A new season is upon us. On Friday 6 August, Crystal Palace welcome Arsenal to Selhurst Park to kick off a new Premier League campaign. In this unprecedented season, which includes a World Cup in the middle of it, how will the 20 top flight teams fare? The following attempts to predict just that.
Predicted finish: 5th
After narrowly missing out on Champions League football last season, Arsenal have had a very good summer in terms of transfers. Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus have both signed from Manchester City, with Fábio Viera also joining to provide another option in midfield.
They have a young squad, but there is a certain level of myth to the perceived lack of spending at the club in recent seasons. Since Mikel Arteta took over at Arsenal in 2019, the club have spent over £300 million on transfers. It is now time to deliver, but with the clubs around them also strengthening it will be difficult to finish in the top four this season. Perhaps last season was their best chance.
With Jesus looking particularly sharp in pre-season, the Gunners potentially have a prolific striker on their hands; something they did not have last campaign. This is cause for optimism and the club certainly look to be making their poor recruitment a thing of the past. They should be one of the favourites in the Europa League; perhaps they can achieve Champions League football through winning that competition.
Predicted finish: 10th
There was real anticipation when Steven Gerrard took the Aston Villa job in November. This anticipation soon turned to excitement when Gerrard used his contact book to persuade Philippe Coutinho to join on loan from Barcelona in January in a move that has since been made permanent. However, a 14th place finish after a promising start under their new manager was somewhat underwhelming.
Gerrard has been backed by his owners once more this summer, with Diego Carlos signed from Sevilla along with Boubacar Kamara from Marseille. The club are still a little light up front, with Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings competing for a starting spot; the latter reportedly told he could leave earlier in the summer. The club’s hierarchy are likely to be hard at work to try and secure another striker come the end of the window.
With Gerrard set to have his first full season in charge – all being well – plus the improvements made to the squad, it feels like Aston Villa should improve on their league finish last time out.
Predicted finish: 20th
Bournemouth’s squad is simply not Premier League quality. Unless there are drastic changes to the squad prior to the transfer window closing on September 1 the Cherries will be in real trouble.
To date, the only two signings following their second place finish in the Championship last season are free agents Ryan Fredericks and Joe Rothwell. Fredericks joins following the expiration of his West Ham United contract, while Rothwell was a Blackburn Rovers player last season.
If Dominic Solanke can continue his Championship form into the Premier League then Scott Parker’s men will have a chance in matches, but the lack of recruits is deeply concerning. Their squad currently looks far worse than the one that got relegated in the 2019/20 season.
Predicted finish: 15th
While Brentford never really fell into a relegation scrap last season, that is exactly where they looked got be heading prior to the unexpected arrival of Christian Eriksen. After a positive start to life in the Premier League, the Bees’ form had nosedived prior to the Danish talisman pitching up in west London.
Ultimately, Thomas Frank’s men ended the season in an impressive 13th place; 11 points clear of the drop zone. With Eriksen’s influence now departed, the club will desperately miss his creative touch and his experience at the highest level. Whilst it is incredibly difficult to replace Eriksen, it seems as though the club is chasing a player who is not dissimilar to the former Inter Milan man. Mikel Damsgaard is a Danish attacking midfield player, so the similarities are there for all to see. He is at the opposite end of his career to Eriksen though, and at 22 is an exciting talent with plenty of room to improve. With Brentford’s strong Danish contingent, should he join he should have no trouble settling in.
In terms of confirmed signings, Brentford have secured the battle-hardened Ben Mee, who should slot seamlessly into the back three. Exciting prospect Keane Lewis-Potter has also joined and may go some way to ensuring that Brentford remain an attacking threat, but he is untried at this level. Aaron Hickey is an astute signing who can play on either side of the defence too. Crucially, the club have so far retained the services of Ivan Toney. The 26-year-old will again be the main source of goals and his side should have enough to remain a Premier League side so long as they start the campaign strongly and do all they can to prevent another momentous dip in form throughout the season.
