The Premier League ended on Sunday with Manchester City pipping Liverpool by a point to win a second straight league title – the first side to do so in a decade.
As the season draws to a close, it’s time to look back at our writers’ Premier League predictions from last summer and see how they fared.
Alex Rea, Chris Bailey, Brendon Netto, Matt Jones and Aditya Devavrat put their heads together in August to decide on topics such as the champions and who would be the biggest flop – but who got it right and who got it horribly wrong?
Man City won the title on the final day, finishing with 98 points, one ahead of Liverpool. Hats off to three of our writers for their picks, and one came close to looking like a genius – while another was way off the mark.
AR: Liverpool – Bold? The Reds bet big in the market and whether he likes it or not, Jurgen Klopp has to show return on that investment. They have the style and squad to challenge Manchester City, now they just need the mentality to overtake them.
Verdict: Close, but wrong
CB: Manchester City – They could do with a rival for Fernandinho but apart from that, City have almost bottomless depth. Bernardo is set to take a huge leap, Phil Foden is coming through, Benjamin Mendy is fit. The rich get richer.
BN: Manchester City – Quiet in the transfer window but apart from losing out on Jorginho, there’s little you’d change of this City side. Their convincing Community Shield victory points to another domineering campaign.
MJ: Manchester City – There was a 19-point gap to second last season and I can’t see that being made up by the rest. Liverpool are the next best team but City are special under Pep Guardiola.
AD: Manchester United – An unpopular pick given Man City’s pedigree and Liverpool’s transfer business – not to mention United’s turbulent summer. But the squad is packed with talented players. If Jose Mourinho can get the best out of Paul Pogba, the title will head back to Old Trafford.
Wrong. Very wrong.
City and Liverpool were joined by Chelsea and Tottenham in the top four. Arsenal finished fifth, but could still qualify for the Champions League if they beat Chelsea in next week’s Europa League final.
AR: Liverpool, Man City, Arsenal, Man United – Unai Emery’s direct style should freshen an Arsenal team intact from the World Cup. City, although quiet in the market, are still miles ahead of the rest, particularly United who will just sneak in ahead of a Chelsea in transition and a spent Spurs.
CB: Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal – Liverpool’s recruitment would see them champions in any other year but they’re up against an incredible City. Unai Emery was installed early at Arsenal while Maurizio Sarri wasn’t at Chelsea, and has acquired reinforcements whereas Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham haven’t.
BN: Man City, Liverpool, Man United, Chelsea – The north London sides are capable of scoring freely but also likely to drop too many points. Expect more disjointed displays from United while Liverpool will push City. A lack of goals up front leaves Chelsea trailing.
MJ: Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal – Liverpool are City’s biggest threat but I still don’t think it’s their year. United will be hard to beat again but moody Mourinho lacks magic. Unai Emery will get Gunners firing.
AD: United, City, Liverpool, Spurs – Chelsea and Arsenal haven’t done enough to return to the top four. Even though Tottenham are yet to make a signing this summer, their squad remains better than that of their London rivals, while United, City, and Liverpool are far ahead.
Huddersfield, Fulham and Cardiff were the teams relegated to the Championship, with the latter two going straight back down after gaining promotion last summer and Huddersfield returning to the second division after a two-year stay in the Premier League.
AR: Huddersfield, Watford, Cardiff – The bottom will be more competitive than the top. Huddersfield haven’t solved their chronic issues in front of goal while Watford’s best player joined Everton. Cardiff were not even considered promotion challengers last season and are the league’s worst side.
Verdict: 2/3, but very wrong on Watford, who finished 11th and were in a battle for seventh until the end the season.
CB: Watford, Huddersfield, Newcastle – Watford have left it too late to reinvest the Richarlison money, Huddersfield lack the seasoned campaigners to survive a second year, and not even Rafa Benitez can drag Newcastle out of their Ashley-induced nightmare this time.
Verdict: 1/3. Newcastle were in the relegation battle for a while but survived comfortably in the end, and Watford have defied the critics.
BN: Southampton, Watford, Cardiff – Southampton narrowly escaped the drop last time and haven’t strengthened. Watford have been uninspiring under Javi Gracia and are seriously lacking quality while Cardiff are being led by serial Premier League failure Neil Warnock.
Verdict: 1/3. Southampton were caught in the relegation battle all season and only secured survival with two weeks to go. Watford, of course, were a surprise package.
