Phil McNulty’s Premier League end-of-season report. Manchester City won a historic domestic treble of Premier League, FA and League Cup – the first achieved in the men’s game in England.
Phil McNulty’s predicted 2018-19 Premier League positions at a glance
Position Club Position (cont) Club (cont)
1 Manchester City 11 Fulham
2 Liverpool 12 Burnley
3 Manchester United 13 Crystal Palace
4 Tottenham 14 Bournemouth
5 Chelsea 15 Brighton
6 Arsenal 16 Southampton
7 Wolves 17 Huddersfield
8 Everton 18 Newcastle
9 West Ham 19 Watford
10 Leicester 20 Cardiff
Manchester City – 1st
Worthy and deserved champions after a magnificent tit-for-tat title race with Liverpool. Pep Guardiola’s team showed all the brilliance that has earned them 198 points over two seasons but this was also about mental strength and character in a situation that required 14 straight victories to become the first side to retain the crown for a decade. Winning the Carabao Cup and FA Cup for the clean sweep of domestic trophies demonstrates their quality.
McNulty’s pre-season prediction: Champions
What McNulty said in August: “They may not get 100 points or win by that runaway 19-point margin – but they will be champions again.”
Liverpool – 2nd
So close to their first title in 29 years only to lose out by one point to Manchester City on the final day – but 97 points with just one Premier League loss (to City) illustrates a wonderful campaign that may yet bring Liverpool the Champions League. Manager Jurgen Klopp has revitalised the entire club. They are not going away as title contenders. Liverpool have a young, settled squad dotted with world-class talent. They will challenge again next season.
McNulty’s pre-season prediction: 2nd
What McNulty said in August: “There is no valid reason to be 25 points behind the champions this season and they will run Manchester City close.”
Chelsea – 3rd
Strangely underwhelming, contradictory season under Maurizio Sarri, whose management has sometimes frustrated and angered Chelsea’s fans. He has, however, fulfilled his remit in many respects, securing Champions League football next season and taking the Blues to the Europa League final against Arsenal in Baku. Unrest has lurked beneath the surface, though. Who can forget keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga’s refusal to be substituted during the League Cup final loss to Manchester City? Still would not risk the last fiver on him being in charge next season, even if they win the Europa League.
McNulty’s pre-season prediction: 5th
What McNulty said in August: “It could be a lot of fun watching Chelsea this season and don’t put it past them to mount a serious top four challenge and win (as they usually do) a trophy.”
Tottenham Hotspur – 4th
Spurs’ title challenge, which looked strong at one point, fell away. Their tally of 13 defeats was far too many and the combined total of the three teams who finished above them. The story of their season may yet have the most remarkable end when they face Liverpool in the Champions League final in Madrid on 1 June. If they pull that off they could be commissioning a statue of manager Mauricio Pochettino, who has taken them to that showpiece and guaranteed Champions League football next season without adding to his squad.
McNulty’s pre-season prediction: 4th
What McNulty said in August: “This is a squad that could conceivably finish higher than this prediction but Pochettino, like Klopp at Liverpool, must now reward those who persistently shower his work with praise with a trophy.”
Arsenal – 5th
The post-Arsene Wenger era under Unai Emery has been a thing of extremes, with blockbusting home performances to beat Tottenham and Chelsea mixed with old failings away from home, where frailties surfaced and led to them finishing outside the top four. Emery, however, is an experienced hand who may yet guide the Gunners into the Champions League via his speciality, the Europa League. He won it three times in succession at Sevilla.
McNulty’s pre-season prediction: 6th
What McNulty said in August: “Watching Arsenal might be a treat this season and Emery can consider it a job well done if he gets them into the Champions League.
Manchester United – 6th
A wretched season (and pre-season) riddled with discontent, players failing to live up to reputations and uncertainty over whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the right man to replace Jose Mourinho, who was sacked in December. A run to the Champions League quarter-finals, secured with a remarkable win at Paris St-Germain, cannot disguise the fact that United’s squad is in a woeful state and Solskjaer is a manager with everything to prove.
McNulty’s pre-season prediction: 3rd
What McNulty said in August: “What a ray of sunshine Jose Mourinho has been in pre-season – almost being followed around by a little black cloud over his head.”