The 20 Premier League clubs are stepping up their preparations ahead of the new Premier League season which begins on 12th September 2020.
With the exception of the two Manchester clubs, Manchester City and Manchester United and their respective opponents, who will be excused from Matchday one duties, all other clubs will look to begin their campaign on the brightest note possible.
Liverpool begin their title defence against Leeds United on Saturday while Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham face-off with Carlo Ancellotti’s new-look Everton. Monday night football will also see Chelsea go head to head with Brighton as Frank Lampard looks to challenge for the Premier League trophy with the help of several high profile acquisitions.
Matchday one has so much to offer, and as has been throughout several Premier League seasons, it will be the gate to several great moments of the 2020/2021 season.
From the title race to relegation battle to the influence of the front three on the Premier League title, we highlight the major talking points ahead of the 2020/2021 Premier League season.
Defenders mastering the art of passing
With several Premier League coaches now favouring the Tiki-taka style, the roles of defenders in the Premier League are gradually evolving. While Premier League defenders are still expected to win tackles and aerial duels as well as making clearances, a new key element has been added to their repertoire.
In the 2016/2017 season, Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta topped the chart for the most completed passes with 2145 completed passes followed by Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen with 1749, Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren with 1730, Manchester City’s Nicolas Otamendi with 1716 and Chelsea’s Gary Cahill with 1634. Five players, thus, made it into the top 20 in that season.
The figure increased from five to eight in the 2017/2018 season, as three more Premier League defenders made it into the top 20 for the most completed passes. Among them were Nicolas Otamendi who topped the chart with 2825 completed passes. Others who made the top 20 include Jan Vertonghen, Kyle Walker, Sanchez and Virgil van Dijk.
The trend continued in the subsequent season with 8 defenders appearing in the top 9 of the chart for most completed passes while 10 of them made it to the top 20.
In the 2019/2020 season also, Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk made the most completed passes, completing 2903 and was only followed by Manchester City’s Rodrigo who completed 2395 of his total passes.
Behind Rodrigo were Manchester United’s Harry Maguire with 2183 completed passes, Jonny Evans with 2163, Andrew Robertson with 2086, Caglar Soyuncu with 2078 and Fernandinho, who played in defence for larger parts of last season, with 1996. 13 defenders ended up in the top 20.
The above statistics vindicate the claim of the new element emerging among Premier league defenders. Those figures could even rise up with the coaches set to stick with their passing game and starting attacks from the back.
Premier League trio and Premier League glory
Antonio Conte’s Chelsea won the Premier League in the 2017/2017 season as a result of a tactical switch that gave them defensive solidarity. But another benefit of that tactical switch was the freedom that it gave to the attacking players.
Eden Hazard, Diego Costa, Pedro/Willian now had the freedom to create and score goals as well as win games for the club. That front three was, thus, crucial in Chelsea’s triumph that season just as it was for Manchester City and Liverpool when they won the Premier League title in the 2017/2018, 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 seasons.
Liverpool, in particular, benefitted immensely from the influence that their front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohammed Salah had on the team while Manchester City in their back to back triumph benefitted from the front three of Sterling, Aguero, Mahrez/ Silva/ Sane.
There is little doubt that this trend will stop when the 2020/2021 season begins in September. At the start of the season, Liverpool would still have their incredible front three and Manchester City will as well have their front three, with Ferran Torres replacing Leroy Sane who has now joined Bayern Munich.
Fortunately for the Premier League neutrals, there is an abundance of Premier League trios ahead of the season that could make the title race more and more fascinating.
The most notable of the trios, of course, is Frank Lampard’s Chelsea who have already secured the services of Timo Werner from RB Leipzig and Hakim Ziyech from Ajax. The duo will be expected to fill the middle and right-hand side of Chelsea’s front three next season in addition to Christian Pulisic who looks to have cemented his position on the left-hand side of the Chelsea attack.
With such a dynamic and explosive front three, Chelsea will be eager and desperate to mount a title challenge since their last win three seasons ago. But there will be competition as well from Manchester United whose attack appears to be taking shape since the latter part of last season.
Anthony Martial seems to be in the form of his life, Marcus Rashford seems newly energized while new boy Mason Greenwood will be hoping to continue his incredible run from the previous season.
Mikel Arteta will also be looking to challenge for the title by building a strong front three. Luckily for him, he still has Aubameyang to count on in the left side of the attack while Eddie Nketiah is likely to fill the middle spot although he faces competition from Lacazette. Nicolas Pepe, Willian and Saka will also provide options on the right side to ensure that the gunners have a formidable trio for the Premier League season.
