It feels as though we have barely closed the curtain on the 2019/20 season, but the 2020/21 season is just getting started, and it looks set to be a good one. With club record transfers, three strong newly-promoted sides, and rejuvenated title hopes, who knows what this season will have in store. I have analysed each of the 20 teams and their hopes for the upcoming season. Read on for an insight into the first ten teams (alphabetical, no favouritism!) and look out for part two – coming soon!
Last season: 8th in PL, FA Cup winners
Following a shaky start to last season and the departure of Unai Emery in November, Arsenal will be hoping to make a stronger start to season 20/21 and are in good form going into the opening weekend. An opening fixture against newly promoted Fulham is, on paper, a fixture the North London club should be winning, and manager Mikel Arteta will no doubt be expecting to make a winning start to his first full season in charge. With youngsters Bukayo Saka and Reiss Nelson breaking into the first team towards the end of last season. Arteta will be looking for the perfect balance between youth and experience as he mounts a top-four challenge.
Following last season’s FA Cup win and having clinched this season’s Community Shield in a penalty shootout victory over last season’s league winners, Liverpool, Arteta will be looking to add more silverware to the trophy cabinet. Arsenal are the most successful FA Cup team in history and adding another FA Cup title this season is a realistic goal for the Gunners.
Last season: 17th in PL, League Cup runners up
A nail-biting final day to the season will be something Aston Villa won’t want a repeat of any time soon. With Villa in 19th place prior to the EPL’s coronavirus break, they looked set to return to the championship having only been promoted the previous season. Luck seemed to be on their side, however, during their first game back after the break, a draw against Europe-hunting Sheffield United. Hawk-Eye’s first technological failure since its introduction in 2013 denying Sheffield United a clear goal, gifting Villa a vital point.
It was not just luck that pulled Villa through, however, with some stunning results seeing them leapfrog Bournemouth and Watford to finish in 17th and avoid relegation. Reinforcement will be required to ensure a more comfortable end to the season this year. With goalkeeper Tom Heaton out until at least October with a ligament injury, and Orjan Nyland’s unconvincing performances in his absence, a new, trustworthy number one should be top of Dean Smith’s shopping list.
Last season: 15th in PL
Manager Graham Potter’s debut season in charge could be deemed a success following their comfortable survival. A shaky start to the season and a difficulty with scoring goals led Brighton fans to fear relegation early on however a good run of form since the coronavirus restart should give players and supporters alike confidence for the upcoming season.
Captain and centre-back Lewis Dunk recently ended speculation about his future by signing a new five-year deal, and, despite conceding 11 goals in three home matches against Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United, Brighton’s defence was key to their safety last season and they will hope for a similar result this season. Adding more goals will be key to their survival this year. Neal Maupay and Aaron Connelly will hope to improve their tallies from last season (10 and 5, respectively) and the addition of Adam Lallana to Brighton’s midfield could provide the vital link between the midfield and attack. Safety seems likely for Brighton this season, and their squad will be hoping for a higher finish than last season’s 15th .
Last season: 10th in PL
There is an air of tension around Burnley and their supporters heading into the season with manager Sean Dyche seemingly unhappy at the board’s unwillingness to spend big to replace star players as they move on from the east Lancashire club. With centre-back James Tarkowski, statistically the Premier League’s best defender last season, rumoured to be moving to West Ham, questions are beginning to arise about how Burnley would fare without their key player and whether their usual recruitment and replacement tactic of turning to the Championship would work this time around.
Operating on what is realistically a Championship budget, Burnley have successfully avoided relegation in each of their four seasons in the Premier League since their promotion from the Championship, with a particularly successful 2017/18 season where they finished in 7th and entered the Europa League. Their success has been largely down to their underrated manager, who’s eight-year reign at the club shows no sign of coming to an end. Should Dyche manage to keep Tarkowski, he will have tight-knit group of players that look capable of another mid-table finish. Tarkowski’s departure would risk derailing the enterprise built by Dyche and may well see them spiralling down the table. This season appears to be on a knife edge for Burnley, with their transfer activity holding the key to their success.
Last season: 4th in PL
Chelsea fans will be expecting big things this season. They have improved in all outfield positions, adding strength and depth, and will be hoping to challenge Liverpool and Manchester City for the title this season. The addition of Ben Chilwell should solve Chelsea’s left-back problem but it remains to be seen whether 36-year-old Thiago Silva can cope with the pace of the Premier League and fix the club’s issues at centre-back. Further forward, manager Frank Lampard has a plethora of talent with new signings Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz adding to an already strong forward line. Lampard will be hoping for the right balance between defence and attack, something he appeared to struggle with last season.
Whilst a title charge looks plausible, securing top four and a good European run may be a more realistic goal for the London side. Chelsea need time to grow and develop as a team, and for their new signings to align with Lampard’s goal and tactics. This season may well prove to be all about building and consolidating, with a 2021/22 title push in mind.
