BEIJING, May 28 (Xinhua) — Now that the curtain has fallen on another Premier League season, it’s that time of the year where we find out just how much we did (or didn’t) get right with our pre-season predictions. Join us on a journey through the nonsense.
1. Who will win the Premier League?
Top marks for Butterworth and Dixon here, who both correctly predicted that Man City would return to the top spot after a below-par 2019/20 campaign. Giblin and Place erroneously thought that Liverpool would defend their title, while Taljaard’s raging Chelsea bias proved somewhat wide of the mark, though he was at least correct to question Frank Lampard’s managerial nous.
2. And the rest of the top four, in order.
Nobody guessed the correct order of the remaining Champions League places, though Butterworth edges this category for having the correct three of Liverpool, Chelsea and Man Utd. Dixon and Taljaard at least had Liverpool and Man Utd, while Giblin and Place both plumped for Chelsea and United.
3. The three relegated teams
A good deal of consensus was reached here, as all five accurately foresaw that Fulham and West Brom would return to the Championship after just one season in the promised land. Butterworth, however, deserves a rap on the knuckles for suggesting that West Ham would join them, as the Hammers defied his naysaying and finished in a fine sixth place. Taljaard and Place’s third pick of 11th-placed Aston Villa looks almost as iffy, while Giblin and Dixon probably edge this by plumping for Brighton, who finished 16th.
4. Top goalscorer
Giblin takes the cake here, with his choice of Harry Kane emerging top of the goalscoring charts with 23 strikes, but everyone else’s picks were various shades of disappointing. Dixon comes next with his left-field suggestion of Danny Ings, who finished the season with a respectable 12 goals, while both Butterworth (Aubameyang, 10 goals) and Taljaard (Werner, 6 goals) plumped for strikers who notably underachieved in 2020-21. Bottom of the pile here is Place, however, whose pick of Sergio Aguero was frequently troubled by injury and managed only three strikes – with two of those in his farewell match on the season’s final day.
5. PFA Player of the Year
We won’t know who wins this particular category until the awards ceremony in June, but we can be pretty sure it won’t be Taljaard’s pick of Virgil Van Dijk, whose absence through injury was keenly felt as Liverpool stuttered to a fourth-place finish. Van Dijk’s teammate Jordan Henderson is also an unlikely winner, rendering Place out of the running. Giblin’s choice of Marcus Rashford is solid, but Butterworth and Dixon probably edge this category by picking Kevin De Bruyne, who notched six goals and 12 assists as Man City cruised to the title.
6. PFA Young Player of the Year
Again, we don’t know this yet, but it’s more likely to be Dixon, Giblin and Place’s choice of Phil Foden than Trent Alexander-Arnold (Butterworth) or Christian Pulisic (Taljaard’s raging Chelsea bias).
7. Best signing
Always a difficult category to accurately judge, given its subjective nature. Butterworth probably takes this with his pick of Thiago Silva, who slotted seamlessly into Chelsea’s defense and provided some much-needed leadership as they clawed their way back into the top four. Place’s choice of James Rodriguez started fantastically well but tailed off as the season wore on, with the Colombian struggling for form and fitness.
Some predictable Yorkshire bias saw Dixon plump for Leeds United’s record signing Rodrigo, but the striker was largely kept on the bench thanks to the remarkable form of Patrick Bamford. It’s Taljaard and Giblin who share the wooden spoon here, though, for their pick of Chelsea’s much-maligned Timo Werner (47.5 million pounds; a grand total of six Premier League goals).
8. Worst signing
Another tricky category to gauge, but Taljaard probably wins for his pick of Donny van der Beek, who failed to dislodge Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes in the Manchester United midfield after moving from Ajax for 35 million pounds. Place’s choice of Joe Hart didn’t play a single minute as Spurs finished seventh, but the Englishman didn’t cost anything and was always intended as a backup option.
Giblin’s lack of faith in West Ham’s transfer policy was misplaced, with the Czech duo of Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal both excelling as the Hammers finished sixth. Butterworth thought James Rodriguez’s arrival at Everton would be a lot more disastrous than it was, while Callum Wilson defied Dixon’s kiss of death with a very respectable 12 goals as Newcastle finished 12th.
9. First manager to leave
Nobody foresaw that Slaven Bilic would be the first manager to collect his P45 as he departed West Brom in December, though Dixon’s pick of Frank Lampard was the second domino to fall, sacked by Chelsea just a month later. In a season of only four mid-season managerial changes, David Moyes (Butterworth and Giblin), Scott Parker (Taljaard) and Dean Smith (Place) all survived our predictions of their demise.