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TSF’s 2020-21 Arsenal Predictions

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Feel free to let us know in May how wrong we were.

Arsenal Chief Executive Vinai Venkatesham, Technical Director Edu and Manager Mikel Arteta Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

With the Gunners opening their 2020-21 Premier League campaign on Saturday with a trip to Fulham, it’s once again time for TSF writer predictions! As has been the case for a few seasons running, in this piece, we each pick between Liverpool or Manchester City to win the league, find reasons that Arsenal will finish back in the Top 4, and pick 2 or 3 of the newly promoted teams to go back down.

If you’d like a laugh, check out last season’s predictions to see how wrong some of us were. Spoiler: none of us had Arsenal finishing 8th. If you’d like to absolutely die of laughter, check out the “bold predictions” post from last year — we were very boldly very wrong. This season, we’re going to roll those outrageous predictions into this post.

Here’s what you’re getting: Arsenal to finish, Champions, Top 4, Relegated, Bold Prediction(s). Drop yours in the comments!

Aaron

Arsenal to finish: 4th
Champions: Liverpool
Top Four: Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal
Relegated: Fulham, West Ham, West Brom

Bold Prediction, Arsenal: Less than 40 goals conceded this season
Bold Prediction, other: Leicester finish outside the Europa League places

Liverpool and City are shoo-ins for 1st/2nd in some order. I think Chelsea have the attacking firepower to get to 3rd/4th, but I have serious questions about their defense. They may score 80 and concede 60. I might be sleeping on Manchester United, but do you want to put your faith in David “he hasn’t been elite for a while” de Gea, Harry Maguire, and an unsustainably high (?) penalty award rate? I don’t. I suppose Spurs could Jose Mourinho shithouse their way to a finish, but there’s no world in which me, an Arsenal writer, is backing that. My thoughts on Leicester are below. Wolves’ Europa League participation will negatively affect their Premier League performance. And Sheffield United were exposed as the flash-in-the-pan they were during the restart.

Basically, I think 3rd on down is as wide open this season as it was last. So why not Arsenal?

On my bold predictions, I like the way the Arsenal defense is shaping up under Mikel Arteta — the improved performances he’s gotten out of guys, the structure, the team defending. Granted, the Gunners outperformed their xGA under the Spaniard, and you can only outrun it for so long, but I feel good about the defense. That’s not something I expected to be saying about the Arsenal backline on January 1 of this year.

The Leicester prediction is a gut feeling. After a torrid start last year, they cratered hard and ended up missing the Champions League from what looked like a near certain to qualify position. They are incredibly reliant on James Maddison and Jamie Vardy. We saw what happened to their attack when Maddison was out injured. At some point, Vardy is going to hit that “cliff season” where his production falls off. He’s 33, and his career trend has been a good scoring year followed by a down year. His normal cycle says this is a down year, and I don’t think Leicester can weather it.

Nathan

Arsenal to finish: 3rd
Champions: Manchester City
Top Four: Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea
Relegated: Brighton, Fulham, West Brom

Bold Prediction, Arsenal: Pepe & Willian both score 15 goals, across all competitions.
Bold Prediction, other: Leeds United finish in the top half of the table.

Liverpool enter the season as favorites again. However, Manchester City will have more hunger to make up for last year after failing to claim the Premier League title or their first Champions League crown. City are offensively deep and should be improved on defense this time around - plus I prefer a new champ, even if it’s really between two clubs at the moment.

Arsenal’s defense will be noticeably improved, and potentially challenging for best in the league by the end of the season once everyone is fit and had a full year with Mikel Arteta. Offensively, things will bounce back to the Arsenal-norm after a down season. Aubameyang will sign his new deal, Willian will add another goal threat, Pepe will be improved, Saka will continue to flourish, and upon his return, Martinelli will look like the future Arsenal starting #9. All that adds up to a return to the top four.

Spurs don’t look any more dangerous than last season and we all know how the Jose Mourinho story plays out. Manchester United have offensive threats, but will struggle at the back, and lack the endless penalties to save multiple matches for them. Chelsea’s defense might still have a few question marks, but they are too powerful on the attack not to win several 4-3 or 3-2 games.

On the bold prediction front, I would have gone with 20 goals for Pepe, if not for Willian’s arrival and the likelihood of sharing time across the front. Willian has the experience to hit that mark and Pepe hopefully sees more free-kick opportunities this season. Meanwhile, Leeds’ endless pressing will force numerous teams into enough mistakes to keep them well in the 8th-10th positions. As long as Bielsa is there, Leeds are staying in the Premier League.

Joe

Arsenal to finish: 3rd
Champions: Manchester City
Top Four: Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United
Relegated: Crystal Palace, Fulham, West Brom

Bold Prediction, Arsenal: More points against Big 6 than last five seasons
Bold Prediction, other: Mourinho fired going into Boxing Day fixtures

Liverpool are still better on paper than Man City, but the real aspect that drove their championship run was their health. And more than anything else, full health is both generally unsustainable, and forecasting its end is unpredictable. So I’m sensing some unfortunate impacts on their rotation, and with all competitions, they’re going to get hit with the winter fixture congestion.

Man City continue to have the best player in the league (Kevin de Bruyne), the best attack (they nearly broke their two-year old record for most goals scored in a season) and have added Nathan Aké to help the defense. They weren’t as consistent as Liverpool last season, but they were more incisive and more potent. I think it will be a close title fight through the spring, but I think the injuries I’m laying on Liverpool will make too much of an impact.

We’re finishing third. Book it.

