Premier League Predictions 2016/17

Written by Rhys Paul

The 2016/17 Premier League season is finally upon us. The 2015/16 season was one of shocks. Leicester City’s title-winning heroics have been well-documented, but the relegation of Premier League mainstays Aston Villa and 2011/12 5th-placed Newcastle United were also hugely significant. Norwich City joined them and in their place three sides already familiar with the Premier League (Burnley, Middlesbrough and Hull City) were promoted. Will they be able to enjoy the same success as Watford and Bournemouth last season? The level of success enjoyed by both these clubs was surprising, especially as both were tipped for an immediate return to the Championship. The dramatic fall of 2014/15 Champions, Chelsea was also one of the stories of the first half of the season, and despite a steady recovery under Guus Hiddink, they were only able to muster a 10th-placed finish. It is safe to say the rule book was well and truly thrown out the window and this has given the 2016/17 season an air of unpredictability. Have Leicester broken the glass ceiling for other clubs to challenge the top teams in the league? Can the likes of Man United, Man City and Chelsea bounce-back from disappointing seasons? Which managerial change will have the greatest impact? and arguably the biggest question of all; who will win the 2016/17 Premier League season?

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credit Sean MacEntee

The Title Race

1.Manchester United

2. Manchester City

3. Arsenal

Manchester will once again come to dominate the Premier League. Man United have not been a threat since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson and this has been hugely damaging to a club whose supporters are used to success. They might have challenged for the top four last season, but this was as much down to the performances of the teams above them as much their own. Bringing in Jose Mourinho is a sign the club want trophies immediately and – of all the managers still active – few can claim to have mastered the recipe for Premier League success quite as well as the former Chelsea boss. On the blue side of Manchester, the capture of Pep Guardiola is one of the coups of the year. Guardiola’s record speaks for itself and trophies are almost guaranteed with him at the helm. Rumours of his arrival forced Manuel Pellegrini to announce its truth and this came at the cost of derailing City’s title-challenge having only been 5 points off Leicester prior to the announcement. Mourinho’s experience at this level edges it for me (at least for this season) and I think that will be the difference between the two clubs this year. I do believe the Premier League is much more competitive and City’s ageing squad is a greater rebuilding job than both Bayern Munich and Barcelona combined. With this in mind, Guardiola should be given a season to adapt to the demands of the Premier League. Both clubs have done good business, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan along with the influence of Mourinho is something that will lead to immediate, short-term success. Runners-up is a flattering title for Arsenal to own heading into the new season, but they will once again be in the running for the title. Any team boasting a squad with the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Petr Cech has the ability to challenge. Unfortunately, it will be the same old story for Arsenal. £35 million Granit Xhaka might be a good signing, but it is hard to see Arsenal winning the league for the first time since 2004 without stumping up the cash for a prolific goalscorer – a persisting issue which has failed to been addressed for too many years now. Man United will edge a Manchester-dominated title-race and their return to the top will see normality returned to the Premier League this season.

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credit Kevin Walsh

The Race for Fourth

4. Chelsea

5. Liverpool

6. Tottenham

I am expecting big things from Liverpool. Under Klopp they have the potential to once again become a force in English football and his influence will only become more apparent the longer he spends at Anfield. They have overpaid for the likes of Mane and Wijnaldum, and they do need a proven goalscorer to replace Beneteke and the injury-prone Sturridge, could the fit-again Danny Ings be the answer?. The current squad is not spectacular, but the likes of Firmino and Coutinho are game-changers on their day. This season cannot go any worse for Chelsea than it did last year. Antonio Conte is yet another manager making his debut in the league this season and he’ll be expected to continue the recovery begun by Guus Hiddink. N’Golo Kante was key in Leicester’s success and his £32 million transfer to Chelsea is the biggest deal between two Premier League sides so far. It will take much more than the speculated re-signing of Lukaku and the deals already completed for Chelsea to re-claim the title and, as such, I believe the title race is just a step too far for them at this stage. Talking of title-races, Tottenham were Leicester’s closest rivals for the final third of the season, but a couple of fatal results cost them dearly. They would have been the story of the season had it not been for Leicester and they still boast one of the strongest squads in the league (particularly in defence). Vincent Janssen was Eredivisie’s top scorer with 27 goals last season, but how effective can he be when he’s expected to play back-up to Harry Kane? After a poor Euro 2016, Kane and Alli’s confidence might also suffer a setback initially and this could damage the team in the long-run. Tottenham’s young squad have the potential to constantly challenge for the league, but a hangover from last season’s heartbreak (topped off with a crushing 5-1 defeat to already relegated Newcastle) should be expected. Chelsea will edge the race for fourth place with Liverpool and Tottenham having to settle for the Europa League.

