After last season’s thrilling title race between two dominant teams, Manchester City eked out Liverpool to become repeat champions. Heading into the 2019-20 campaign, City remain betting favorites, but Liverpool return with the same core, and the rest of the top six have bolstered their squads with the hopes of staying in contention. Here, Ringer staffers predict how the new Premier League season will unfold.
1. What will it take to prevent a Manchester City three-peat?
Conor Nevins: Liverpool has to take four, if not six, points from City from their two meetings. City’s 2-1 win over Liverpool in January cut Liverpool’s lead at the top from seven to four points. Jürgen Klopp’s team can’t rely on the rest of the league to take points from City—they have to inflict maximum damage themselves. Also, injuries: City are perilously thin at center back.
Micah Peters: For Liverpool to have their second, successive, best-ever season in the Premier League era. Also, since that wasn’t enough the first time, divine intervention.
David Lara: An FA investigation.
Ronak Nair: At this point, it really seems like the answer is nothing. Just look at how many things went right for Liverpool last season only for them to finish in second with a measly 97 points: They had two Golden Boot winners in Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané; a world-class defense including Virgil van Dijk and Alisson; and several last-second miracles to salvage points throughout the year, including the Riyad Mahrez missed penalty, the Daniel Sturridge goal against Chelsea, the Divock Origi goal against Everton, and the Toby Alderweireld own goal. It’s hard to see a season like last year happening for Liverpool again.
Michael Baumann: A combination of unlucky bounces, blindingly great play by at least one of Spurs or Liverpool, and the collapse of the worldwide oil market before the winter transfer window.
Miles Surrey: Considering a near-immaculate season from Liverpool wasn’t enough to take down City last year—though winning the Champions League was certainly a nice consolation prize—it’s hard to foresee anything but a three-peat. Beyond the Reds’ stellar run, City were effectively without one of their best players (Kevin De Bruyne) and didn’t have a like-for-like Fernandinho replacement, which they’ve now got after signing Rodri from Atlético Madrid. It’s Pep’s world; we’re just living among his questionable fashion choices. City will prevail, barring a club-wide case of the bubonic plague.
Donnie Kwak: I could see Pep (and the City ownership group) becoming so obsessed with European glory that the Champions League trophy becomes the win-at-all-costs holy grail over another Premier League title. In which case we might experience a reverse of last season’s end result at the close of this one: Klopp atop the PL, Pep lifting ol’ jug ears.
Shaker Samman: [Pokes Naby Keïta with a stick] Do something.
2. What was the best buy of the transfer window?
Nair: Moise Kean to Everton. Kean looked really impressive in the limited playing time he had for Juventus, and he’s only 19 years old. For a club like Everton looking to take the next step into the top tier of the league, they may have found a centerpiece to build around for years to come.
Baumann: Everton’s losing Idrissa Gueye was rough, but reinvesting that money immediately into Moise Kean was extremely smart. Kean doesn’t plug the hole in midfield, but Everton’s been known to develop the occasional wildly talented teenage striker.
Surrey: The team still has a lot of question marks, but Manchester United’s scooping up Aaron Wan-Bissaka for less than 50 million pounds in this market is a great bit of business. Plus, Spurs finally getting transfer money to spend and using it on Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombélé, adding him to the heart of a midfield occupied by Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko, means they don’t have to start Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko every week.
Nevins: Harry Maguire. He might not become a future Ballon d’Or contender, like van Dijk, or have quite as high of a ceiling as Juventus’s Matthijs de Ligt, but he’s a massive upgrade from any defender currently on Manchester United’s roster and an automatic starter at a desperate position of need. If Maguire can shore up United’s backline and raise the level of his center back partner—like Victor Lindelöf—he can begin to justify his price right away.
Samman: The Chelsea fan in me wants to trumpet Christian Pulisic’s arrival at Stamford Bridge, but that move technically came during the winter window. The best signing of this summer, however, was Manchester City’s purchase of Atlético Madrid defensive midfielder Rodri. The £62.8 million man is the second coming of Sergio Busquets, and should slot into a championship-caliber squad as a 23-year-old. More than that, he’s the perfect successor to Fernandinho as the aging Brazilian transitions into the downslope of his career. It seems unfair for the best team in England to have made the top signing. Alas, it’s City’s world. We’re all just living in it.
