THE WRITERS ROOM | 13th August 2021

The Premier League is back and so are the MTAG: More Than A Game’s writers’ predictions ahead of the 2021-22 season.

We advise you to read the whole thing, save it in your drafts and laugh at us at the end of the season.

Here goes nothing.

Kabir Ali

Top 6: Manchester City, Chelsea, Man Utd, Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal

Much like last season, I expect the champions to start slowly, owing to a few injury troubles coming into the campaign, before really kicking on and putting daylight between themselves and the chasing pack. If they do sign Harry Kane, it could be a question of not if but by how many points they win a 4th title in 5 seasons.

Chelsea and United will challenge to be the best of the rest, having made a couple of stellar additions each that will see them finish ahead of an uncertain Liverpool.

I expect Spurs and Arsenal to improve with no European distractions (unless you count the Conference League) and restore the status quo of the ‘Big 6’ for the first time since the 2018/19 season.

Golden Boot: Harry Kane

Disclaimer: this one is contingent on the man putting us all out of our misery and bringing an end to the saga of the summer by moving to Manchester. The math is simple – Kane has already bagged three of these, and that’s without joining forces with Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling.

Put a few quid on him to claim his 4th Golden Boot and draw level with a certain Thierry Henry. It will be the easiest money you’ll make all year.

Signing of the Season: Romelu Lukaku

If you haven’t heard already, Big Rom is on his way back to the Premier League. Having set the Serie A alight over the past 2 years, the Belgian will be hungry for more, after securing his first major career trophy as he almost single-handedly ended Juventus’ 9-year stranglehold on the Scudetto.

Chelsea need goals and they don’t get more elite than Lukaku in the scoring department. Just to jog everyone’s memory, the 28-year-old already has more Premier League goals than the likes of Didier Drogba and Ian Wright.

I fully expect Lukaku to drag the European champions across the line when the chips are down.

Player of The Season: N’Golo Kante

He may have lost his mojo a bit after a below-par Euros, but don’t bet against N’Golo Kanté strengthening his case for a Ballon D’Or by picking up where he left off last season with Chelsea.

Thomas Tuchel has succeeded where Sarri and Lampard failed, playing perfectly to NG’s considerable strengths, and boy has it done wonders for the side. The prospect of the Frenchman’s consistency, which was missing for large parts of last season, making a return is indeed frightening.

A shot at the title for the Blues is possible, but a Kanté in top form makes it probable. Throw in the fact that he’s the nicest guy in football, and he’s got this one in the bag.

Relegated: Brentford, Watford, Southampton

Brentford and Watford are among my picks from the new boys who will struggle. The former just don’t seem prepared enough for a Premier League debut and aside from an Ivan Toney masterclass week in week out, look destined for the drop.

Of course, they could prove me wrong by staying true to Thomas Frank’s brand of football and replicate what Leeds did under Bielsa last season. Watford, meanwhile, are displaying the classic traits of a yo-yo club, so far failing to bolster the squad for a top-flight survival tilt.

As for Southampton, by far the worst team in the league in 2021, the writing is on the wall. After the sudden departure of Danny Ings, the rumour mill has James Ward-Prowse linked with a move to Villa while Jannik Vestergaard is officially a Leicester City player.

Keeping them in the top-flight could be the biggest test of Ralph Hasenhüttl’s career so far.

Hot Take: Aston Villa won’t make the top half

That this is a hot take just over a year after they narrowly beat the drop shows how far Villa have come.

Dean Smith’s side have been making more headlines than most in this summer’s transfer window, and while they have made fine additions to their ranks to offset Jack Grealish’s departure, I find some of the optimism around them misguided.

Samridh Sinha

Top 6: Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Leicester and Arsenal

Keeping aside whether or not Harry Kane becomes a City player by August 31, a repeat of last season’s top 4 with Chelsea and Liverpool switching places seems inevitable to me. At the same time, a miss in acquiring the Three Lions skipper by the Sky Blues could see the red half of Manchester enjoying a title surge in the league in my opinion.

Leicester City have an excellent squad but just as always, they’ll miss top 4 by an inch. Coming to Arsenal, after a full season under Arteta, the Gunners should pose a more structured system in how they carry out their footballing activities which is why a top 6 shout seems a safe bet.

Anything below that just strengthens my case against the Spaniard as the man for the job.

Golden Boot: Mohamed Salah

The goal scoring machine missed out on the Golden Boot by a single goal last season. Those left foot top-right bins strikes will be at display all season long and I believe he’s going to sneak past Harry Kane at the tail end of the season.

