The World Cup is over for another four years – and while the domestic game can still bask in the warm glow of England’s run to the semi-finals the Premier League is now ready to return.
So it is time to don the tin hat once more to take a stab at how things might – or might not – work out in the top flight this season.
We also asked you to make your predictions for the final Premier League table. You can see the result at the bottom of the page and you can still make your own prediction here.
Unsurprisingly you joined me in tipping Manchester City to retain their title – but will we get a shock at the top?
|Phil McNulty’s predicted 2018-19 Premier League positions at a glance|
|Position||Club||Position (cont)||Club (cont)|
|3||Manchester United||13||Crystal Palace|
Last season – Champions
This season – Champions
Best coach. Best team. Best squad. The confidence of reigning champions. For all the efforts to strengthen elsewhere it is still hard to look beyond Pep Guardiola and Manchester City for the Premier League.
Riyad Mahrez’s arrival from Leicester City adds further variety and potency to an all-powerful attack while this may well be the season home-grown teenager Phil Foden stamps his class and authority on the Premier League.
John Stones was outstanding and mature for England in Russia while Benjamin Mendy’s return to fitness adds further talent.
They may not get 100 points or win by that runaway 19-point margin – but they will be champions again.
Last season – Fourth
This season – Second
No excuses any more. This is the season Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool must mount a serious title challenge. Huge potential and promise, plus a Champions League final appearance, from last season must now be turned into something even more substantial.
Liverpool’s owners Fenway Sports Groups have ensured Klopp has been able to re-invest the £142m brought in from Barcelona for Philippe Coutinho on serious quality additions.
Naby Keita – a potential stand-out in the Premier League this season – can provide the key link between midfield and the world-class attack of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.
Fabinho will provide stability while the £67m arrival of goalkeeper Alisson from Roma solves a glaring Liverpool weakness highlighted by Loris Karius’ calamitous Champions League final performance.
And Xherdan Shaqiri has already shown in pre-season he will add an extra layer of unpredictability to Klopp’s squad.
There is no valid reason to be 25 points behind the champions this season and they will run Manchester City close.
Last season – Second
This season – Third
What a ray of sunshine Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has been in pre-season – almost being followed around by a little black cloud over his head.
This will have to disappear the moment Leicester City arrive at Old Trafford for the opening game because it is now Mourinho’s third full season at United and for all his apparent dissatisfaction he has still had plenty of financial backing to build this side.
Mourinho will clearly be frustrated by his failure to add that central defender he wanted so desperately but the addition of £50m Brazilian Fred will give him even more creativity.
If he can clear away those clouds then United can still have a serious impact this season – but the manager simply must cut a more positive figure than the rather defeatist individual that has been seen so far this summer.
Last season – Third
This season – Fourth
Spurs have had a low-key summer in the transfer market but they still possess an outstanding squad and can look forward to the landmark opening of their magnificent new stadium against Liverpool on 15 September.
Mauricio Pochettino has class and quality throughout his side from France’s World Cup winning keeper Hugo Lloris to those such as Kieran Trippier and Harry Kane who figured prominently for England at the World Cup – and much more besides with the class of players such as Christian Eriksen.
This is a squad that could conceivably finish higher than this prediction but Pochettino, like Klopp at Liverpool, must now reward those who persistently shower his work with praise with a trophy.
Last season – Fifth
This season – Fifth
There’s a real element of the unknown about predicting Chelsea’s fortunes this season as Maurizio Sarri takes over from fellow Italian Antonio Conte as the latest incumbent in the managerial chair.
Sarri will add colour, character and attacking football at Stamford Bridge and Jorginho from Napoli is a high-class operator who was also at one time coveted by Manchester City.
The retention of Eden Hazard has been crucial while there will be much focus on new keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga – bought for a world record £71m from Athletic Bilbao.
Mateo Kovacic has not flourished at Real Madrid but is a genuine talent – and will Ross Barkley’s career actually threaten to come out of cold storage?
It could be a lot of fun watching Chelsea this season and don’t put it past them to mount a serious top-four challenge and win (as they usually do) a trophy.
Last season – 6th
This season – 6th
After almost 22 years with Arsene Wenger in charge, a new era begins for Arsenal following the fascinating managerial appointment in Unai Emery, a three-time Europa League winner with Sevilla and title-winner in France with Paris St-Germain.
Emery is an exponent of attacking, pressing football so there may be an early period of transition, especially with Manchester City and Chelsea as opening opponents.
