Revisiting BBC pundits’ pre-season predictions: Arsenal no higher than 4th, Man Utd out of top four…

Every single one of the BBC’s pundits predicted Man City and Liverpool to finish in the top two this season, very few predicted Manchester United would finish in the top four, and not one expected Arsenal to finish any higher than fourth.

Reigning champions Manchester City have lived up to expectations as title contenders, but Liverpool have been the most disappointing when you compare their actual performance in 2022-23 so far to what was predicted of them in pre-season.

Jurgen Klopp’s Reds narrowly missed out on a historic quadruple last term. They kicked off the new season in promising fashion, beating City in the Community Shield, but they’ve endured an immensely underwhelming campaign.

Liverpool are out of all three cup competitions and have been out of the title picture since the early weeks of the season. They’ve had their moments – beating Manchester United 7-0 for one – but have struggled to built any kind of consistent form. As they approach the run-in, a top-four finish and with it qualification for next season’s Champions League look a tough ask.

Dion Dublin, Glenn Murray, Jermaine Beckford, Matthew Upson, Jermaine Jenas, Fara Williams and former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock backed Klopp’s men to go and win the title.

Chelsea have had a similarly unsatisfactory campaign. They weren’t expected to quite challenge for the title, but just over half (11 of 20) of the BBC’s pundits expected them to retain their place in the Champions League with a third of fourth-placed finish.

Graham Potter has struggled to turn the Blues’ season around following the poor start made under his predecessor Thomas Tuchel. They’ve picked up a bit of form in recent weeks, but closing the gap on the top four looks like an increasingly tall order – they have 11 games left to play and need to close an 11-point gap on Tottenham.

Rob Green, Micah Richards, Rachel Brown-Finnis, Martin Keown, Sue Smith, Glenn Murray, Jermaine Beckford, Matthew Upson and Stephen Warnock all rightly predicted Chelsea to struggle this season, leaving them out of their top four predictions.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season has been the remarkable form of Arsenal. Micah Richards, Rachel Brown-Finnis, Sue Smith, Glenn Murray, Jermaine Beckford, Matthew Upson, Stephen Warnock and former Gunners stalwart Martin Keown backed Mikel Arteta to lead them to Champions League qualification but not one of them predicted them to finish any higher than fourth.

It looks as though – surely – Arsenal won’t be finishing any lower than second. A top-four finish at the very least looks all but sealed and they’re current bookmakers’ favourites for the title, having opened up an eight-point lead on Man City (albeit with one more game played). They’re now just 10 games away from making history.

Meanwhile, only Dion Dublin omitted Tottenham from his top-four predictions. It remains to be seen whether Antonio Conte will lead the north London club into the Champions League once again – they’re currently fourth, but their form has been patchy and Conte looks almost certain to leave his post at some point in the coming weeks.

Dublin expected Manchester United to make it at Spurs’ expense, while ex-City defender Nedum Onuoha and Rob Green were the only other pundit to call Erik ten Hag’s Red Devils would finish in the top four – Green was the only one to place them as high as third, which could well be on-the-money when it comes to the final standings.

Manchester United have suffered a wobble of late and still have work to do to seal their place in the top four, but Ten Hag has turned around their fortunes. Barring a late-season collapse, they look very likely to defy the pundits’ pre-season expectations and finish third or fourth.

Meanwhile, surprise packages Brighton and Newcastle remain in contention for a top-four finish but none of the BBC pundits stuck their necks out to predict they’d make it. We can’t blame them for that to be fair – few could have predicted the Seagulls and Magpies to be challenging Liverpool and Spurs for Champions League qualification back in August.

Here are the BBC pundits’ pre-season top four predictions revisited:


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