Lots of love for Chelsea and Lukaku, while Cristian Romero and Leon Bailey are certain to make mugs of someone whatever happens…
As is traditional, tell me who will win the league.
Sarah Winterburn: I used to always get this right but then began to always get this wrong. No idea where we are now but Chelsea.
Matt Stead: Chelsea. And when it comes to identifying the key individual behind their success, 1% will say Frank Lampard. That 1% is Henry Winter.
Ian Watson: If City get a centre-forward, them. If United get a defensive midfielder, it could be them. City or United, City or United… Chelsea.
Dave Tickner: If Chelsea persist with their “don’t concede any goals” policy under Thomas Tuchel, then signing someone to score several goals in Romelu Lukaku makes them look incredibly dangerous.
Will Ford: Chelsea. They don’t concede goals and now have a proper goalscorer in Lukaku to put away all those chances.
Joe Williams: It’s boring to predict Man City, so I’m going Chelsea to be slightly less dull.
John Nicholson: If Manchester City can’t win the league with their massive resources, when they’ve got at least two teams who are good enough to do so, then Pep Guardiola should be ashamed. He looked bored for the last third of last season, winning it was so easy. This year will be more boring still for him. They don’t even need Harry Kane to win the league by a country mile, with him, expect a 20-point margin of victory at the very least. Even a tight but winning finish would be a failure, second really would be a disaster, third as bad as relegation and a sign that something is badly wrong with the club and how it is being managed.
Jason Soutar: Manchester City. Their squad is quite unfair. They literally paid £40m for a fourth choice centre-back
And the rest of the top four, in order. Which nobody ever gets right.
SW: Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United. I have weaned myself off my Arsenal addiction.
MS: Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham. You do wonder why nobody ever gets this right.
IW: United, City, Liverpool
DT: City, United, Liverpool. Bold, but something has gone wildly tits up at one of those clubs and wildly tits… down(?) somewhere else if that isn’t the top four in some order or other.
WF: Manchester City, Manchester United, Leicester.
JW: Man City, Man Utd, Liverpool
JN: Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United
JS: United, Liverpool, Chelsea. If this isn’t the four teams I’ll be shocked. I’d be as well deciding the order by picking names out a hat.
Three picks for relegation please.
SW: Norwich, Watford and reluctantly Brentford. It’s hard to see who could even be pulled in this season.
MS: Norwich, Southampton and Watford.
IW: Joe Willock is good but he alone can’t paper over Newcastle’s cracks. Norwich have done loads this summer so I have no idea what to expect but I’m nothing if not an unshakeable pessimist. Watford’s kit belongs back in the Championship.
DT: I really, really don’t want to just put the three promoted clubs and I certainly don’t think any of them will make an absolute show of themselves, but… Norwich, Watford, Brentford.
WF: Watford, Southampton, Norwich. Not enough goals.
JW: Newcastle United, Southampton, Watford.
JN: Watford, Norwich and Brentford. All three doing little more than giving the big clubs someone to beat. It’s vaguely ridiculous that we even ask such teams to try and compete with clubs that are so financially superior. They’ll be better off out of the league. Sadly, the parachute payments ensure these three will have a huge advantage in 2022-23 Championship. It’s a lose lose situation and just one of the horrible consequences of the Premier League’s massive financial disparities which no-one seems willing to address but which is making the league dysfunctional as a competition. There, I said it.
JS: Burnley. I’m so naive. Norwich. Yo-yo team. Watford. They’re just a bit ‘meh’, really.
Which club will be a pleasant surprise?
SW: No way Crystal Palace will be as bad as some think. Also, Arsenal for top six. Is that a surprise?
MS: Signing only Andros Townsend, Asmir Begovic and Demarai Gray this summer has weirdly not engendered much positivity around Everton but they will Be There Or Thereabouts for the coveted Conference spot thanks to Rafa.
IW: Brentford will be comfortable. And Villa will thrive post-Grealish.
DT: I don’t think things are going to be anywhere near as grim as everyone seems to expect on either side of North London. It was very Arsenal to do it when it no longer mattered, but their form in the second half of the season was disconcertingly good and the absence of any European football at all can be a blessing as long as it’s just a one-off. Meanwhile, Spurs’ long-overdue “painful rebuild” couldn’t actually have happened at a better time given the parlous states of various clubs across Europe. Fifth and sixth which is of course exactly where they ought to finish given resources but doesn’t seem to be where many expect them to be come May.
WF: I predict Crystal Palace will be a popular choice given their transfer business, but Patrick Vieira could well be De Boer-esque. Leicester clinching that Champions League spot is a surprise, right?
