Top Half Predictions
The 2020/21 Premier League season is almost here, which can mean only one thing… it’s time for our annual predictions.
We’ve delved into our crystal ball to run the rule over all 20 Premier League sides ahead of the start of the new season.
Part two of our Premier League predictions for 2020/21 looks at the race for the title, the top four battle and the teams likely to pose the biggest threat to the ‘Big Six’…
Premier League Predictions: Top Half
10TH – EVERTON
Manager: Carlo Ancelotti
Reasons to be cheerful: After a slow start to the transfer window, Everton look to be backing their A-List manager with a smattering of A-List talent. James Rodriguez and Allan have arrived on Merseyside, which should improve Carlo Ancelotti’s mood. He cut a frustrated figure after Project Restart as Everton limped to a mid-table finish. With a full pre-season under his belt and some extra star power to call on, there’s enough quality throughout this side to suggest Toffees fans can finally start dreaming of better times ahead under the serial winner.
Reasons to be fearful: Despite his glittering CV, there’s a legitimate concern 61-year old Ancelotti might not have the heart for the punishing long-term rebuild required to push Everton closer to the elite. Given the Toffees’ chaotic turnaround in managers in recent times, the Italian is still left with a hotchpotch squad of players from different regimes as the club scramble for a cohesive identity. This is not going to be a one season salvage mission.
Key man: James Rodríguez
9TH – SOUTHAMPTON
Manager: Ralph Hasenhüttl
Reasons to be cheerful: Southampton showed loyalty isn’t quite yet dead in football last season. It paid off handsomely. Instead of hitting the panic button after the 9-0 horror show at home to Leicester, the Saints board realised they were on to a good thing with Ralph Hasenhüttl. Now they look to have one of the most progressive managers in the entire league. His calm tactical tweaks could be the difference between a top and bottom half finish.
Reasons to be fearful: Two main challenges seem to be flashing red: the ever-present Danny Ings injury question and form at St Mary’s. The former didn’t present itself as a problem in 2019/20 as the English striker showed no signs of his old frailties, hitting 22 goals in 38 league games. Hasenhüttl will be praying his star man has now left his days on the treatment table behind him. Home comforts look the more pressing issue for the Austrian to solve, with Saints winning just six of their 19 home games in 2019/20. Can they really rely on strong away form to carry them through yet again?
Key man: Danny Ings
8TH – LEICESTER CITY
Manager: Brendan Rodgers
Reasons to be cheerful: A change is sometimes as good as a rest. Following last season’s late slump, Rodgers will have relished the chance to regroup and redeploy some of his legendary man-management skills. Selling Ben Chilwell also frees up some funds for Rodgers to refresh this squad and change the mood in the dressing room.
Reasons to be fearful: Rodgers has to find one hell of a hangover cure. After dreaming of Champions League football for so long last season, it’s the consolation prize of the Europa League for the Foxes – a potential stumbling block to kicking on in the first half of this campaign. The evergreen Jamie Vardy remains the Foxes’ biggest asset, but with their star man turning 34 in January, they’ll need to start planning the succession soon.
Key man: Jamie Vardy
7TH – WOLVES
Manager: Nuno Espírito Santo
Reasons to be cheerful: No Europa League football. More time on the training ground. After last season’s relentless fixture list, Wolves’ battle-scarred squad will at least have some room to draw breath as they continue their quest to close up on the top four. Nuno’s exceptional coaching skills could come to the fore with more time to reflect this season.
Reasons to be fearful: The danger of raised expectations. Even though he has been well backed during his time at Molineux, Nuno still arguably doesn’t get the credit he deserves after steering Wolves to back-to-back seventh place finishes. Matching those finishes in 2020/21 could be disregarded as standing still in some quarters, but Wolves would be wise to remain patient as they look to take another step forward.
Key man: Adama Traoré
6TH – TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
Manager: José Mourinho
Reasons to be cheerful: Spurs’ improved form at the end of 2019/20 crept somewhat under the radar, and for once, the not exactly bashful Mourinho might be happy to keep it that way. On the surface, both Spurs and Jose seem in a happier place heading into 2020/21. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Matt Doherty also look shrewd, Premier League-ready investments in a difficult market for the North Londoners.
Reasons to be fearful: That dreaded Thursday / Sunday ritual of Europa League football. It’s been a burden for so many other sides trying to reclaim their Champions League dream. Now it’s Spurs’ turn to navigate that difficult balancing act. Jose will know better than anyone the pitfalls of battling on two fronts so early in a campaign. Should Spurs start to spectacularly unravel, we all know how the script ends for the mercurial Portuguese manager.
