The new Premier League season is now just four days away so it’s time for those much-maligned final league table predictions.
Mikel Arteta has worked a small miracle during his time at The Emirates. Their FA Cup and Community Shield triumphs have showcased a new, well-balanced Gunners outfit who will be much harder to beat this season. The signings of Gabriel and Willian represent smart business and with star man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the verge of signing a new contract, there is a good feeling around the North London club. Improving defensively will top Arteta’s priorities, with plenty of fire power up top sure to see Arsenal improve on last season’s eighth place finish.
Key player: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
After surviving by the skin of their teeth, Dean Smith knows he faces another big challenge to keep Aston Villa in the Premier League. Holding on to captain and talisman Jack Grealish will represent Villa’s best piece of business in this window, but there has to be major concerns about the lack of new arrivals at Villa Park. Only Norwich conceded more goals than the Midlands club last season, with Mbwana Samatta and Wesley only notching up six goals between them at the other end. Unless signings are made, The Villans are heading for the drop.
Key player: Jack Grealish
Brighton & Hove Albion
Graham Potter was able to guide Brighton to safety last season, albeit after a major post-Christmas struggle. The Seagulls ability to retain the likes of Lewis Dunk and Ben White are major successes for a now established top-flight outfit. Adam Lallana and Joel Veltman look like superb additions, however the concern is up front with a severe shortage of strikers. Unless this is addressed then it’s hard to see Brighton improving much on last season.
Key player: Neal Maupay
Not much ever seems to change at Burnley, which is probably a compliment given the stature and financial capabilities of the club. After again punching above their weight to finish tenth last season, Sean Dyche will lead The Clarets into their fifth consecutive Premier League season. They will pick out their winnable games, make themselves hard to beat against the big boys and probably finish around mid-table. Sounds familiar.
Key player: Nick Pope
Frank Lampard has overseen a mini overhaul at Stamford Bridge in this shortened pre-season. Long-serving players Willian and Pedro have departed, but their gap has been plugged in style with the big-money signings of Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner. Defensive reinforcements in Thiago Silva and Ben Chillwell were very much needed for Lampard, whose side achieved top four last season despite conceding the most goals in the top half. A title challenge might be a season away yet for a much-improved, more experienced Blues side, but there is definitely something brewing at the Bridge.
Key player: Timo Werner
Roy Hodgson leads Palace into their eighth consecutive Premier League season. The minimum expectation at Selhurst Part remains survival and it has been very much quality over quantity in the transfer market. The capture of QPR wonderkid Eberechi Eze for £20m is the only deal of note, while Wilfried Zaha remains at the club and is being priced out of a move away yet again. The worry for Hodgson is that Palace struggled from the restart last season as they lost their vociferous home support, something they will be without again for at least the first part of the season. It’s going to be another struggle for the London club, but they should just have enough to survive.
Key player: Wilfried Zaha
Carlo Ancelotti’s brief reign at Goodison Park has seen the Toffees make steady progress and the Italian will now look to put his own stamp on this team. James Rodriguez and Allan represent great business, at least on paper, with more big names sure to arrive before the window closes. Richarlison looks set for a big season, while Andre Gomes oozes quality in the midfield. The concern will be the defence, particularly in the centre, with Jordan Pickford hoping for a better season between the sticks. After finishing 12th last season, Everton fans will expect better and with a world class manager at the helm, they should have no problem achieving that.
Key player: Andre Gomes
Scott Parker’s team should still be in buoyant mode having only achieved promotion to the Premier League one month ago. Fulham were the final team to go up after beating Brentford at Wembley in the playoffs and they look set to stick with the same group of players that earned the club Premier League status. The Cottagers spent big two years ago and were still relegated so it’s clear the club have adopted the opposite approach this time round, but there is risk in that too. Aleksandar Mitrovic is a proven goal scorer and although Fulham’s squad looks short in certain areas, they might just do enough to survive.
Key player: Aleksandar Mitrovic
Another promoted side now in the shape of Leeds United. The Whites ended a 16-year wait for Premier League football in style as they went up as Champions after a superb season under maverick head coach Marcelo Bielsa. The Argentine has worked miracles at Elland Road and the Yorkshire club will bring a new edge to the top flight. Their relentless, all-action style will be interesting to watch, and in Robin Koch and Rodrigo they have two signings that fit the Bielsa mould perfectly. Having retained much of the squad that earned promotion, and having spent close to £60m in areas of weakness, Leeds look set to repeat the feat of Sheffield United from last season and achieve a mid-table finish in their first Premier League season since 2004.
Key player: Kalvin Phillips
The Foxes will likely be still reeling from their late season collapse in the last campaign that cost them Champions League football. Brendan Rodgers has done a superb job at the King Power but having slipped up late last season and with expectations now much greater, the tough stuff could be about to stand for the Northern Irishman. The gap left by the sale of Ben Chillwell to Chelsea has been filled by Timothy Castagne, with the £25m Atalanta man their only bit of business so far. Leicester’s lack of business could cost them, with Arsenal and Tottenham looking much stronger, so it’s hard to see anything other than Rodgers side dropping a few places this season.
Key player: Jamie Vardy
Having achieved 99 points last season, it’s hard to see how the Champions can improve. Jurgen Klopp has brought in just one player in the shape of back-up left-back Kostas Tsimikas from Olympiakos for £11.75m. After refusing to stump up the asking price for Timo Werner, the Reds are now reluctant to meet the valuation of Bayern’s creative midfielder Thiago Alcantara. The imminent departure of Georginio Wijnaldum to Barcelona could provide the relevant funds, but Klopp is in a position where he is not forced to make anything happen. If the Champions squad stays fully fit, they remain an almost unstoppable machine, with everyone knowing their roles and prepared to put it all on the line to win. It’s likely to be a closer race than last year, but it will be a two-horse race and because of Manchester City’s deficiencies at the back, Liverpool may well secure back-to-back titles.
