You always know that the long summer days are in the rear mirror when the EPL season is about to resume. Ten months of football action to focus on. Hawkeye Sidekick looks at each side’s ambitions this season as Manchester City look to retain their crown for a fourth successive season.
What has happened since the end of the last EPL season?
Three teams were promoted from the EFL SkyBet Championship last season. Burnley under Vincent Kompany romped to a superb league title and were joined automatically by Sheffield United. Luton Town broke Coventry City’s hearts to secure the playoff spot which is an incredible story. They will replace Southampton, Leicester City and Leeds United who were relegated.
Managerial movement aplenty in the close season. Chelsea lured Mauricio Pochettino to the club to replace interim head coach Frank Lampard. Ange Postecoglou made the switch south to manage Tottenham Hotspur from Glasgow Celtic. Postecoglou takes over from Ryan Mason.
AFC Bournemouth shafted Gary O’Neill for Andoni Iraola who will be either hit or bust appointment early while O’Neill was summons by Wolverhampton Wanderers who saw Julen Lopentegui depart four days before the start of the new season.
We also have the intriguing Saudi Arabia league and their attempt to lure top managerial and players to the league. Several keynote departures from the top clubs noted in this offseason and this may become a prevailing theme as the season progresses.
Team by Team Guide
Manchester City will be the team to be shot at this season as Pep Guardiola revitalises his squad. Gundogan, Mahrez and Mendy have left but Gvardiol and Kovacic look like superb acquisitions to compensate for those losses. Phil Foden is a player with a point to prove this season and that can only be good news for Erling Haaland who looks destined to continue his goalscoring exploits. It will be hard to emulate the treble winning season last term, but Manchester City look poised for an impressive season.
Arsenal have dusted themselves down after the end of season disappointment. Manchester City built momentum and created pressure on Arsenal to breaking point. Mikel Arteta and team will be an intriguing watch this season to see if they have learned from last season. Declan Rice arrives from West Ham United, grossly overpriced but will be a midfield replacement from Granit Xhaka. Jurien Timber is an astute signing from Ajax to anchor the defence and play defensive midfield. Kai Havertz is a player with plenty to prove and with Jesus Gabriel side-lined, the German can hit the ground running.
Liverpool come into the season with a new feel to the playing squad. Fabinho, Henderson, Keita, Milner, Firmino, Oxlade-Chamberlain have left the club. Szoboszlai and Mac Allister look superb signings and if they can secure the signing of Moises Caicedo then the club are well positioned to contend in the league. The future of Caoimhin Kelleher will be an interesting watch from a Republic of Ireland perspective. The Cork native really needs to start playing more regular first team football, but the keeper will be understudy to Allisson this term given the lack of transfer rumours.
Manchester United will be hovering around the top four this season. I do not see them contending for the league title given the turmoil at board room level. David De Gea and how that contract discussion unfolded is more evidence of a board with a lack of vision on player personnel matter.
Hojlund, Mount and Onana are the key signings with Jonny Evans an astute short-term signing to offset any central defensive void left by the Harry Maguire departure (some may say different). The midfield area without Casemiro or Eriksen is a worry and the new signings in the final third will need to hit the ground running to allow Rashford to be a key figure.
Chelsea will be a work in progress this season under Mauricio Pochettino. The Todd Boehly era of securing young stars to extended contracts (USA sports style contracts) is going to be problematic for the Argentine manager. Certain players will not fit his system so it will be a challenge to offload players. There are too many question marks in the spine of this side to be a serious title contender. Player departures and arrivals look significant again as the new manager (if given time) moulds the team to his vision and ethos.
Newcastle United will be an interesting watch. They finished fourth in the league last season. Champions League football will seriously assess the squad depth to breaking point. Tonali, Barnes and Livramento have potential, but the proof is in their performances early. Saint-Maximin creativity will be a loss to the club. The European football angle is a concern heading into the season with more fixtures to manage. If there is an injury crisis, Eddie Howe will be under pressure.
Aston Villa under Unai Emery could be the dark horse here. A superb end to the season. Can Aston Villa continue that performance level and start the season in a prominent position? I like the player arrivals. Diaby, Torres and Tieleman should hit the ground running and boost squad depth competition. Emery has wasted little time to get rid of squad players surplus to requirements. A team who looks quite settled and a top-six berth is not out of the question here.
Brighton and Hove Albion were one of the standout stories from the EPL last season. Graham Potter left for Chelsea to join Marc Cucurella. Trossard joined Arsenal which for any other team would have seen a club spiral to relegation. Brighton is not that team.
Brighton under Roberto de Zerbi played some fabulous football with Mitoma, Mac Allister and Ferguson prominent performers in the final third. Moises Caicedo and his future at the club though will make or break the club’s ambitions this season.
Caicedo is a superb midfielder and would be a huge loss for the club with Mac Allister gone to Liverpool. When you throw in UEFA Europa League football, midtable league position would be a superb return for the side but there are several uncertain factors to play out before the summer transfer window concludes.
I hope the club do not get into a relegation battle early with Ferguson and Moran on the books. Aaron Connolly has departed the club for Hull City permanently. Robert Sanchez departure is a blow, but Jason Steele is primed to perform at this level.
Brentford along with Brighton and Hove Albion were success stories in the EPL season outside of the top four. Brentford under Thomas Frank have evolved their tactical setup and personnel. Ivan Toney’s lengthy ban looks tricky to start the season, but the team have additional attacking threats with Schade, Mbeumo, Wissa having opportunities to step up to be the main leader up top while Toney is unavailable for selection. Nathan Collins has arrived at the football club which is a beneficial move for both parties. A team who will continue to flirt with a top-ten berth unless Ivan Toney’s goals are tough to replace but Thomas Frank has had sufficient time to prepare for that scenario. David Raya’s departure is a concern though, but Thomas Frank has faith in his keeper depth chart. Midtable position should be the aim.