Signing of the Season: Raphael Varane

We’ll let his resume speak for this one.

Player of the Season: Jamie Vardy

Going old school on this one.
Last season being his most productive season, capping 15 goals and 14 assists in all competitions, the 34-year-old has proven that he is more a finisher for this Leicester team.

Defining the core of what Leicester City is, Vardy will the Foxes’ main man once again as they strive to secure European football next season.

With Iheanacho sharing goalscoring duties, the Englishman will exploit spaces to set up his teammates like never before. Like fine wine, the older Vardy gets, the better he is.

Relegated teams: Watford, Burnley, Norwich City

Norwich City and Watford may find it difficult to sustain themselves upon promotion this season. I believe Burnley, although escaping relegation last season, will find it a major roadblock to sustain their low block style of football once again.

Credit to Sean Dyche always but I believe he will not be a Premier League manager next season; not with Burnley at least. Brentford may struggle too, but I expect a narrow escape for the Bees.

Hot Take: West Ham will not finish in the top half 

After a splendid run last season, European Football and a tight set of fixtures eem too much for Moyes’ men. The loss of Lingard and an addition of only a goalkeeper this summer does not aid the side in terms of squad depth.

Perhaps the signing of Tammy Abraham can change my opinion, but it does not seem the likeliest destination for the Chelsea striker. In my humble opinion, the likes of Leeds, Everton, Tottenham and Villa will finish above the Hammers.

Perhaps a transfer window replicating the Villains’ transfer window would convince me otherwise, however, with only Aroela’s signature in the bag, the Hammers may find it difficult to maintain a top half finish to the campaign.

Harshavardhan Ghadge

Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Leicester City, Aston Villa

My bets were firm on Villa bowing out last season. Well, how the turntables.

The departure of Grealish was inevitable, but the smart investment of the fee should yield dividends this season. An ageing Jamie Vardy might just have enough gasoline left in the tank to power the Foxes to another meritorious campaign.

The return of van Dijk powers Liverpool to undoubtedly finish in Champions League places. Big Rom from Inter and a Champions League title on the jersey, Chelsea should make a dash for the title but a couple of casualties in the defence could spell horror for the Blues.

City have Grealish now, maybe Harry Kane too, so for me, that confirms the league for the Sky Blues whilst their neighbors might have to play catch-up, again.

Golden Boot: Harry Kane

They bring with them a gripping tale of survival and ascent.

There is no point that I see in even having this discussion every year. Harry Kane is the best striker in the world as of now and every sane bookmaker’s bet to win the Golden Boot.

If the rumours are to be believed, the Englishman could play ball under the tutelage of Guardiola and given the menacing chance creation abilities of Manchester City, I even go ahead and expect Kane to smash the Premier League’s scoring record.

Signing of The Season: Raphael Varane

I have been a United fan for 13 years now and after 8 long years, we finally have a centre-back pairing that screams solidity.

The injection of a serial winner like Varane to partner Maguire in the heart of that defence, flanked on either side by Wan-Bissaka and Shaw; United fans, if that doesn’t make your mouth water, I don’t know what will.

Does this make us serious title contenders? It should, let’s not jinx it.

Player of The Season: Bruno Fernandes

The Portuguese magnifico. The creative lynchpin of Manchester United. The one and only, Bruno Fernandes.

The enigmatic midfielder has a monstrous influence on proceedings, he shoots from long, sends free-kicks into top bins, puts it on the plate for his teammates and yes, he is ice cool from the spot.

With 32 goal involvements in the Premier League last season, Bruno is my man to take the Player of The Season trophy home.

Relegated Teams: Norwich, Burnley, Southampton

The grid is almost always set in the transfer market and Norwich City already look amputated after the departure of their talisman, Emiliano Buendia.

Burnley have the rigorous will to fight it out at the bottom of the table, but one might as well ask how long can hoofball survive against teams that are adapting to passing it around.

Southampton in the transfer window have just let principal players from the XI walk out without even bothering to replace them. Apologies Ralph Hasenhüttl, can’t help but question your ambitions.

Hot Take: Brentford will finish in the top half

The West London team finally have their golden ticket to the Premier League wonderland and the club have climbed the tier in explosive fashion.

The sensational jump is fueled by data analytics- this is football’s very own ‘Moneyball’ in motion and if it all goes to plan, not only will we have a season packed with madness, but maybe even an Aaron Sorkin movie.

What a story, what a club. Up the Bees!

