The 2019/20 season was, of course, interupted by the coronavirus pandemic which suspended play for 100 days, finally re-starting in mid-June with Liverpool emerging as champions, ending a 30-year wait for the coveted title.
The 2020/21 season promises to be an intruiging affair, not least due to the uncertainty surrounding fans and whether they will be permitted back into the stadiums. Initially, October 1st had been proposed as a tentative date although this now looks ominous as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced a ruling this week limiting public or private gatherings of over six people. Some may say even that meagre number would generate a better atmosphere than usual at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium but, joking aside, it does suggest that spectator-less games will be the new, or sustained, normal for the immediate future.
The impact of the fans’ absence was more than evident during the post-lockdown play, with several teams clearly struggling to raise their game and motivation levels in cavernous, empty stadia.
Due to the truncated pre-season, it almost seems as if there has been little or no break in play and many teams could potentially carry their momentum from the post-lockdown campaign - good news for some but not for others.
Here we offer a preview of the twenty teams contesting the Premier League for the new season, including final place predictions.
(Please note that this piece was published on the eve of the new season (Sept 11th. The domestic transfer window does not close until October 5th which could have a decisive bearing on a team’s personnel, performance and ultimate finishing position).
The Gunners look like a revitalised team under Mikel Arteta and could prove many doubters wrong this season. Since the former captain’s appointment as manager in January, the team have developed a much needed steely edge and look far more robust than in recent years.
They won the FA Cup and Community Shield against tough opposition in Chelsea and Liverpool respectively and will be confident of carrying this fine form into the new season.
It was clear for all to see that the defence was the achilles heel and Arteta has recruited well by securing the much lauded centre-half Gabriel Magalhaes from Lille for £25 million (B1 billion).
He also has a question as to who occupies the goalkeepers spot; after waiting 10 years for his chance, Emi Martinez took it with both hands after the re-start and looked exceptionally comfortable. Bernd Leno is back fit now and will be challenging Martinez for the gloves.
Willian arrived on a free transfer from London rivals Chelsea and will add much needed craft and experience in midfield. Dani Ceballos, who spent last season on loan from Real Madrid, has extended terms for another year and is a firm favourite of Arteta and his style of play.
Captain fantastic Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the key man, however, and confirmation of him signing a new deal is a huge step forward for the Arteta project.
Prediction: 5th place finish.
The Villians escaped relegation last season by the skin of their teeth and will be hoping that scare isn’t repeated this season.
A lot depends on the future of England international Jack Grealish, a boyhood Villa fan, the captain and the fulcrum of most of what Villa do in an attacking sense. It seems only a matter of time before he moves onto a bigger club although the noises emanating from Villa Park are that he will stay at least one more season.
Elsewhere, Villa desperately need a goalkeeper – Tom Heaton, who was injured on New Year’s Day, will not return until late October and manager Dean Smith isn’t confident in understudy Orjan Nyland.
They also lacked firepower up front last season, an area they have looked to rectify with the signing of Ollie Watkins from Brentford for £28mn this week. It presents somewhat of a gamble but if he can find his feet and the back of the net on a consistent basis then it may prove to be one that pays off.
Prediction: 17th place finish.
Brighton and Hove Albion
Brighton finished last season well and will be confident that after a season of transition under Graham Potter they can deliver a more productive upcoming campaign.
The Seagulls’ most valuable asset is, arguably, their manager. He is an astute practitioner, who navigated a somewhat unconventional route to the top having managed Östersund in Sweden who he took to the top flight via three promotions. They also won the domestic cup and ruffled feathers in the UEFA Europa League where they beat Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
His team play a slick passing, possession based game and are enjoyable to watch. It was always going to be difficult implementing his style immediately and, at times last season, they stuttered. But all good things take time to nuture and it is expected this season the squad will be a lot more comfortable and capable of executing Potter’s vision.
