As appearing in IOL Sport
Never before has a team that has so dominated the Premier League been so readily and comfortably dismissed as not being good enough to defend a title won by 18 league points. Liverpool won the 2019/20 league with seven rounds still to play.
Manchester City finished second, almost a season behind, but every prediction for the2020/21 season points to Liverpool as the bridesmaids. Even the computerized algorithms favour Pep’s Manchester City. Given the lack of belief in Jurgen Klopp’s chargers to fashion a season as brilliant as the 99 league points that took them to the title, it would only be fair to say that newly promoted Leeds will score at Anfield in the season’s opener and take points from the defending champions.
Liverpool last lost a league match at Anfield in April 2017. For the romantics, there would be nothing more appealing than to see Leeds knock over Liverpool. Klopp hasn’t spent on new recruits during the pre-season. He has been vocal that Liverpool’s values are different to those of Chelsea and Manchester City. He also said the owners were different – and he didn’t mean it as a compliment to Chelsea or City.
There appears to be such consistency about the top four, top six and midtable predictions, that it makes for pretty boring debate.
Manchester City top, Liverpool second, Manchester United third and Chelsea fourth, with Arsenal and Spurs to complete the top six.
Brendon Rodgers’s Leicester City may feel differently, but their implosion in the latter part of last season suggests they are more a top eight than a top four team.
There was a time, not so long ago, when the title contenders would have been limited to four teams, so talking about six teams makes for a more appealing season.
Chelsea have gone on a spending spree but they won’t win the title. Liverpool won’t either and this will be a season that belongs to the darlings of Manchester, both sky blue and devilish red. Which of the teams goes down to the Championship always makes for more entertaining discussion and viewing because it invariably is something only decided in the last weekend of the season – and don’t be surprised to see Newcastle United floundering for most of the season and then making the drop.
Arsenal aside, I’ve never experienced supporters so deluded about their team’s potential as Newcastle’s. In assessing
the 2019/20 season, I stumbled on some very interesting details from the boys and girls at inews.co.uk when it comes to teams and individuals, so I am going to lean on these details and have an unconventional crack at a few predictions for the new season.
Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta will win matches the bookies have his team to lose and drop points against the weakest teams. No Arsenal player last season made the list of the top 30 creators. That will change this season, with Mesut Ozil bound to get more regular starts.
Aston Villa, one of those teams destined to be in a fight against relegation, will bring a more defensive mindset to the campaign. If they don’t they will be gone, having just avoided relegation by a single point. Villa last year showed a slump in the final quarter of last season’s matches and conceded 16 goals in the 80th minute or later. It was the highest number in
the league. I am backing them to not be as charitable from the 80 minute onwards.
Brighton were another of the mid to bottom table teams whose promise turned to powder in the latter part of the season and they won just five of their final 27 matches. I have them to double those wins in their last 27 matches this time around.
Burnley had an incredible defensive record in 2019/20 and only one team kept more clean sheets and blocked more shots. However, in 38 matches, Burnley scored just 43 goals. I have them to score more goals and also concede more goals.
The lads at inews.co.uk described Everton’s purchase of Colombian James Rodriquez as the ‘biggest flop’ and it is difficult to argue with their assessment that Rodriquez will probably score the goal of the season but contribute little else. Newly
promoted Fulham had trouble scoring goals from set pieces and indirect free-kicks and in the Premier League they will be in even more trouble. The Championship beckons for them in 2021/22.
Manchester City, the most prolific goal scoring team in the Premier League in recent history, must score first to remain dominant. At least if you go on their record from last season. In the last 13 matches when they scored first they won 13 from 13. In the last 13 matches when they conceded an early goal they lost nine times. I’m backing them to score first for most of the campaign and even when they concede an early goal, they won’t again lose nine in 13 times.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had a dream run playing behind closed doors, but because of an indifferent start, conceded more than 30 percent of their goals from set pieces, which was the highest in the league. Expect United’s challenge this season to have more balance. They will be better defensively and will score more goals.
As for the biggest result of the season, the 9-0 hammering of Leicester City over Southampton just won’t happen again. The biggest winning margin will be six goals and it will come from Pep’s City, and they will do it on more than one occasion.
Jose Mourinho’s Spurs won’t dazzle with attacking brilliance and the most entertaining aspect of Spurs season will be the individualism of striker Harry Kane and the eccentric sideline outburst of Jose Mourinho. Mourinho’s
Spurs last season conceded two or more goals in 13 of his first 29 matches in charge. This will change, but he won’t change. Expect sulks, tantrums and excuse after excuse. If he isn’t attacking the supposed bias and prejudice of the referee, he will be attacking the opposition tactics, the fans, his own players and VAR.
Once the self-anointed Special One, Mourinho is now very much the selfish one.
Check out the MoneyMan team’s thoughts on the season