I love the start of a new season. It’s full of possibility. Arsenal are top of the table by virtue of being the only Premier League club whose name starts with an “A” and hope springs eternal (for the optimists among us). This could be the year it all turns around.
Here are the TSF staff’s predictions for this season. Our bolder, hot take-style predictions are coming tomorrow.
City, Chelsea, United, and Liverpool to finish in the Champions League places is a boring take and one that you’ll probably see from a good number of Premier League writers. But I think even more so than in past years, that group is ahead at the top. In fact, you can lock-in City, Chelsea, and United as the top three in some order. That’s how confident I feel about them.
I’m a bit less bullish on Liverpool, but that’s mostly because it’s tough to know how all their key players who got hurt last year will look returning from injury. I’ve also got this nagging feeling that one of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, or Roberto Firmino is going to fall off this year, but that may not matter because they’ve got Diogo Jota poised to step in.
My “Arsenal to finish 5th” pick is less confidence in the Gunners and more a lack of confidence in the other teams in the second tier. It’s a “why not Arsenal” pick. Leicester City have shown for two seasons now that they collapse down the stretch and they just lost Wesley Fofana. Aston Villa will not be the same team without Jack Grealish, even with their spending spree of City’s 100M transfer fee for Mr. Calves. I think West Ham were a one season wonder. They’ll be fine, but they’ll fall well short of the 2nd half of the season form that rocketed them up the table. As for Spurs, the Harry Kane situation is going to mess them up this year. If he stays, it’ll hang over the locker room and club like a dark cloud. If he goes, they’ll struggle to score at the same clip. You don’t lose 23 goals and 14 assists from a roster and come out fine on the other side.
As for the relegated teams: Burnley stink and I don’t like them. Bye, Felicia. It’s a safe bet to pick two promoted teams to go right back down, and (this is more heart than head) I want Brentford’s more analytics-based approach to player acquisition to work. So that leaves Watford and Norwich City. Keep an eye on Crystal Palace, too. I want Patrick Vieira to succeed as a manager, and he’s got plenty of attacking talent, but woof, the defensive half of that roster is ugly.
Please share your predictions for this season in the comments! Let’s see if any of you can do better than us. You probably can.
Top Four (in order) - Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool
Arsenal finish - 6th
Relegated - Burnley, Watford, Wolves
I share Aaron’s view on the top 4. If Manchester City get Harry Kane—and it’s a biggish if at the moment—no one is going to come close. If they don’t, there might be a title race, especially with Chelsea getting Romelu Lukaku, but I think City are pretty much locking this up barring someone doing something special. Liverpool looked burned out but I think will get 4th, but that front three is getting on, and they will miss Gini Wijnaldum.
Leicester will miss out on the Champions League again, but will finish 5th, again, namely because the rest of the top half is not that good. Tottenham...they are not good, and I don’t think Nuno is a particularly good manager. As for Arsenal...simply put, we scored 55 goals last season, and rather than making additions, our attacking cohort has been reduced by one (Martin Ødegaard). To finish in the top 4, you probably have to score really around 70 goals unless you are an elite defensive team, which Arsenal are not. So Arsenal need about 15 more goals, and I just don’t see where those are coming from.
As for the relegated teams: Watford to go straight back down, Norwich to stay up this time around, and Burnley to finally go down. The third team could be a number of sides, but I think Wolves’ number is up. They were not impressive last season and apparently need to sell either Ruben Neves or Adama Traore—i.e., one of their very good players.
Top Four (in order) - Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool
Arsenal finish - 6th
Relegated - Burnley, Watford, and Brentford
Manchester City didn’t need Grealish, nor did Chelsea need Lukaku, or Manchester United need Sancho. Yet it’s the reality of the Premier League and as such, they should all cruise towards a Champions League position, with fairly little drama. A reminder of how the race for 4th is far more interesting, and the Championship even more so. Liverpool should be fourth with Virgil Van Dijk returning, but if they start to slip up there are a handful of teams ready to climb in the top four.
