After last season’s thrilling title race, the new Premier League season will once again surely be a battle for supremacy between Man City and Liverpool. Buoyed by the signing of goal machine Erling Haaland, Man City will start as favourites, but Liverpool have retaliated by signing the impressive young Uruguayan Darwin Nunez, and these two teams will once again have too much firepower for the majority of their opponents. However, it is not just the best attacks that these two rivals boast. Last season, they had the best defences in the league, and it is hard to see anyone else sustaining a lasting challenge to these two teams domestically.
For a team as consistently successful as Chelsea, 2021-22 was rather anti-climatic. No trophies, and a title challenge that fizzled out by Christmas. Losing Antonio Rudiger will be a huge loss, and despite the eye catching signing of Raheem Sterling, you sense that Chelsea lack the quality in both defence and attack to trouble the top two. In the new post-Abramovich era, it might be more likely that Chelsea slip out of the top four than to improve on last season’s third place. The two North London clubs are best placed to seize on any further decline from Chelsea. After winning the race for a Champions League place, Tottenham have made some positive signings to add greater quality to their squad, including Richarlison. With a full pre-season to work with his squad, Antonio Conte has every chance to push the team forward, and whilst a title challenge is surely beyond their reach, that elusive trophy may be achievable in one of the cup competitions. Despite being pipped by their great rivals to fourth place, Arsenal undoubtedly made big strides forward last season. A lot of the fat has been trimmed from the squad, leaving a younger, hungrier team, bolstered by the smart signings of Jesus and Zinchenko from Man City. Expect a strong top four challenge and good run in the Europa League from Arsenal.
After an appalling 21-22 season, perhaps encapsulated by the 4-0 hammering at the hands of Brighton in May, Man Utd have a huge job to get back into the top four, let alone challenge for the title. Despite two new defenders, and the addition of Christian Eriksen, the squad looks short of the necessary quality. The ongoing saga about Ronaldo’s situation doesn’t help matters. With Ronaldo, United have a regular goalscorer, but a player ill-suited to the out of possession demands of his new manager, and someone whose presence has inhibited the players around him. Without him though, United look short of goals. Either way, another season outside the top four looks likely.
An excellent season for West Ham last year looks increasingly likely to be a glass ceiling. An underwhelming summer of transfer activity looks unlikely to make too much difference to a squad that was stretched to the limit towards the end of last season, although keeping hold of Declan Rice is a huge plus. Another excellent European campaign is more likely than another top four challenge. Two clubs with strong aspirations of pushing for European places and mirroring West Ham’s success of the past two seasons are Newcastle and Aston Villa. The former, backed by the wealth of their new Saudi owners, have surprised many by the cautious, sensible, but still substantial investment to the squad. Without many eye catching transfers either in January or over the summer, Newcastle’s squad is looking significantly stronger, and they should expect to at least finish in the top half of the table. The same expectations are shared by Villa. After an underwhelming 21-22 season, the board have backed Steven Gerrard in the transfer market, and with several talented academy prospects bolstered by their experiences last year, Villa could be a good bet to finish ‘best of the rest’ outside the big six teams.
Three other teams with realistic expectations for at least a top half finish are Leicester, Brighton and Crystal Palace. The former have a squad littered with good players, and will surely have better luck with injuries this season than last year. However, a lack of transfer activity suggests financial pressures at the club, and losing one of their star players or an injury to Jamie Vardy, still their key player, will see Leicester struggle to stay in the race for European qualification. Brighton were a joy to watch last season, but their Achilles heel remained intact, namely that they lacked a regular scorer to benefit from the great chances they created. Little has been done to address that problem, and losing Yves Bissouma to Spurs will not help either. A step or two backwards is probably to be expected this season. Crystal Palace had a really good first season under Patrick Vieira, who successfully rejuvenated the team with a younger, more creative group of players around the crown jewel of Wilfried Zaha. If Palace can get off to a good start, they can be a dark horse in the race for Europe.
Southampton once again were an enigma last season. Often disappointing, sometimes awful, but occasionally brilliant. They never seemed in relegation trouble without ever looking like they could finish in the top half. There is a sense that Southampton have stagnated under Ralph Hasenhuttl and a poor start to the season could lead to a parting of the ways. A tough season is on the cards. Another team that is likely to struggle this year is Wolves. Their top half finish last season was a fantastic achievement, built upon a sound defence and ability to grind out results. For a low scoring team, that is only sustainable in the short term. Expect Wolves to finish considerably lower this year, and perhaps even endure a relegation battle. Brentford were one of the success stories of the 21-22 season, and became a popular team for Premier League fans. As many promoted teams have discovered in the past, it is the second season after promotion that is the hardest to navigate, and Brentford no longer have the surprise factor on their side. Despite the probability that they may be more actively involved in the relegation battle this year, expect Brentford to survive and become a fixture in this division for the foreseeable future.
After a shambolic 21-22 season, in which relegation was narrowly avoided, Everton’s ambitions for the new season will be much lower than recent times. Losing their top scorer won’t help, but it is at the back where Everton need to make the most improvement. However, with financial pressures and a new stadium to build, you get the sense that Everton’s aim is simply to maintain their top flight status in the short term. Such modest aspirations are unlikely to please the supporters though, and it could be another bumpy year for the Goodison club. That is the likely fate of Leeds, another club who narrowly escaped a bottom three finish last season. The optimism of a number of new signings and the exuberant positivity of Jesse Marsch have been tempered by Leeds losing their two best players in Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips. A good start is key, but regardless, it is hard to see Leeds finish anywhere other than the bottom six.
As usual, the three newly-promoted teams will be favourites to go straight back down. Fulham are back for yet another crack at top-flight football, eager to fare better than two years ago. Last time they were promoted, Fulham made many signings and it took a long time to get a settled team, which ultimately cost them. The more modest approach to the transfer market this time should stand them in good stead, with Mitrovic’s goals a likely difference between them and the other teams at the bottom. In contrast, Nottingham Forest, returning to the top flight for the first time since 1999, have spent heavily on lots of new players, many of whom are new to the Premier League. However, the two signings who may be the key to survival are familiar faces. Dean Henderson, on loan from Man Utd will provide quality in goal, and Jesse Lingard, a massive coup for the club, will provide the sparkle in attack. It will be tight, but expect Forest to survive. Finally, Bournemouth make a return to the Premier League after two years away. Little has been done in terms of transfers to alleviate concerns that Bournemouth are favourites for the drop, and it would be a huge surprise if they were to avoid relegation.
1) Manchester City
3) Tottenham Hotspur
6) Manchester United
7) Aston Villa
8) West Ham United
9) Newcastle United
10) Leicester City
11) Crystal Palace
12) Brighton & Hove Albion
13) Wolverhampton Wanderers
17) Nottingham Forest
19) Leeds United
FA Cup Winners – Chelsea
League Cup Winners – Tottenham Hotspur
Champions League Winners – Liverpool