Last season: 14th in PL
This season looks to be a difficult one for Palace’s aging side. Star player Wilfred Zaha appears determined to leave the club for a second time, leaving a gaping hole in Palace’s attack that they will be determined to fill. The signing of young QPR striker Eberechi Eze may help, however further attacking options are needed to challenge Jordan Ayew up front.
As manager Roy Hodgson enters his 45th season in management, questions will continue to be asked about how much longer he can continue in management. He will hope to add youth to what is one of the oldest squads in the league, and Hodgson’s summer signings will likely make or break the season. A Zaha replacement and further reinforcement upfront should see Palace remain in the league for another season.
Last season: 12th in PL
Everton ended last season poorly, looking bereft of quality and ideas, however their work in the transfer window so far looks set to change their fortunes. Manager Carlo Ancelotti has used his contacts well in the signings of 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez and Napoli’s Allan, whilst Watford’s Abdoulaye Doucoure has also put pen to paper on the blue side of Merseyside. Ancelotti will hope that his new signings will inject leadership, personality, and flare, all of which Everton were lacking last season. He may also look to add another goalkeeper to challenge error-prone Jordan Pickford and will hope to see more goals across the squad in the coming season, whether that be from the new signings or from Moise Kean, Alex Iwobi, or Bernard, all of whom struggled to find the net last term.
A top-four challenge looks unlikely however Evertonians will hope that their new additions will have them challenging for a Europa League place. They will also hope to add some silverware in an attempt to close the gap between themselves and their Merseyside rivals, Liverpool.
Last season: 4th in Championship
Newly promoted Fulham will hope for a better return to the Premier League than their previous – a disastrous 2018/19 season that saw £100 million pounds spent, and three different managers by the time March came. The man appointed in February 2019, Scott Parker, is the one who led them to play-off glory last season, and who will be aiming to keep them in the Premier League this year.
Their approach in the transfer window this summer has been vastly different to that of two years ago. This time around, Fulham are looking for players who will fit seamlessly into Parker’s system and who are willing to work hard for the cause. They aren’t spending big and are instead spending wisely, with the prime example being the £1.9 million signing of Antonee Robinson who will add strength and depth at left-back. On paper, Fulham look like a team who will struggle to stay up. Parker will need his team to work hard and work together. The hopes of survival rest on the shoulders of star striker Aleksander Mitrovic who will hope to continue his fine form of last season and steer his team clear of a likely relegation battle.
Last season: 1st in Championship
Leeds are likely to be the highest finishers of the three promoted teams, with one of football’s greatest tacticians, Marcelo Bielsa, at the helm. Whilst brilliance can be seen off the pitch at Leeds, it remains to be seen whether the same will be able to be said for on the pitch. On paper, Leeds do not have the squad to compete in the Premier League, however the same was said last season of their ability to perform in the Championship and a title win proved the doubters wrong. They will be hoping for similar performances this season with the most expensive signing in the history of the club, Rodrigo, looking to hit the ground running, although with an opening fixture against last season’s Premier League champions, Liverpool, it is a tough ask.
Whilst Leeds may not have a team of superstars set to blow the league away, they do have talent and consistency across the field with Scot Liam Cooper captaining the team from defence and England first-team newbie Kalvin Phillips sitting in defensive midfield. Leeds will need every member of their squad to rise to the challenge of the Premier League and will need hard work and consistency. Bielsa has talent in his squad and will be hoping for a mid-table finish, no doubt with a few giant-killing shocks thrown in for good measure. The opening weekend will be a nervy one for Liverpool fans as Leeds hope to mark their return to the Premier League in style.
Last season: 5th in PL
Last season was a rollercoaster ride for Leicester fans. A strong start to the season led many to believe they could challenge Manchester City and Liverpool for the title, however a run of 4 wins from 17 in the second half of the season ended their title hopes and saw them slip out of the top four. They will be hoping for more consistency this season. Greater squad depth could be the key to this consistency, with a right winger and centre-back top of manager Brendan Rodgers’ shopping list. They may also look to the market for a new striker, despite 2019/20 Golden Boot winner, Jamie Vardy, signing a new three-year deal over the summer. Vardy isn’t getting any younger, and the difference in class between himself and back-up striker Kelechi Iheanacho is clear to see, despite his improvement towards the end of the season. A powerful centre forward to challenge Vardy for the number 9 role would be a sensible signing by Rodgers.
There is no doubt that Leicester’s squad is filled with talent and character, and the Foxes will be hoping for another push for a top-four finish this season. Leicester fans will also hope for a good Europa League campaign, with their squad capable of challenging in the latter stages. Squad depth will be key to challenging in both the league and in Europe, and The Foxes’ activity in the transfer market will be vital to success this season.