Peters: If we’re taking “best” to mean “smart and good and fills a specific and pressing need the best” then maybe Rodri? City’s success felt tethered to Fernandinho in some respects because there were no other first-thought options that you could drop into the same position were he to pick up an injury. Gundogan could do it, but City didn’t tick over the same with him in the hole. Rodri is a player in a similar mold to Fernandinho, but he’s also a string-puller and 11 years younger.
Lara: Nicolas Pépé for Arsenal. That front three of Pierre Emrick-Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, and Pépé has so much swag, I’ll forget that Mustafi is still on the team.
Kwak: West Ham bought 25-year-old French striker Sébastien Haller from Eintracht Frankfurt for a club-record £45 million. Quite a pretty penny, but at 6-foot-3 he looks like an old-school no. 9 but has the stats of a modern one: Haller contributed the eighth-highest total goals and assists per 90 minutes in Europe’s top five leagues last season. Don’t forget that in Manuel Lanzini and Felipe Anderson, the Hammers have top-quality setup men to deploy on either side of Haller to help him shine. Consider him a more even-tempered, less tattooed version of Marko Arnautović. (Update: David Luiz to Arsenal for £8m is an absolute steal!)
3. Which new Premier League player will make the biggest splash this season?
Nevins: Nicolas Pépé. No, he’s not the kind of player Arsenal necessarily need, and there’s a rational argument to be made that the £72 million they paid for him might be better spent addressing more pressing needs on the roster. But Pépé is an incredibly talented, game-changing player, the kind Arsenal need if they’re to return to the Champions League. Pépé will likely play in the same position where he was most successful at Lille–as an inverted winger on the right-hand side, where he can cut inside on his preferred left foot—and he’ll improve what is already one of the league’s best attacking lines.
Surrey: Call me biased (I am), but as long as Christian Pulisic has realistic expectations filling the void left by thicc club legend Eden Hazard, he’s set for a big season.
Nair: Rodri to Manchester City. He seems like the perfect player to silence the “Fernandinho is irreplaceable” talk. When Pep Guardiola spends money on a player in the transfer window, there’s a good chance he has a vision for them in his rigid system, so it’s not difficult to envision Rodri succeeding.
Baumann: Probably Rodri. If Pep Guardiola feels strongly enough to drop 70 million euros on a holding midfielder and he gets plugged into Man City’s machine, I’m sure he’ll spend plenty of time in the headlines this year.
Lara: Dani Ceballos, because any player who turns down Spurs for Arsenal is already off to a great start.
Peters: I’m really hopeful about Moise Kean, who scored six goals in five starts for Juventus last season and immediately eclipses Jesse Lingard as the Premier League’s best dancer.
Kwak: Since he already has 34 Premier League appearances, I’m cheating a little, but new Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish is going to thrive in his return to the top flight for the first time since he was a teenager. Dude got jumped by an opposing fan and later scored in the Birmingham Derby last season. He’s built for this.
4. Which new Premier League player will be the biggest bust?
Nair: Not a new Premier League player, but Manchester United’s signing 26-year-old Harry Maguire to a six-year deal for a record-breaking fee for a defender might be something they regret in a few years.
Kwak: It’s Maguire. I like him, but I fear he will suffer from the pressure of being the world’s most expensive defender coupled with the current malaise at Old Trafford. He better be great from jump. (Also: not a player, but I predict VAR is gonna suck.)
Surrey: Joelinton. Newcastle’s frugality under Mike Ashley is the main reason Rafa Benítez peaced out. And now, in one of the few times the club shelled out a ton of money, it was for an unproven forward who’s never hit double digits in goals in a league season. When Premier League supporters start mourning the loss of Salomón Rondón, you know it won’t be pretty.
Baumann: Joelinton. I’m not sure what there is to like about a combination of a club record fee, a striker who scored seven goals in his Bundesliga career, and Steve Bruce’s taking over from Rafa Benítez.
Samman: Nicolas Pépé. The 24-year-old was stellar for Lille last season, leading the Ligue 1 runner-ups in xG + xA per 90. With Aubameyang and Lacazette eating time at the top of the pitch, it could be hard for Pépé to earn minutes early on.
