A thoroughly embarrassing set of Premier League predictions

George Laycock predicts the 2021/22 season.

In this article, I am going to thoroughly embarrass my future self. Pre-season football predictions are always wrong. To predict the precisities of future events withstanding injuries, anomalies and beach balls is impossible. It’s like trying to pin the tail on the spectre of a donkey. 

I’m glad it’s impossible though. The jeopardy of football is in the unknown. What reason would we have to watch our team if we already knew of the impending 1-0 loss? Why would we ravenously celebrate an injury-time winner were we to know its inevitability? How much duller would it be to already know about Burnley’s upcoming unbeaten season?

So, in celebration of getting future events woefully wrong, here are my predictions for this Premier League season.

Premier League winners: Chelsea

This prediction is based on hope. I couldn’t bear another Premier League trophy adorned with sky blue colours; Pep Guardiola is a petulant child who needs to learn to share his toys. 

There is, thank God, reason to hope. Since Tuchel’s appointment on January 26th, Chelsea have amassed only 4 less points than City. 

Moreover, the Blues have made a bulky improvement up-front. Timo Werner only finished 6 out of 39 big chances last season; Romelu Lukaku’s big chance conversion rate was 55%; Romelu Lukaku has just returned to West London. Do you see what I’m saying?

Relegated: Brentford, Watford, Crystal Palace

Predicting the clubs which will go down is a tricky business. It is impossible to know how Championship clubs will perform at this level. Let’s take these poorly-informed guesses one at a time. 

I am melancholy in predicting the bees to buzz off. Brentford play exceedingly pretty football. They have a deeply likeable Danish core. And, as an insufferable football hipster, I love their owner’s belief in statistical analysis.

However: they conceded 42 goals last year. This is more than either of the other promoted teams. At the other end, they are rather reliant on the brilliance of Ivan Toney for goals (with 41% of their goals coming from the striker). If Toney doesn’t hit the ground running, Brentford will go down. 

Now, to Elton John’s boys. I am being lazy in predicting Watford to not stay standing. Being unfamiliar with the managerial stylings of Xisco as I am, I cannot see enough change from the side which went down in 2020. Ismaïla Sarr had a great season, but he was inconsistent in his last Premier League venture.

Whatever happens, I cannot wait to see Ben Foster (‘The Cycling GK’) vlog the drama. I suspect he might be weeping into his go-pros by May.

Finally, Crystal Palace. Their squad remains uninspiring, and they no longer have the defensive organisation provided by Roy Hodgson. 

Patrick Viera is a strange appointment – it seems a case of ‘but he was such a brilliant player’. Nice sacked him 6 months ago for a reason. I considered Norwich for this final relegation place, but was swayed away by the brilliance of Billy Gilmour.

Top scorer: Edinson Cavani

Mohammad Salah would have been a much more sensible option. But I’m hoping to get called a ‘clueless so-called journalist’ in the comments. 

My reason for backing Cavani is the creativity in the United squad: Pogba, Rashford, Sancho, Fernandes, Shaw. Every player in that list pops up with assists. Every player in that list can cross. And by Jove, can Edi make the runs. 

Also, more importantly, I really want him to be the top scorer. 

He plays for my team. He wears berets. He is profoundly elegant – his well-defined body leads to his even-sharper jawline, which in turn points to his eminently kissable lips. 

Thus concludes my deeply logical and analytical explanation of Cavani’s traits.

Flop of the season: Jack Grealish

Okay, okay. I get that this is usually sacrilege in Birmingham. But given that most Villa fans are calling him a two-faced snake right now, I figure I’ll get away with this.

Why do I think Grealish will fail? I don’t. But I do not think that he will justify his £100 million price tag. Grealish’s greatest strength is running at players, committing defenders and taking the ball forward into opposition territory. Hardly something you need when you have 70% possession and the other team are already pinned back into their own box.

Now, that’s not to say he doesn’t offer something new to City. He will still draw plenty of fouls and bring the ball into the box. But he doesn’t run off the ball as well as either Sterling or Foden, nor does he track back as well as those two. 

City needed a striker, not a third variation of a very good left-winger. Really, Grealish should have gone to United. C’est la vie.

Player of the season: N’Golo Kante

If Chelsea are to win the league, this man will be to thank. What can be written about Kante which his team-mates haven’t already said? He does the running of somewhere between 10 and 20 players, depending on who you ask.

I remember seeing him play for Leicester at Old Trafford. He is 5’5, and a small 5’5 at that. The sort of man who genuinely stands out in his diminutiveness. I remember thinking ‘that man surely can’t be better at football than me?’

Alas, he probably is.

Posted by George Laycock

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