Chelsea will run the Champions closest

Published: Thursday, 10 September 2020

This is never an easy task - but it’s fun. So here goes.

Before I discuss what might happen it’s worth looking back on what I said last time round isn’t it? Yes. It is, because I did well!

I got two out of the bottom three correct. Norwich never had a chance. Bournemouth was an easy call as well. The decline there started a good 18 months before the trap door shut. The form had been awful and they left the PL having made a little piece of unwanted history - becoming the first team to concede 60+ goals in five successive seasons.

I’m not at all surprised that Eddie Howe walked. I was surprised that they appointed Jason Tindall. He’s ‘mini ‘me’. They needed a new direction. A new voice around the club. I fear they could slip straight through the Championship if they’re not careful.

I didn’t get Watford right. If you remember I thought they’d go the year before - a call that didn’t impress Watford fans at the time, but the rot there has been setting in for some time as well. I’m glad they went. I can’t pretend differently. What they did to Nigel Pearson was a disgrace. I said at the time - Graham Taylor would be spinning in his grave. Taylor was a class act and would’ve been ashamed of his club.

I expected either Brighton or Palace to go. I wasn’t far wrong. Both struggled. Palace ended the season losing seven in a row and could easily have gone if they hadn’t collected enough points before the lockdown.

They’re one of my three to go this season - with the same rider as last time - if they don’t hang onto Zaha. He makes the difference. You can’t relax when he’s about - even if he’s having a bad day. It only takes a second to turn a match - and he’s got the ability to do that. Not many have, which is why I expect that he will leave Selhurst before the window closes. Everton and Newcastle could be likely venues for him - if he doesn’t go abroad.

The other thing that might save Palace is that they’re hard to beat. You can’t say that of Brighton. Far too many times last season they were ‘nice’ to play against. They’ll be the same this time. I admire Graham Potter in many ways - but his insistence that his team are ‘City light’ is mis-guided.

I don’t fancy Fulham. They’re also too ‘nice’ to play against. That’s ok if you’ve also got a little bit of ‘devil’ in the team, but they haven’t - although it’ll be interesting to see if Mitrovic can at last cut it in the big league. He likes a fight but they need more than that Twice his goals have got teams out of the Championship, but he’s never been given a fair run at the higher level. It would be good to see him prove one or two people wrong.

I think the Baggies will struggle as well. I’m not convinced that we can judge a team on what has been spent anymore because to some extent the spending has dried during Covid - except at Chelsea of course! But, they look frail in so many areas. I like Bilic and it’s good to have him back, but I fear it won’t be for long. And if they start badly the chances are he won’t make Christmas. They’re not shy when it comes to sacking a manager at The Hawthorns.

Unlike many I fancied Sheffield United to settle. They’ve done good business again in the summer - albeit limited. They’ll have to be aware of ‘second season syndrome’, but I’m pretty sure they’ll be ok again. Chris Wilder has got something special going on there. Re-signing Phil Jagielka was clever. His ‘type’ are in short supply these days.

After their big spend I wasn’t expecting Villa to struggle as they did. A lack of goals was a major problem. Ollie Watkins should help in that respect, but I still think they’re short. Perhaps they should go again and get Josh King?

I mentioned those two before Leeds because they both proved you can stay. After 16 years away it’s great to have Leeds back. It’s not Leeds as we knew it, but I do wish them well. In a normal season I’d suggest the Elland Road crowd would be worth a half dozen points to them - but, with no-one in the stadiums for at least 4-6 weeks, they haven’t got they advantage initially.

I like Newcastle’s business. It’s not the superstars that Geordies were hoping for, but I’m not convinced it ever would’ve been. Callum Wilson is solid. Ryan Fraser will be desperate to prove he’s a good player. Joelinton has got to have a better season surely? I’d say top half.  Steve Bruce would become a legend if he could deliver a trophy. And he just might. 

Southampton, Burnley and Leicester will be fine although I’m not convinced Leicester can repeat what they did last time out. If you analyse their season you’ll find that VAR was very kind to them in the early months. That changed after Christmas and all of a sudden they were losing tight matches on equally tight calls. From a nailed on top four finish they slid dramatically. This season will be a real test for Brendan Rodgers.

I really didn’t expect to see Wolves have such a good season, but it wasn’t a fluke. They were terrific and I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t go again.

Everton? Anything other than a top half finish would be a total failure. Having appointed Ancelotti they had to back him, but I’m not convinced by James Rodriguez. If he was top drawer he wouldn’t be signing for Everton, whoever was in charge. I wouldn’t fancy him at Stoke on a wet Tuesday evening in November, but he’ll look great when the Toffees are 2-up at home. For Everton to make an impact, he’s GOT to dominate games. If I was Ancelotti I’d be going after Troy Deeney. That’s what Everton need - Reid and Gray again. Deeney would be fantastic around the club. Like Jagielka, he’s a ‘proper’ bloke.

I hope the Hammers go well. David Moyes is right - they’re the one PL club where you still see huge potential. Again, top half is both a must and achievable.

And so we come to those that should be fighting for a place in the top four.

Admittedly, it didn’t take a genius to predict a Liverpool title win, but I was one of those that thought Klopp would end 30-years of hurt.

They’ve got to be favourites this time, but they won’t run away with it. I’m going with Chelsea to stay the course best with them. Despite the spending, they’re still short defensively, but they might cover that by getting plenty of goals at the other end. I expect Christian Pulisic to be their stand out performer.

United aren’t ready for a title push, not even with Sancho - if they get him. Although why they want him with Greenwood ready now I just don’t know.

I didn’t think I’d be tipping Spurs for the top 4 until I saw All or Nothing. We’ve always known that Mourinho likes a camera and he knows where they are in the documentary! What also comes across strongly is that , he’s a master at getting in players’ heads. They’re probably ‘light’ if the truth be told, but Mourinho will win them games that they used to roll over in.

Having won twice at Wembley this summer a lot is expected of Arteta and Arsenal. Keeping Aubameyang was vital, but there’s still a lot of work to do at The Emirates.

And so to City. Is Nathan Ake the answer to their problems? No. He’s not. Is he better then what they’ve got? No. He’s not. So they’ve got all the same issues at the back. Are they stronger in general? No. They’re not. Losing Silva is a massive blow. Not many are irreplaceable on a football pitch, but he is. Aguero is a year older. Is Jesus ready to play more? Is he good enough? Well he’s not Aguero that’s for sure.

City will win games in a canter at times - but they’ll lose more than they should. I don’t see them finishing in the top two.

So here goes. 1. Liverpool 2. Chelsea 3. City. 4. United.

22. Fulham. 21. West Brom. 20. Palace.

Whatever else - enjoy your season. And if you’re fortunate enough to be able to watch it unfold with us on BeINSPORTS - I’ll see you Saturday. All 380 games are live with us.