Premier League predictions proved hard to predict

Premier League predictions proved hard to predict
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp with the LMA Manager of the Year trophy after his side claimed the Premier League title for the first time.

THE start of the 2019/2020 season seems like a long time ago. And relative to every other season, it was. So, no sooner will we have this season's review complete then we will be working on the 2020/2021 preview.

Last year, this column was congratulating itself for correctly predicting not only the 2018/2019 top four but also the unfortunate trio of clubs that would drop into the Championship.

This season's predictions, unfortunately, were far from bookie-breaking in their insightfulness. Three of the top four turned out to be correct but not in the right order. While I was woefully off track with my relegation predictions. My best excuse is provided by the fact that no one would have included a global pandemic as a variable in determining a league table's final position. But to be fair, my predictions were off course even before the arrival of Covid-19.

I had predicted that Man City would retain their title, partly because they are a side good enough to do so but mostly because, as a Liverpool supporter, I could not risk putting another hex on the side trying to break their Premier League duck, especially after coming so close the previous season.

Deep down, I was fairly confident Liverpool could swing it after their astounding end to the 2018/2019 season. However, as any neurotic Pool fan can testify, I could not risk any show of public confidence followed by the inevitable heartache that would come in May.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola found the 2019/2020 season frustrating despite his side still playing exhilarating football.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola found the 2019/2020 season frustrating despite his side still playing exhilarating football.

To be straight, I think the Liverpool side of 2018/2019 were a better side than the side that would go on to bag the crown this season. For flair, drive, and enthusiasm last season's Liverpool were a thing of beauty. They only lost one match all season and just lacked that little bit of steel and luck to push those niggly draws over the line into victories. That, and Man City having an astounding 100-point season.

The roles reversed a bit this season. Liverpool found the luck and resolve to turn draws into three-points while City found lady-luck abandon them on several occasions while a serious weakness in the centre of their defence was exposed by astute sides regularly.

No, this season was Liverpool's even if it took three extra months to confirm what everyone knew at Christmas time.

We had Man United bagging fourth place. That they claimed third spot is more surprising for what we've seen the club go through this season than what we predicted as their fate at the start of the season. United were one of the clubs to benefit from the league's shutdown. In March they were looking at an embarrassing Europa League place at best. What Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, his side, and especially Bruno Fernandes achieved after the resumption was remarkable and provided strength to the argument for giving an under-pressure manager the extra time to prove himself.

We had Chelsea taking fifth as we feared their talented but hugely inexperienced side would suffer while the club was still under the constraints of a transfer ban denying them access to new talent. That they bagged the Champions League spot is a testament to them and Frank Lampard, especially now that they look like the only side ready to spend for the coming season.

Manchester United's manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (L) and Chelsea's English head coach Frank Lampard shared the remaining Champions League places despite some setbacks over the season. Picture:  ANDY RAIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Manchester United's manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (L) and Chelsea's English head coach Frank Lampard shared the remaining Champions League places despite some setbacks over the season. Picture:  ANDY RAIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The big error came with predicting Spurs in third. Coming off a Champions League final, a strong league finish, plus a new stadium, made me believe that Mauricio Pochettino and Spurs were set to take the next step. However, things were not ideal in the background, as we now know, and soon the Londoners had parted company with Pochettino.

The rebuild has been slow and doubts continue whether Jose Mourinho is still the influence he once was in the game, but there has been a glimpse of a form returning since lockdown. Hope for next season.

Hope is alive too for Sheffield United, Brighton, and Newcastle who I predicted would go down to the Championship. Not only were they not involved in the scrap for relegation they survived comfortably. Very comfortable in Sheffield United's case. Well, you can't get them right all the time and a three-month break in the middle did muddy the waters. That's my excuse anyway.

Coming soon, the 2020/2021 preview. All of which will be dead-on accurate, I'm sure.

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