Six weeks since “Project Restart” ended, the Premier League is gearing up for another season-long campaign. There will be no fans in attendance at the start of the season but fans might start to trickle back in on October 3 for clubs such as Arsenal. As the new campaign begins tomorrow with Fulham vs. Arsenal, let us take a look at the clubs that will reach the Champions League, Europa League and the clubs relegated to The Championship.
Champions League Clubs
- Manchester City
Man City dominated the Premier League last year with their attack as they led the league in scoring with 102 goals on top of a league best +67 goal differential. The problems for Man City consisted of untimely defensive breakdowns and shocking misses (highlighted by a loss to last-place Norwich last September). This season, Man City will be without the services of long-time midfielder David Silva, who left for Real Sociedad this summer.
Their backline received a boost by acquiring Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake, who is projected to start as the club’s leftback. With striker Sergio Aguero returning from injury and Kevin De Bruyne playing as great as ever, I expect Man City to score at will once again and overtake Liverpool to win the Premier League title for the third time in four seasons.
No club has been more active this transfer window than Chelsea. After a fourth-place finish last season following a summer-long transfer ban in 2019, manager Frank Lampard went to work as he attempts to lead his long-time club back to the top of the Premier League. Chelsea conceded the ninth most goals last season; therefore they went and signed Leicester City left-back Ben Chilwell and centre-back Thiago Silva from Paris Saint-Germain.
Their attack was boosted majorly with the additions of RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner, Ajax passing specialist Hakim Ziyech and young playmaker Kai Havertz. It will take time for the club to gel but once they do, they will be as dangerous as any club in the Premier League. Combined with Christian Pulisic, Chelsea’s attack will be dangerous, giving them the edge over Liverpool in the final table.
Liverpool finally did it last season. They won their first title in the modern Premier League (started in 1992) and their first top-flight league title since 1990. All-around, Liverpool dominated the league, clinching the title with seven matches to spare as they conceded the fewest goals and scored the second most.
However, cracks in their armor surfaced last season with a loss to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League round of 16, along with two draws and losses in their last nine matches of the season. They struggled to finish in key situation and suffered defensive collapses. Liverpool dominated the table as they had all the pressure on the club to win the title. Without it, the urgency goes back to UCL play. With no significant acquisitions to bolster the squad, Liverpool will struggle against the superior attacks of Man City and Chelsea, finishing a close third-place result in the final table.
4. Manchester United
Man Utd struggled most of last season and it appeared the club was going to miss UCL play once again. Then, their front line and midfield, reinforced by the signing of Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes, went on a tear during “Project Restart.” Their top five, Paul Pogba, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Fernandes, scored every goal in their last nine matches, totaling 22. They defeated Leicester City 2-0 on Championship Sunday to secure UCL football this season.
Man Utd missed out on Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho this transfer window but signed Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek to strengthen an already stout midfield. Man Utd found their groove during the restart, which will continue this season. Man Utd will be the final Premier League club to reach the UCL for the 2021-22 season.
Europa League clubs
5. Tottenham Hotspur
The Spurs struggled last season as the 2018-19 UCL runner-ups needed a late surge during “Project Restart” to finish sixth, qualifying them for the Europa League group stage. After sacking manager Mauricio Pochettino, replacing him with Jose Mourinho, Tottenham dealt with injuries to their best attackers including Son Heung-min and Harry Kane for long stretches.
Tottenham went and added two key players to their 2020-21 squad, midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from Southampton and defender Matt Doherty from Wolverhampton. It strengthens a now healthy attack anchored by Son, Kane and Lucas Moura. While sitting fifth in the end, progress will show for the club, prompting a make-or-break 2021 summer transfer window.
Few know what to expect from this club, highlighted by a three-game stretch during “Project Restart” where they defeated Liverpool and Man City but lost to 17th-place Aston Villa a few days later. However, manager Mikel Arteta is taking his time, rebuilding an Arsenal club having their worst stretch in over two decades. He has injected youth and passion into the club, getting the players on-board with his plan, especially captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who considered leaving before Arsenal’s FA Cup Final win over Chelsea (won the Community Shield over Liverpool a few weeks later).
Arsenal added Chelsea winger Willian to reinforce the attack and mentor young winger Nicolas Pepe. Defender Gabriel Magalhaes was added from Lille to give the backline some youth and stability after shuffling struggling veterans the past few years. Arsenal is one or two stellar transfer windows away from truly competing with the Premier League’s top clubs. Arsenal needs to exercise patience.
The final club to qualify for European play in 2020-21 is Everton, who is managed by three-time UCL winner, Carlo Ancelotti. Ancelotti hopes to send Everton to UCL football for the first time since the 2007-08 season. Everton finished a meager 12th place as they played the quintessence of mediocre football.
Luckily, Ancelotti gave the midfield an overhaul, bringing in Napoli midfielder Allan, Watford midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure and most importantly, Real Madrid playmaker James Rodriguez. These additions should bolster the defending and flow of the attack, creating more chances for strikers Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Everton should be a fun club to watch and will return to European football for the first time since the 2017-18 season.
18. Newcastle United
The Saudi Arabian ownership group takeover failed and significant changes have not been made to the squad this summer. Newcastle scored the third-fewest goals last season in the Premier League with no player notching more than six goals or four assists. Despite the rise of striker Allan Saint-Maxim, Newcastle will continue to struggle, sending them back down to the Championship after four years of safety.
Fulham defeated Brentford in the Championship playoff to secure Premier League play for the 2020-21 season after two goals from defender Joe Bryan. Fulham hopes were boosted by receiving Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Alphonse Areola on loan for the entire season. While Fulham celebrates promotion, confidence to stay up is low as Aleksander Mitrovic has struggled in Premier League play, scoring 11 goals in 2017-18 as opposed to 26 in the Championship. Despite the boost of Areola, Fulham will struggle to score and will get sent back down to the Championship.
20. West Bromwich Albion
This club finished second behind Leeds United as they were promoted to the Premier League for their first top-flight action since the 2017-18 season. Hal Robson-Kanu and Charlie Austin led the way for 10 goals last season. They were tied with Leeds for second in scoring but conceded 10 more goals. Their roster bears resemblance to the 2017-18 squad who scored 19 goals all season and finished in last place. I expect more of the same this season.