Football, particularly the Premier League, is notoriously hard to predict. I don’t expect this season to be any different. However, I am willing to give it a go, albeit potentially looking very silly at the end of the season (yes I was ‘one of those’ who predicted Sheffield United to go straight back down last season…).
N.B. It is important to note that this is being published before the end of the transfer window, meaning business done after this is published could drastically affect the outcomes.
20. West Bromwich Albion
Unfortunately for the Baggies, I am predicting them to go straight back down this season. A so-called ‘yo-yo’ team, West Brom often find themselves contending with promotion and relegation in the Championship and Premier League respectively. Little transfer business — particularly in the striker position — does not fill me with hope for West Brom for the coming season. Permanent signings Grady Diangana and Matheus Pereira are certainly great players, but they won’t be able to drag their team to survival.
In my opinion, it’s a similar situation to West Brom with Fulham. While the permanent signing of tricky attacker Knockaert and the astute loan signing of defensive-midfielder Lemina are good bits of business, I’m not convinced its enough, especially since Scott Parker is an inexperienced manager. However, last time Fulham were promoted, they spent a bucket-load of cash, and we all know how that ended… Have they learnt from their mistakes?
18. Aston Villa
Surviving by the skin of their teeth on a dramatic last day of the 19/20 season, I can’t see Villa doing the same this time around. Despite canny signings from the Championship (Matty Cash and Ollie Watkins), I don’t think Dean Smith will be able to keep his side up. The shining light for Villa this season is Jack Grealish. If they manage to keep hold of their captain — who was directly involved in 34% of his team’s Premier League goals last season — they will have some hope that he can, once again, guide them to safety. I’m not convinced though.
17. Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace were somewhat comfortably safe last season, but their end to the season was horrendous. This form could well continue — especially since there is a shorter summer break this year — which is very bad news for Palace fans. Youngster Eberechi Eze is their only piece of significant business, and, with an ageing Roy Hodgson at the helm, as well as the Premier League’s oldest average squad, motivation could be dwindling and it would not surprise me if Palace find themselves in a relegation dogfight this year.
16. Brighton and Hove Albion
Every year since their inaugural season in the Premier League in 17/18, Brighton seem to be written off in the pre-season predictions. Brighton had a promising end to the 19/20 season, beating Arsenal and taking points off Leicester being some memorable results. Potter’s style of football is great to watch, and their summer business has looked good, with Adam Lallana coming in on a free transfer, as well as defender Ben White returning to the Amex Stadium after a quality loan spell with Leeds United. However, I still don’t think this Brighton squad has enough to go to the next level, which is why I think they will once again be flirting with relegation.
15. Leeds United
Bielsa in the Premier League — it’s all anyone has spoken about since Leeds’ Championship title win. For a newly promoted side, a 15th placed finish seems great, although many would have Leeds finishing higher this year. I agree, I think Leeds will do well this year, and it is exciting to have a ‘big club’ like Leeds back in the big time. But, the expansive, possession-based style of football Leeds play — which saw them have an average of 62% possession in the Championship last year — may be difficult to replicate in the Premier League. With regard to their summer business, it’s been a mixed bag, as marquee signing Rodrigo is an exciting player, but the aforementioned Ben White will be a big miss. The energetic Elland Road crowd will also help, as Leeds stay up this year. I feel like this one could come back to haunt me next year, we’ll have to wait and see.
Newcastle were largely tipped for relegation last season, but Steve Bruce managed to steer Newcastle away from relegation to a respectable 13th placed finish. Record signing Joelinton was a calamitous flop last season, so the signing of striker Callum Wilson was clever and needed — Magpies fans will be hoping he can reignite his devastating link up with new winger Ryan Fraser. They have some exciting players and, in Premier League terms, a very well-versed manager. Decent season and nothing more in my opinion.
13. West Ham United
West Ham are in a state of turmoil currently, with club captain Mark Noble even recently criticising the state of the club in a passionate twitter post regarding the departure of bright talent Grady Diangana. However, this poor ownership is not new, and the team — led by trusty Premier League manager David Moyes — finished the 19/20 season strongly. Antonio was firing, Rice was solid, and a squad boasting talents such as Sébastien Haller and Felipe Anderson is bound to do well. The permanent arrival of midfielder Tomáš Souček is a great signing, and I believe in Moyes to lead the Hammers to mid-table.
“Brexit FC”, “Long-ball merchants”, “The modern-day Stoke”: Burnley have been handed some less than inspiring nicknames in their time in the Premier League. “Dycheball” has been a source of hatred for many of the purist football hipsters out there, and, while I would rarely choose to watch Burnley, I think Sean Dyche has consistently done a very good and underappreciated job at Burnley. While there were rumours that Dyche was going to leave his position as Burnley manager (many reports citing a disagreement with the board), he now looks set to stay and replicate what he’s been doing for the past four years.
