EPL preview: Predicting the 2020-21 table

Yahoo Sports Staff
·7 mins read

Premier League kickoff is almost here. How does our crew see the season playing out?

Manchester City is the champion in our combined table, with Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United rounding out the top four, the same group as last term. Arsenal and Spurs are next and revive the “Big Six” shroud, with Leicester, Everton and Wolves after that.

There was a definitive tier break between ninth-place Wolves, whose average predicted finish was 8.25, and 10th-place Southampton (average of 11). There was another sizable gap between 13th-place Leeds United (average of 12) and 14th-place Crystal Palace (average of 15).

As for the drop zone, it doesn’t forecast to be a good year for the Albion set, with both Brighton and West Brom going down. West Ham, meanwhile, is the other relegated team in our predicted table, with Fulham staying up by the skin of its teeth.

(Moe Haidar/Yahoo Sports)
(Moe Haidar/Yahoo Sports)

Read the writers’ own tables and thoughts for yourself.

Ryan Bailey: Preseason predictions are a fool’s errand at the best of times, but given the condensed fixture schedule, this campaign is even tougher to call. However, the two-horse race for glory will be edged by Manchester City. Liverpool will not be able to keep up the furious pace of the past two seasons, and their Cloak of Invincibility has already started to slip. Pep Guardiola’s side will continue their statistical dominance in all areas, including, crucially, points accrued.

Chelsea’s “score now, defend later” policy should be good enough for the top four, as will Manchester United’s increasingly robust midfield.

Of the promoted teams, Leeds have the best chance of staying up, although I don’t buy into the grandeur of Marcelo Bielsa guiding his team to the top half, due to their limited squad strength (this coming from someone who predicted Sheffield United to go down last season).

Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Brighton and West Ham will find themselves in peril for much of the campaign, but it’s the Hammers who will ensure the nation’s Olympic Stadium caters to Championship teams in 2021-22.

1. Manchester City

2. Liverpool

3. Chelsea

4. Manchester United

5. Tottenham Hotspur

6. Arsenal

7. Everton

8. Southampton

9. Leicester City

10. Wolves

11. Newcastle

12. Sheffield United

13. Leeds

14. Burnley

15. Aston Villa

16. Crystal Palace

17. Brighton

18. West Ham

19. Fulham

20. West Brom

Henry Bushnell: The popular narrative surrounding Chelsea and Man United is: Can they challenge for the title? The reality is: They’re closer to the pack than to the top. Yes, they’re the third and fourth best teams in the league, hence my predictions; but Tottenham, Wolves and Arsenal are all capable of unseating them in the Champions League places. In fact, I’d probably bet against an unchanged top four.

Also, don’t be surprised if A) Southampton battles for a Europa League place, and B) Leicester slips even further than you think they will.

1. Manchester City

2. Liverpool

3. Chelsea

4. Manchester United

5. Tottenham Hotspur

6. Wolves

7. Arsenal

8. Leicester City

9. Everton

10. Southampton

11. Sheffield United

12. Leeds

13. Newcastle

14. Burnley

15. West Ham

16. Brighton

17. Aston Villa

18. West Brom

19. Crystal Palace

20. Fulham

Doug McIntyre: It's understandable in some ways that neutrals are predicting a season-long hangover for Liverpool after the Reds finally won an English title after 30 years. In other ways, it's madness. How quickly many forget the extent to which Jurgen Klopp's team utterly dominated the Premier League last season, clinching top spot with a record seven games remaining.

With Klopp returning every key member of his squad in 2020-21 (and fresh recruits such as Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantra potentially still to arrive), Liverpool has earned the right to be the favorite, especially with Manchester City again expected prioritize the Champions League after falling short in the quarterfinals last month.

Chelsea has enjoyed the best summer transfer haul of any team in Europe. The Blues will certainly be improved from last season, when they just missed out on third place. They could even compete for the trophy if Liverpool sputters and veteran defender Thiago Silva, who arrived from Paris Saint-Germain, can help shore up Frank Lampard's suspect back line.

Arsenal should also fare far better in its first full season under Mikel Arteta, who along with star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang led the Gunners to impressive FA Cup and Community Shield wins over the last six weeks. I don't have the same optimism for Tottenham under Jose Mourinho, though, and think Spurs slip a spot from their sixth-place finish last season. They could even be overtaken by up-and-coming Wolves or Everton.

Leeds can be this year's Sheffield United, which finished mid-table after being promoted the year before. And I think Fulham does enough to stay up, too. West Brom, the third and final newbie this year, won't be as lucky. The Baggies go one-and-done, with the unforgiving Prem finally catching up to Brighton and Burnley after several better-than-expected seasons in the top flight.

1. Liverpool

2. Chelsea

3. Manchester City

4. Arsenal

5. Man United

6. Leicester City

7. Tottenham Hotspur

8. Wolves

9. Everton

10. Leeds

11. Southampton

12. Newcastle

13. Sheffield United

14. Crystal Palace

15. Fulham

16. West Ham

17. Aston Villa

18. Burnley

19. West Brom

20. Brighton

Leander Schaerlaeckens: Two things happened last season to swing the title so decisively toward Liverpool. Everything went right for Liverpool. And everything went wrong for City. Until the pandemic interrupted the season, at any rate, by which point the title was long since decided. But what's interesting is that after the three-month layoff, City went 8-2-0 to Liverpool's 5-2-2. City won four of those games by a score of 5-0 and twice put up 4-0 victories. One of those came against Liverpool, a game in which it felt like the pendulum had already swung back to City.

Still, it's hard to project a season when neither team feels on the upswing or in obvious decline. The core of both teams has been together a long time. They've both been managed by the same man for four seasons or longer. City has probably refreshed its side a little more vigorously, but then Liverpool feels like the more balanced side. Yet when a team is asked to follow up such an emotional year as the Reds had when they finally clinched their first title in three decades, the come-down tends to be significant. And City will ache for a comeback.

Chelsea's one-more-goal-than-the-other-team ploy should work fine in an era when defending seems all but dead. And United finally has a team that looks, well, competent. And so Arsenal, Everton, Leicester and Spurs will be bumped from the four Champions League places for no other reason than that there are eight teams that can realistically compete for them and only half of them will get there. They aren't as deep. And with a compressed schedule, that will matter a great deal.

1. Manchester City

2. Chelsea

3. Liverpool

4. Man United

5. Arsenal

6. Everton

7. Leicester City

8. Tottenham Hotspur

9. Wolves

10. Newcastle

11. Crystal Palace

12. Sheffield United

13. Leeds

14. Fulham

15. Southampton

16. Burnley

17. West Brom

18. Aston Villa

19. Brighton

20. West Ham

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