Back in August, our esteemed panel of football experts put their reputations on the line in answering a series of questions about the upcoming English Premier League season. As we sit just a hair past the midway point of the campaign, let’s check in on just how brilliant/clueless (delete as appropriate) they really are with a mid-season predictions check-in.

Firstly, let’s reintroduce you to the players: Jarrod Prosser, Aarav Raina, Chris Bagdonas, Alex Cervantes, Garrett Burroughs, Christian Ishoo, Gavin Daly and Max Everett.

Now, onto those predictions….

Let’s start at the top: who wins the league?

A very good start for our panel, who all – bar one – went for Manchester City to win the league. With the Citizens currently a lazy 10 points clear of Chelsea and eleven of Liverpool (though the Reds do hold a game in hand), it seems a rock solid choice at this stage.

So who had the rogue opinion? None other than Chelsea fan Alex! Whilst his beloved Blues are a long shot to steal away the title, they’re probably the best bet to finish 2nd. He also said that he ‘wouldn’t be surprised if this title is won on the last match day’. If Cervantes is right, we’re in for a rollicking finish to the season.

Who claims the other Champions League spots? In order of league finish, please.

All bar one of our experts picked Chelsea and Liverpool to join City in finishing in the top four, with Prosser and Raina getting the order right, though both blotted their copybook in having Manchester United rounding out their top four. In fact, all of our panel thought Ole might be a little safer at the wheel than he ultimately proved, with everyone predicting a top four finish for the expensively assembled United squad.

Max went off the reservation just a little in plumping for Leicester to break into the top four at Liverpool’s expense. With the Foxes sitting in 10th position and having just lost talismanic striker Jamie Vardy to injury for the next few months, it will take something approaching a miracle for them to reach the Champions League places.

Literally, nobody saw Arsenal sitting inside the top four. Not even resident Gooner Aarav.

Who’s going down? Relegation picks, thanks.

This is a race in four, with three of Norwich, Newcastle, Burnley and Watford all but confirmed to make the journey down to Championship football next campaign, though keep an eye on the free falling Leeds and Everton (that sound you hear is Prosser’s royal blue heart breaking)

All bar Garrett took the gimme in selecting Norwich for the drop. His selections of Brighton and Crystal Palace look somewhat poor. Prosser accompanied Garrett in vastly underestimating the managerial prowess of Patrick Vieira. Both Garrett and Jarrod both missed on Watford, too. In a comeback result, both pundits did pick Burnley to ‘run out of pixie dust’.

The fall of the Richest Club in the World (TM) was picked by Raina and Raina alone. It appears only an injection of a stupid amount of cash could save the Magpies. Credit to Gavin who couldn’t bring himself to pick them for relegation, though did mention thy would be close to the drop.

Christian, Max, Gavin and Chris all picked Brentford. None of that foursome believing in the wonder that is Ivan Toney. They have brought shame on themselves and their families.

Alex picked Southampton for the drop. On the surface, an outlandish selection though, on further inspection, a solid outlier. Any team that is capable of multiple 9-0 losses is certainly capable of the type of extended loss of form that leads to relegation.

Where will YOUR team finish?

A quick piece if housekeeping: with Gavin’s beloved Luton Town toiling in the Championship, he gave precisely zero fucks about this question.

Our Chelsea contingent of Alex, Garrett and Christian picked the Blues to finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd, respectively. At worst, they’re a lock for the top four, so solid predictions

How about the North London gang? Max lauded ‘the appointment of a forward-thinking manager in Nuno Espirito Santo’. How did that go, exactly? In fairness, he predicted they would finish 6th which is exactly where they currently stand.

As for Aarav, he was certain that (1-0 to the) Arsenal would fail to crack the top four, but claim either 5th or 6th. He’s never been happier to be wrong.

Bagdonas drank the Ole branded cool-aid, predicting Manchester Untied to finish 3rd. Silly boy.

As for Prosser, he picked Everton to finish 8th. He doesn’t want to talk about how they are actually doing.

Which club will flatter to deceive?

Kudos to Gavin who osculated between Everton and the North London clubs before settling on the moribund Merseyside outfit. It was an inspired choice.

As for the rest of our panel….oh, boy!

Aarav, Chris and Gavin all picked the low hanging fruit of David Moyes’ West Ham. Whilst their early season top four form has predictably fallen away, they’re a decent bet to secure another season of European football. They’ve performed admirably so far.

