The Premier League is wide open. There's not an obvious title winner in the group and you could make a case for any of six teams finishing in the top four. The middle of the league is a mess, and there are a handful of teams who will find themselves in the relegation battle. Basically, anyone who thinks they know how things are going to play out is delusional or lying. But let's rank these teams anyway.
Leicester City FC via Getty ImagPlumb Images
Steve Bruce spent weeks telling Hull that they had better sign some players or he would resign. He made good on that promise, and now the Tigers are heading into the season without a manager. They've signed one player — a backup goalkeeper — and sold one of their best players, Mohamed Diame. This for a team that was just promoted and desperately needed to get better. Instead, they got worse.
Getty ImagesClint Hughes
Like Hull, Burnley are a promoted team that needed to be aggressive in the transfer market. But they've only signed Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Nick Pope, and saw Joey Barton leave on a free transfer. Sean Dyche is one of the better young managers in England, but he needs players to work with and it doesn't look like Burnley will give him that. Maybe Burnley can make a couple signings before the transfer window closes. But it looks unlikely.
Getty ImagesMark Runnacles
It wasn't too long ago that Crystal Palace were flying high and the fans at Selhurst Park were singing Alan Pardew's praises. But Palace slumped to 15th palce after a poor finish to the season, and Andros Townsend and James Tomkins aren't enough to bring about huge changes. If they lose Yannick Bolasie, who has been rumored to be on the way out, they're in serious trouble.
Getty ImagesMike Hewitt
Bournemouth were the league's darlings a year ago — the small club who played in a tiny stadium and seemingly had no business getting promoted to the top flight. But they did, and they even managed to stay up. Eddie Howe rightfully earned plaudits for his work with the Cherries. And he was given some money to spend this summer and signed Jordan Ibe, Lewis Cook and Brad Smith to shore things up, while Nathan Ake joined on loan. It won't be easy to stay up again this season, but they faced a taller task a year ago and survived.
Getty ImagesTony Marshall
The Black Cats were dealt a big blow when Sam Allardyce left to take over England just a month before the season, but they were prepared and made a good hire in David Moyes. It's easy to get focused on Moyes' struggles at Manchester United and Real Sociedad, but don't forget how good he was at Everton. If you need someone to deliver you results (even if ugly at times) and get the most out of a team with mediocre talent, Moyes is the man to do it. That said, it wouldn't hurt to get Moyes a couple more players, because Papy Djilbodji and Paddy McNair aren't nearly enough.
Getty ImagesIan MacNicol
There isn't a ton to like about West Brom. They were 14th a year ago and are bringing back pretty much the same team, plus Matt Phillips. But they're doing it in a better league, which will only give them more problems. But there's Tony Pulis. The Baggies' manager always manages to make his teams just good enough, so it's pretty easy to slow West Brom in as just good enough again this season.
Getty ImagesJordan Mansfield
Boro knew they had to be aggressive this summer if they wanted to avoid going back to the Championship a year after promotion. And they've done just that. Victor Valdes should be steady in goal, while Masrten de Roon will be a big boost to the midfield. Alvaro Negredo's loan is a bit of brilliance. Retaining Gaston Ramirez was crucial, too. The biggest question is whether Middlesbrough will hold up in the center of defense, but they might still make another signings. Neven Subotic would have been a great fix, but he failed his medical.
Getty ImagesMichael Steele
Swansea are a tough team to gauge. They went through three managers and were downright bad at times last season, but still finished 12th. It wouldn't be hard to imagine them improving on that this season, but there are also some pretty big holes. Letting Ashley Williams, Andre Ayew, Eder and Batetimbi Gomis all go has them short on talent, leaving Fernando Llorente and Borja Baston to carry the load up front. Maybe they buy enough to fix things, but it doesn't look likely.
Getty ImagesMike Hewitt
It's incredible to think that Stoke used to be one of the most unwatchable teams in the Premier League. Mark Hughes has the Potters playing great soccer now, and they're even picking up wins. Last season they managed a ninth-place finish, but they depended on a fair bit of luck and are due for a regression. Joe Allen is a nice add in the center of the midfield, but Stoke haven't done much else in the transfer market, which will make things tough. They should be able to settle in comfortably mid-table, though.
Getty ImagesStu Forster
The Saints have shown themselves capable of overcoming an incredible amount of turnover, be it at manager or on the pitch. At some point they have to be worse off for it though, right? This could be the time, with Ronald Koeman off to Everton, Sadio Mane joining Liverpool, Victor Wanyama going to Spurs and Graziano Pelle jumping to China. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Nathan Redmon are both good signings so there's still talent in this team, but the turnover has to bite them, right? Right ...
Getty ImagesAlex Broadway
The Hornets were a popular relegation pick last season, but they stayed clear of the drop zone and finished a comfortable 13th. Most every key player is back, and they've added Christian Kabasele and Isaac Success to help them out. The big key will be manager Water Mazzarri, who could do some great things at Vicarage Road. He led Napoli to the Champions League and was responsible for some of their brightest moments before jumping for Inter Milan, where he struggled like every Inter manager since Jose Mourinho. It's easy to picture Mazzarri pushing all the right buttons at Watford. If he does, they could push for a top half finish.
