Liverpool or Manchester City for the title? Who will finish top goalscorer? 2020/21 Premier League season predictions

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Just three weeks after the Champions League final in Lisbon, the 2020/21 Premier League season gets underway this Saturday.

The three-month break between March and June caused by the coronavirus pandemic has severely disrupted Europe's professional football schedule, but the good news for fans is that the break between campaigns has been barely noticeable.

So as focus turns towards the new Premier League season, The National's editors and writers offer up their predictions.

Steve Luckings, Deputy Sports Editor

Champions: Liverpool. Hard to look beyond Liverpool as Manchester City still haven’t addressed the centre-back problems that blighted their last campaign.

Top four: Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham

Relegated: Aston Villa, West Brom, Fulham

Player of the season: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City). If he can stay fit for a majority of the campaign then De Bruyne but otherwise Bruno Fernandes could run him close

Top scorer: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)

Player to watch: Donny van de Beek (Manchester United)

Jon Turner, Assistant Sports Editor

Champions: Manchester City. There were signs Liverpool were starting to run out of steam toward the end of last season having set a relentless and record-setting pace. City have more than enough quality to close the gap and reclaim the title. Should be a closer contest this time around, though.

Top four: Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United

Relegated: West Brom, Fulham, Aston Villa

Player of the season: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool). Can a right-back be the best player in the Premier League? Alexander-Arnold is making a strong case and will continue to do so this season.

Top scorer: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

Player to watch: Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea)


2020/21 transfers - in pictures

James Rodriguez - Real Madrid to Everton (£22 million). Getty Images

Ethan Ampadu - Chelsea to Sheffield United (loan). Reuters

Ryan Fraser - Bournemouth to Newcastle (free). AP Photo

Chris Brunt - West Brom to Bristol City (free). Reuters

Callum Wilson - Bournemouth to Newcastle (£20 million). AFP

Fabio Silva - Porto to Wolves (£35 million). AFP

Borja Baston - Aston Villa to Leganes (free). AFP

Bono - Girona to Sevilla (£3.6 million). Reuters

Allan - Napoli to Everton (£22.5 million). AP

Sergio Rico - Sevilla to Paris Saint-Germain (£5.4 million). Reuters

Miralem Pjanic - Juventus to Barcelona (€60 million). Reuters

Arthur - Barcelona to Juventus (€72 million). AFP

Shane Duffy - Brighton to Celtic (loan). EPA

Kevin Volland - Bayer Leverkusen to Monaco (£14 million). EPA

Abdoulaye Doucoure - Watford to Everton (£20 million). Reuters

Alvaro Odriozola - Bayern Munich to Barcelona (loan ended). EPA

Philippe Coutinho - Bayern Munich to Barcelona (loan ended). Reuters

Matty Cash - Nottingham Forest to Aston Villa (£16 million). Reuters

Dani Ceballos - Real Madrid to Arsenal (loan extended). Reuters

Ivan Rakitic - Barcelona to Sevilla ( £1.4 million). Reuters

Gabriel - Lille top Arsenal (£27 million). Reuters

Glenn Murray - Brighton & Hove Albion to Watford (free). Getty Images

Donny van de Beek - Ajax to Manchester United (£35.7 million). EPA

Mario Lemina - Southampton to Fulham (loan). Action Images

Kai Havertz - Bayer Leverkusen to Chelsea (£72 million). AFP

Yuto Nagatomo - Galatasaray to Marseille (loan). Victor Besa/The National

Henrikh Mkhitaryan - Arsenal to Roma (free). EPA

Weston McKennie - Schalke to Juventus (loan). EPA

Loic Remy - Lille to Caykur Rizespor (free). AP Images

Aaron Mooy - Brighton to Shanghai SIPG (£4 million) - Reuters

Matt Doherty - Wolves to Tottenham (£14.7 million). Getty Images

Rodrigo - Valencia to Leeds United (£26 million). Reuters

Eberechi Eze - QPR to Crystal Palace (£19.5 million). PA Photo

Thiago Silva PSG to Chelsea (free). Reuters

Pepe Reina - AC Milan to Lazio (free). AP Photo

Malang Sarr - Nice to Chelsea (free). AFP

Ben Chilwell - Leicester City to Chelsea (£45m). Reuters

Santi Cazorla - Villarreal to Al Sadd (free). EPA

Alexis Sanchez - Manchester United to Inter Milan (free). EPA

Pedro - Chelsea to Roma (released). AFP

Kostas Tsimikas - Olympiakos to Liverpool (£11.8m). Reuters

Nathan Ake - Bournemouth to Manchester City (£41 million). PA

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg - Southampton top Tottenham (£15 million). Reuters

Kyle Walker-Peters - Tottenham to Southampton (£12 million). AFP

Francis Coquelin - Valencia to Villarreal (7.2 million). Reuters

Blaise Matuidi - Juventus to Inter Miami FC (free). Getty Images

Jan Vertonghen - Tottenham to Benfica (free). Reuters

Willian - Chelsea to Arsenal (free). AFP

Jeff Hendrick - Burnley to Newcastle United (£5 million). AFP

David Silva - Manchester City to Real Sociedad (free). Getty Images

Oliver Skipp - Tottenham to Norwich City (loan). Reuters

Claudio Bravo - Manchester City to Real Betis (free). Getty Images

Aaron Ramsdale - Bournemouth to Sheffield United (£18.5 million). AFP

Reinier - Real Madrid to Borussia Dortmund (loan). Reuters

Ricardo Rodriguez - AC Milan to Torino (£2.7 million). Reuters

Scott Carson - Derby County to Manchester City (loan extended). EPA

Antonio Adan - Atletico Madrid to Sporting (free). EPA

Pablo Mari - Flamengo to Arsenal (£14 million). Reuters

Joe Hart - Burnley to Tottenham (free). Reuters

Timo Werner - RB Leipzig to Chelsea (£47.5 million). Reuters

Dejan Lovren - Liverpool to Zenit (€12 million). AFP

Adam Lallana - Liverpool to Brighton (free). Reuters



John McAuley, Reporter

Champions: Manchester City. Stung by Liverpool’s cruise to the title, the former champions will rebound in an incredibly close-run race. Only issue may be prioritising the Champions League.