Key man: Son Heung-min
5TH – ARSENAL
Manager: Mikel Arteta
Reasons to be cheerful: By winning the FA Cup and Community Shield in quick succession, Mikel Arteta has shifted the narrative around Arsenal as they start a new campaign. There now seems to be a genuine feelgood factor around the Emirates for the first time in several seasons. Arsenal’s journey towards regularly challenging the top two still looks treacherous, but the Gunners now look like a team that won’t instantly roll over on the big occasion.
Reasons to be fearful: Maintaining that belief for the long haul. A tricky start could bring all the old insecurities flooding back to the surface. Arteta has the daunting prospect of trips to Liverpool, Man City and Man Utd within the first six weeks of the campaign. The Spaniard has made Arsenal competitive again in those Big Six clashes in his short spell to date. Can he continue that trend in 2020/21?
Key man: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
4TH – MAN UTD
Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjær
Reasons to be cheerful: The Utd spine likely to start the 2020/21 campaign already looks far stronger than the class of 2019/20. With Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford only likely to kick on further, Anthony Martial starting to fulfil his potential, and Bruno Fernandes running the show in midfield, Utd can now outmuscle inferior opposition with the minimum of fuss. Donny van de Beek could also prove further evidence of a shift towards smarter recruitment as they look to knock Liverpool off their perch.
Reasons to be fearful: That transition towards becoming genuine title contenders again might have to stretch into another season at least. Utd still look a few options short of the calibre of player needed to reel themselves closer to traditional rivals Man City and Liverpool, but they should at least reduce the deficit. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer silenced some of his doubters last season with Utd’s impressive late-season rally, but last year’s cup competitions suggest the jury is still out on whether he’s a natural born winner as a manager.
Key man: Bruno Fernandes
3RD – CHELSEA
Manager: Frank Lampard
Reasons to be cheerful: A statement has been made this summer. Chelsea aren’t happy to be also-rans. After finishing a hefty 15 points adrift of last season’s top two, the Blues look to have the squad to mount a genuine title challenge. With a rebooted squad, Chelsea have all the tools in place to mount a title charge. Now Frank Lampard needs to hit upon the right blend to bring it all together.
Reasons to be fearful: Lampard is still a relative rookie at this level, and his status as a club legend isn’t likely to be enough to save him if the Blues show any signs of standing still following their ambitious summer spending spree. After bringing through plenty of young talent last season, how will Lamps accommodate his new-found star power? He’s got a tricky balancing act ahead to ensure everyone in his dressing room stays happy.
Key man: Timo Werner
2ND – LIVERPOOL
Manager: Jürgen Klopp
Reasons to be cheerful: They’ve finally broken the curse. After waiting almost 30 years to lift a first ever Premier League title, the Reds can return to action safe in the knowledge that demon has been exorcised. Despite finishing 18 points ahead of runners-up Man City, there’s a valid argument that Liverpool didn’t even need to showcase the swagger that led to a 97-point haul in 2018/19. Instead, a ruthless killer instinct propelled their title charge as rivals faltered. What happens if they can combine the two in 2020/21? Records could tumble.
Reasons to be fearful: The Premier League hasn’t always been a happy hunting ground for teams mounting a title defence. The Reds would only be the second team in a decade to lift a second successive title should they repeat last year’s form, with only Man City managing that feat since Fergie retired. Without any extra movement in the transfer window, the Reds could be vulnerable if any of their star men were to fall victim to a long term lay-off. For all their dominance, they got lucky on that front last season. Relying on another clean bill of health throughout 2020/21 could be high risk – particularly with close rivals actively strengthening.
1ST– MAN CITY
Manager: Pep Guardiola
Reasons to be cheerful: The ‘wounded animal’ syndrome. Man City and Pep Guardiola will be fired up to right last season’s wrongs and reclaim the Premier League title. City can still blitz any opponent in the right mood – just look at last season’s 5-0 demolition of the champions – but will need to hit those levels more consistently to bring the title back to the Etihad Stadium. The signing of Nathan Aké also adds strength and Premier League know-how to the City defence.
Reasons to be fearful: It’s not necessarily the easiest of starts for the title chasers, with tough tests against three of last season’s top seven – Wolves, Leicester and Arsenal – in their first four league games. There’s also an early potential banana skin away at revitalised Leeds Utd, while seven games in, there’s the small matter of a clash with Liverpool at the Etihad. It’s set to be a blistering start.
Key man: Kevin De Bruyne
PREDICTED PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE – TOP HALF
- MAN CITY
- MAN UTD
- TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
- LEICESTER CITY