Predicted finish: 12th
Brighton managed to turn their promise under Graham Potter into fruition last season, with a top half finish. They are likely to lose Marc Cucurella this summer, with a deal with Chelsea sounding close to completion, and have not been too active in the transfer market.
Striker Deniz Undav has joined up with the squad after signing in January and initially being loaned back to Union Saint-Gilloise for the remainder of the campaign. Having scored 26 goals in the Belgian top flight last season, Undav could well be the potent striker Brighton have often missed.
Another decent season is expected, but perhaps consecutive top ten finishes is slightly out of the Seagulls’ grasp due to the improvement in sides around them.
Predicted finish: 4th
After spending £100 million on Romelu Lukaku proved an expensive mistake and the change of ownership, Chelsea have been more considered in the transfer market this summer. Lukaku has returned to Inter Milan on loan, while Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly have come in. Both should prove to be very good signings, but Chelsea need more to compete at the very top.
Thomas Tuchel needs to find a way to get the best out of his attacking players if Chelsea are to have a successful season. Whether it is because the German tactician has not been the man responsible for identifying the attacking targets or another reason, it has felt like Tuchel has struggled to decide on his best attacking combinations. Defensively, Chelsea are generally strong, but with Antonio Rudiger having left to join Real Madrid, Koulibaly has huge shoes to fill in a new league.
It feels like the club really need to bring in a striker or they could find goals hard to come by. Timo Werner and Armando Broja are currently the only two strikers at the club, whilst Kai Havertz and perhaps even Sterling could play the role. Other than Sterling, none of these players have been prolific in the Premier League in their careers to date. Even without a new striker, Chelsea could well sneak into the top four on pure experience and nouse.
Predicted finish: 9th
After a 12th place finish and FA Cup semi-final appearance, all whilst drastically changing the style of play, Patrick Vieira showed that he has the potential to be a top manager. The Frenchman is the ultimate competitor and will be keen to improve on Crystal Palace’s league position this season.
The club have lost Conor Gallagher following the end of his loan from Chelsea and his influence will be sorely missed. Holding midfielder Cheick Doucouré has joined from RC Lens and has real promise, as does defender Chris Richards who has joined from Bayern Munich; both will improve the side. Sam Johnstone and youngster Luke Plange have also signed, but may have to settle for a place on the bench initially.
With the addition of one or two more signings, Palace could be a real force to be reckoned with. A midfielder in the mould of the departed Gallagher would really benefit the side and add balance, but goalscoring midfielders will always be in high demand. It feels like this could be time for Palace to break the top ten.
Predicted finish: 18th
Many thought that after surviving relegation by the skin of their teeth last season, Everton would make sure they didn’t find themselves in that position again. This may well have proved to be easier said than done, though. The club are in real trouble financially, have ongoing ownership issues, and have sold their best player in Richarlison.
They have been able to bring a handful of players in, namely: James Tarkowski, Ruben Vinagre, and Dwight McNeil. They are three players who should improve the squad, but whether their impact will be enough for Frank Lampard’s men to see any real improvement remains to be seen. There is still time for arrivals, but currently the team is one Dominic Calvert-Lewin injury away from meltdown; with Calvert-Lewin set to miss the start of the season they may well already be there.
The club hasn’t done much to shake the feeling of doom and gloom that surrounded the club last season, although their fans did rally around their side towards the end of the campaign. Years of poor recruitment has caught up with the Toffees and Lampard will have his work cut out. The possibility of Everton’s 72 year run in the English top flight coming to an end is unfortunately a very real one.
Predicted finish: 19th
Having suffered relegation the season prior, Fulham bounced back at the first attempt by winning the Championship last season. Aleksandar Mitrovic matched the second division goal record with 43 goals, ensuring that Marco Silva’s men secured promotion relatively comfortably.
The Cottagers are in danger of becoming a yo-yo team in the ilk of Norwich City with their constant flitting between the first and second tier. This is something they will be keen to put a stop to by maintaining their Premier League status, but it won’t be easy.
Bernd Leno, João Palhinha, and Andreas Pereira should all be good signings, with Kevin Mbabu a player with a point to prove after an unsuccessful spell at Newcastle United early in his career. Defence is a problem area for Fulham, and if they go into the season without any dramatic improvements to their backline then they may well find themselves falling through the relegation trapdoor once again.
