Most Important Player: Mohamed Salah
Most Important Incoming Transfer: Ibrahima Konate
Most Important Outgoing Transfer: Georginio Wijnaldum
Last season was a difficult one for Liverpool for the most part, especially with the injuries to their center-backs in Virgil Van Dijk (five games played), Joel Matip (ten games played), and Joe Gomez (seven games played). Liverpool will get all three back this season, and a defense that held them back this season will become a strength again, particularly with the addition of Ibrahima Konate. That strong defense is flanked by arguably the best goalkeeper in the world in Allison. Liverpool’s midfield could struggle without Georgino Wijnaldum, but Naby Keita has been electric in the preseason, and Thiago should be improved in his second season with the team. Liverpool has also been linked to transfers for Aurelien Tchouameni and Renato Sanches. The attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firimino, and Sadio Mane will be back in full force, and Diogo Jota provides an influx of shot creation as well. As disastrous as it looked at times last season, Liverpool still finished third in the table, which says a lot about their floor as a club. Jurgen Klopp is still the best manager in the Premier League, and Liverpool’s roster is reinvigorated and ready to compete for the title once again.
Most Important Player: N’Golo Kante
Most Important Incoming Transfer: Romelu Lukaku
Most Important Outgoing Transfer: Tammy Abraham
The Champions League winners from last year, Chelsea, bring back virtually the same roster with one major upgrade at striker. Romelu Lukaku registered 30 goals and 11 assists in all competitions last year and is one of the most clinical forwards in the world. Chelsea has tons of creative attacking midfielders, including Mason Mount, Kai Havertz, and Hakim Ziyech, who should make life easier on Lukaku. Chelsea brings back N’Golo Kante, the best defensive midfielder in the world and the engine that drives this team, as well as Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho, to round out a strong holding midfield. Thomas Tuchel reshaped Chelsea’s future with his 3-4-1-2 formation and his changed roles for various players. Tuchel rallied off 13 wins in the longest unbeaten start for a Chelsea manager of all time before leading the team to a Champions League title. A Premier League championship could be next for the stout manager, but this title race will be cutthroat between the top four sides.
#3 Manchester United
Most Important Player: Paul Pogba
Most Important Incoming Transfer: Jadon Sancho
Most Important Outgoing Transfer: Axel Tuanzebe
Ole Gunnar Skolsjaer’s Manchester United is ready to compete for the big trophies. For the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, United has a roster full of talent and depth at all three levels. The forward rotation of Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, and Edinson Cavani was good last year. Still, it should be even better with the addition of Jadon Sancho and the continued development of the young players. That potent attacking line is flanked by two of the best midfielders in the world in Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes and the fast-rising holding mid Scott McTominay. Defensively, Manchester United already allowed the fifth-fewest goals in the Premier League last season. Still, the addition of former Real Madrid center-back Raphael Varane should make the team’s defense even more of a strength alongside Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Solksjaer’s long-term vision for this club is coming to fruition, and a title challenge shouldn’t surprise anyone this season.
#4 Manchester City
Most Important Player: Kevin De Bruyne
Most Important Incoming Transfer: Jack Grealish
Most Important Outgoing Transfer: Sergio Aguero
Manchester City has finished inside the top three in ten of the last eleven seasons, but this could be a rare misstep for the up-and-coming English side. Ilkay Gundogan led the team with 13 goals last season, and it feels extremely unlikely that can happen again. City has surprisingly not done well in replacing Sergio Aguero amidst the downturn of his career. The signing of Jack Grealish provides them with another creative midfielder/forward, but they still lack a sense of clinical finishing in the final third. While there is good depth on the wings, the lack of consistent minutes for individual players is not good for overall confidence and clinical play in front of the goal. The Citizens also lack dominant possession midfielders, particularly when they come against the likes of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante. Pep Guardiola will have this team gaining consistent results against the bottom-table sides, but their head-turning 1-0 loss to Spurs to open the season indicates what’s to come for this team. It’s not the beginning of the end for City, but the rest of the top of the Premier League is too strong for them to continue their recent stretch of dominance.
