Dubai: They say time flies when you are having fun. And if you are a football fan, then that is very true. The past three months have flown by thanks to several high profile football events to keep fans engaged. We have had Euro 2020, Copa America and football action from the Olympics.
But all of these pale into insignificance when compared to what is about to begin again – the English Premier League.
It is the greatest show on earth, nothing else can match the sheer drama or entertainment of this competition which is watched the world over.
WATCH! Gulf News Premier League Preview
And there’s so much to look forward to again when the new 2021/22 season kicks off tomorrow – all of those new high-profile signings in action, shock results, horrific VAR decisions and of course goals aplenty. Life will have meaning once again for fanatics of the game who have been starved of weekly action.
As a reminder, here is what the 2020/21 final standings in the Premier League looked like:
The big boys will be at each other’s throats once more for the title while the newly promoted clubs will be desperate to retain their status in England’s top flight during a landmark year as it heads into its 30th season. And there’s no better way to mark it than by allowing fans back inside the stadiums.
Due to COVID-19, they were unable to go to the games and those large grounds bereft of spectators made for a very sorry sight. Fans could only watch the action on TV and what they saw was a recognisable game in an unrecognisable context. Clubs did their best to compensate for their absence by covering empty seats with banners, flags and cut-out faces of supporters while broadcasters added crowd noise to create some atmosphere for viewers. Attempts to mitigate the lack of crowds can only do so much – nothing can compensate for the real thing. Even the players themselves will vouch for that what with so many struggling to raise their games inside empty venues.
But, they’ll be cheered and booed in equal measure when the action resumes under the floodlights on Friday 13th with newcomers Brentford entertaining Arsenal at the Community Stadium in the opening fixture.
So, who will be crowned champions, who will be relegated, who will win the FA Cup and League Cup? Read on as the Gulf News team predicts the outcome of the new EPL season.
Chelsea will knock Man City off their perch...
Imran Malik, Assistant Editor
Everton will win it… Calm down, I’m just talking about the race to win 6th spot. How I would dearly love for the Toffees to be challenging for the title but we just aren’t there, yet. Former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez was a controversial appointment but he has proven wherever he has managed that he is a very good coach.
He won the Champions League with Liverpool, the Europa League with Chelsea and with the squad he has inherited at Goodison, he should be able to get them right up there because with the addition of winger Demarai Gray Everton have the makings of a good team.
The top 6 has been the target for a number of years and the reason I feel they can achieve it this time around is because the other teams battling for the same prize – Tottenham and West Ham – will both be playing in Europe this season and will have to juggle the extra fixtures not to mention extra travel and it will end up costing them several places in the table.
Everton have the chance to nip in and take 6th which would qualify them for the Europa League next season and above them in 5th will be Leicester City which is where they finished in the previous campaign. Brendan Rodgers will find it hard to break into the top four because the Foxes are just a little short in terms of quality compared to Man City, Man Utd, Liverpool and Chelsea. But in what order will those four finish? I feel Pep Guardiola’s City will be closely pushed by Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea and the Blues will clinch it on the final day, dramatic or what?! Man Utd will take third and Liverpool will finish fourth.
As for the dreaded drop, I don’t think new boys Brentford will survive nor will Norwich but Watford will and that means we need an established team to slip away and I think that will be Southampton who have been woeful. I also feel their manager Ralph Hasenhüttl will be the first managerial casualty of the season, but if Arsenal don’t start well then the pressure will be on Mikel Arteta and he could well face the axe.
As for the FA Cup, I think Man City will go all the way and win it, while Everton will win the League Cup.
FA Cup: Man City
League Cup: Everton
Relegation: Brentford, Norwich City, Southampton
Man City will retain their title
Matt Smith, Sports Editor
It is simply a two-horse race but I am still a little torn between whether it is London or Manchester blue on the ribbons at the end of the campaign. The key lies with Chelsea landing Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan and Manchester City reeling in the more record-breaking Harry Kane from Tottenham.
One looks a lot more realistic than the other before City take on Spurs this weekend, and that could be a telling factor. Lukaku is in London to consolidate a revolutionised team under Thomas Tuchel and the fact Tammy Abraham is on the way out means that one is done.
If Harry Kane shifts to northern England and pulls on a controversial City shirt before September comes around then all bets are off. No team could keep up with them regardless of their new recruits.
