Preview and Predictions for the 2021-22 Premier League Season

Shane Evans@@shanevansContributor IAugust 10, 2021

Preview and Predictions for the 2021-22 Premier League Season

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    This is what it's all about: the Premier League trophy.
    This is what it's all about: the Premier League trophy.Michael Regan - The FA/Getty Images

    It's been 82 days since the 2020-21 English Premier League season ended, and we are back and ready for action.

    Yes, the world's greatest football league (we can say that now, right?) is set for yet another year, undoubtedly filled with ups and downs and lefts and rights and everything in between. That's what makes it so great. That and N'Golo Kante's smile. It truly has it all.

    The champions, Manchester City, are coming off a near-flawless season (except for maybe that UEFA Champions League final loss) where it captured its third EPL crown in four seasons. The noisy neighbors no longer, Pep Guardiola's squad has become entrenched at the pinnacle of the football pyramid by hook or by crook.

    Some say the spending has gotten out of control in England, with City being prime culprits. I say, let them spend, and let the league keep growing while it entertains billions around the world. And when it gets a bit big for its britches with things like the Super League, well, it gets knocked right back to earth by those who make the league what it is: the fans.

    Fresh off signing Jack Grealish for a British transfer record fee of $139 million, City is out to retain that Premier League title and return to the UCL with better results. It won't necessarily be the walk in the park it was for much of last season for Pep and Co., as the big clubs have gotten substantially...bigger.

    Throughout this preview, we'll look at how the table will shake out and take deeper dives into the top four and bottom three; dole out some award predictions, both good and bad; and add a few various other bits to get you ready for kickoff this Friday between Arsenal and newly promoted Brentford. Here we go!

Predicted Table

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    A lot of talent in this photo
    A lot of talent in this photoDave Thompson/Associated Press

    It's unlikely that this is exactly how the table will look come May 22, as lots of variables are always in play with teams getting better, worse and at times, neither. Now's the time to dream:

    1. Manchester City (last season: champions)
    2. Chelsea (4th)
    3. Manchester United (2nd)
    4. Liverpool (3rd)
    5. Tottenham Hotspur (7th)
    6. Leicester City (5th)
    7. Arsenal (8th)
    8. Aston Villa (11th)
    9. Leeds (9th)
    10. West Ham United (6th)
    11. Everton (10th)
    12. Wolverhampton Wanderers (13th)
    13. Newcastle United (12th)
    14. Southampton (15th)
    15. Norwich City (Championship, 1st)
    16. Crystal Palace (14th)
    17. Brentford (Championship, 3rd)
    18. Burnley (17th)
    19. Brighton & Hove Albion (16th)
    20. Watford (Championship, 2nd)

    That's right: My money is on Manchester City to win a fourth EPL title in five seasons. The addition of Grealish (and maybe, just maybe Harry Kane?) provides a wealth of attacking options rarely seen to this extent, and they will be too hard to stop. City is strong through the core with Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte and John Stones shoring up the back line in front of Ederson, and the side's methodical plowing through the competition looks destined to continue.

    The biggest change in the top four is Chelsea, a squad that I nearly identified as the predicted winners. Thomas Tuchel's side was already formidable as last season ended with its lifting of the Champions League trophy. Throw in a true No. 9 powerhouse like Romelu Lukaku, who has much to prove in the EPL, and it's hard to think the Blues will be anywhere but right at the top of the table, fighting for the title throughout all 38 matches. 

    Tuchel's coaching prowess proved so effective (11 clean sheets in the final 19 matches) that you have to wonder if he was in charge from the start of the year that maybe they wouldn't have been 19 points off the leaders.

    After the Stamford Bridge boys comes Manchester United, which is still a year away from pushing City for the title. There were some key additions for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this summer, with Jadon Sancho finally joining the fold from Borussia Dortmund, as well as the experienced Raphael Varane heading over from Real Madrid. They fill two positions of need that will strengthen the club at either end of the park.

    If they can keep hold of Paul Pogba and maybe tie him down to a long-term contract, the pieces are in place to make a run in 2022-23. For now, another top-four finish seems most likely.

