Premier League: BBC Sport asks 'who will be the champions?'

By Chris BevanBBC Sport
Chelsea celebrate Premier League title win

The Premier League starts again on Saturday, with Chelsea defending the title they won by eight points last season.

Who will win it this time? We asked 30 BBC TV and radio pundits, presenters and commentators for their one-two-three-four prediction ahead of the new campaign, and for an explanation of their selection.

Alan ShearerChelseaArsenalMan CityMan Utd
Ruud GullitChelseaArsenalMan CityMan Utd
Jason RobertsChelseaArsenalMan CityMan Utd
Jacqui OatleyChelseaArsenalMan CityMan Utd
Steve BowerChelseaArsenalMan CityMan Utd
Rachel Brown-FinnisChelseaArsenalMan CityMan Utd
Jermaine JenasChelseaArsenalMan UtdMan City
Kevin KilbaneChelseaArsenalMan UtdMan City
Jonathan PearceChelseaArsenalMan UtdMan City
Ian DennisChelseaArsenalMan UtdMan City
Alistair Bruce-BallChelseaArsenalMan UtdMan City
Gary LinekerChelseaMan CityArsenalMan Utd
Mark LawrensonChelseaMan CityArsenalMan Utd
John HartsonChelseaMan CityArsenalMan Utd
Chris SuttonChelseaMan CityArsenal Man Utd
Graeme Le SauxChelseaMan CityArsenalMan Utd
Conor McNamaraChelseaMan CityArsenalMan Utd
Pat NevinChelseaMan UtdArsenalMan City
Guy MowbrayChelseaMan UtdArsenalMan City
Dan WalkerChelseaMan UtdArsenalMan City
Danny MillsChelseaMan UtdArsenalMan City
John MurrayChelseaMan UtdArsenalMan City
Ian WrightArsenalChelseaMan UtdMan City
Gabby LoganArsenalChelseaMan UtdMan City
Didi HamannArsenalChelseaMan UtdMan City
Trevor SinclairArsenalChelseaMan CityMan Utd
Dion DublinMan UtdChelseaArsenalLiverpool
Steve WilsonMan UtdChelseaArsenalMan City
Chris WaddleMan CityChelseaArsenalMan Utd
Alistair MannMan CityMan UtdChelseaArsenal

Only five teams feature in the predictions and, with 22 votes, Chelsea are the overwhelming favourites to retain their title. Four votes went to Arsenal and two apiece to Manchester United and Manchester City.

Most people made their predictions on the basis of how each squad shapes up now, ahead of the opening weekend, but Chris Waddle, Pat Nevin and Alistair Mann made their choices because they think City and United will make some significant signings before the transfer window closes on 1 September.

Overall predicted ranking using all BBC forecasts
1. Chelsea2. Arsenal3. Man Utd4. Man City

Chelsea to be champions again, but after a closer battle

19 out of 29 BBC experts correctly backed them to win the title last year. This season, 22 out of 30 have picked them to retain it, and only one person out of 30 thinks they will finish outside the top two.

Alan Shearer predicts 'tight' title race

Alan Shearer: The title race will be a lot tighter and I am expecting the top four to be bunched together for most of the season.

But Chelsea are still the team to beat because of their experience and I also think they will be better than they were last year when Diego Costa was injured a lot last season and Cesc Fabregas did not play his best football from February onwards.

It also would not surprise me if they sign another big hitter before the transfer window shuts.

Ruud Gullit: I think they will buy another striker. We saw against Arsenal in the Community Shield that they might have a problem up front when Costa is unavailable. Jose Mourinho hopes Radamel Falcao is the answer but I did not see that at Wembley. I hope Falcao succeeds too, but I think Chelsea still need another powerful striker as back-up to Costa.

Chelsea still the best - Gullit

BBC Radio 5 live football correspondent John Murray: Chelsea still have the best squad and certainly have the best defence.

Pat Nevin: The manager makes a big difference too, of course. I think Mourinho will get more out of a number of his players this season, with Oscar being one of them.

Graeme Le Saux: You know Mourinho's tactics will be spot on, even if the personnel changes. Nobody is a passenger in this Chelsea team, no matter who comes in, and reliability is one of the requirement of all his players. That consistency underpins everything they do, and on top of that they have got some amazingly creative players.

Chris Sutton: Mourinho has to address Chelsea's lack of creativity in the second half of last season but the fact remains he is an outstanding manager who always finds a way to win games.

