Paul Merson predicts final Premier League table for 2016/17
Last Updated: 09/08/16 5:45am
Leicester's amazing title triumph proved anything can happen in the Premier League.
Following the arrival of big-name managers such as Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, Jose Mourinho at Manchester United and Antonio Conte at Chelsea, this season is looking more unpredictable than ever.
Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson is never afraid of a challenge - so we have asked him to predict the final Premier League table from top to bottom. Read on for his thoughts and have your say on our vote if you disagree...
I would always rather make a prediction than sit on the fence, but I think this is the hardest ever season to predict.
The top six could be in any order. I wouldn't be shocked if Man City came sixth and Tottenham won the league! I'm not saying that because of what Leicester did last year, I'm saying that because I don't think there's much between these teams.
I'm going for Chelsea (1) to be champions on the strength of the manager, Antonio Conte, and Eden Hazard. The Belgium international had a terrible campaign last season, but could still be the best player in the league. If he gets going again then the Blues could sneak their way to the top.
I'll put Man City (2) second and I could make a case for Manchester United (3) winning the title with Jose Mourinho in charge. They have a big squad full of big players.
If Arsenal (4) had bought a world-class centre forward and centre half, I would have picked them for the title, but they haven't. It would probably help them in the long term if they didn't finish in the top four for one season because it would force them to make some changes - but I expect them to be around fourth.
It wouldn't surprise me if Liverpool (5) finish in the top four and Tottenham (6) won't be far off either because they already have a team while everybody else has had to buy a team.
I like West Ham (7) and with their new stadium they should be playing Champions League football within four years because of the money they should turn over. I like Ronald Koeman a lot, but if Everton (8) let Romelu Lukaku and John Stones leave without replacing them they would drop from eighth to 12th in my predicted table.
Southampton (9) are a steady club and I think they'll be able to cope with the loss of Sadio Mane, while Stoke (10) are a team with good footballers. There's a fairly clear top seven in the Premier League and they'll be right near the top of the "other league" along with Southampton and Everton.
I think Leicester (11) will be in for a hard season, but they'll definitely be in the middle of the table. I certainly wouldn't expect a relegation battle at all, but with Champions League football each week it will be hard for them to finish high up.
Crystal Palace (12) are one of those teams who will win a streak of games and then lose a streak of games. Alan Pardew will win seven on the trot and then lose seven on the trot and he needs to break that trend. If he can do that then there's no reason why they can't get into the top eight.
I like the look of Middlesbrough (13) and I think the Riverside Stadium will be rocking in the Premier League this season. I think they could have a similar season to what Bournemouth had after being promoted last year.
David Moyes is a good manager and this is a perfect job for him without the pressure of a club like Manchester United. He will make Sunderland (14) hard to beat and they will collect good results along the way.
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I have put Swansea (15), Watford (16) and West Brom (17) in the bottom six and all three of them could finish in the bottom three. I would be surprised if there's more than three points between those sides at the end of the season. Will Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo score the goals to keep Watford up for a second season in a row? Have the rest of the team got much to bring to the party?
Some people might be shocked by this, but I think Bournemouth (18) might go down. They play good football, but at the end of last season teams were getting used to the way they were playing and became a lot cuter against them. This season they could struggle.
Hull (19) have not had a good summer with Steve Bruce leaving. I thought Ryan Giggs might have got that job and that might have lifted them and made a difference.
I like Burnley (20), but they haven't invested enough and I'm interested to see if Andre Gray can step up from the Championship to the Premier League. We've seen centre-forwards struggle to step up in the past and it'll be interesting to see what they can do. They will have to work hard every week to get a result and that could take its toll. It will be tight at the bottom, though, and I don't see anyone getting cut adrift.
Paul Merson's predicted Premier League table
|2. Manchester City|
|3. Manchester United|
|7. West Ham|
|12. Crystal Palace|
|17. West Brom|