Amogh Panse

Top 6: Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Leicester City, Liverpool, Aston Villa

Chelsea are a strong shout for winning the league

Someone’s got to end Man City’s league dominance and I back my team more than ever to dethrone the Sky Blues. Man United look resolute this time around, but without a solid defensive midfielder, I doubt whether they’d get that icing on the cake.

Leicester deserve the Champions League under Brendan Rodgers and I expect him to put things right and secure top 4 this time around after an ardous wait.

As for Villa, their amazing acquisitions should earn them a shot at Europa League as compared to Liverpool’s dismal transfer window and aging attack.

Golden Boot: Romelu Lukaku

Big Rom coming home is the beast that Tuchel needs to deliver in an almost complete system. An in-form, out-and-out striker was missed last season and given his instant impact at Inter, the Belgian is the right man to lift the no. 9 curse at the Bridge with Mount, Ziyech and Havertz by his side.

Can’t deny a Drogba regen, can you?

Signing of The Season: Leon Bailey

That 2019/20 Leverkusen team was one of flamboyance and the Jamaican had a big part to play in a well-knit squad. Left-footed, scorching pace and blockbuster on the ball, many thought he fitted the Arjen Robben description in the Bundesliga.

Buying Bailey for £25 million is an absolute steal. I’m convinced he’ll light up England and leave defences huffing and puffing.

Player of The Season: Hakim Ziyech

The Moroccan wizard has been bossing it in pre-season and although he picked up an injury in the Super Cup, I’m sure there will be consistent masterclasses throughout the calendar year once he’s back.

Zipping in crosses with the perfect weight on the ball and the former Ajax man scores absolute belters for fun too, I expect a box-office campaign.

If he didn’t leave a mark on you last season, wait till Ziyech makes the Prem his playground.

Relegated Teams – Brentford, Newcastle, Burnley 

Newcastle lack the creativity to survive and Steve Bruce at the helm won’t cut it for me this time around. Being a newbie in the English top flight is nothing shy of a slaughterhouse and the boys of Brentford aren’t convincing enough to survive the drop.

Norwich look the more likely to remain and Watford might have a lucky break but the Clarets to me are hanging by a thread. Don’t get me wrong, Sean Dyche has been excellent, but it’s tough for me to see them finish games with enough goals in the bag to stay alive.

Hot Take – Patrick Vieira will be the first manager to get sacked

It’s called a hot take for a reason and by looking at their first 10 games, I can’t picture the French legend’s team winning 8 of them. He definitely has a great squad with a nice mix but to instill his philosophy amongst the group is where I see Palace struggle.

I don’t want him to be a rehashed Frank de Boer but I feel the love for the masterful midfielder has blinded perceptions about his career on the sidelines.

Arnav Khanna

Top 6: Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Leicester City, Tottenham

I feel the top 5 remain unchanged from last season. City have an impeccable system and unparalleled depth, a cocktail that secures them the Premier League once again.

United have added a few gems but they’re still playing with rocks in a few positions. Another year of being good but not good enough for me.

Virgil van Dijk is back and Anfield will be packed which are big enough reasons for Klopp’s men to secure Liverpool 3rd but you cannot go far in the league if you sleep in the transfer market while your rivals strengthen.

As for why Chelsea are 4th, you’re better off reading my hot take.

Golden Boot: Mohamed Salah

Everyone is sweeping Liverpool under the rug this year and Mo Salah has been a victim of that treatment as well. Even last year, playing in that wobbly Liverpool side, he lost out on the Golden Boot by just one goal.

With van Dijk’s diagonals back into the mix, I would not be surprised if we see the Egyptian cross the 25+ goals mark. And when you look around, you don’t see anyone except Kane coming close to that figure anyway.

I have a strong feeling that Salah is going to be putting the “washed” allegations away with aplomb. And for those that have those allegations in their drafts, watch a different sport.

Signing of The Season:  Jadon Sancho

JS25’s profile fits like a glove in this United frontline and Ole’s system is already based on handing the front four all the keys.

His enviable skillset combined with a one-of-a-kind footballing IQ will do the rest of the work. Sancho is such a huge upgrade to the Mancunian right hand side that I feel a Bruno Fernandes 2.0 happening here.

Player of The Season: Harry Maguire

It is about time “Baz” Maguire gets paid his dues. Defending, driving with the ball, line-breaking passes, organising the defence – what can’t he do?

And he has reached a point where when you watch him play, you feel like he’s functioning on autopilot. The grace coupled with the dominance is a true mark of a world-class defence.

It’s time he gets his flowers, even if they’re in the form of gold-plated trophies.