They are strong in defence with Australian goalkeeper Mat Ryan impressing last season and local hero Lewis Dunk a rock at centre half. He will be joined by Ben White who had a hugely impressive campaign in helping Leeds United to the Premier League last season and who is tipped for big things.
Scoring goals was a challenge last season and they will be hoping Neil Maupay can improve on his ten-goal haul this campaign.
Prediction: 11th place finish.
The Clartes go into their fifth successive campaign in the top flight, a fantastic achievement for a club run on a relatively shoe-string budget. They finished 10th last season which was a great success.
Much of the credit for their constant over achievement is down to manager Sean Dyche, the no-nonesense, gruff talking Englishman whose ability to get the very best from a consistently small squad is admirable. The fact players from this squad are regularly poached by bigger clubs only confirms his achievements as all the more impressive.
In goal they have arguably England’s best in Nick Pope who was pipped to the Golden Glove award last season in the very last game by Manchester City’s Ederson. With the European Championships looming at the season’s climax, Pope will be looking to go one better this time around.
In front of him Ben Mee and James Tarkowski are solid and dependable. In winger Dwight McNeil they possess a gem who is capable of opening up a game and who, sadly, is almost certain to be the next player to leave the club.
Prediction: 16th place finish.
This is a huge season for Chelsea. They have spent big and brought some exceptional talent into the squad, of whom a lot will be expected. Many regarded last season as a free-hit for manager Frank Lampard although the pressure will be cranked up significantly this time around.
Having said that, Lampard had an excellent debut campaign in the Stamford Bridge dugout, guiding the team to a fourth place finish and qualification for the Champions League. They also reached the FA Cup Final where they largely outplayed Arsenal but came out second best. It was an impressive bow by their former player.
They have spent £216mn on transfers so far which netted them German stars Kai Havertz and Timo Werner, exciting Morroccan winger Hakim Ziyech and England left-back Ben Chilwell. They also signed Brazilian stalwart Thiago Silva to help stabilise the defence although, aged 35, it will be interesting to see how quickly he adapts to the pace of the Premier League.
It is in the back line where questions still remain as Lampard clearly doesn’t trust Kepa Arrizabalaga, despite him being the world’s most expensive goalkeeper, and there are no signs a replacement is incoming.
The centre-half position also looks slightly vulnerable with no certainty as to who will start out of Kurt Zouma, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger and Fikayo Tomori to partner Silva. Again, the importance and influence of the latter will be key.
However, with the explosive power they have going forward it seems Chelsea will adopt the “attack is the best form of defence” policy and, if nothing else, they should be a hugely entertaining team to watch this season.
Prediction: 3rd place finish.
Despite relatively comfortable mid-table finishes in all of the last four seasons, the feeling is one of slight trepidation amongst most Palace fans heading into this campaign.
There is still talk that talisman Wilfried Zaha could depart for pastures new, having made his intention to leave the club clear for some time now. A lot depends on him and, should he leave before the transfer deadline slams shut in October, Palace could struggle.
They have recruited well in the shape of Eberechi Eze from Queens Park Rangers for £19.5mn, their most expensive signing since 2017. He is a hugely impressive talent who could flourish at the highest level.
As is always the case with most teams, scoring goals is the challange and to expect Jordan Ayew to replicate his handsome return of last season is a tall order. They need reinforcements in this area and the word is former Chelsea loanee Michy Batshuayi is a target.
Manager Roy Hodgson is the league’s elder statesman who, aged 73, does not seem to have any plans to slow down just yet. He came under criticism last year for his unwilligness to take the initiative with substitutions and it will be interesting to see how he and his team fare this time around.
Prediction: 13th place finish.
The Toffees are a bit of an enigma as they go into a campaign that promises so much but could, equally, unravel in spectacular fashion.
In manager Carlo Ancelotti they have one of the game’s greats; he has coached at the highest level and experienced consistent success with the likes of AC Milan, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Napoli and Bayern Munich. To secure his services was a coup for Everton.
