As with part one, the following aims to predict the starting eleven and final league position of the remaining ten Premier League clubs, including play-off winners Fulham, ahead of the 2020/21 season. Confirmed signings, transfer rumours and feasible transfers are all taken into consideration to make these predictions. The final predicted league table concludes the article.
One of the major reasons for Manchester City’s failed defence of their league title last season was their frailties in defence. Not replacing club legend Vincent Kompany proved a very costly mistake for City, especially when Aymeric Laporte struggled with injuries. It is no secret that Pep Guardiola has spent a huge sum of money on defenders since joining the club, particularly on full-backs, but he is set to increase this tally further this summer.
Nathan Ake has joined for a reported £43m but it remains to be seen if City see him as first choice or cover for Laporte as Ake is also a left-sided centre back. Links with Kalidou Koulibaly refuse to go away and a defensive partnership of Laporte and Koulibaly with Ake for cover, is sure to be far less generous to opposition strikers.
In the attacking areas it is one in one out so far with Leroy Sane joining Bayern Munich and City replacing him with promising young winger Feran Torres from Valencia. Another player signed from Valencia, David Silva, will leave the club once their Champions League campaign is over. Silva has been a magician for City for ten years and deserves all the plaudits he has been receiving in the last weeks of the season. Guardiola’s next step will be vital. Does he look to the transfer window to replace Silva or does he place a huge amount of faith in 20 year-old Phil Foden who many feel is the ready-made heir to Silva’s throne. Should he sign a player in this position it could be damning for Foden who is sure to be determined to play far more next season.
Predicted finish: 1st
Manchester United’s strong finish to the season will leave fans very excited for the new season to start. Although they still have their Europa League campaign to navigate, where they are sure to fancy their chances. The signing of Bruno Fernandes in January has proven to be inspired, with eight goals and seven assists in 14 league appearances a remarkable return. His impact on the players around him is perhaps more impressive than his returns. He has demonstrated real leadership qualities and his high demands of the players around him seemed to drive United on in their successful push for a top four finish.
United’s transfer policy has improved dramatically in the last couple of transfer windows. They have been going for young, often British players, whose peaks are ahead of them and also have adopted a quality over quantity approach. This approach means that there may not be a huge amount of business for United this summer but there may be some big business.
Their very public pursuit of Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho is evidence of this and looks set to be the transfer saga of the summer. £120m is the rumoured fee and the two clubs are reportedly close to agreeing on the transfer, with the instalments of the fee said to be the only stumbling block. The player wants the move and would be a huge statement from the red side of Manchester. Sancho scored 17 goals and recorded 16 assists in the Bundesliga last season and would start on the right of a potent front three. This would also take some pressure off of young Mason Greenwood, who after a phenomenal breakthrough season needs careful management to aid his development. Finally the future looks bright at Old Trafford.
Predicted finish: 3rd
Much of what Newcastle do this summer will depend on whether their proposed takeover goes through with the Premier League’s recent rejection of the takeover bid the latest twist in a seemingly ever-changing saga.
Newcastle were solid under Steve Bruce last season, as they had been under Rafa Benitez the season before. However, fans will be hoping for more excitement with a pragmatic approach adopted perhaps too often. Most things good that Newcastle do goes through either Allan Saint-Maximin or Miguel Almiron and the Magpies will be desperate to keep them both, however, with Saint-Maximin’s flair a number of clubs are said to be interested.
Newcastle only managed 38 goals in the league last season and so desperately need to sign a striker. Relegated Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson could be the answer, with his price tag due to drop as a result of their relegation and he is proven in the Premier League. Danny Rose and Valentino Lazaro may make their loans last season permanent this summer and Newcastle have also been linked with Leicester’s Demarai Gray who’s career has stagnated with starts hard to come by.
Predicted finish: 16th
Chris Wilder has worked wonders with his Sheffield United squad with his unique playing style and demanding nature. He has not minced his words previously when discussing his players, stating on a number of occasions that his players are League One and Championship players playing in the Premier League and as a result hard work is the bare minimum. He’ll be keen to keep the core of his squad together and not make too many signings to risk upsetting the balance but he may be looking to add some quality to the battle-hardened side.
John Swift is one player who has been linked with the Blades and his creativity in midfield would be welcomed with Sander Berge brought in in January for similar reasons. If this move happens it will be intriguing to see who loses their place, with Oliver Norwood having an impressive season at the base of the midfield and John Fleck sure to remain a starter. It may be that Swift will have to bide his time to get into the starting eleven. In goal, Sheffield United will be hoping to secure the services of Dean Henderson on loan from Manchester United for the third season in a row although the uncertainty surrounding David De Gea’s form may be problematic.
Predicted finish: 13th
Southampton stuck by manager Ralph Hasenhuttl when many clubs wouldn’t have and they have reaped the rewards for doing so. Southampton finished the season in 11th which few could have predicted after the 0-9 drubbing they received at home to Leicester in October. Hassenhuttl reverted to his favoured 4222 formation that he made popular at RB Leipzig and tampered with his starting eleven less and the turnaround soon followed. Although, it wasn’t until after the lockdown that their form really made people take notice, losing one of their nine games.
