Who will win the Premier League? Gut level predictions

Every year before the first ball is kicked, and even before the transfer window closes, pundits the world over make gut level predictions of who will win the Premier League. More than anything these predictions only show a pundit’s biases. I don’t mean biases in the harshest way, we all have biases, I mean that instead of doing an objective analysis of each team’s strengths and weaknesses, player transfers and managerial effect, they simply “guess” as to who will win the League. In theory, their guesses are “better” than you and I because they have been around the block a lot longer than us, but in reality they aren’t much better than we are at guessing. After all, anyone can guess that the big clubs will finish near the top and the little clubs will struggle at the bottom.

Every once in a hundred years, however, the big clubs, with the big-mouthed managers, finish 10th and the team that was supposed to only get 40 points wins the League. Does this disprove anything? No. No one, apart from the Leicester supporters who put a hopeful punt on the club, predicted that Leicester would take the League by storm, that Mourinho would destroy a team that should have made a run on the title, that Louis van Gaal would try to play some of the worst football ever seen in Manchester, and that Man City would fire their manager half way through the season and keep him on as a caretaker like some kind of dead man walking. Even the analytics crowd had a hard time predicting the league last year: many, using week-to-week data, had Arsenal winning almost all the way to the end.

The reason why gut level predictions work is because they are usually based on some kind of previous data. The Arsenal injury record is a great example — has there been a season where Arsenal haven’t been rocked by injuries? Similarly, if you were a pundit during the late Ferguson era, predicting Man U to win the title was an easy choice.

There are a lot of ways to do an “objective” prediction. For example, you could use team value as a predictor. Using just the simple team value as assessed by Transfermarkt.com I get a .70 R-Squared correlation between team value and points earned in a season. That’s a pretty incredible correlation. But it’s exactly what you and I think

Using just the simple team value as assessed by Transfermarkt.com I get a .70 R-Squared correlation between team value and points earned in a season. That’s a pretty incredible correlation. But it’s exactly what you and I think of when we think of success in football: the more valuable the team, the more likely they will succeed.

Of course, this is correlation and not causation and every season we see teams which are costly but underperform (Chelsea and Liverpool are the big culprits over the last 5 years) and teams which are cheap but overperform (Southampton is a great example… also Leicester!). That is the fun of the Premier League. Literally, watching Chelsea finish 10th was great fun! And for most people, who aren’t Arsenal supporters, watching Leicester win the League was great fun. Personally, the scenes of their fans ecstatic in the run up to lifting the trophy will stick among my greatest memories of the Premier League.

But last season was a massive aberration. How big? .17 R-Squared correlation between team value and points earned. It was such a weird season that it would be like me predicting Bournemouth to win the League this season.

What is interesting about using the transfermarkt valuations is that they use a market approach to player value. So, for example, Mahrez is now worth €30m and last summer he was valued at just €7m. Vardy’s value has gone up and so on. Leicester have also added Slimani and Musa and with their performances last season their overall team value has gone from €91m to €210m in a single season. That’s a jump from 19th most valuable club to 9th most valuable club.

Man U also jumped but significantly more than almost any other team: they were valued at €374m last season, to €534m this season. Chelsea had the biggest drop, €580m last season and just €515m this season. And Arsenal, owing mostly to their purchases this summer, went from €408m to €469m.

If we just use team valuations for our prediction we get the following premier league table:

  1. Man U
  2. Man City
  3. Chelsea
  4. Arsenal
  5. Liverpool
  6. Spurs
  7. West Ham
  8. Everton
  9. Leicester
  10. Southampton
  11. Stoke
  12. Palace
  13. Watford
  14. Bournemouth
  15. West Brom
  16. Swansea
  17. Middlesbrough
  18. Sunderland
  19. Hull City
  20. Burnley

That actually looks like a pretty accurate table. There are always a few surprises and based on player purchases (types of players and whether they were recycled from other English clubs) my adjustments to the table are as follows: Stoke and Boro change places, West Brom relegated, Burnley in 16th, Sunderland 20th, West Ham drop to 9th, and Leicester up to 5th. But as far as Arsenal winning the League, we have to admit that Man U are planning on not playing any of their first team players in Europe, a total disgrace as a club but what Mourinho has already admitted. And we know that Chelsea have no European distractions, so anything below third place would be a massive failure for them as a club.