On the field they are difficult to read. In Jordan Pickford they possess a goalkeeper who can be exceptional but is hugely erratic and has come under fire on numerous occasions in recent times.
The defence is relatively solid and it was clear to see how much influence a former defender of the calibre of Ancelotti had on Michael Keane who raised his game immeasurably following the Italian’s arrival at the club. Expect youngster Jarrad Branthwaite to also flourish under the wiley Italian’s guidance.
The midfield has had a major make-over with new recruits Allan and Abdoulaye Doucouré expected to add much more bite and dynamism. The “Hollywood” signing, however, is James Rodriguez from Real Madrid, a player whose name was whispered in the same circles as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo following his outsanding exploits at the 2014 World Cup but who somewhat fell from grace in subsequent seasons with Real and Bayern Munich, largely due to injury. He played under Ancelotti at both those teams and it is expected the manager will be able to coax impressive form out of him again and he will be able to provide the creative spark for the promising young England forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Brazilian livewire Richarlison.
Predicition: 7th place finish.
The Cottagers earned an immediate resturn to the top flight courtesy of their underdog play off win against Brentford in August.
It was an impressive achievement for manager and former player Scott Parker in his debut season in the hot-seat. The 39-year-old always displayed a maturity and tactical awareness during his playing days to suggest he would make a fine coach and the fture for him is bright, irrespective of the team’s plight this season.
The squad that takes the field for the season opener against Arsenal tomorrow (Sept 12) is not hugely disimilar to the one that was relegated two years ago. That may be a concern for Fulham fans as the defence looked porous against top-flight opposition and hasn’t seen any major additions since.
However, it would appear the club learned their lessons as the £100mn spending spree folowing promotion last time turned out to be a disaster and they seem unwilling to go down the same route by throwing money at the problem, trusting instead in the coaching talents of Parker.
A lot will depend on striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, the undoubted star of the team. He scored 26 goals in their promotion campaign last season, which followed on the 11 he scored during the team’s relegation in the season previous. The fact he did not leave the club when they dropped down a level won the hearts and respect of the Fulham fans and he has become very much the club’s talisman.
Prediction: 19th place finish (Relegation).
Leeds are widely regarded as one of England’s grand old clubs with a successful, colourful history and a litany of fine players. They were the last team to win the top flight title before it adopted its new monkier of The Premier League in 1992.
However, until storming to promotion last season, they had spent 16 years out of the top flight and suffered badly during that time with unscrupulous owners and some grossly underperforming teams.
Then, in 2018, they managed the unthinkable by securing the services of Marcelo Bielsa.
‘El Loco’ (meaning crazy one or madman) is widely regarded as one of the greatest football brains the game has ever produced. He is idolised by the likes of Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino, amongst others. Unconventional, innovative, visionary, he developed a style of play that revolutioned the game and which is commonly utilised far and wide now in the guise of high pressured, high tempo, aggressive, possession based football.
Bielsa came close to leading Leeds to the promised land in his maiden season but fell to defeat in the play-off semi-final against Derby County.
Many expected he would resign but he returned and led the team to top spot in the Championship, thrilling fans in the process.
It will be interesting to see how Leeds fare back in the big time but the general sentiment is they will perform and more than hold their own. More likely to replicate Sheffield United from last season rather than Norwich City. Only time will tell.
One of Bielsa’s trademarks is his ability to coach and develop players, something he did with Leeds, preferring to concerntrate on developing the talent he had at his disposal as opposed to forking out hefty transfer fees.
One prime beneficiary of this was Kalvin Phillips, seemingly lost and on his way out of the club before Bielsa’s appointment. The latter stated he would make Phillips “the best player in the league” and under the Argentine’s tutelage he is now regarded as one of the finest players in his position, the adoring Leeds faithful labelling him the “Yorkshire Pirlo”.
