Team-by-team 2020/21 Premier League preview
Photo by Nathan Rogers
As sports return to the focus this weekend - six major leagues took place Thursday in the US - the Premier League returns this Saturday after a short break following last year's delayed finish.
Liverpool earned their first top-flight title in 30 years, Frank Lampard took over his old team as manager, and Sheffield United surprised everyone outside of Sheffield by finishing ninth.
Now, we move into a new season that could feature limited capacity stadiums as early as October, and a chance for new beginnings. At Lampard's Chelsea, a massive transfer window means an improved side that should be exciting to watch.
With the stage set, here are my predictions for each team.
1. Manchester City, 94 points (30-4-4)
Last season, City lost a surprising number of games (9) on the way to finishing second, but 18 points behind champions Liverpool. With a new hunger to reclaim the Premier League crown, and the additions of winger Ferran Torres (£21 million) from Valencia and defensive back Nathan Ake (£40m) from Bournemouth, City look poised to win their third Premier League title in four years.
2. Liverpool, 89 points (28-5-5)
The current holders of the Premier League were quiet in the transfer window, adding only left-back Kostas Tsimikas from Olympiacos (£12m). Once they were crowned champions with seven matches to go, Liverpool finished just 4-1-2. That same sense of complacency could cause Liverpool to drop a few more matches as the gap between the top two (them and Man. City) and the other top teams continue to lessen.
3. Chelsea, 83 points (25-8-5)
Without question, Chelsea won the transfer window. First striker Timo Werner from RB Leipzig (£48m) and winger/attacking midfielder Hakim Ziyech from Ajax (£36m), then defenders Ben Chilwell from Leicester City (£45m) and veteran Thiago Silva from Paris Saint-Germain (free). As if these addition weren't enough, the Blues added 21-year-old phenom Kai Havertz, an attacking midfielder/winger, from Bayer Leverkusen for £72m, and as of the writing of this article look to have picked up goalkeeper Edouard Mendy from Rennes. However, as good as these additions look on paper, meshing together can be tough, and Chelsea still look troublesome on defense, which could cause a few winnable games to turn into draws.
4. Manchester United, 79 points (23-10-5)
Man. United are in the next stage from Chelsea: they've begun to mesh after adding Bruno Fernandes last season. In this transfer window, their only transfer in was midfielder Donny van de Beek from Ajax (£40m), who plays as a central midfielder who can score. Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood, Paul Pogba, Fernandes, and now van de Beek are all attacking players, but can the defense hold steady without a strong CDM and so many players forward? If they can, Man. U. could contend for the Premier League title.
5. Tottenham, 68 points (19-11-8)
The Spurs had a quiet but successful transfer window, adding defensive midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojberg from Southampton (£15m) and right-back Matt Doherty from Wolverhampton (£18.5m). If Harry Kane can finally stay healthy and Spurs can turn 11 draws into more wins, they will contend for a Champions League spot. However, I think the gap is still too much between them and the top four teams.
6. Arsenal, 67 points (18-13-7)
Like Chelsea last year, Arsenal have a young, talented team with some veteran leaders to pair with a popular former player at manager. Mikel Arteta led the Gunners to an FA Cup win and put together a solid squad which beat Liverpool (1-1, 5-4 on penalties) in the FA Community Shield. Adding winger Willian on a free transfer from Chelsea, along with defender Gabriel from Lille (£23m), Arsenal are in prime position to take a step forward from last year's 8th-place finish.
7. Everton, 56 points (15-11-12)
Other than Chelsea, Everton won the transfer window. When Carlo Ancelotti was appointed as manager on Dec. 21, the Toffees sat in 16th position, having just scraped out of being as low as 18th. They went on to finish in 12th, but with the additions of Colombian attacking midfielder James Rodriguez from Real Madrid (£12m), midfielder Allan from Napoli (£22m) and central midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure from Watford (£20m), Everton are the most likely team to move well up the table from last year's finish.
8. Leicester City, 53 points (14-11-13)
The Foxes finish fifth last year, but could have done much better if not for a 6-5-8 finish in the second half of the season. Now, with virtually no moves made in the transfer window (picked up right-back Timothy Castagne from Atalanta; lost Ben Chilwell to Chelsea) and momentum firmly against them, Brendan Rodgers' squad will have an uphill climb in 2020-21. They could regain last year's first-half form, or drop out of the top half of the table.
9. Wolverhampton, 51 points (13-12-13)
Just two years ago, Wolves were the cream of promoted sides, finishing seventh in 2018-19 and earning a place in the Europa League. They repeated the same finish last year and will look to do the same this year. Adding 18-year-old forward Fabio Silva from Porto could be a move that pays off big time in the long run, but the loss of Doherty to Tottenham and an underwhelming transfer window focused more on the future, Wolves drop off slightly in 2020-21, but look poised to jump back up next year if they're young signings can develop.
