Finally, the Premier League returns! Well it’s not been that long technically but a weekend without the Premier League always feels like it’s missing something.
There are a lot of story lines heading into the new season. We have Leeds United back in the big time for the first time in 16 years! How will they fare? How will Liverpool look to mount their first ever Premier League title defence? Can Chelsea challenge for the title after treating the transfer window like a trigger happy game of football manager? Can Pep reignite the fire under his Man City team and put up a serious title challenge?
There is a lot to unpack. Lots of new signings, new managers but unfortunately as of yet, no fans. It’ll be a tough season to predict but I’m going to give it my best shot and see if I can tell you who is going to finish 20th right through to 1st this season. Let’s go!
20th West Bromwich Albion
Unfortunately, due to lack of big name signings and a squad that doesn’t particularly fill me full of fear, I can see the baggies making a swift return to the championship. They really stumbled over the line to promotion which does not give me the impression they’ll be able to pick up points down the stretch when it really matters. The signing of Grady Diangana has upset and caused a big rift at West Ham which can only bode well for West Brom, so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares.
I know it’s bit obvious to predict the promoted sides to be immediately relegated but likewise with West Brom, I’m yet to see the strengthening of the Fulham squad that would indicate to me that they will remain in the Premier League. Scott Parker has done a great job to get the cottagers back into the top division but I think unfortunately things will end very similarly till their last Premier League campaign.
18th Aston Villa
They avoided finishing in this position last season by the skin of their teeth but I think Dean Smith’s men will need another herculean effort to survive this time round. They’ve paid big money for Championship stand outs Ollie Watkins and Matty Cash. There’s also rumours of goalkeeper Emi Martinez signing from Arsenal and winger Milot Rashica from Werder Bremen. If they could pull off those two signings, then I would consider revising my pick. As it stands though, I think there is still a big reliance on Jack Grealish to be their talisman and win the club points on his own. A return to fitness from John McGinn could be pardon the cliché, like a new signing. As it stands though, I think it’ll be curtains for Aston Villa.
17th West Ham United
On paper I like a lot of West Ham’s squad. Michail Antonio really hit form at the tail end of last season and they still have managed thus far to keep hold of young star Declan Rice. I can’t escape the feeling that through lack of investment and the squad being unsettled (See Mark Noble’s reaction to Grady Diangana sale) this season will be a struggle for West Ham. They will survive though in my opinion as overall the squad has just a bit too much quality and will grind out some results down the stretch.
16th Crystal Palace
They have a well-rounded squad, a very experienced manager and look to have held on to Wilfried Zaha for the foreseeable future. The main issue I have with Palace though is they still don’t have much firepower. Jordan Ayew is decent and Michy Batshuayi should add some goals but I still see this as a serious issue for Palace. Eberechi Eze should also add some flair and pace to their attack but I see this being a pretty uneventful season for Palace with them being slightly closer to relegation than they would like.
15th Brighton & Hove Albion
Graham Potter has Brighton playing great football, a possession based style that is easy on the eye and they more than take the game to any team they play. The only issue is they don’t exactly have the quality of squad to translate this approach into say a top half finish. One big plus for them though is the return of Ben White after an outstanding season on loan at Leeds United. He should form a formidable centre back partnership with Lewis Dunk and this will help to see Brighton safely into another season in the Premier League.
14th Newcastle United
I have been mildly impressed by Newcastle’s business so far this Summer. It’s all strangely sensible which isn’t usually a word you would attribute to Newcastle. Jeff Hendrick, Ryan Fraser, Callum Wilson and Jamal Lewis should all be valuable additions to the Newcastle squad. Although I feel the ceiling is relatively low for this team, I don’t think Toon fans should be too worried about a relegation fight this season.
13th Leeds United
Leeds were the outstanding team in the Championship last season and I expect them to bring some of that form into the top flight. The real x factor for Leeds in my opinion is Marcelo Bielsa. The tactical innovator will be a fantastic addition to the Premier League and I believe he can steer Leeds to a 2nd season in the Premier League pretty easily. The loss of Ben White will be felt, shown by the fact that Leeds were so desperate to make his deal permanent. The signing of Spanish international Rodrigo should soften the blow and add some attacking flair to Leeds’ forward line.
Burnley are managed by Sean Dyche. Burnley have a solid Premier League squad who know who they are and what they are good at. Burnley will grind their way to more than enough wins to be comfortably mid-table. Burnley will finish twelfth.
