With less than a week to go before the first matches begin it is finally time to prepare for another Premier League season with my pre-season predictions for 2016-17. This EPL season is looking likely to be the most competitive in recent years with at least six different teams making valid claims on the top four positions. These not even counting the likes of Leicester City, West Ham, Southampton, and Everton.
At this stage of the season making any predictions, especially season long predictions, is more a matter of guess work based more on feeling than any real statistical analysis. Even looking at statistics from the previous season can only give some insight into what might transpire for this year. This is especially true for the several teams that have new managers (Manchester United, Chelsea, or Everton) or a manager given his first full pre-season and transfer window (Liverpool).
With my predictions I’m making several assumptions, primarily that there will be regression to the mean for several teams. With Manchester United bringing in Jose Mourinho and a slew of summer signings, a top four finish is an absolute must and something that should be entirely doable. Manchester City still have the best team on paper in the Premier League and adding Pep Guardiola means that anything other than ending the season as Champions is a significant setback.
Meanwhile, the reigning Champions, Leicester City, will have a difficult time replicating last year’s historic campaign, especially with nearly every other team strengthening around them. At the same time Everton’s poor season last year should be turned around with the introduction of Ronald Koeman as manager. I’m also expecting a dip in performances from Southampton due to their managerial change as well, though I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them further up the table again this season.
At the bottom of the table my first pick for relegation is Hull City. They are a club in turmoil and don’t look like having a very easy season in their return to the Premier League. The remaining two places are difficult to pick. Crystal Palace ended last season by sinking down the table and could have problems again this season. West Brom, Burnley, and Bournemouth are three more candidates for relegation struggles as well. I went with Watford as an additional relegated team mostly because of their managerial changes and the constant flux within the club in general. They were a strong defensive team for most of last season that benefited from Odion Ighalo’s amazing run in the middle of the season. Without Chique Sanches Flores I don’t feel quite so confident in their solidity at the back.
As is the case with any predictions these could all be wildly wrong, but it is still fun to make them and see how the season turns out in the end. During the season I will continue to update my weekly predictions as well as put out fantasy Premier League tips throughout the year.