He has already made his mark though, as goalkeeper Bernd Leno arrives from Bayer Leverkusen while there are seriously high hopes for Uruguay midfielder Lucas Torreira after his £26m arrival from Sampdoria.
Like Chelsea, watching Arsenal might be a treat this season and Emery can consider it a job very well done if he gets them into the Champions League once more.
Last season – Promoted from the Championship
This season – 7th
The first wild card call.
The return of one of the great old clubs to the top flight – but now in the guise of fiercely ambitious big spenders ready to put the squeeze on the old order.
It may take some time but I fancy Wolves, under charismatic manager Nuno Espirito Santo, to rattle a few cages this season – especially after another show of serious intent in the transfer market and in front of fervent fans at Molineux.
Experienced Portugal keeper Rui Patricio will be a key addition while it will be interesting to see how fellow countryman Joao Moutinho adapts following his arrival from Monaco after being seemingly linked with moves to England for the last decade.
And in bringing in Belgium midfielder Leander Dendoncker from Anderlecht they have shown they now have a growing reputation around Europe.
Left-field I know but a serious fancy for the top 10.
Last season – 8th
This season – 8th
Everton’s last campaign was a mess of incompetence and ill-feeling after Ronald Koeman’s sacking and the unpopular appointment of Sam Allardyce.
They have effectively started again with the appointment of Marco Silva, the man owner Farhad Moshiri originally wanted to replace Koeman as manager and an all-powerful director of football in Marcel Brands from Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven.
Everton have an outstanding goalkeeper in England’s Jordan Pickford while Silva has huge faith in young Brazilian Richarlison, his former player from Watford signed for £44m.
But, have enough gaps been plugged in a flawed squad and can Silva finally deliver hard evidence to support those who believe he is a top-class managerial talent?
How those questions are answered might just define their season. A fruitful final day of the window, with Bernard arriving as a creator and Barcelona’s Yerry Mina adding power to defence (albeit a gamble) just edges them ahead of ambitious West Ham.
West Ham United
Last season – 13th
This season – 9th
West Ham’s owners have certainly delivered on their promise to show ambition on and off the pitch as they attempt to put last season’s misery at the London Stadium behind them.
Manuel Pellegrini, a title winner at Manchester City, has arrived to replace David Moyes as manager – although it remains to be seen if this relentlessly low-key personality can ignite the home fires so crucial to The Hammers.
He has certainly been supported in the market with the arrival of the likes of Jack Wilshere, Issa Diop from Toulouse, Felipe Anderson from Lazio and the talented Andriy Yarmolenko from Borussia Dortmund.
It’s never easy predicting West Ham but there just may be a better season ahead.
Last season – 9th
This season – 10th
Leicester’s owners have kept faith with manager Claude Puel – although he needs to make a decent start – and have backed him in the transfer marker after losing the talismanic Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City.
Keeping Harry Maguire, an England World Cup hero, away from the attentions of Manchester United was a big statement of continued ambition and his defensive partnership with the under-rated Jonny Evans will be a cornerstone.
James Maddison showed real quality for Norwich City in the Championship while Jamie Vardy still has that scoring touch and ability to trouble the best
The big question is – can Puel get the best out of this squad?
Last season – Promoted from the Championship
This season – 11th
Fulham were promoted playing superb football in the Championship last season under a progressive manager in Slavisa Jokanovic and nothing has happened this summer to suggest that development will not continue.
They have kept their superb young prospect Ryan Sessegnon, a certain future England international, and pulled off a genuine coup in signing the coveted Jean Michael Seri from Nice.
Add the experience of Germany World Cup winner Andre Schurrle and defensive strength from the likes of Alfie Mawson and Calum Chambers, and there is no reason to feel any concerns for the Cottagers this season, particularly since their deadline-day signings made them the first promoted club to spend in excess of £100m
Last season – 7th
This season – 12th
Burnley’s qualification for Europe last season was a magnificent feat of management by Sean Dyche – and how they manage the Europa League may yet be key to their progress this season.
It is, however, a sign of this wonderful club’s progress that there is no reason to feel they will struggle this season under Dyche’s guidance.
The loss of goalkeeper Nick Pope to long-term injury is a serious blow. Can Dyche transform Joe Hart’s career as it has seemed in terminal decline?
There are two interesting deals from the Championship in defender Ben Gibson from Middlesbrough and former Derby County striker Matej Vydra. Can he take his goalscoring talents to another level at Burnley?
Last season – 11th
This season – 13th
Roy Hodgson’s rejuvenation (and his own rehabilitation from his England managerial nightmare) cannot be underestimated as Palace were transformed from looking relegation certainties to surviving playing excellent football.
