We all have our sneaky suspicions about the coming Premier League season. Who will win it, who will go down and where our clubs will finish. In fact, we've dedicated our latest issue to it.
But we thought we'd go one further here. We asked three of the FourFourTwo team for some more predictions - this time, some specific calls on players and bosses across the Prem...
FOURFOURTWO'S PREDICTED TABLES:
Predicted! FourFourTwo’s 2020/21 Championship table
Predicted! FourFourTwo's 2020/21 League One table
Predicted! FourFourTwo's 2020/21 League Two table
Who will be the Premier League top scorer in 2020/21?
Joe Brewin, Deputy Editor - @JoeBrewinFFT
Chelsea might not have fixed a leaky backline just yet – they need more than Thiago Silva to fix that particular problem – but who cares when they look set to be this fun? Despite able deputies in Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud, Timo Werner is likely to be the Blues undisputed first-choice upfront this year and has the ideal supporting cast to help him fire home for fun.
Kai Havertz looks like a brilliant addition from Bayer Leverkusen, but will likely have to be content sharing the goal burden at Stamford Bridge; meanwhile, Christian Pulisic will hope to continue his cracking post-lockdown form once he's back from injury and Hakim Ziyech is a proven provider. That's not even mentioning Mason Mount and a pair of assist-hungry full-backs, either. Frank Lampard's toughest job is working out how everyone fits in.
Ed McCambridge, Staff Writer - @EdMcCambridge
Danny Ings, for me. And why not? Ings was the second sharpest shooter in the Premier League last season despite playing for a Southampton team which struggled in the first half of the campaign. I’m backing him to go one better this time. The Englishman’s 22-goal haul played a huge role in Southampton’s fantastic turnaround in 2020, performing with the self-belief of a golden boot winner.
The Saints are beginning to look like an exciting unit under Ralph Hasenhuttl and can be expected to challenge for a Europa League spot this season. Their talismanic frontman, who has twice battled back from potentially career-ending knee injuries, is an inspiration, and at 28-years old is coming into his prime. Who wouldn’t want to see it?
Mark White, Staff Writer - @markwhlte
It’s got to be Harry Kane for me. Tottenham are going to batter more of the small teams in Jose’s second season and the England captain’s on penalty duty too. After resting during lockdown and getting a six-week break before the season starts, wouldn’t it be typical for him to net 25 goals and burn himself out before the Euros?
Conor Pope, Digital Editor - @Conorpope
I quite fancy Mohamed Salah for this. With no Africa Cup of Nations in January to disrupt things – as had originally been slated – I agree with This Is Anfield's Matt Ladson that we could see Salah hit 25 Premier League goals again this season.
While he scored just over half as many in all competitions as he did in his blistering 2017/18 campaign, he had more shots than anyone else in the league last season. If things start to go right for him, we could be looking at a weekly glut for Mo.
PREMIER LEAGUE 2020/21 PREVIEW Every club assessed ahead of the new season
Who will be the best new signing?
I think it's hard to look past Kai Havertz at this point – Chelsea look to have got themselves the best young midfielder in Europe, frankly. He scores for fun, has a wise head on young shoulders and should slot in fairly seamlessly at Stamford Bridge.
Donny van de Beek. The midfielder rose to prominence as part of the astonishingly talented Ajax team which reached the Champions League semi-finals in the 2018/19 campaign. Goals against Juventus and Tottenham in the knockout stages were proof of van de Beek’s ability to hurt Europe’s best defences and, at £35m, it looks as if Manchester United have grabbed a rare bargain for the coming season.
Van de Beek offers Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a quality midfield option, and how he chooses to use a player who scored 41 goals in 175 appearances for his boyhood club will be intriguing. A midfield containing all of Van de Beek, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes is a tantalising prospect, but would it be too attacking? Perhaps not for a manager reared on the strategic teat of Sir Alex Ferguson.
OK, this is a league that has just welcomed Kai Havertz - who could end up a Ballon d’Or winner one day - but aside from that obvious answer, I’m really excited to see Eberechi Eze.
Eze is a throwback of sorts; a mazy runner from midfield, a central creative spark who’s just joined Crystal Palace from QPR. The 22-year-old has natural flair, an eye for a pass and if he tears up the Premier League like he’s bossed the Championship, Hodgson could have a huge talent on his hands.
Can I shock you? Everton's signing of Allan.
Once more, I've been slightly influenced by reading so much of the FourFourTwo website (Richard Jolly makes the case for the Toffees' summer business here), but the level of improvement he could make to their midfield – from a low starting base, of course – might not be matched in the marginal gains other transfers could provide.
Who will be the player of the year?
Going by the notion that I think Manchester City will win the title this year (because asking Liverpool to keep up that level of performance after a long-awaited title win is huge), I'll go with Kevin De Bruyne. When is he ever bad? Easily the best midfielder in the Premier League, and the most influential player in a Pep Guardiola side.
Given that he's in the best place to showcase his talents, with a whole team geared around his skillset, I'm saying Jack Grealish. Few players are as individually responsible for their side’s performances as the 25-year-old and he thrives on being the main man in an often struggling Aston Villa team.
Grealish appears to have finally wriggled his way into the England squad - albeit due to a massive absentee list - and that experience should inspire him to new heights with a Euros in sight next summer. No English midfielder won more fouls, created as many chances from open play, provided more assists or wore fewer shin pads than Grealish last season. He’ll take on the foreign stars in those departments too this year.
