The Premier League kicks off on Friday 13th of August, with Championship play-off winners Brentford at home to Arsenal the curtain raiser. With just a month having passed since the European Championship and Copa America ending, and a handful of players also competing in the Olympics, it has been a manager’s nightmare to organise their squads. Players that went deep into their respective competitions have only just started to return to their clubs. Therefore, expect a number of teams fielded on the opening weekend of the season to change drastically, with players returning and the transfer window still open until the start of September.
With all these factors in mind, the following potential starting eleven for each Premier League team is to reflect once the season has settled down after a few weeks. This will consider expected formations, players returning from post-tournament breaks, new signings, and rumoured signings that seem feasible. It will also leave out players who have long-term injuries who are unlikely to be available for the first part of the season. This part considers the second half of the Premier League teams.
Despite last season being seen as a travesty for Liverpool by many football fans, the Reds still managed to turn their fortunes around and secure Champions League football. Injuries were a huge factor in their timid title defence, with Virgil Van Dijk, Joe Gomez, and Joel Matip all facing lengthy spells on the sidelines, meaning they were very light in defence all season long.
This season they have looked to address that by spending £40 million on central defender Ibrahima Konaté from RB Leipzig. Konaté is a highly-rated, 22-year old, who will be battling with Gomez to start alongside the returning Van Dijk. Andy Robertson has picked up an injury in pre-season that fans will be hoping isn’t too serious, but this could pave the way for Greek left-back Konstantinos Tsimikas to get his first real run of games for the club since signing last season. The midfield is interchangeable, with James Milner, Naby Keita, Curtis Jones and, returning loanee, Harvey Elliot, all options, in addition to those shown as starting above. Jurgen Klopp will be hoping the bulk of his squad can stay fit and, with one or two additions to beef up his options, they could mount a title charge once more.
Similarly to Liverpool, Manchester City have opted for quality over quantity in this summer’s transfer window. The £100 million spent on Jack Grealish is a huge fee that shows how highly Pep Guardiola rates the former Aston Villa captain. However, Guardiola likes to give players time to learn what he expects of them and, as such, it will be interesting to see how much Grealish features in the early weeks of the season. Another cause for intrigue is the fact that there is talk of Guardiola utilising Grealish as a number eight, in the mould of Ilkay Gundogan, rather than out wide.
With the departure of Sergio Aguero, City only have one recognised senior striker in Gabriel Jesus. Jesus is recovering from injury and leaves the club without a conventional striker going into the season. This shouldn’t be a problem, though, as City played the majority of their Premier League winning campaign last season without a typical striker. Raheem Sterling, Ferran Torres, Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, and even Bernardo Silva were all utilised in the role at times last season. De Bruyne is currently injured, as is Foden, but neither are expected to spend too long on the sidelines. Silva is also likely to be moved on if a club matches City’s valuation of the Portugal international. Silva has been one of the underrated stars of the last few seasons but craves more game time than was given last season.
The Harry Kane saga is also still dragging on. Should City secure the striker’s services it will likely cost them in the region of £150 million. After spending £100 million already on Grealish this summer, it is difficult to comprehend how this could be possible. It may be that City must send players the other way to accommodate such a transfer. There is no doubt that Kane would score for fun at City, and it would be even more difficult to envisage a team stopping them winning the Premier League with last season’s top goalscorer and assist provider in the league leading the line for them.
After well over a year of courting, Manchester United have finally signed Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund. With Marcus Rashford undergoing surgery for a shoulder problem, and expected to be out for the first couple of months of the season, Sancho’s move was welcomed with even greater enthusiasm. Sancho is expected to play on the right of the United attack long-term, but while Rashford is out he could well operate from the left, allowing Mason Greenwood to play on the right. Edinson Cavani is also injured for the start of the season so it is expected that Anthony Martial will operate as the central striker until he returns.
