The 2016-2017 Premier League is a landmark 25th season of the EPL since its inception in 1992. While the debate continues on whether it is the best among all the top leagues in terms of quality, there is no question however on the English league being the best in terms of competitiveness. With the new TV deal bringing in more and more money even to the bottom placed teams, almost every matchup holds the potential for an upset.
Last season gave football lovers the greatest underdog title win in the history of EPL when Leicester City were crowned champions. This further reinforces the fact that truly anything is possible in the PL making it a tough league to predict.
With a host of changes and arrivals at the traditional big clubs and big money spent by all teams, this season is bound to be even more thrilling and entertaining. As the season begins, we predict the final league positions of teams when May 2017 arrives.
20. Hull City
If there is one team that looks completely unprepared for the new season, it has to be Hull City. Having gained promotion from the Championship through play-offs, the Tigers have an enormous task on their hands to stay up this season.
They are without a manager since Steve Bruce left, no first team signings so far, sold last season’s best player Mohamed Diamé, goalkeeper and defensive injury crisis leaving only thirteen fit players in the squad and their owners, the Allams, looking to sell the club.
Amidst this turmoil, it is hard to find a bright side and this makes them early favourites for relegation this season.
Under the expert guidance of Sean Dyche, Burnley won the Championship and were 4 points clear at the top and clinched promotion to the English top-flight first time of asking after being relegated in the 2014-2015 season. However limited budget and lack of impact signings might prove staying up an uphill task for the Clarets.
They were the lowest scorers in the league the last time they went down and evidence points to a similar result this time as well. A lot of the goalscoring requirement rests on club record signing and last season’s Championship top scorer with 25 goals Andre Gray, who has to adapt to the demands of PL and perform.
In spite of manager Sean Dyche’s ability to build good teams, Burnley will again find it difficult this season to survive in the English top flight and will very likely be relegated this season.
Ever since the 10th placed finish in 2011 under Steve Bruce, Sunderland have been the Harry Houdini of the league, spending most of their seasons fighting relegation. With the departure of Sam Allardyce for the England job, David Moyes enters the managerial vacancy as both the club and manager look to improve their respective reputations.
A well-drilled side under Allardyce, the team will look to sustain itself for the long term under Moyes’ stewardship. However, the Black Cats need Fabio Borini to step up or they need to buy a new striker to complement the peerless Jermain Defoe whose goals alone played a crucial role in their victorious fight against relegation.
With no major shakeup on the cards, Sunderland are set for another relegation fight and this time, they might come up short leading to relegation and the bitterness of seeing their arch rivals Newcastle United taking their place in the PL.
17. West Brom
West Brom’s start to the season will be accompanied by the growing discontent among supporters regarding the drab style of football that teams play under Tony Pulis, who for the 8th consecutive season has led a team to a bottom-half finish without getting relegated.
The Hawthorns scored the second-fewest goals in the league behind Aston Villa last season and with Matt Phillips the only addition so far, things could remain the same this year unless Salomón Rondón has a huge season. With the taking over of the club by self-professed football lover and businessman Guochuan Lai, things could be expected to change for the good in the long run.
However, in the short term with Tony Pulis at the helm, West Brom can be expected to have a dull season and get embroiled in a relegation battle with Sunderland, barely edging them off to stay up.
The parting of ways with last season’s manager Quique Sánchez Flores, after he guided the club comfortably to PL safety in their first season back, came as a surprise to many. However, given their owners, the Pozzos’ style of work, this isn’t entirely a shock and the ambitious signing of former Napoli and Inter Milan manager Walter Mazzari signals a show of intent from them.
Further, Watford have managed to hold on to their key players of last season and have added the exciting Isaac Success from Granada for a club record fee. Their performance this season largely depends on Mazzarri’s adaptability to the league and finding the best possible team quickly which will ensure they get themselves another season in the PL.
Of the newly-promoted sides, Middlesbrough look the most likely to stay up the coming season. Managed by former assistant of Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid, Aitor Karanka, Boro have made nine signings so far, a combination of talent and experience in the form of Víctor Valdés, Álvaro Negredo, Antoine Brannagan, Viktor Fisher, Gastón Ramírez and Maarten de Roon.
