• Matthew Whiley

2021/22 Premier League Table Prediction

There’s no point in making predictions. It’s not worth speculating because nothing is set in stone and things change all the time in football.

When Cristiano Ronaldo talks, people tend to listen, especially if the topic is football. Unfortunately for our dear Portuguese friend, however, I will ignore his words of wisdom… because where would the fun be in paying them any attention?

He is right, of course. There is absolutely no point in making predictions. But there’s no point in a lot of things that are fun, so let’s get cracking.

Twenty places to fill, twenty teams to fill them. Who have I backed to finish where?

1) Chelsea: If tactical mastermind Thomas Tuchel can win Chelsea the Champions League after just five months in charge, what can he do now he has a full season at his disposal? The Blues will certainly expect to challenge for the title, with their chances significantly boosted by the enormous outlay to bring Romelu Lukaku back to London. The crucial battle will of course be with Pep Guardiola, but I fancy Tuchel to overcome the Spaniard.

2) Manchester City: With the addition of the most expensive British player ever, City will make an exceptionally strong challenge to defend their title. The likes of Kevin de Bruyne, once fit, and Ilkay Gündogan, are the cornerstones of a truly admirable midfield. With Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus in front, and last year’s Premier League Player of the Season, Rúben Dias, behind, they remain a terrifying juggernaut.

3) Liverpool: The addition of centre-back Ibrahima Konaté from RB Leipzig fills a crying need at Anfield, but the Reds will do well to repeat their feat of flying away with the title in 2019/20. However, Virgil van Dijk is back, Mo Salah remains one of the league’s most deadly prospects in front of goal, and Jürgen Klopp’s men should be able to secure a top-four finish without too much trouble.

4) Leicester: There is much excitement at the King Power Stadium over the activity in the transfer market this time around, with Zambian striker Patson Daka, signed from Red Bull Salzburg, having been heavily likened to long-time Leicester front man Jamie Vardy. I have strong confidence in the Foxes to finally secure that top-four finish they have been flirting with for two years now.

5) Manchester United: If you’re Ole Gunnar Solskjær, this year is do or die. Huge outlays in the transfer market, most notably for England starlet Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund, mean that the Glazers want to see trophies, but I just can’t see it. This, in my eyes, is not a side that will challenge for the title yet, and I think they have to be careful not to be sucked into the trap of setting their targets too high. Top four is the primary aim.

6) Tottenham: Had I written this last week, I may have put Tottenham lower, but for now, all seems to be quiet on the Harry Kane front. The upheaval of a chaotic pre-season spent searching for a manager, plus the fact I’m unsure if the boss they eventually settled for has the nous to sustain a battle for Europe, equals the real prospect of another season without Champions League qualification.

7) Everton: Carlo Ancelotti’s departure was far from ideal preparation for the Toffees’ new season, and large swathes of the fanbase are not particularly enamoured by his replacement Rafael Benitez. That said, Ancelotti’s legacy at Goodison Park is to have left the team in better shape than he found it, and Benitez should be able to use his experience to keep the top six well in touch, even if there are doubts over James Rodriguez’s adaptability.

8) Arsenal: Mikel Arteta’s promised revolution still looks to be a little way off, even with KSE showing faith in him by forking out £50m for Ben White. However, a misfiring Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in pre-season, coupled with a failure thus far to fill a need by signing Martin Ødegaard, makes me think they will struggle to make any definitive progress this season.

9) Leeds: Will the Whites suffer second-season syndrome? Most people don’t believe so, and I would agree, granting Marcelo Bielsa’s side another ninth-place finish. Their rise in standing is evident with their capture of left-back Junior Firpo from Barcelona to replace the departing Ezgjan Alioski, and if Patrick Bamford can replicate his goalscoring form of last term, I can see them having a similarly enjoyable season.

10) Aston Villa: It may not feel like it right now, but I do think it’s a good time to be a Villa fan. Seeing Jack Grealish in a Manchester City shirt will sting, but they retain a core of quite excellent talent, while adding even more. If Emiliano Buendia, Leon Bailey, and Danny Ings can fit seamlessly into this side – and I do think they can, especially with two of the three having experience of English football – they can recover from the loss of Grealish.