Whether this squad will have enough quality to adapt to life in the top flight remains to be seen. Likewise it will be interesting to see how new acquisition Rodrigo fares on his return to the bigtime having failed to impress during a 17-game loan spell with Bolton in 2010-11 which yielded just one solitary goal.
But in Bielsa they have a master and now he has a seat at the top table expect fireworks.
Prediction: 12th place finish.
Going into the lockdown period last season, the Foxes were sitting comfortable in third place and odds on for Champions League qualification having had an extremely impressive campaign. Post lockdown, however, things turned for the worst and they ended the season in fifth, still a very respectable achievement but with all connected to the club knowing they had tailed off significantly.
It will be interesting to see how they fare this season and whether they carry any of the post-lockdown hangover into the new campaign.
They have lost their star left-back Ben Chilwell to Chelsea and very much need fresh blood to reinvigorate proceedings. Thus far, however, only Belgian defender Timothy Castagne has arrived from Italian side Atalanta and Leicester fans will be hoping to see more arrivals at the King Power stadium before the transfer window closes.
A lot will once again depend on last season’s Golden Boot winner Jamie Vardy who, despite his advancing years, still has much to offer and speed to burn. Having said that, a new centre forward to complement Vardy’s abiliies would be ideal.
Prediction: 9th place finish.
Champions after a 30-year wait, the Reds looked invincible prior to the lockdown, playing some of the most scintillating football witnessed in recent times. They had effectively won the title by Christmas and can be forgiven for taking their foot off the pedal somewhat post lockdown when motivation was evidently difficult to muster.
Reds fans will be hoping the team can rediscover their imperous form for the new season although there are questions whether Jurgen Klopp’s men can maintain the almost superhuman levels that they consistently reached for the last two seasons.
After years of fluctuating form, Klopp’s remit on taking the hot-seat was to re-establish Liverpool as consistent major players, domestically and in Europe. Within a couple of years they were Champions of Europe, Premier League winners and World Club Champions, not forgetting missing the domestic crown in 2018/19 by a solitary point - the highest total in English top-flight history for a second-placed team.
There is no doubt Klopp will have his team motivated but the psychological demands of repeating their hugely taxing exertions could be the major hurdle.
On the transfer front they have only signed Kostas Tsimikas from Olympiakos thus far and critics express concern that the squad is somewhat on the light side and could be stretched should injuries and suspensions take hold when fixture congestion kicks in.
They are believed to be chasing the signature of Spanish international Thiago Alcântara from Bayern Munich who would be an excellent addition and offer a new angle to the team.
All said and done, however, it is easy to forget exactly how exceptional Liverpool were last season and they will absolutely be towards the top of the tree come season’s end, desperate to extend their dominance and maintain their crown.
Prediction: 2nd place finish.
Like a cornered wild animal, City will be smarting and desperate to take revenge on Liverpool after relinquishing their title to the Merseyside club last season.
The Reds were streets ahead of all the competition and had all but wrapped up the title by the time the festive period rolled around.
City were the closest challengers, albeit 18-points shy, and will be again this season. Expect them to come back with a much revised focus and drive as they plot the Merseysiders’ downfall.
Talk of Lionel Messi, disgruntled at Barcelona, signing on at the Etihad Stadium certainly got people salivating although that won’t be happening, this season at least.
It goes without saying that Messi would improve any team immeasurably but the truth is City have a squad blessed with enough talent to challenge domestically and in Europe.
The latter has become a bit of a bugbear in recent seasons and it remains to be seen whether Pep Guardiola can finally deliver the prize the club’s Middle Eastern owners covet so much. Indeed the fascination of bagging Europe’s top prize could well be the only factor that undermines the club taking back their domestic crown.
In Kevin de Bruyne City possess the league’s outstanding operator – focused, disciplined, hard-working, a master technician comfortable with either foot and with the ability to pass through the eye of a needle. A lot will rest on his shoulders.
A lot is also expected of England youngster Phil Foden who it is anticipated will receive much more game time now David Silva has left the club. A precocious talent, it will be interesting to monitor his continued progress under Guardiola, surrounded by such a plethora of riches.
