With the start of the 2020/21 English Premier League season just getting started, you may be wondering what to expect in the upcoming season. Read on for a brief overview and analysis of each team, alphabetically from Liverpool to Wolves. For Part 1 featuring Arsenal to Leicester, click here.
Last season: 1st in PL
Liverpool fans were left wondering whether the 30-year wait for a league title would ever end when Covid-19 halted the season in March, with Liverpool within touching distance of the crown. They didn’t have to wait long following the restart, however, with the Reds wrapping up the league with a record seven games to spare. Fans will be hoping for a similar outcome and margin of victory this season however, with Manchester City strengthening in key areas and both Manchester United and Chelsea looking to be title challengers this season, competition for the top prize will be fierce.
Squad depth will be key to Liverpool’s success this season and is something manager Jurgen Klopp has already began to address with his first signing of the summer: Greek left-back Kostas Tsimikas who will provide adequate cover for Scot Andy Robertson and allow the tireless runner a few well-deserved rests. Further signings look unlikely with improvement to depth likely to come from within. Youngsters Harvey Elliot, Rhian Brewster, Neco Williams and Curtis Jones all impressed in pre-season, with the latter two hoping to seal a place in the first-team squad after their introduction following the Coronavirus break. It is likely to be a tougher season than last for Liverpool who will be hoping to add more silverware to the trophy cabinet. Nothing less than a successful title challenge and progression into the latter stages of the Champions League will satisfy the Reds.
Last season: 2nd in PL, League Cup Winners
Last season was a disappointing one for City, with the Manchester club failing to progress beyond the quarter final of the Champions League for the fourth successive season and finishing 18 points behind champions Liverpool. Manager Pep Guardiola will be hoping for greater success this season in what may prove to be his final at the club, with the Spaniard’s contract expiring in Summer 2021.
Summer signings show intent to shore up the gaps that caused the greatest problems last season. Nathan Ake will hope to strengthen a defence that seemed lost without City legend Vincent Kompany following his departure at the end of the 18/19 season, whilst Valencia’s Ferran Torres will provide strength in attack. The success in finding a replacement for veteran talent David Silva following his move to Real Sociedad this summer may make or break City’s season but, in Englishman Phil Foden, they appear to have a ready-made replacement. His form following the Coronavirus restart excited City fans and he showed signs of a readiness to shine. Foden’s success will have great impact on the fortunes of City this season, and they will hope to win back their title and push for the Champions League win that continually alludes them.
Last season: 3rd in PL
Despite finishing 33 points behind champions Liverpool and 15 behind rivals Manchester City in second, last season can be deemed a success for Ole Gunnar Solskaer’s side with a rise of three places from the previous season and a return to the Champions League. Much of last season’s success was down to the January signing of Bruno Fernandes who will be hoping to continue his fine form into the upcoming season. United’s scouts will be hoping for a similar impact from their summer signing, Ajax’s Donny van de Beek, and are hoping to secure the £100 million signing of English starlet Jadon Sancho to bolster their attack. Fans have been left questioning whether this would be money well spent, with their problem area of defence untouched by transfer activity.
Solskaer’s greatest issue lies behind the defence, however, with the return of goalkeeper Dean Henderson from his Sheffield United loan spell bringing long-serving David De Gea’s starting place into question. Englishman Henderson hit the headlines last season with his solid performances which were in complete contrast to the often disastrous goalkeeping witnessed at Old Trafford. Deputising Henderson in goal seems the wise choice however with three years remaining on De Gea’s big money contract, United may wish to get their money’s worth and hold out hope for a return to greatness for the Spaniard. Much of Manchester United’s success may rest on their goalkeeping choice this season, and with the fans hoping to put an end to the success of rivals Manchester City and Liverpool the pressure is on.
Last season: 13th in PL
This season should have been one of promise and change for the Magpies with the club apparently set for a Saudi takeover to end the joyless reign of Mike Ashley. This deal fell through and, for now, Ashley’s 13-year tenure continues, and fans will be hoping for a better performance on the pitch than has been seen off it.
Recruitment has been strong this summer with manager Steve Bruce addressing last season’s goal-scoring issue through the signings of Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser who will be hoping to make a strong start to their time on Tyneside. The problem-area of left-back also appears to have been solved with the signing of highly rated Norwich full-back Jamal Lewis. Bruce is spending and spending wisely.
Despite the new faces, Newcastle look set for a difficult start to the season with goalkeeper Martin Dubravka out for a minimum of six weeks. The Magpies will be hoping their goalkeeping absence doesn’t hinder them too greatly and will hope their new signings can make the desired impact and allow for a comfortable mid-table finish.
Last season: 9th in PL
Sheffield United were last season’s surprise package. Many predicted a swift return to the Championship for the Blades but Chris Wilder’s side defied the odds and finished comfortably in the top half. Much of their success was down to their strong and consistent defence who found the perfect balance between defence and attack through their flexible back three/five. With goalkeeper Dean Henderson ending his loan spell andnreturning to Manchester United, Wilder has turned to Bournemouth’s Aaron Ramsdale to fill the gap and the Blades will be hoping he can continue his solid form last season and help maintain United’s excellent defensive record.
