Football

Premier League 2020-21 fan previews, part two: Liverpool to Wolves


Liverpool

We kick off as champions and there’s no reason to believe we won’t be right up there again. In normal times you go into a new season super-excited – for obvious reasons that’s missing a bit this time around, but we’re looking in great shape, and chasing number 20.

Key players The two full-backs flying up the pitch, the best front three in the world, the best keeper, Gomez and Van Dijk in front of him, and the three in the middle. I can’t see too many weak links, unless injuries hit.

Youngsters to watch We had glimpses of those set to play a part in a couple of cup ties and the final few games last season. Curtis Jones and Neco Williams, who’ve been at Anfield since they were kids, always look at home. Harvey Elliott has shown why we signed him – he’s not short on confidence – and Rhian Brewster is back from Swansea.

We need to sign A midfielder. Talk of Thiago from Bayern continues: he’d raise our midfield even higher and would be great against the better teams in keeping the ball. Another defender would be good, too. I liked watching Ben Godfrey at Norwich last season.

Biggest character The manager. Just boss.

When fans are allowed back, will you go? Yes, I will if I can, once the machinations of how it all works are sorted.

Predictions … We will finish 1st. Top four 1. Liverpool, 2. Man City, 3. Chelsea, 4. Man Utd. Bottom three 18. Southampton, 19. WBA, 20. Fulham. First manager sacked José Mourinho.

• Steph Jones

Harvey Elliott
Harvey Elliott: not short on confidence. Photograph: Paul Ellis/Reuters

Manchester City

I’m still reeling from the Lyon game – but I’m sure once City are back on the pitch I’ll be as engaged as ever. Optimistic? Yes and no. I think it’s inevitable Liverpool’s level will drop and I trust there’ll be a big response from Pep and the players to right the wrongs. But the thought of us sleepwalking into Pep’s final year of his contract with no obvious resolution or replacement lined up is making me very uneasy.

Key players De Bruyne, but that goes without saying. Ederson needs to improve on last season’s form, as does Mendy. But I think the guy that may hold the key to our season is Rodri. His form could be season-defining for us.

Youngster to watch Liam Delap, 17, who is absolutely ripping it up for our youth teams. And yes, he is Rory’s son.

We need to sign Messi would have been pretty nice. Maybe next year? The thought of the greatest player of all time coming to England (never mind to my club) is still absolutely mad. Meanwhile, we’re still short at centre-half. Koulibaly would be very welcome. I think we need a left back too, but (bizarrely) that doesn’t sound likely.

Biggest character Pep. It’ll be interesting to see how his legacy in English football is discussed as the season winds on.

When fans are allowed back, will you go? No, not until things are back to normal again. It just won’t feel the same. Going to the football is about seeing your mates, having a beer and being in amongst it all on the terraces.

Predictions … We will finish 1st. Top four 1. Man City, 2. Liverpool, 3. Chelsea, 4. Man Utd. Bottom three 18. Palace, 19. West Brom, 20. Fulham. First manager sacked Roy Hodgson.

Lloyd Scragg NinetyThreeTwenty.com @lloyd_scragg

Rodri
Will Rodri shape City’s season? Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

Manchester United

Ole has rejuvenated the squad and restored spirit – but we’re still three or four players off a title challenge. The owners have to bridge that gap. Van de Beek is a good buy, but we still need a left-back, centre-back, right-winger and a striker. As it is, we’ll be relying mostly on the side that impressed after lockdown. They’ll be run into the ground.

Key players Why we waited until January to sign Fernandes still beggars belief. He’s a leader, he scores, he creates and has a winner’s attitude. I’m also expecting another big season from Greenwood: such a natural finisher.

Youngsters to watch Teden Mengi was so solid at the heart of our U23 defence last season. He’s an excellent passer, a great tackler and full of self-confidence.

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We need to sign The needs are clear, but it looks like we’ll have to sell before we buy. Jones, Smalling, Pereira and Lingard will go, if anyone stumps up for them.