11. Sheffield United
Sheffield United: the surprise package of last season. Very few predicted them to even stay up, let alone finish in the top half of the league, which just proves how hard it is to predict the Premier League table. The Blades’ form tailed off towards the end of the season — ultimately costing them a European place — and I think that could be evidence of Wilder’s originally very unique and unpredictable style of play slowly being sussed out. Losing star goalkeeper Dean Henderson to his parent club Manchester United is a blow, although it has been softened by the arrival of Aaron Ramsdale. With the lack of resources and experience, I don’t think Blades fans should be disappointed with an 11th placed finish by any means.
What a turbulent season it was for the Saints last term! From suffering the heaviest ever home defeat in the Premier League by any team (a 0–9 thrashing by Leicester in late October), to a 7-game unbeaten run to end the season in 11th place, Southampton turned it around. They play entertaining, fast-paced, high-pressing football, guided by well-regarded manager Ralph Hasenhüttl. My concern for Southampton, and my inner-doubts of placing them in the top half, is the sheer reliance on star striker Ings — who scored 17 more goals last season (22) than any other player in Southampton’s squad.
On the face of it, Leicester had a superb season last year as they finished in 5th. But, contextually, it was poor, considering they were comfortably in the top-four for the majority of the season. Their terrible form could continue into the new season, abounding with the fact that starter left-back Chilwell has departed to Chelsea; top-scorer Vardy is another year older and they haven’t sufficiently strengthened while rivals have: this could be a lacklustre season at the King Power stadium. Having said this, I think the positions between 9th and 6th will be very competitive and close, so getting it bang-on may prove difficult.
8. Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wolves have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with over the past two seasons, finishing in 7th place consecutively since their come-up from the Championship. Nuno has his team playing counter-attacking football which has proved very effective, and it will be the same this season. New signing Fábio Silva may not be an instant hit at just 18 but will be embedded into the team and provide solid depth in the forward positions — an area which already boasts the brilliance of Raúl Jiménez, Adama Traoré and Diogo Jota. This season looks set to be similar to the last two for Wolves, but I just don’t think they have enough to go the next step and break into the top-six or four.
Predicting Everton to do well is never a good idea, as they have been trying to break into the top-four for a decade now, with no such luck. While I’m not predicting a top-four finish (that would be ludicrous), Everton’s transfer business, coupled with the legendary coach that is Carlo Ancelotti surely has to see them finish as the ‘best of the rest’. Their midfield has been completely revamped, as Ancelotti reunites with the reliable Allan; solid midfielder Abdoulaye Doucouré looks set to sign; and the icing on the cake comes in the form of the shock arrival of James Rodríguez from Real Madrid — a creative, flair midfielder who’s done it on the biggest of stages. Their squad is already well-built, with Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin banging in the goals, plus there’s ample depth with the new signings. The defence could be improved, but it is still sufficient. The Toffees really could be sweet next season.
6. Tottenham Hotspur
I think the top 6 — unlike last season — will be the traditional ‘big 6’. Finishing bottom of the top dogs will be Spurs, as I just don’t think the squad has enough to finish higher. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Matt Doherty provide quality in needy positions, but it’s not enough. Moreover, ‘Trophy’ Mourinho will be after silverware — which has escaped Tottenham for so long now. A dedicated chase for the Carabao Cup, FA Cup, and/or the Europa League will see the form of the Lily Whites tail off towards the end of the season, resulting in a sixth-placed finish.
Arsenal showed very promising signs towards the end of last season, winning an FA Cup trophy with big wins over Man City and Chelsea, and beating Liverpool on penalties to be crowned Community Shield champions. Furthermore, Mikel Arteta looks to be a brilliant up-and-coming manager. The addition of Gabriel — as well as the return from loan of William Saliba — really steady up the back four; they could be a solid centre-back partnership for years to come. Willian is a crude piece of business and will add valuable depth to the already star-studded attacking line-up. I also believe Aubameyang will be invaluable to the Gunners this season (read on to find out whether I think he can win the Golden Boot). Overall, a solid season for Arsenal and a major improvement, but not quite enough to grasp a Champions League place.
4. Manchester United
The in-form team, Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men finished the Premier League season excellently, going on a 14-game unbeaten run in the league. The starting XI is great, but squad depth has been an issue for the Red Devils. The addition of long-pursued target Jadon Sancho would certainly give the team an exciting new dynamic, but the defence still needs improving before they can truly challenge for the title. A new left-back appears to be on the cards — a useful signing — but the pursuit of a centre-back is needed although not currently in the works. It could be an entertaining season for United, but I still think inconsistency and a lack of squad depth will prevent them from making the next-step — a step which the fans so desperately crave.
Wow. What a transfer window Chelsea have had. Ziyech, Werner, and Havertz will add incredible quality and depth for the Blues, meanwhile, the long-standing issue at left-back has been resolved with the arrival of Ben Chilwell. The arrivals of experienced and promising centre-back duo Thiago Silva and Malang Sarr also give Chelsea strength in the centre of defence. And don't forget the quality they already possess: Pulisic, Kovačić, Mount, Kanté, and more. Nevertheless, no goalkeeper has (at time of writing) arrived, and Kepa and Caballero are simply not good enough. In addition, while many are backing Chelsea for second — or even first — place I think the sheer amount of new arrivals will be overwhelming for the team and will need time to settle in, especially since a large proportion are young and from outside the Premier League. A title charge is not out of reach; this season will be the true test of Frank Lampard.