The FA via Getty ImagesMichael Regan - The FA
From first to ninth? That might be Leicester's fate. They'll have to deal with the Champions League this season — a major hurdle for a team that played very few cup matches a year ago and was able to lean on the same starting lineup almost every match. More problematic is the departure of N'Golo Kante, the Foxes' brilliant midfielder. Nampalys Mendy is a nice signing, but he can't fill Kante's shoes. Few could. Really, look at this as Leicester finishing in the top half, which would be an amazing season if not for last year's dream campaign, which we still haven't quite wrapped our heads around.
Getty ImagesChris Brunskill
The Dimitri Payet Show is back. The Frenchman set the league on fire a year ago and dazzled us week after week. The problem is, the Hammers were extraordinarily reliant on him, and he's going to need help because, at last check, Payet is still human. Sofiane Feghouli could help, and Andre Ayew was a good buy, all while losing just James Tomkins. West Ham probably won't challenge the top four like last season, but they should still be a good team as they move into the Olympic Stadium. Whether the spacious new ground provides them the same atmosphere and home-field advantage of Upton Park is still a question mark though.
Getty ImagesClive Rose
It's hard to overstate just how good Romelu Lukaku is. He's scored 60 goals in the last four Premier League seasons and is just 23 years old. You won't find many frontmen better than Lukaku. Now he has Ronald Koeman as a manager, and the Toffees should benefit from the Dutchman's leadership. Ashley Williams should shore up the defense, too. But there is the possibility that Lukaku is sold. And if that happens, welp.
Getty ImagesMatthew Ashton - AMA
Jurgen Klopp got several months to evaluate players last season, and now he has a full preseason to implement his system. Add in the signings of Sadio Mane, Georginio Wijnaldum and Joel Matip, and there's a lot of reason for Klopp to be feeling very good about things. But the biggest reason the Reds could made a strong run at the top four is they have no European competition. They'll be able to run out a first choice team for most every match — something Leicester benefitted from last season. That's especially important with the way Klopp runs his players ragged.
Getty ImagesCatherine Ivill - AMA
Arsenal are heading into the season with Per Mertesacker out for months and Danny Welbeck sidelined for an extended period, highlighting their long-standing issues at centerback and striker. Arsene Wenger doesn't seem especially interested in fixing either — or finding another defensive midfielder after the Gunners were exposed in Francis Coquelin's absences last season. Instead he just signed Granit Xhaka. Which is a nice addition, but it's not what they needed most. Signing Shkodran Mustafi would be a huge boost to the Arsenal defense and have them feeling pretty good about a top four finish. But are you going to bet on Wenger signing the man he needs? The top of the Premier League is getting better and better. Arsenal need to keep pace.
AFP/Getty ImagesOLI SCARFF
The Spurs were in the title race last season. Until they weren't. And they were locked in for second. Until they weren't. It all came apart late for Mauricio Pochettino's men, but it's worth remembering that they were by far the youngest team in the league. Now they have a year's more experience and have added Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen for some much-needed depth. They'll add the Champions League to their fixture list this season, but it might not make things that much tougher on them domestically — after all, they no longer have to make the long trips in the Europa League or play on Thursdays. If you believe that Tottenham's young players can continue to grow, you have to be bullish on Spurs.
Getty ImagesAlex Livesey
For all of the jokes about Manchester United and their problems under Louis van Gaal, they finished tied for fourth with Manchester City. They may have been terrible to watch, but they got their fair share of results. Now they have Jose Mourinho and upgrades right through their spine. Eric Bailly shores up the center of defense, Paul Pogba will immediately be one of the league's best midfielders, Henrikh Mkhitaryan is a good attacking midfielder and Zlatan Ibrahimovic gives them a great striker. The Red Devils probably won't challenge for the title, but they're good enough that you can't rule it out.
Getty ImagesMatthew Ashton - AMA
Have a manager problem? Go get one of the best in Europe, who has proven he can turn a dysfunctional, middling team into a champion. Have a midfield problem? Go get arguably the best central midfielder in the Premier League. That's what Chelsea did in hiring Antonio Conte and signing N'Golo Conte. They've even been linked to Romelu Lukaku, who would be an incredible addition at Stamford Bridge, and look primed to sign a much-needed central defender. They also have no European soccer this season, so they'll be rested and able to throw their best team at opponents almost every weekend. Chelsea could go from champions to 10th place, and then back to champions again.
Getty ImagesBoris Streubel
Pep Guardiola has won the league in six of his last seven seasons of management, and he'll probably make it seven of eight this year. Manchester City still have a problem at centerback — no, John Stones isn't enough, unless Vincent Kompany miraculously stays fit — and it will take time for the Citizens to pick up Guardiola's system. But there's still so much to like. Leroy Sane and Nolito should bolster the attack and Sergio Aguero is still one of the league's best players. Ilkay Gundogan is a great midfielder who happens to be perfect for Guardiola's system. And in between all those players, there's still Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva. No one in the Premier League can match that, and it's why the Citizens should be champions come May.