JW: Brentford. The club have been reaping the rewards of their ‘moneyball’ approach to recruitment for years and that will benefit them this year too. Kristoffer Ajer in particular looks like a nice bit of business, while I’m backing Ivan Toney to continue banging in the goals at a higher level.
JN: It’d be nice to think Crystal Palace will transform themselves into a young, thrusting, dynamic side led by a not-very-good-so-far manager who learns on the job, but easier to think they won’t and Patrick Vieira will be sacked by Christmas. So I expect to enjoy Leeds United more than any other team. There is something genuinely thrilling about a side that is so fit it plays murder ball in training for two and half hours, just so that playing two halves of 45 minutes seems like a walk in the park. Also: Bielsa.
JS: Leeds United. They’ve replaced their worst first-team player from last season (Alioski), have a world class manager and a pretty decent squad. Top-eight finish inbound.
Who will win the Golden Boot?
SW: If Chelsea win the league, Romelu Lukaku wins this.
MS: Harry Kane, whether he turns up for training or not.
IW: Manchester City’s Harry Kane after 427 Manchester City goals.
DT: If he stays at Spurs, probably Harry Kane. If he goes to City, definitely Harry Kane.
WF: Romelu Lukaku. Securing the title and the Golden Boot at Old Trafford in the penultimate game of the season, knee sliding in front of the Stretford End.
JW: Romelu Lukaku as long as Chelsea can get the deal over the line. If not, then Mo Salah.
JN: As I’m officially taking over Daniel Storey’s position as a fawning Rom Lukaku fan, I fancy the big man to bestride the goal-netting firmament like a multi-lingual god.
JS: Romelu Lukaku. He’s in his prime and can see him scoring around 25 league goals.
Which new signing will have the greatest positive impact?
SW: Cristian Romero might make Spurs less Spursy and thus less interesting.
MS: Any of that Crystal Palace lot. Let’s be specific and say Michael Olise.
IW: Raphael Varane has to be the biggest upgrade.
DT: Cristian Romero. Spurs beating Barcelona to his signature was enough to make Lionel Messi throw away 20 years of Barca history and sulk off to Paris. Something like that, anyway. Either way, Romero was the best defender in Serie A last year – and that’s stiff competition – and without him Spurs’ starting centre-backs are Eric Dier and Davinson Sanchez. He has the biggest impact almost by definition, because that is quite the upgrade.
WF: Jadon Sancho. United haven’t had a decent right winger for a long time and they’ve now got one of the world’s best.
JW: I’m going for Emiliano Buendia at Aston Villa. He has the skill and technique to excite fans at Villa Park and make them forget all about Jack.
JN: Leon Bailey was impressive at Bayer Leverkusen and could be a success for Aston Villa, but Emiliano Buendia really is very good and could be the one to guide the club to that much coveted 11th position.
JS: Leon Bailey. He won’t exactly fill Grealish’s shoes, but I can see him having a great debut campaign and Villa finishing eighth-ish.
And which one will turn out to be a massive flop?
SW: Man City are paying £100m for Jack Grealish and they will get worse. That has to make him a flop.
MS: Leon Bailey. Jack Grealish will be crowned as such ludicrously early but by January everyone will be regretting their diving fraudster hot takes as he settles in.
IW: Leon Bailey.
DT: Long-term he’ll be absolutely fine but right here and right now Ibrahima Konate is going to be under huge and wildly unfair pressure to instantly sort out Liverpool’s injury-plagued defence. As long as we’re happy to define ‘massive flop’ as ‘initially failing to meet unrealistic expectations’ I think we’re fine.
WF: Genuinely difficult – most of the transfer business seems to have been irritatingly savvy. I’ll go with Leon Bailey, for no particular reason.
JW: Andros Townsend is only a free transfer at Everton, so I’m going with Adam Armstrong at Southampton.
JN: It’s bound to be someone that Bozo The Clown has signed for Spurs. The 23-year-old who looks about 15, Argentinian, Cristian Romero, was Serie A defender of the year 2020-21 for Atalanta. Sounds like a good move to take him on a season-long loan deal with an option – though not obligation – to buy for £42.5million. But there has to be a reason Juve loaned him back to Genoa and then to Atalanta and now to Tottenham, when their centre-back pairing of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci is 198 years old.
JS: Joachim Andersen. A bit random but everyone seems to rant and rave about him. He’s so average.
Who will be the biggest bloody bargain?
SW: Demarai Gray for peanuts at Everton. There is a good player in there.
MS: Townsend gets ten assists at Everton. Valentino Livramento does a Tariq Lamptey, hopefully sans injury. Emmanuel Dennis has an Ighalo season at Watford. One of the good ones.
