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Roker Report Predicts... The 2016/2017 Premier League

On the eve of the start of this season's Premier League a bunch of us decided to get together to attempt to make bold predictions about what is to come, claims that will probably see us end up with egg on our faces when we re-read this feature in May.

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Where will Sunderland finish up this season?

Gav: Every single year we answer this with optimism, and every single year they let us down. Still, I'm confident that even with everything seeming to go against us that David Moyes will make a decent fist of keeping Sunderland in the Premier League again whilst improving our league position. I feel that we'll end up around 12th, starting the season much better than we normally do which should set us up for much more stable campaign.

Carl: Lower mid-table. Moyes will get enough out of the players at his disposal to keep our heads above water, but we’re still too many players short of scaling dizzier heights.

Rory: 14th. Hopefully just bobbing around mid-table all season and never really in any relegation trouble.

Simon: Sunderland will finish mid-table I think, around 14th. The so-far underwhelming transfer window doesn't define the strengths of the well-prepared current squad who completed a successful pre-season.

Andy: Although our off the field preparation for the new season has been less than ideal, with Sam Allardyce leaving and the delay in signing new players, we seem to have retained the hard to beat mentality that we showed in the second half of last season. We still need strengthening, particularly up front and at right back but I see no reason why we can't finish around 12th and after recent seasons that will be a big success.

Chris: To be honest, with the way this transfer market has panned out so far, I'd be pleased finishing in the top seventeen! That being said, Moyes will put his stamp on the squad, and with a full season to experiment I would hope that we can make a small amount of progress and finish around 14th.

Who will win the Premier League?

Gav: Manchester United. They've shown ambition with the signings that they've made and have employed a manager who is a proven winner in Jose Mourinho. Though they have to factor in playing Thursday nights in the Europa League this year, it just feels as though their time is now and they've brought in players that will allow them to play the effective, direct style which we all know Mourinho loves to play.

Carl: Manchester United. Jose Mourinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are the personalities to bring a swagger back to United, and both are born winners. They will be the difference makers.

Rory: It's a really tough call between Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea. I'll go for Man City to do it but I think it'll be a close battle. City's attacking options gives them the edge.

Simon: You couldn't call any one club to be certain for the league title, and it will surely come down to the final weeks. That said, I expect Antonio Conte to overachieve at Chelsea, so I'm picking them.

Andy: I don't think there will be a surprise winner this season and it will be back to the old contenders, but although I think they will get off to a slow start while they adapt to their new managers playing style, I expect Man City to come out on top this season and I don't think it will be particularly close either.

Chris: It's tough to look past the two Manchester sides who have both had a superb summer with signings and new managers. I'm going to say that United will just pip City to the title but this could go down to the last day.

Who will make up the rest of the top four?

Gav: I think that three teams are going to make sure that this year's title race is ran close - alongside Manchester United will be their rivals Manchester City, with Chelsea and Liverpool taking the other spaces. With the latter two not playing European competition this year it should make the task ahead alot easier for them than it does the others, and I feel Arsenal's failure to achieve a top four finish will finally see the end of Arsene Wenger's reign at the Emirates.

Carl: Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal. Liverpool under Klopp will push them all the way, but they’re an elite player or two short of displacing any of the above.

Rory: After saying City, United & Chelsea will battle for the title, that only leaves me with one spot to fill. It's about time Arsenal ended their monotony of underwhelming Champions League campaigns (bit rich coming from a Sunderland fan, I know) and I fancy Liverpool to dislodge them from the top four. A full season under Klopp and the arrival of Joel Matip in defence will be big for them.

Simon: The remaining teams to make up the top four, in any order, will likely be Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool. Spurs and Arsenal to only just miss out unless they buy more.

Andy: Arsenal will comfortably finish top four without ever looking like winning the title - as usual. Liverpool should kick on again from last season under Klopp, again without ever getting near to being title winners and Manchester United will just about scrape into the top four. They may have made some eye-catching signings but Rooney and Ibrahimovic could prove to be incompatible which will derail their title hopes.

Chris: A top two of United and City will be followed by Liverpool and Chelsea in my opinion. Jurgen Klopp is a superb manager and his Liverpool side have shown glimpses of what they're capable of since he arrived, I think they will finish third about 10 points off the pace. In fourth will be Antonio Conte's Chelsea who I feel lack depth in defence to challenge this year, although I wouldn't be surprised to see them further improve their squad this summer and in January, and giving it a good push in the final stages of the season.

Who will finish in the bottom three?

Gav: Hull will finish bottom. They've got hardly any players - and the ones that they do have are very average. I feel like Watford will struggle because of their over-reliance on certain players last season, whilst just falling short will be poor old Burnley again, finishing 18th.

Carl: 18th Swansea, 19th Burnley, 20th Hull. Tony Pulis will give West Brom just enough. Watford will also struggle, and Southampton may surprise a lot of people and flirt with the drop.

Rory: Hull, Burnley and Swansea. Hull are in total disarray, emphasised by Steve Bruce quitting in the eve of the season. Burnley will put up a good fight but just come up short, like their previous Premier League seasons. After losing two of their biggest leaders in Andre Ayew and Ashley Williams, I think Swansea will struggle. They've also brought in Leroy Fer permanently and we all know what that means.

Simon: Bottom three to be relegated this season, for me, are Burnley and AFC Bournemouth toward the end of the season; and Hull City to collapse from day one.