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credit Peter Woodentop

The Fight for Europe

7. Stoke City

8. West Ham United

9. Leicester City

10. Everton

The race for the final Europa League will be close and it will go down to the wire on the final day of the season. I’ve identified Stoke as a team to watch out for this season and they continue to go in all the right directions under Mark Hughes. Three consecutive 9th-placed finishes represent stability, but it is time for them to push on and Europe is certainly in their reach with the squad they possess. West Ham are harder to predict. They definitely appear to have turned a corner, but a frustrating transfer window and injuries to key players has actually weakened the squad from the one that finished the 2015/16 campaign. The search for a prolific striker is still ongoing and defensive recruitments are desperately needed. At this stage, the squad is simply not big enough for Slaven Bilic’s men to improve from last season. Premier League champions, Leicester will have to juggle the demands of the league and Champions League football, and they will have to do so without the element of surprise – in fact, teams will be gunning to be beat them this time around. Kante is a huge loss, but it seems unlikely that Mahrez and Vardy will follow him out the door. Musa looks like a real talent and young midfielder, Kapustka is another sign that the club are conducting good business in the transfer window. It is also unlikely that they will enjoy quite the same fortune in regards to injuries, meaning this season could be a challenge for Claudio Ranieri’s men.  In contrast, Everton had a season to forget. Ronald Koeman has been poached from Southampton, but they are yet to make any significant improvements to the existing squad. Stones and Lukaku continue to be linked with a move away from Goodison Park and, should this come to fruition, Everton could struggle. Under Koeman, they will fare far better this season – even if 10th-placed does not suggest this. There isn’t much between Stoke, West Ham and Everton, and this will become clear as they compete with Leicester for the final Europa League place.

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credit Chris Parker

Mid-Table

11. Crystal Palace

12. Southampton

13. AFC Bournemouth

14. West Brom

15. Middlesbrough

16. Swansea City

Southampton did well to finish 6th last year. They were good throughout the season and a  strong finish saw them cement their place in the Europa League once again. Unfortunately, they are like a broken record at this stage. The loss of Koeman and the likes of Wanyama, Pelle and Mane means this is yet another summer of upheaval. Redmond is a good signing, but it is clear more players are needed if Southampton want to continue their good work over the last few seasons. I think they’ll briefly challenge for Europe, but they’ll eventually lose steam and I can see Crystal Palace overtaking them as a result. Palace fans are optimistic following a series of good signings. Their overriding weakness continues to be a goalscorer and it remains to be seen how far Pardew can actually take them. Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth will be looking over their shoulders again. They have strength-in-depth and the signings of Jordan Ibe, Brad Smith and Lewis Cook (albeit for a questionably high fee) add to this depth. It’s a season of consolidation for the Cherries. West Brom will never be in any threat of relegation with Tony Pulis at the helm. However, this will mean it will be another unspectacular, solid season for the Baggies. Middlesbrough will be the most successful of the promoted teams. They have a mix of Premier League experience, players hungry to make the step-up and a couple of shrewd, ambitious signings. Victor Valdes and Alvaro Negredo could be very good signings and both are still capable of doing a job at this level. Swansea are currently in mid-table obscurity and they continue to fall further away from the top 10. The loss of Andre Ayew could be big, but the arrival of Fernando Llorente is certainly intriguing. Gylfi Sigurdsson’s new contract is encouraging and he’ll be crucial if Swansea hope to avoid being sucked into a relegation battle.

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credit Ben Sutherland

Relegation Battle

17. Sunderland

18. Watford

19. Burnley

20. Hull City

It is hard to remember a season where Sunderland were not embroiled in a relegation battle. Things appeared to have turned a corner under Sam Allardyce, yet nobody could have foreseen that he would become England manager months after leading Sunderland to safety. His departure cannot be exaggerated enough for a club who desperately want a comfortable season and such a turn of events gives the impression that Sunderland are destined for the drop – Fulham and Villa showed that no club can outrun relegation forever after successive battles against the drop. David Moyes’ appointment hardly inspires the same confidence as his predecessor and, after recent struggles, he is somewhat a gamble. They have a proven goalscorer in Defoe and this could once again prove to be an invaluable factor in their survival. I do feel that three teams stand-out as relegation fodder this year and – judging by other predictions I’ve seen – it seems to be the general consensus. Of the three, Watford have the best chance of again defying the odds. Much will depend on the form of Odion Ighalo. If he continues his struggles in front of goal this year, it is hard to see Watford enjoying the same success they did when he was scoring freely in the first half of last season. Second season syndrome is a very real threat and there is a feeling (outside of Watford’s fan base) that the managerial ‘revolving door’ policy will only work for so long. The return of Burnley and Hull after only one season away from the top flight wasn’t particularly surprising and neither would their immediate return to the Championship. Andre Gray continues to go from strength-to-strength as a player and he’ll be closely watched in his debut Premier League season. Like Defoe, his goals could be crucial, but there is once again the overriding feeling that Burnley simply do not have the quality or depth needed to survive. They are stronger this time with the likes of Michael Keane and Tom Heaton joining Gray in their ranks. Whereas Burnley could still stay up, Hull seem a safe bet for relegation. Off-field issues and lack of signings resulted in Steve Bruce’s departure and, with it, the only chance Hull had of surviving. Promotion should be an exciting time for a club, but Hull are in turmoil. Abel Hernandez is not cut out for this level and the loss of Mohammed Diame deprives the team of a game-changer (even if he does disappear in the games that follow). New signings are a necessity, but it is unlikely anybody of significance will be brought in. It should be deemed a success if the club manage to finish anywhere but rock bottom.

Final Standings:

  1. Manchester United
  2. Manchester City
  3. Arsenal
  4. Chelsea

  5. Liverpool
  6. Tottenham
  7. Stoke City

  8. West Ham United
  9. Leicester City
  10. Everton
  11. Crystal Palace
  12. Southampton
  13. AFC Bournemouth
  14. West Brom
  15. Middlesbrough
  16. Swansea City
  17. Sunderland

  18. Watford
  19. Burnley
  20. Hull City

What do you make of these predictions? Where will your club finish? Let us know in the comments below!

featured image by Sean MacEntee

About the Author

Rhys Paul
West Ham, ST Holder. 21 years old.