The Premier League title and top four race
Liverpool won last season’s title by a huge margin, opening up a 25 points gap between themselves and second-place side Manchester City. In fact, it was only Guardiola’s men who came close to matching the quality and ruthlessness of the Liverpool side.
But hopefully, the top sides like Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arenal will provide a tougher competition to ensure the title race goes down to the wire.
Manchester United in the first half of last season looked to be settling for an Europa League spot until the signing of Bruno Fernandes turned their whole season around. The Portuguese was at the centre of everything good in the second half of the season as Solskjear’s men secured the third spot behind Liverpool and Manchester City.
The club will hope Fernandes continues to show those fine performances to help them challenge for the title with the help of a powerful midfield of van de Beek, Pogba, Fred and Matic, as well as their potent front three.
After placing fourth last season, Chelsea have made a huge statement of intent by signing five of the world’s best players including one of the most coveted young players in Kai Havertz. The German is now a blue just like Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva.
While Frank Lampard has played down talks of overhauling Liverpool and Manchester City, there is no reason to believe that the west Londoners will not challenge for the title especially if the new boys settle in quickly.
Leicester City, last season, raised doubts over the possibility of winning another Premier League title after they bottled their chances for a top-four position last season.
Brendan Rodgers men were somehow destined for a third-place finish until a string of poor and below-par performances saw the club miss out on a Champions League position. They will be looking to get even better this season but it is exciting to see how they cope in the absence of their number one left-back, Ben Chilwell.
Arsenal have been out of the top four and the Champions League for several seasons and were unable to change the narrative last season despite the rise in performances after Mikel Arteta’s appointment.
But with Aubameyang staying at the club, the signing of Gabriel Magalhães and Willian from Chelsea and the return of Dani Ceballos at the club, Arteta’s men could do more than just settle for an Europa League spot. And it would be no surprise if they go all out for a champions league place or even for the title.
Which team will be the dark horse?
The Premier League has been admired for the high competition for top spots even by the so called lower clubs. Leicester City certainly surprised the football world with their triumph in the 2014/2015 season, while the likes of Burnley and Wolves have also caused quite a number of troubles for the top clubs in previous seasons.
Last season, it was Sheffield United who were so close to securing an European spot for the first time as a result of their impressive performances under Chris Wilder. While there is a huge possibility of them repeating their fine performances, there are other clubs who could take their spot as the dark horse for the Premier League season.
It’s hard to ignore the threat the Everton could pose in this season’s Premier League. Carlo Ancelotti with his wealth of experience appears eager to return Everton to the top and the club’s board also seems to be in agreement with him.
The club has already signed talented Colombian, James Rodriquez from Real Madrid, while Allan and Doucoure have joined from Napoli and Watford respectively.
Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United could also be the dark horse for the 2020/2021 Premier League season after securing promotion to the Premier League since their exit in the 2003/ 2004 season.
They were labelled as the most exciting team to watch in the Championship after the arrival of Marcelo Bielsa and it will be no surprise to see them edge out several Premier League teams this season including the top clubs.
The relegation battle
The relegation battle was as intense and competitive as always and there is no indication of this season’s being any different.
Aston Villa who escaped relegation by the skin of the teeth will be looking to get themselves away from the relegation struggle but can they do so and stay up in the Premier League again?
Brighton and West Ham, on the other hand, were 2 and three places above the relegation respectively and will also expect to have a better season and avoid the battle for the relegation. The former in particular has strengthened their defence with the return of Ben White who had an impressive campaign with Leeds United in the championship.
David Moyes taking charge of his first full season will also ensure that West Ham avoids the relegation battle. But in order to achieve such a goal, Moyes will have to hope that Chelsea’s ambitious transfer strategy does not prise away one of his best players in Declan Rice from the London Stadium.
Golden boot and player of the season contenders
While so much focus will be on the title race, the relegation struggle and the dark horse, the race for the golden boot and the player of the season will also be monitored very closely by fans and pundits.
The golden boot has been a keenly contested area in the Premier League with plenty of strikers and midfielders gunning for the coveted trophy. From Leicester’s Jamie Vardy to Arsenal’s Aubameyang to Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Mohammed Salah and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, this season’s race promises to be an intriguing one.
The likes of Harry Kane of Tottenham might also join in the race after missing out last season while Chelsea’s new signing Timo Werner will also be expecting to make his debut Premier League season an indelible one by winning the golden boot award.
Another individual award that will be up for grabs is the player of the season award. The award has usually been awarded to the most influential player throughout the season who was capable of guiding his team to Premier League glory or a top 2 finish.
With the likes of Raheem Sterling, Christian Pulisic, Bruno Fernades, Salah, Aubameyang seeking to help their respective clubs to succeed this term, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.