The 2020-21 Premier League season kicks off on Saturday, with Fulham hosting Arsenal for the curtain-raiser in a stadium unable to welcome fans and missing one of its four stands.
It represents great symbolism for the campaign ahead: Is anyone really ready to play football? Half-baked transfer activity, a farce of a pre-season and an international break that interrupted vital preparation time would suggest no.
Football is a business that must continue, and as post-lockdown football in June taught us, it will only take a few matches for everyone to get back up to speed and things to feel pretty normal again. Heck, we might even get some fans in by Christmas.
All of these uncertainties make predicting the Premier League table for the campaign ahead even more impossible than usual, but have we ever shied away from a challenge? Absolutely not. So let’s give it a go!
20. West Bromwich Albion
The summer business has been solid and well thought through, but as so many promoted sides have found over the past few years, the step up in quality is serious.
It’s tough to have faith that West Brom’s collection of strikers (Charlie Austin, Kenneth Zohore and Callum Robinson) can score the goals that keep them up, while the first run of fixtures (Leicester City, Everton, Chelsea, Southampton, Burnley) is rough.
Once you get into a downward spiral in the Premier League, it’s hard to break out of.
Fulham have been promoted as a much more settled unit than in 2018, allowing them the chance at a much smoother summer of business. But like with West Brom, it feels like what they’ve done (at least so far) probably isn’t enough.
That could change in the weeks to come, but concerns over the attack’s potency and the defence’s ability to cope are fair. Captain Tom Cairney needs to shine much brighter than he did two years ago—though injuries played a part in his previous struggles in the Premier League.
18. Brighton & Hove Albion
You’re going to start sensing a theme here: When it comes to Brighton, who scores the goals?
Outside of Neal Maupay, who managed a solid 10 last season, the Seagulls badly need Leandro Trossard to step up more regularly and the talented Alexis Mac Allister to explode.
There’s a lot to like about this Brighton side under Graham Potter, but it’s hard to escape the feeling they don’t feel particularly threatening. They’re one of four clear contenders for 18th, and it’s a tough spot to call, but they’re the pick. Continue reading