MJ: Cardiff, Huddersfield, Southampton – Cardiff will be gritty but completely lack quality, Southampton were lucky to stay up and have been unimpressive in the market while losing their best player. The Terriers lack bite.
Verdict: 2/3. And very close to getting all three correct given Southampton looked like relegation candidates for a long while.
AD: Brighton, Huddersfield, Cardiff City – Survival was a supreme achievement for Brighton and Huddersfield last season, but this year’s race will be even tougher given how strong newly-promoted Fulham and Wolves look. Cardiff’s failure to match those two will see them head straight back down.
Verdict: 2/3. Brighton survived by the skin of their teeth, securing their Premier League status in only the penultimate week of the season.
Though there’s no official award for this, we recently picked out the top five buys of the season: Lucas Digne (Everton), Fabian Schar (Newcastle), David Brooks (Bournemouth), Alisson (Liverpool), Raul Jimenez (Wolves). None of those players had made it in our predictions, but two of our picks, Jean-Michael Seri and Naby Keita, ended up in the worst buys of the season instead.
AR: Jean Michael Seri – Fulham’s ambition is best epitomised in the signing of Seri. The 27-year-old moves the ball superbly and is a highly intelligent, dynamic midfielder. It’s the season of midfield maestros and Seri can be an instant hit.
Verdict: Wrong. Seri looked like a coup when Fulham signed him, but both player and club utterly flopped this season.
CB: Lucas Torreira – For years and years Arsene Wenger neglected to add a blood-and-guts midfielder to his side. He won’t win awards for style but the 22-year-old’s tenacity may well bring substance back to the Emirates.
Verdict: Wrong. Torreira did indeed add bite to Arsenal’s midfield, and for the first half of the season he was their best player in the position. But his form tapered off in the second half.
BN: Jorginho – In terms of influence, Jorginho is likely to offer the most. The Italian is poised to become the Premier League’s new pass master and usher in a new brand of football at Chelsea.
Verdict: Wrong. Jorginho was often seen as the symbol of Sarri’s struggles as Chelsea manager this season – though some of the criticism was over the top.
MJ: Naby Keita – Adds steel and energy to Liverpool and has an engine to rival N’Golo Kante. Will be a massive help to Jordan Henderson and knows where the goal is, bagging nine for Leipzig last year.
Verdict: Wrong. Keita ended up in our worst five, though he showed signs of his quality at the end of the season.
AD: Felipe Anderson – West Ham have made a habit of making a splash in the transfer market – often with little pay-off on the pitch. But Anderson is supremely talented, blessed with pace, technical ability and vision. He should thrive under Manuel Pellegrini.
Verdict: Wrong. Anderson didn’t make our top five – though he definitely did thrive under Pellegrini this season.
The Golden Boot was shared by Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, all three of whom finished with 22 goals. Nobody saw Mane or Aubameyang topping the charts, but Salah, last season’s sole Golden Boot winner, was a popular choice.
AR: Mohamed Salah – Liverpool have added to their armoury over the summer and with extra weapons pointed at them, teams will struggle even more to contain the Egyptian King. Expect Romelu Lukaku to run him close, though.
CB: Mohamed Salah – Given his form in pre-season he’s surely going to hit the ground at break-neck speed. With Lukaku and Harry Kane feeling the after-effects of a longer World Cup campaign, it’ll be difficult to play catch-up.
BN: Mohamed Salah – Last season may seem like a freak campaign for the Egyptian but over the summer, both at the World Cup and in pre-season, he’s continued to be a standout goal threat. Liverpool will play to his strengths.
MJ: Harry Kane – Hotshot Harry is a pure goal scorer. Salah was unbelievable last year but it’s impossible for him to hit the same heights plus Liverpool have other threats.
AD: Harry Kane – Losing out to Salah last season will have hurt. Coming off the back of winning the World Cup Golden Boot, however, Kane should keep going from strength to strength, holding everyone else off to regain his crown.
One of the harder ones to judge…
AR: Maurizio Sarri – The Italian is under enormous pressure at Chelsea. His style requires hours on the training pitch and his late arrival coupled with the World Cup and transfer chaos has sliced through his available time with the squad.
Verdict: Sarri’s had his critics this season but Chelsea finished in the top four and have made two cup finals, with a chance of winning the Europa League. Wrong.
CB: Jack Wilshere – A lot of fanfare has surrounded West Ham’s transfer window, not least the free transfer of Irons-supporting Wilshere. But expectations are far too high and they are woefully short deeper in midfield. Besides, remember his Bournemouth stint?