The signing of Negredo is a pivotal one for Boro struggled with scoring goals last season and this season could provide Jordan Rhodes the chance to shed his Championship player tag. The presence of a frugal defence coupled with the summer signings will allow Middlesbrough to breathe and stay up this season.
Tipped by many to go down last season, Bournemouth surprised many by not only staying up, but also playing a good brand of football despite injuries to key players Callum Wilson, Max Gradel and Tyrone Mings last season. The addition of Liverpool surplus Jordon Ibe and Brad Smith along with the arrivals of Nathan Aké and highly promising Lewis Cook bode well for the Cherries.
Their biggest accomplishment, however, is holding onto manager Eddie Howe, who was linked to the Everton and England job. The fact that they shipped in the second highest goals last season and so far no goalkeeping or defensive signings have been made is a sign of worry. However, they just have about enough firepower to remain safe this season.
A regular fixture in the EPL this decade, Swansea’s last season was a mixed bag with the club skirting around relegation before Garry Monk was replaced by Francesco Guidolin at the helm, who steered the club to 12th place. This season seems to be a season of rebuilding as the team adapts to the Italian and has to cope with the departures of André Ayew to West Ham and Ashley Williams to Everton who could be hard to replace.
Nonetheless, the Swans managed to retain the services of their best player, Gylfi Sigurðsson and have added strikers Fernando Llorente from Europa League winners Sevilla and Borja Bastón from Atletico Madrid to bolster the attack. As the Swans rebuild, this season will see the Swans finish in the lower half of the table and a solid platform for next season.
12. Crystal Palace
A dream start to the season turned disastrous as Palace won only 2 out of the last 21 games and lost the FA Cup final to Manchester United. The summer signings of James Tomkins, Steve Mandanda and Andros Townsend add quality and experience to the side.
However, the key problem for the Eagles has been in their striking department and various strikers have been linked, with manager Alan Pardew promising two signings and so far not one has been signed. If Palace manage to land a suitable proven striker and start the season well, they could break into the top 10.
However, they possess enough quality in their side to finish in a decent mid-table position.
The general feeling towards Everton last season was that a quality squad was underperforming. This led to Ronald Koeman replacing Roberto Martínez as manager to improve the state of things. After a quiet window till July end, the Toffees burst into life, signing Ashley Williams from Swansea, and targeting Yannick Bolasie from Crystal Palace along with another striker.
Leicester City’s Steve Walsh was lured to become the Director of Football and this could play a pivotal role in Everton’s revival. Also, the Toffees finally have money to spend thanks to new majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri. The position where Everton end up this season hinges a lot on their success to keep Romelu Lukaku at the club and this could define Everton’s season as they rebuild.
The Saints are a perfect example of a system that keeps working and delivering results in spite of losing key personnel. This summer has seen the departure of manager Ronald Koeman to Everton and was replaced by relatively unknown Claude Puel.
Further the Saints have lost Sadio Mané, Victor Wanyama and Graziano Pellè as well. But if the last few seasons are anything to go by, the Saints can be expected to recover. They have made quality signings this summer in the form of Nathan Redmond from Norwich City and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg from Bayern Munich.
However, they need to strengthen further, especially in their attacking department given their participation in the Europa League as well this season. These factors will very likely lead to a drop from their 6th placed finish of last year.
9. Stoke City
The Potters have been a symbol of consistency under Mark Hughes with three consecutive 9th place finishes and they would want the club to improve their league position next season. The signing of Joe Allen from Liverpool represents a good piece of business while they continue their pursuit for forward Saido Berahino from West Brom.
Stoke have taken another step forward by signing a club record kit deal with Macron showing their PL status and this could inject further revenue to improve the team. The tying up of last season’s best player Marko Arnautovi to a long term deal is another positive sign.
The quality of teams and managers above Stoke is likely to prove a little too much this season however and they will possibly finish 9th for the 4th consecutive time.
8. Leicester City
Having made the strongest possible statement last season in believing that anything is possible by winning the league, Leicester face a real test this season to at least fight for a top 4 spot this season. Last season, helped by great team ethic and an underdog status, Leicester managed to stun the league.
However, this season, they not only have to bear the pressure of being champions, but also take part in the Champions League. A thin squad that was relatively injury free last season may not be able to cope with the demands of European and domestic football.
The loss of N’Golo Kanté to Chelsea is a huge blow and PFA’s Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez might be off before the transfer window ends. These factors combined will lead to Leicester City not defending their title and finish mid-table at best.
