The Premier League is back! The new season will be the longest ever via a midseason World Cup and sees intriguing battles at both ends of the table with what looks like the strongest division in a long time. Here, we preview the prospects for ten of the clubs making up the best division in club football.
Manager: Brendan Rodgers
Key Player: James Maddison
Leicester started the season by adding the Community Shield to the trophy cabinet, but found the Premier League more difficult going than recent seasons. Injuries, most notably to Wesley Fofana, saw Brendan Rodgers’ team struggle to reach their usual heights. Meanwhile, their FA Cup defence came shuddering to a halt at Nottingham Forest. James Maddison and Harvey Barnes enjoyed productive campaigns and Leicester looked more like their old selves down the stretch, eventually making a European semifinal and docking in 8th place.
Leicester seemingly need to buy before they sell and rumors of Kasper Schmeichel and Youri Tielemans going are concerning.
The mood music hasn’t been right this summer at Leicester and a quiet transfer window will worry Brendan Rodgers. Having key defenders Justin James and Wesley Fofana fully fit to start the season gives Leicester a boost. The pace of Fofana was sorely missed last term. However, rumors of big name departures and a lack of incomings point to a season of consolidation at the King Power.
Manager: Jurgen Klopp
Key Player: Mo Salah
An outstanding season for Liverpool that came within a whisker of being the best ever for an English club. Liverpool recovered from their 2021 injury crisis and bolted out of the blocks, but draws against Brighton and Brentford ultimately proved costly. Having fallen behind City, Liverpool were outstanding in the second half of the season; the January addition of Luis Diaz proving a catalyst. Liverpool went on to win both domestic cups and finish runners-up in both the Premier and Champions League, giving the season a feeling of anti-climax. Mo Salah won PFA Player of the year, of a stellar supporting cast Trent Alexander-Arnold, Thiago and Diogo Jota were exceptional.
No sooner than the trophy parade finished, Sadio Mane shocked the club by demanding a move. Liverpool went big in replacing him with the blockbuster deal for Darwin Nunez. With most of their budget tied up in Nunez, Liverpool’s other moves were aimed at the longer term in talented youngsters Calvin Ramsay and Fabio Carvahlo to close Liverpool’s summer business before the window had officially opened. Fringe players Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino followed Mane through the exit door, but Klopp wisely re-signed veteran James Milner for another season. The big contract news, however, was Mo Salah signing a long-term extension
Narrowly missing out on the two biggest trophies should prove a spur to Klopp’s team to go one better this time. Nunez arrives after one brilliant campaign with Benfica, but Liverpool aren’t lacking firepower with Diaz expected to be even better, having had half a season to acclimatize. The World Cup may offer a Liverpool a marginal advantage over City with Salah, Robertson, Keita, Diaz and Milner all staying home. Liverpool were ultimately the best team in the second half of last season and look stronger now than they did in the first.
Manager: Pep Guardiola
Key Player: Kevin De Bruyne
City were the team to beat throughout the season and brought home the league for the fourth time in five years. While record signing Jack Grealish never quite lived up to the billing, Bernardo Silva was the best player in the league for half the season. When City threatened a wobble, Kevin De Bruyne stepped up and pulled them through. Joao Cancello and Phil Foden were other outstanding contributors in an exceptional team. The Champions League yet again proved a frustration, but at home City reigned supreme.
City pulled off the move of the summer by convincing Dortmund superstar Erling Haaland to sign. England midfielder Kalvin Phillips quickly followed as a replacement for the departing Fernandinho. The arrival of Haaland lead to departures, with forwards Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus moving on along with Oleksandr Zinchenko. January signing Julio Alvarez finally arrived as a likely understudy to Haaland. City are actively pursuing a new leftback and Nathan Ake is expected to be on the move.
Haaland is the marquee signing of the summer and should provide City with the world class number nine to finally get them over the line in Europe. However, the Premier League rewards depth above all else and the loss of Sterling and Jesus could make life more difficult at home; particularly given Haaland and Phillips have less than spotless injury records. Guardiola being in the last year of his deal will bring an unwanted distraction and City will see the overwhelming majority of their squad depart for a midseason World Cup. However, City’s problems are much more manageable than most. They remain the team to beat and are unstoppable at their best. City may have to chose to prioritize the Champions League or retaining their title with a first European prize a possible goodbye gift from Pep.
Manager: Erik ten Hag
Key Player: Bruno Fernandes
Aside from the 1973-74 relegation season, it’s difficult to recall a worse campaign in Manchester United history. The return of Cristiano Ronaldo was supposed to herald a title bid, but his goals simply kept United afloat in the early months of the campaign. Then came humiliating defeats to Liverpool, City and Watford that cost Ole Gunnar Solskjaer his job. Next came Interim boss Ralf Rangnick, who couldn’t get a tune out of a divided squad as United sunk in the league and cups. Five defeats in their last eight games consigned United to sixth place and their lowest points total of the Premier League era.