I never gave up on Paul Pogba. This is a lad that went from playing in midfield with Pirlo and Vidal to carrying Andreas Perreira and Scott McTominay. No offence at all to United’s players - but a young midfielder with a huge price tag and the media’s full glare was always going to struggle.
Pogba moved to United on the promise that Ed Woodward would build a team around him, but only now has he got that. With Van de Beek, Bruno Fernandes, a re-energised Matic, genuine quality in attack and the incredible progress of McTominay and Fred - all credit to Ole - this is his time. He is a world-class footballer and still United’s best player.
Kevin De Bruyne. He was probably the Premier League's best player when Manchester City finished 18 points behind Liverpool. I think it will be closer this time, and he will be head and shoulders above the rest.
...and the best young player?
It's boring to say Havertz again here, so I'll go Donny van de Beek. Stupidly, he'll be eligible for the PFA prize despite turning 24 in April, but I think he looks like a really smart signing for United. He won't demand headlines and has fine colleagues at the heart of midfield – plus he plays for Manchester United now, where he'll get the kind of attention you need to win this award.
Kai Havertz. He's drawn comparisons with both Michael Ballack and new boss Frank Lampard and it’s not hard to see why. The goalscoring midfielder has the movement, composure and finishing ability to become a Premier League legend and there’s no reason to think such a confident youngster won’t hit the ground running in English football.
PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEW Are Chelsea ready to challenge for the title?
Havertz scored 46 goals in 150 appearances for his boyhood club and will now be surrounded by world class players at club level. The prospect of him getting on the end of crosses from Hakim Ziyech’s wand of a left foot, and combining with compatriot Timo Werner around the box, are mouth-watering. Expect big things from the former Leverkusen midfielder.
United from me again, I’m afraid. Whisper it, but Mason Greenwood could be the most natural goalscorer that England have produced since Michael Owen. He's two-footed, powerful, pacy and has a natural eye for goal, not to mention a god-given knack for finding himself a yard of space and unleashing a shot. He just needs to avoid the odd 'Ja Ja Ding Dong' away with England.
Marcus Rashford. Sorry, I know this is dull, but by the Young Player of the Year age limits, he qualifies, and he is just getting better and better.
Who will be the manager of the year?
I've got good feelings about Wolves and Southampton this season, but I think it'll be the former who could crack the top six this term . They've managed to keep their best players (beyond Matt Doherty), and this season don't have the arduous travails of Europe to contend with. They already coped with that brilliantly in 2019/20, but I wouldn't be surprised if they went one better this term. So Nuno Espirito Santo.
He may have turned into a snarling parody of himself in recent years but the early signs at Tottenham Hotspur suggest Jose Mourinho may finally have found a project suited to his style.
Spurs were 14th in the table when Mourinho took over from Mauricio Pochettino in November 2019 but rose to sixth by the end of last season, qualifying for the Europa League against the odds. Mourinho has tended to excel best at plucky underdog teams in the past, rather than established giants, and Spurs represent just that. A team without a major trophy since the League Cup triumph 12 years ago. Might we be about to see Mourinho roll back the years and inspire a team to unlikely new heights?
I'm going to resist the urge to go for my own team's manager - you're the apple of my eye, Mikel Arteta - and instead plump for big Ralph Hasenhuttl. It’s been years since the south coast has rocked but the Austrian has got them playing with intensity: if Liverpool play heavy metal football, Southampton are least delivering alternative rock after years of landfill indie from Mark Hughes and Claude Puel.
Even a top-half finish would be a fine achievement, given the competition - especially after losing the excellent Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and investing very little (again).
If Leeds do well under Marcelo Bielsa this season, they could do very well indeed. While his sides are still vulnerable to late-season collapses, guiding Leeds to a top-10 finish would be a big achievement – and he would do it in style.
And finally - the flop of the year will be...
As a Leicester fan, I don't have the highest hopes for us after last season's grim collapse. The team were showing off relegation form after lockdown (and just before it, too), and as I write this, don't seem to have a squad deep enough to cope with a horrific schedule that involves six consecutive domestic matchdays of Europa League football this year.
Expectations aren't terribly high, and it wouldn't surprise me if we were higher end of the bottom half this time. Obviously, I'd be delighted to be proved wrong...
He did a fantastic job in his first season, guiding a shallow Chelsea team to fourth place despite Eden Hazard’s departure and a transfer ban preventing him from adding new players last summer. His admirable promotion of Chelsea’s academy players was a breath of fresh air at a club too often concerned with shiny new signings.
Sadly, that appears to have been nothing more than talk, for Frank Lampard. A deluge of players has been brought in for huge fees - at the time of writing the club has spent £215m on players over the summer - and many of the young English players who excelled last season are no longer first choice options.
New players need to be bedded in, and that can take time. Lampard is under huge pressure for the first time in his Chelsea career.
Well, “flop” is harsh. But hear me out - Thiago Alcantara is going to struggle if he replaces Gini Wijnaldum.
Wijnaldum has missed two games since 2014 and has been arguably the most underrated midfielder in world football during that time. He uses the ball superbly, his positioning is world-class and his athleticism and strength is excellent. Thiago is a more naturally-gifted footballer, but this is who he is replacing: not Fabinho in the No.6 role.
An injury-prone player replacing Liverpool’s most important midfielder? It’s a huge risk. If anyone can, Thiago can, but the transition could take a couple of months - by that time, the title race could be over.
Despite having stuck with him in the recent internationals, I could see Gareth Southgate finding a new England No.1 before next summer's Euros. Sorry, Jordan Pickford.
NEW ENGLAND SHIRTS The Three Lions go retro with new 2020 home and away kits
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