BBC Radio 5 live's senior football reporter Ian Dennis: Just as in 2005 and 2006 I'm tipping Mourinho to claim back-to-back titles with Chelsea. I think he will get the best out of Falcao but I expect Arsenal to push them close.

You can listen to Ian - and all the Premier League goals as they go in around the grounds - every Saturday afternoon on BBC Radio 5 live.

Have Arsenal finally got what it takes?

Last season not one of the 29 BBC experts asked backed Arsenal to win the title and only four thought they would finish higher than third, which was their final position. This year, four people back them to win it, 15 think they will finish second or better and only one person thinks they will finish lower than third.

Ian Wright tips Arsenal for Premier League title win

Ian Wright: Yes. I am optimistic about Arsenal's title chances every season, but this season I am more confident than usual - and not just because I am a fan and desperately want it to happen.

I am gambling a lot on their start, because they began badly last year and won only two of their first eight games, but they showed at the end of last season they can put a run together and now they know what it takes to win the title. I think the team will be tighter at the back and, with the attacking ability Arsenal have, I think they can do it.

Gabby Logan: Yes. I had a big interview with Arsene Wenger before last season's FA Cup final and I am a believer. I just feel a change coming!

Jermaine Jenas: No - but I would say Arsenal are the most balanced team and best equipped to push Chelsea all the way. Signing Petr Cech is really going to shore up their defence and could bring them an extra 5-10 points. They are the one team Mourinho will really fear this year and, if they can stay close to them throughout the season, Chelsea might react differently.

Alan Shearer: No. They will be closer, but I still think they need a top-class centre-forward to go that step further and win the title.

Can Man Utd mount a title challenge?

Man Utd manager Louis van Gaal
Van Gaal steered United to fourth place in his first season in charge at Old Trafford

Two out of 29 BBC experts backed United to win the title last season - but nobody else thought they would make the top two and 14 people thought they would miss out on the top four. This time, 16 people think they will finish at least third and no-one thinks they will finish lower than fourth.

Dion Dublin: Yes. I've backed them to win it because it has been far too long, but also because the pressure is now on Louis van Gaal to win things and I think Wayne Rooney will be the man to deliver for him - United as a club thrive off pressure.

Ruud Gullit: No. I am surprised they have not strengthened their defence more already - I don't get it. Louis van Gaal did the same last year, when he brought in a lot of forward players. If building a squad is like building a house, he started with the roof instead of the foundations and it did not go well. This year, he has done the same again. It surprises me that he has confidence in his existing players at the back.

Kevin Kilbane: No. In pre-season Van Gaal has been playing Daley Blind at centre-half. That is all well and good in friendlies when United have lots of possession because he is excellent on the ball but, in games against the top teams, I think they could get caught out for pace on the counter-attack. They look vulnerable.

Match of the Day commentator Jonathan Pearce: No. They lack a dominant centre-back and will rely too much on Rooney for goals. Selling Robin Van Persie was a mistake. This team is still at the building stage. Unless Van Gaal provides more entertaining football, the supporters - who have been very lenient so far - will turn on him.

Jacqui Oatley: I'm fascinated to see how United start the season now that Van Gaal has had time to bed in. Surely he won't go much longer without buying a leader in defence?

'How realistic is Ronaldo Man Utd return?'

Pat Nevin: Making a decision on this now before the end of the transfer window is silly because I suspect United will be a lot stronger and plug a couple of gaps. If they get an extra centre-half in and maybe a centre-forward, then it would make a big difference and I would put them up in second place. If they don't, I think they are still third or fourth.

Mark Lawrenson: I think United might have a 'blow you out of the water' transfer left in them this summer, I really do. I just have a feeling they might be able to prise Gareth Bale or Cristiano Ronaldo away from Real Madrid, and that would make a massive difference to the title race.

Why aren't more people backing Man City?

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany
Kompany has won two Premier League titles as City captain but had a difficult season in 2014-15

Last season, eight out of 29 BBC experts thought City would win the title, and only five thought they would finish outside the top two - they ended up as runners-up. This year, two people are backing them to be champions and 22 out of 30 think they will finish third at best.

Pat Nevin: Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure are massively important to the City team and I just don't know if they are going to be as good as they were again. If they aren't, I don't think City have a good enough squad to win the league.

