With the return of the Premier League looming over us, plenty of experts and fans alike have begun to attempt the impossible in trying to predict the table for the upcoming season.
I myself have been swept away in the hype and anticipation, joining the masses and consequently deciding that after having spent hours mulling over hypothetical situations, I too would like to put my thoughts to paper and submit my very own version of how I envisage the top flight to play out in it’s 30th instalment.
It is important to consider of course, that the summer transfer market is still in action up until the 31st of August, so the following predictions are based completely off of the current state of teams, although changes in personnel may change my mind and consequently my table standings in the weeks to come.
With that said, here is how the season may potentially play out.
Apologies in advance to any Hornets fans… in the past we have seen many cases of teams rising from the Championship only to discover that they don’t have what it takes to cut it in the Premier League. Resting on the laurels of a successful season in the second flight following a promotion is a dangerous game to play as the step up in class and competition between the two divisions is immense.
Watford appear to be at risk of doing just that. Following a good 2020-21 season they have failed to use the injection of cash they will have received for achieving promotion to bolster their squad. Although signing Joshua King may seem a handy addition going forward on paper, Watford’s ability to score is not really an area they were in desperate need of fixing.
They host a collection of attacking talent in the likes of Ismaïla Sarr, Troy Deeney, Joao Pedro, Isaac Success and Andre Gray. It seems as though their money could have gone elsewhere.
Their squad just does not look like a top tier side, with a blend of ageing players who may not be capable of matching the Premier League’s intensity for a full season and inexperienced youngsters who may struggle to match the league’s demands, my prediction is they will be back in the Championship in no time.
19. Norwich City
The second of the newly promoted teams that I do not have a lot of hope for. Norwich, similarly to Watford do not seem as though they have strengthened enough to make the jump a successful one. Having lost Emi Buendía, who was pivotal in their promotion, to Villa and with talks of Todd Cantwell still possibly heading for the exit they are running out of time to fill the void these key figures may leave.
Billy Gilmour, on loan from Chelsea, provides them with an exciting prospect in midfield but he is not the type of player that will drive forward and score goals, rather he’ll dictate play from further back and break up attacks.
Teemu Pukki failed to come anywhere near being as effective as he has been in the Championship last time Norwich achieved promotion and yet I envisage them still turning to him to score their goals with new American signing Josh Sargent being somewhat of an unknown entity in terms of what he will be able to do in a new league at such a young age.
Norwich will be looking to avoid joining a list of clubs that are becoming known as the ‘yo-yo teams’, constantly dipping in and out of the top flight, however, unless their squad changes in the coming weeks I fear that this run in the Premier League may be similar to their last.
A team that has remained largely unchanged once again, could this prove to be their downfall? Burnley’s issue for me is their lack of depth. Although they have made some signings, a lot of the players they have brought in have previously been plying their trade in lower divisions and their talent acquisition has left a lot to desire for the Burnley faithful.
Another issue is their over reliance on Chris Wood with the New Zealander having been a pillar to them remaining a Premier League side up until now, scoring 12 of their goals last season, double that of their second highest scorer Matěj Vydra. Wood will be 30 this season and if he was to pick up an injury at any point, Burnley may find themselves in turmoil.
Although I imagine they will still be a pain for opposition teams to break down defensively, as they usually are, particularly at Turf Moor, I struggle to imagine they’ll pick many points up, especially on the road. For this reason I have them narrowly missing out on survival with the following team just edging them slightly to secure safety.
17. Newcastle United
Unfortunately for the Geordies I imagine this to be yet another season that will contribute to greying hair and sleepless nights up North. Newcastle are another team that will be praying that certain individuals stay clear of injuries.
Unfortunately for them, their goal scoring talisman Callum Wilson, is prone to picking them up. The reason I imagine they will narrowly avoid the drop is down to the handful of individual talents they have dotted around their squad and the efforts of Steve Bruce who knows what it takes to keep his side afloat. Wilson, when fully fit, has demonstrated he can win a game for them with his goal scoring acumen, while the likes of Saint-Maximin possess the flair and ability to create moments of magic that may help them dodge the the reaper’s scythe.