Top four: Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United

Relegated: West Brom, Fulham, Aston Villa

Player of the season: Kevin De Bruyne. Still the most eye-catching player in the league who makes City tick. Scores spectacular goals and lays on assists to match. In terms of creation, no one rivals him.

Top scorer: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Player to watch: Mason Greenwood (Manchester United)


Liverpool season ratings

LIVERPOOL 2019/20 RATINGS: Jurgen Klopp - 9 out of 10: The likeable German deserves huge credit for overseeing the best start to any season by any team and delivered a first league title to Anfield in 30 years. Late goals were a feature of this Reds team often inspired by the manager's substitutions. PA

GOALKEEPERS: Alisson - 8: A campaign disrupted by injury but the Brazilian kept 10 clean sheets in 20 matches before the coronavirus-enforced shutdown, and another two since the restart. Continues to enhance his reputation as one of the world's best. Getty

Adrian - 6: The Spaniard endeared himself to the Anfield faithful by saving Tammy Abraham's penalty for Liverpool to lift the Uefa Super Cup in August. Had been a capable deputy for Alisson when called upon before his costly mistake contributed to Liverpool's Champions League last-16 exit to Atletico Madrid in March. Getty

Caoimhin Kelleher - 6: Young Irishman impressed in the cup competitions, making four appearances pre-lockdown. AFP

DEFENDERS: Virgil van Dijk - 9: Leads the league in passes to highlight his importance to Liverpool's attacking game but it's Van Dijk's defending that marks him out as a colossus. Few can lay claim to being the undisputed best in their position but there is no better central defender in world football than the Dutchman. EPA

Dejan Lovren - 6: The Croatian has slipped further down the centre-back pecking order with the emergence of Joe Gomez this season. Getty

Joe Gomez - 8: Powerful Englishman stepped up to the plate when Joel Matip suffered an injury early in the season. His performances earned him an England call up and it's no exaggeration to say he would have probably gone to this year's European Championship as one of Gareth Southgate's first-choice centre-backs. A big future ahead. Reuters

Andy Robertson - 8: One of the most accomplished left-backs in world football. An excellent defender who provides attacking impetus down the left-hand flank. Seven assists before lockdown and a crucial late goal in the 2-1 win over Aston Villa in November symbolic of team's never-say-die attitude. Getty

Joel Matip - 7: Injury and the form of Joe Gomez have limited the Cameroonian to only a handful of appearances. An underrated passer and still one of the club's most astute signings. Reuters

Trent Alexander-Arnold - 9: Already broken his own assists record for a defender with 16 pre-lockdown. Superb passer and his quality at set-pieces - as seen with his sublime goal in the win against Crystal Palace - is one of Liverpool's most potent weapons. Reuters

Sepp van den Berg - 5: Dutch defender, 18, is highly thought of at Anfield and impressed during the young side's League Cup run. Getty

Nathaniel Phillips - 5: The 23-year-old made one FA Cup appearances before being loaned to German club Stuttgart. AFP

Ki-Jana Hoever - 6: Stylish Dutch defender, 18, became the club's fourth youngest goalscorer when he netted in the League Cup win over MK Dons on September 25, 2019. Getty

Neco Williams - 5: Faces a tall order trying to dislodge Alexander-Arnold as first choice, but showed neat footwork and comfort on the ball as a replacement in the recent win over Crystal Palace to suggest a bright future. EPA

Nathaniel Clyne - NA: Once described as a 'machine' by Klopp, the right-back is yet to feature for the Reds this season and is sure to leave in the summer. Reuters

Curtis Jones - 7: Became Liverpool's youngest ever captain – at 19 years and 5 days – when he captained Liverpool's youngest ever first team side with an average age of 19 years and 102 days to a 1–0 victory over Shrewsbury in the FA Cup replay at Anfield. AP

MIDFIELDERS: Fabinho - 8: The Brazilian's defensive qualities help make the Liverpool machine work. Showed his development as an all-round player with a delightful chip and a scorching drive in the demolition of Palace. Hard to think Naby Keita was the more celebrated arrival at Anfield two years ago. Reuters

Georginio Wijnaldum - 7: Another productive campaign from the Dutch international is set to be rewarded with a new contract that will keep him at Anfield until 2024. EPA

James Milner - 7: Few are more dependable than the versatile Englishman. Used mainly from the bench this season but his energy and experience always add something to the team. Getty

Naby Keita - 5: The Guinea international has failed to hold down a regular starting place in almost two years at Anfield. Rumours that he will be used as part of a makeweight to bring Alessio Romagnoli to the club from AC Milan in the summer. Getty

Jordan Henderson - 8: No doubt the Liverpool captain is one of the finest midfielders around now. His drive, passing range and leadership make him one of the most important cogs in Klopp's team. PA

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - 7: Emerged from serious injury that wiped out his 2018/19 season with some commanding performances for a demanding manager. Getty

Adam Lallana - 6: Klopp confirmed the former Southampton winger will leave the club at the end of the season. Mostly cameo appearances were highlighted by a last-gasp equaliser against Manchester United in October to maintain the club's unbeaten start. Getty Images

Xherdan Shaqiri - 6: Hard to accommodate the Swiss' talents in a team brimming with it in the forward positions. PA

Harvey Elliott - 6: Highly-skilled winger became the youngest player to start a match at Anfield, at the age of 16 years and 209 days, in the epic 5-5 League Cup draw against Arsenal having already become the club's youngest first-team player in the previous round against MK Dons. Reuters

FORWARDS: Roberto Firmino - 7: The Brazilian striker's goals return may be down - he is still yet to score at Anfield this term - but his import to Liverpool's attack is not. He still makes the front three work and still the hardest working No 9 in the league. Getty

Sadio Mane - 9: Fourteen league goals before lockdown and 19 in all competitions after a superb finish against Palace. The Senegalese has overtaken Mohamed Salah as Liverpool's best striker. Has been simply unplayable at times. Getty

Mohamed Salah - 9: Twenty goals across competitions pre-lockdown represents another impressive return from the Egyptian. His pace and skill are still a nightmare for opposition defences to counter. Even turned provider for his mate Mane in the demolition of Crystal Palace. Getty