Nevins: It’s been a strangely sensible transfer window? It’s hard to point to many obvious examples of a team reaching. I’m going to cheat a little and say that neither Newcastle (Joelinton for £44 million) or West Ham (Haller for £45 million) will enjoy the goal returns they’d hope for from the strikers they purchased from the Bundesliga. Both transfers seemed like panic buys, one to appease angry fans (Newcastle), and the other to make up for missing out on another, preferred forward target (West Ham missed out on Celta de Vigo’s Maxi Gómez, who opted to join Valencia instead).
5. What will Christian Pulisic’s stat line be this season?
Nair: Thirteen goals, eight assists. Eden Hazard’s role is a big one to fill at Chelsea, but Pulisic is the truth.
Surrey: Best case: low double digits in goals and assists while firmly entrenched as a starting winger alongside Callum Hudson-Odoi and the embalmed corpse of Olivier Giroud.
Samman: Put him down for nine goals and 11 assists—Eden Hazard’s stat line in his inaugural Chelsea season.
Lara: Eight goals, 12 assists.
Nevins: I want to see at least 25 to 30 league starts. The goals and assists will be there if he can remain healthy and in Frank Lampard’s starting lineup.
Kwak: No clue, but I’m sure every single one of his goals and assists will be tweeted and retweeted ad nauseum.
6. What team is most likely to fall out of the top six?
Nair: Manchester United. They’ve improved their defense and, if they’re lucky, they won’t have to use Phil Jones at all with Maguire coming in, but it’s still unclear how committed Paul Pogba is to the club’s future. It’s also unclear whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is actually a good manager or whether he was hired only because he’s more affable than José Mourinho.
Surrey: Manchester United. Ole’s at the wheel, the brakes are busted, and he’s hurtling toward a cliff.
Peters: Manchester United.
Lara: Manchester United.
Kwak: It’s either United or Chelsea, but I’m leaning blue.
Samman: Chelsea. The London giants did well in the transfer market, considering a ban is looming overhead, but the losses of Hazard and Gonzalo Higuaín will leave them empty up front, especially with Monaco rumored to be making a run at Michy Batshuayi.
Baumann: Chelsea. Arsenal have the lowest ceiling of any of the top-six teams but also a relatively high floor. Meanwhile, Manchester United and Chelsea are betting big on the “maybe this beloved ex-player will make a good manager” route, which is what the dumbest guy on your message board would do if put in charge of the club. And of those two teams, Manchester United has spent the most on reinforcements, though either one could go to pieces this year. I think Chelsea’s going to stay in the top four, but they’ve got the potential to have the bottom fall out.
Nevins: Arsenal. As stated above, they’re one of the best attacking teams in the league, but they concede too many goals. Even with some defensive reinforcements, and the return of Héctor Bellerín at right back, they don’t have a center-back pairing that instills confidence they’ll keep more clean sheets than last season (eight).
7. Which team is mostly like to break into the top six?
Surrey: Losing Harry Maguire is a tough blow, but Leicester get a full year under Brendan Rodgers along with a full season of Youri Tielemans to look forward to. Barring some wild moves on deadline day, I’ll give them a slight edge over Everton and Wolves.
Nair: Wolves. If they can just play against bottom-of-the-table Premier League clubs the same way they played when they beat Manchester United, Chelsea, Spurs, and Arsenal last season, a surprise top-six season for Wolves seems possible.
Samman: Wolves. They made Raúl Jiménez’s move permanent, added a few more young Portuguese players, and didn’t lose anyone of note from last season’s squad.
Peters: The kingmakers of last season, Wolverhampton.
Lara: Based off a really good transfer window, Everton will finally break through and reach sixth.
Baumann: We say this almost every year, and I don’t think it’s going to happen this year either, but I really like Everton as a top-to-bottom concern these days. They’re both solid and deep in midfield, and while maybe they’ve overpaid for a few players, the players they overpay for are usually OK.
