As is traditional, tell me who will win the league. Extra points if you pretend it’s not Man City…
Sarah Winterburn: No extra points for me, Sarah (this is weird), as I cannot see past Man City. Liverpool needed to do a little something and they really did bugger all.
Matt Stead: Shove your extra points. City are becoming only the fifth side to ever win three on the bounce.
Daniel Storey: Sorry, but it’s Manchester City. Too many doubts about everyone other than Liverpool, and their front three playing during the summer doesn’t help. City win the league by seven points.
John Nicholson: I’d like to pretend it won’t be City, but it will be City. And by a big margin this year, as I can’t see Liverpool getting within 10 points of last season’s tally but can very much see City doing so, especially as there looks to be about 16 sides they can beat with one leg tied behind their head. This will lead to a widespread feeling of ‘what’s the point any more?’, greater general disaffection with the league as a competition and lots of angry shouting at those who still say ‘anyone can beat anyone in this league, Jeff.’
Ian Watson: Man City. Probably by a cat’s c*ck hair again.
Seb Stafford-Bloor: No extra points for me: It’s Manchester City – mainly because I’m expecting a little bit of a post-Madrid drop off from Liverpool. How do you keep that side playing with such intensity after they’ve reached the mountain top?
Factor in Rodri, most likely Joao Cancelo too and it’s hard to argue against City. Dispiritingly, I don’t think it’ll be nearly as interesting this time around.
Joe Williams: Liverpool. Like a lot of Reds, I have a feeling it’s FINALLY their year.
And the rest of the top four, in order. Which nobody ever gets right.
SW: Liverpool, Man United and Arsenal. Honestly could make a case for any and none of the top six.
MS: Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal. The squads of the top six are similarly (un)balanced, so I think it will come down to the quality of the manager. ‘Knowing the club’ matters little against Guardiola, Klopp, Pochettino and even Emery.
DS: Liverpool to come second and Tottenham third, which I’m pretty sure most people will say. And then…erm, bugger. I’m going to say Manchester United, because my 90s childhood has indoctrinated me against them being rubbish. Even when they’re rubbish.
JN: Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea. Don’t think there’ll be much to choose between these three because of that significant drop in Liverpool’s form. But these four will be comfortably ahead of Spurs and Manchester United who will both lose their managers this season. Frank Lampard’s Chelsea will be hailed as having a successful season despite it being worse than last.
IW: Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester United. If Liverpool aren’t champions, they’ll be a close second. Spurs are obviously stronger but not strong enough to crack the top two, while the gravitational pull of Harry Maguire’s massive bonce will propel United back into the Champions League.
SSB: Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal.
JW: Manchester City, Tottenham, Arsenal. Man Utd will get slightly closer with an improved defence – but still lose out – while Chelsea will miss Eden Hazard’s contributions.
Three picks for relegation please.
SW: Sheffield United, Norwich and Burnley, who will stubbornly march to relegation without ever thinking of replacing Sean Dyche.
MS: Burnley, Norwich and Crystal Palace.
DS: I don’t think Norwich or Sheffield United will be dreadful, but I do think they will drop. Then I’m going to go bold and pick Crystal Palace. Wan-Bissaka gone, Zaha wanting out and too few coming in, given financial restraints. Uncle Roy, anti-climax.
JN: Sheffield United, Norwich City, Brighton.
The Blades look short of goals. Is the lavishly priced £20million ex-Swansea dude Oli McBurnie the man to get them? Nah. The Canaries will be goal-light too if yer man Pukki doesn’t measure up in the top flight. The third pick is trickier because as ever in the Premier League, there are plenty of contenders for the all-that-money-and-they’re-still-not-very-good award. Newcastle are the obvious choice but I have an inkling that they might be alright. Bournemouth are capable of being rotten for weeks and weeks and some day Burnley are going to run out of steam. But I’ll have to go for Brighton who scored only 35 times last outing. I’d love Graham Potter to do well but for that to happen he needs to sign one and possibly two brilliant goalscorers immediately (Ed: This was before Neal Maupay joined, so be gentle). Can he? It seems unlikely. But that’s alright. Relegation out of the Premier League should be an ambition not a failure for all these three clubs.
IW: As Fulham learned, spluffing the budget is no guarantee of survival but I think Sheffield United and Villa have given themselves a decent chance. Norwich probably haven’t. So them, Crystal Palace and Brighton.
SSB: Norwich, Crystal Palace, Newcastle.