Former Ajax coach Erik ten Hag arrived with the mission of reviving a fallen dynasty. The clear out began in earnest with Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic all leaving on frees. Goalkeeper Dean Henderson was moved on, giving David De Gea the nod to continue for the foreseeable future. However, ten Hag’s arrival was soon overshadowed by Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer request. Left-back Tyrell Malacia became ten Hag’s first signing with Christian Eriksen on a free following. Lisandro Martinez followed ten Hag from Ajax to become United’s marquee signing at £56m.
Ten Hag’s already had a tough start to life in Manchester with Ronaldo pushing to leave and incomings painfully slow. Preseason has brought positive results, but key questions hang over Old Trafford, Can Eriksen and Fernandes playing together, does Anthony Martial start, will Ronaldo stay? Clearly getting more out of Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford would be a big step in the right direction. United may have finally found their man, but much like Sir Alex, ten Hag will need time and money to get it right. Setting strong foundations should be the limit of expectations this season
Manager: Eddie Howe
Key Player: Bruno Guimares
Off-field issues dominated on Tyneside as the loathed Mike Ashley finally sold the club. In came the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, who brought ambition. However, it also brought the enormous baggage of their nation’s human rights record and accusations of Sports Washing. On the pitch, Steve Bruce was never going to stick around long. Eddie Howe appeared to be leading a moribund team in a relegation fight. Things turned dramatically in January, partly due to astute transfers and partly Howe’s coaching. Newcastle’s second half of the season was top four form with Bruno Guimares looking a gem of a buy as the Magpies finished in a comfortable mid-table position.
The steady recruitment from January continued under new Technical Director Dan Ashworth with the addition of goalkeeper Nick Pope on a knockdown fee and making Matt Targett’s loan a permanent deal. Dutch defender Sven Botman is more of a statement signing, with the 22-year old arriving from Lille for £32m. A lengthy pursuit of French striker Hugo Etikite proved fruitless. Newcastle will likely be active late in the window in addressing their frontline.
The controversy around Newcastle’s ownership will continue through the season. On the pitch, Newcastle are clearly better than they showed in the first half of last season, but may struggle to match the miraculous form of the second half. Botman was outstanding for Lille in their title win of a year ago and will be expected to be the long-term lynchpin at the back. Defensively, Newcastle look fine and Guimares should have a major impact in midfield. The issues remain in attack with the injury prone Callum Wilson still the main goal threat. The question is whether this season will measure up to the expectations of a revitalized Toon Army and the club’s big spending owners.
Manager: Steve Cooper
Key Player: Brennan Johnson
Forest started the season looking over their shoulders at relegation to League One and ended it in the Premier League. Chris Hughton lead Forest to six defeats in the opening seven games, but an early change of manager saw Steve Cooper appointed. The former Swansea boss swiftly turned Forest around, as the team only lost six of 38 games under his stewardship. Young winger Brennan Johnson was the star turn in his first full season in the Championship, with loan stars James Garner and Djed Spence outstanding. The season came down to the nerve-shredding playoffs, but Forest held their own and will play in the Premier League for the first time in 23 years.
Forest were disappointed to lose out on Spence and have yet to bring Garner back for another year from Manchester United. Forest secured a major upgrade in goal with Dean Henderson added on loan. Cooper broke Forest’s transfer record to add striker Taiwo Awoniyi from Union Berlin. It sparked a spending spree, with defenders Neco Williams and Omar Richards joining from the fringes of Liverpool and Bayern Munich’s squads. French defenders Guilian Biancone and Moussa Niakhate joined from Troyes and Mainz, respectively whilst Lewis O’Brien and Harry Toffolo arrived from Huddersfield. Forest shocked the division by adding England international Jesse Lingard for a reported £200k a week. It marks 12 signings and counting and there is still a month of the window to go.
The miraculous turnaround of Forest included them taking prized cup scalps Arsenal and Leicester, suggesting they can compete at the Premier League level. Henderson is an excellent addition and the emphasis on adding young defenders should mean a stronger backline for Forest’s Premier League return. Awoniyi is a major gamble after one standout season in the Bundesliga and along with Lingard will be pivotal. Forest will be competitive at the City Ground. Much like Leeds and Villa, their return brings a sense of nostalgia. Despite their glorious history, 17th place or better would represent a huge win this season.
Manager: Ralph Hasenhuttl
Key Player: James Ward-Prowse
Ralph Hassenhuttl’s Southampton remain a model of bottom-half consistency. It is now four years since Hassenhuttl walked into St Mary’s and their league finishes read 16th, 11th, 15th, and 15th. After the late summer departure of star striker Danny Ings, a season in stasis wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. James Ward-Prowse closed on David Beckham’s free-kick record in another impressive individual campaign. Southampton’s season was perfectly summed up by beating Arsenal, but then immediately going winless in their last six games.