Divock Origi - 6: Scored two goals as Liverpool beat Everton 5–2 in the December's Merseyside derby at Anfield to extend their unbeaten run in league football to 32 matches, which was a club record. Getty

Takumi Minamino - 5: Anyone would struggle to get in an attacking lineup boasting Firmino, Mane and Salah. The Japanese has been limited mostly to cup matches. Getty

PLAYERS ON LOAN: Loris Karius - 6: German cut short his two-year loan spell early at Turkish club Besiktas in April after his manager questioned his motivation following a string of poor performances. Has a deal until 2022 at Liverpool and may be retained as Alisson's understudy if Adrian is jettisoned. Getty

Harry Wilson - 7: The young midfielder has been one of the few shining lights in a struggling Bournemouth team. EPA

Marko Grujic - 7: Serb has spent the past two seasons at Hertha Berlin and seems his future lies away from Anfield. AFP

Sheyi Ojo - 5: Winger began his loan spell at Scottish side Rangers under Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard in impressive fashion but petered out before the Scottish league season was called off due to the Covid-19 crisis. Reuters

Ben Woodburn - 5: Midfielder has spent the season on loan at League One Oxford United. EPA

Rhian Brewster - 7: Striker, 20, made three first-team appearances for Liverpool before being loaned to Swansea in the second tier in January. Has scored six goals in 12 appearances and will hope to feature more prominently under Klopp in the future. Getty



Paul Radley, Reporter

Champions: Manchester City

… Or Liverpool. Might even be a tie, with identical records, and they will have to toss a coin to decide. After taking 196 points from the past two seasons, Liverpool could run out of puff given the truncated schedule and the pressure of defending their crown. So City to edge it. Possibly.

Top four: Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea

Relegated: West Ham United, Fulham, West Bromwich Albion

Player of the season: Kevin de Bruyne. The assist king’s eye for a pass is beyond compare in the division at present, and perhaps in the history of the Premier League, too. If City are to bounce back from falling short last season and claim a third title in four campaigns, expect him to be at the centre of it.

Top scorer: Harry Kane (Tottenham)

Player to watch: Donny van de Beek. “Maradonny” van de Beek might not even be the brightest star in Manchester United’s gilded midfield, alongside Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes. But judged on what he showed for Ajax, particularly in their run to the brink of the Champions League final in 2019, United have invested in a gem.


Manchester City ratings

MANAGER: Pep Guardiola - 7: City have been thrilling to watch at times, particularly at home, but have also found ways to lose games they should have won. Hard to think of a trophy winning season as a failure, but such are the standards set by Guardiola that it seems like that after the defeat in Lisbon. Long-term injuries to Aymeric Laporte, Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane, before he was sold, didn’t help the cause, nor did Mikel Arteta’s departure for Arsenal in December. Plenty to think about over the break, but it would be a surprise if City weren’t stronger next season. AFP

GOALKEEPERS: Ederson - 7: Do any two statistics sum up City’s season so thoroughly as Ederson winning the Golden Glove for keeping 16 clean sheets in 35 Premier League appearances in a campaign when the club also conceded 35 league goals and lost nine league games? Ederson is the most complete goalkeeper in the Premier League and yet was prone to error too often this term. AP

Claudio Bravo - 6: Sent off against Atalanta in the Champions League after only coming on at half-time for the injured Ederson, his calamitous appearance in Italy seemed to sum up his time at City. Nevertheless, he collected winners’ medals in the Carabao Cup and the Community Shield, memorably saving one of Liverpool’s penalties in a man-of-the-match winning performance. Getty

DEFENDERS: Aymeric Laporte - 7: His early season injury exposed City’s frailties at the back. His recovery has helped shore up City’s defence, although he was shaky in an unfamiliar set-up in the Champions League quarter-final. Restricted to less than 20 appearances this season. AP

Kyle Walker - 7: He has been excellent on many occasions, particularly since restart, even if he was far from his best in City’s Champions League exit. Also went in goal after Claudio Bravo’s sending off in Italy against Atalanta and, memorably, kept a clean sheet. PA

Eric Garcia - 7: A breakthrough performer this summer despite being knocked unconscious against Arsenal, Garcia looked to be the answer to the persistent questions over City’s defensive issues. The news that he is likely to return to Spain soon clouds further judgement of him. EPA

Benjamin Mendy - 6: Has appeared more for City this season than in his two previous injury hit campaigns combined. Mendy has been both frustrating - his bad error at Chelsea let in Christian Pulisic - and thoroughly competent. His long-term rehabilitation from serious injury continues. Getty

John Stones - 5: Another tough season for the centre-back, who has struggled with injury and form. Despite rumours he may be shipped out this summer, he has vowed to fight for his place. AFP

Nicolas Otamendi - 5: Too error prone these days, but still capable of delivering a good performance on occasions. It would be a surprise if he is still at the club when the transfer window closes later this year. Getty

Angelino - 5: Endured a torrid time in the league defeat at Anfield, although he was hardly alone in that, and was subsequently loaned out to RB Leipzig in January, where he is still in the hunt for a Champions League winners’ medal. AFP

Oleksandr Zinchenko - 5: Arguably made his biggest statement this season while away on international duty by celebrating wildly after helping Ukraine qualify for the European Championship and then proposing to his TV presenter girlfriend Vlada Sedan hours later. Often asked to fill in as a utility player for City, which makes him hard to judge, but was clearly at fault when caught in possession in the defeat at Southampton.