Christian and Jarrod thought Arsenal would be this season’s free faller. Their current 4th place a long way above the 10th place where Prosser thought they would finish.

Max went for the just slightly mental decision of nominating Liverpool, citing the absence of Gino Wijnaldum. But that wasn’t even the craziest shout: that ‘honour’ goes to Alex for selecting Manchester City. In his defense, he did mitigate his outlandish choice by stating, ‘I’m sure this will age well – watch them win the treble’.

Which club will be a pleasant surprise?

Fair shout to Gavin and Jarrod who both backed Brentford to make an impact on the league, with the Championship playoff winners sitting comfortably in 12th at the time of writing.

Garrett and Alex picked Tottenham who, as covered elsewhere, are achieving pretty much exactly what was expected, though not in the manner that anyone anticipated. A pleasant surprise, though? That’s a bit of a stretch.

Chris and Max both backed Villa to outperform, despite selling talisman Jack Grealish for the £100 million that City found down the back of the couch. After a hugely disappointing start that saw Villa-to-his-core Dean Smith lose his dream job, former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has righted the ship. Nonetheless, 13th place is not in anyway a ‘pleasant surprise’ for the Birmingham outfit.

Ishoo went for Leicester to break through. They have not broken through.

After a concerning start tot the season, Aarav’s Wolves pick looks inspired. Bruno Lage’s attacking methods, along with the return of the criminally underrated Raul Jiminez, have begun to reap a hearty yield of points. Sitting in 8th, they’re a very real chance of playing European football next season.

Golden Boot Winner? And how many goals do they score?

Let’s start by calling out all of those who thought that the Kane-to-City clusterfuck wouldn’t affect the England forward’s form this season. Chris (26 goals), Gavin (27) and Aarav (no goals prediction) all erred in their selection of the Kane, who’s four goal return has him sitting in a tie for 36th on the scoring table.

A similar brickbat to Alex for picking Bruno Fernandes (pen), who has been finally found a player that can slow him down in the form Cristiano Ronaldo. He has a thoroughly underwhelming five goals to his name to this point.

Gavin, Max and Garrett picked Chelsea’s prodigal son in Romelu Lukaku to score 27, 25 and 22 goals, respectively. After a strong start, injury and form have restricted Big Rom. He’ll need to go on an almighty tear to reach the targets these lads set for him, given he has just five league goals to his name.

Ishoo and Prosser went for Liverpool’s dynamic winger Mohamed Salah. With 16 goals – the next best is teammate Diogo Jota with 10 – he’s running away with the Golden Boot. The only intrigue left in this race is whether he hits Jarrod’s target of 27 goals, or Christian’s of 31.

Which signing will have the most impact on their team?

More housekeeping: our picks were submitted before the transfer window SLAMMED shut, thus making any assessment of the yet to move Ronaldo or Aaron Ramsdale exceedingly difficult to predict.

Gavin, Aarav and Jarrod all picked Manchester United defender Raphael Varane. The cultured centre back has made more of an impact on the physios table than the pitch, so far.

Ishoo’s take that Solskjaer wouldn’t trust Jadon Sancho proved to be visionary. In a somewhat less visionary move he ended up going for Boubakary Soumare, who has barely played for Leicester.

Alex couldn’t remove his Chelsea goggles in selecting Billy Gilmour. He’s been good for Norwich, but that’s like being the skinniest kid in Fat Camp. When your team is stone motherless last, you can’t claim to have had a positive impact.

Chris stumped for Leon Bailey, who was somewhat of an ‘it’ name at the beginning of the campaign. It hasn’t really happened for the Jamaican winger at Villa, with just the six league starts – all ineffective – to his name.

Garrett has perhaps come the closest to a correct call, here. Ibrahima Konate has been used sparingly by Liverpool boos Jurgen Klopp, though he has looked the goods whenever he has played. Garrett did say that this was a long term signing, who would be brought along slowly. Again, that looks a good call.

Finally, Max’s pick of Lukaku hasn’t really panned out, either.

All in all, a piss-poor effort from our ‘experts’ on this particular question.

And who will flop?

Max, Jarrod and Aarav all erred is picking Ben White, presumably in the belief that the Arsenal ‘stench’ would rub off on him. Rather, the former Brighton man has given the Gunners a level of defensive stability they haven’t had for well over a decade. In a similar vein, Ishoo went with Mikel Arteta. The jury remains out on the Arsenal boss as well as Ishoo’s ability to understand the difference between a signed player and an incumbent manager.