    Rounding out the top four is another of the Super League Six, with the Reds of Liverpool coming fourth. They're a very good squad, made stronger by the return of Virgil van Dijk after a long recovery from ACL surgery. The forward trio of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino has probably seen its best days and is due for a refresh, but the three will keep Liverpool in the top-four conversation, at least through this season.

    Leicester City likely misses out again, despite a strong summer, and Spurs won't have it all together under Nuno Espirito Santo to push the teams ahead in the table. Arsenal? Let's not be silly. West Ham, one of last season's darlings, hasn't done enough to stay up there with the big boys. Aston Villa, on the other hand, could be a handful given its additions to offset Grealish's departure.

    At the other end of the table, the newly promoted trio of Norwich City, Watford and Brentford will be in the middle of the relegation fight for the majority of the campaign with Burnley, Crystal Palace and Brighton all struggling after good runs in the top flight. Ultimately, Watford, Burnley and Brighton and Hove Albion will go down after not having enough firepower to get those late-season points when it matters most.

Award Predictions

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    Bruno Fernandes had a strong season in 2020-21 and should do more of the same.
    Bruno Fernandes had a strong season in 2020-21 and should do more of the same.Associated Press

    Golden Boot: Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea

    Should his reported move to Chelsea become final, Lukaku will step back into the Premier League waters coming off his best season. He lit up Serie A in 2020-21, scoring 24 goals and adding 10 assists for champions Inter Milan. It was quite a campaign for the Belgian, and it convinced Blues owner Roman Abramovich that $135 million isn't too much to pay for a striker who left the league in 2019 for significantly less. 

    With the creative options around him, Lukaku will become the focal point in Tuchel's attack and will clean up the mess in and around the area while feeding off the great service from the rest of the squad. Anything fewer than 20 goals would be a disappointment.

                      

    Golden Glove: Ederson, Manchester City

    We've already noted that City's defense is quite good and will be again this year. The 27-year-old Brazilian has taken home the award the last two seasons and was runner-up the two seasons prior. Needless to say, he's registering lots of clean sheets, as he's more often than not had little to do in the City goal. It's not much of a reach to say he'll collect the three-peat.

                 

    Player of the Season: Bruno Fernandes, Manchester United

    Few players have had a bigger impact at a new club in recent years than Fernandes since he joined Manchester United in January 2020. He's done it all (40 goals and 25 assists in 80 matches) and is a generational talent whom the club would be wise to build around. He'll be even stronger this year with United's impressive core around him. Kevin De Bruyne is in the conversation, but his influence may be diminished slightly by the addition of Grealish.

                        

    Young Player of the Season: Bukayo Saka, Arsenal

    One of the Gunners' bright young stars, Saka burst onto the scene in 2020-21, proving himself a vital part of Mikel Arteta's squad and then Gareth Southgate's England squad at UEFA Euro 2020. The 19-year-old is only getting started, however, and his five EPL goals and four assists in 32 matches last year shouldn't be scoffed at. He'll have more freedom to operate and will be a dangerous force in a more prominent role for Arsenal. If Europe is in the cards for the Gunners, Saka will need to be firing. 

              

    Manager of the Season: Pep Guardiola, Manchester City

    It seems a bit silly to give this award to a manager with a team as stacked as Pep's, but that's the way it has gone for three of the last four seasons, all title wins for City. If the Sky Blues run away with it again this season, in the most competitive top-flight league in the world, you had better believe that Pep will make it a fourth Manager of the Season award.

Other Predictions

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    Is Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira the right man to lead Crystal Palace?
    Is Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira the right man to lead Crystal Palace?Associated Press

    First manager to get sacked: Patrick Vieira, Crystal Palace

    Is Vieira the right man to replace Roy Hodgson at Palace? I am not convinced that the former Arsenal great has the chops to cut it in management, particularly not in the top flight. Two years at NYCFC of MLS followed by a pair at OGC Nice in Ligue 1 doesn't scream prestige, but he is one of the league's greatest players, so he does know it better than most. Still, he'll probably be gone by Christmas, with the London club needing results to avoid falling out of the top flight for the first time since 2012-13.