Fernandinho - 7: Hard to criticise too much when asked to fill in at centre back after Laporte’s injury, but has looked out of sorts on some of the big occasions, notably in away defeats at Chelsea and Liverpool. Moving him into defence arguably took more away from the midfield than it added to the back line. Even so, he was often the side’s best-performing defender. PA

MIDFIELDERS: Ilkay Gundogan - 7: Often trusted by Pep Guardiola in the biggest games, Gundogan is a shadow player by nature, breaking up an opposition attack or providing a short pass to an attacking teammate, while others in the team provide the stardust. Occasionally wasteful in front of goal. PA

Phil Foden - 8: Capped off an outstanding season with a string of fine performances since restart after a man-of-the-match winning appearance in the Carabao Cup final. Close to 40 appearances in all competitions underlines how much he has progressed this term. Reuters

Rodri - 7: Took his time to settle in, but has looked increasingly comfortable. Claimed a Premier League passing record in February, completing a staggering 178 passes against West Ham. He has the potential to be a key player in the side for years to come. EPA

Kevin de Bruyne - 9: The best player in the Premier League was often close to perfection this year. Scored a brilliant free-kick against Chelsea after restart and a superb volley against Newcastle last November, both could easily have been goals of the season. He also equalled the Premier League record for most assists in a season with 20, but was strangely quiet in the FA Cup semi-final defeat against Arsenal and not at his best in the Champions League exit against Lyon. PA

Bernardo Silva - 5: Hugely influential in the two previous title-winning seasons, his form dipped after scoring three times in an 8-0 victory over Watford in September and posting a tweet about one of his team-mates for which he was rightly fined, suspended and reprimanded. Getty

David Silva - 7: Has been at his best on several occasions since restart and made an emotional final appearance in the Premier League in City’s 5-0 drubbing of Norwich City. His ten-year stint has been transformational at the club, even if European glory ultimately proved elusive. AP

Joao Cancelo - 6: Has belatedly begun to show the kind of form that persuaded Pep Guardiola to spend big money on him last summer. Will need to develop further next season if City are to reclaim the title. PA

Riyad Mahrez - 8: After taking his time to settle into the side in last season’s treble winning season, Mahrez has been one of City’s most consistent performers this year. Scored a stunning solo effort against Villa in January on his way to 13 goals in all competitions. He will feel he should have started against Lyon. Getty

ATTACKERS: Raheem Sterling - 8.5: Another stellar season for Sterling, despite his late miss in the Champions League against Lyon. He has been prolific since restart and was superb in the first half of the season when he bagged hat-tricks in both the Premier League and the Champions League, even if the goals dried up for a time early in 2020. Eventually scored 31 goals in all competitions. AP

Gabriel Jesus - 7: Divides opinions, but was electric against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu and in the return match at the Etihad. Suffers a little through having to deputise for Aguero, but still managed to score more than 20 goals in all competitions. His time may finally be arriving at the Etihad. EPA

Sergio Aguero - 7: The club’s record goalscorer was in devastating form when available, but an injury hit season restricted him to just 32 appearances in all competitions, his lowest in his nine years at the Etihad. PA



Ian Hawkey, European football correspondent

Champions: Manchester City

Yes, Liverpool's giant lead over last season's runners-up will take some eroding, but City have the coaching staff and players to correct their frailties and a depth of squad to manage what will be an unusually exhausting schedule for all the elite clubs.

Top Four: Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal

Relegated: Fulham, Brighton, West Brom

Player of the season: Kevin de Bruyne. Who needs Lionel Messi? Can there ever be as loved a creative genius as David Silva in City's light blue? Well, there's a Belgian who's been offer compelling answers to those questions for a while.

Top scorer: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)

Player to watch: Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace)


Manchester United ratings

MANCHESTER UNITED SEASON RATINGS. David de Gea - 5. Clicked through United 400 games recently in his nine-year United career, but how many more? Retains the support of his manager and a contract so vast that nobody would want to match his wages. But 2019-20 was his poorest season since he arrived from Madrid as a callow teen. Played every single minute of all 38 league games, but while once it was possible to pinpoint where he saved United points when he was player of the year four times in five seasons, now the focus is on costly mistakes. Needs to get back to his best and has built up enough credit to get the support while he does that. AFP

Aaron Wan-Bissaka - 7. His first season for United and he made more tackles than any other player as he started 45 matches and stayed injury free. It is almost impossible to get past him and the Londoner settled well, which isn’t easy. But he needs to improve his positioning, crossing and distribution if he’s to become a top full-back. An understanding with a quality winger in front of him would help, but until that happens we’ll still see the former Palace defender come inside with limited effect when United attack. Reuters

Harry Maguire - 7. The most expensive defender in the world played considerably more than any other of his teammates – 55 times in total – and became club captain. Improved after Bruno Fernandes’ arrival and began connecting with his free-kicks from set-pieces. United’s defence stopped conceding goals as the team’s form improved towards the end of the season – though it was poor against Sevilla on Sunday. Not the fastest and his partner Lindelof covers for him, but better to have a settled defence for the first time in years. Getty

Victor Lindelof - 7. The image of him arguing with Fernandes on Sunday in Cologne made headlines and United’s defence had an off day, but only Maguire played more games than the Swede this season. Crowned Swedish Player of the Year, he makes few errors (though against Olivier Giroud at Wembley he didn’t look great) and was excellent against Manchester City in both league derbies. Doubts remain whether he’s one of the best in the world because that’s what United fans have seen with Vidic, Ferdinand, et al. But he’s technically sound with the ball, reliable and should improve – especially his positioning – as he continues to play alongside Maguire. That’s not a prospect every United fan relishes, it must be said. Reuters

Brandon Williams - 7. Nowhere near the first team a year ago but the Mancunian teen went on to play 36 games. That was probably too many and it showed towards the end when he filled in for the injured Luke Shaw. He’s got much to learn and enthusiasm to curb. He went over after a tackle against Sevilla like he was playing in Spain, not merely against a Spanish team, but it’s a deserved new contract for the full-back who came through the youth system. EPA

Luke Shaw - 7. Player of the year last season, but not this. Decent for 33 games after missing September and October and the last weeks. The injury worries won’t go away and he’s had less luck than any player at the club in that regard, but he was missed in an awful autumn and United were better with him back after November. He was particularly impressive in a defensive three away at Chelsea. Needs to make more assists and more than one goal a year wouldn’t go amiss, but talented enough to be trusted. Reuters