Relegated Teams: Southampton, Norwich, Brentford

Southampton have lost Danny Ings and Jannik Vestergaard, two colossal pieces of that Saints core that are simply not going to be replaced this window. There is only so much that the Alpine Klopp can cover for with his managerial ability and these outgoings are just a tad too much for him to cope with.

Daniel Farke has been flirting with relegation ever since Norwich came up and this is probably the year when he meets his fate. As for Brentford, they are looking like a classic “came up to go right back” team.

No hard feelings here, just saying it as I see it.

Hot Take: Thomas Tuchel is going to get found out

Disgustingly controversial, yes, but I have personally never been able to get behind 3-at-the-back setups. I know the German is extremely malleable in his approach but still, there is an unconvincing nature of Chelsea in general that I find it hard to describe in words.

Ironic, considering I’m a writer but the style needs a lot of polishing for me.

Tailormade for knockout football but missing that edge across 38 games is how I sum it up.

Srinivas Sadhanand

Top 6: Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Leicester, Aston Villa

Pep Guardiola’s got the secret recipe to bench pressing Premier Leagues for fun and fitness in equal measure- an incredible system, an enviable squad and snarking at the mere mention of complacency. Thomas Tuchel is cut from a similar cloth and while he means big business by adding Big Rom, where they’ll miss out is when City go on a run so ridiculous, you start to wonder if they’ve been programmed to do so.

Adding Sancho and Varane signals scary hours for the rest but McFred isn’t the happy meal in midfield to get the Old Trafford faithful to sing, “I’m lovin’ it!”.

Leicester understand the assignment in the window yet again, Klopp gets shafted by Liverpool’s unserious owners that have put all the “dynasty talk” in the mud while I save my piece on Villa for the hot take.

Golden Boot: Harry Kane

For City’s sake, Harry Kane may swerve past a major chunk of his August curse because Daniel Levy exists. But to me, the switch is inevitable, sooner rather than later.

As is the Golden Boot as the most complete No.9 in the world is the front man of a band that has the two best chance creators in the league in De Bruyne and Grealish as its orchestrators.

Guardiola’s symphony couldn’t sound, look or be any sweeter.

Of course, Kane might have plans to clean up the Playmaker of The Season award as well, but I can’t confirm if KDB is a fan of that plan.

Player of The Season: Kevin De Bruyne

An ankle injury keeps the best midfielder in the world away from the start of the season, but Kevin De Bruyne is inevitable. A 7th season of unparalleled dominance beckons as the Belgian is set to prove once again why it’s got to be lonely at the top.

City’s finishing gives you the impression that they treat KDB’s gifts in the form of through balls like spoilt children, the way they’re on a mission to waste them. If Harry Kane comes to the Etihad, passes will get served and defences will get gobbled up.

Let Head Chef De Bruyne cook in peace.

Signing of The Season: Romelu Lukaku

I can bet a million dollars on one thing this season- Jorginho will not be Chelsea’s top scorer this season. For all the deserved plaudits Chelsea received for winning the Champions League, if there was a chink in their armour last season, it was the lack of goals.

In Romelu Lukaku, the numbers alone tell you Chelsea never have to concerned about that. And the eye-test tells you there isn’t a tougher striker to play in the world because he bullies you, bursts pasts you and blasts the ball into the back of the net.

If you’ve got your jokes saved in the drafts, the joke’s on you because Big Rom is coming to boss this league.

Relegated Teams: Southampton, Norwich, Watford

Losing your best striker and your standout centre-half should turn smiles and not frowns upside down at Southampton. As Ings and Vestegaard bid St. Mary’s farewell, so should Premier League football at the end of next season.

Despite Teemo Pukki’s 12-goal campaign being a commendable one back in the 2019-20 season, it started hot and became freezing cold soon enough as Norwich suffered the drop.

If goals are a worry, not only is their chief chance creator in Buendia off to the Midlands, the Argentine also bagged 15 goals in the Championship last season to make matters worse.

And despite their cojones, Watford’s squad belongs in the Championship.

Hot Take: Aston Villa will finish in the top 6

By replacing their very own virtuoso with a bag of players that upgrade a range of positions, Villa haven’t put all their eggs in a Grealish successor which is smart business.

The Ings signing is a gamechanger, Buendia has the minerals to be one of the league’s most complete attackers, Bailey is a risk worth taking, Young’s experience is always a plus and Tuanzebe’s return to Villa Park makes him a fine squad player, capping off an excellent window.

While North London promises to provide comic relief next season, the Midland’s finest will be a sight for sore eyes and satiate the soul with a fairytale.


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