Further forward, goal-scoring opportunities were few and far between. Wilder’s team focussed on the quality rather than the quantity of attacks which relied heavily on clinical finishing which wasn’t always apparent. Sheffield United have added West Brom’s Oliver Burke to their ranks and will hope he can form a free-scoring partnership with fellow Scot Oli McBurnie that can ease the pressure and reliance on aging Billy Sharp. The Blades will be hoping for another comfortable mid-table finish this season, and it would be surprising if European nights at Bramall Lane were witnessed in the coming years.
Last season: 11th in PL
Last season was a real rollercoaster ride for the Saints. Following a 9-0 defeat from Leicester in October, it looked to all as though manager Ralph Hasenhuttl would be headed for the door. The Southampton board stuck with the Austrian and their gamble paid off with a reshuffle of tactics and personnel leading the Saints out of what looked like a likely relegation battle, to a comfortable mid-table finish with only one loss in their final nine matches. Striker Danny Ings appeared revitalised and ended the season with 22 goals, only one behind golden boot winner and fellow countryman Jamie Vardy. There is no doubt that the form of Danny Ings will be key to Southampton’s successes this season, as they hope for another mid-table finish.
Southampton will hope to start this season as they ended the last and are looking to their academy for further reinforcement. Hasenhuttl made the most of the coronavirus break, developing a Southampton playbook which he will hope to use to bridge the gap between the academy and the first team. The Saints have history of talented academy players and will hope for further breakthroughs this season.
Last season: 6th in PL
Spurs fans will no doubt be intrigued as to what Jose Mourinho’s first full season in charge will bring and will be hoping to blow the cobwebs off the trophy cabinet. Last season was one of disappointment for Tottenham, with a poor start to the season leaving the gap between themselves and the desired Champions League places impossible to narrow. They will hope for better this season and with September’s favourable fixtures against clubs they finished above last season, a winning start is a must.
There is work to be done at Spurs and Mourinho has moved quickly to start building the squad he wants. Summer signings Matt Doherty, Joe Hart, and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg all have Premier League experience and will be ready to hit the ground running come September 13. Mourinho will also look to get the best out of what he already has, and with players such as Harry Kane, Dele Alli, and Son Heung-Min on the books, he has a squad capable of challenging at the top. Mourinho is a serial winner and anything less than a top-four finish and a piece of silverware will be deemed a failure. The pressure is on for the North London club.
West Bromwich Albion
Last season: 2nd in Championship
Promotion to the Premier League perhaps wasn’t as easy as it should’ve been for West Brom. They were in pole position to win the league and secure the top promotion spot following the Coronavirus restart but the pressure took its toll and, with only one win required, the Baggies failed to win any of their last four games, with a final day draw enough to grant them promotion due to results elsewhere going in their favour. Manager Slavan Bilic will be hoping his team can hold their nerve as they return to the top division for the first time since 2017/18.
West Brom will look to bolster their attack to help their chances of staying up this season but with a limited budget, a quality striker looks hard to come by. They have strengthened in other areas of the park, however, with both Callum Robinson and Matheus Pereira turning their loan spells at West Brom last season into permanent transfers. Bilic will hope to add more quality to his team before the end of the transfer window, particularly in defence. The signing of Wigan’s Cedric Kipre, once of Motherwell, is a strong start but further reinforcement is required if West Brom are to stand any chance of staying up this season.
West Ham United
Last season: 16th in PL
West Ham will be hoping to avoid a relegation battle as manager David Moyes enters his first full season as boss, in what is his second stint at the London club. Fans will be hoping that the form they witnessed following the coronavirus break can continue into this season with a run of one loss in their final seven games steering them clear of the relegation zone and ensuring Moyes would be in the dressing room come September.
It certainly won’t be an easy ride for Scot Moyes. He will hope to hold on to key players Michail Antonio and Declan Rice, both of whom shone following the coronavirus break, particularly since it appears funds are limited. Rumours of unrest between the board and the players only adds to the difficulty and uniting the squad will be key to West Ham’s Premier League survival. In an ideal world, the Hammers would be challenging for a European place however that may prove a step too far and a lower-to-mid table finish is more likely.
Last season: 7th in PL
Last season was another successful one from Wolves, albeit a long one, with games spanning the duration of 15 months due to Europa League qualifiers and the coronavirus resulting in a ‘World Cup style’ Europa League tournament in August. It was expected that Wolves’ small squad would struggle to cope with the demands of European competition alongside the Premier League, but they defined expectations and maintained their good form throughout the season despite fixture congestion. Fans will hope that their momentum can continue and will once again be aiming for a league place that will guarantee them European football the following season.
Squad depth will continue to be a question on the lips of fans and the media alike, especially following the departure of long-serving Matt Doherty to Spurs. Doherty’s departure along with a long-term injury to Jonny Otto has left a gaping hole in the right-wing-back position for Wolves, and this is an area in which they must strengthen if they wish for continued success. New signings Fabio Silva and Fernando Marcal will bolster the attack and left-sided defensive areas respectively, allowing for squad rotation where necessary, and manager Nuno Espirito Santo will no doubt be looking for further reinforcement before the window closes. He will also hope to keep a hold of star players Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore who were key to Wolves’ successes last season.