7. West Ham
Last season was a special season for the Hammers under Slaven Bili as both manager and team surprised everyone in their league with their style and results as they notched up victories over the big boys of the league. The signing of Dimitri Payet turned out to be a masterstroke last season as he lit up the league.
This season, West Ham are also moving to the new Olympic Stadium which has been renamed as the London Stadium as they hope to be back among the top soon. The signing of Håvard Nordtveit on a free transfer from Borussia Mönchengladbach could end up a shrewd signing while André Ayew was signed from Swansea to add firepower.
If the team can keep away from injuries, the Hammers can ruffle the top feathers and in the opposite scenario, they still have the quality to finish in upper mid-table.
6. Tottenham Hotspur
An unexpected title fight from Spurs last season ended in finishing behind Arsenal yet again. However, under Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs have progressed really well and last season is evidence to that fact. The real challenge lies this season on whether they can cope with the demands of the Champions League and EPL while butting heads with the elite managers and investment at rival clubs.
The arrival of Victor Wanyama adds strength and power to midfield while Vincent Janssen represents a like-for-like signing for Harry Kane. Although Spurs had an underwhelming transfer window so far, the fact that they did not lose any players keeps them in good stead. The high degree of competitiveness this season will lead to Spurs finishing lower than last season.
Another season for Arsenal and another top 4 finish for them. In a season where rivals were either rebuilding or struggling, Arsenal let a genuine chance to win the league slip away. The addition of Granit Xhaka bodes well for the team while not buying a top striker who can score 20+ goals in the league before the season ends could once again haunt them this season.
Further, the mounting defensive crisis calls for the addition of a centre-half. With Arsène Wenger entering the final year of his contract, this is the right time for Arsenal to finish outside of the top 4 and have a change of manager. The current mantra seems to be – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.“
This has not helped the Gunners in the past decade and the general feeling around the club is that a change of manager could do a world of good for the team.
For the past few years, Liverpool have started every season naming it as a rebuilding season due to one reason or other. This is the first season in a long time where the manager has stated that the team is ready and raring to go. And when that piece of optimism comes from Jürgen Klopp, it makes everyone believe.
After a strong pre-season, the Reds look forward to the first full season under the German. While there may not be a marquee signing, the summer recruits surely solve issues within the team and Klopp has ensured competition for places at every position barring left back where reinforcement is required.
With no European football, Liverpool play only a game per week which combined with the Klopp effect and good summer signings should lead to a top 4 finish for the Reds.
The defending champions of 2014-2015 season had one of the worst title defences in the history of EPL which led to José Mourinho leaving and Guus Hiddink serving as the interim coach. The appointment of former Juventus and Italy manager Antonio Conte appears to be a promising one and the additions of Michy Batshuayi and N’Golo Kanté strengthen an already strong title-winning squad.
If Chelsea manage to add Romelu Lukaku and Kalidou Koulibaly to their ranks as well, then they have a genuine chance of having a go at the title as well with the time that Conte and his players will take to adapt to the league and manager’s tactics respectively being the only roadblock. Else, given their squad, the Blues are nailed on to finish in the top 4 this season.
2. Manchester United
After the 3rd consecutive season of disappointment for United, they have taken drastic steps this summer by recruiting José Mourinho as manager and signing proven serial winner Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Borussia Dortmund’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan and then breaking the world transfer record by signing Paul Pogba from Juventus.
In doing so, United have sent a statement to the footballing world as well. Equipped with a top quality squad and coach, it should be a matter of time before the Red Devils get back to the top. However, this season might be a little too soon for United to win the title as Mourinho finds out his best team and sorts the inherited squad.
So, as much as United are guaranteed to be in the title fight, the blue half of Manchester will clinch the title this season.
1. Manchester City
Last season was the kind of season a squad like Manchester City’s should have walked to the title. However, the team massively underperformed and managed to edge Manchester United for the 4th spot. The arrival of Pep Guardiola heralds the dawn of a new era and the Citizens must surely be hoping for a reign of consistency and dominance.
The signings of John Stones, Nolito and llkay Gündoan are all of top quality and add to an already strong squad. While Guardiola will take time to transform the team and club in his image, his presence at the helm gives City the necessary winning mentality which will lead City to win their 3rd PL title in this decade.