Additionally, there is still positive talk that they may land Joe Willock from Arsenal, who had a fantastic end to his season on loan for them last campaign.
With all things considered, it may not be pretty but I predict that some scrappy points and the reintroduction of fans at St James’ Park will get Newcastle over the line by the slimmest of margins.
There is still hope for promotion winning sides, I am backing Brentford to stay up. Perhaps some will accuse me of being a romantic but I am sticking to my guns, going out on a limb and predicting that Brentford’s first ever season in the Premier League will be a successful one.
Time will tell whether that makes me a fool or a footballing expert. Brentford is a team that is run correctly, their business model, implemented by their owner Matthew Benham has been an inspiring example of how a club should operate and it has landed them a top flight debut.
The big unknown is whether or not Ivan Toney can replicate his Championship form in a higher division. Some strikers, such as Pukki, previously mentioned, have failed to take the step up. I however, expect Toney to continue his red hot form. The striker appears to have all of the qualities of a lethal top flight forward and a fiery passion that will serve him well going forward.
Having done well to have kept hold of him and boasting a well balanced squad, Brentford have it in them to turn a few heads this season. Additionally I cannot help but imagine that the story tale of making it into the league for the first time will somewhat carry them to deliver some exciting performances.
The Saints are a team I am still very much torn over, I currently have them finishing in 15th position, however I do believe that they could very well end up lower.
The loss of Danny Ings cannot be overlooked, he has been a stalwart for the club in recent years and contributed to a large number of their goals.
While they still possess goal scoring threats, I do not believe they will be able to replicate what their departing main man was able to do for them.
Additions such as Val Livramento, the young full back who recently won Chelsea’s academy player of the season award, on a permanent deal, as well as Armando Broja, also of Chelsea, on a season-long loan seem like smart additions.
Ralph Hasenhüttl remains a very good manager with a decent enough squad to survive, however they are unlikely to set the league on fire and will have to depend on certain players being able to hit the ground running, they will likely have to settle for remaining as far as possible from the drop zone this season.
A safe season in store for the Seagulls. Brighton are a team that perhaps slightly underperformed last season. Although they were creating a decent amount of chances, boasting impressive xG stats, not enough were converted into goals.
Ben White has made way to join Arsenal in North London, however, Brighton have so far managed to keep hold of other talents such as Neal Maupay and most notably Yves Bissouma, who was attracting attention from some top sides. I am backing Graham Potter to prove his pedigree as a manager and to build on last season, deploying a more clinical Brighton.
The Seagulls still have a very well rounded team with a strong backline despite the loss of White, a talented midfield and an attacking line-up that can cause headaches for a number of Premier League defences.
13. Crystal Palace
Palace are a side that seem to be splitting opinions at the moment. There are a lot of unknowns going into the season in terms of how certain personnel will perform and more importantly, how Patrick Vieira will cope with the pressures of being a Premier League manager.
Vieira, is of course a Premier League legend from his time as a player but will he be able to recreate his success pulling the strings at Palace? Vieira has received criticism in the past for his tactical decisions, most notably while at Nice, where he previously managed for three years.
However, I for one think that although Palace will have their hiccups and although it won’t be smooth sailing by any means, Vieira’s understanding of the league, mixed with his passion for winning, will play a huge part in them having a relatively safe season.
Palace have also done well in the market, signing two very talented defensive players in Marc Guéhi and Joachim Anderson while Connor Gallagher on loan will bolster their midfield. I predict that with some of the talent currently possess, Palace will be raw, unpredictable, sometimes error-prone but largely exciting to watch.
A new era for Wolverhampton as they begin life under Bruno Lage. Nuno Espírito Santo’s departure, to take the helm at Spurs, will undoubtedly be a blow to Wolves fans who have come to love the Portuguese gaffer following his very successful time at the club, which saw them playing European football underneath him.
Wolves are always an exciting team to watch and this will certainly be as true as ever as Raúl Jiménez makes his return to the first team squad having recovered from his horrific head injury that put him out of action for all of last season.