Biggest character Fernandes. It was so refreshing to see him give Lindelöf a public dressing down after Sevilla’s Europa League semi-final winner. We’ve not had that mentality since Fergie left.

When fans are allowed back, will you go? I will, but it’ll be interesting to see how it pans out. How do you stop fans leaping on each other after a last-minute winner?

Predictions … We will finish 3rd. Top four 1. Man City, 2. Liverpool, 3. Man Utd, 4. Chelsea. Bottom three 18. Palace, 19. West Brom, 20. Fulham. First manager sacked Steve Bruce.

Shaun O’Donnell

Bruno Fernandes
Bruno Fernandes (left): big personality. Photograph: Kevin Quigley/Kevin Quigley NMC Pool

Newcastle

A new season, but nothing much changes under Mike Ashley. As Yogi Berra put it: deja vu all over again.

Key players Given our lack of scoring, any points we earn will be on tight margins – so Martin Dubravka’s shot-stopping will be essential. Elsewhere, Miguel Almirón and Allan Saint-Maximin can light up the pitch, while Jonjo Shelvey is a class act, when he can be bothered.

Youngsters to watch It’ll be a big season for the (apparently) coveted Matty Longstaff, who needs to show why he was worth keeping after all the contract fuss, and for Northumbrian defender Kell Watts. Unfortunately, Ashley’s neglect of the academy means we don’t have a rich seam of young talent to tap into.

We need to sign An experienced, commanding striker like Troy Deeney would be a great addition – but that would go against Ashley’s policy of buying young and flogging on.

Biggest character Ashley’s dead hand dictates the mood here. No joy. No ambition. A zombie club. On a lighter note, Matt Richie’s mastery of the vernacular in silent stadiums has been quite amusing.

When fans are allowed back, will you go? It feels too soon for crowds. To quote Yogi again: “No one goes there any more – it’s too crowded.”

Predictions … We will finish 16th. Top four 1. Man City, 2. Liverpool, 3. Man Utd, 4. Arsenal. Bottom three 18. West Ham, 19. Fulham, 20. Aston Villa. First manager sacked David Moyes.

David and Richard Holmes

Allan Saint-Maximin
Allan Saint-Maximin: star quality. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/Reuters

Sheffield United

Mixed feelings. I’m looking forward to seeing how we can build on last season, but struggling to muster much enthusiasm for more crowd-free football – especially with not all games televised. Throw in a shortened preseason made even more disjointed by an unnecessary international break, and it all feels a bit odd.

Key players Chris Basham will still be bombing forward from the back to create havoc. John Fleck was unbelievable last season and hopefully we’ll see more of the same. And record signing Sander Berge looked to be getting better week by week – a graceful tank in midfield.

Youngsters to watch Aaron Ramsdale returns after his impressive spell with Bournemouth – though he has some big gloves to fill after two brilliant years of Dean Henderson.

We need to sign The squad is pretty thin beyond the first XI. Some realistic names: Calum Chambers to cover for Basham and Baldock, Rhian Brewster on loan to learn from master poacher Billy Sharp, and Emi Buendía of Norwich.

Biggest character Oli McBurnie: a constant source of amusement (unless you’re a Scotland or Cardiff fan). A player who doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously, which is probably just as well considering his sartorial choices.

When fans are allowed back, will you go? Assuming safety tweaks are in place with crowd flow and facilities, yes I would.

Predictions We will finish 12th. Top four 1. Man City, 2. Liverpool. 3. Man Utd, 4. Chelsea. Bottom three 18. Newcastle, 19. West Brom, 20. Fulham. First manager sacked David Moyes.

Ben Meakin @BladesPod – the Sheffield United Podcast

Sander Berge
Sander Berge: a graceful tank. Photograph: Peter Powell/Reuters

Southampton

I’m cautiously optimistic. We had a great end to last season and, with the quick turnaround, confidence should be high. We’ve done some decent business filling some holes that needed filling; add another central midfielder and we’re in a good place, I think.