Bruno Fernandes - 9. Signing of the season. Came out of this summer’s transfer budget from Sporting Lisbon and within five minutes of his debut at home to Wolves (ironically a 0-0) was showing an attacking intent badly missing from his team. Energetic and driven, he can tackle, shoot and score. He’s fine with the physical demands of the Premier League but it’s his eye for a quick pass which sets him apart. They don’t all come off, they don’t need to. The 25-year-old from Porto makes watching Manchester United more exciting and he was the best player of the second part of the season. If he can properly click with Pogba, and the early signs are promising, then United are on to something. Bruno also takes penalties. And he scores them. Lots of them, even with a hop, skip and jump. Reuters

Nemanja Matic - 7. Another who played in Portugal with Lindelof, Fernandes and the lesser seen defenders Marcos Rojo and Diogo Dalot. Matic had a nothing first half of the season when he was written off as past it. He showed he wasn’t as he returned for a super second half when he scored the winner in a Manchester derby, signed a new contract and refused to give the ball away. He’s not a Bruno style match winner, but brings balance and experience to the league’s youngest team. Form dipped a little after his contract was won, but remains an important United player. Getty

Fred - 7. Just as the most optimistic United fans were starting to doubt the expensive Brazilian and his non-performances, he came good. Very good. Man of the match in United’s best performance of the season - against Manchester City in December - when he overcame racist abuse to be the team’s heartbeat, Fred played more midfield games than anyone until Pogba returned. Scored twice against Bruges, probably won’t get 46 games next season as he did this. But then who expected the tidy midfielder to be a regular after a wretched first year? AFP

Scott McTominay - 6. Academy graduate who says the right things, has an excellent attitude, fitness levels and can be trusted to play against anyone. Five goals this season including the second against City in the last Old Trafford game to have a crowd. Injured over Christmas and then featured less as Matic became the main man in his position behind Pogba and Fernandes. Aged 23 and improving. Reuters

Anthony Martial - 8. The best of his five seasons at the club, more silk and speed than sulk. It helps when you have players like Bruno around you and the Parisian finished as the top scorer with 23 - the most goals scored in a season since the Ferguson era. Hugely talented and happier when he plays now, he scored six and made four assists in nine games after the restart. Usually chosen as the central striker in Solskjaer’s preferred 4-2-3-1, though not a natural No 9. Would Bayern Munich’s forwards have missed the chances he did against Sevilla on Sunday? Reuters

Marcus Rashford - 7. Contender for man of the year, if not always for what he does on a football pitch. Scored a career high 22 goals, the best a free-kick at Chelsea in the League Cup. Would have been more had he not broken his back in January. One tiny positive of the pausing of competitive football was that he came back to finish a season he didn’t expect to, but form was patchy – as it is expected to be after a serious injury. Much happier with Solskjaer as boss than Mourinho, he’s entering his sixth season in the first team. Still just 22, he’s learning to improve his all-round game by getting in more positions where goals are scored. Beautiful to watch when he’s running at players with pace, he knows he needs to add another 10 per cent to his game to be considered a world class player. AFP

Daniel James - 5. Started superbly with a debut goal against Chelsea in a productive first month where his speed hurt opponents but faded badly. Looked no better than a squad player towards the end and was told by his manager to get his head together over the break and come back focused. But, James played 46 games this season. He’s 22. He lost his dad before the season started. Cut him slack, he deserves it as his game hopefully improves. Getty

Paul Pogba - 6. Injury meant the Frenchman barely featured all season, but that didn’t keep him out of the headlines as speculation about his future hung around. Last season’s top scorer, he managed only one this term, but his impact was clear from when he came on as sub in the first game back at Spurs and played a ball forward which cut through four opponents. He started every league game thereafter. Bruno, form and a lack of suitors means he’s almost certainly going to stay. And a fit and in-form Pogba is a plus for any team in the world, with the skill to receive the ball in the tightest positions and come away with it. EPA

Mason Greenwood - 9. Eighteen-years-old and he scored 17 times for Manchester United in his first season. Let that sink in. Only started his first Premier League game in December, a key match at home to Spurs. Did well, but a callow kid from Bradford can’t be expected to perform week in week out. Greenwood’s limited effect in the cup derby win at City, combined with Rashford’s injury, saw Solskjaer move for an on-loan striker, yet Greenwood still started ahead of Odion Ighalo and justified it with accuracy in his shooting, goals and match winning performances. He’s bulked up to become stronger but needs to remain focused and listen to his coaches and more experienced teammates. EPA

Jesse Lingard - 4. Started 20 games and came on in 20 more. His stock remains very low among fans, his number of goals (one, in the final minute of the final game) and assists (none) too. Some spirited performances from the bench towards the very end of the season (he’d been left out of the squad for six games after the restart) where he showed his fitness may hold value. But his purple patches and cup winning goals at United are long behind him. Probably best for both parties if he started afresh elsewhere. Reuters

Andreas Pereira - 5. Frustrated squad player on the evidence of this season. Featured in 40 matches this season, which is more than his current ability merits. Man of the match in the win at Burnley away when he was given a specific job by a manager who likes him, but if you are an attacking midfielder for Manchester United you need more than two goals all season. Reuters

Juan Mata - 5. A lovely person - and he’ll hate to be known just for that. His cameo role against Copenhagen in the Europa League quarter-final showed he can still change a game and his experience and personality was needed in the dressing room. That he started eight games in both the Premier League and the Europa League showed his peripheral position in the squad – and that wasn’t really a surprise. He’s 32 and talented enough to be playing top level football every week somewhere, but he remains content at a club where he’s highly regarded by all. Reuters



Richard Jolly, Premier League correspondent

Champions: Manchester City. Partly because they should improve, partly because it would be astonishing for Liverpool to keep up the pace they have set in the last two seasons.

Top four: Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United

Relegated: Fulham, Crystal Palace, West Bromwich Albion.

Player of the season: Kevin de Bruyne. Astonishingly good in the last two seasons when he has been fit throughout.