Predicted finish: 17th
Leeds United survived Premier League relegation on the final day of the season, having gambled on parting company with Marcelo Bielsa in late February. American Jesse Marsch was the man to replace the iconic Bielsa and managed to find a way to steer a Leeds side who had been blighted by injuries all season long to safety.
Kalvin Phillips was one of those players who struggled to get onto the pitch anywhere near as often as he or Leeds would have liked last season. As it turns out, this is something they will now have to get used to as he has departed for Manchester City. When you combine this with Raphinha’s exit for Barcelona you begin to understand that Leeds could be in for a long season.
It could be argued that the money received for their two prized assets has actually led to the squad being stronger for their departure, as the funds have been spent on a number of players. This all depends on how well the new signings adapt, though. Brenden Aaronson, Marc Roca, Tyler Adams, Ramus Kristensen and Luis Sinisterra all have the potential to be very good signings in their own right, but all are unproven in the Premier League. Leeds’ fate will depend on how seamless their transition into Premier League footballers proves.
Predicted finish: 8th
Currently, Leicester City are the only team in the Premier League yet to make a signing this summer. As if this wasn’t concerning enough for a squad ravaged by injuries last season, there are also rumours that the club now find themselves in financial difficulty and could be forced to sell some of their key assets.
Legendary goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel has signed for OSG Nice in a transfer that has seemingly come from nowhere. Rumours of an exit for Youri Tielemans have gone quiet, but now it is James Maddison who is the subject of interest; Newcastle United having had a bid rejected. Wesley Fofana is another who is attracting interest in Brendan Rodgers’ camp.
Despite this, when everyone is fit, Leicester are still a very good side. They have enough quality and know-how to have a strong campaign in the league and should benefit from the respite that not being in European competition will allow them. It is also highly unlikely that the club will allow multiple important exits to happen in one summer, even with monetary problems, and you would think they will find a way to introduce one or two new players into the squad. For that reason, they are still down for a decent eighth place finish.
Predicted finish: 2nd
Liverpool started the new season with a strong 3-1 win over Manchester City in the Community Shield on Saturday. Recent history tells us that the result of this curtain-raising showpiece is not something that should be read into too much, as the winner of the shield has not gone on to win the league in each of the past three seasons. However, any edge can be crucial for these two sides who have competed so ferociously over the past few seasons.
Perhaps more pleasingly for Liverpool fans will be the fact that new signing Darwin Nuñez was on the scoresheet against City. The 23-year-old Uruguayan cost the Reds £64 million plus add-ons and Nuñez will be desperate to start the season in form. The loss of Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich is a huge one, but Jurgen Klopp’s frontline has a new feel to it now. With Nuñez, the Anfield club have themselves a more conventional number nine. Luis Díaz was a revelation following his January signing and his impact has also gone some way to soften the blow of Mane’s departure. To add to this, Mohammed Salah’s new contract is more important that any new signing could be.
Liverpool kept pace with City until the very last game of last season but ultimately fell just short last time around. They also lost the Champions League final, meaning that a season that had fans dreaming of a historic quadruple ended in disappointment. City have rebuilt this summer, and it will be incredibly difficult for anyone to keep pace with Pep Guardiola’s men – including Liverpool.
Predicted finish: 1st
It’s difficult to envisage anything other than a third consecutive Premier League title for Manchester City. Pep Guardiola has sanctioned the sales of Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, and Oleksandr Zinchenko; all of whom have been important players in his tenure. However, Erling Haaland, Julio Alvaréz, and Kalvin Phillips have all signed, with a left back surely the next target.
With Haaland, City have a number nine again. A player who can capitalise on the copious amounts of chances that City’s creators provide and, despite their title, were all too often squandered last season. Having a striker who will always be in the box waiting for a chance may well produce Jack Grealish’s best too. It would not be a surprise to see the ex-Aston Villa captain have a really productive season.
