The 2020/2021 Premier League season got underway early last month and as is the case every year passionate fans flocked to stadiums for the opening. Round of fixtures…. well, not this year. The ongoing pandemic has resulted in unprecedented, challenging times for those involved in the sport, but while the world has come to a standstill we are grateful that the “greatest league around” is underway, albeit behind closed-doors, and that we can still cheer on our sides from the comfort and safety of our homes.
Following a prolonged 2019-20 season in lieu of COVID-19, which kept many Liverpool fans on their toes as they were on the verge of being crowned champions before the season was suspended for four months, it was necessary for the schedule of the 2020-21 season to be altered . Hence, without a proper “pre-season” window, the new season began on the 12th of September.
Four games in, as a Liverpool fan, I could not have asked for a better start for the reigning champions. With tough games against the highly acclaimed, newly promoted Leeds United side overseen by a master-tactician Marco Bielsa as well as Chelsea and Arsenal. Three consecutive victories are just what the doctor ordered for Jurgen Klopp’s champions as they seek to defend the title they brought to Anfield after a 30 year wait.
Having dealt with Liverpool’s start to the season, it is only befitting that we assess the form of Liverpool’s “Achilles-heel” in recent years, Man City. Pep Guardiola’s side has gotten off to a less-than respectable start accumulating just four points from a possible nine, thus leaving them five points behind their Liverpudlian rivals and fellow title-contenders. In what is tipped to be another two-horse title race, it is important for Man City to regain their footing and to foster some momentum following the upcoming international break.
The gap between the two sides, highlighted by Liverpool’s “run-away” title-winning campaign last year, is further exacerbated by Man City losing the services of David Silva and Leroy Sane. As of the fourth of October, with just a day left before the transfer window to closes, they have not brought in playmakers in midfield to replace the two aforementioned departures and have also failed in roping in a leader (unlike Chelsea who managed to bring in the experienced Thiago Silva) to fill the void left by Kompany following his departure last year. The void in terms of leadership was very visible at Man City last season and could also be attributed to one of the reasons behind their less-than impressive attempt at a title-defense last season. On the other hand, Liverpool have further strengthened their squad with the high-profile signing of Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich and the acquisition of Diogo Jota from Wolves, who will now provide cover for Liverpool’s highly reputed front-three. Moreover, signing Tsimikas from Olympiakos has left Liverppol with a much-needed back-up option for Andy Robertson.
In terms of the rest, Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal have sustained the momentum garnered towards the latter-stages of last season. The reigning FA Cup champions beat Liverpool on penalties in the Community Shield and have acquired nine out of a possible twelve points to get their season up and running. Chelsea, who have been the big-spenders of this transfer window, have made up for lost-time following their transfer-ban being lifted. Lampard has brought the likes of Werner, Ziyech, Havertz and Thiago Silva to name a few. Following a string of dismal performances by Kepa Arrizabalaga, Edouard Mendy was roped in also to be Chelsea’s new man between the sticks.
The Tottenham and Gareth Bale love story has been rekindled with the ex-wonderkid of White Hart Lane returning to a more ambitious, well-run Tottenham Hotspur side now playing in their new state-of-the-art stadium. Following a disappointing last couple of seasons at Real Madrid, with more time spent on the golf-course and warming the bench than on the pitch, it will be interesting to see if the Gareth Bale of old can resurface and further strengthen Tottenham’s attack currently led by Son and Harry Kane.
Manchester United still seem to be assessing Ole’s performance as a manager and as a Liverpool supporter I have no complaints. If he does not retain a top-four finish for United this season, it might just be a matter of time before Ed Woodward finds a replacement for the Norwegian (did someone say Pocchetino?). However, with reports of Cavani completing a transfer to Old Trafford in the next few days (an Ibrahimovic-like signing for United), he might bring in some much-needed impetus which alongside fellow-signing Donny Van Der Beek could help Man United regain some dominance.
Top 4 Predictions:
- Man City
Everton – Liverpool’s Merseyside rivals seem to be gaining some unprecedented momentum under Ancelotti. With the signings of James Rodriguez and Allan, followed by an impressive start to the season, it is safe to state that this could be the best Everton in years. The Merseyside derbies should be mouthwatering.
- Sheffield United- Following a honeymoon season last year, I reckon Chris Wilder’s men may have a very wobbly follow-up season. They seem to be a completely different side following project restart at the end of last season and seem to have lost all the momentum they sustained up until March.
- West Bromwich Albion
Refer back to these predictions next May but in the interim, enjoy this season. Although it is void of fans at stadiums for now, it promises to be as exhilarating as ever….