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2020-21 Premier League Preview: relegation fodder

To the Villa, Brighton, Palace, Fulham, WBA, and West Ham supporters: I’m sorry, but somebody has to be at the bottom. Unfortunately, it’s your clubs.

FBL-ENG-PR-FULHAM Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Hey you! Yes, you, over there. The Premier League season starts this weekend, in case you didn’t know. So over the next three days, I’ll be previewing all 20 teams, split into three tiers — relegation fodder, mid-table snoozers, and Euro-tourist hopefuls.

Today, we take a look at the bottom of the table. The prevailing wisdom is you need 40 points to stay up, but that number is actually a bit high. It’s been six seasons since a team was relegated with 35 or more points.

Aston Villa
Last season: 17th
Key Additions: Ollie Watkins (ST), Matty Cash (RB)
Key Losses: James Chester (CB), Danny Drinkwater (DM)
Predicted Finish: 17th

I initially had Villa going down this season, but then I thought about it, had a few chats, and changed my mind. They had 17 combined 1-goal losses and draws. The addition of Ollie Watkins at striker probably helps them pick up some of those points, which should be enough to keep them up again. I’m still concerned about their defense. They gave up the second-most goals in the league and haven’t improved. Their first choice keeper, Tom Heaton, will start the season in the training room as he continues to recover from a torn ACL. They need to hold onto Jack Grealish.

Brighton & Hove Albion
Last season: 15th
Key Additions: Adam Lallana (MF), Joel Veltman (CB), Ben White (CB)
Key Losses: Aaron Mooy (CM), Martin Montoya (RB)
Predicted Finish: 15th

Brighton didn’t concede many goals last season, and they didn’t score many, either. I don’t see that changing this year, but they are trending in the right direction. Adam Lallana is an upgrade, though I question how much of a difference that will make with Neal Maupay and Leandro Trossard as primary goalscorers. Keeping Ben White after he spent last season on loan at Leeds United is a big deal. They are a boring team. I think they stay up pretty comfortably but don’t make much of a challenge to move up the table.

Crystal Palace
Last season: 14th
Key Additions: Nathan Ferguson (RB), Eberechi Eze (CM)
Key Losses: None
Predicted Finish: 16th

Crystal Palace needed attacking firepower, and they added an attacking midfielder. Will that be enough to bolster an attack that scored a paltry 31 goals last season? Getting Michy Batshuayi on loan, which appears likely, would help a lot. Wilfried Zaha had a down year (4 goals), but he is still an elite player and should bounce back. Chalk the drop in table finish up to my lack of confidence in Roy Hodgson.

Fulham
Last season: 4th in the Championship, won playoff
Key Additions: Anthony Knockaert (RW), Harrison Reed (DM), Mario Lemina (DM), Antonee Robinson (LB), Alphonse Areola (GK)
Key Losses:
Predicted Finish: 19th

It’s always a bit more difficult to gauge newly promoted teams, and the stats say they often go right back down. That’s what Fulham did two seasons ago — came up only to go right back down. Part of the reason for their yo-yo was poor spending; Jean Michaël Seri and André-Frank Zambo Anguissa were both bad buys. Both will have another chance to prove themselves in the Premier League after loan spells last season. Manager Scott Parker will have his work cut out for him to integrate all his new and loan-returning players into the side.

West Bromwich Albion
Last season: 2nd in the Championship
Key Additions: Matheus Pereira (RW), Cedric Kipre (CB), Grady Diangana (LW), David Button (GK)
Key Losses: Nathan Ferguson (RB), Chris Brunt (CM), Oliver Burke (RW), Gareth Barry (DM)
Predicted Finish: 20th

West Brom return to the Premier League with basically the same squad that saw them promoted from the Championship. Their “additions” are mostly loans-to-permanents. That didn’t work out all that well for Norwich last year, and I don’t think it will work out for West Brom this year. They are going back down, and I don’t think it will be close.

West Ham United
Last season: 16th
Key Additions: Tomas Soucek (DM, loan-to-perm)
Key Losses: Grady Diangana (LW), Pablo Zabaleta (RB), Carlos Sanchez (DM)
Predicted Finish: 18th

Every season, I look at West Ham United’s roster and think, “they should be better than their [finishing place] last season.” So that was my starting point this year. Then I actually looked at their roster and, man, they are not going to be very good. They’ve got a star in Declan Rice, but other than that, a bunch of enigmatic-at-best talent and replacement-level players. Add to that the toxic atmosphere around the club both inside the locker room and out, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. It could be an ugly season on the other, other side of North London. David Moyes could be the first manager sacked this season if things start poorly.