Therefore, my prediction are as follows:

  1. Man U
  2. Man City
  3. Chelsea
  4. Arsenal
  5. Leicester
  6. Liverpool
  7. Everton
  8. Spurs
  9. West Ham
  10. Southampton
  11. Middlesbrough
  12. Palace
  13. Watford
  14. Bournemouth
  15. Swansea
  16. Burnley
  17. Stoke
  18. West Brom
  19. Hull City
  20. Sunderland

What do you think will be the final table, and why?




  1. Think City will pip United to the title, and we’ll pip Chelsea to 3rd. If we manage to get Griez or someone in Jan then we could be the big winners come end of season.

        1. My guess is he’s fucking with you because we’ve just come out of a transfer window, it’s shits they always are, and yet immediately someone is in here talking about who we’re going to sign in the next one, and they name someone out of our league, so he goes one better and names one of the few ‘unsignables’

      1. Looking at your predictions the one that stands out the most to me is Spurs in 8th. What’s you’re thinking for having them so low Tim?

        1. I think the collapse destroyed them. Also, Pochettino’s little angry screed to start the season didn’t help. They won’t last.

          1. Cool, thanks for the reply.
            I hope you’re right. Could do without the media talking about how awesome they are for a season. Last year was enough of that. The extra champions league games might affect their league form as well. Here’s hoping.

  2. 1. City
    2. Man Utd
    3. Chelsea
    4. Spurs
    5. Arsenal
    6. Liverpool
    8. Everton
    9. West Ham
    10. Leicester

    Relegated; Crystal Palace, Hull, Burnley

    I don’t discount the lack of cosmic justice and Mourinho squeezes the title.

    I think Moyes, Pulis, Howe, Karanka and Mazzarri are good enough managers to steer out of relegation.

    I think we flirt with disaster too often. One of these days we will miss the top 4, so might as well call it now.

  3. I think Man U wins the title: the Mou machine is quicker and simpler to build than the Pep machine. I’m hopeful that the Arse’s depth trumps Chelsea’s for 3rd. Outside chance of second if City’s depth is tested, especially
    up front. Liverpool or Spurs for 5th, they are basically the same, inconsistent team on the evidence of their draw. Leicester will struggle with Champions League, around 10th for mine.

  4. I prefer to look at it from an Arsenal-centric viewpoint. What has to happen for us to win the title? In order of decreasing probability.

    1) Sanchez plays plays like his first season with us and not like last season–90%

    2)Xhaka plays like the Coq/Arteta hybrid we’ve needed and Mustafi beds in as Koz’s partner in central defense–75%

    3) We do not have a long term injury to any of Cech, Koz, Xhaka, Özil, or Sanchez–40%

    4) Lucas is actually good enough to be an automatic starter and score 15+ goals. Or one of Iwobi, Ox, or Theo absolutely blows up this season–10%

    1. Ozil to play like last season. Sanchez to play like the season before. Ramsey to play like the season before. Walcott to play like the season before.

      Xhaka, Mustafi and Lucas to be good.


  5. Mourinho is back, and this is a game where complete d**kwads like him are successful, so of course United will win the title. It’s inevitable. He’ll insult everyone, act like a child, etc., and he’ll win the title.

    I see Arsenal finishing 5th this season. We always seem to squeeze into the top four despite injuries and annual collapses in January (that last three months), but I think our luck will run out this season.

    1. It’s going to be tough: finishing 2nd in our CL group, facing Barcelona, huge blowout loss at home, feisty comeback away, team goes on vacation early. Meanwhile, Chelsea have no european distractions.

      1. That makes perfect sense to an Arsenal fan. It would be interesting, though, to see if CL success (group or knockout) is also strongly correlated to team value (or something else) as PL is.

      2. PSG are still getting to grips with Unai Emery’s philosophy. We could pip them to the top spot. Much depends on our match day one rendezvous at the Parc des Princes.

      3. but we have made some steely signings. I think we will see the top 4 (including arsenal) take a big step up and away from the rest. there will be more definition between the top 4 places and the rest, and I think over the course of the season Arsenal will stay within arms reach of the top.

        1. I don’t think we signed players from a position of strength. In other words, if we had a Xhaka already and signed a second Cazorla that would be a huge improvement. Look at Leicester: they signed two forwards, Musa and Slimani. Musa is a Vardy, he scored two beauties against Barcelona. Slimani is a beast. They upgraded the living shit out of their attack. We signed replacements. Arteta retired and we needed a replacement, say hi to Xhaka. Per Mertesacker was benched half way through last year and we needed a replacement, say hi to Mustafi. Welbeck is permanently broken and Wenger wants a speedy player to give competition for the front line places, say hi to Perez.