JW: Brighton, Burnley, Norwich City. One does not predict his own team – Sheffield United – to get relegated.
Which club will be a pleasant surprise?
SW: Southampton will join the mid-table chasers. I love Ralph.
MS: Brighton. Gary Porter has bought well this summer but also has a load of Chris Hughton signings to find in the back of the cupboard, dust off and improve.
DS: I think Villa will be comfortable enough, which is probably surprising. And I’ve gone for Manchester United to finish in the top four. That’s enough of making myself a hostage to fortune.
JN: Aston Villa with Jack Grealish and John McGinn offering tremendous creativity seem a good shout to be half decent. Time will tell if they’ve ‘done a Fulham’ by whazzing loads of money on loads of players but there’s a good core of talent in the squad. All-round good egg Tom Heaton at £8m seems a good bit o’ business. Wesley Moraes looks like one of those players who we’ll end up saying either ‘what a bargain he was’ or ‘I can’t believe anyone thought he was any good.’ If it’s the former Villa can look forward to the joys of finishing 12th
IW: Chris Wilder’s Championship All-Stars at Sheffield United will defy the relegation odds while bloodying a few noses. Perhaps literally.
SSB: Bournemouth. Do they count? Put it this way, I think they’ve cured their long-standing defensive problems and have generally bought well in other areas.
JW: Leicester City. The addition of another centre-back – following Harry Maguire’s departure – would help, but the signings of Ayoze Perez and Youri Tielemans will see them hovering around sixth place. Brendan Rodgers will prove the 2013/14 season at Liverpool was all him and absolutely nothing to do with Luis Suarez.
Who will win the Golden Boot?
SW: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang again.
MS: Sergio Aguero, m’lord.
DS: I think Harry Kane, but that’s a bit boring. So for value picks: Marcus Rashford is at 28s and might play centrally, Richarlison is 100s and Che Adams is 200s, which is a longer price than Luka Milivojevic. How can I manage to waffle in a predictions feature?
JN: Raheem Sterling. There are so very many teams they’ll be able to thrash this year home and away, on their way to another 100 points, it seems inconceivable that the GB won’t be a City player as they pile up the 4-0 and 5-0 wins. Expect Sterling to bag 30 of them.
IW: Harry Kane, if he can avoid being broken.
SSB: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He seems to score goals without anyone noticing, doesn’t he? It’s a good trait to have, of course, and I think having Pepe alongside him will help – well, it can’t hurt.
JW: Mohamed Salah.
Which new signing will have the greatest positive impact?
SW: Moise Kean. Everton will come close – but fall just short – of challenging the big six with an actual striker.
MS: Aaron Wan-Bissaka represents about ten upgrades on Manchester United’s previous options.
DS: My Manchester United prediction is based upon Harry Maguire joining, so him. Of players who have actually signed, has to be Leicester convincing Youri Tielemans to stay.
JN: I’m hoping Joelinton will improve Newcastle a lot, which in fairness even a half decent wheelbarrow full of chopped liver rolling down a hill would do. But it is almost ridiculous that Everton have signed Moise Kean. If anyone is ‘the next big thing’ it is him. If he stays fit, he will lead Everton to the much-celebrated glory of seventh. But please, no more Moysey jokes already.
IW: Contrary to what some appear to expect for the fee, Harry Maguire is not the b*stard love child of Franco Baresi and Bobby Moore, and he might not have quite the transformative effect Virgil van Dijk had on Liverpool, but it won’t be far short. He and Victor Lindelof could be quite the pair. I’m looking forward to watching Tanguy Ndombele too.
SSB: Tanguy Ndombele.
JW: Nicolas Pepe. Will provide Arsenal with the natural width they’ve been craving, as well as numerous goals and assists. Worth the dollar.
And which one will turn out to be a massive flop?
SW: I have pretty low expectations of Christian Pulisic.
MS: Big Joseph Linton at Newcastle. Or Oli McBurnie.
DS: Mateo Kovacic for £40m. I don’t think he gets into their team, which isn’t a strong start.
JN: Recent tradition has it that this should likely be a Manchester United signing. Even great players are assigned an existential ton of lead at Old Trafford, so anyone, no matter how good, can look terrible in the Theatre of Dreams. I fancy Harry Maguire will feel that weight. Not that he’ll be especially bad, more that he won’t make much, if any, difference and not being loads better than Phil Jones or Chris Smalling isn’t a good look on anyone.
IW: There aren’t many obvious turkeys among the list of recruits. I worry for Joelinton since he needs to hit the ground running at Newcastle and he probably won’t get much help.