Top scorer: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Player to watch: Kai Havertz (Chelsea)


Chelsea player ratings

CHELSEA 2019/20 RATINGS: MANAGER: Frank Lampard - 8. Lampard's appointment last summer was met with realistic optimism. Chelsea's greatest goalscorer was back at the club but had to contend with a transfer embargo that meant he was unable to replace the sold Eden Hazard. Billed as Chelsea's weakest squad in years, Lampard steered the Blues to a top four finish in the Premier League, the FA Cup final, and the Champions League last 16. All while giving ample opportunities to the club's youngsters. There is still plenty of room for improvement, particularly with the team's defensive frailties, but an impressive first year in the Stamford Bridge dugout. Getty Images

GOALKEEPERS: Kepa Arrizabalaga – 4. There are many things you want from the world’s most expensive goalkeeper. Being a liability is not one of them. The Spaniard had one of the worst save percentages in the Premier League and has been a major culprit in Chelsea’s defensive failings. His Stamford Bridge future looks bleak. Reuters

Willy Caballero – 6. Chelsea’s No 2 has had a decent season. Limited to five league appearances, the Argentine has been the Cup keeper, helping his side reach the FA Cup final, so there can’t be too many complaints. EPA

DEFENDERS: Antonio Rudiger – 6. It was a mixed bag for the German centre-back, whose performances have ranged from commanding to comical. Should be part of Frank Lampard’s plans next season unless a tempting offer is made. Getty Images

Kurt Zouma – 7. The Frenchman made more appearances than any other central defender to mark an encouraging return to the first team after successive seasons on loan. As culpable as the rest for Chelsea’s back-line struggles but redeemed himself with 'that' tackle against Crystal Palace. AP

Andreas Christensen – 6. In and out of the team this season, the Dane could be the one to make way if Chelsea recruit a new centre-back this summer. Reuters

Cesar Azpilicueta – 8. Chelsea’s captain remains as important as ever. Not only the team’s stand-out defender but chipped in with four goals and seven assists. His versatility has proved priceless when Lampard switched between formations. AP

Emerson Palmieri – 5. Started the season as first choice left-back but the Italian barely featured after the turn of the year. Is expected to leave this summer. AP Photo

Reece James – 8. An impressive debut season for the English right-back. Solid in defence, full of pace and power going forward, and with an excellent final delivery. At just 20, James is only going to get better. Chelsea have their right-back for the next 10 years. AFP

Marcos Alonso – 6. This is a unique one as the Spaniard deserves a 7 or 8 as a wing-back but would probably get a 3 or 4 as a left-back. His overall rating is a reflection of that. EPA

Fikayo Tomori – 7. Like James, another academy graduate to impress in his breakthrough season. Tomori started brightly before injury disrupted his campaign. He looks the real deal, though, and should have a bright future at the Bridge. Scored arguably Chelsea's goal of the season against Wolves. Shutterstock

Tariq Lamptey – 6. Looked lively in the few games he played, particularly the 31-minute cameo against Arsenal. Opted to leave the club in January and has since helped Brighton remain in the Premier League. AP

MIDFIELDERS: N’Golo Kante – 7. After three exemplary seasons for Chelsea, this has been the toughest for the French midfielder, who has endured numerous injury setbacks. Still remains vitally important to the Blues and will look to reset next season. PA Wire

Jorginho – 7. The Italian playmaker was superb during Chelsea’s fine autumn run and formed a good partnership with Mateo Kovacic. But he can be too one-dimensional and gets exposed in a defensive role. A good offer could see him leave this summer. AFP

Mason Mount – 8. Eight goals and six assists do not do justice to how good the English midfielder has been this season. A classy operator on the ball, fantastic in the high-press and brimming with quality. Lionel Messi believes Mount is destined for the top, so who are we to argue? Getty Images

Mateo Kovacic – 8. Had a decent enough loan spell last season but many fans did not think it warranted a €40m (Dh170m) move. That fee has so far proved money well spent after a brilliant campaign from the Croatian midfielder. Should get even better next year. Getty Images

Ruben Loftus-Cheek – 6. There is no disputing the English midfielder’s quality, but injuries have become a real issue. If he is fit and firing next season, Loftus-Cheek should have an important role in the squad. AFP

Ross Barkley – 6. His best season in a Chelsea shirt with some real moments of quality. But the consistency that separates good and great players is still missing. EPA

Billy Gilmour – 7. Broke through in style with back-to-back man of the match performances against Liverpool and Everton. Looked a bit off the pace after the restart before getting injured, but the 19-year-old midfielder is an exciting talent. Reuters

FORWARDS: Christian Pulisic – 8. The American winger was held back at the start of the season and showed glimpses of his quality before injury struck. However, after the restart, Pulisic was Chelsea’s stand-out player and signed off his debut campaign with 11 goals and 10 assists. He will be even better next season. AFP

Tammy Abraham – 8. The English striker’s form tailed off in the weeks either side of the lockdown but it should not take away from a fine debut season. Abraham’s goals in the first few months were what propelled Chelsea into top-four contention. He ended the campaign with 18 goals and six assists in all competitions. Getty Images

Callum Hudson-Odoi – 5. Another exciting talent for the future, this was meant to be a breakthrough season for Hudson-Odoi. Unfortunately, injury held the winger back, but at 19 he has plenty of time to progress. AFP

Willian – 8. Chelsea’s senior forward has led by example this season with 11 goals and nine assists. As the Brazilian leaves this summer, it was a fine way to complete his superb seven-year stay at Stamford Bridge. Getty Images

Michy Batshuayi – 3. Barely featured this season and this must surely be the summer the Belgian striker leaves for good. AFP

Pedro – 5. Injuries, illness, and a drop down the pecking order saw the Spanish winger’s impact limited during his final season. Will be remembered fondly by the Chelsea faithful. Getty Images

Olivier Giroud – 8. Almost left in January after growing frustrated with his lack of game time. Chelsea fans will be grateful he didn’t as the French striker hit a run of goalscoring form after the restart and replaced Abraham as Chelsea’s first choice striker. EPA



Andy Mitten, European football correspondent

Champions: Manchester City. Vengeful after last season. More consistent too.

Top four: Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United

Relegated: West Brom, Fulham, Brighton

Player of the season: Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United). Continues his progress since arriving in England.