Chelsea think they should win the title if City fail to sign Kane, but I think the fact that the goal getters at the Etihad on any given day are 11 (Ederson gets out every now and then) means you can’t stop them.
Chelsea will do a great job but just miss out, as bigger questions will be asked at Manchester and Liverpool. Jadon Sancho and a recovered Virgil van Dijk (third and fourth) are not the answer.
The first axe (as we politely put it) will fall on Patrick Vieira. He cannot keep a very poor Crystal Palace team up after failed careers at New York and Nice.
There a few other contenders as Shaun Dyche has dodged a bullet for a long, long time with a shrewd team at Burnley. If Jurgen Klopp does not deliver at Anfield in front of a 50,00-plus crowd that could sway a decision. And the pressure will be on after a limp title defence, Thomas Tuchel and Jurgen Klopp may be up there if their boys fail to deliver at the top.
FA Cup: Man Utd
League Cup: Man City
Relegated: Crystal Palace, Norwich, Brentford
Tuchel can lead the Blues to glory
Shyam Krishna, Senior Associate Editor
I want to say Arsenal will win, but I don’t think they will. Given how the Gunners have performed in recent years, there’s no reason to expect a turnaround in fortunes. With the array of talent in Manchester City ranks, Pep Guardiola should not have any qualms in steering them to another title. But, I will disregard that and pick Chelsea to win it.
As an Arsenal supporter, it’s not easy to predict a Chelsea win. Having seen Thomas Tuchel’s side hand out City a defeat towards the end of last season and repeat it in the Champions League final reaffirms my belief that Chelsea could be the side to beat this season.
Liverpool too will be in the mix, bolstered by the return of Dutchman Virgil van Dijk from an injury layoff. So manager Jurgen Klopp will only be keen to erase the bitter memories of last year. Manchester United are likely to have a better outing, but it’s difficult to see them mounting a serious challenge for the title.
Manchester City has been so consistent in recent years that it’s difficult to rule them out as genuine contenders. If Guardiola’s side continues last year’s red hot streak, we could be in for another superb season of football. Their talisman Sergio Aguero may not be around, yet they should be favourites to take the League Cup for the seventh time in a row.
Chelsea, City and Liverpool should take the European spots. Man United could beat Arsenal to the fourth slot, but the Gunners might land the FA Cup.
So why would I back Chelsea to win the Premier League? The Blues are such a tenacious side that have the will and skill to last a punishing season. The arrival of Romelu Lukaku will give them the added edge. And most of all, they will benefit from Tuchel’s cerebral touch, which we saw last season.
So, don’t be surprised if the Premier League goes to Stamford Bridge.
FA Cup: Arsenal
League Cup: Man City
Relegation: Brentford, Norwich City, Watford
It is time Man Utd recaptured top spot
Sahil Sajan, Special to Gulf News
Coming into the 2021/2022 Premier League Season, almost all the teams have made impressive signings, specifically the high-profile teams who are breaking the bank and continuously being linked to world-class players.
Manchester United is the team that looks the most dangerous and are favorites to clinch the title this season. The new additions of Jadon Sancho and soon to be announced Raphael Varane who have won everything with Real Madrid and France have given them a major boost in the squad depth. And they have had a decent pre-season too and that bodes well going forwards.
It looks very likely that the top 4 will include the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Liverpool. For the Europa League, Arsenal and Leicester City have the biggest chance.
In the past, we’ve seen many relegation battles go to the final match day, and it could also go this season. Brighton, Brentford, and Norwich city could be the teams to be relegated as the squad depth of the teams are not strong.
Many teams such as Manchester United who haven’t won any trophies in the past few years will be targeting a domestic cup like the FA Cup and for the League Cup, Manchester City will be looking to retain the cup and look the likeliest to win it.
FA Cup: Man Utd
League Cup: Man City
Relegation: Brighton, Brentford, Norwich City
Past champions: Who has won the Premier League the most?
The English Premier League is easily one of the best football divisions in the world. It was formed for the 1992-93 season, and ever since its creation, Man Utd have dominated it over the past three decades. But who else has lifted the coveted Premier League trophy?
Man Utd - 13 titles
The Red Devils are the most successful English club in the EPL and by some margin too. They have won the title 13 times and they all came under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson, regarded as one of the greatest managers in the world.