Jiménez, if he is able to recapture the form he previously had for Wolves, will no doubt improve their attacking threat immensely.
Wolves fans may hold higher hopes than a 12th place finish, however, I believe that this season will largely be about finding their feet under a new manager and rebuilding from last season, whereby they dropped off slightly, finishing 13th having previously finished in 7th.
Expect exciting football from Wolves but we may have to wait one more season until we see them mount another European spot chase.
11. West Ham
A drop off from the Hammers’ impressive 2020-21 campaign. My most pressing reason behind my decision to place West Ham around the mid-table mark is down to the European football they will be juggling with their domestic campaign this season.
Having made it into the Europa League, after finishing in sixth spot, David Moyes’ men will have to compete around the continent midweek, before playing league games come the weekend and they must do it all with a relatively thin squad.
West Ham have been unable to secure Jesse Lingard permanently as of yet following his brilliant loan spell at the latter end of last season for them and they have not managed to bring many other first team players in through the door either, although Alphonse Areola provides them with another great goalkeeping option.
Although David Moyes is indeed a top manager and the Hammers have managed to hang onto key personnel such as Declan Rice who has long been linked with a move away from the club, I fear West Ham will suffer in a similar fashion to how Wolves did last season with European football being somewhat of a poisoned chalice for the club.
The Toffees are sure to provide plenty of drama this season under the reign of Rafa Benítez. The controversial appointment of their new manager who previously ran the show for their red Merseyside rivals between 2004 and 2010 was met with a lot of criticism from Evertonians.
Benítez has already had to backtrack on comments he made in his time as Liverpool manager, whereby he branded Everton a ‘small club’. In saying this there is no doubt that Benítez is a top class manager who knows what it takes to succeed in the Premier League having managed already at Liverpool, Chelsea and most recently Newcastle. Benítez has so far shown his professionalism and ability to block out any criticism that comes his way in his carefully worded press conferences.
His experience and ability as a manager will no doubt benefit Everton, however their acquisitions, although decent, are not likely to impact the quality of the team too much.
With James Rodríguez still possibly on his way out the exit following Ancelotti’s premature departure, Everton could perhaps have been a bit more ambitious in this transfer window. Their squad is still a very good one, however, I do not see them being able to keep pace with the teams that I predict to finish above them.
9. Leeds United
Marcelo Bielsa’s men are likely to have another impressive season, with them carrying on where they left off and continuing to build towards a European spot on the table. Do not expect to see much change in terms of how the team line-up and the way in which they play their football, with the few transfers they have made seeming to be more so for squad depth rather than for rebuilding purposes.
Bielsa does of course, ask an awful lot from any player that plays for him, with Leeds players covering more ground during matches than any other team in the league last season. Although perhaps some teams may be more aware of, and prepared for, the physical challenge that a match up against Leeds presents this time around, the fitness and relentlessness of Leeds will remain a challenge for many teams in the league and will prove an insurmountable one for the lower placed sides.
If Leeds can keep all of their star players fit and healthy, they should enjoy a fruitful campaign, aided even further by the return of their fans to Elland Road, where they will once again be able to enjoy watching their team compete in the top flight, something that they will have all no doubt been itching for since sealing their promotion from the Championship in 2019-20.
Tottenham still have one major variable looming that will largely dictate how their season goes. That being, of course, whether Harry Kane stays or leaves. At the time of writing, he remains a Spurs player but if he was to leave, it is possible that Tottenham could fall even further down the table.
Spurs will spend this season lumbered with the task of playing in the newly formed Europa Conference League, which will see them travel to far corners of the continent to play teams that will be largely below their level of quality. This will likely disadvantage any hope they have of securing a top six spot.
Additionally to this, Spurs seem to be in the midst of a rebuilding phase, as they have begun to shift out some of the older players in their squad, particularly at the back, and bring in new blood, including in their new manager Nuno, from Wolves.
If Harry Kane is to leave, Spurs will of course lose their goal scoring talisman, if he is to stay however, perhaps they will still be hindered, as players that want to leave and that are forced to stay are often unhealthy to have within a squad.
