We’ve reached the last stop on our 2020-21 Premier League journey — the Euro-Tourist Hopefuls. We did the relegation fodder (Villa, Brighton, Palace, Fulham, WBA, and West Ham) and the mid-table snoozers (Burnley, Everton, Leeds United, Newcastle, Sheffield United, and Southampton). This is where the good stuff is.
The Top 4 is coming from that group of 8. There is almost no chance a Cinderella team cracks the Champions League spots. And I don’t think the Europa League spots are going elsewhere, either. The “haves” are that much better than the “have nots” this year in the PL.
Last Season: 8th
Key Additions: Willian (RW), Gabriel Magalhaes (CB), William Saliba (CB)
Key Losses: NONE (yet)
Predicted Finish: 4th
I’m not going to spend too much time on Arsenal here because we’ve got tons of other preview content for you. I’ll say this: I’ve got faith in Mikel Arteta. He got the team moving in the right direction last season, and there is no reason to think that trend won’t continue. The Gunners’ finish will come down to how they fair against the lesser teams. They dropped too many “winnable” points last year.
Last Season: 4th
Key Additions: Kai Havertz (AM), Timo Werner (CF), Ben Chilwell (LB), Hakim Ziyech (RW), Malang Sarr (CB), Thiago Silva (CB)
Key Losses: Willian (RW), Pedro (RW), Alvaro Morata (CF)
Predicted Finish: 3rd
Chelsea splashed the cash this window, spending nearly £192M. They have an embarrassment of attacking riches, but Frank Lampard will have his work cut out for him to integrate all the new pieces into the lineup and find the best combos. They’re going to score 80+ goals this season but they’re going to concede 60+ as well. They needed help on defense, and I’m not sure they got enough of it. I’m not sold on Ben Chilwell. I’ve always been a Thiago Silva fan, but he’s 35 years old and has lost two steps at this point. He’s not cooked, but can he handle the Premier League? Malang Sarr on a free is a good piece of business, but Ligue 1 to the Premier League is a tough jump for a 21-year old (sighs in William Saliba). Their defensive plan seems to be start N’Golo Kante and hope.
That said, the Blues have enough firepower that I rate them a half-step above the rest of the not-Liverpool or Manchester City clubs.
Last Season: 5th
Key Additions: Timothy Castagne (RB)
Key Losses: Ben Chilwell (LB)
Predicted Finish: 8th
My bold prediction for this season is that the Foxes finish outside the Europa League places. They were poor in the second half of the season, and their collapse down the stretch cost them a Champions League place. They are overly reliant on Jamie Vardy for offense, who is 33 years old, has been unusually healthy, and in line for a “down” year based on his on-off trend. That’s not a horse I want to back.
They’ve still got about £30M from the Chilwell sale to Chelsea to spend, but I’m standing by my prediction unless they bring in a real world-beater. James Maddison is a good player and will fetch them a pretty penny next summer.
Last Season: 1st
Key Additions: Konstantinos Tsimikas (LB)
Key Losses: NONE (sorry, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren don’t count)
Predicted Finish: 1st
Liverpool haven’t been active in the transfer market, opting to promote from within. The Reds will need Curtis Jones, Rhian Brewster, Ben Woodburn, and other youngsters to step up if the club gets into injury trouble, but they’ve managed to stay pretty healthy the last few seasons. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
They have the best starting 11 in the Premier League. They have the best keeper (Alisson), the best left back (Andy Robertson), the best right back (Trent Alexander-Arnold), and the best centerback (Virgil van Dijk). That back end alone would make any roster in the Premier League a Top 4 contender. Add to that a very good midfield, and a terrifying attacking trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mo Salah, and I see no reason they won’t repeat.
If you’re looking for a reason they don’t repeat, no team has ever gone over 90 points three seasons in a row in English top flight history. They’ve put a lot of miles on their legs over the past two seasons, and maybe they hit a wall this year. But man, they are good, and an 18-point gap is a lot to make up.
Last Season: 2nd
Key Additions: Nathan Ake (CB), Ferran Torres (RW), Jack Harrison (LW)
Key Losses: Leroy Sane (LW), David Silva (AM), Claudio Bravo (GK)
Predicted Finish: 2nd
I looked for reasons that Manchester City might win the league, but I don’t think they quite measure up to Liverpool. City have the better attack. Liverpool have the better defense. The gap between defenses is bigger than the one between the offenses, and all things being (relatively) equal, I’m a defense-first guy.
I don’t rate Aymeric Laporte as highly as most do. Pep Guardiola doesn’t rate John Stones (he’s right). Eric Garcia is still young, and I’ve got vivid memories of him getting TOASTED last season. The transfer window addition of Nathan Ake doesn’t wow me either. He’s an above average Premier League CB, sure, but that’s not going to win them the league. I think they’ll be comfortably second, but they’re going to drop more points than Liverpool to the other good clubs, and that will be the difference.
If they manage to sign Kalidou Koulibaly (as appears likely), that changes things. I’d rate it a dead heat with Liverpool that comes down to injury luck if they make a move for the Napoli centerback.
Last Season: 3rd
Key Additions: Donny van de Beek
Key Losses: NONE
Predicted Finish: 5th
There are a lot of people on the Manchester United hype train heading into this season. I am not one of them. I am not a believer in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as a manager. I’m shocked they only conceded 36 goals in the Premier League last season. That’s not going to happen again.
David de Gea isn’t elite anymore. Their centerbacks are distinctly average. Luke Shaw is fine. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is a half-step behind TAA for best RB in the league. But 1 for 4 on the backline isn’t a great average. In front of them you’ve got Nemanja Matic, a guy who makes Granit Xhaka look mobile, and what? Scott McTominay? Paul “if he’s healthy” Pogba? Maybe new signing Donny van de Beek fills that roll, but the Premier League is a big step up from the Eredivisie.
I also don’t think they’ll be awarded a Premier League record 14 penalties again this season, which will make a difference. Don’t be fooled by United’s form during the restart. They had the easiest schedule of any club.
Last Season: 6th
Key Additions: Giovani Lo Celso (CM, loan-to-permanent), Matt Doherty (RB), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (CM), Joe Hart (GK)
Key Losses: Kyle Walker-Peters (RB), Jan Vertonghen (CB)
Predicted Finish: 7th
Do you really want to book a Jose Mourinho led Tottenham Hotspur for any kind of success this season? Jose hasn’t put together a good season in a while now. I don’t think Tottenham have the roster to shithouse their way to a Mourinho finish, and I don’t think the top of the Premier League (save for Arsenal, sadly) can be consistently “bus parked” against this year.
Tottenham overperformed their xG, xGA, and expected points (by 10!!!) last season. The last few seasons where they’ve finished ahead of Arsenal, I thought they had a better team heading into the season. That’s not the case this year.
Last Season: 7th
Key Additions: Fabio Silva (CF), Marcal (LB), Vitinha (AM)
Key Losses: Matt Doherty (RB)
Predicted Finish: 6th
Don’t sleep on Wolves. They’re good. Nuno Espirito Santo has his squad well-drilled in their system. They know their strengths (defense and counter), and they play to them. Connor Coady is really good, and Adama Traore is a game-changer. I don’t think they manage to hold onto either beyond this season. Their problem is they don’t have much of a Plan B or tactical flexibility. But they are hard to take points off of, and that will probably be enough to get them back into the Europa.
I’ve previewed the entire Premier League. Here’s what I think the table will look like on May 23rd. What do you think?