#5 Leicester City
Most Important Player: Jamie Vardy
Most Important Incoming Transfer: Patson Daka
Most Important Outgoing Transfer: Christian Fuchs
Leicester City is clearly a step below the top four sides in the Premier League, but they are much closer than most of the other teams in the table. Jamie Vardy had a bit of a down season last year as he only scored 15 times in the Premier League (he scored 18+ in the prior three years), but he had 9 assists which was the most of his career in the English top flight. The Foxes have done a nice job of bringing in young attacking players to support Vardy, including James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, Kehelichi Ihenacho, and new signing Patson Daka. Wilfred Ndidi and Youri Tielemans provide a stout holding midfield duo. At the same time, the continued emergence of the 20-year-old center-back Wesley Fofana continues to provide the defense with a stout presence in the middle of the field. Leicester is well-managed by Brendan Rodgers, and they’re well-equipped to finish inside the top six once again this season.
Harry Kane was the best player in the Premier League last season as he led the league in goals with 23 and assists with 14, but that effort was only good enough to see Tottenham finish in seventh place. Spurs were just unspectacular on both ends of the field. While I have high hopes for new manager Nuno Espirito Santo who comes over after a successful spell as Wolves manager, the team looks virtually the same as last year. Heung-min Son and Kane are arguably the best attacking duo in the Premier League, but the rest of the roster lacks shot creation threats. Cristian Romero and Davinson Sanchez are a fine center-back pairing, while Tanguy Ndombele and Pierre Hojbjerg are a solid midfield. Still, this team doesn’t have the most exciting depth and is a far cry from the team that beat Manchester City in the Champions League a couple of years ago.
Most Important Player: Harry Kane
Most Important Incoming Transfer: Bryan Gil
Most Important Outgoing Transfer: Toby Alderweireld
A 2-0 opening day defeat to Brentford underscored the ongoing tumultuous times for Arsenal as they barely put up a fight against a team playing their first top-flight soccer in 74 years. However, this Arsenal team has enough talent to bounce back somewhat from that disappointing result. Bukayo Saka is one of the emerging young talents in the Premier League. Still, Arsenal has a scoring problem as Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang has seen an ongoing decline in shooting and is now 32 years old. In contrast, Alexandre Lacazette has never fully lived up to expectations. Thomas Partey is the most notable talent as one of the best defensive midfielders in the Prem. Ben White was a wild signing for $70 million, but the youngster could be the long-term answer at center-back. All in all, this team is decent enough to maintain a mid-table spot, but an early slip in form could result in Mikel Arteta losing his job.
Most Important Player: Thomas Partey
Most Important Incoming Transfer: Ben White
Most Important Outgoing Transfer: Joe Willock
#8 West Ham
The Hammers put together an exciting Premier League season last year as they finished 6th in the table ahead of typical top-six sides Tottenham and Arsenal. Tomas Soucek and Michail Antonio are back with the team after scoring 10 goals each last year to lead the club, while Declan Rice returns as the do-it-all defensive midfield presence and leader at 22 years old. Alphonse Areola also provides additional consistency in goal as Lukasz Fabianski is now 36 years old. Jesse Lingard is back with Manchester United after contributing 9 goals and 4 assists on a loan spell last year, but he could be back with West Ham sooner rather than later. In any case, David Moyes’s group seems to be here to stay as a top-half side in the Prem.
Most Important Player: Declan Rice
Most Important Incoming Transfer: Alphonse Areola
Most Important Outgoing Transfer: Felipe Anderson
Rafa Benitez, previously the manager for some huge teams, including cross-town rivals Liverpool, has a lot of work to help this team recover from a poor 2020 campaign. Luckily, he has some solid talent at his disposal to work with, including the forward trio of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarilson, and Moise Kean. Everton also benefits from the creative midfield play of James Rodriguez and Allan. Outside of Lucas Digne and Sheamus Coleman, the center-back spots are still question marks, but Demarai Gray ad Andros Townsend will provide more versatility and shot creation on the wings. Benitez should be able to right the ship for this team.
Most Important Player: Lucas Digne
Most Important Incoming Transfer: Demarai Gray
Most Important Outgoing Transfer: Joshua King
#10 Aston Villa
After finishing 11th in the Premier League last season, some may be expecting a decline for Aston Villa this season, particularly after the sale of Jack Grealish. However, Aston Villa used the $129.25 million generated from the Grealish transfer to sign three new attacking players in Danny Ings, Emiliano Buendia, and Leon Bailey. Those three, along with incumbents Ollie Watkins and Bertrand Traore, should help Villa score more this season. Emiliano Martinez is quietly one of the better goalkeepers in the Prem, and this Villa squad is still full of talent even after Grealish’s departure. I have a lot of confidence in Dean Smith’s ability to keep this team in the league’s top half.