If Kane is in any way bitter or resentful over a potential move to City being blocked this may very well effect his performance, his relationship with the board and even the mood of the change room. The impact Kane has on the Spurs squad cannot be understated.
In saying this, Kane has demonstrated a high level of professionalism throughout his career thus far and Spurs will hope he stays and is happy to do so.
7. Aston Villa
Villa are a team that I for one, am very excited to watch this season. Of course, the departure of their beloved captain Jack Grealish to Manchester City comes as a massive blow to the club and the fans. Grealish is a top class player and on his day he can produce moments of magic that single-handedly win games. Although his move may leave a sour taste in some Villa fans’ mouthes, they can take solace in the fact that the staggering 100 million pounds that they acquired through his sale has been put to good use.
Emi Buendía, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings each represent aspects of Grealish’s playing style that Villa have depended upon in previous seasons. Villa’s Chief Executive, Christian Purslow, took to social media to personally deliver the rationale and context behind Grealish’s sale and astutely pointed out that Villa will probably benefit from switching to a model whereby the responsibility of having match winning performances is shared among multiple talents rather resting upon the shoulders of one.
Villa have a very impressive squad going into this season, retaining all of their key players with the exception of their ex-captain and I expect them to build on what was a great season in 2020/21 and take it one step further in 2021/22.
An improvement may be on the cards for the Gunners, as well as a potential return to European football. Arsenal have given their fans plenty of woes over the past few seasons. Signings that they have made have not quite lived up to expectations and they have often been left stumped by teams that are willing to attack them relentlessly. In saying this, the following season may give Arsenal fans some hope.
The signing of Ben White, although perhaps slightly overpriced, will no doubt be an improvement to their leaky defence while the likes of Nuno Tavares and Albert Lokonga look like exciting prospects also. Arsenal fans will hope that their club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will not suffer any dry spells similar to the drought he faced last season and if they can get him firing consistently again, they may cause some upsets.
The main benefit Arsenal have going into this season is, in fact, their lack of European football, meaning that Arteta can turn his full attention to domestic success.
The Foxes are another team that seems to get things right in terms of the way they are run and the talent that they scout and consequently acquire.
Despite the criticism he has faced in the past, the fact is that Brendan Rodgers is a top tier manager and has a very good squad at his disposal. Although their fans would have been disappointed to narrowly miss out on a place in the top four on the final match day of last season, the Foxes have done well to once again finish in and around the heavy hitters of the Premier League.
Another season culminating in a European spot could very well establish them firmly in the minds of many as one of the Premier League’s big teams, that is if they are not already.
The addition of Patson Daka will give them even more striking options alongside Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho while Boubakary Soumaré looks an exciting prospect and Ryan Bertrand provides them with a solid and experienced Premier League full back to add to their already strong defence.
Unfortunately for Leicester, getting past fifth may prove too difficult for them, with the top four teams all likely to be a cut above the rest.
The first of my picks for the top-four spots, Liverpool come in fourth, securing another season in the Champions League.
I can certainly understand why some fans would expect Liverpool to do better than fourth this season, after all it isn’t long ago that they were winning the Champions League and the Premier League. I think however, their weakness will come as a result of their lack of recruitment.
Liverpool had an awfully unfortunate season in 2020/21, with a constant flurry of injuries to key personnel leading to a need for improvisation from Jurgen Klopp, as players were forced to rotate often and sometimes play out of position.
The fact that they finished the season as they did, with an impressive run of form, ensuring that they would take part in the upcoming Champions League campaign once again, is a testament to the quality of their manager and the talent of their squad. The problem is, Liverpool have not rectified the issues that caused them so much turmoil last season.
Besides Ibrahima Konaté, Liverpool are yet to sign anybody else and I suspect that this could once again prove a mistake. The main spine of their team has aged, with a lot of their key players entering their 30s and it is unlikely that they will be able to depend on them throughout a busy season, without losing some to injuries once again.
3. Manchester United
The Red Devils have a lot to be excited for this season but I am predicting them to finish behind their blue Mancunian rivals.
