Hawkeye Sidekick

EPL 2020 / 2021 Preview: Teams E – L

EPL Preview: Part 2
Everton

The Hope: James Rodriguez hits the heights like he did in Monaco with the Toffees. On paper, it looks like a good fit. A manager who knows the player and likes the player. A player who has respect for the manager and looking to prove a few doubters wrong with this club switch.

Summer signings hit the ground running. Ancelotti has cleared out twelve players from the squad so Nkounkou and Allan should provide upgrades in defensive and midfield positions. Allan is an interesting signing, midfield toughness required, and Allan may tick those boxes.

The Fear: Everton and their ability to roll over quite cheaply needs to stop this season. There were too many embarrassing performances last season to mention. Ancelotti should have instilled some toughness into the side. The Kean situation is one to monitor; a kid with massive talent and potential but need to flourish with Everton. His goals are required this term. Could he be a destabilizing player in the dressing room?

Expected Outcome: The Rodriguez signing is the marquee deal, but I sense Ancelotti is not finished with his preseason signings. The defensive and midfield areas still need some strengthening after last season. From an Irish perspective, does Seamus Coleman get sufficient game time? Upper midtable again for Everton unless Ancelotti can stoke the fires of Rodriguez but the EPL is a tough place to resurrect your career. Ask Alexis Sanchez.

Fulham

The Hope: Get to forty points as quick as possible and stave off relegation. Scott Parker needs a cohesive squad, a squad who will group together during the inevitable winless league runs. Given their most recent EPL season in the topflight, that squad togetherness is going to be massively tested.  

The Fear: Underwhelming signings so far in the summer but Parker perhaps learning from past club failures; signing numerous bang average players who never improved the squad and became troublemakers in the dressing room. Robinson could have been an AC Milan player only for a late medical issue at the start of the year. Harrison Reed and Mario Lemina will provide midfield strength and Anthony Knockaert is a player which we know can deliver in the Championship but the EPL has proved a struggle during his time so far.

Expected Outcome: I fear for Fulham this season. Mitrovic is a quality goal poacher but how will Fulham create chances when they are under 50% possession for the majority of games in the top flight this term. The squad to me looks a bit light at present. Good job Scott Parker signed a new long-term deal, because next season Fulham will back in the Championship next season to get back up again to the EPL. Relegated unfortunately.

Leeds United

The Hope: The giant awakes from their topflight slumber and inspired by Marcelo Bielsa continue to turn over teams early into the next season. Forty points is the priority and with Bielsa at the helm, they may well get there and more.  

The Fear: No White (Brighton) in the central defensive position this season is a blow. He was their standout player defensively last season. Pressure so on Robin Koch to deliver straight away. The lack of goals could be an issue. Bamford is so hit and miss. The good news is that Halder Costa and Rodrigo have signed and that will add firepower, but it may take time for the new signings to gel in the side. Ayling is a quality player and could see a few clubs look at him in the next transfer window. 

Expected Outcome: Leeds United in Elland Road with a home crowd will be a daunting fixture. The side should stay up; there may be struggles along the way but if the side are defensively organized and Rodrigo and Costa lit up games with five-star performances, no reason why the Yorkshire club won’t be in the upper midtable places. Bielsa managerial tactical awareness will be a sight to behold when faced against Guardiola (who has mentioned Bielsa as a coaching icon) and Klopp. How Leeds United will setup will be a footie fan anoraks dream? It will fluctuate with each passing game. Squad rotation the key.

Leicester City

The Hope: Second season under Brendon Rodgers. A second season to identify more squad depth and rotation to allow marquee players to recover and deliver top class performances. The back end of last season saw a jaded team; squad depth was exposed in outfield positions and the dream of Champions League football this term vanished long before Jesse Lingard scored in an empty Leicester City on the last day of the last term.    

The Fear: Europa League is a tough competition to win and the squad will need to be rotated with additional games coming thick and fast. We have seen other teams struggled to balance the fixture workload. Can Rodgers solve the puzzle? Chilwell departure to Chelsea. Castagne arrives to the club as a replacement but can he hit the ground running? If not, then defensive and attacking option issues for Rodgers to resolve.

Expected Outcome: The side is loaded with talent particularly the final third where Jamie Vardy will continue to be a constant menace to EPL defenses. There are warning signs that teams figured out City at the back end of last year and it could be more of a struggle to secure wins. Top half position the objective with Europa League also in the equation this term.

Liverpool

The Hope: Continue to run over teams in the EPL like last season. The side were sensational last term and with Robertson and Alexander-Arnold providing superb full back attacking options, goals for the front three were plentiful. Defensively so sound with Virgil van Djik an inspirational presence. Allison as well providing stability in the goals.    

The Fear: EPL champions means that every side in the league (good, bad or indifferent) will look to turn Liverpool over for a memorable win – look at the Watford road trip loss last term for the example. This is a minor concern. Alison keeper coverage potentially; Adrian had good moments but had some moments that he would like to forget. Kelleher as understudy still a work in progress.

Expected Outcome: The standard bearer of the league last term. They start the season as favorites given their dominance last season. Salah, Mane, Firminho are going to take serious handling again this term. Henderson will continue to lead the side magnificently. If Liverpool were to secure the Thiago Alcantara deal, then it will be a super team to beat them (perhaps only Manchester City). Klopp is building a side which could dominate for years to come; this second season is a key acid test on those credentials but no reason why this side cannot retain the title.