Most Important Player: Emiliano Martinez
Most Important Incoming Transfer: Danny Ings
Most Important Outgoing Transfer: Jack Grealish
#11 Leeds United
I’m writing this after rewatching the highlights from Manchester United’s 5-1 thrashing of Leeds, and I’m trying not to overreact to one game. Leeds is a talented outfit, and Kalvin Phillips has emerged as one of the most exciting players in English soccer after an inspiring run at the 2020 Euros. Leeds remade their left flank with winger Jack Harrison, and left-back Junior Firpo as most of their attacking play came on the right last year with Raphinha, Helder Costa, and Luke Ayling. Patrick Bamford bagged 17 goals and 7 assists last season and is set to be a big contributor again this season. This season, Marcelo Bielsa should help this team be very competitive, despite the disappointing result in their first match.
Most Important Player: Kalvin Phillips
Most Important Incoming Transfer: Junior Firpo
Most Important Outgoing Transfer: Ezgjan Alioski
This will be a year of transition for Wolves as their manager, Nuno Espirito Santo, moves to Tottenham. Bruno Lage will replace Santo with somewhat limited managerial experience, and he’ll lean on team captain Connor Coady and veteran Ruben Neves to help with leadership this season. The Wanderers also moved on from goalkeeper Rui Patricio this summer as the veteran was transferred to Roma. Jose Sa will be the replacement in the net. It says a lot about this team’s attacking depth that Francisco Trincao, a loan acquisition from Barcelona, will struggle to see first-team minutes as the likes of Pedro Neto, Adama Traore, Raul Jimenez, Daniel Podence, and Fabio Silva provide lots of attacking talent.
Most Important Player: Connor Coady
Most Important Incoming Transfer: Rayan Ait Nouri
Most Important Outgoing Transfer: Rui Patricio
#13 Brighton & Hove Albion
Brighton has the chance to be one of the most improved teams in the Premier League this season after finishing between 15th and 17th in each of the past four years. While expected goals don’t tell the full picture, Brighton’s season was eye-opening as they scored just 40 goals compared to an excepted goals tally of 51.6 and allowed 46 goals compared to an expected mark of 37.7 goals allowed. Their expected goal differential of +13.9 was the fifth-best in the Premier League. Enock Mwepu should help the midfield, and the departure of Ben White could theoretically hurt the defense, but this is still a solid group top-to-bottom. If you believe in expected goals as a metric, bet on Brighton this season.
Most Important Player: Lewis Dunk
Most Important Incoming Transfer: Enock Mwepu
Most Important Outgoing Transfer: Ben White
Call me crazy; call it an overreaction and recency bias; call it whatever you want. I’m in on the Brentford Bees this season. A 2-0 win over Arsenal was a great way to welcome Brentford back to the English top-flight for the first time in 74 years, but it’s not a one-off. This team is ready to compete with the big boys. Ivan Toney is a goal machine as he bagged 31 goals and 10 assists in the Championship last season. He’s well-supported by attacking talent on the wings in Bryan Mbeumo and Sergio Canos. Brentford scored 79 goals in the Championship last season, the most in the league, and are ready to make some noise in the top flight.
Most Important Player: Ivan Toney
Most Important Incoming Transfer: Kristoffer Ajer
Most Important Outgoing Transfer: Emiliano Marcondes
I’ve seen many discussions about Newcastle potentially being a relegation side as they conceded 62 goals last season, the fifth-most in the Premier League. For reference, Sheffield conceded 63 goals and finished the last place in the Prem. Newcastle’s attack kept them afloat as Callum Wilson scored 12 goals to lead the team. Newcastle didn’t do anything to improve its defense this summer, and their notable bit of business was to sign Joe Willock on a permanent deal. Still, he’s much more of a contributor in the scoring department (he had 8 goals last season). However, as Freddie Woodman gets more comfortable in the English top-flight, Newcastle’s defense should improve. Steve Bruce’s group isn’t quite a relegation side, but it could be a long season if their defense doesn’t improve.
