Footballs and crystal balls: predictions for the new Premier League season
It is now a fool's errand to make predictions about Leicester City. They transformed from relegation contenders to Premier League winners under Claudio Ranieri in the 2015/16 season. Even with the league form suffering in the following season, and the Tinkerer being replaced by Craig Shakespeare, the Foxes still exceeded expectations by making it to the Champions League quarter finals as the last English team in the competition.
The same goes for Arsenal. They still carry around the Invincibles tag with them, even though they last won the title in 2004. While they have won the FA Cup and the Community Shield since then, including in the most recent competitions, the yearly high expectations are traditionally matched with the Arsenal choking syndrome; an exciting start diminishes into mediocrity by what should be the Gunners' standards.
Despite pundits having previous and egg on their face with past predictions (see Alan Hansen's "You can't win anything with kids"), it doesn't stop them getting their football crystal balls out for the new season.
Sky Sports boasts that their pundit Paul Merson could bring football fans profits with his tips. His predictions for the 2016/17 season were "more fruitful than any high street cash IPA, and comfortably beat the FTSE 100 over the same period" with a health 14 per cent profit. He correctly predicted the results of 220 games (out of 378) - or 58 per cent. Of course, it goes without saying: gamble responsibly.
Former Blackburn Rovers player Robbie Savage has turned into Sav the Soothsayer for the Daily Mirror, and predicts it could be a photo finish between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, tipping Manchester United to be crowned Premier League winners. It's not good news for North London with Sav tipping both Arsenal and Tottenham to miss out on the top four. He thinks that Shakespeare's players will finish around mid-table.
Manchester City is included in all but one of the predictions for the Champions League qualifying spots from the ESPN staff. The Citizens are predicted to win the Premier League by an (unlucky?) 13 writers, with their local rivals United, Chelsea and Tottenham also tipped to finish in first place.
There is consensus among the Independent writers that Huddersfield Town will be relegated in their debut Premier League season. Other contenders for the drop include: Brighton, Burnley, Stoke City, and Swansea. Ed Malyon, their sports editor, argues that Newcastle United have not done enough to survive relegation, with manager Rafa Benitez "rightly fuming about transfer inactivity".
Arsenal v Leicester City kicks off at 7.45pm tonight at the Emirates Stadium. The opening game of the Premier League is available to watch on Sky Sports Premier League.