Top scorer: Raheem Sterling (Manchester United)

Player to watch: Mason Greenwood


Tottenham player ratings

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2019/20 RATINGS: MANAGERS: Mauricio Pochettino - 4: Still beloved by Tottenham supporters, despite the troubled start to the campaign that cost him his job in November. And the feeling seems mutual, given he was pictured in Spurs leisurewear when his son signed a pro deal at the club late in the season. Getty

Jose Mourinho – 6: Judged by his celebration at winning a point at Crystal Palace to secure sixth place on the final day, he regarded his start at Spurs a success. Few fans seem to fancy the football his side play, though, and they flounced out of the cups on his watch. Reuters

GOALKEEPERS: Hugo Lloris – 6: His excellence after lockdown papered over a chequered season before it, which included some significant errors and a nasty dislocated shoulder injury. EPA

Paulo Gazzaniga – 6: The Argentine proved himself the ideal No 2 behind Lloris as he played nearly as many games as the club captain – appearing in 25 matches compared to 27 for Lloris. Getty

DEFENDERS: Danny Rose – 5: It has felt as though the England left-back had wanted out of Tottenham for years. He spied his chance when Mourinho arrived, and headed the Newcastle United on loan. Reuters

Toby Alderweireld – 7: More appearances than any other Spurs player. He had to get used to a new set up at the back, as his long term partner for club and country Jan Vertonghen started to be phased out. PA

Jan Vertonghen – 5: One of Tottenham’s most important players in the Premier League era signed off in ignominious style. His absence from the squad on the opening day foreshadowed a problematic campaign, but he will leave with the best wishes of Spurs fans. PA

Davinson Sanchez – 6: Not exactly the reassuring presence of peak Vertonghen, but he at least earned the backing of Mourinho – who had once targeted Sanchez as a weak link in the Ajax side when he was in charge of Manchester United. PA

Eric Dier – 6: All’s well that ends well. He has a new contract, a fixed position at centre-back, and the faith of the manager. But the season was turbulent, what with being subbed after 29 minutes of Mourinho’s first home game, as well as a four-match ban for wading into the crowd. AP

Kyle Walker-Peters – 5: Enjoyed some fine displays after lockdown. By that point, though, Mourinho had jettisoned the young right-back out on loan to Southampton. Reuters

Juan Foyth – 4: Once seen as potentially being the future at centre back – or even right back – for Tottenham, but he stalled this year with just four appearances, and with the departure of compatriot Pochettino as manager. AFP

Serge Aurier – 6: Extraordinary that his best form arrived when he was grieving his brother. That show of character apart, his campaign was typified by loose defence and was riddled with mistakes. AFP

Ben Davies – 6: Clearly well liked by Mourinho. The Welshman was installed in the line up as soon as he was fit, and Rose was summarily let go to Newcastle. Solid enough, but lacks the dynamism of Rose in his pomp. AFP

Japhet Tanganga – 7: The local lad immediately won a place in the fans hearts when he was thrown in for his first Premier League start against a rampant Liverpool side, and did a fine job marking Sadio Mane. Reuters

MIDFIELDERS: Harry Winks – 7: The midfielder’s progress has been stunted in the past by injuries, but he played in 41 games this time around and had established himself as a fixture in Mourinho’s first-choice starting XI by the end of the term. EPA

Moussa Sissoko – 7: A player who has turned his reputation around entirely. Once unfancied by the majority of Spurs fans, they were counting down the days until he returned from injury this season. Getty

Giovani Lo Celso – 8: A difficult campaign at Tottenham has had one clear and obvious silver lining: the arrival of an Argentine schemer of class and style. He could be the rock on which Spurs’ immediate future in built. AP

Erik Lamela – 7: Not always a guaranteed starter, but Lamela might be the face of a nastier Spurs under Mourinho. No player made more fouls after the season resumed that the Argentine. EPA

Ryan Sessegnon – 4: Big things were expected of the left-sided player after his big-money move from Fulham last summer. He failed to force his way in to the starting line up, though, and appeared a timid presence when he did play. Getty

Dele Alli – 6: Mourinho breathed some life back into Alli after goading him by saying he thought his brother had been playing instead of him. The revival was brief, but he did at least manage nine goals across the course of the season. Reuters

Christian Eriksen – 4: The wantaway star undermined the start of Tottenham’s campaign, and the end of the Pochettino-era. His mind was clearly elsewhere, so Pochettino could hardly pick him – but the side could not yet cope without him, either. Left for Inter Milan in January. Reuters

Steven Bergwijn – 8: His arrival provided a rare source of optimism in what was a bleak midwinter for Tottenham. He sparkled immediately, scoring a fine goal in a man of the match display on debut against Manchester City. AP

Lucas Moura – 7: Seven goals, and he has moved past the role of impact-sub that seemed to have been earmarked for him to become a pillar of Mourinho’s team. AP

Tanguy Ndombele – 3: It all started so well, with a goal and a powerhouse display against Aston Villa on the opening day. What followed was a tale of woe. Too often unfit, and the subject of public criticism from a manager he didn’t sign for. AFP

Oliver Skipp – 5: No clear progression towards a place in the side, with just three starts and eight substitute appearances. But being a squad player might be just what he and the club require for now. PA

Gedson Fernandes – 4: His stats at Benfica did not exactly scream “potential superstar” but his arrival was welcomed at a time when morale was low. That said, he did not manage a start in the league, and missed a penalty that cost Spurs their place in the FA Cup. AFP

ATTACKERS: Son Heung-min – 9: Swept the board in Tottenham’s various player of the season awards, having accrued 18 goals and 12 assists across all competitions. And all that despite picking up one red card, a fractured arm, and completing his military service in South Korea during lockdown. PA

Harry Kane – 8: Takes ages to get match sharp after injuries. Can’t play in a Jose Mourinho team. And he was only ever a one-season wonder, anyway. Really? A haul of 24 goals in 34 games across all competitions suggests a slightly more nuanced take on the story. Reuters



Gareth Cox, Assistant Sports Editor

Champions: Liverpool. The drought has been ended and now the floodgates are open after winning the league for the first time in 30 years. Jurgen Klopp's team has no weaknesses with top quality players in every position and a powerful spine that will once again take some stopping.

Top four: Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United

Relegated: West Brom, Fulham, West Ham United

Player of the season: Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United). Helped transform United in half a season, now has full campaign to really make his mark.

