The fans are back. The grounds are full again. The teams have been spending. Some more than others. Some way more than others. Football is back. It’s not been away long, what with the Euros and how close England came, but football is back.
The new season is here.
The 2021/22 Premier League season sees new hope, new ambitions, new expectations, and of course – new disappointments too. That is one of the joys of football. It doesn’t go as expected all the time. So why, have I this year of all years decided to do my season predictions? Well, why not? But if you want a more in-depth reason – I think there is so much to play for this year. The top six of old are more fragmented. You have a top 10 or 11 that are more than likely stay in that top half. You have the newness that the promoted sides brings and you have the inevitable decay and rot of some teams on the slide before they hover over the drop zone hoping to stay out of trouble.
Let’s see those predictions then!
Here I have listed teams in the order that I think they will finish. There is very little science or background to this – just on observations and more likely some dodgy spelling of some of the names. So, here we go… enjoy! Last season’s positions are in brackets.
1 Chelsea (4) are Champions League winners and European Super Cup winners. They scraped into fourth place on the last day of the season despite losing at Villa Park. One significant area where they have improved is by upgrading Giroud from the bench and bringing back Lukaku. His strength and power will get a bag full of goals, and even more if they can serve him well. Werner and Abraham are nowhere near as good as Lukaku and Chelsea should see them challenging for the top slot if they get their gameplay right. They won’t want to be 19 points Manchester City again by the end of the season like they were last year. Lukaku will make sure they’re not!
2 Manchester City (1) must be the many people’s favourites to win back to back Premier League titles. They have got a brilliant squad already and whilst they’ve lost Aguero, they’ve added £100 million man Jack Grealish which is going to boost their many attacking options. Their transfer business may not be over yet either – certainly if they can float enough pound notes in front of Tottenham’s chairman. Their primary target is still going to be the Champions League but they will still dominate this league unless one of the other contenders narrow the gap – and oddly enough, that is what I think will happen with their equally rich rivals from West London.
3 Liverpool (3) were very unlucky last season with injuries, especially in the centre back position. Not many clubs would have still managed to complete the season with just 9 league match losses with the problems they had at the back. By dropping midfielders into their defence, they weakened their midfield which diluted their attack. Yet they still ended up with the third best goal difference last season, and only the two Manchester clubs lost fewer league games. They’ve not been too active in the transfer market, only bringing in centre back Konate from Leipzig which strengthens that area should they have problems there again. The reds should be a lot more like their normal selves this year. Whether they have enough to challenge for the title, I don’t know, but they will certainly be lifted by the crowds being back in grounds.
4 Manchester United (2) in my eyes were under the radar a bit last season. All the talk was how Liverpool had dropped off the pace from the previous year, but that doesn’t give United the credit they deserved for their continued improvement under their manager. There were off the field issues with fan protests against the owners and it will be interesting to see how that continues now that full stadia are back. They got one match postponed last season due to their disruption. What will happen this year? On the pitch, you have to say that the capture of Jadon Sancho is a great one. He is a talent and one that many won’t have had the chance to see much of. A front line of riches with Rashford, Martial, Greenwood, Sancho, and Cavani with Pogba and Fernandes behind them is going to have a lot of opportunities for goals this season. I tip them to be second top scorers behind City this season again.
5th to 7th
5 Leicester (5) are an outstanding football club and a model for many other teams. They seem to be going from strength to strength over recent years and their team is getting stronger with additions such as Bertrand into their squad. I would say that Leicester would want to build on their FA Cup success last season to push the higher teams more. A Europa League campaign brings many more games so I hope their squad depth is able to cope with injuries. This is the one area that Leicester are a step or two behind those above them.
6 Aston Villa (11) have lost their captain, their talismanic go-to man, but in losing the most expensive English player in the Premier League, they’ve managed to strengthen the side greatly and are not so much a one man team that some have said in the past. So, post Jack Grealish, what do the Villa team look like now? Leon Bailey who had lit up the Bundesliga, Danny Ings one of the Premier League’s top scorers over the last few years, and Argentinian wizard Emi Buendia have been brought in. The CEO wanted to bring in multiple players to have many threats to add to their already decent forward line and these are three players that are going to give Villa a multi angled attack and less predictable at times. At Ollie Watkins in to that mix and you’ve got an enviable forward line. Ashley Young has returned to the club too and he is looking really fit and ready to go again. I would expect a central midfielder to come in during this transfer window too to add a little strength and depth. I’m hoping my own club bias isn’t being too optimistic here!