Signing Nathan Ake from Bournemouth was a shrewd move, despite the rather inflated price tag. A partnership at the heart of the back line with Aymeric Laporte promises much, once the latter is cleared from his COVID-19 quarantine which he entered into this week.
Keeping main hitman Sergio Aguero fit and healthy will be key and reinforcing that area via the signing of Ferran Torres from Valencia was a wise move. Throw Gabriel Jesus into the mix and the goalthreat is obvious, particularly given the exquisite service they wil receive from those behind them.
Domestically City are the team Liverpool fear most and another very close fought campaign is all but a certainty.
Predicition: 1st place finish (Champions).
The Red Devils finished last season in fine form, managing to secure third place and instant Champions League qualification.
Many doubted whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had the managerial experience or acumen required to handle the Manchester juggernaut but he proved, since the turn of the year and post lockdown especially, that he had crafted a balanced team that were only heading in one direction.
The signing of Portuguese international Bruno Fernandes in January was inspired with the midfielder taking to life in the English top-flight like a duck to water. He will undoubtedly be the star man for United this season and it will be interesting to see how his partnership with Paul Pogba in the middle of the field continues to mature.
Add into the mix new £34.7mn signing from Ajax Amsterdam Donny van der Beek and United look exceptionally strong in the midfield area.
Up front, Marcus Rashford is expected to carry on his fine form and, in tandem with Anthony Martial, pose a consistent goal-threat.
Both are natural wingers, however, and have an instinctive tendency to drift back to the touchline so the signing of an out-and-out striker would be a great, and prudent, addition to the squad.
Maybe Mason Greenwood can fill that void after a fantastic breakout season last time around. He received his first call up to the senior England squad recently and will be keen to continue his improvement.
It is at the back, however that United look somewhat compromised. David de Gea has a pretty wretched campaign littered with numerous uncharacteristic blunders and his place came under serious scrutiny towards the end of the campaign. United did recall Dean Henderson from his hugely successful loan-period with Sheffield United and he is expected to exert considerable pressure on de Gea for the number one starting spot, a rivalry that could prove more problematic than healthy.
Harry Maguire has had a summer to forget plagued with arrest, allegations and legal wranglings after a disasterous holiday in Greece and it will be curious to see whether this disrupts his on-field performances. A new addition at centre-half is very much needed, irrespective of Maguire’s plight, as the team looked too vulnerable there on several occasions last season to pose a serious challenge this.
Prediction: 4th place finish.
For the Magpies, the very brief off-season period was dominated by talk of a takeover by a Saudi Arabian consortium who had promised a bottomless pit of resources to help regenerate one of English football’s most iconic clubs.
However, after intense and protracted scrutiny under the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test, the consortium backed out, leaving beleagured Newcastle fans facing yet another season under the tenure of the man they seemingly all love to hate, Mike Ashley.
Ashley’s reign has been well documented and the relationship between him and the fans, and often managers, has gone beyond bursting point. Something has to give soon or else another season or frustration and anger is ahead.
Manager Steve Bruce was not a popular choice upon his appointment last July, derided by a huge portion of the Geordie faithful. However, even the most critical would begrudgingly admit that, under the circustances, he did a fine job. Managing his boyhood club, he always acted with the utmost levels of integrity and often managed to get an average squad to over perform, to the extent that they achieved Ashley’s pre-season target of survival long before the campaign concluded.
However, the team often looked bereft of ideas last season and playing a defensive game on the back-foot is not a style the Newcastle fans identify with.
Record signing Joelinton endured a disasterous campaign, scoring just 2 goals and providing 2 assists in 38 matches. The common law of averages suggests he can only improve this season.
Either alongside him or in place of him will be £20mn signing from Bournemouth Callum Wilson. Despite being ravaged by injury in the past he is a proven goal threat and could provide the remedy in that department that Newcastle have been searching for.
