There may never be another story in the Premier League quite like Leicester City’s title win last season. But there is every reason to think that this season could be just as interesting and perhaps even more so.
There will be plenty to entertain off the pitch alone with Jose Mourinho beginning life at Manchester United and the arrival of Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte to a league already possessing ample managerial talent and personalities.
It will be a campaign, too, that starts with more legitimate title contenders than not only any previous Premier League season but any current top league across Europe.
Here’s a best guess of how things might end up looking in nine months’ time.
1. Manchester City (Title Betting Odds: 5/2)
As with every prediction in this most competitive of seasons, this one comes with plenty of caveats. It will take time for Guardiola’s ideas to be fully taken on board and the intensity of the Premier League week-in week-out will be new to him. However, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach demands the absolute maximum from his players. That should ensure a far better performance from a squad that has consistently underachieved but has been boosted this summer by smart, if not spectacular, signings.
2. Manchester United (3/1)
There is certainly an argument that Mourinho’s disastrous last few months at Chelsea was more than just his third-season syndrome striking again and that he has permanently lost some of his luster. Still, he should certainly be an improvement on what has come before him at Old Trafford post-Alex Ferguson. Already he has made a major statement by getting four signings that should hugely improve the first XI. However, Mourinho did not win the title in his first season at Real Madrid or the second time around at Chelsea and may just fall short again.
3. Chelsea (6/1)
The only way, surely, is up for Chelsea after the calamity of last season, which eventually ended in a 10th place finish. There is a concern that new manager Conte is too similar to Mourinho in his dictatorial, demanding approach, but the Italian showed at Euro 2016 that he is a fine tactician capable of getting the most from a squad. With N’Golo Kante fixing a long-standing hole in midfield and Eden Hazard potentially getting back somewhere close to his award-winning form of two seasons ago, Chelsea can return to the top four. However, defensive deficiencies must be addressed.
4. Liverpool (9/1)
There were plenty of ups and downs during Jurgen Klopp’s first few months in charge, but there were also signs of how devastating Liverpool could be when fully embracing the German’s high-intensity approach. That should only be enhanced after a full preseason to work with the team and the addition of Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum, who should fit his philosophy nicely. While the squad still lacks world-class talent, Liverpool will be boosted by having no European action.
5. Arsenal (6/1)
The early big-money signing of Granit Xhaka suggested that Arsene Wenger might be ready to go all out this season to win the Premier League title in the final year of his contract, and possibly of his career. Yet what has happened since has instead pointed toward this being the season that Arsenal finally drop out of the Champions League. An inexplicable lack of signings combined with an all-too-predictable injury crisis means Arsenal go into the season with big problems. Unless major transfer business is forthcoming, this time the team may not bounce back.
6. Tottenham (9/1)
In Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham clearly have a hugely gifted manager who is likely to only bring more success to the club. But it may be tough to repeat last season’s title challenge and third-place finish with the extra demands of the Champions League. A thin squad has been boosted only by the arrivals of Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen. And the sense that a club budgeting for a move into a new stadium is failing to capitalize on last season’s success is added to by the resignation this week of its head of recruitment. Still, some smart buys late in August or January could yet see Spurs retain its Champions League place.
7. Leicester City (28/1)
It would be foolish to write Leicester off, but, with the added burden of the Champions League and the loss of N’Golo Kante, it is difficult to see the club coming close to matching last season’s title-winning heroics. With the vastly experienced Claudio Ranieri in charge, the team shouldn’t completely implode, but much will depend on whether Nampalys Mendy can adequately replace Kante.
8. West Ham United (80/1)
Newly flush with cash after the move into the Olympic Stadium, West Ham have big ambitions, as demonstrated by some of their transfer targets this summer. The big signing, notably of a striker, has yet to materialize, though, even if Sofiane Fegholi and Andre Ayew should prove good pickups. An ultra-competitive season as well as potential teething problems in a new stadium may see West Ham take a small step back.
9. Everton (100/1)
When Everton finally came under new ownership earlier this year in the form of Iranian billionaire Farhad Moshiri, there was an expectation that the club would embark on a spending spree. That hasn’t materialized, and, despite the appointment of new manager Ronald Koeman, it is more a case of evolution rather than revolution at Goodison Park. Still, Ashley Williams is a shrewd addition and it could yet be a busy last few weeks of the transfer market to boost Everton’s ambitions.