Verdict: Eight appearances all season, just one assist, no goals. Right.
BN: Dele Alli – He didn’t quite maintain his lofty standards last season and was guilty of inconsistency. Following a challenging World Cup campaign, the young midfielder may find it difficult to get going again.
Verdict: Only seven goals and six assists across all competitions this season, after hitting double digits in both in 2017/18. Two assists in Tottenham’s memorable Champions League semi-final comeback, but not enough overall. Right.
MJ: Tottenham – Mauricio Pochettino did very little business last summer and none this year. Kane and Christian Eriksen can only do so much carrying. Rivals are improving as they stand still.
Verdict: Top four yet again, brief title challenge, and a first-ever Champions League final. Wrong
AD: Marco Silva – Everton have had another strange transfer window, and don’t look much stronger than before. Silva, whose reputation is based on flirting with survival at Hull City, making a quick start with Watford, and not much else, may struggle to improve the Toffees.
Verdict: Eighth isn’t awful. It’s also exactly where Everton were in 2017/18. They improved by five points under Silva but struggled at times and were maddeningly inconsistent. Enough to call him a flop? Jury’s still out, but for now: Wrong.
Ex-Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho made a bold claim in the wake of rival Pep Guardiola overtaking his trophy haul of 25.
Guardiola claimed his 26th trophy as manager after Manchester City lifted the Premier League trophy. Mourinho claimed that he could have won six more, had he stayed longer at clubs like Porto and Inter.
“That reminds me that I’m here, with 25 titles. If I had stayed at Porto and Inter after winning the Champions League I would have played the European Super Cup, the national one, the Club World Cup and I could have 31 titles.
“Maybe I’m not concentrated in the numbers,” he stated.
Speaking of contemporaries, the Portuguese praised Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp for their good work this season. But he did state that they need to win trophies to ensure that there’s some value to it.
“I admire the work of Mauricio [Pochettino] and Jurgen [Klopp], both deserve to achieve something big, and there is nothing greater than holding this cup, but one of them will lose,” he told L’equipe.
“Jurgen will play his third final, I cannot imagine the feeling that it would be for him to play three finals and not win.”
On Pochettino, he said: “What has he won?”
A gripping, thrilling Premier League season is over.
Manchester City are champions by a point over Liverpool, Virgil van Dijk and Raheem Sterling have split this year’s biggest awards, the Golden Boot was shared by three players – Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – and Alisson won the Golden Glove.
Those are the official awards. But what about the ones that really matter?
Read on to see who’s won Sport360’s Premier League Alternative Awards.
LIKELIEST TO CRASH AT THE WHEEL: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Unfortunately for the Manchester United manager, his superb start to life at the club ended up dooming him. “Ole’s at the wheel” became the favourite chant at Old Trafford, and it was sung loudly in Paris during one of the club’s most famous nights when they became the first team to win a Champions League tie after losing the first leg by two goals at home.
It was a chant that ended up being used against United – Arsenal tweeted “Unai’s at the wheel” after a 2-0 victory over the rivals, and even Barcelona succumbed, saying Messi’s at the wheel. Both of those backfired – Arsenal ended up outside the top four and Barcelona crashed out of the Champions League – but with just two wins in 12 games since that night in Paris, this award could only end up in Solskjaer’s hands.
BEST DANCE FLOOR: Emirates Stadium
It all began with United’s king of banter deciding to celebrate a goal at Arsenal by busting out some rather impressive moves. Jesse Lingard scored during his side’s 3-1 win over the Gunners in the FA Cup at Arsenal’s home stadium, pulled out a moonwalk to celebrate, and then, to rub it in, put up a picture of the celebration on Instagram and tagged the location as “dancefloor”.
Arsenal got their revenge when the two sides faced off at the Emirates again just over a month later, winning 2-0, and their players hit back at Lingard by…doubling down on their own stadium being called a dance floor.
HEALTHIEST MANAGER: Maurizio Sarri
Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has become known for three things this season: never changing his tactics or philosophy, backing Jorginho to the hilt, and chain-smoking.
The Italian reportedly smokes a whopping 80 cigarettes a day! He’s been infamous for lighting one up on the touchline. Sadly – or fortunately, depending on perspective – he couldn’t get away with that in England, thanks to a ban on public smoking. An unlit cigarette did make an appearance when Chelsea were pushed to a penalty shootout by Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League, however.