I expect a lot of activity across the board in the coming weeks, so 4th place may still be more up for grabs than it looks now. I think Leicester and Everton have already improved, West Ham won’t be able to repeat last season’s efforts, while Leeds United and Tottenham (if they keep Kane) should be roughly in the same place. If Arsenal can move on four to five players and add two or three, I can see them even pushing towards a fourth place finish. But as things stand now, Arsenal could easily slide back into 10th based on how close 5th-10th will remain (7 points last year).
After a standout 2017-18 finishing in 7th place, Burnley drifted back down towards the familiar 17th place in ‘20-21. Last season’s 33 goals will catch up to them this year as they finally meet the drop once again. Watford bounced right back from the Championship, but it’s hard to see them pulling together enough points or fixing their defense — basically this year’s Fulham. For the final spot, it’s hard to pick between Brentford, Norwich, and Brighton. But Billy Gilmour will help replace the exiting Emiliano Buendia and (hopefully) USMNT forward Josh Sargent can establish a scoring presence. I expect Brentford to be an enjoyable watch this season, but am not sure they have enough to survive. If England is able to keep the stadiums full this season, the crowd packed into Brentford’s new home (2nd year) might be a difference-maker for them.
Top Four (in order) - Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool
Arsenal finish - 5th
Relegated - Triple B - Brentford, Brighton, Burnley
Top 4 - City are odds on favorite and TSF staff long called for us to get involved with Grealish to the carpet before his glow up in the Premier League. I like Liverpool’s squad more than Chelsea and United, but I think it’s truly a health issue for them to stay competitive or not, if they’re healthy all season they can easily push to 2nd and challenge City. If not, it’ll be more of the same for Klopp’s men this year, which is typical from Klopp’s historical reign at a club.
Arsenal seem to be more stable at the current moment than Spurs and we were definitely the better side in the 2nd half of the season, hell we were 3rd overall following Christmas. Leicester probably start hot and collapse as the pressure mounts, can Rodgers survive that again? I’m hopeful Arteta can find consistency in our week to week lineups with only small changes to really push the Gunners up the table.
Relegation fodder - Triple B headed down, Arsenal pick up Brentford keeper next summer and Josh Sargent rescues Norwich from relegation sometime in the month of May.
Top Four (in order) - Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United
Arsenal finish - 8th
Relegated - Brighton, Brentford, Norwich
I’m sorry folks. I wanted to be optimistic. I really did. But the last few weeks have taken it out of me. City and Chelsea are so deep and well-funded that they can buy players they don’t really need for absurd sums of money. United have made smart moves and have managed to climb back to consistency and prominence under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - God help us all if they actually bring in a top tier manager. Liverpool is minus one Georginio Wijnaldum, but still largely the same team that has seen them reside atop the Premier League for the last four seasons. I expect nothing to change, barring a slate of injuries or some really absurd shenanigans.
As far as Arsenal is concerned, they are so far behind in their rivals’ (save Spurs) rear-view mirrors that they are almost a faint dot on the horizon. As of this article, the same starting lineup that ended the season could very well likely be the same that starts this one, and, hoo boy, that sucks. Sure, the Gunners ended the season on a nice win streak, but that papered over some noticeable cracks. The signings so far have been investments for the future, but Arsenal cannot be concerned with the future when the present is so pressing.
Like many other fans, I’m growing tired of the “trust the process” spiel. Very rarely do those words precede something great, and the lack of any signings that will revamp the attack has done little to make me feel otherwise. The defense is good-bordering-on-great, but Auba seems to have lost his edge and Laca isn’t going to start banging in goals by the bucket-load magically. Unless one of Pepe, Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka, or Emile Smith Rowe grow into a consistent, every-game goal scoring threat, I just don’t see them scoring when their backs are against the wall. Much like last season, the formula for beating Arsenal remains the same: score first and park the bus.
There are some things I’m intrigued to watch this season. As always, the promoted sides are fun to watch. Norwich are back after one year and have added American Josh Sargent to their attack. Brentford will be the scrappy underdogs. Watford will be, well, Watford. Norwich lost their best player in Emi Buendia and his contributions will be difficult to replace. I think the bubble will finally burst on Brighton after a few seasons of being barely above the drop zone.