liverpool build on last year’s historic triumph and repeat as champions? Will Manchester City rebound and reclaim their crown? Will Chelsea or Manchester United challenge for the title?
Furthermore, can Mikel Arteta and Jose Mourinho guide Arsenal and Tottenham back to prominence? Who will be this year’s version of Leicester City and ascend into European positions? What can we expect from ambitious sides such as Sheffield United and Everton?
There’s even quite a bit of intrigue at the bottom. Can a promoted side such as Leeds United rise up the table? How much longer can struggling sides such as West Ham and Crystal Palace persist in the top flight? Can lower-tier sides pose more of a threat to those near the top?
Ultimately, the answers to these questions will largely define how the season plays out. Your guess is as good as mine as to what might happen, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make predictions.
For that reason, a panel of Premier League Central panelists have made their selections for the following:
- Top 4 Sides
- Relegated Sides
- Player of the Season
- Manager of the Season
- Most Surprising Team
- Most Disappointing Team
Votes were tallied to ultimately determine how our crew forecasted this season. Without further ado….
This one was a close battle between reigning champions Liverpool and Manchester City. Ultimately, Liverpool received 5 votes to City’s 3. None of our panellists felt that Chelsea or Manchester United were ready to claim the Premier League trophy, despite recent improvements to their sides.
Liverpool blew away the competition last season, falling just a point short of reaching the century mark. However, their performances seemed to tail off following the restart, which was somewhat predictable given their monumental lead at the top of the table.
Liverpool haven’t exactly set the transfer market ablaze, with Greek left-back Kostas Tsimaks the only notable signing. Could Thiago join the Reds’ midfield engine to freshen up the squad?
On the other hand, City are looking to rebound after a disappointing season. After adding Nathan Ake and Ferran Torres and potentially adding another centerback (Kalidou Koulibaly?), Pep Guardiola is looking to be crowned champion for the 3rd time in 4 years.
Top 4 Sides: Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United
Our panellists unanimously agreed that the top 2 would be Liverpool and Manchester City and were near unanimous in their choice of Chelsea and Manchester United as the teams to round out the top 4.
There were a few picks for other sides claiming a 4th place finish, with Wolves, Tottenham, and Arsenal each earning a single 4th place vote.
Chelsea’s monumental summer transfer window, highlighted by the additions of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech, Ben Chilwell, and Thiago Silva, has firmly placed them in the top tier of English football again.
Manchester United’s promising end to the season, along with the addition of Donny van de Beek, has also made fans excited for the upcoming season.
Whether Nuno Esperito Santo, Jose Mourinho, and Mikel Arteta can lead their teams to a Champions League position will be an interesting story to watch as well.
Relegated Sides: Fulham, West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa
All 8 panellists agreed that Fulham would only survive one season in the top division, while all but one agreed that West Brom would suffer a similar fate.
The third spot was much more hotly contested. Aston Villa earned the vote from 4 panellists, just beating out West Ham with 3 votes. Crystal Palace and Newcastle also received votes.
Scott Parker will look to guide Fulham’s survival, but will surely not be granted the same transfer budget that was afforded a few seasons ago when Fulham spent over ₤100 million just to be relegated in their first season.
West Brom have buoyed the line between the Premier League and the Championship for years now. Will the efforts of creative midfielder Matheus Pereira be enough to keep the side up?
Finally, can Aston Villa build on last season’s inspiring late-season survival? Our panel says no, despite the recent signing of Brentford striker Ollie Watkins and the increasing probability that club captain Jack Grealish stays.
Player of the Season: Kevin de Bruyne, Virgil van Dijk
De Bruyne and Van Dijk, the past 2 winners of this award, shared the spoils in our panel.
The Belgian midfielder unquestionably cemented himself as the league’s finest midfielder, with 13 goals and 20 assists last season. His vision and passing ability are second to none, while he has also shown that he’s no slouch on the defensive end as well.
Van Dijk spearheads a Liverpool defense that has guided them to Premier League and Champions League glory. The identity of the team has completely changed since he joined Jurgen Klopp’s side and one can only wonder how good Liverpool would be without him.
Other votes were scattered. Bruno Fernandes, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Harry Kane, and even Thiago (who could be a Liverpool player soon) received nominations for the award.
Manager of the Season: Tie between Jurgen Klopp & Pep Guardiola
The close race that defined the competition for Premier League champion was also reflected in the competition for Manager of the Season, with Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola each receiving 3 votes.
The past 6 winners of this award were crowned Premier League champions in those seasons, so it seems a safe bet to choose the manager of this year’s champions to win this award.
The rivalry between Klopp and Guardiola is reaching peak levels, making the matchup between the two sides increasingly interesting. The only thing stopping either side from becoming perhaps the greatest side in league history is one another, with each side providing enough competition to one another.
Mikel Arteta and Marcelo Bielsa also received votes, with panellists tabbing these managers to make the most of the interesting projects that each currently has on their hands.
Most Surprising Team: Southampton
In late October, Southampton were thrashed 9-0 by Leicester and Ralph Hassenhuttl seemed certain to be sacked.
However, all credit goes to those within the Saints’ organization. Hassenhuttl was able to right the ship, with his side ultimately finishing with an impressive 11th place. Interestingly, just based on away form, Southampton would have finished in the top 4!
Now, many believe that Southampton are ready to take the next step up. They have quality at every level, with Jan Bednarek, James Ward-Prowse, and Danny Ings all starring last season.
Che Adams also seemed to finally find his feet in the top division last year, which could provide Hassenhuttl with a crucial partner to help carry the goal-scoring load from Danny Ings.
Overall, Southampton have the personnel, management, and spirit to continue to rise in the table.
Most Disappointing Team: Leicester City
Leicester City, alongside Sheffield United, were probably on the other side of this award last season, coming up just short of a Champions League finish. However, our panel predicts that the Foxes may suffer a bit of a fall back to earth this season.
Leicester City’s form really tailed off near the end of the season, with the side’s limp to the finish line ultimately costing them a top 4 spot.
The sale of Ben Chilwell to Chelsea, the injury of Ricardo Pereira, and the dying down of early season momentum all led to Brendan Rodgers’ side blowing a double-digit points lead over Manchester United.
It’s not hard to envision 33-year old Jamie Vardy declining from his 24-goal output from last season and the defense regressing as they deal with the departed Chilwell, the injured Pereria, and the aging Jonny Evans. Will Leicester be able to continue battling with the big dogs at the top? Or will they descend to the mid-table?