Top scorer: Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

Player to watch: Timo Werner (Chelsea)


Arsenal player ratings

ARSENAL 2019/20 RATINGS: MANAGERS: Unai Emery – 3. After 18 months, the Spaniard was sacked at the end of November following a run of seven games without victory and with Arsenal eight points off the top four. His appointment brought optimism following the gradual decline under Arsene Wenger but Emery ultimately proved an ill fit. Reuters

Mikel Arteta – 8. Despite finishing 10 points off the Premier League top four, Arsenal now appear to be trending in the right direction under the former captain’s guidance. Then, of course, there’s the FA Cup win. A trophy in your first season as a manager is fine going. EPA

GOALKEEPERS: Bernd Leno – 6. Only eight clean sheets in 30 Premier League appearances, although much of that can be attributed to the defence in front of him. Prior to his season-ending injury, had a decent season and is assured of his place when fit. Reuters

Emiliano Martínez – 7. Has done well since stepping in for Leno in the league and has had the gloves throughout Arsenal’s march to the FA Cup. A reliable No 2. AP

DEFENDERS: Sokratis – 4. The Greek veteran has barely featured since Arteta arrived and contributed to the regular defensive shambles under Emery. Unlikely to be an Arsenal player next season. Reuters

Calum Chambers – 7. Desperately unlucky season for Chambers, who returned after a Player of the Season loan spell at relegated Fulham. Arguably Arsenal’s standout defender before injury struck at the start of the year. Shutterstock

Shkodran Mustafi – 5. After being largely ignored by Emery, the German has had some game time under Arteta and has actually put in a few decent performances. Still an accident waiting to happen, though. Reuters

David Luiz – 6. Almost a typical Luiz campaign, ranging from world class to schoolboy. Problem is, it’s been more of the latter this season. Put in a good performance in the FA Cup final. PA

Rob Holding – 6. Enjoyed a late run in the first team and played 90 minutes of the FA Cup final. Will hope he has done enough to convince Arteta of his worth ahead of next season. PA

Pablo Mari – 4. Has made just three appearances in all competitions, since joining on loan in January, due to an ankle injury. Apparently, that’s enough to earn a permanent move. Go figure. Reuters

Kieran Tierney – 8. The Scottish full-back had rotten luck with injuries this season, but the difference he makes when he plays is clear. A quality operator down the left flank, the early signs are promising. AP Photo

Sead Kolasinac – 6. For a player with cult status, it was a mediocre season for the Bosnian. Gets an extra point for squaring up to armed carjackers last summer. Getty Images

Hector Bellerin – 7. Another Arsenal defender to endure an injury-hit campaign, but after the Spaniard returned to the team, the Gunners looked stronger. His brilliant run started the move that led to the FA Cup final winner. PA

Ainsley Maitland-Niles – 7. Adapted well to being played out of position, covering for the injured Bellerin at right-back. Was a constant threat in the FA Cup final when moved to left wing-back (another unfamiliar position). His versatility proved very useful but will want more game time in midfield next season. EPA

Cedric Soares – 4. Like fellow January loanee Mari, injury has limited the full-back’s game-time. Also like Mari, has earned a permanent contract. PA

MIDFIELDERS: Lucas Torreira – 6. One of Arsenal’s best players in his debut season last year. Has experienced a more subdued season this time round having lost his place in central midfield to Dani Ceballos. Reuters

Granit Xhaka – 7. It was an eventful season for the Swiss midfielder. He looked destined for the exit after the episode with the fans during the Crystal Palace game and was stripped of the captaincy. Bounced back well to prove his worth to Arsenal. EPA

Matteo Guendouzi – 5. Billed as the player Arsenal would build their next team around, instead the French midfielder looks set for the exit after being frozen out by Arteta following his behaviour against Brighton. Reuters

Dani Ceballos – 8. It took some adjustment and there was the injury that sidelined him for 11 games, but the Spaniard emerged as Arsenal’s best midfielder. A player of genuine quality, Arteta should do all he can to tie down the Real Madrid player for another season. EPA

Joe Willock – 6. A mainstay in Arsenal’s Europa League campaign, the 20-year-old midfielder was mainly used off the bench in the Premier League. Looks a bright prospect. PA

Mesut Ozil – 2. One goal, three assists, 22 starts in all competitions, involved in just five Premier League wins. Has not kicked a ball since the restart. These are hardly the stats befitting of the club’s highest-paid player. Arsenal’s evolution under Arteta has left Ozil behind, so where do club and player go from here? PA

FORWARDS: Gabriel Martinelli – 8. Arsenal’s breakthrough player of the season, the 19-year-old Brazilian scored 10 goals in 26 appearances across all competitions. A knee injury cut his campaign short but Martinelli looks every inch Arsenal’s next big star. Reuters

Bukayo Saka – 8. Four goals and 11 assists from the 18-year-old Academy graduate marks a very impressive first full season in the senior squad. Saka looks set to be an important part of Arsenal’s future. Reuters

Nicolas Pepe – 6. Given the club record fee and excitement that surrounded his arrival, the Ivorian winger’s debut season was mediocre at best. Eight goals and 10 assists across 42 games in all competitions is an ordinary return for a player of his undoubted talent. After a year to settle, should find another level next season. Getty Images

Reiss Nelson – 6. Restricted to 11 starts in all competitions and struggled to make much of an impact, contributing three goals and three assists in 24 total appearances. A talented player and at just 20 years old, has a bright future ahead. EPA

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 10. This rating was a 9 prior to the FA Cup final before he scored both goals at Wembley to lead Arsenal to victory. Another superb season for the Gabonese star with 29 goals in 44 appearances. His contract expires next summer and the general consensus among Arsenal fans is ‘give him whatever he wants’, which seems fair enough. EPA

Alexandre Lacazette – 7. A decent enough season for the French striker with 12 goals and seven assists over 39 appearances but there is a lingering sense that he should be producing more. EPA

Eddie Nketiah – 6. Recalled from his loan spell at Leeds at the end of January, Nketiah chipped in with six goals in 19 games. Another from Arsenal’s Academy that looks set for a bright future. AP Photo



Updated: September 9, 2020 12:12 PM

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