Last year’s Premier League season had everything. With the title race, the battle for top four, and the fight to avoid relegation all being decided on the final day, fans were kept on the edge of their seats right to the bitter end.
Now, with pre-season well under way, and with this summer’s transfer window having overseen some of the biggest and most exciting arrivals and departures the league has seen in recent years, next year’s season is likely to have all the twists and turns of the last, making for a truly nail-biting ten months of vintage Premier League action.
This article will explore what we might be able to expect in this year’s edition of the Premier League, taking into account team’s performances towards the end of last season, alongside their activity in the transfer market and results in their various pre-season tours, to offer a comprehensive forecast of the next league season.
Last years champions Manchester City had a characteristically strong end to the campaign, capping it off with a mouthwatering 3-2 comeback win against Aston Villa at the Etihad to clinch their fourth Premier League title win in five years.
The ‘Cityzens’ have dominated the Premier League for a number of years with the strength and depth of their squad, further reinforcing their already world-class crop of players in this summer’s transfer window with the signings of English midfielder Kalvin Phillips from Leeds United, Argentinian starlet Juliàn Àlvarez from River Plate and, most notably and perhaps most excitingly for City supporters, Norwegian striker Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund.
Haaland has long been on the radar of many of Europe’s top clubs following his spectacular performances throughout Dortmund’s most recent Bundesliga campaigns and their Champions League adventures, scoring a total of 62 goals in just 67 games during his time in the German top flight.
Following in the footsteps of his father, Alf-Inge Haaland, Erling put pen to paper this summer, joining a City’s attacking lineup that without him managed to accumulate 99 Premier League goals last time out.
With the frightening firepower of City’s attacking players, and a team tactically guided by one of football’s greatest operators in Pep Guardiola, you would be brave to bet against the Cityzens retaining their Premier League title, and cementing themselves as one of the League’s truly great footballing sides.
Liverpool have been the side that have come closest to toppling City in the League in recent years. Winning the Premier League title in the 2019/20 season, following a spectacular Champions League campaign the season before that saw them lift the famous European cup for the sixth time in their history, the Reds looked poised to continue their pursuit for Premier League glory and really challenge City in subsequent seasons.
Jurgen Klopp’s men came desperately close to Premier League glory once again last season, pushing Manchester City right to the final day and, at one point, being a goal away from the title with City 2-0 down to Aston Villa at the time. Of course though, Guardiola’s City found a way back into the game, clinching victory against Villa and stealing the title away from Anfield.
In spite of their tireless efforts to topple City with only one Premier League title to show for it in recent years, Klopp’s team never seem to lack quality and potency in attack. Mohammad Salah, the jewel in Liverpool’s crown in this particularly fruitful period, had another showstopping season last time out, registering 36 goal contributions in 35 league appearances, and tie-ing with Spurs forward Heung-Min Son for the Golden Boot Award. Liverpool’s securing of Salah’s services for another three years, in a contract debacle that consumed much of the club’s attention for a lot of this summer’s transfer window, can only be a good thing for their title aspirations this season.
With the introduction of Uruguayan youngster Darwin Núñez, who looks an exciting prospect having lit up last year’s Champions League with Benfica, and the continued development of Colombian forward Luis Díaz, who hit the ground running after joining the club from FC Porto in the January transfer window, Liverpool look set to challenge City once again for the crown of England.
One notable departure, however, is Senegalese winger Sadio Mané who, after joining Liverpool from Southampton in the summer window of 2016, has been instrumental to a lot of Liverpool’s success in recent years.
The question for Liverpool fans now, is whether Klopp’s system, and indeed Liverpool’s success in pushing City right to the very end, is sustainable without the goal contributions of such a valuable player.
Chelsea’s season was a bit of a mixed bag last year. Starting incredibly strong, with wing-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell being critical in their dismantling of teams in this early part of the season, Chelsea looked set to push for the League title alongside City and Liverpool throughout the season.
However, a number of notable snags, namely Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku’s mid-season interview revealing his desire to return to Inter Milan following a record-breaking £97.5m transfer to West London last summer, as well as club chairman Roman Abramavich’s involvement with a Russian political initiative that oversaw the full-scale invasion of neighbouring Ukraine, appeared to slightly derail the Blues’ season.
Though their title aspirations may have been slightly hampered following the busy Christmas period, Chelsea managed to cling onto third place in the Premier League, ensuring that Champions League football would return to Stamford Bridge next season.
With the departure of chairman Roman Abramovich, and the subsequent spending ban the Blues’ received as a result of his involvement with the Ukrainian invasion, a number of significant players’ contracts could not be renewed in time for the new season.
Centre-backs Antonio Rüdiger and Andreas Christensen, along with club captain Cesar Azpilicueta, who have all been critical components of Chelsea’s European success in recent years, have been allowed to leave the club this summer, leaving the Blues’ critically short-staffed at the back.
However, with the club securing the services of Senegalese centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli, along with Manchester City and England star Raheem Sterling to bolster the attack, Chelsea look secure in their top-four aspirations once again this season.
For Chelsea fans however, truly challenging City and Liverpool for the League would be a true reflection of both the quality of the side at their disposal, and the level of investment the club has received not only in this summer’s transfer window, but over this incredibly fruitful twenty year period.