Contract rebel Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is set to leave the Saints after being stripped of the captaincy with Tottenham his rumoured destination. However, Oriol Romeu stepped up to the plate and delivered some stellar performances alongside new captain James Ward-Prowes in the final few games of the season. However, central midfield is an area Southampton are short in and rumours of a move for Schalke’s Weston McKennie are gathering momentum. The USA international would be a fine addition to the midfield and it would be expected he would take Romeu’s place. Kyle Walker-Peters impressed on loan and should sign permanently while Real Valladoid centre back Mohammed Salisu is to be announced shortly. After failing to score for the majority of the season, Che Adams’ flurry of goals at the end of the campaign may persuade Southampton that they do not need any new recruits up front.
Predicted finish: 10th
Jose Mourinho will be judged on what he can do this season once he has a pre-season and transfer window under his belt. However, chairman Daniel Levy is not set to loosen the purse strings too much this summer and Spurs may have to make some sales to generate funds.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will join the midfield and his defensive abilities should allow more creative players like Giovani Lo Celso,Tanguy N’dombele and Dele Alli to have more freedom. Norwich’s Max Aaron’s is a long term target at right back to replace the rash Serge Aurier and Spurs may also be on the hunt for a left back. A back up striker for Harry Kane seems likely too as youngster Troy Parrot has been allowed to join Millwall on loan and Kane’s recent injury record a worry. Troy Deeney has been linked but this seems unlikely. Brentford’s Ollie Watkins could be a better option following their play-off final defeat although he may be looking for guaranteed playing time rather than playing second fiddle to Kane. The £18m buy-out clause seems a fair price for someone with his potential.
Predicted finish: 6th
West Bromich Albion
West Brom are arguably the definition of a yo-yo club, frequently swapping the Championship for the Premier League and vice versa in recent history. They secured promotion finishing runners-up to Leeds and stumbled across the line, with Brentford failing to capitalise on opportunities to overtake them.
Signings will be crucial if West Brom are to stay in the division and a positive start would be to turn the loans of Grady Diangana and Filip Krovinović into permanent deals following the signing of on-loan Matheus Pereira in January. The three were influential in getting West Brom promoted and seem to be keen on making the switch permanently. The Baggies never settled on a striker throughout the last campaign with Charlie Austin, Kenneth Zohore and Hal Robson-Kanu never making the spot their own so a new striker is essential. One striker they have been linked with is Fenerbache forward Vedat Muriqi who has a huge physical presence and an eye for goal with the Kosovo international netting 15 goals in the league this season.
Winston Reid hasn’t been a regular at West Ham for a while now and would be a solid addition to the back line while Will Hughes could add some guile to the midfield.
Predicted finish: 20th
West Ham United
As is all too often the case at West Ham, a season that started with ambitions of Europe ended in a relegation battle. Manuel Pelligrini was sacked in December and replaced by David Moyes for his second spell in charge in the space of 18 months. When Moyes took over the club were one point above the relegation zone and he guided them to a 16th placed finish.
West Ham’s survival owed much to the post-lockdown form of Michail Antonio, with the utility man scoring eight goals and providing one assist in this period. He will expect to continue up front given his form but West Ham are likely to be on the lookout for another striker to carry some of the burden, especially as Sebastien Haller has struggled. Tomas Soucek also turned in a number of fine performances in midfield following his January loan from Sparta Prague and his permanent signing is very good business. Charlie Taylor could come in at left back and West Ham are set to raid the championship for QPR’s Eberechi Eze and Brentford’s Said Benrahma to improve their options in attacking areas, particularly as they are set to sell Felipe Anderson. They could also try and prize Ben Godfrey from Norwich to sure up their back line.
Predicted finish: 11th
Wolves’ 2019/2020 campaign still hasn’t finished with their Europa League commitments taking their season to over a year long due to the qualification rounds in July last year. With this in mind the fact that they finished 7th in the league is testament to their players and management, especially when you consider how small their squad is.
For Wolves the key will be keeping hold of their prized assets, namely Raul Jiminez, Adama Traore and Ruben Neves. If they can keep theses players together then they will be in a strong position and with a few additions could really push the big clubs once more. Allan Saint-Maximin is one name that has been linked with Wolves and his dynamic playing style would fit well at Molineux, however he may be seen as a potential Traore replacement should he leave the club. If this is the case expect Diogo Jota to play alongside Jiminez and Saint-Maximin.
Predicted finish: 7th
Fulham returned to the Premier League at the first time of asking thanks to a 2-1 play-off final win over Brentford and they owe much of this to the work of rookie manager Scott Parker. Having arguably the best striker in the division in Aleksandar Mitrovic also helped and he will be sure to lead the line for Fulham in a season where survival has to be the only aim. Fulham spent over £100m on transfers following their last promotion to the Premier League and the board have promised the club will not make the same mistakes again. They are keen for signings to not alter the team spirit as they did before.
With this in mind Fulham’s business is likely to be more considered and involve players with Premier League experience. In defence Timothy Fosu-Mensah looks destined to leave Manchester United and could partner Michael Hector. Nathaniel Clyne has been very unfortunate with injuries and will be desperate to get his career back on track so a move to Fulham could be beneficial for all parties. Harrison Reed could sign permanently from Southampton and Ryan Fraser could join on a free after interest from elsewhere appears to have dried up somewhat.
Predicted finish: 19th
Predicted final Premier League Table