Andy: Hull is an obvious one, they are in complete disarray and are completely unprepared for the new season. I think Watford constantly and needlessly changing their manager will catch up with them and although Middlesbrough will be defensively sound, I can't see them scoring enough goals to keep them up.

Chris: I think Hull are more or less down already; their summer has made ours look like Manchester United's. No manager and barely a squad, they could end up beating Derby's points tally at this rate. Elsewhere, I can see both Watford and Bournemouth having a case of 'second season syndrome' and making the plunge to the second tier, with many teams flirting with relegation throughout the year.

Who will be the league top scorer?

Gav: Sergio Aguero. I think that Spurs will struggle as a result of Harry Kane not quite hitting the heights that he's reached over the last two seasons, and the other forwards in the league aren't on the Argentinians level. He's world class.

Carl: If he stays fit for the majority of the season, Sergio Aguero - he is by far the best striker in the Premier League. If he doesn’t, Ibrahimovic will accumulate enough to take that gong.

Rory: Sergio Aguero, if he can stay fit, should thrive under Pep. Running him close will be Michy Batshuayi if he can bring his Marseille form to Stamford Bridge.

Simon: The top scorer for the season will be Ahmed Musa for Leicester City. I've never seen a striker so perfectly built for a teams style of play. But I also don't expect many other strikers to hit high goal tallies this season.

Andy: It can only be Sergio Aguero really, an attacking manager and the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, David Silva, Yaya Toure and Leroy Sane, etc. supplying him, he should get close to 30 league goals if he stays fit.

Chris: If Sergio Aguero stays fit then there is arguably no better striker in world football and I would expect him to walk it if that is the case. If not, then players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Harry Kane will make a good fight of it.

Who will be the first manager sacked?

Gav: Alan Pardew. Crystal Palace were horrific in the second half of last season and were lucky to stay up, really. Pardew is spending big but is about to lose Yannick Bolasie, one of his better players. Their first two months of the season aren't particularly testing and if they struggle for wins I can see Pards being out of a job by October.

Carl: Walter Mazzarri. Watford have a board that sack overachieving managers. If they don’t start well, he’ll be triggered. Claude Puel has a tough job on his hands at Southampton, too.

Rory: Walter Mazzarri might not be a bad shout given Watford binned Quique Sanchez Flores for no reason at all. A dodgy start could easily see him in the dole queue. Whoever takes the Hull job will probably be gone by Christmas too.

Simon: Whoever is managing Hull City will be sacked at some point during the season. Other than that it's tough to see any current manager getting the boot, as they're all competent enough to see the season out. Maybe Pardew if Crystal Palace under-performed.

Andy: I may have said Hull's new manager but they may not appoint anyone before the first sacking of the season, so I'll go with Mazzarri. Watford's scattershot approach to signings and managers is going to go wrong sooner rather than later and I think Mazzari will be gone within the first ten games.

Chris: David Moyes. Nah not really - or at least I hope not!I'm going to go for Alan Pardew. Palace have invested heavily again and if they get off to a poor start then Pardew could well be looking for a new job.

Which Premier League player signed this summer do you think will be the biggest success?

Gav: Eric Bailly of Manchester United. They've been crying out for quality defenders for years and he looked a cut above in the Community Shield last Sunday. He'll be mooted as one of the main reasons for them lifting the title come May, mark my words.

Carl: Asides from Ibrahimovic, I’d say Andre Ayew. He’s a superb player who proved how adaptable he is around this time last year. He will hit the ground running again in a West Ham shirt.

Rory: Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Manchester United. Firmly in the peak of his career and he was the perfect attacking midfielder for Borussia Dortmund last season, contributing goals and assists all over the gaff.

Simon: If Granit Xhaka betters his Bundesliga form, he'll be a huge talking point this season.  Off the back of Pogba's ludicrous transfer fee, Xhaka will be seen as a huge bargain.

Andy: Arsenal are still missing a dominant central defender and a world class striker but in Granit Xhaka they have signed a player who will massively improve their midfield. It won't be enough to bring them success but I expect him to be a shining light this season.

Chris: A surprising choice but I feel that Saido Mane will do a cracking job at Liverpool. He's a fast and direct player who can finish and I feel that he is what Liverpool have been missing for a while and could make a huge impact on Merseyside.

On the flip side, which Premier League player signed this summer do you think will be the biggest failure?

Gav: Sadio Mane. I cannot believe that such an inconsistent player has commanded such a large fee.

Carl: Borja Baston. Swansea look weaker than they did last year, and Spanish players don’t always adapt to the Premier League all that well. An expensive gamble.

Rory: Not a high profile one but I'm not sure what possessed Southampton to pay £11 million for Nathan Redmond. After struggling to get into Norwich's starting line up last season, I just don't get the hype.

Simon: The big flop this season could end up being Paul Pogba. For that sort of money, he need to be good every match. But if Berahino signs for another club, then it'll be him.  All hype.

Andy: Paul Pogba is a world class player and I think he'll be a huge success in the long run for Manchester United but I think this season will be one of rebuilding for Mourinho and that will mean Pogba and the team won't quite hit the heights you would expect for a world record transfer fee.

Chris: Michy Batshuayi of Chelsea. He is relatively unproven, he has the tools to be great but like so many before him, cutting it in the Premier League will be too tough for the Belgian sadly.