Nevins: Everton. Their squad still has the feeling of having too many mismatched parts, especially in midfield, but I can’t help but think they’ve raised their talent level for this season. I love the idea of André Gomes and Gylfi Sigurðsson having a full season playing together, and Fabian Delph is the kind of Swiss-army utility player they’ve needed to plug any holes in the starting 11. Mostly, I’m excited about Moise Kean. It’s probably asking too much to expect the 19-year-old from Juventus to hit the ground running, but this team has been begging for a no. 9 since Romelu Lukaku left, and Kean is one of the best young center-forward prospects in Europe.
Kwak: Why not West Ham? They have new toys in Haller and Pablo Fornals from Villarreal, manager Manuel Pellegrini has been there before, and most importantly: Jack Wilshere is healthy again!
8. Name the first manager to get the sack.
Kwak: Ole will be gone by November.
Nair: Steve Bruce from Newcastle. Rafa Benítez is probably the best manager that Newcastle could have had and letting him leave was probably a mistake. Bruce has inherited a difficult situation with an unsupportive owner and it’s very possible that Newcastle will be fighting their way out of the relegation zone this season with Bruce being the first casualty.
Nevins: Steve Bruce, Newcastle. It’s hard to envision how it goes well.
Surrey: Steve Bruce. Newcastle’s gonna be a dumpster fire, I reckon. :-(
Peters: Roy Hodgson, Crystal Palace.
Samman: It was nice to see Frank Lampard appointed to helm his old club. If he makes it past Christmas I’ll ask Donnie to eat a second cleat.
Baumann: Dean Smith. Doesn’t have a long tenure and now that Aston Villa’s up, there will be pressure to stay there.
Lara: Mauricio Pochettino.
9. Which newly promoted team will finish highest?
Samman: Knowing very little about any of the three newcomers (Aston Villa, Norwich City, Sheffield United), I’m going to follow my heart, and my Middle Eastern heritage, and put my faith in the team with an Egyptian on it: Aston Villa. Trézéguet joined the Villa midfield from the Turkish league, where he had 22 goals and 15 assists in two seasons for Kasımpaşa. That’s more than enough to curry favor with me.
Nair: Aston Villa.
Surrey: Aston Villa, who spent Fulham-like amounts of money but actually seem interested in investing a little in their defense.
Nevins: Aston Villa. It’s easy to make the Fulham comparison given how much Villa have spent in the transfer window, but I have higher hopes for them, compared with Fulham. Two of their signings—Tyrone Mings for £26.5 million and Anwar El Ghazi for £8 million—were integral players last season while playing on loan, and they trimmed a lot of players who have no business playing in the Premier League from the squad. Also, Jack Grealish—their best player, and the fulcrum of their midfield—has played well over 100 games for Villa already.
Lara: Norwich City.
Baumann: Norwich City.
Kwak: Sheffield United, just because I like saying “the Blades.”
10. Who’s your Golden Boot winner?
Kwak: Son Heung-min!
Nair: Sergio Agüero. Every year that Agüero plays, his case for “best foreign Premier League player ever” grows. He is the most consistent striker in the Premier League at age 31, and a cold-blooded killer who rarely misses the easy chances when he gets them. He’s also a great Golden Boot candidate because City run up goals against weaker sides for fun all the time and he’s often involved in them.
Surrey: Glenn Murray. No? OK, fine, Sergio Agüero.
Peters: Pierre-Emerick “Weekend Shopping in Milan” Aubameyang.
Baumann: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Samman: Mohamed Salah. Run it back.
Nevins: Raheem Sterling, Manchester City.
11. Predict your top four, in order.
Baumann: 1. Manchester City, 2. Liverpool, 3. Tottenham, 4. Chelsea
Kwak: 1. Manchester City, 2. Arsenal, 3. Liverpool, 4. Tottenham
Lara: 1. Liverpool, 2. Manchester City, 3. Arsenal, 4. Tottenham
Nair: 1. Manchester City, 2. Liverpool, 3. Tottenham, 4. Arsenal
Nevins: 1. Manchester City, 2. Liverpool, 3. Manchester United, 4. Tottenham
Peters: 1. Manchester City, 2. Liverpool, 3. Tottenham, 4. Chelsea
Samman: 1. Manchester City, 2. Liverpool, 3. Tottenham, 4. Chelsea
Surrey: 1. Manchester City, 2. Liverpool, 3. Tottenham, 4. Chelsea