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Key players Danny Ings for his goals, though Che Adams showed after the restart he can lighten the load. The creative burden is on Nathan Redmond and James Ward‑Prowse, but the full‑backs will be heavily involved, too.

Youngsters to watch Will Smallbone looked the part last season, but will probably need to bulk up. Jake Vokins has shown promise at left-back, but has the ultra-dependable Ryan Bertrand in front of him so may need to wait a little longer for a run of games. Michael Obafemi has already scored a few crucial goals but has to improve his all-round game.

We need to sign At least one more central midfielder to replace Højbjerg. If we were in a stronger financial position I’d say we could do with an upgrade on Oriol Romeu as a holding midfielder, but he’ll do a job for now.

Biggest character Not the loudest – we barely hear a peep out of him – but the owner is a focus. Our sponsor pulled out after replica shirts had already been put on sale; the club’s links to China are generating more angst than ever.

When fans are allowed back, will you go? Absolutely. It’s going to be a bit weird at first, but I can’t wait. If only for not having to listen to Alan Smith and Steve McManaman spouting their nonsense.

Predictions … We will finish 9th. Top four 1. Liverpool, 2. Man City, 3. Arsenal, 4. Chelsea; Bottom three 18. Aston Villa, 19. Fulham, 20. West Brom. First manager sacked Scott Parker.

Steve Grant SaintsWeb.co.uk @SteveGrant1983

Will Smallbone
Will Smallbone: looks the part. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/AP

Tottenham

I’m eternally optimistic. The alternative is binning off 38 league games. On paper we look set for fifth or sixth, but we’ve been routinely written off season after season by people who forget that other clubs can underperform, too. I’m going for a top-four finish. Be ambitious.

Key players Pierre-Emile Højbjerg is key to bringing midfield mettle and stability. The fitness (and protection) of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min is pivotal. We also need Giovani Lo Celso to explode and Dele Alli to reignite. Spurs have quality, but need to consistently deliver shock and awe, ruthless momentum, and belief. The weak link will be the lack of faith in fulfilling our potential. Everyone has a role to play. All eyes on Tanguy.

Youngsters to watch Dante Cassanova. He’s 16. He won’t break through. But just look at his name! Look at it!

We need to sign A striker. Someone to allow Kane to rest up occasionally so we don’t break him like we normally do. I’d be very content with Callum Wilson, and wouldn’t mind Troy Deeney, just to wind up them lot down the road.

Biggest character The gaffer. If you’ve watched All or Nothing you’ll know it’s the José show. For better or worse, he draws attention and places it firmly on his shoulders. Or on the shoulders of a scapegoated player. All eyes on Tanguy.

When fans are allowed back, will you go? Football needs fans. But asking them to come back and sit in silence is a stretch.

Predictions … We will finish 4th. Top four 1. Man City, 2. Liverpool, 3. Chelsea, 4. Spurs. Bottom three 18. Brighton, 19. Aston Villa, 20. Fulham. First manager sacked Dean Smith.

Spooky DearMrLevy.com, The Fighting Cock, @Spooky23

José Mourinho
José Mourinho: star of the show. Photograph: John Walton/PA

West Brom

It’s not looking great. The squad that we stumbled over the line with is now weaker having lost some of last year’s loan signings. It’s great to have Matheus Pereira and Grady Diangana permanently, and to sign Cédric Kipré – but realistically, we’re still well short.

Key players Pereira should step up with goals and assists – he scored eight and set up 16 last season. He’s a joy to watch.

Youngsters to watch Most of our kids will be out on loan, but I’m hoping that teenage forward Rayhaan Tulloch is given a chance in the squad.