IW: Milot Rashica will probably be ready for the next step within a year at Norwich. Leicester seem to have got a bargain in Boubakary Soumare too.
DT: Andros Townsend was an underwhelming way to start a summer’s work for Everton. He has the feel of a fifth or sixth arrival, not a first or second. Even so, at a fee of zero pounds he will make a sizeable statistical contribution to Everton’s ultimately slightly disappointing ninth-place finish. If not him then Demarai Gray who ticks every single one of the same boxes because £1.7m is basically nothing, isn’t it?
WF: Demarai Gray could easily have moved from Leicester for £40million a couple of seasons ago, which admittedly probably would have been too much. But £1.7million is surely a snip.
JW: Michael Olise. He was really impressive in the Championship last season for Reading and I can’t wait to see him step up for Palace.
JN: For just five million Scottish pounds – I think you’ll find that’s legal tender, pal, OK? – Kyogo Furuhashi looks like he will help Celtic v Rangers look more like an even fight this year. That is a small fuck tonne of money in Scottish football and they’ll do well to hold onto him next year as some moneybags Premier League club who was too lazy, stupid or scared to scout him from Japan, decides to buy him for a price far below what he’s really worth, as is traditional for Scottish club sales.
JS: I’ll stick with Palace: Michael Olise. Only cost £8m, has bags of potential and will fill Eberechi Eze’s boots quite nicely while he’s injured.
Who will be named the PFA Player of the Year?
SW: It will be N’Golo Kante’s year again.
MS: Mason Mount.
IW: Kevin De Bruyne after 427 assists.
DT: Harry Kane will be the best player in the division again, but will be overlooked for being either at trophyless Spurs or just another cog in the relentless City machine. Lukaku to get it for title-winning Chelsea despite having fewer goals and fewer assists than Kane.
WF: Kai Havertz. Bold, I know.
JW: Mason Mount. F**k it, I’m going quite brave – my predictions can’t be much worse than last year’s effort.
JN: With 34 goals and plenty of assists, Romeu Lukaku should be ticking a lot of boxes
JS: Riyad Mahrez. One of the most underrated ballers in world football. 10+ goals, 15+ assists incoming.
First manager to leave their Premier League job?
SW: Xisco Munoz. This is Watford.
MS: Ralph Hasenhuttl will go before he completes the 9-0 trilogy.
IW: Xisco Munoz seeing as Steve Bruce is bulletproof.
DT: Loads of incumbent managers starting the season under fair chunks of pressure – your Artetas, your Hasenhuttls – and new arrivals who could go rapidly and alarmingly awry – Nuno, Lage, Vieira. But in any season when Watford are in the Premier League it is pure foolishness and needlessly complicated to look elsewhere. Sorry, Xisco Munoz.
WF: Patrick Vieira.
JW: Xisco at Watford. They just love a new boss down at Vicarage Road.
JN: Will Wolverhampton’s Portuguese boss, the gift to the pun that is Bruno Lage, be the new Nuno or the latest Marco Silva? Even so he’ll have to go some to be sacked before Watford get rid of the first of their three managers this season. So, the X Man, Xisco Munoz, it is then
JS: Mikel Arteta. As an Arsenal fan I can see us losing our first three games, continuing to struggle and then end up managerless by November at the latest.
Pick the Champions League winner.
SW: Bayern Munich. I was going to put City but that undermines my Grealish hot take.
MS: Thinking outside the box, PSG look decent. Solid squad they’ve put together.
IW: PSG. If not now, never.
DT: All banter aside, it’s PSG isn’t it? Huge pressure on Poch, though, because if he doesn’t win it this year he’ll probably have to come back and manage Spurs because he’ll not survive such humiliating failure in Paris.
WF: Liverpool. It will be an all eggs in one basket situation come the knockout stages. Jurgen Klopp’s last hurrah.
JW: Paris Saint Germain. They simply have to win it with that front three/four…
JN: Given Pep’s habit of overthinking a final like a massive scaredy cat, if it isn’t Qatar Saint-German this time, with their donkey-choking wads of cash, then they might as well be taken to the horse slaughterers and despatched.
JS: Paris Saint-Germain. Hopefully it’s an underdog but they have Messi, Mbappe, Neymar, Sergio Ramos and more. Ridiculous.
In five words, tell us what you are most excited about this season.
SW: A proper bloody title race.
MS: No longer subbing Daniel Storey. Fans ironically cheering missed shots.
IW: Saturday 3pm in the Prem.
DT: The rejuvenation of Dele Alli.
WF: Going to a football game.
JW: The Arsenal and Tottenham race.
JN: Greenock Morton pushing for promotion.
JS: Arsenal finishing above Tottenham (maybe).