Trevor Sinclair: There are question marks over the manager Manuel Pellegrini too. There were a couple of big games against Arsenal and United in the second half of last season where City were outmanoeuvred tactically and, against Barcelona in the Champions League, they were really out of their depth.

Match of the Day commentator Steve Wilson: For me, City are in a kind of limbo at the moment. I didn't expect to see Pellegrini at the club this season and would expect him to be out of the door about a nano-second after Pep Guardiola says he's willing to move to Manchester. But when, or if, that happens is anyone's guess.

Match of the Day commentator Guy Mowbray: City are the hardest call of all. They could just as easily be first - and might be. The persistent Guardiola rumours might play a part.

Match of the Day commentator Alistair Mann: I really feel that Manchester City are going to complete a couple more major transfer coups which will tip the title race in their favour.

Chris Waddle: City will have licked their wounds from last season and will come back stronger. Raheem Sterling is a big addition and I am sure there are one or two more on the way to make them stronger.

Liverpool to fall short despite spending spree?

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers
Liverpool were runners-up in 2013-14 but could only finish sixth last season

Last season, 15 out of 29 BBC experts wrongly thought Liverpool would make the top four. This time around, 29 out of 30 think they will miss out.

Mark Lawrenson: It looks like they have a better balance to their squad than last season and they are definitely better off with their options with their attacking players if Daniel Sturridge has more injuries.

Didi Hamann: There are a lot of unknowns, but firstly the players they brought in last year have obviously got to to do better. I like the signings they have made this year and I think they have got a chance but, as of now, you have got to say that the other four teams are ahead of them.

Christian Benteke scores stunning volley

John Hartson: They will certainly miss Steven Gerrard, although Jordan Henderson will do a good job of skippering the side. Christian Benteke is a good signing who has got everything you need as a striker but the question for me is can Liverpool give him the service he needs in the box because they will have to change the way they play?

Former Liverpool Ladies and Everton Ladies goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis: Liverpool are rebuilding and that is going to take another couple of years because it is harder to attract the top players when you do not have Champions League football.

Match of the Day commentator Conor McNamara: They won't make it, but that is not to say they won't show a big improvement on last season. Brendan Rodgers' recruitment this summer has already been streets ahead of the players he brought in 12 months ago - but the problem for Liverpool is that all of the last season's top four have strengthened as well.

Which promoted teams will stay up?

Last year, Leicester survived but Burnley and QPR made a quick return to the Championship. This time Watford, Norwich and Bournemouth are the teams looking to beat the odds.

Cherries can compete - Elphick

Jermaine Jenas: I really enjoyed watching Bournemouth last year and their style of play probably suits the Premier League best out of the three promoted teams. But that pretty tippy-tappy football they play won't pay-off if they don't put their chances away. That is something you can get away with in the Championship because you know other chances are going to come. In the Premier League it is the total opposite, so they will need to be more clinical.

Pat Nevin: I just have a feeling for Norwich. That has a lot to do with their manager Alex Neil. who I have watched a lot in his short but hugely illustrious career as a manager at Hamilton and then at Carrow Road. He immediately gets the best out of players.

Norwich's Alex Neil & Cameron Jerome on Premier League return

Match of the Day commentator Steve Bower: I was at Wembley to witness Norwich winning the Championship play-off final in a very professional manner and I think with their young, hungry manager and a squad of players that have had Premier League experience before they have the best chance of staying up.

Chris Sutton: I live in the Norwich area and people are saying 'we will be alright with three or four quality signings' but it is hard for Norwich to attract them because all the top players want to go to the top clubs. Alex Neil is trying to get a striker in but that has not worked out, and it will be interesting how they get on.

MOTD2 host and BBC Radio 5 live presenter Mark Chapman: This will probably make me look an idiot but, hey, that's the whole point of predictions isn't it? I am going to say that all three will stay up. Bournemouth's football at times last season was excellent and Eddie Howe won't change his philosophy in the Premier League. It could cause a lot of teams problems.

Watford, thanks to the Pozzo family, are part of one of the best, if not THE best scouting system in the world and there will be some gems in that squad by the end of the window. And Norwich are a club with Premier League set-up. If they can find a striker capable of regularly scoring in the top flight they should be fine too.

How we calculated the overall top four

  • Pundits and commentators were asked to predict their top four in order.
  • Four points were allocated for first place, three for second, two for third, and one for fourth.
  • The teams were then ranked according to their total points.


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