SSB: Dani Ceballos. It’s the lack of a buying clause in that loan contract. When he inevitably struggles with the speed of the game, what is his motivation to persevere – does he want a future at Arsenal, or is this a marriage of convenience while he waits for an opening in Real Madrid’s midfield? Probably the latter and, at a guess, people will have forgotten that he’s even at Arsenal by February.
JW: Moise Kean. Looks like a bargain but just got a weird hunch (probably because of my sh*t office chair) about this one.
The ‘Pascal Gross award’ for bargain of the summer goes to…
SW: Nicolas Pepe is a steal at £20m. That’s one for the Man United fans who are bizarrely irritated by such talk.
MS: Tom Heaton will happily thrive in the shadows of Aston Villa’s more eye-catching purchases.
DS: My favourite category, fact fans. Josip Drmic on a free transfer and Ezri Konsa at Villa, please.
JN: It’d be nice to see Andy Carroll doing his horse-falling-out-of-a-helicopter act and scoring goals for Newcastle as he’s available for nothing but a case of Ace Lager. But more sensibly, how about Dani Ceballos arriving on loan to Arsenal from Real Madrid?
IW: Fabian Delph is a steal for Everton. Kieran Tierney will prove to be a bargain too.
SSB: £11m for Lloyd Kelly is hard to beat. And, to be bold, let’s say that he’ll play for England before the end of the season.
JW: Che Adams at Southampton. Predicting at least 12 goals this season from the £15m signing from Birmingham City. Pace, energy and a wonderful eye for goal.
Who will be named the PFA Player of the Year?
SW: Oh Kevin de Bruyne…
MS: David Silva, a decade on from Ryan Giggs’ similarly sentimental success.
DS: Kevin de Bruyne. Back and fresh and ready to make up for missing out last season.
JN: As top scorer and being an all-round important person, that Mr Raheem Sterling.
IW: Kevin De Bruyne appears rested and ready to prove a point.
SSB: Harry Kane.
JW: Raheem Sterling. He ran Virgil van Dijk extremely close last year and will turn it up a notch again this term.
First manager to leave their Premier League job?
SW: Roy Hodgson. He looks tired.
MS: Javi Gracia. Made a rod for his own back last season by being brilliant, and will be gone after a hectic deadline day and slow start.
DS: Harder than ever, with most looking safe. I’ll say Hodgson at Palace, if things start badly.
JN: Call me insane if you want, but in my water I feel there is a good chance of major Spurs floppage in the first three months of the season. Any side that loses a third of their matches last season need serious improvement and it doesn’t look like happening, leading to poor early results and Poch basically saying to Daniel Levy “what do you expect, you tight get?” and an early jumping of ship, leading to a managerial sacking at Manchester United and installation of the former Spurs sex bomb in January. You’re thinking that makes sense, aren’t you?
IW: Within a couple of months, Palace will be thanking Roy and patting him on the back with one hand while ushering him towards the door with the other. You hate to see it…
SSB: Manuel Pellegrini. It’s West Ham, something silly always happens. It’s him or Roy Hodgson
JW: Graham Potter. Before Brighton bring in the only Premier League manager to be sacked twice in a year: Mark Hughes.
Pick the Champions League winner.
SW: Sod it, Man City.
MS: Man Blue.
DS: Juventus are sixth favourites. Their first-choice team is better than most of those above them and they should walk their league, which helps.
JN: Manchester City simply have to do it this year, don’t they? Even though some fans says it’s not important to them, it absolutely is to Pep Guardiola and they’ve pretty much got two different sides that could do it. The pressure on them will be huge as the whole world expects them to win it and is just waiting for them to fail. Can he and they handle it?
IW: Man City. Pep needs this to be their year.
JW: Juventus. If they add another striker the Old Lady will be some outfit next campaign.
In five words, tell us what you are most excited about this season.
SW: Football getting even bloody sexier.
MS: Neil Custis joining The Athletic.
DS: Living, laughing, loving. Some proper competition for the top six places, England’s young players at home and abroad in the build up to Euro2020 and, on a selfish note, going to as many matches as I can. #Blessed (Ed: This isn’t a stitch-up. We did ask everyone for five words here.)
JN: New retro shirts are great.
IW: Not VAR, it’ll ruin everything.
SSB: Burger vans and frying onions. I can’t eat either, but the smell makes me think of football.
JW: Ravel Morrison nutmegging Shkodran Mustafi.