2. Manchester City
Decision time. Who wins the league? Well, for me, it’s not Man City. Following a disappointing season last year, City will really want to bounce back, but I just don’t think they will. Nathan Aké and Ferran Torres are decent bits of business, but it’s not enough to topple Liverpool. Moreover, I expect Guardiola will be all-guns-blazing for the elusive Champions League, meaning the league form will suffer. Having said that, the arrival of another defender — for example, Kalidou Koulibaly — would change things for the Citizens, as this is the only real position in which they lack star-quality depth (apart from left-back). This season — unlike last — will be much closer though, and you can expect to see a competitive title challenge from City, as well as potentially Chelsea and even United.
There we have it. Premier League champions for the second time. Liverpool stormed to the title last year, winning it with a record seven games to go. They set seven other Premier League records in their relentless season, including being an English top-flight record 25 points clear at the top at one pointing in the season, as well as being the fastest team to reach 30 wins in a single season (doing it in 34 games). It was an astonishing campaign. However, I don’t think it will quite be the same this time around. A lack of investment for four consecutive transfer windows has left the squad thin — somehow they have managed to avoid major injuries to key players (credit is due to the medical team). Having said this, I still think the gap is too big to be closed this season, and Liverpool’s starting XI is the strongest in the league. Liverpool will retain the Premier League title.
The Golden Boot (awarded to the top scorer in the division over the course of the season) is difficult to predict, as — among the usual names — there’s always a couple of less likely heroes. Last season, few predicted Jamie Vardy to win it, and the surprising form of Danny Ings saw him within touching distance of the accolade.
Starting with the more obvious shouts, I think Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal), Sergio Agüero (Man City), Harry Kane (Spurs), and Mohammed Salah (Liverpool) will — as per usual — be in contention. Aubameyang is Arsenal’s leading man — unlike Agüero now for City (due to age and rotation) and Salah for Liverpool (due to the goal threat of Mané)— which gives him the edge over the pair. Kane is Spurs’ main goalscorer, but a José Mourinho side will not create an abundance of chances for him to put away.
In addition to these players, Anthony Martial (Man United), Marcus Rashford (Man United), Sadio Mané (Liverpool), Timo Werner (Chelsea), Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Raheem Sterling (Man City), Raúl Jiménez(Wolves), and Danny Ings (Southampton )— if he can stay fit (same goes for injury-prone Kane and Agüero) — will also be in and around the 20 goal mark.
In terms of a dark horse this season, I’m going for Leeds new-boy Rodrigo. The energetic 29-year-old is an upgrade to Patrick Bamford and will be firing them in for the Premier League returnees.
Decision: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang — the consistent striker is the main goal threat in an attacking Arsenal side, it just makes sense.
The Golden Glove is awarded to the goalkeeper with the most clean-sheets (no goals conceded during a match) over the whole season. Last year City shot-stopper Ederson pipped Burnley man Nick Pope to the prize.
The award is not only down to the quality of the goalkeeper in question, but also the back-four in front of them. In my opinion, the main candidates will be Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Man City), David de Gea (Man United), and Nick Pope (Burnley).
Decision: Alisson — the best goalkeeper in the league with the best defence in front of him.
Player of the Year
Last year season, Jordan Henderson picked up the Football Writers POTY for his roaring season as Liverpool captain, while Kevin de Bruyne was (rightly) awarded the PFA Player of the Year (the most prestigious Premier League Player of the Year award).
Once again, the best midfielder in the world — Kevin de Bruyne — will have a stellar season for Man City. Liverpool star players Moh Salah, Sadio Mané, Virgil van Dijk, and Trent Alexander-Arnold will perform admirably, all of whom are essential to the consistent brilliance of Liverpool.
Bruno Fernandes was revolutionary to Man United last year after his arrival in January and will continue this hot-form to be in with a chance. As mentioned before, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a star for Arsenal, and I think new boys Kai Havertz and Timo Werner will especially shine for Chelsea. The likes of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling are also obvious shouts.
My darkhorse is Villa captain Jack Grealish, who will need to be on top-form if his team are to stay up.
Decision: Trent Alexander-Arnold — possibly a surprising shout, Trent has been essential to Liverpool for two seasons now and is ever-improving.
Young Player of the Year
Last year’s PFA Young POTY was my pick for next season’s POTY: Trent Alexander-Arnold.
The Young POTY sometimes overlaps with the POTY, due to the increasing amount of quality players being embedded into the Premier League at such a young age.
Mason Greenwood (Man United) was very prolific last season and will only kick on; Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) had a promising start to life in the Premier League; Phil Foden (Man City)is an excellent player, and there are so many more to choose from.
A left-field shout could be Brighton full-back Lamptey, who I expect will be a standout player for the Seagulls in the coming season.
Decision: Trent Alexander-Arnold — if he’s winning the main POTY, he’s winning this one, too!