7 Tottenham (7) have been a troubled club that people are talking about for the last few months. Finally after two months, they had a new manager – Nuno Espirito Santo, formerly of Wolves. The ‘will he, won’t he’ saga of Harry Kane’s possible transfer has overshadowed what should be a great building point for the club. They haven’t strengthened too much in the squad and I think that if they can keep Kane, they will still be in the top third of the table but the longer the transfer window goes on, it makes it harder to get replacements at the right price if Kane goes. The new manager could do without this distraction, but when the season starts he will be wanting that first game against Manchester City out of the way pretty quickly!
8th to 11th – comfortably midtable
8 West Ham (6) surprised many last season. Their 6th place finish was a massive improvement from their previous year. The two Czech lads Coufal and Soucek have been big favourites, along with England international Declan Rice, they are a talented and very able team. You wouldn’t be surprised if West Ham troubled any side in the league, but also, you wouldn’t be surprised if they had a shocker at times too. Moyes has made great improvements on the pitch, and they are in the Europa League this season because of this. I am not sure on the depth of their squad with the increased number of games, similar to Leicester – but that is a nice problem to be in. The passionate supporters being back in the ground can be a big lift and they will love the European nights once again. I feel their league position won’t be as high next season though as they’ve not been too active as other teams.
9 Leeds (9) were definitely a great spectacle last season. Their energy, intensity, and fire with the finishing of Bamford saw them surprise many people. A 9th place finish last year winning 18 was a really good performance and whilst we have seen promoted sides have great first seasons they’ve often been followed by a not so good second season (Sheff United, Wolves, amongst others). This Leeds side doesn’t show any sign in that happening. Their extremely vocal support will be a massive boost for their style of play. There will be a few sides above them that are looking over their shoulders at the West Yorkshire giants. In the transfer market, they’ve opted for quality with Junior Firpo and seen some of the older guard move on. I still think they are a few players short of a challenge for the European slots, but that won’t be too long before Leeds see this as an achievable target.
10 Arsenal (8) – oh dear. I fear for them. Is their manager the right man for the job? Arteta seems to have a big problem on his hands. Yes, they’ve signed Ben White, Lokonga and Tavares, but they’ve lost Luiz, Guendouzi, Caballos, Mat Ryan, Odegaard – but they have retained Emile Smith Rowe despite the interests of Aston Villa. I don’t think that Arsenal have got the fight in them that they had in their heyday. I would suspect that Arteta won’t be the manager by the end of the season and that Arsenal are looking at a mid-table finish again.
11 Everton (10) have a new manager, and he is most famous for being an ex-Liverpool manager. Rafa Benitez knows football and he knows the Premier League. He is a great manager and will get the best out of any side he is involved in. Whether the fans let him do his job is a different thing. A few losses and he is going to feel their frustration. He’s been there before though and he just gets on with his job. On the pitch last season, Everton were good for over half of the season then dropped off a bit. They weren’t far from the European slots for quite a chunk of the season. I do wonder on their depth again. They’ve replaced Bernard and Walcott with Andros Townshend and Demarai Gray. I would say that these are upgrades, but not the levels of upgrades the fans would have wanted. Have they enough to keep ground with those other mid-table teams? I don’t think so, but Rafa can do surprising things.
12th to 17th – Looking over their shoulders
12 Wolves (13) lost their manager. They’ve lost their goalkeeper. They look a little bit lost at the moment too. The loyal Wolves fans will be getting on their back if they don’t make a good start. They have enjoyed being back in the Premier League and are a useful side on their day. Last season they didn’t have as many of those days as they’d like though, only winning 12 league games all season. Similar to Newcastle, and an identical record last year, they need those three or four signings to come in and make a difference early on or they may be looking down more than looking up.