Having become City manager in 2016, this is the longest that Guardiola has remained at a club in his managerial career. He has everything he needs at City and rather than pushing his players to their limits and then moving on, as he did at both Barcelona and Bayern Munich, he is instead overseeing a transition of the squad. There were few better at knowing when a squad needed refreshing than Sir Alex Ferguson, so legendary in the red half of Manchester, and now Guardiola is doing the same. City could well win the league with some breathing space this season, but will they find the Champions League success they so desperately crave?
Predicted finish: 6th
It is very feasible than Manchester United could have a decent first season under Erik ten Hag, improve drastically, and yet still finish in 6th; such is the quality of the Premier League. The cultural reset that the club has needed so desperately for almost a decade finally seems to have happened, with fans hoping this new era will be a fruitful one after years of disillusion.
It is unlikely that Ten Hag’s desired playing style will be perfectly implemented by his new players instantly. Some players will struggle to adapt, but the squad as a whole should flourish from the new management. The situation surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo’s future is an unwanted distraction. The best thing United can do is find a club willing to take the 37-year-old off of their hands. Despite his crucial goals last season, you cannot enter a new era with a striker over 20 years into their senior career.
This does leave the club very short on strikers, though. Anthony Martial has been the main man through the middle in pre-season, but this will be his eighth season at United and it is difficult to see the Frenchman suddenly being the man to lead the line. Fans of United and England alike will hope that Marcus Rashford can rediscover his form and confidence, having looked a shadow of himself even before last summer’s European Championship heartbreak.
Expect mistakes, at least initially, but under ten Hag United have a manager who will suffer no fools. A manager with a philosophy such as the Dutchman’s will need time. If things do not fall into place straight away, United would be foolish to make any knee-jerk reaction.
Predicted finish: 11th
Following January’s financial takeover the football community were expecting to see an array of signings this summer for Newcastle United. The reality has been a far cry from that, though. Whether it is a strategic, gradual overhaul or Newcastle are simply failing to secure their transfer targets is subjective, but the squad looks as though it will largely be the same as the one that finished the season strongly to avoid relegation relatively comfortably.
One key arrival is that of young defender Sven Botman from Lille. The 22-year-old Swede was a well-known target for the Magpies, but they faced stiff competition from AC Milan to secure his services. The fact that Newcastle could beat the Italian giants to Botman’s signature a sign of the changing tide at St James’ Park.
As things stand, the club have not strengthened in the attacking areas and that is a cause for concern. Callum Wilson spent large parts of last season injured and, with his injury record, cannot be depended on for a full season. Chris Wood was signed from Burnley in January but has struggled to find form for his new club and was a very short-sighted signing in truth. Newcastle should be comfortably safe again, but may not have flexed their financial might enough to break the top half just yet.
Predicted finish: 14th
Nottingham Forest secured their return to the Premier League after a 23 year absence thanks to a play-off final win over Huddersfield Town in May. Just eight months after taking charge at Forest, Steve Cooper got the two-time European Champions back to the promised land.
Despite the fact that Forest came up via the play-offs, they look as though they could be the most likely to have a successful season out of those promoted. A blend of talent and experience gives the side a good balance. They have seen one of their key players last season leave following the end of his loan in Djed Spence, now of Tottenham Hotspur, but they have signed a number of other targets.
Eyebrows were raised when the club announced the signing of Jesse Lingard recently, but signing an England international of Lingard’s calibre shows the ambition of the club. Taiwo Awoniyi has also signed for £17 million from Union Berlin and will be the man Forest look to for goals, as well as academy product Brennan Johnson. Cooper’s men have strengthened from back to front and should be a really exciting addition to the Premier League after so long away.
Predicted finish: 13th
Last season Southampton finished 15th, with an awful run of one win in their last 12 league games leaving the club desperate for the season to end. With a summer to dust themselves off, fans will hope to see their side rejuvenated and ready to put to bed the negative momentum they had gained.