Another huge signing for United this summer was Raphael Varane from Real Madrid. Another long-term target, Varane’s experience at the top level will be a huge asset and he could form a formidable partnership with Harry Maguire. Despite constant rumours, often fuelled by his agent, it seems Paul Pogba will be staying put this summer. Jesse Lingard could still leave but this is less likely as result of Rashford’s absence. A defensive midfielder could be the missing piece of the puzzle now for United.
Newcastle United are another club who have been quiet in the transfer market. This will likely come as no surprise to fans of the club, as owner Mike Ashley has been notoriously tight with his money in his time in charge of the club. However, one signing which looks set to be completed in the next few days is midfielder Joe Willock from Arsenal. Willock spent the second half of last season on loan at the club and was one of the most in-form players in the league in this time, scoring eight goals in just 14 games.
In goal, Martin Dubravka is absent and it is expected that young goalkeeper Freddie Woodman will line up between the sticks to start the season. Woodman impressed on loan at Swansea City last season and was linked to Bournemouth earlier this summer but Newcastle were keen for him to stay put due to Dubravka’s situation and Karl Darlow contracting Covid-19 this summer.
Not too much transfer activity is expected from Newcastle in what remains of the window. Steve Bruce is expected to stick to the back three which he has utilised for the majority of his time in charge of the Magpies. Callum Wilson will lead the line and it is expected that Miguel Almiron will provide the closest support to the striker, although enigmatic Allan Saint-Maximim could also be in contention for this role.
Norwich City are the prime example of a yo-yo team, constantly moving between the Premier League and the Championship. When they last got promoted to the Premier League for the 2019/20 season they opted not to spend much money in order to secure their financial security. While this was admirable, it ultimately ended in relegation. This time around, armed with the money from Emiliano Buendía’s transfer to Aston Villa, the club have added to the squad that won promotion.
It doesn’t get much tougher than an opening day fixture against Liverpool; the same team they opened with last time they were in the Premier League, losing 4-1. However, with Daniel Farke still in charge, and the squad still largely the same as that unsuccessful campaign, those experiences could be key to survival. Defender Ben Gibson has joined after a dismal couple of seasons at Burnley, with Greek left-back Dimitris Giannoulis also joining to bolster the defence. In midfield, there is an eye-catching loan for Chelsea’s Billy Gilmour in what could be a great deal for all parties involved. Gilmour gets regular football and Norwich get a fine player who looks set to be a star. Long-term target Milot Rashica and striker Josh Sargent both join from Werder Bremen to provide more options in attack. However, the impact of Todd Cantwell and Teemu Pukki, two players who got their first taste of Premier League football two seasons ago, will be crucial to the Canaries’ survival hopes.
Southampton started last season in great from and found themselves briefly top of the table in early November. However, a threadbare squad was ravaged by injuries and, post-Christmas, the Saints had the worst form of any side in the Premier League. Manager Ralph Hasenhuttl will be hoping his side can be more consistent this season and his best players can stay fit to prevent a similar drop off in form.
Star striker Danny Ings was sold to Aston Villa for £30 million to prevent him leaving for free next summer, due to having just a year left on his contract. Similarly, Danish defender Jannick Vestergaard is on the brink of a £15 million move to Leicester City as his contact situation was the same as Ings’. While this is unfortunate for Southampton, £45 million for two players that could have left for free next summer is good business if it is reinvested well.
Southampton acted swiftly to replace Ings, with Adam Armstrong signing from Blackburn Rovers and Armando Broja joining on loan from Chelsea. The club were low on full-backs, even prior to Ryan Bertrand joining Leicester for free, and have signed Frenchman Romain Perraud from Brest and, much sought after, 18-year old, Valentino Livramento from Chelsea to address this. The club could still be in the market for a central midfielder and another left back, and with Vestergaard’s departure now all but confirmed, a central defender will be high on the list of priorities.