13 Brighton (16) are £50m richer with the sale of Ben White but will they buy sufficient quality to a) replace him and b) build on from their respectable defensive season last year. That may sound crazy with them finishing two places above the relegation zone, but their goal difference was -6 which was 12th best in the league. With a stronger attacking force, they could push on for midtable. They really should be aiming for the likes of Wolves, Newcastle, Palace and the likes above them. Graham Potter is a respected coach and manager and hopefully he will have the right players lined up in place to help move up the table.
14 Burnley (17) were one place above the drop zone. They’ve not really made many changes to their squad. Wayne Hennessey has come in from Palace to sit on the bench. Their style of play is one that isn’t always an attractive one, but is quite often effective against certain teams. They don’t lie down against teams. They want to play football but I do fear their general quality level is that of high Championship level rather than mid-table Premier League which is where they’d much rather be. This may be a tough year for Sean Dyche unless some more money gets spent. I think they will be grateful that there will be worse sides than them in the league.
15 Norwich City (Ch 1) have become a bit of a yo-yo club in the last few years, promotion, relegation, promotion, and then they are hoping to buck that trend now. Whilst they lost Emi Buendia to Villa, they have been busy recruiting Tzolis and Rashica from overseas and also Billy Gilmour on loan from Chelsea. Norwich deserve to do better this year than their last season in the Premier League. Let’s hope they are stronger and wiser from the experience. If they can keep players such as Todd Cantwell then they will go into the season knowing they have the ability to do ok. Let’s not forget they had a few shock results when they were last in the Premier League, including beating Manchester City.
16 Southampton (15) are a few players short of where they’d like to be, I’m sure. They’ve lost Danny Ings to Villa and his goals will be missed. They are looking at another couple of
exits too which they will need to replace with equally good additions if they’re going to avoid the drop. Will they manage to retain James Ward Prowse too? It must be hard to be a Saints fan right now to see these exits and not enough exciting new signings. They were 14 points above the drop last season but on 43 points, that isn’t too far from relegation in other seasons.
17 Newcastle United (12) relied greatly on Willock for their goals at the end of last season, scoring 7 times at the back end of last year. Will his transfer from Arsenal be completed? Do they need to strengthen elsewhere in the squad? They at the time of writing have made no signings, and still look weak in comparison to those around them. Newcastle are a great club and their fans demand success but they aren’t being listened to by their owner Mike Ashley. I do fear that unless three or four signings come in that Newcastle may be nearer the drop zone that they’d like. No club is too big to go down.
18th to 20th – Bye bye. See you again hopefully.
18 Brentford (Ch 3) have been knocking on the door of promotion to the Premier League for the last few years. They’ve produced so many good players and have a fantastic return on them in the transfer market too. Their latest side won their play off final bringing them the prize of their first season in the Premier League. They won’t be scared. They won’t be put off. They will be excited and they will be happy to be here. They also won’t just be here to make up the numbers either. They have some exciting players and promoted sides with good players are often a surprise for some more established sides. The Bees will be wanting to get some early points on the board to give them confidence. I do fear they will have a difficult end of season though, but will they be in the bottom three? Possibly. Possibly not.
19 Crystal Palace (14) have Patrick Vierra in charge now after Roy Hodgson’s retirement. He will demand good quality performances. He has let a number of players go – Townshend, Cahill, Dann, McCarthy, Clyne, Hennessey, Van Aanholt amongst others. Olise from Reading is a good addition but there haven’t been that many others come in so far. Will the squad depth be enough for a tough season and a first one as manager of a Premier League club? Vierra has a big job ahead of him. I fear it is too big to turn this around without spending heavily.
20 Watford (Ch 2) have added Danny Rose and Josh King to their side for their first season back in the Premier League. Their squad still looks weak and inexperienced compared to many though, and whilst I wish all the clubs luck in their season back in the big league, I do fear that they won’t have the consistency and strength in numbers against some pretty brutal sides at times. I think we will be seeing a quick return to the Championship for the Hornets.
It’s all guess work. Nobody knows. So instead we have all season to watch and wonder what is going to happen. Happy to discuss pleasantly my predictions but don’t be abusive – life’s too rich to bring the mood down with that emotion. Enjoy the football. Good luck everyone, unless you’re playing Villa! 🙂