Premier League season 2018/19 predictions part 1: Title winners, Europe and relegation
The Premier League season starts on Friday and ahead of the big kick-off we asked our journalists to predict the title winners, top six and the three teams who will be relegated.
At the top of the table, we collated points based on predicted finishing position, so if a team was predicted to finish first, they would score one point. If they were predicted to finish fifth, they would score five points. So the fewer the points, the higher the predicted finishing position...
And so, with no further ado…
Title winners: Manchester City (16 points in our vote)
Imagine our surprise. No less than 10 of our 13 journalists predicted that Pep Guardiola’s team will become the first side to retain the Premier League trophy since Manchester United in 2008/09 – with two shouts for an impressive and ambitious Liverpool and one for United. Guardiola inspired City to a record of 100 points last season and while replicating that feat, and winning 32 of 38 games again, might be tricky, they showed in the Community Shield win over Chelsea that they will again be the team to beat.
Riyad Mahrez has been the only summer signing so far at £60m but City are a level ahead of anyone else and players like Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden will be looking to have more of an impact this time around. The only concern has been the failure to sign Jorginho, who went to Chelsea, and a subsequent dearth of cover for Fernandinho in the holding midfield role. But unless something huge happens, City should retain their title. They have too much class in all areas of the pitch.
Second: Liverpool (30 points)
Only fourth in the Premier League last season, but Liverpool showed their quality when reaching the Champions League final, which they lost to Real Madrid. The prime reason for that defeat, Loris Karius, has been addressed with Liverpool breaking the world transfer record for a goalkeeper to sign Brazil No. 1 Alisson for £67m. Naby Keita (£54m) and Fabinho (£40m) have also reinforced the midfield with Xherdan Shaqiri (£13m) adding to Jurgen Klopp’s attacking options. Still, the main driving force of this exceptional team is the trident of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah. If they all stay fit then Liverpool might even manage to push City close.
Alisson Becker of Liverpool during the international friendly game between Liverpool and NapoliGetty Images
Third: Tottenham (49 points)
Spurs are the only team in the top flight who are yet to make a single signing this summer and could see their ranks depleted if Toby Alderweireld does leave for Manchester United. It’s not a situation which has impressed some of their supporters but Mauricio Pochettino has a young squad at his disposal and even if upgrades do not come from the transfer market, Spurs should improve this season as they continue to mature. Pochettino has crafted one of the best organised teams in the league and in Harry Kane they have possibly the best striker in football – and now a World Cup Golden Boot winner too.
Fourth: Arsenal (53 points)
It’s been two seasons out of the top four for Arsenal but according to our poll of journalists, Unai Emery is the man to return them to the Champions League. Arsenal’s summer transfer work has been quick and efficient, with Lucas Torreira, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Bernd Leno all looking like useful additions. Matteo Guendouzi has also shown he is a big talent during pre-season. Numerous Arsenal players have said that Emery is implementing a more rigorous approach on the training ground, with a renewed focus on pressing, tactics and off-the-ball work – all areas which fell into disrepair under Arsene Wenger. Arsenal are certainly talking the talk – and returning to the Champions League would be a significant achievement.
Arsenal's Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (2nd R) celebrates with teammatesGetty Images
Fifth: Chelsea (61 points)
It’s been a bizarre summer at Chelsea, with Antonio Conte having to take the first days of pre-season training despite knowing he would be sacked, and with Maurizio Sarri already slated to replace him. The issue of Sarri’s move from Napoli was resolved far too late and even if the Italian clearly has some transformative plans for Chelsea, he has little time to implement them. To make things worse, Chelsea’s transfer work has been disappointing, Jorginho aside, and Thibaut Courtois is agitating for a move. Eden Hazard is also linked with an exit and Chelsea only have three days to sign replacements. The Sarri appointment was bold but it could be an uphill battle for Chelsea this season thanks to their sluggish summer.
Sixth: Manchester United (62 points)
Oh dear. From City’s closest challengers to propping up the big six. Our collective prediction is a reflection of a disastrous summer for United. Fred and Diego Dalot may have joined the club but United have failed to land their top targets (so far) and are now being linked with an £80m move for Harry Maguire. Moreover, the mood around the camp is gloomy with Jose Mourinho’s constant moans providing an unwelcome soundtrack to a summer on tour in America. Mourinho also unwisely criticised Anthony Martial for not returning to the tour after his second child was born. There were even suggestions that United are lining up Zinedine Zidane to replace Mourinho. Jose’s third seasons are notoriously difficult and it’s hard to see this ending happily.
Neil Warnock, Manager of Cardiff City looks on during the Pre-Season Friendly match between Cardiff City and Real BetisGetty Images
To determine our relegation predictions, we awarded points as follows: one point for a prediction of 18th; two for 19th; and three for 20th. So the higher the points, the lower the finish...
18th: Watford (8 points)
With promoted sides Fulham and Wolves both showing plenty of ambition since returning to the top flight, it could be a tricky season for Watford, who have lost their star man Richarlison to Everton in a £40m deal. Convincing Abdoulaye Doucoure to sign a new contract was a positive development, so too grabbing Gerard Deulofeu on a permanent deal from Barcelona, but manager Javi Garcia has a battle on his hands.
19th: Huddersfield (16 points)
It’s been a summer of stability at Huddersfield, with manager David Wagner signing a new contract after his amazing feat in securing safety last season and the club’s best players all staying on. Loans have been converted into permanent deals for Terence Kongolo and Florent Hadergjonaj, with some interesting new arrivals in Germany international Erik Durm and Juninho Bacuna from Groningen. But with so much competition at the bottom end of the table, Huddersfield may find that their chronic weakness in front of goal proves fatal this year.
20th: Cardiff (34 points)
Neil Warnock is back, but not for long. Cardiff weren’t even supposed to challenge for promotion in the Championship last season but upset all the odds. The chances are they won’t be able to do so this season though. Cardiff seem like the weakest side in the division by some distance and their recruitment has seen them take Championship players in Josh Murphy (Norwich), Bobby Reid (Bristol City), Alex Smithies (QPR) and Greg Cunningham (Preston). Not a recipe for Premier League success - and no less than 11 of our 13 journalists predicted they will finish bottom of the pile.
Other scores: Newcastle (6), Bournemouth (2), Southampton (2), Everton (2), Brighton (1), Burnley (1), Leicester (1).