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  • Patrick Brischetto

My Premier League Review: Part Two

Welcome to the second part of a three-part review of the crazy 2019-20 Premier League season and at my predictions for the season. I didn’t fare too well in part one, with the exact opposite happening to most of my predictions. Let’s see if I fare any better in part two…

Crystal Palace

My Prediction: 17th

Actual finish: 14th

For a large portion of this season it looked like the Eagles were going to soar far above my predicted finish for them, before a failure to win any of their last eight fixtures saw them drop to a slightly disappointing 14th.

Crystal Palace fans could be forgiven for being apprehensive at the start of the season, with no major signings and the loss of their exciting young fullback Aaron Wan Bissaka to Manchester United. They did manage to keep hold of star man Wilfred Zaha. The South London club started well, being 4th after the first four games, which included a win away to Manchester United. The club were consistently in the top half of the table. They remained in 9th place right up until matchday 30, before their poor run of form saw them slide down the table.

A big issue for Palace this season was goals; only bottom club Norwich scored fewer than the Eagles’ 31. Jordan Ayew scored 9 but the next best scorer had only 4 goals. More firepower up front will probably be top of the wish list going into the transfer window, as well as keeping hold of Zaha, despite his disappointing goal return.

Everton

My Prediction: 7th

Actual finish: 12th

After an 8th place finish, Marco Silva was aiming to take Everton to the next level and spent over 100 million pounds to achieve that. By December, the Toffee’s were 18th and Silva was gone. Everton had only won 4 of their first 15 games.

They certainly aimed high when replacing him, securing the services of three times Champions League winner Carlo Ancelotti. He would preside over a period of only one loss in eleven games lifting the club to 9th, before a return of inconsistency that led to a disappointing mid-table finish.

In truth, aside from the appointment of a world class manager in Ancelotti it was an underwhelming season for Everton, with a 3-1 victory over Chelsea their only win over a ‘big six’ side all season. Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin showed that they could become a feared strike partnership with 13 goals each, however they need help from their attacking midfielders. How Everton kick on under Ancelotti will be one of the most intriguing aspects of next season.

A 5-2 loss to Merseyside rivals Liverpool marked the end of Marco Silva's tenure at Everton

Leicester City

My Prediction: 8th

Actual Finish: 5th

At the start of the season if you told any Leicester fan that they would finish 5th, they probably would have been happy with that. Instead as the final whistle blew in Leicester’s final game, confirming their 5th placed finish, the mood instead was of extreme disappointment.

At times this season Leicester City were phenomenal. A free flowing and devastating attack as Southampton found to their peril, as Leicester racked up five first half goals in a record breaking 9-0 win. Their defence was also more than capable of shutting down the opposition, with Turkey’s Calgar Soyuncu proving an able replacement for the departed Harry Maguire.

The Foxes were 2nd on New Year’s Day after a 3-0 win over Newcastle. Yet they would only win four league games out of seventeen in 2020. Yes, they had massive injury issues that at times left them without most of their first-choice defence, but the fact remains that the form Leicester finished the season in was relegation form. More worryingly, in 2020 they failed to beat any of the eventually relegated teams. Champions League teams don’t do that.

Leicester will have a huge challenge in keeping some of their star players now they don’t have the Champions League drawcard, but their main priority should be increasing the depth of their squad to ensure they can adequately deal with injuries to key players next season.

Liverpool

My Prediction: 2nd

Actual Finish: 1st

No, that’s not a typo, I genuinely predicted my beloved Liverpool would finish 2nd. I thought, like the season before, it would be a close title race but there was just something in the back of my mind telling me that The Reds couldn’t back up their 97 points showing from last season.

Boy did they prove me wrong.

For much of the season Liverpool were untouchable. Either blowing teams away completely or snatching wins even when not at their best or when it didn’t seem possible; vital wins against Leicester, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace in the autumn were all secured with goals in the 80th minute or later. Their rivals couldn’t keep up. All over the pitch Liverpool were nearly flawless with a defence marshalled by Virgil Van Dijk, a midfield spearheaded by Jordan Henderson and a devastating front three.