Gavin and Alex both successfully picked Jadon Sancho. The young winger was criminally underused by Solskjaer, but he’s not exactly torn it up when he has played. He’s young and he has time on his side, but as Gavin mentioned, for the money spent there was an expectation that he would have an immediate impact.

Garrett also went down the ‘good player, but too much money’ route in picking Jack Grealish. Again, he hasn’t been poor, by any means. But he’s in no way had £100 million worth of impact.

Chris inadvertently agreed with Garrett’s call on Konate, saying that he wouldn’t have an immediate impact given his youth and the quality of the other central halves in the Liverpool squad. He’s not a flop, but he’s yet to really make an impact either.

Who takes out the PFA Player of the Year?

With half a season to go, it’s of course difficult to make an assessment on these predictions, so let’s judge them against the current betting odds at www.nicerodds.co.uk.

All of our writers, bar Garrett and Alex, went with the magnificent Belgian Kevin de Bruyne to win the award form what feels like the 17th year in a row. Currently 4th in the betting, he’s an outside chance. That’s more than can be said for N’Golo Kante (Alex – seriously dude, take of those Chelsea goggles) or Bruno Fernandes (Garrett), both holding odds of 67-1 at the time of writing.

It appears that we all forgot about the existence of Salah, currently paying $1.40.

First manager to be removed by ‘mutual consent’?

The obvious answer to this question is always ‘whoever happens to be managing Watford’. And so it proved as Xisco Munoz was the first man to go this season. Points to Gavin, Aarav and Jarrod.

There was a fair degree of ‘Arteta Out’ amongst our panel, with Alex, Christian and Max all predicting that the Arsenal manager would be first out the door marked ‘Do One’. His reign at the Emirates has been the definition of one-step-forward-one-step-back, but he survives nonetheless.

Earlier in this piece, we revisited Garrett’s prediction of Palace for the drop. He also picked Vieira to be the first manager sacked. Incorrect on both counts.

Bagdonas made bold call in selecting Ralph Hassenhüttl of Southampton. He continues to mix the sublime with the ridiculous and just about keeps hold of his job. Maybe Chris’ call comes a season to early?

Finally, what will prove the biggest controversy this season?

Has there really been a huge, overarching controversy in the Premier League this season? Probably not, so let’s examine our writers’ prediction one by one.

Prosser looked internally at his club signing a former Liverpool boss (interesting that auto correct initially changed ‘boss’ to ‘boos’ – AI is getting smarter all the time) noting that no matter the result, there would be controversy. As it stands, Everton are struggling mightily and the ‘Rafa Out’ crowd are getting pretty noisy.

Aarav’s call of Arsenal’s ‘All or Nothing’ series will have to wait to receive proper assessment, with the Amazon Prime series yet to be aired. He could well be on the money, though, given some of the issues that club have had to endure this season.

Chris and Alex both said Manchester City, somewhat ambiguously. Maybe it’s just their general vibe? They both expanded on other issues, though. Chris noted that the Grealish signing could put City in the FFP cross hairs, though the sale of Ferran Torres to Barcelona allays those concerns, somewhat.

Alex and Christian both picked the low hanging fruit of VAR. Whilst there have been some contentious decisions coming from video review, has there really been anything that has raised the collective ire in the same way that Liverpool’s late disallowed goal in the Merseyside Derby did?

Garrett predicted a tight title race with the top four separated by just four points with three games left. Pep Guardiola laughed heartily at that prediction.

Max’s call of a major star, just signed in the off season, asking out in January might be about to come true, if recent reporting is to be believed. This could be the boldest, yet best call of this entire article.

Lastly, let’s just copy and past Gavin’s prediction, in all it’s glory:

It’s the last day of the season. Leaders Chelsea are at home to Watford while second place Man City host Aston Villa. Chelsea lead by two points but Man City have the far superior goal difference. Watford are already relegated but Villa need a point to be mathematically safe. Watford are holding Chelsea while City are winning. Suddenly Jack Grealish pops up in the box and scores an own goal, saving Villa but handing the title to Chelsea in the process. At Stamford Bridge as word creeps through John Terry races from the crowd in full kit to lift the Premier League title. Yeah it’ll probably just be VAR again.

If you don’t want this to happen, then you don’t love football.