The acquisition of Jadon Sancho and Raphaël Varane cannot be understated, as they are both hugely talented players that will massively strengthen United’s squad. The prospect of a centre-back partnership of Harry Maguire and Varane will certainly make scoring goals against United a challenge, while the attacking talent they now boast are sure to score plenty themselves over the course of the campaign.
Although I see United having a largely successful season, and imagine they may even get their hands on a domestic cup, I still see them falling slightly short of the two teams ahead of them.
The main determining factor that separates United from the first and second spot is their manager.
Although Ole Gunnar Solskjær deserves a lot of credit for what he has achieved at United thus far, and perhaps often receives more criticism than he deserves, I believe there is a clear gap in quality which separates him from his top team counterparts.
Ole lacks the experience that other managers in the league possess and this has shown in some of his more questionable tactical showings, an example of which was his lateness to react and substitute players in United’s Europa League final against Villarreal which they ultimately lost through a penalty shoot-out.
Although he will undoubtedly continue to grow and develop and while I am of the opinion that his appointment was the right move for United, and where they were as a club, when he joined and that he still has plenty more to give, I do not see him being able to lead United to Premier League glory anytime in the foreseeable future.
Additionally to this, United are still in the market for a defensive midfielder that will solidify them defensively and act as their anchor in the middle of the park, with the position being a point of weakness. While it is likely that they will purchase one before the transfer window closes, who this is will also play a part in how well rounded their squad is.
2. Manchester City
We have come to expect the Citizens to exude excellence on the pitch as they have grown into the powerhouse they now are over the last decade and this season shouldn’t be any different.
Pep Guardiola’s squad will have a point to prove going into this new season, with the bitter taste of defeat in their mouthes following their Champions League final loss to Chelsea.
Expect the blue side of Manchester to put on their usual masterclasses throughout the season, consistently picking up results with their plethora of talent. The addition of Jack Grealish for an English transfer record fee of 100 million pounds will add even more of a threat to their already stacked attack following the departure of Sergio Agüero, now of Barcelona.
Despite all of this, I have predicted for City to finish in second, with the reason being that although their team is bursting with talent, so much so that they could probably finish in the top four with their B team, they are not the only side with the balance, depth and ability to claim the grand prize this season.
Although I have them to just miss out, this title race will likely come down to the wire and I write this under the caveat that Harry Kane has not yet signed for City. If he does swap London for Manchester however, City may be too hot to handle.
Okay, surprise surprise, the Chelsea fan is predicting his own team to win the title but hear me out. Riding off the back of a relatively successful Premier League campaign, an FA Cup final, a Champions League and now a Super Cup also, Chelsea Football Club may have what it takes to dethrone Pep’s super team.
Following the departure of Frank Lampard mid-last season, Thomas Tuchel began to mould the squad into a team suited to his style and philosophy and he did so to tremendous effect.
Under Tuchel Chelsea boasted the most chances created, shots on target and clean sheets in the league, while also having the fewest goals conceded, shots on target faced and xG against them.
Tuchel has transformed Chelsea into a side that is not only defensively resolute and near impossible to crack but also one that is creative and dangerous going forward. The only issue Chelsea faced last campaign under the German gaffer was that their chances were not capitalised upon nearly as much as they should have been, with their conversion rate being only 9per cent (13th in the league).
With the signing of Romelu Lukaku however, as he makes his return to Stamford Bridge having established himself as one of the best strikers in world football, the Blues have set themselves up for a very promising season with an undoubtedly elite and very well balanced squad. Do not be surprised to see César Azpilicueta lifting the Premier League trophy come the end of this season as Chelsea look set to make a statement and carry on their winning form.
So, there we have my Premier League predictions for the 2021/22 season. There are, of course, a lot of factors and variables that cannot be predicted as the top flight of English football is always full of surprises and upsets, however, on paper and with all we know so far, this is the way I see things playing out.
No crystal ball is required however, to know that another season of football, with fans now returning to the stadiums, is sure to be vastly enthralling. Soon we will be subjected to the highs and lows that the Premier League has to offer and caught up in the emotions come with them. The new season cannot start soon enough.