He guided Utd to become the first ever winners of the EPL in the 1992/93 season with Aston Villa finishing second and so began an incredible period of domination with Utd winning the league title in four of the first five Premier League campaigns. Armed with a young line-up that featured the likes of David Beckham and Paul Scholes, Utd comfortably saw off competition from Arsenal during the turn of the century to pick up more Premier League honours.
After 2003, United had to face big-spending Chelsea in the title race. After two consecutive years without a league title, Ferguson put them back on track with back-to-back titles in 2007-08 and 2008-09. Soon, Man City were emerging as yet another threat but Utd responded with titles in 2010-11 and 2012-13 campaigns. After the retirement of Ferguson, though, Utd have struggled to hit the heights.
Chelsea - 5 titles
The Blues were one of the initial members of the EP but had to wait until 2003 to actually win it. Following the takeover of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who brought a massive influx of funds into the club, Chelsea began buying the best players in the world. And with Jose Mourinho in charge, Chelsea managed to stun the Premier League by winning back-to-back titles.
Chelsea are second in the list of EPL title winners but they have found it hard to dominate recently. Mourinho helped them win three league titles while Antonio Conte and Carlo Ancelotti have been the other league winning managers at Stamford Bridge.
Some of the players who have contributed to Chelsea’s title successes include Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, John Terry, and Diego Costa.
Man City - 5 titles
City had not achieved a great deal since their inception in 1880 but this finally changed in 2008 when they were taken over by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan. He pumped in millions to the club to get them challenging and his investment has paid off with City quickly jumping ahead of established EPL clubs. City have now won four league titles with the first coming in 2011-12 campaign. Since then, the blue half of Manchester has seen an incredible surge and they have taken Arsenal to become the third most successful EPL team. Their first league title is one of the iconic moments in football. They were in danger of losing the league on the last day to rivals Utd but then Sergio Aguero stepped in with a last gasp winner to hand a maiden title for the club.
Roberto Mancini led the club to the first title before Manuel Pellegrini continued the success. Since then Pep Guardiola has given them a new dimension in terms of style of play. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager has helped City pick up several Premier League, League Cup, and FA Cup titles.
Arsenal - 3 titles
Founded in 1886, the Gunners transformed their reputation as a team that plays boring football into a team that is known for attractive football thanks to Arsene Wenger. He was at the helm for more than two decades and helped them win the EPL in the 1997-98 season.
They were able to break the dominance of Man Utd with the title in 2001-02 and their last came in the 2003-04 season where they managed to go unbeaten throughout the campaign and they are the only team to have managed this feat. This gained them the nickname of The Invincibles and it featured some of the iconic players like Thierry Henry.
Liverpool - 1 title
The Reds won the EPL for the first time in the 2019-20 campaign but they dominated English football before the new league was born with a string of titles for several decades. The team featured the likes of Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish. But in the EPL, Liverpool have had to bide their time. When they were taken over in 2010 by Fenway sports group and armed with millions to spend, they were able to make a significant amount of progress under the management of Jurgen Klopp.
Even though Liverpool have come close to winning the EPL since the turn of the century, the remarkable shift came as a result of signing players like Virgil van Dijk.
Leicester City - 1 title
The Foxes were crowned as champions in the 2015-16 campaign against all odds. Claudio Ranieri was in charge of the team, which was expected to finish mid-table at best. The incredible nature of the success has led to the team being called as The Unbelievables.
The league victory was even more surprising considering that the club had not been able to enjoy such a lofty position in almost 100 years. The likes of N’Golo Kante, Jamie Vardy, and Danny Drinkwater were influential for the team.
Blackburn Rovers - 1 title
They won it during the formative years of the EPL in the 1994-95 campaign when the team had a powerful presence with players like Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton in their ranks. Rovers, though, did not enjoy a long-lasting success. They have been relegated twice from the EPL and are currently in the Championship.
The 10 best players in the Premier League
The big kick-off! Week 1 fixtures
Brentford v Arsenal
Saturday 14 August
Man Utd v Leeds
Burnley v Brighton
Chelsea v Crystal Palace
Everton v Southampton
Leicester v Wolves
Watford v Aston Villa
Norwich v Liverpool
Sunday 15 August
Newcastle v West Ham
Spurs v Man City