11th Sheffield United
Not exactly second season syndrome but I believe Sheffield United may not have as fruitful a season this time round. Teams now know what Chris Wilder’s men are about and will set up accordingly. The loss of Dean Henderson cannot be understated. The Man United man was one of the outstanding keepers in the league last season and replacement Aaron Ramsdale will have big shoes to fill. Having said that the Blades will have another overachieving season relative to their wage bill and we should see them pushing for another top half finish.
Barring that awful run that Southampton went through last season, which culminated in the humiliating 9-0 home loss to Leicester, Ralph Hasenhüttl’s boys put in some great performance post lockdown. If Danny Ings continues his rich vein of form, then I could see Southampton pushing for a European spot. As it stands though, I’ll put them in 10th.
9th Leicester City
I feel quite shocked I’m predicting this to be honest. Once upon a time last season Leicester were shoe-ins for Champions League football. Unfortunately, the foxes had an almighty collapse which saw them fall behind Chelsea and Manchester United. I feel this could incredibly detrimental to their confidence and will lead to somewhat of a hangover this year. The loss of Ben Chilwell to Chelsea cannot be understated, both for the defensive stability he offered and the attacking threat. A poor year lies ahead for Leicester I feel.
I kind of feel this is Wolves’ spot in the league now. They’re not quite European regulars but they’re better than the rest of the chasing pack. The quality of Ruben Neves, Raul Jiménez and Adama Traoré will cause many teams big problems and I wouldn’t put it past Wolves to be surprise top 4 challengers. The loss of Matt Doherty will be felt but we may see them deploy Traoré as a right wing back, so that should be interesting. Watch out for 18 year-old Fabio Silva, who Wolves splurged £35 million on to break their transfer record.
I feel like this is a constant mistake people make with Everton. We look at their signings on paper, they look great and they almost always underperform. This time though I think it’s different, no less because I feel they’ve signed great players who fill positional needs but because of the man in the dugout. Carlo Ancelotti is an elite manager, if anyway is going to get a tune out of this Everton squad, it’s got to be him. If he can’t we might just have to consider the possibility they’re cursed, it’s the only logical reason.
Sure, “All or Nothing,” has been great craic but hasn’t convinced me that Spurs are pushing the right direction. They’re a club with some fantastic individual players but lack a real team identity. José has mentioned at length about how they’re too nice a team and I tend to agree with him. Whilst I don’t see them falling far away from the big boys, I think Europa League commitments will take their toll. A domestic trophy might not be out of the question though, so watch this space!
Remember the days when Arsenal finished 4th incessantly and it was seen as a failure? Yeah they’d probably be pretty ecstatic with that now. I think Mikel Arteta is building something at Arsenal and I think for the first time in a couple of years, they’re actually heading in the right direction. The importance of Aubameyang signing a new contract cannot be understated. A huge season from Pierre and he could fire them back into the top 4 but an injury or dip in form and that could be disastrous for the Gooners.
I know everyone is very excited about Chelsea. They’re signing everyone like they’re a 14 year old playing Fifa career mode and the future looks very bright at Stamford Bridge. Naturally though I’m a sceptic and I don’t believe all of these signings will hit the ground running. It may be a few months into the season before we see the best out of Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech et al. If it’s any consolation to Chelsea fans, you’re definitely the most interesting team going into the season, so there’s that.
3rd Manchester United
There’s still a lot of question marks surrounding Man United heading into this season. Will Jadon Sancho sign? Who is the number one goalkeeper? Is Harry Maguire in the right frame of mind? With these being said and the addition of Donny van de Beek, I just love the look of United’s midfield and forward line too much not to put them here. If the Bruno, Pogba, van de Beek can be as creative as it appears it will be on paper, then we could see a lot of goals from United this season.
2nd Manchester City
This year again I feel Man City will come up short in a two-horse race. I expect this year’s title race to be much more close run, more reminiscent of the 2018/19 season. Ferran Torres and Nathan Ake have arrived to bolster the squad. I don’t think though the loss of David Silva can be highlighted enough. The loss of Vincent Kompany proved to be a hammer blow for City from a leadership standpoint and I feel the loss of Silva is of a similar ilk. If my prediction is correct, I’m not 100% confident we’ll be seeing Pep in England much longer.
This season I think Klopp’s men retain the title. After waiting 30 years for their 1st, I don’t think they’ll have to wait much longer for their 2nd. The squad is largely the same but continuity cannot be baulked at. Of course some reinforcements in the transfer market would be desirable but I think this squad has shown enough in the last two years to show they’re more than capable of winning the Premier League as they are. Having said all that, I’m pretty sure most Liverpool fans would take Thiago in a heartbeat!