Adding 20-year old Germany Under 21 international Armel Bella-Kotchap for and France U-21 Sekou Mara is on brand for Southampton’s moneyball strategy. Southampton then went for Manchester City academy prospects Romeo Lavia and Gavin Bazunu. Another familiar strategy of buying from Scotland saw Southampton get Joe Aribo after a fine season at Rangers. Veterans Fraser Forster and Shane Long lead the departures.
This could be a tough season for the Saints. The squad looks short on experience and while Lavia in particular is a fine prospect, his lack of first team experience will make this season a steep learning curve. Crucially, Southampton have held onto James Ward-Prowse, but they will need much more from forward Adam Armstrong after a tough first season in the top flight. Southampton have proved incredibly streaky in recent years and they’ll need a strong start if they are to avoid the relegation dog fight.
Manager: Antonio Conte
Key Player: Harry Kane
Nuno Espirito Santo always looked an awkward fit for Spurs. Despite an opening day win over City, he was soon through the exit door. In came the man Daniel Levy desperately wanted in the summer: Serial winner Antonio Conte. The Italian quickly changed the mood in North London and revitalized Spurs with a high-octane second half of the season. January signings Rodrigo Bentancur and Dejan Kulusevski proved instant hits while Harry Kane grew back into form, but the brightest star was Son Heung-min, who ended with a share of the golden boot. Spurs are back in the Champions League and looking much happier.
Conte moved quickly to snap up one of his trusted Inter lieutenants in ageless winger Ivan Perisic. Tottenham then pulled off the steal of the window by bagging Brighton star Yves Bissouma for £25m. Richarlison arrived for £53m to add a different option to a powerful frontline, while the backline was reinforced thanks to defender Clement Lenglet and veteran goalkeeper Fraser Forster. Rightback Djed Spence arrived from Middlesbrough after excelling in the EFL. One dark cloud has been the interest of Bayern Munich in Harry Kane with what looks like a feint before bidding for the England captain next summer.
Tottenham look stacked, with Richarlison adding a useful extra option to a devastating front line. Spence should be an immediate starter at right wing back and Perisic may well start on the other flank. Conte knows how to deliver a title challenge and Tottenham will be closer to the top two than the race for fourth place. However, ending the club’s long trophy drought has to be the priority and the domestic cups will be a major target for Spurs. The issue for Tottenham is that Conte isn’t a long-haul manager and Kane is down to the last two years on his contract. It may well be now or never for Spurs.
West Ham United
Manager: David Moyes
Key Player: Declan Rice
David Moyes’ team enjoyed another fruitful campaign. West Ham made a strong start with November’s victory over Liverpool giving the Hammers top four hope. Michail Antonio was outstanding in attack and Declan Rice dominant in midfield. West Ham ended City’s stranglehold on the EFL Cup and progressed all the way to the Europa League semifinals. However, not investing in January proved costly as West Ham ran out of steam, winning just one of their last seven games. Another season of European football in the Conference League feels like scant reward for a fine season.
West Ham added much needed reinforcement in central defence with the arrival of Morocco international Nayef Aguerd after an impressive few seasons with Rennes. Alphonse Areola made his move to East London permanent and midfielder Flynn Downes arrived from Swansea. West Ham addressed their need for an alternative to Antonio by adding Italian striker Gianluca Scamacca from Sassuolo. Club legend Mark Noble finally hung up his boots with Andriy Yarmalenko and Ryan Fredeicks also moving on.
The lack of squad depth cost West Ham last season and this summer’s spree should dilute that problem. However, West Ham still may find a top four challenge hard to maintain alongside cup progression. With no trophy since the 1980 FA Cup, prioritizing the later may be the better option. Aguerd’s preseason injury is a blow, but Scamacca looks like ending West Ham’s curse of spending big on flop strikers. On their best day, West Ham can beat anyone. A deep run in the Europa Conference League could provide the silverware to secure Moyes’ legacy.
Manager: Bruno Lage
Key Player: Jose Sa
Bruno Lage picked up the Molineux mantle from Nuno Espirito Santo and delivered a season of steady progress. Four defeats from the opening five games didn’t promise much, but Wolves’ rocksteady defence and the outstanding Jose Sa swiftly moved them into the top half. Taking Manchester United’s scalp at Old Trafford proved the season highlight and it seemed Wolves might slip back into the European places. However, seven defeats in their last ten put paid to those ambitions, but Wolves still finished a respectable 10th place.
Hwang Hee-chan made his loan from Leipzig a permanent deal while young centre-back Nathan Collins arrived from Burnley. Ruben Vinagre and Romain Saiss lead the permanent departures and Fabio Silva was a notable loan outgoing in a largely quiet summer for Wolves.
The previous season ending on a slump can spell trouble for managers and Bruno Lage needs to get Wolves back to winning ways soon. Wolves did well with a small squad last season, but the move to five subs makes that a problem for a squad that hasn’t been enlarged. Raul Jimenez will miss the start of the season in a side that doesn’t score many, they won’t go down but Wolves could be in for a bumpy season.