  6. I still see us in the top four. Comfortably so even because our only possible displacers, Tottenham and Leicester, are also in Europe. They’re certainly not used to the Champions league and they’ll have it harder than us. We’re obviously a better team than them both. So fourth, at least, is achievable. I think we’re a better team than Chelsea too. City and United are not lightyears ahead of us either so it’s really possible to pip of their spots.

    My prediction for Arsenal is third.

  7. 1. Manchester Utd
    2. Manchester city
    3. Chelsea
    4. Arsenal
    5. Spurs
    6. Liverpool
    7. Everton
    8. Southampton
    9. Stoke city
    10. Middlesborough

  8. We’ve already dropped points to Liverpool and Leicester and on current albeit very early form, it looks highly unlikely that we will take all 24 available points from Man City, Man U, Chel$ki and the remaining Liverpool and Leicester fixtures.

    I think we’ll need at least 18 of those 24 to manage a top 4 finish, plus we need St. Totteringham’s Day to come as early as possible this year.

    And we need to spank the bottom half of the table including the always tough games against Everton, Swansea and Stoke.

    Can we do it? Absolutely! Will we do it? Swami sez …Europa football finally and really next year.

  9. Doom and gloom and gloom and doom..why to cry and worry and beg the manager to buy players when we already are going to finish 4th or below..and when he buys..still crying and predicting, we finish 4th or below..nope no point..Lucas will flop and will be cast out like Lukas and xhaka’s pace will be found out and mustafi will make mertesacker feel like cheetah..ozil and Sanchez leave or go on loan or whatever..and we finish in 10th or something…we can then all gather and force the stubborn man out finally and get Maurice or that athletico manager..they are good in throwing antics in the manager box and really passionate about their teams..we might actually win something with them

      1. Ancelotti is the footballing archetype of a safe pair of hands. He never rocks the boat. Never spearheads any major tactical or unduly radical personnel changes. And yet always seems to get a broken unit working again. He is the safest option for navigating the stormy waters of transition. He would be a perfect fit for the conservative Arsenal Board and structure immediately after Wenger while longer term options like Tuchel acquire more experience.

  10. First. Always first. At the beginning of a new season, my prediction is always for Arsenal to finish first. Second, third, fourth places… who cares!

    1. I’m old fashioned that way too. It’s first until it’s not possible.

      But at the same time, it is true that some other teams have a better chance. I just don’t feel like they have as big an advantage as they’ve had previously. The competition can feel overwhelming, but just as Arsenal are capable of going on a disastrous run of form, we’re also very capable of going on a full on winning spree.

      It seems to me like we’ve added the sort of pieces we need. The rest is down to performance, fitness, and luck.

  11. What did Mourinho say about the Europa League? I normally ignore what he has to say these days, and I don’t want to feed the media’s Jose stories.

  12. I miss being able to like people’s posts.

    +1 to you Ssinderias

    I don’t care about the other teams so I haven’t made time to watcj them, but I don’t think it’s categoricLly impossible that this could be a similarly difficult year to predict.

  13. Can’t disagree with your predicted table, but don’t let the idiots on Untold read this or you will be awarded AAA life membership.

  14. i’m going to be bold and say that i think arsenal will win the league this season. why? for the first time since the invincibles season, arsenal seem to have a complete squad. not only do they have good players but they could lose two or 3 top players and still play well; arsenal have depth. it all depends if arsenal can be remotely as good as they look on paper.

    is mustafi really worth £35 million? can lucas really play center forward? if the answer to both of those questions is yes, i’m predicting arsenal to win the league. £35 million seems like an awful lot of money for mustafi. likewise, i don’t need perez to be better than giroud, just capable of playing center forward so that when giroud has his predictable slump or unpredictable injury, arsenal can still play good football; good arsenal football requires proper center forward play. give me that, and ramsey on the bench, and i’m predicting the first league championship for arsenal in over a decade. time will tell if my optimism is more than just false hope.

  15. Same as Tim. In fact i made that call start of the season.


    Its what we specialise in. Claiming our Top 4 birthright.