          

    Signing of the Season: Jadon Sancho, Manchester United

    Something is telling me that Sancho will rip it up in the Premier League. Maybe it's a hunch...or maybe it's his explosive pace, fantastic vision and amazing talent on the ball, all on a team filled with stars. Either or, really. Sancho's game seems like a perfect addition to Solskjaer's team, and he'll be well positioned to perform within it. Costing roughly $30 million less than Grealish, Sancho may end up being considered a bargain in this ridiculously inflated transfer market.

            

    Worst Signing of the Season: Jack Grealish, Manchester City

    Don't get me wrong, Grealish is a phenomenal player. He will add a certain quality to City that it maybe didn't have...but will also contribute many of the same qualities that it already does boast, all while blocking some younger talent like Phil Foden, 21, and Ferran Torres, 21, from the playing time they perhaps deserve.

    All this for a record amount of money that could have been spent elsewhere (Harry Kane perhaps?). They may end up with both players, sure, but Grealish just seems like an expensive gamble who has a higher risk than possible reward. Not to mention the transfer is drawing the ire of Villa fans and other non-City fans across the country for its perceived motivations, financial or otherwise.

           

    Most Improved Player: Donny van de Beek, Manchester United

    Last season was a fluke. So far this preseason, Van de Beek's looked in better shape, confident and has been a solid performer. It's definitely make-or-break time for Van de Beek at Old Trafford, and with Paul Pogba's future up in the air (his contract expires next summer), he should push for his place in the side, with the patience of those around him likely getting rather short.

             

    Comeback Player of the Year: Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool

    I have never been more sure of anything in my life: Van Dijk has been a sleeping giant, biding his time to return and squash non-believers. Liverpool will rely on his mighty presence if it's to do anything of note this season, and our big Dutch friend will be up to the task. With some promising options next to him in defense, Big Virg will bounce back from his lengthy recovery from a knee injury and provide Jurgen Klopp with the mostly all-the-way-back dominant defender he was.

Top Kits

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    You just can't take your eyes off it, can you?
    You just can't take your eyes off it, can you?Tottenham Hotspur FC/Getty Images

    What would be the point of a new season without fans and pundits alike fawning over the endless offering of new kits? This year, we're treated to quite a wide selection of fantastic designs, with retro styling being the in vogue lewk for many of the best teams. Here's my top five (in no particular order) to feast your eyes on:

                

    Arsenal 3rd [VIEW KIT]

    A true thing of beauty. Loosely based around the Blue Lightning shirts from the mid-'90s, this kit is a stunner. The retro look is pulled off to perfection, one thing Gunners fans can be proud of this season. Get Dennis Bergkamp in this kit immediately.

             

    Manchester United Away [VIEW KIT]

    If Arsenal took a swing with the retro look, Manchester United hit it out of the park with its away kits. It's a beautiful throwback look that is a breath of fresh air with the red-dominant color scheme. The light blues, while maybe too close to rivals City, pop so nicely with the red and yellow accents. The '90-'92 snowflake look has been expertly recreated and is without question one of the best kits of the season.

              

    Tottenham Away [VIEW KIT]

    From retro to full-on chaos energy, Spurs went in a very different direction than their counterparts with this jaw-dropping interpretation for their away kit. There's just pandemonium in this shirt...and it works. You always love to see something new from the big clubs, and Spurs dared to do it. 12/10.

            

    Crystal Palace Home [VIEW KIT]

    On the other end of the spectrum is this effort by Crystal Palace that is as effective as it is simplistic. A slight variation on its traditional stripes, the angled look just pops and is clean as can be with its bright red and blue.

             

    Chelsea Home [VIEW KIT]

    The Blues...mixed it up a bit for their home kit this season. Contrasting patterns are in, and Chelsea really went for it with its home kit. There's lots going on, and a very cool '60s inspiration gives this kit definite presence and personality on the pitch.

             

    So there you have it. The preview of the rapidly approaching English Premier League season you needed. Everything you could ever want from a top-flight football season is coming your way, beginning Friday. Thirty-eight matches for each of the 20 teams, from August to May. It's going to be a fun ride.

             

    Follow all the English Premier League action with Bleacher Report and on the B/R app.

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