The club have signed young and made some intriguing additions, such as: Gavin Bazunu and Romeo Lavia from Manchester City, Joe Aribo from Rangers, Sekou Mara from Bordeaux, and Armel Bella-Kotchap from Mainz 05. Building on a strategy that proved fruitful last season, the club are targeting young players, with the carrot of senior football being dangled their way. If these signings can hit the ground running then they could be an exciting proposition this season.
Despite the signing of Mara, the Saints are still desperately in need of a striker. With Che Adams, Adam Armstrong, and Mara currently the only options upfront there is an urgent need for more firepower. If they can address that prior to the end of the transfer window, as well as shift some of the deadwood, then they should be able to look up the table rather than over their shoulder. The key word for Southampton is ‘consistency’. They have become synonymous with long runs of form, whether that be good or bad, and look unable to shake off the bad runs by gaining points when the going gets tough. Perhaps it is a mentality problem, or something that comes as a result of their largely inexperienced side. After seeing his coaching staff overhauled in the summer, another long run of poor form could see Ralph Hasenhüttl searching for a new job himself.
Predicted finish: 3rd
Temptation to put Tottenham Hotspur in second has been resisted. Jurgen Klopp will go again, without Sadio Mane, with the German not a manager who will let standards slip, but Spurs could well be the best of the rest. Liverpool and Manchester City have set new standards for Premier League teams. So much so, that 90 plus points is no longer a guarantee of winning the Premier League.
Yves Bissouma and Ivan Perisic instantly improve the starting 11, while the signings of Richarlison, Clement Llenglet, and Djed Spence give Conte much better options and the squad is now deep enough to compete on all fronts. The Champions League returning will breathe new life into the club too.
The fact that Tottenham have a serial winner in charge in Antonio Conte, combined with the new injection of investment and the impressive signings they have made this summer, means that they look a real force to be reckoned with. Towards the end of last season, it was obvious that the penny had dropped for the Spurs players and they understood exactly how Conte wanted them to play. Momentum is on their side, after just one defeat in their last 11 league games at the backend of last season and, with an arduous Conte pre-season under their belts, expect them to come flying out of the blocks. After a bleak period following Mauricio Pochettino’s departure, it’s a good time to be a Spurs fan again.
Predicted finish: 7th
West Ham United had a fine campaign under David Moyes last season, finishing 7th in the league and reaching the Europa League semi-final. The club have acquired a taste for European football and are expected to respect the Europa Conference League that they will compete in this season.
The Hammers ran out of steam slightly at the end of last season, with the addition of European football to a small squad. This problem has not been addressed by the club and their lack of depth could be the one factor that stops them threatening the top four again. Having said that, they finally have a striker to take some of the load off of Michail Antonio, with Gianluca Scamacca signing from Sassuolo.
Interestingly, despite the success Moyes has enjoyed playing a 4231 in his time at the club, it looks as though the Scottish manager will be introducing a back three this season. This system may reduce the influence of Jarrod Bowen, although he could find more chances playing in a more central role. Another 7th place finish and a run in the Europa Conference League would represent another very positive season for West Ham.
Predicted finish: 16th
Bruno Lage enjoyed a decent start to life as a Premier League manager last season, guiding Wolves to a 10th place finish. Jose Sa in goal was a revelation, quashing any worries about the departure of Rui Patricio, and only conceded 43 goals in 38 Premier League games. Defensively solid, the problems for Lage’s side come further up the pitch. Wolves scored just 38 league goals last season, an average of just one per game, and lacked a prolific marksman.
Raul Jiminez has been that player in the past, but following his fractured skull injury he has been unable to find the net as regularly. The club have been linked with 6 foot 7 Genk striker Paul Onuachu to address the lack of firepower, but as of yet no deal has been struck. In fact, other than making Hee Chan-Hwang’s loan deal permanent, the only signing the club have made this summer is defender Nathan Collins from Burnley.
It is because of the lack of signings that Wolves could be in trouble. There is still obvious quality in the squad, with the likes of Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho, Daniel Podence, and Pedro Neto to name a few, however the depth of the squad is an issue. For the first time since their return to the Premier League in 2018, Wolves could be in a relegation battle come the end of the season. This may be surprising given their recent history, but it is not as unthinkable as it may seem.