Burnley come into the season with Vincent Kompany providing excitement and media exposure to the club. Kompany has chosen young players with massive upside. James Trafford, Dara O’Shea, and Zeki Amdouni are prime examples of this young player profile that the club are going for. Michael Obafemi will be an interesting watch.
Can the striker get the game minutes and goals to make an impact in the EPL? Burnley with Josh Cullen in the middle of the park should be compact. They should stave off relegation albeit there will be stretches in the season when goals could be hard to come by.
Crystal Palace have reverted to Roy Hodgson which is a pure sign that prospective managers were spooked by the board treatment of Patrick Vieira last season. A disgraceful sacking. The board investment has been minimal which is a concern. Michael Olise’s future with the club remains a question mark. It the start of the post Wilfried Zaha who has gone to Galatasaray. The player was a focal point of the club, so it is time for Ayew, Eze and Olise to step up and deliver the goals for the club. Jefferson Lerma is a replacement for Luka Milivojevic and Matheus Franca is a player of potential yet unproven. Palace under Hodgson should secure forty points, but the long-term vision remains murky.
The first question you need to ask on Everton is the situation with the board. The instability and failure of the club in player recruitment in recent times has seen the club spiral. Sean Dyche really has his work cut out this season. Arnaut Danjuma has floated around clubs in recent times. There was the Villarreal cameo, but AFC Bournemouth and Tottenham stints were forgettable. Ashley Young will provide experience in the side. Sean Dyche will do well to stay in the job this season. For that to happen, Everton defensively must be far stronger than they have been. Relegation is 50/50 here.
Fulham enter their second season in the EPL with the future of Aleksandra Mitrovic the key question heading into the season opener. Mitrovic revelled in the EPL with a team who were strong and compact. Joao Palhinha and Tim Ream were superb down the spine of the side as Fulham easily evaded any relegation concerns early. The question is whether the second season syndrome kicks in. Have team sussed Fulham out? It looks like a lower midtable finish for the Craven Cottage as Mitrovic looks for the exit door before the end of the season. Raul Jimenez though is a shrewd signing to offset any departure of the Serbian striker. Calvin Bassey at centre back is another who will be able to contribute to the side straightaway. No relegation concerns.
Luton Town have had an amazing resurgence through the leagues. The Kenilworth Road ground images will be a throwback to the old English league days and some teams may not like the hostile atmosphere which awaits. Luton Town’s defensive shape last season was key to promotion, and it will need to be even better in the EPL. Rob Edwards has signed players with potential who have player in the lower football leagues or were EPL squad players. Ross Barkley signing will be a close watch. The aim is to secure more points than Derby County (07-08) which would be twelve points. The realistic aim looks to stay with the relegation pack for as long as possible. A good start is required but the squad depth issues suggest a quick return to the championship come next Easter.
Nottingham Forest EPL season last term was quite eventful. It had miserable runs of form and some impressive results towards the end of the season once the likes of Brennan Johnson adapted to the league. The close season has seen a squad cull. Anthony Elanga, Chris Wood, Matt Turner and Ola Aina are good signings. The issue last season for Forest was at both ends of the pitch. They survived just. Steve Cooper has the board backing (for now) but this is another edgy season for Forest in the topflight.
Sheffield United are back in the topflight after a two-season absence. Paul Heckingbottom’s side will be physical and well organised, but squad depth issues have emerged in recent weeks. Illiman Ndiaye and Sander Berge departures leaves a void in the final third. The new arrivals are unproven in the EPL so this looks like a season where the likes of John Egan will need to set the example early. Transfer window activity before September will determine the Blades’ future in the division. I am worried for them based on the business conducted so far. 50/50 relegation bet personally.
Tottenham Hotspur are looking to Ange Postecoglou for the managerial know how to get the North London performing on the pitch. Last season was a mess with Conte and Mason failing to light a fuse under the side. The humiliating loss to Newcastle United away was as low a point for the club in recent times. The club have looked bolstered their final third options with the signing of James Maddison and made Dejan Kulusevski’s loan move permanent. The big question is whether Harry Kane stays at the club, but Richarlison will only be delighted to get an opportunity in Kane’s role.
Several squad members were culled in the off season. The question remains whether Tottenham have the mentality to be defensively strong at key times during the season. They lacked fight and determination at key junctions of last season. This is a mindset change for the club that could prove problematic for Ange Postecoglou.
West Ham United had a difficult EPL season last term. Europa Conference League glory could not mask an indifferent season in league action. Declan Rice has departed so David Moyes must hope that Edson Alvarez is ready made to fill the void. Minimal squad arrivals here but several fringe players who did not work have departed the club. The fixture schedule vs. player management remains intriguing here. I see West Ham in the midtable positions but there needs to be more output from the final third for this objective to be achieved.
Wolverhampton Wanderers are in chaos. There is no point masking over it given the key player departures during the close season and with a manager walking out on the club four days before the league opener. Ruben Neves’ emotional departure said plenty of the situation; it is the end of an era at the club.
Cunha will need to deliver goals immediately for Gary O’Neill but there is genuine concern on squad depth given the league form last season. Lopentegui did an admirable job to get Wolverhampton out of relegation trouble, but this looks different. Gary O’Neill has little time to evaluate the squad and with a board who have not invested money to replace those who have left, it looks like relegation to the championship.
- Manchester City
- Manchester United
- Newcastle United
- Aston Villa
- Tottenham Hotspur
- Brighton and Hove Albion
- Crystal Palace
- West Ham United
- Nottingham Forest
- Sheffield United
- Wolverhampton Wanderers
- Luton Town
- AFC Bournemouth