Most Important Player: Callum Wilson
Most Important Incoming Transfer: Joe Willock
Most Important Outgoing Transfer: Florian Lejeune
The Danny Ings sale had been a long time coming, and while the departure of the most identifiable player on the club is sad for the fans, it could actually be better for the team in the short and long term. Southampton used the money from the Ings transfer to add Adam Armstrong to their forward rotation – he’ll compete with Che Adams for first-team striker minutes. Additionally, the full-back depth was reinforced with Romain Perraud and Valentino Livramento. James Ward-Prowse returns as the captain, and Ralph Hasenhuttl returns as the manager, and that continuity is essential for this team’s ability to stay afloat in the Prem. Southampton allowed 68 goals last year, the second-most in the Prem, and their underwhelming defense will limit their ceiling. However, I like them to avoid relegation this season.
Most Important Player: James Ward-Prowse
Most Important Incoming Transfer: Adam Armstrong
Most Important Outgoing Transfer: Danny Ings
I’m a huge fan of Nick Pope, one of the most underrated goalkeepers in this league, and the addition of Nathan Collins to play at center-back next to James Tarkowski will help fortify this defense. However, Burnely scored just 33 goals last season and didn’t do much to improve their attacking corps. Chris Wood was the leading scorer last year with 12 goals, and no other player on the team scored more than 3. Sean Dyche provides consistency as the longest-serving manager in the Premier League – he’s managed Burnley since 2012. Jack Cork, Ashley Westwood, and Josh Brownhill provide a sense of security in midfield as decent holding midfielders. However, this team’s lack of genuine shot creation will hold them back again this season and put them on the cusp of relegation for the second-straight year.
Most Important Player: Nick Pope
Most Important Incoming Transfer: Nathan Collins
Most Important Outgoing Transfer: Ben Gibson
#18 Crystal Palace
Wilfried Zaha has been electric in the preseason, and Crystal Palace worked hard to add talent this summer. Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen are the new faces at center-back, both of whom should start this season. Reinforcements were needed at that position after Palace allowed a whopping 66 goals last season. Palace will need to improve its scoring efficiency as it outperformed expectations in goal-scoring with 41 goals compared to 32.4 expected goals. Their expected goal differential was -25, the third-lowest in the league, so they should have been a relegation side. Andros Townsend and Patrick van Aanholt are the notable departures from the team, while former NYCFC coach Patrick Viera has been named the new manager. This team probably should have been a relegation side last year and is dealing with significant turnover – that could be a recipe for disaster.
Most Important Player: Wilfred Zaha
Most Important Incoming Transfer: Marc Guehi
Most Important Outgoing Transfer: Andros Townsend
#19 Norwich City
The winners of the Championship last season, Norwich ended the year with an impressive 97 points, the most of any team in the Championship since the 2017-18 season. Norwich’s last stint in the top flight only lasted one season, and this is virtually the same group as that team. Teemu Pukki scored 26 goals in the Championship last season, while Emiliano Buendia had 15 goals and 15 assists, but he was sold to Aston Villa this summer. Norwich could struggle to replace his scoring and playmaking, but new additions Christos Tzolis and Milot Rashica could help in that regard. Ultimately, I don’t see Norwich as good enough to maintain a spot in the top flight this season.
Most Important Player: Todd Cantwell
Most Important Incoming Transfer: Christos Tzolis
Most Important Outgoing Transfer: Emiliano Buendia
Watford’s latest stint in the Championship lasted only one season as they are back in the Premier League. Their last stay in the top flight lasted five years, and they averaged about the 15th spot in the table over that stretch, but this team isn’t quite as talented. Xisco is a new manager without much experience, and the Premier League will be a rude awakening for him as a new coach. Ismaila Sarr (13), Joao Pedro (9), and Troy Deeney (7) are the big talents on offense as each contributed with scoring last season, and Joshua King will chip in as a depth piece. However, I don’t have much confidence in this team’s defense or goal-keeping situation, and they could suffer some ugly defeats against the top-six sides.
Most Important Player: Ismaila Sarr
Most Important Incoming Transfer: Imran Louza
Most Important Outgoing Transfer: Craig Dawson