Tottenham ended last season in a far stronger position than they started it. With new manager Antonio Conte arriving in November and largely shifting their fortunes in the League over the course of the remainder of the season, Spurs finished in a respectable fourth place, following a two-month-long race with Arsenal for that final, and crucial, Champions League position.
Conte has been shrewd in the market this summer, bolstering his squad with a mix of players with serious potential, such as Yves Bissouma from Brighton and Djed Spence from Middlesbrough, as well as players with proper experience at the highest level of the game, like Ivan Perišić from Conte’s former side Inter Milan, and Fraser Forster from Premier League rivals Southampton.
With Steven Bergwijn being the only really notable departure from Tottenham this season, and with star players Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son confirming their desire to stay and work under Conte, it may be difficult for Arsenal or Manchester United to oust Spurs from fourth spot.
It must be said, however, that much of Spurs’ top four aspirations for next season rest on the shoulders of the world-class manager in their employ. Antonio Conte has been able to get the best out of players that had seemingly downed tools under Nuno Espírito Santo at the beginning of last season, implementing a system and philosophy within the club that enabled them to grind out wins as the season progressed.
With Conte’s famously combustible nature and managerial style, coupled with his past criticisms of club hierarchies that have chosen to defy him, it seems only a matter of time before this honeymoon period between him and the club comes to an explosive end.
What is important for Spurs fans however, is that during this particularly peaceful and prosperous period, the club starts to really challenge for silverware, and end the trophy drought that in recent years has arguably prevented them from becoming a truly massive club in the eyes of the Premier League.
Fourth spot was Arsenal’s to lose going into the final few months of last year’s Premier League season. The fixtures looked relatively kind, and the Gunners were ahead on points with a number of games still to play over those also in contention.
However, in a spell that saw Arteta’s side lose to Crystal Palace, Brighton, and Southampton in three back-to-back Premier League defeats, Spurs managed to surge ahead of Arsenal, eventually cementing their top four place in a 3-0 victory at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium about a month later.
Though the season ended in relative disappointment for the Gunners, the level of performance throughout the season was consistently more respectable than that of seasons prior. New additions Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, Martin Ødegaard, and Takehiro Tomiyasu were exceptional, and gave Arsenal fans hope that they may be able to challenge once again in the near future.
The departure of club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was both a blessing and a curse for the squad. Aubameyang’s regular flaunting of rules and regulations put in place by head coach Mikel Arteta was setting a bad example for the rest of the squad and ultimately impacting performances in the earlier part of the season, however, the striker was arguably Arsenal’s best player and most likely scorer of a lot of the club’s goals.
In the end, it appeared that Arteta’s call to let him move to Barcelona was the right one, as a number of the squad’s younger players, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe, and Gabriel Martinelli to name a few, truly stepped up to the plate, and delivered consistently positive performances for the remainder of the season.
Arsenal have arguably been the most active of the Big Six clubs in this summer’s transfer window, signing both Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko from champions Manchester City, and picking up future prospects Fàbio Vieira and Marquinhos from FC Porto and São Paulo respectively.
With Arteta’s vision beginning to take shape, and with a young and seemingly hungry squad continuing to develop together, the Gunners could realistically push for a top four spot next season with a greater level of consistency in the closing stages of the campaign.
One other important factor that may affect Arsenal’s push for top four next season will be their involvement in the Europa League. This competition, more so than the Champions League, requires teams to play very far across Europe, and will ensure that the Gunners will regularly play their Premier League matches on Sundays, with their European competition usually taking place on a Thursday night.
In the past, this routinely impacted the fitness of clubs challenging in the Premier League, making it incredibly difficult to effectively perform in both competitions. If Arsenal are to make a decisive challenge for that top four spot, they will require a level of squad depth that will enable them to maintain quality performances in both their European and domestic campaigns.
Following a terrible 2021/22 campaign, United will be looking to bounce back into the Champions League positions this season. With the arrival of Raphael Varane from Real Madrid and Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund, coupled with the return of arguably the world’s greatest ever footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo, pundits and journalists tipped United to be right in the mix of teams challenging for the crown of England.
As it turned out however, these marquee signings were not enough to mask the deeper issues running throughout all levels of the club, issues which ultimately resulted in the departure of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer midway through the season, and the poor performances that continued on the pitch following the arrival of his temporary successor, Ralf Ragnick.
A largely underwhelming season for United culminated in a fairly quiet end to the season, with sixth place being the best they could hope for as the battle for top four raged on above them. Their business in the transfer market, however long it may have taken to actually commence, looks to be actively improving their overall outfit for next season.
With the arrival of Christian Eriksen from Brentford, a player with unquestionable Premier League quality, and Lisandro Martinez from Ajax, United look to be steadily adding to their depleted and sometimes spiritless squad of players. Without doubt though, the most exciting arrival for United fans this summer will have been Erik Ten Hag, former Ajax boss, and a manager with an exciting and tactical footballing philosophy that United supporters will hope is able to rival that of Pep and Klopp at the top of the table.
Ten Hag is tasked with an unenviable mission of completely reversing the fortunes of arguably the biggest football club in the world, establishing a positive culture and winning mentality that will help them to climb back up the table.
While Ten Hag may indeed be the man to accomplish this with United, it will likely be a process that will take a number of years to actually come to fruition. United fans must be patient, and allow Ten Hag to really build a team in his image, and establish a culture both on and off the pitch that will breed a winning mentality for years after his departure.
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