Ryan Fraser also joined from Bournemouth and will add trickery and pace to the frontline attack.
What lies ahead this season is anyone’s guess. What we do know is drama is only a goal-kick away at St. James’ park and fireworks are all but inevitable at some point.
Prediction: 15th place finish.
The Blades had an outstanding season on their return to the big league, surprising pretty much everyone in the process with their style, performances and final placing – even many die-hard United fans themselves.
They finished in 9th place but had occupied the top-six for most of the campaign with aspirations of European qualification. It was only their dire form post lockdown that saw them drop and, even then, all connected with the club would have snatched the hand off anyone offering a top-ten finish at the outset of the campaign.
There is always the fear of “second season syndrome” where a team struggles to hit the giddy heights of their maiden campaign and this could well be a viable threat to the Blades this time around.
One does get the notion though that with manager Chris Wilder at the helm they are in very capable hands and any concept of underperforming is unthinkable.
Manchester United recalling goalkeeper Dean Henderson from his loan spell is a huge loss although Wilder acted quickly and astutely by signing Bournemouth’s highly rated Aaron Ramsdale.
They still need more firepower up-front and are expected to make a signing in that area before the transfer window closes.
They might not quite replicate last season’s heroics but mid-table security would still be a fine achievement for the club.
Prediction: 14th place finish.
Cast your mind back to late October of last season and it seemed almost inevitable that Southampton were destined for the drop and their manager Ralf Hasenhüttl was heading for the chop.
They had just endured an agonising 0-9 defeat at home to Leicester City and the devastated Saints were definitely not marching on.
The board did something rarely witnessed these days where pressure to secure instant results and gratification overshadows prudence and common sense in that they held their nerve and committed to the decision that Hasenhüttl was the man to lead them forward.
Fast forward to July and Hasenhüttl was named manager of the month, the first Austrian to do so, after overseeing an unbeaten month where they dispatched Manchester City, amongst others.
They finished in a comfortable 11th place and will be confident of kicking on this season.
In Danny Ings they have a serious goal-threat; after several career threatening injuries and frustration at Liverpool it was one of sport’s rewarding tales to see him end last season with a 22-goal haul, just one shy of eventual winner Jamie Vardy. Ings’ recall to the England set-up was the icing on the cake for a hugely successful campaign.
Elsewhere Alex McCarthy, James Ward-Prowse and Nathan Redmond flourished under Hasenhüttl’s guidance and look set to continue improving this season.
Che Adams, who struggled so often to find his feet in front of goal, finally started hitting the back of the net post lockdown and promises much this campaign.
Southampton play fine football and could be a surprise package this season.
Prediction: 10th place finish.
All the talk surrounding Spurs during the pre-seaon has been in regards to the Amazon Prime documentary All Or Nothing where cameras were given free reign behond the scenes last season.
Inevitably, it has quickly been dubbed the “Jose Mourinho show” as the flamboyant Portuguese manager quickly grabbed the spotlight, held on tight and dominated the narrative.
This is very much the state of affairs at Tottenham, and indeed any other club the larger-than-life boss has plied his trade, where the self-apointed “special one” absolutely takes centre-stage.
Despite a hugely successful managerial career, critics now deride Mourinho’s style and approach as out-dated, particularly when compared to thre more progressive and innovative thinkings of the likes of Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Marcello Bielsa. He is more suited to the languid pace of a Serie A in Italy than the hustle and bustle of the Premier League.
But Mourinho has a desire to win deep etched in his soul and has a knack of finding the way to do exactly that.
The defensive side of the squad has concerns going into the new campaign where the likes of Serge Aurier, Toby Alderweireld and Juan Foyth have often flattered to deceive. New signing from Wolves Matt Doherty will address that in-part by offering much in defence and venturing forward. He could prove to be one of the signings of the season.
