My Premier League Review: Part One
I like to think that I know a lot about football. Sure, I may not be a tactical revolutionary like Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola; and unless you consider All Age Men Division 8 to be the pinnacle of playing football, then I don’t think I’ll be scaling those heights either. That said, judging by many comments I see on social media, I think I know more than the average bloke.
With this in mind, I like to make my own prediction on what the Premier League table will look like at the end of the season, and to then look back at seasons end and see how well I did. Some predictions I get nearly spot on. Others, well, the less said the better...
The Premier League generally throws up lots of surprises, the season just gone proved to be more extraordinary than usual. Champions League runners up being sacked, overlapping centre-backs taking the league by storm, and a team led by a bespectacled German romping to a third-highest points total in Premier League history.
And that’s before we consider the worldwide pandemic that ground the Premier League juggernaut to a halt and made this the longest season in history.
Even the most knowledgeable football fan would have struggled to predict half of what happened this season; as for me, well I predicted even less.
Maybe I don’t know much about football after all.
My prediction: 4th
Actual Finish: 8th
Despite a poor end to the previous season with a failure to secure a Champions League spot and a chastening defeat to Chelsea in the Europa League Final, I evidently had higher hopes for Arsenal as they headed into their second season under Unai Emery. They made the right noises in the transfer market, with a club record 72 million pounds spent on winger Nicolas Pepe.
However, the bottom quickly fell from beneath them and by November, the Emery revolution was overalmost before it began. Former Arsenal midfielder and Man City assistant Mikel Arteta was brought in to oversee yet another rebuilding project and led the club to an 8th placed finish, with their defence coming under increased scrutiny.
Whilst Arsenal again failed to qualify for the Champions League, the season has seen the emergence of several talented youngsters, most notably Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka. Combine these youngsters with one of the most promising managers in Arteta, then the Gunners may begin to fire sooner rather than later. Their triumph in the FA Cup showed that they can at times handle the pressures of the big games.
My Prediction: 15th
Actual Finish: 17th
Some will say that they should have been safe long before the final day considering their significant outlay of 144 million pounds, and indeed for much of the season it looked like they had emulated Fulham from the previous season in signing too many players at once resulting in a lack of cohesion in the playing squad.
In Villa’s defence, 18 players had departed at the end of last season meaning they had to spend. It also didn’t help that two of their key signings in Tom Heaton and Wesley suffered season ending injuries, meaning the club had to fork out more money for their replacements. It certainly wasn’t a vintage season for the club; they only won consecutive games once and had the second worst defence in the league. Yet a crucial 1-0 win over Arsenal in the penultimate game of the season would ultimately keep them up.
They will need to make sure they keep hold of influential midfielders John McGinn and Jack Grealish if they are to stay up next season, however considering the fact they were 11th in the second division just 18 months ago, this season can be considered a huge success. An appearance in the EFL Cup final is also a noteworthy achievement for the club.
My prediction: 10th
Actual Finish: 18th
This is one of those predictions that I look at now and wonder what I was thinking when I decided that Bournemouth, a team renowned for being either brilliant or absolutely awful, could finish in the top half. In fairness after 11 games they were in great shape having just defeated Man United and sat in 7th place. The form table after that makes for grim reading; five wins, three draws and a staggering 19 losses.
Bournemouth had suffered poor runs of form in all of their previous seasons in the Premier League, but none had been quite this bad. They suffered a similar collapse in form last season. However, Eddie Howe was able to arrest the slide for long enough to secure a 14th placed finish. This season, despite wins over Leicester and Everton, the damage had already been done.
Bournemouth are one of the league's fairy stories. Nearly going out of business in 2008; staying in the league just one season let alone five was a dream come true for Bournemouth fans. However, years of underperformance in the transfer market combined with injuries to David Brooks and unsettled start players like Josh King and Ryan Fraser have led to relegation. In the wake of the departure of manager Eddie Howe, it will be interesting to see who replaces the man who led them from near oblivion to the Premier League.
Brighton and Hove Albion
My prediction: 14th
Actual Finish: 15th
After staying up by the skin of their teeth the previous season, Brighton decided they needed an overhaul and appointed Graham Potter to oversee a transition to a slick, passing style of play on the pitch and a progressive model of training off it. It took some time for the squad to adapt to Potter’s way of thinking but at the halfway point they were comfortably mid table, with help from the best league’s best midfielder, Aaron Mooy, and the best goalkeeper Mat Ryan, respectively.
A winless run of 9 games which included 6 draws threatened to pull them into the relegation dogfight, but a key win over Arsenal in the first game after the suspension of play, combined with results below them meant that the Seagulls finished 7 points off the relegation zone.
Whilst the club only won 9 games, the same as relegated Bournemouth, they drew 14 times (only Arsenal and Wolves drew as many games.) Striker Neal Maupay may have reached double figures, but the next best scorer only had 5 goals. Adding more firepower up front would be beneficial if Brighton are to make themselves Premier League mainstays.
My Prediction: 18th
Actual Finish: 10th
Bournemouth and Burnley finished 14th and 15th respectively in the 2018-19 season, yet where I pictured Bournemouth kicking on and Burnley regressing to the drop zone, the exact opposite happened.
Playing in the classic 4-4-2 with burly strikers, a mostly British team and with the gravelly-voiced, worm eating Sean Dyche at the helm, they are a throwback to the good old days of English football. Yet it still produces results. Kiwi striker Chris Wood had a standout season with 14 league goals, whilst keeper Nick Pope finished 2nd in the Golden Glove race.
Although the season wasn’t completely plain sailing, with a run of seven losses in nine games during December threatening to pull them into the relegation dogfight; they would only lose two of their next sixteen to earn a deserved finish in the top half. Their long-term success is highly dependent on Dyche staying at the club, with rumours suggesting that he is at odds with the club’s hierarchy over the transfer funds available for next season.
My prediction: 5th
Actual finish: 4th
With a young new manager at the helm, the loss of their star player and a transfer ban forcing them to rely on many young players, not much was expected of Chelsea this season. They managed to obtain a coveted top four spot by virtue of a final day victory over Wolves, but they made it difficult for themselves.
2019-20 was a season of inconsistency for The Blues; with the emergence of young players like Reece James and Mason Mount contrasting with the struggles of the world’s most expensive keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga. A win over Manchester City was then followed up by a poor loss to West Ham. An at times scintillating attack was let down by a porous defence.
At the end of the day though they got away with it, and managed to reach an FA Cup final, although missing out on silverware after a 2-1 loss to Arsenal. There is much promise at Chelsea with their wealth of young talent combining with big money signings Hakim Zyech and Timo Werner (with more expected to follow), but to challenge for a title next season Lampard must fix the defensive deficiencies that so badly plagued the club during the season.
I hope you all enjoyed Part One, Part Two will be online in a couple of days, where I look back at the contrasting fortunes of the Manchester and Merseyside clubs, amongst others.