Key player: Sadio Mane
Failure to replace Vincent Kompany cost City last season. Their defensive frailties cost them too many times in big games as they lost nine Premier League matches and finished 17 points behind Liverpool. Failure in the Champions League compounded a miserable season for Pep Guardiola who has reacted by bringing in centre-back Nathan Ake from Bournemouth for £41m. Whether he will solve City’s problems at the back remains to be seen and you still feel they are only one injury to Aymeric Laporte away from falling off the pace again. Pablo Moreno (Juventus) and Ferran Torres (Valencia) look like exciting signings and in Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero, City still have the best midfielder and striker in the league. If the spine of Laporte, De Bruyne and Aguero all stay fit, then Guardiola’s men will push Liverpool all the way.
Key player: Kevin De Bruyne
Things looked bleak for Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjær last season prior to the signing of Bruno Fernandes in January. The Portuguese playmaker brought a new lease of life to Old Trafford and increased the performance levels of everyone at the club. The Red Devils overturned a 14-point deficit on Leicester to eventually finish third and secure Champions League football. Both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial topped 20 goals, while Mason Greenwood’s emergence had fans smiling by the end of a long, tough season. Donny van de Beek is the only signing to date and it will be interesting to see how the £39m Ajax man slots into the midfield alongside Paul Pogba and Fernandes. Despite last season’s recovery, the pressure remains on Solskjær to make Man Utd title challengers again and with Liverpool and Man City still way ahead, the task for now could be retaining a top four spot, especially given Chelsea’s improved squad.
Key player: Bruno Fernandes
It has been a summer of mayhem at St James’ Park with fans angered following the club’s failed Saudi takeover. Mike Ashley still remains in charge but there was a feeling of pessimism around the Magpies who overachieved last season under Steve Bruce. Up until this week, Jeff Hendrick was the clubs only signing and a relegation scrap looked on the cards, but the double signing of Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson has lifted everyone associated with the Toon. In Bruce they have a manager who has worked hard and exceeded expectation in difficult conditions, and his recent acquisitions should ensure Newcastle survive with breathing space.
Key player: Allan Saint-Maximin
Chris Wilder’s team stunned everyone last season as the pre-season relegation favourites finished 9th and could of easily been higher. Their defensive record was bettered only by the top three as their well-organised and well-drilled group of players proved tricky to beat. Their defensive heroics did come at a cost though, with only 39 goals scored, however Wilder has remained faithful to his men up top by deciding against signing a new striker to date. The club’s big bit of business saw them splash £16m on Bournemouth keeper Aaron Ramsdale, with the 22-year-old replacing former Man Utd loanee Dean Henderson between the sticks. Derby County duo Jayden Bogle and Max Lowe have recently arrived, while Ethan Ampadu could be hidden gem after joing on loan from Chelsea. The Blades still look a solid unit and another mid-table finish is on the cards.
Key player: John Fleck
After losing 9-0 at home to Leicester in October last year, you would have been forgiven for thinking it was time up for Ralph Hasenhuttl as Southampton boss. But, in an astonishing turnaround, the Saints went on a superb run as the Austrian manager turned things around to eventually guide the club to a mid-table finish. The form of Danny Ings was the highlight in a team that took a few notable scalps as the season went on. New signings Mohammed Salisu (Real Valladolid, £10.9m) and Kyle Walker-Peters (Tottenham, £12m) look solid and if Southampton get off to a better start this season, they should improve on last season’s 12th place finish.
Key player: Danny Ings
Tottenham endured a difficult campaign last time out as Jose Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino as head coach. After an initial upturn in form under the former Chelsea manager, Spurs failed to mount a serious challenge for any silverware and eventually stumbled into a Europa League spot. With limited funds, Mourinho has added two solid signings in Matt Doherty and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, both of whom will make the North London club a much tougher unit. Harry Kane’s fitness is paramount to any chance of success, while Dele Alli needs a big season after falling off the England radar. If we’re honest about Spurs, they unlikely to finish much higher than last season due to the strength of the teams that finished above them.
Key player: Harry Kane
The Baggies are back in the big time after stuttering over the automatic promotion finish line. Slaven Bilic’s side play excellent football and the permanent signings of Matheus Pereira and Grady Diangana will ensure they are competitive in the Premier League. They can be got at though, something many Championship sides had success with and they are undoubtedly going to be in a dogfight. Unless some more major signings are made, it’s hard to see West Brom staying up.
Key player: Matheus Pereira
Hammers fans are understandably worried about the season ahead. David Moyes gets the opportunity to lead the club into a full season but there is unrest at the club, especially towards the owners. David Sullivan and David Gold are coming under increasing scrutiny and following the sale of young prospect Grady Diangana to Premier League rivals West Brom, captain Mark Noble voiced his anger at the decision on Twitter. Trouble is ahead at West Ham and they will be relegated unless big changes are made.
Key player: Declan Rice
It was a long season for Wolves last time out and they don’t have long to recover from it. Nuno Espirito Santo and his team finished their 2019/20 campaign over a year after it started, and they will have been disappointed with how things ended. Their seventh place finish saw them miss out on Europe, but it could be a blessing in disguise with all their focus on the Premier League this season. The loss of reliable right-back Matt Doherty to Spurs is a blow, although new signing Marcal from Lyon should provide experience and reliability at left-back. The Midlands club have made great strides since their promotion just two seasons ago, but their lack of activity in the transfer market this time could see them go backwards, if only ever so slightly.
Key player: Adama Traore