You may feel like you’ve barely blinked since the 2020 English Premier League season came to an end, but the new one is already upon us. This weekend, whistles will blow in Premier League stadiums across the country, and the race for championships, European places, and avoidance of relegation will begin anew. There will be thrills, there will be spills, and there will be shocks. When all is said and done, there will be four teams sitting above all the others at the top of the Premier League table.
Finishing in the top four in the English Premier League is of paramount importance when it comes to maintaining your status as a ‘top’ club. That’s how you get into the UEFA Champions League for the following season, and if you miss out on that, you’ll also miss out on a lot of money, and a lot of players who won’t consider joining your club unless you’ve qualified for the competition. Unfortunately for those who try to make it, qualification is often more unpredictable than an online slots game (never mind a lottery!), and can come down to the last game of the season before anything is decided. At
Christmas last year, you’d have better odds of winning multiple jackpots in a row at an online slots website like OnlineSlotsUK than you would for Manchester United finishing in a Champions League spot, but the Red Devils rallied after New Year and ended up 3rd. Liverpool, who might know a thing or two about online slots given the fact they have one named in their honor, is probably a much safer bet.
If you were to place a bet on who might finish in the top four, where would your money go? Let’s run the rule over the candidates, and see if we can come to any conclusions.
It’s been a few years since we’ve considered Arsenal as a top-four club, but following an unlikely FA Cup trophy win plus an unlikely Community Shield victory over Liverpool, things might finally be looking up at the Emirates. They’ve managed to steal Willian from their neighbors Chelsea on a free transfer, and have also picked up William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes. However, the most important piece of business they’ve done this summer is persuading talismanic striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to stay in London. If Mikel Arteta can get his exciting-looking team playing consistently, they could take a step closer to their former glories.
No team has strengthened as much as Chelsea during the summer transfer window. The arrival of German forward Kai Havertz for £72m (a move for which the player sacrificed a huge bonus to force the deal through) is the cherry on the cake, but they’ve also acquired Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell, Timo Werner, and Hakim Ziyech. They’re a totally different team to the one that miraculously scraped a 4th-placed finish last season, and ought to be stronger because of it. Given the amount of money that’s been spent and the players at their disposal, a top-four finish this time should be the least they’re after.
For most of last season, it looked like Leicester City would hang on in there in the top four and secure Champions League football for only the second time in the club’s history. Unfortunately for them, their form fell away dreadfully after the post-break restart, and it wasn’t to be. Brendan Rogers is an ambitious manager, and he’ll want to try again this season. They might not have the resources to do so, though. Timothy Castagne has been the only summer signing thus far, Ben Chilwell has departed for Chelsea and left them weaker at the back, and Jamie Vardy is another year older. It looks like a tall order.
Common sense tells us that Liverpool, having won the league at a canter in 2020, should be more than capable of doing so again this coming season. It’s perhaps surprising, then, that many of their fans are becoming nervous about the fact that they haven’t bought anybody significant this summer, and don’t appear likely to do so. They’re still a great team, but their wobbles toward the end of last term, which cost them their shot at a historic treble, don’t appear to have settled if the Community Shield loss to Arsenal is anything to go by. They should still have enough quality in their ranks to do what’s necessary, but the air of invincibility around them has disappeared.
How did Manchester City respond to the club’s failure to land a third consecutive Premier League championship? By going out and buying Ferran Torres, Nathan Ake, Yan Couto, and Pablo Moreno. There may be more to come, but Ake is the most significant of those buys. City looks fine when they’re going forward; it’s at the back they’ve looked shaky since Vincent Kompany returned to Anderlecht, and Ake looks a strong candidate to bring back the stability they need. They’ll miss David Silva, but a team that contains Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, and Sergio Aguero is never going to struggle to score goals. They’ll play like they have a point to prove.
Manchester United and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer put together an incredible run of form to turn the Old Trafford club’s season around during the second half of the 2020 season. Three or four months into it, it looked like the team was headed for disaster, and Solskjaer was headed for the sack. Then Bruno Fernandes arrived in January, and suddenly it looked like the missing link had been found. Fernandes, Pogba, Greenwood, Rashford, and Martial is a potent attacking force, and Donny van de Beek is a very capable summer signing to go with them. They’d still look better if they ever get the Jadon Sancho deal over the line, and a good defender or three wouldn’t go amiss, but they’re starting to resemble the United of old again.
We should never, ever, rule Jose Mourinho out. He might have been fired by Chelsea, but he won the Premier League with them yet again before he was fired. He might also have been fired by Manchester United, but he also won the club the Carabao Cup and the Europa League before being shown the exit door. He can be abrasive, and he seems to lose his grip on his teams during his second or third season, but no manager working in the Premier League today has won so many trophies. Mourinho was brought to Spurs to turn the team into title contenders, and he wouldn’t have accepted the job if he didn’t think it was possible. He was probably hoping for better backing in this transfer window than the signings of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Joe Hart, and Matt Doherty, though.
If any candidate for the top four appears outside of the six we’ve nominated here, we’ll be shocked. OK, maybe not that shocked if it’s Carlo Ancelotti’s revamped Everton, but still slightly shocked. If you forced us to make a selection, we’d say Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Manchester United will finish in the top four yet again. We just wouldn’t swear to them finishing in that order.