10. Burnley, 46 points (12-10-16)
Sean Dyche's squad is the definition of a mid-table team. A record of 15-9-14 and goal difference of minus-7, to go with a quiet transfer window is a recipe to mean a mid-table finish. Some people see Burnley being a little higher, and some as low as relegation. Finishing 8-6-2 in their last sixteen matches last year is a good sign with such a short turnaround because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
11. Sheffield United, 45 points (11-11-16)
Until really just the last three matches last year, nobody could figure out the Blades. Chris Wilder's team pulled 13 points from their matches against Arsenal, Chelsea, Man. United and Tottenham, showing they could hang with the "Big Six" (also includes Liverpool and Man. City). However, even the return of talented 22-year-old goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale from Bournemouth (£18.5m) and some young, development players (average age of 22 from seven new players) won't be enough to keep the Premier League from figuring out last year's surprising promoted squad. They won't go down, but I don't expect them to compete for Europe again.
12. Leeds United, 40 points (10-10-18)
Like Sheffield United, the Lilywhites are a talented promoted team that ran over the Championship and has the pieces to do well in the Premier League. They retained their manager Marcelo Bielsa and return all of their best players. Leeds also made some good transfer moves, highlighted by forward Rodrigo from Valencia (£26m) and center-back/CDM Robin Koch from SC Freiburg.
13. Newcastle United, 39 points (9-12-17)
Although ownership is in flux, Newcastle added forward Callum Wilson and winger Ryan Fraser from Bournemouth (£20m, free), midfielder Jeff Hendrick from Burnley (free), and left-back Jamal Lewis from Norwich City (£15m). The signings won't be enough to put Steve Bruce's side into the top-half, but they should be safe from relegation. A point total of 39 might be a little low.
14. West Ham United, 38 points (10-9-19)
Retaining last year's defensive midfielder Tomas Soucek on a £15 million transfer is a good move, but it won't be enough to pull West Ham out of the relegation battle they faced last year. They scored more goals than six teams ahead of them in the table (finish 16th), but 62 goals allowed is a red flag.
15. Southampton, 38 points, (11-5-22)
Southampton seems to be the darling of many predictions because of striker Danny Ings, who tied for second in the Golden Boot race with 22 goals. However, an excellent striker isn't enough to carry a team (see next team in my table) and the exchange of Hojberg for Kyle Walker-Peters from Tottenham is not the move to push Southampton into the top ten, where some pundits have them.
16. Crystal Palace, 37 points (8-13-17)
Like Southampton, forward Wilfried Zaha has had to carry Crystal Palace. Some predictions have Palace going down, but the addition of attacking midfielder Eberechi Eze from Queen's Park Rangers (£16m) and the return of striker Michy Batshuayi on loan from Chelsea are good moves to support Zaha. If not for their finish last year (seven straight losses before drawing their final match), they would be higher up the table. I think the losing momentum carries over and the two additions take time to find their form, but once Palace regains their footing, they should be safe from relegation.
17. Aston Villa, 35 points (8-11-19)
Unfortunately for Jack Grealish and Villa, a relegation battle seems likely once again. Opposite of Palace, Villa finished their last four games 2-2-0 to stay up in the Premier League. The additions of right-back Matty Cash from Nottingham Forest (£14m) and forward Ollie Watkins (£28m) seem to be the right moves for a team that scored just 41 goals and gave up 67 last season.
18. Brighton & Hove Albion, 32 points (8-9-21)
Now we get into the worst part, predicting who I think will go down. The addition of midfielder Adam Lallana on a free transfer could pay off, but his inconsistency and lack of playing time at Liverpool after scoring eight goals in 2016-17 is a risk. No other major additions, the talent that Leeds comes in with and Aston Villa brought in leave a spot open, which Brighton could fall into.
19. West Bromwich Albion, 29 points (7-8-23)
Retaining two impact loanees - right winger Grady Diangana, who scored eight goals for West Brom last year, from West Ham (£12m), attacking midfielder Matheus Pereira (also 8 goals), from Sporting CP (undisclosed fee), and left winger Callum Robinson (3 goals) from Sheffield United - are good moves for a team that will need all-hands-on-deck. West Brom also added defender Cedric Kipre from Wigan Athletic, which could bolster a defense that will face new challenges in the Premier League, but won't be enough to keep them in the league.
20. Fulham, 24 points (5-9-24)
The bottom two spots to me are just a matter of who does worse. Retaining loanee winger Anthony Knockaert on a transfer from Brighton (£10m) is a good move, but it's not enough to off-set another yo-yo season for Fulham, who were promoted in 2018-19 and found themselves bottom of the table by season's end.