Now Hodgson can build on that and I fully expect a season without those relegation worries at one of the Premier League’s most atmospheric arenas at Selhurst Park.
The retention of Wilfried Zaha keeps a priceless asset. Cheikhou Kouyate will provide presence in midfield while Max Meyer arrives from Schalke with a big reputation.
Last season – 12th
This season – 14th
Eddie Howe has now established Bournemouth in the Premier League to the point where few discuss them as potential strugglers – so I won’t start here.
Expect another solid season of consolidation for the Cherries, with spectacular victories and defeats occasionally arriving in swift succession.
Lewis Cook is a midfield player much admired by England manager Gareth Southgate while Howe has also fleshed out his squad elsewhere with the arrivals of players such as promising youngster David Brooks from Sheffield United and club record signing Jefferson Lerma, the Colombian midfielder who joined from Levante in a £25m deal.
Last season – 15th
This season – 15th
Chris Hughton and his Brighton players performed superbly to stay in the Premier league last season and I back this vastly underrated manager to do the same this time around.
All eyes will be on club record £17m signing Alireza Jahanbakhsh, the Iranian forward who was top scorer in Eredivisie in the Netherlands with 21 goals in 33 appearances for AZ Alkmaar. Can he make what is often a tough transition from that division to the Premier League?
Last season – 17th
This season – 16th
The appointment of Mark Hughes as replacement for Mauricio Pellegrino arrived just in time to save Saints from relegation last season.
Now Hughes must move Southampton along and also try to banish the memories of the fact that he was largely responsible for assembling the Stoke City squad that was relegated to the Championship.
It may be that Saints’ days of selling their best players and losing managers and yet somehow thriving are behind them. Logic can only be defied for so long.
I’m not expecting relegation but I don’t see too much sparkle either – although there is a lot riding on this season for the experienced Hughes, whose deadline-day signing of Danny Ings on loan form Liverpool may prove a shrewd addition.
Last season – 16th
This season – 17th
I know. I know. Pretty much every pre-season prediction has the Terriers relegated but I’m happy to go against the grain with a gut feeling on this one.
I just think manager David Wagner has fostered a special spirit at a club full of character – and remember how he brought it out when needed with those status-saving draws at Manchester City and Chelsea at the season’s end.
I was delighted when they proved me wrong last season. I hope they don’t this season.
Last season – 10th
This season – 18th
The only thing you can predict about Newcastle United is that a crisis is always just around the corner – and this is why I fear the worst for them this season.
Manager Rafael Benitez and owner Mike Ashley are at odds once more and the Spaniard, no stranger to the game’s political manoeuvrings, has made his discontent clear while retaining the support of the Toon Army.
If Benitez stays and can be kept reasonably happy (a big if that one) then there is reason to suspect Newcastle can stay up – if he doesn’t then there may be serious consequences.
Salomon Rondon is a decent signing as a striker but he is not prolific and will carry a huge weight of responsibility.
As ever Newcastle’s vast following deserve better.
Last season – 14th
This season – 19th
Another club (and a very well-structured one behind the scenes despite managerial turnover) who have established themselves in the Premier League.
The loss of Richarlison to Everton, albeit for a very good fee for a youngster who faded in the second half of last season, robs them of attacking threat and is manager Javi Gracia the man to take them forward?
Ben Foster will provide experience in goal following his return to the club and much will depend on the mercurial Gerard Deulofeu finally achieving the consistency to match his obvious talent. Ken Sema also showed signs of quality when he played for Ostersunds against Arsenal in the Europa League last season, when he was on target with the winner at Emirates Stadium.
It’s dangerous business going against The Hornets though – they have defied the odds before.
Last season – Promoted from the Championship
This season – 20th
Oh how Neil Warnock will love the Bluebirds being written off before the season even starts. This is a vastly experienced manager who, no matter what any of his many detractors might say, did the sort of job that would have been hailed as a work of genius by other managers to get Cardiff promoted last season.
They will be backed by fanatical support at home but Warnock has found the transition from Championship to Premier League a difficult one before and might have wanted to do more in the markets this summer.
Have Cardiff City got enough to stay up? I have my doubts but would be happy to be wrong and no doubt those of us who predict their demise will hear about if we are – and rightly so.
|Your predicted 2018-19 Premier League positions at a glance|
|Position||Club||Position (cont)||Club (cont)|
|Results as of 08:00 BST on Wednesday 8 August|
|1||Manchester City||11||Crystal Palace|