The midfield is strong with the likes of Harry Winks, Giovanni Lo Celso and Dele Alli offering craft, complemented by dynamism and discipline in the form of new signing from Southampton Pierre-Emile Højbjerg.
Up-front Harry Kane will burden most of the team’s responsibility although, should he get injured, back-up is limited. Son Heung-min has stood in capably in the past but his best work is done from a wider position. A second centre-forward is a must, especially as Spurs have an extremely congested fixture list contesting competition domestically and in Europe.
Whatever happens expect Mourinho to be at the heart of it.
Prediction: 8th place finish.
West Bromwich Albion
The Baggies ended their two-year exile from the top-flight last season by securing promotion from the Championship in second spot behind Leeds. Survival will very much be the aim for Slaven Bilic’s side this season although it promises to be a tough ask.
Their form post-lockdown was dire and they almost let the automatic promotion place slip at the last minute.
Scoring was an issue for the team last season with no player registering more than 10 goals. Given defences in the Premier League are even more miserly, this is an area that needs to be addressed if they are to stand any chance of achieveing their objective.
Matheus Pereira and Grady Diangana have signed on permanent deals after the duo played key roles in last season’s promotion whilst on loan but nobody else of note has yet entered through The Hawthorns doors.
They will scrap for their lives but expect a very tough campaign ahead.
Prediction: 20th place finish (Relegation).
West Ham United
The natives are restless at The London Stadium.
It seems the aforementioned Amazon Prime series All Or Nothing chose the wrong clubs when they opted to follow the behind the scenes goings on at Manchester City and Spurs. If you ever wanted drama, real drama that would make for a compelling TV soap opera then head no further than the London Stadium and West Ham United.
Under their wildly unpopular owners, The Hammers have been airing their dirty linen in public for years now with well documented spats between players and owners, players and fans, fans and owners, owners and owners regularly making the headlines.
Last week they allowed their academy graduate Grady Diangana to make his loan move at West Brom last season a permanent affair which not only outraged fans but saw club captain Mark Noble weigh in with a Tweet stating he was “gutted, angry and sad that Grady has left.”
Manager David Moyes has his work cut out trying to deflect the players attention from the off-field shennanigans to matters on the pitch and a quite a limited playing personnel to work with.
Declan Rice is their jewel in the crown and Irons fans will be desperately hoping he is still playing in caret and blue come October 6th. Chelsea, amongst others, have expressed interest and are circling with intent.
In attack, Michail Antonio offers a threat with raw power and pace, Ukrainan winger Andriy Yarmolenko can be dangerous when fit although Brazilian schemer Felipe Anderson very much went off the boil last season and record signing Sébastien Haller endured a miserable campaign last time around with a poor return of 7 goals in 32 matches.
Each season there is always one team that, having been relatively comfortable for many years, suddenly gets pulled into the relegation quagmire. This season it could well be West Ham’s turn.
Prediction: 18th place finish (Relegation).
The post-season may have offered far less time than usual for teams to recuperate, strategise, etc but spare a thought for Wolves whose season only finished five weeks ago due to their Europa League involvement. Given that their campaign started in July 2019, lasted over a year and they still managed to secure 7th place in the table in only their second season back in the top league is quite remarkable.
They were a revelation last season, most people’s “favourite second team” to follow and watch, playing some hugely enthralling, high-octane football. Their squad was small but possessed a solid back line, tidy midfield, lethal striker in Raul Jimenez and a not-so-secret weapon in the form of Adama Traore as supersub from the bench.
Despite the surprise sale of their longest serving player Matt Doherty to Spurs, they have managed to maintain the bulk of the squad and have added the club-record signing of 18-year-old Fabio Silva from Porto who may be one for the future although will almost certainly get sporadic game time this campaign.
Nuno Espirito Santo has proven himself to be an outstanding coach and has been touted for a move to a bigger club.
However, he seems fully vested for now in the Wolves project and this season should well witness a similar campaign to last with a top-ten finish and possibly an extended cup run.
Prediction: 6th place finish.