We need to sign Diangana is a coup but we still need a goalkeeper, a left‑back, a defensive midfielder and two strikers. With a tight budget, it’s a big ask. It still looks like Filip Krovinovic might come back from Benfica on loan, and maybe Callum Robinson from Sheffield United, too – but there’s a lot of work to do to give us a chance of avoiding relegation.

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Biggest character The manager. Broadcasters love Slaven because he’s a joy to interview, and we love his honesty. We don’t have many players likely to make waves, though Charlie Austin always has potential.

When fans are allowed back, will you go? If it’s deemed safe, definitely.

Predictions We will finish 18th. Top four 1. Liverpool, 2. Man City, 3. Chelsea, 4. Man United. Bottom three 18. West Brom, 19. A Villa, 20. Fulham. First manager sacked Dean Smith.

• Richard Jefferson @RichBaggie

Grady Diangana
Grady Diangana: back with the Baggies. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

West Ham

I was cautiously optimistic after staying up, if only because we have Randolph instead of Roberto as our reserve keeper. That was until the baffling sale of Grady Diangana. We’re not in a good place: the defence is still poor, we’re not spending and expensive players such as Haller, Anderson, Fornals and Lanzini all underachieved last season. Surely they have to be better this time round?

Key players Keeping Declan Rice away from Chelsea will be vital, as is keeping Antonio fit now he’s found his position as a striker. Soucek’s aerial prowess and Bowen’s pace will again be important.

Youngsters to watch If he’s not too busy writing plays then Ben Johnson could solve our full-back problem – unless we get a good offer from West Brom, that is.

We need to sign Having sold Ajeti and Hugill, definitely another striker. A no-nonsense Lewis Dunk-style centre-back would also go down well, as would a new full-back. There must be another Andy Robertson out there somewhere.

Biggest characters The owners will keep the chat boards fulminating.

When fans are allowed back, will you go? October feels too soon, but I’d go, as at least the London Stadium is suited to social distancing. And we now have two squared-off stands to look forward to. After an enforced absence the fans might even feel a little less nostalgic for Upton Park.

Predictions We will finish 15th. Top four 1. Man City, 2. Liverpool, 3. Chelsea, 4. Tottenham. Bottom three 18. Crystal Palace, 19. West Brom, 20. Fulham. First manager sacked Steve Bruce.

Pete May Author of Goodbye to Boleyn, HammersInTheHeart.blogspot.co.uk

Declan Rice
Declan Rice: wanted by Chelsea. Photograph: Javier García/BPI/REX/Shutterstock

Wolves

There’s been a certain nervousness among fans: everyone’s keen for us to build on the past three seasons, but investment was looking limited. So it was great to see us pay Porto £37m for teenager Fabio Silva. Add a few more new faces to bolster our small squad and I’m confident we’ll make more progress under Nuno and his superb staff.

Key players Raúl Jiménez’s goals will be key once again, as will Rúben Neves in the middle of the park.

Youngsters to watch With Jonny injured for the foreseeable and Matt Doherty sold to Tottenham, there’s a huge opportunity for Rúben Vinagre on our left-hand side.

We need to sign A big gap in our squad is our right side, where Adama Traoré and Oskar Buur are our only defensive options. I’d worry if either had to start on the first day at Sheffield United, but Porto youngster Tomás Esteves has been linked. And I’m also a big fan of Josh Dasilva at Brentford, who could add creativity and goals.

Biggest character Conor Coady: the heartbeat of the club. Definitely not shy.

When fans are allowed back, will you go? It needs to be entirely safe before we start letting fans in. I’m desperately missing Molineux, though.

Predictions We will finish 7th. Top four 1. Man City, 2. Liverpool, 3. Man Utd, 4. Chelsea. Bottom three 18. Newcastle, 19. West Brom, 20. Fulham. First manager sacked Dean Smith.

Louie Silvani @LouieSilvani4

Raúl Jiménez
Raúl Jiménez: key up front. Photograph: Nigel Keene/ProSports/Shutterstock

Part 1: Arsenal to Leicester





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