Yes, the season wasn’t perfect - a shock loss to Watford ended the Invincibles dream and their form after restart did not hit the heights of earlier in the season - but in the end Liverpool won the title with 7 games to spare, a Premier League record for earliest title win.

A club record 99 points, 18 above 2nd place, it was a fitting and stunning way to end a 30-year title drought.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson finally hoisting the Premier League trophy

Manchester City

My prediction: 1st

Actual Finish: 2nd

Combined with their failure to win the Champions League, this season will be considered an extremely poor one by Manchester City’s lofty standards. After winning the last two titles and securing a domestic treble last season, a third straight Premier League title was in Pep Guardiola’s sights. They would ultimately fall well short.

They dropped their first points defeat in only their second game of the season and their first defeat was to an injury-hit Norwich side in September. It would be the first of 10 defeats for the club. The champions would also lose twice to both Wolves and neighbours Manchester United.

I, like many others, did not foresee how much the loss of talismanic Vincent Kompany would affect the club; and Guardiola’s decision to not sign a centre back in the summer backfired with a long-term injury to Aymeric Laporte. This forced defensive midfield lynchpin Fernandinho to play as a makeshift centre back, severely disrupting City’s shape and defensive capabilities. Whilst they scored a staggering 102 goals, crucial defensive lapses would cost them dearly in many games.

City will spend big in the transfer window, with two world class centre backs being top of the list. A consistent left back and a replacement for the departed Leroy Sane will also be key as the Mancunian’s plot a return to the top of English football.

Manchester United

My Prediction: 6th

Actual Finish: 3rd

For much of the season, my prediction of United finishing outside the top four once again was looking spot on. Losses to Watford, Burnley and Bournemouth and an inability to break down defensive sides; it looked like Ole Gunner Solskjaer was not going to be at the wheel for much longer. It was simply beautiful.

And then they went on to sign Bruno bloody Fernandes.

It’s difficult to think of a signing this season that helped transform a side more. On the 22nd January they lost 2-0 to Burnley at home and sat 5th, six points off fourth and fourteen points behind Leicester in 3rd. That game would be there last loss of the season as the Red Devils would win 9 of their last 14 and, thanks to Leicester’s sharp decline and Chelsea’s inconsistencies, climb to 3rd.

There were others that were key in United’s rise. Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood all shone up front, as Solskjaer finally found a successful formula, and the combination of Pogba and Fernandes in the midfield gave them a dynamism that finally allowed them to break down the low block.

There are still questions that remain over this Manchester United side; do they replace David De Gea as keeper? And is Solskjaer the right man to take United back to fighting for titles, not just qualifying for the top four? At the end of the day though, they secured that precious top four spot and the Champions League cash and prestige that accompanies it.

Damn.

Jesse Lingard's late goal against Leicester helped secure Man United's return to the Champions League

Newcastle United

My Prediction: 16th

Actual Finish: 13th

Whilst the Magpies managed to finish relatively comfortably in mid table 10 points off relegation, the season was anything but that. Many were fearing the worst when Rafa Benitez departed the club before the season started. The man who replaced him, Geordie Steve Bruce hardly allayed any fears.

The season started poorly, with the club in the relegation zone after 8 games and record signing Joelinton seemingly allergic to scoring goals (problematic when he is a striker.) However, through November a win over Manchester United helped kickstart their season and left them in 9th at the halfway mark. Newcastle only won four more games in 2020; however, a six-game unbeaten run between March and July meant that they were never in real relegation trouble as the season wound down.

For much of 2020 the media attention surrounding Newcastle was off the pitch, as rumours of a takeover by the Saudi Arabian Investment fund headed by the controversial Mohammed Bin Salman. Whilst this would have made Newcastle a rich club and would have ridded them of the disinterested and stingy Mike Ashley, the human rights issues surrounding Saudi Arabia and issues of piracy meant that in the last two weeks the talks have broken down.

This means that Newcastle fans are stuck in a loveless relationship with an owner unwilling to invest in the squad. Attendances before COVID-19 were down on previous seasons, it will be interesting to see if fans continue to stay away once they are allowed back into stadiums.


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