STEAL OF THE YEAR: Alexis Sanchez and his wages
Alexis Sanchez managed one league goal all season. Two in total along with three assists. And he’s the highest-paid player in the Premier League – by far.
With all his bonuses and incentives, the Chilean reportedly earns £500,000 per week. That works out to just under £1 every second, or roughly £50 every minute. Or, put another way, the £18million Sanchez has earned over the course of this season meant United paid their highest earner £9million per goal.
BEST PARTNERSHIP: Liverpool and opposition goalkeepers
Remember the days when strike partnerships were common? Nowadays the two up front formations have largely gone out of vogue – apart from when teams play 3-5-2, still defying convention – but partnerships remain the key to winning titles. Just ask Liverpool and Man City.
Liverpool came oh so close to their first league title in 29 years, missing out by a point. But they had their share of luck along the way; rival fans would argue perhaps more than their fair share. There were debatable penalty calls and blatantly incorrect offside decisions – how big a difference will VAR make next year?
And in their defence, their rivals also had their own share of luck; goal-line technology came to City’s rescue at two pivotal moments. First, Liverpool failed to score by a matter of millimetres when the two sides faced off in January in what ultimately became the title-defining clash; then, late in April, a Sergio Aguero strike crossed the goal-line against Burnley by just about the same margin. One goal that wasn’t, one that was, both decisions coming down to the finest of margins – City owe a big debt to technology, making the right calls of course, for their title.
But Liverpool and the referees or City and technology was still not the best partnership of the season. That honour goes to the strange relationship Jurgen Klopp’s side had with opposition goalkeepers. On three separate occasions – against Everton, Crystal Palace, and Tottenham – the men tasked with preventing Liverpool from scoring instead gifted them goals. Jordan Pickford, Julian Speroni, and Hugo Lloris nearly won the title for the Reds.
BEST JURGEN KLOPP EXCUSE: Manchester United’s injuries
Speaking of Klopp, here are some of the things he’s blamed for Liverpool not winning games this season. It was the wind’s fault that they couldn’t beat Everton at Goodison Park in March or Wolves in the FA Cup in January, the referees’ for breaking Liverpool’s rhythm against West Ham – by trying to make up for a missed offside call that allowed Klopp’s team to score earlier in the game – and the snow when Leicester City came back from a goal down to get a draw at Anfield.
But none of those can top Klopp’s explanation for a 0-0 draw against fierce rivals United at Old Trafford. That was down to injuries, Klopp said.
Harmless enough – except the Liverpool manager didn’t mean injuries to his own players. United were forced to make two first-half substitutions when Juan Mata and Lingard were both taken off after picking up knocks, while Marcus Rashford also looked stricken and would probably have come off had the other two substitutions not already been used.
And those injuries – to United players, remember – threw Liverpool off their rhythm, according to their manager.
MOST RIDICULOUS SIGNING REVEAL: Lucas Perez to West Ham
Is this the real life? Or is this just fantasy? So opens one of the most famous songs of rock history: Queen’s epic Bohemian Rhapsody.
These days fantasy means more than one thing in football, and West Ham were keen to remind everyone of that fact during the summer transfer window.
Reveals of transfer signings have become increasingly ridiculous over the last couple of years and the Hammers decided to join the party when they signed Lucas Perez in August – by putting up a video which showed that the Fantasy Premier League app now included the Spaniard in West Ham’s list of strikers. Along with Queen’s instantly recognisable lines, in case anyone didn’t get the fantasy reference.
LEAST DURABLE ITEM ON A FOOTBALL PITCH: Huddersfield corner flag
What is the least reliable thing you can spot on the pitch during a Premier League game? Paul Pogba? Mohamed Salah’s ability to stay upright, whenever a defender comes too close? The entire Tottenham team?
All good answers, of course. Pogba comes closest, because he was actually on the pitch to see the right answer. In a must-win game for United, his team were 1-0 up against a Huddersfield side that had already been relegated, but were struggling to find a second goal that would seal the points and keep the top-four race alive. And of course, in keeping with the end of United’s season, they were caught on the counter as Isaac Mbenza ended up equalising for the hosts.
What happened next was no fault of Pogba’s. Mbenza, perhaps shocked that it was so easy to score against a team chasing a Champions League spot, went a little overboard with his celebrations, and kicked the corner flag. Happens often enough. What doesn’t happen, however, is that flag snapping in two, causing a five-minute delay to the game as a replacement was found.