    Old Marc Overmars in the Masters game looks like he can get in ahead of Ox and Walcott… I exaggerate, but not much. Oh the technical excellence and penetrative power of the wide men, him and Ljungberg. And a big, fast mobile CF like Kanu. No, folks. We dont have a title winning squad. Its only 3 games, but i fear the contenders have spoken, albeit after some kind fixtures. As usual, i hope to be proven badly wrong.

    Key will be the usual. Injuries, and how we handle the Christmas season and winter. If we xome through the 6 weeks of late December and Jan without collapsing, i will reassess

  16. Same as Tim. In fact i made that call start of the season.


    Its what we specialise in. Claiming our Top 4 birthright.

    Old Marc Overmars in the Masters game looks like he can get in ahead of Ox and Walcott… I exaggerate, but not much. Oh the technical excellence and penetrative power of the wide men, him and Ljungberg. And a big, fast mobile CF like Kanu. No, folks. We dont have a title winning squad. Its only 3 games, but i fear the contenders have spoken, albeit after some kind fixtures. As usual, i hope to be proven badly wrong.

    Key will be the usual. Injuries, and how we handle the Christmas season and winter. If we xome through the 6 weeks of late December and Jan without collapsing, i will reassess

  17. If Conte, Guardiola and Mourinho can take their respective teams past Wenger in their first year at new clubs, then this should be an indictment of Wenger’s managerial abilities.
    After all, if all three can ,with just a handful of signings, improve their clubs so much in a space of a few months to make them better than the only top club in Europe built carefully and systematically , with all its players hand picked by Wenger, then this should render judgment on how Wenger has become a second rate manager many are already convinced he is.

    I don’t think it’s going to happen. At least one of the other big four will finish below Arsenal in the league this season.
    I’ve got Arsenal coming in third and I don’t care who wins it enough to predict anything else.

    The only other thing I can predict with some level of certainty is that Mourinho won’t be making any comments about Chelsea having it easier due to ” having an European vacation” – something he constantly talked about when Liverpool were making their title run three seasons back – since he’s the one who made it happen. What a twat!

  18. I appreciate the optimism of the posters saying Arsenal will finish first but I can also understand the other comments. Despite signing a 100 million worth of players, I think there’s a post-transfer hangover still afflicting Gooners everywhere.

    We are a neurotic lot overall and it’s gotten increasingly more difficult over the years for supporters to get behind the Arsenal in that way.

    Losing the first match of the season as we have been wont to do in recent years also casts a pall and the odds of winning the Premier League after dropping the first 3 points are bad.

    But I’m never on the fence about Arsenal. Despite all the whinging and whining (which I do here a lot) I’m all in each year and ever year, no more so when it’s just barely September.

    So the battle for me is always 1st place especially so early in the season.

    “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more” which of course begins the famous soliloquy Shakespeare’s King Henry V. And it has just begun for us.

  19. +1 Mortimer Lightwood. Plus fucking one.

    And there’s no way we’re dropping into the Europa league spots. However bad we are, I think we can get one over City and Chelsea. Worried about United, but that’s because of that fucker Maureen’s record against us, the luck and decisions Utd get against us, and nothing else.

    We could actually win this thing, just need fate to conspire for us, for the first time in over a decade.

  20. With Tim, and exactly as I called if…


    “Who is like to win” is the question I think some fellow gooners are answering, although to be fair, these things are subjective.

    Many people last year swapped Chelsea and Leicester.

    I looked at the Master’s game yesterday, and reminisced about the time Wenger bought wingers like Ljungberg and Overmars, instead of Walcott and Ox. Or had a big, mobile and skilful cf like Kanu.

  21. Tom,
    No- they just spend more, up to 3x as much and cherry pick the teams they go to. Both of those guys would never dream of going to Leicester City last year and claw their way up.
    Arsenal to the top!

  22. Not seeing a huge difference in the quality between squads. I think it’s tempting to favor man united because they had such a flashy summer and because of Mourinho’s track record, but it’s worth noting Mourinho doesn’t normally win in his first season in charge. The second season tends to be his sweet spot. Also, that squad really needed those additions just to be competitive again. Scanning the list of players, it’s not that scary. Their defense is functional at best and I’m not sure if anyone knows how to piece that midfield together. Mourinho will try to play defense first and hope for brilliant forward play for goals but I don’t think that will be enough with what they have.

    City seems a more complete squad with a more winning style of play, and actually had a larger overhaul than Man United who mostly just added 3 new players. Guardiola seems to have reinvented them inside out and they already had the best striker in the league. They’ve got to be favorites but it remains to be seen how they handle the winter slog.