11) Wolves: It was a surprising decision by the Molineux top brass to swap managers at the end of last season. However, the man charged with improving them ever further is former boss Nuno’s compatriot Bruno Lage, and his pedigree in his homeland, plus the fact they have striker Raul Jimenez returning from long-term injury, gives them, in my eyes, a golden opportunity to improve upon last season’s 13th place finish.

12) West Ham: Very much last season’s surprise package, the Hammers now look a well-oiled outfit with quality all over the pitch, which is a far cry from years of mediocrity. That said, I do wonder if the rest of the league may have figured them out this season. However, David Moyes is an experienced operator, and the loan signing of goalkeeper Alphonse Areola looks a good addition, so I’m happy to be proven wrong.

13) Crystal Palace: Quite an overhaul is ongoing in South London, with Patrick Viera the new man in the dugout and several new faces arriving at Selhurst Park. Viera’s revolution, which has started with the shrewd arrivals of Joachim Andersen and Marc Guéhi, really could result in the Eagles soaring. I might be proven horribly wrong, but I particularly liked what I saw of Guéhi for Swansea, which gives me confidence in their recruitment process.

14) Brighton: Graham Potter’s men became known last season for their profligacy in front of goal, creating chances aplenty but failing to put them away. Regretfully for Seagulls fans, steps have not really been taken to rectify that, with no strikers through the door at the Amex Stadium. They will certainly be closer to the bottom end of the table than the top, but should live to fight another season.

15) Burnley: New owners mean a new era at Turf Moor. Gone are the days of Burnley being lauded for operating on a shoestring budget, and the Clarets have made their intentions crystal clear with the signing of Nathan Collins in their biggest investment for over two years. However, what may not change is their defensive nature, with Sean Dyche still in charge, so they should confidently avoid the drop, while not troubling the upper echelons.

16) Newcastle: First and foremost, Steve Bruce needs to guide his team to safety, and anything that comes after that is a bonus. Joe Willock, when he arrives, will be the only addition in another quiet transfer market on Tyneside, and although that is nothing new for Magpies fans in recent years, it still sets them up for another tough season. Bruce will have to be wary of the possibility of infighting, but he should be able to keep them up.

17) Brentford: The newly-promoted Bees’ were the Championship’s highest scorers last season, and as we’ve seen in years gone by, an unknown, new quantity in the Premier League can surpass their targets. Nearly all of their promotion-winning squad remain part of the club, including the free-scoring Ivan Toney, and they look even stronger in defence with the arrival of Kristoffer Ajer. I like their chances of surviving the drop.

18) Southampton: The esteem in which the Saints hold Ralph Hasenhüttl has been clear from the moment they have allowed him to keep his job in today’s sack-happy world despite suffering two 9-0 defeats, and he has repaid that faith by keeping them in the top flight with little fuss. However, with the loss of Danny Ings, and Leicester possibly coming in for Jannik Vestergaard, I’m nervous for them this season.

19) Norwich City: Boing, boing, boing. Things have been very up and down in East Anglia over the past few seasons, but for now, the Canaries are about to enjoy another season of ‘up’ as they return to the top flight. They have solidly backed Daniel Farke with a new contract, but I struggle to see this squad staying up. No matter, they’ll likely be back in 2023/24.

20) Watford: Just like Norwich, it has taken the Hornets only one season to return to the top flight after being relegated in 2019/20, and like the Canaries, if they can survive this season, they will have done well. I do, however, have concerns over how difficult the task of staying up could turn out to be, especially with the Pozzi family’s willingness to sack managers resulting in a bumpy road.

Am I confident? No, no, not at all. But once again, that’s the fun of it. Feel free to revisit these in May, and laugh/cry (delete as appropriate) at me or at the performance of your team.

It’s almost time for the Premier League to return. Let’s see what it brings.

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Signing off,