And I’ll round out the top four with Man U. They’ve got a really nice group there, and if they can land Jadon Sancho to go with Donny van de Beek, they’re going to be really hard to deal with on the ball.

Jocelyn

Arsenal to finish: 4th (I really believe they can do this)
Champions: Liverpool
Top Four: Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal
Relegated: Fulham, Brighton, Burnley
Bold Prediction: Watch out for Leeds United. They will finish in the top half of the table.

Liverpool literally ran away with the title last season and outside of Manchester City, I don’t think any other club has a chance of winning the league. It took Liverpool 30 years to be crowned champions, and I don’t see Klopp and his talented side losing their grip on the trophy.

As much as it pains me to say it, I think Chelsea have had a great transfer window and will be improved from last season. One major question mark that has yet to be addressed is in goal. Frank Lampard lost faith in Kepa Arrizabalaga and it remains to be seen if a replacement will be brought in. I am still predicting they will finish third.

Once again, the pundits aren’t convinced about Arsenal, but I genuinely believe they can regain a spot in the top four. Even with the window still open, the Gunners are already an improved side from the one that began 2019-2020 under Unai Emery. Mikel Arteta has addressed the defense and with the addition of William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhães, the backline should be greatly improved. Arsenal finished last season strong and with recent victories over Manchester City, Chelsea, and Liverpool on the way to winning the FA Cup and Community Shield Arteta has instilled confidence and belief throughout the squad.

I still don’t understand the high praise that Manchester United is getting. I believe they will be on the outside looking in along with Tottenham. In fact, I expect a return of St. Totteringham’s Day after a three-year absence. I would also place money that Mourinho will not last the entire season.

I expect Leicester, Wolves, Everton, and Leeds (my team to watch) to round out the top half of the table.

Speaking of Wolves, manager Nuno Espirito Santo deserves major plaudits. His side was the surprise package last season finishing seventh and making it all the way to the quarterfinals of the Europa League.

Aidan

Arsenal to finish: 5th
Champions: Manchester City
Top Four: Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United
Relegated: Aston Villa, Fulham, West Brom

Bold Prediction, Arsenal: Eddie Nketiah to score 10 goals
Bold Prediction, other: Leeds to get more points against the Big 6 than Tottenham

One consequence of Liverpool having essentially won the league before football shutdown was that they didn’t need to play very well to actually clinch it when football returned. And they did not play well: having won 27 of their first 29 games, they only won five of their last nine, and didn’t look as sharp and as crisp. Having not made any big additions at time of writing, I think it makes Manchester City favourites. Once you turn off, it can be very hard to turn back on again.

I wrote about this earlier this week, but my pick is for Arsenal to finish 5th. I think Mikel Arteta has a really good tactical set-up, especially for the big games, and I’m excited to see what he can do in a full season. But these are, obviously, not normal times; a condensed pre-season, a transfer window that’s open for the first weeks of the season, a full calendar. Arsenal’s underlying numbers last season were decidedly mediocre. I don’t think you can pick Arsenal to finish 4th with the signings that have been made, but genuine progress, and winning the Europa League, would be the best season since 2014/15, and I can see Arsenal pulling that off.

Chrisman

Arsenal to finish: 4th
Champions: City
Top Four: City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal
Relegated: Fulham, Brighton, West Brom

Bold Prediction, Arsenal: Spend big money in January
Bold Prediction, other: Mourinho burns all of Spurs down

Look, Arsenal have got to be improved right? Even if it was all the same squad from last year, just the competence that comes from our coaching staff is tenfold better than last year. Thats worth at least 4 spots in the table to me! Arteta doesn’t have all the players he wants or needs, but this season we should see incremental improvement. We need to beat the minnows a lot more than we have previously, taking max points from bottom feeders. Mikel has already shown an ability to coach against the bigger sides effectively, does that mean we’ll get a clean sweep? Hell no, but I think it means we have a chance in any match we play, which has definitely not been the case in recent seasons. Arsenal must get more offensive output from our midfield players this season to have success!

It’s the first full year for two North London managers, I think Amazon should keep the cameras rolling at all times and maybe let some of the better footage leak throughout the season as Jose starts putting bodies underneath the bus on his way out of London. Too soon, you say? An Arsenal man can dream, can’t I?

Tony

Arsenal to finish: 4th
Champions: City
Top Four: City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal
Relegated: Fulham, West Brom, Brighton

Bold Prediction, Arsenal: The defense return to formidability.
Bold Prediction, other: One of the the former-players-turned-manager gets canned.

We have been here before, haven’t we? On the cusp of a new season, hope is drifting in the breeze as a world of untapped potential awaits. This is not a new sensation for Arsenal fans. We have drunk from that well deeply in the past. Unlike other seasons, however, Arsenal’s trajectory feels strangely solid. Mikel Arteta has rejuvenated the squad, having reformed a number of formerly-aggravating players like Xhaka and Mustafi while getting the best out of many of the others. Under his command, Arsenal have an identity.

The question marks still linger, but Arsenal feel less like the team that always found a way to fritter away a shot at the top four and more like a team that will be constantly challenging for it. Arteta has gotten tremendous buy-in from players and it shows in how they continue to praise him in interviews and how they are playing. With marquee wins against City, Chelsea, and Liverpool at the end of last season, there is reason to be excited again. In less than a season’s time, Arteta managed to right a fast-sinking ship. I shudder to think where we’d be without him, but we can all rest easier knowing that we are being led by one of the game’s top young minds.

Arteta is the manager. Auba is poised to resign. The youth are blossoming. The defense look worlds better. Arsenal are winning trophies. It is fun to be an Arsenal fan again, friends.