There is absolutely no doubting that the most important thing for Tottenham Hotspur this summer is keeping their talisman, Harry Kane, at the club. Interest from Manchester City seems to have unsettled the England captain and it would appear that, after years of loyalty, Kane is at a point where a move appeals to him. Whether City, or anyone else, can afford Kane this summer remains to be seen but should he stay at Spurs he will, of course, lead the line once more. This will allow Heung-Min Son to play wide on the left, where he is most effective. The right side is up for contention, however, with Lucas Moura impressing in pre-season, while Steven Bergwijn and new signing Bryan Gil are also options.
After the false dawn of José Mourinho, Tottenham appointed Nuno Espírito Santo this summer and will be hoping that he can turn the club’s fortunes around. The former Wolverhampton Wanderers boss saw his previously growing reputation stall slightly last season after a somewhat underwhelming season, but could still prove a shrewd appointment.
Defender Cristian Romero and goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollina have both joined from Italian side Atalanta. Gollina is expected to provide competition for Hugo Lloris, while Romero has been signed to come straight into the team and tighten up a leaky defence. Despite his success with a back three at Wolves, it is expected that Santo will play a back four at Tottenham. Oliver Skipp could become a starter after impressing on loan at Norwich City last season to partner Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg but the position could be Giovani Lo Celso’s to lose at the start of the campaign.
Watford are back in the Premier League at the first time of asking, following their relegation to the Championship in 2020. The squad is largely the same as the one that was relegated, with a sprinkling of new additions added to the promotion-winning group. Danny Rose joins following the expiration of his Tottenham Hotspur contract and will be desperate to revive his career. To improve the midfield options Peter Etebo and Juraj Kucka have joined on loan, while Imrân Louza has joined for £9 million from Nantes.
Joao Pedro led the line well for the Hornets last season considering he is only 19, but with Troy Deeney now 33, and a lack of goals from the other strikers at the club, a new striker was needed. To combat this, the board signed Emmanuel Dennis from Club Brugge. Joshua King also joined for free and his experience of scoring in the Premier League could be vital. Ismaila Sarr’s pace will terrify Premier League defences once more and, in truth, he never should have been playing Championship football. There is a lot of Premier League experience in the Watford squad and their manager, Xisco, will be hoping to draw on this in his first season in England’s top flight. With Watford’s record of sacking managers, if things aren’t going well, he could be out of a job in no time at all.
West Ham United
West Ham United are yet to spend any money on a player this summer and have the smallest squad in the Premier League currently. David Moyes is known to like operating with a small, tight-knit, squad but, with the rigours of Europa League football for the Hammers this season, this could be a dangerous strategy.
They have made one addition though, bringing in Alphonse Areola on loan from Paris Saint Germain. The Frenchman impressed on loan at Fulham last season and will compete with the ageing Lukasz Fabianski for the number one spot. Saïd Benrahma has been in inspired form in pre-season and West Ham fans will be hoping this continues into the season after a slow start to life in claret and blue last season.
The area the club desperately need reinforcements is up front, however. Michail Antonio has grown into a very good striker in the last few seasons, having been converted from a winger, but is the only senior striker that Moyes can call upon. Jarrod Bowen can play through the middle but generally does his best work from the right wing. Antonio tends to miss spells of the season through injury and, with the additional fixture congestion associated with European football, West Ham could be in for a long season without an influx of signings.
New Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Bruno Lage will have his work cut out to be as successful as his predecessor, Nuno Espiríto Santo. His appointment does continue the, very difficult to ignore, Portuguese core to to the Wolves side; which is largely down to the board’s relationship with agent Jorge Mendes. This relationship has also seen them replace outgoing Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Patricio with compatriot Jose Sa.
Lage is not expected to come in and shake things up completely, but more build on Santo’s work. This means it is likely that he will utilise a back three or five, with captain Conor Coady at the heart of it. Ki-Jana Hoever has impressed in pre-season and could well start ahead of Nelson Semedo. In midfield, Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves are expected to continue their partnership, while up front Raul Jiminez is fit and firing ahead of the new season. Trincão has come in on loan from Barcelona and is an exciting prospect. He is another who has been in good form in pre-season, but will have a hard job starting ahead of Pedro Neto and Adama Traore.