10. Southampton (100/1)
Yet again, Southampton will have to show this season that its strong foundations and shrewd decisions can overcome the loss of key figures. This summer has seen the exit of Koeman and key players Sadio Mane, Graziano Pelle and Victor Wanyama, while captain Jose Fonte is also being linked with a transfer away. It is a big task for new coach Claude Puel to keep Southampton’s momentum going, but he showed last season with Nice that he is a canny operator.
11. Stoke City (500/1)
Stoke look to be on the up and ooze quality in the offensive midfield positions, in the form of Xherdan Shaqiri, Marko Arnautovic and Bojan. The side should also benefit from a first full season of midfielder Giannelli Imbula, but the lack of a decisive striker may prevent the team from truly kicking on.
12. Middlesbrough (1000/1)
With a smart young manager in Aitor Karanka and some impressive signings, Middlesbrough look primed to be the best of the promoted teams. However, much of the team’s success in its first season back in the top flight in eight years could rest on Spaniards Alvaro Negredo and Victor Valdes recapturing some of their former glories.
13. Bournemouth (1000/1)
Bournemouth and manager Eddie Howe did superbly last season, ensuring safety from relegation with ample games to spare despite losing key players to long-term injuries. With those players back and the signing of the talented Jordan Ibe from Liverpool, it could be another good season for the south-coast club.
14. Sunderland (1000/1)
The summer has been just shy of a disaster for Sunderland. As well as struggling to bring players in, the man who masterminded the club’s latest great escape, Sam Allardyce, was poached by England just weeks ahead of the new season. Still, David Moyes is working fast to add to his squad and, despite his struggles at Manchester United and Real Sociedad, proved at Everton that he has a very competent manager for a mid-ranking Premier League club. Relegation should be avoided once more.
15. Crystal Palace (750/1)
A run to the FA Cup final partially masked a dreadful second half of the season for Palace in the Premier League, in which it won just two its last 21 matches. Runs like that can often carry onto the start of the new campaign and that should be a real concern given manager Alan Pardew’s history of struggling to arrest his team’s slides. France international Steve Mandanda is a very good addition in goal, but the lack of a regular scorer up front remains.
16. West Brom (1500/1)
West Brom fans have tolerated Tony Pulis’ soul-sucking style of play this long because he has kept the club clear of the relegation zone. But once the results start to slip then the support could quickly disappear. Having made no major signings and with Pulis’ contract situation still up in the air, it could be a long season at the Hawthorns.
17. Swansea (1000/1)
Francesco Guidolin did an underrated job in coming in and steering Swansea clear of trouble last season. But he may find it even tougher this campaign. The decision to sell the club captain and hugely influential Ashley Williams could come back to haunt the Welsh club. Much will rest on whether new Spanish forwards Fernando Llorente and Borja Baston are able to hit the ground running in the Premier League.
18. Watford (1000/1)
Watford have thus far managed to make a high turnover of both players and managers work, but that may fall flat this season. Dispensing with Quique Sanchez Flores and replacing him with Walter Mazzarri was a strange decision and it could require strong showings again from forwards Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney to keep Watford clear of trouble.
19. Burnley (1000/1)
Burnley’s attitude after getting promoted two seasons ago, to take the Premier League money and put it toward long-term success rather than short-term desperation to stay up, could perhaps be commended. But, having brought the club immediately back up to the Premier League, manager Sean Dyche has reason to be hugely frustrated that there have been no significant additions in this summer’s transfer window. In fact, the squad is arguably weaker than it was in the Championship. Another relegation could await.
20. Hull City (1500/1)
While there has been strong competition, Hull unquestionably takes the award for the most horrendous summer. Promoted through the playoffs, Hull saw manager Steve Bruce resign due to a lack of transfer activity. And with injuries and the departure of key midfielder Mohamed Diame, they go into the season with a caretaker manager – former Manchester United coach Mike Phelan – and barely enough players to fill out the first-team squad. Hull may come closer to breaking the lowest ever points total in the Premier League staying clear of the drop.