    Chelsea seems the least equipped for a title run. I know last season was a bit of a fluke for them but this is largely the same squad as that was. They are old, especially in defense, and will be overly reliant on Hazard to make things happen. Desperate for defensive reinforcements, they eventually bagged Marcos Alonso and David Luiz. Ouch. Even with a Costa Renaissance they can be best described as competitive.

    As for Arsenal, we are a flawed team but a better team than this time last year. So are they, but for once we don’t start 10 points off the pace; we finished second and circumstances be damned, they didn’t even finish third. For once it’s the other clubs who had the ground to make up on us. Whether they did or not remains to be seen, as Tom points out, but it would be glorious vindication for Wenger to win the title ahead of a cadre of the world’s best managers. It would be the perfect send off for him and just for that I hope the universe conspires in our favor just this once.

    1. Arsenal (on goal difference)
    2-20: a bunch of

  23. Don’t you guys think that it’s a good chance for us to win the CL?
    Arsene has been sending mixed messages with regards to his contract, he clearly said he doesn’t want to retire and he needs something more than FA CUP to secure the Arsenal job. it’s very unlikely for us to win the PL with this clash of Titans so there it is the CL.
    I think I can remember an article by Tim about how you need to play to win the CL and how it’s different from the EPL kind of play. And if I can remember correctly it was more like direct play counter attacking style. I’m not sure, I said. But it looks like we have been gathering the ingredients.
    Now you tell me, how are the odds?

  24. We’ve our deepest and most balanced squad in years as well as a manager striving to leave on a high or earn a new contract, one which he’s on record as being willing to sign only if our performance this season shows that we’re true contenders. For me, the key to the season for Arsenal will be our injury record and the willingness of Wenger (nay his skill)in managing the whole squad by efficient and seamless rotation. Ferguson was the master of rotation. Wenger is a new convert. With a squad now a bit more even in quality (even if not necessarily in experience)in most positions, he has even more reason to rotate and freshen up the starting lineup across the four different competitions. One would hope that a clearly brilliant mind like Wenger has finally come to realize that lack of efficient squad rotation and our poor injury record are linked. If he rotates better, Arsenal will definitely be in the running for the EPL.The fact that he hasn’t sent out the following on loan is suggestive: Zelalem, Maitland-Niles, Akpom, Reine-Adelaide, and Martinez. Even the “infamous” Sanogo. I don’t believe he’s keeping them at the club this season solely for the u-23 premier league.

    1. That’s an interesting observation. It’s true that Wenger hasn’t been for too much rotation. Though I wonder how much of it was to do with not having the funds to have adequate backups (or even first team players in some cases)

      In the early years, definitely, but in those days, nobody had squads like today. It was more of a drop off from the first team to the backups than now. After Chelsea changed the game, I don’t know how accurately we can judge Wenger’s willingness or reluctance to rotate.

      Also, the idea that rotation wins you trophies. I don’t know. The only year I bothered to see the way teams were rotating, Arsene and Mourinho (you know, the master of winning titles) both had their team play virtually identical minutes, with virtually identical time between games. Of course, neither won the title that season so maybe there’s something in that.

      It’s just interesting. I wonder if there are any studies or models that have mapped the effectiveness of rotation, maybe aligned with team value, and value distribution across the squad.

  25. Mourinho doesn’t usually rotate. It’s one reason why his shelf-life at clubs is usually short. His hyper-intense tactical and physical system often burns out his small core group of trusted players after a couple of years.

    1. True enough Tochukwu. But the point is that it’s still a bit up for debate where the sweet spot between rotation and having a settled team lies. Chelsea and Leicester both won the title with hardly any rotation. That this is normally not sustainable over the course of many years is probably true. But to win the title in any one year?

  26. The elite clubs will field their best /most settled team in the most prestigious competitions e.g. the EPL and the UCL. Fringe players and young prospects /players on the comeback trail after injury are usually then featured in the FA cup and League cup. That’s why the EPL-FA cup (nevermind EPL-UCL) double win is now so rare. The physicality of the English game and the relative fiscal equity of that competition makes it quite wise to rotate.

  27. City (by a small distance)
    Man Utd

    City will make it happen. We will do surprisingly well and finish second, but a fair distance behind Chelsea. Man Utd and Chelsea will finish very closely behind us.

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