At long last, the Premier League is back.
A gruelling season ended with Manchester City snatching the Premier League crown back from Liverpool, but in 2021/22 we are set for the tightest title race in years.
Pep Guardiola’s Citizens face stern competition from strengthened city rivals Manchester United, while Chelsea are a new force to reckon with under Thomas Tuchel. Beyond the three main title contenders there is so much to play for across the board, from the fight for European football to renewing top flight status.
Upon the dawn of the new season, how will the table look come 22nd May?
20. Norwich City
Norwich City will be keen to avoid a fourth instant relegation following promotion, but it is hard to see them staying up. There is a notable lack of Premier League experience among their new recruits complemented by the loss of talisman Emiliano Buendía, as the Canaries look set to head straight back down to the Championship.
They eventually avoided the drop last season and it will be a big ask for Burnley to do so again. Sean Dyche has built a stable Premier League team over the last nine years – however, while the rest of the field has improved significantly, can the same be said at Turf Moor?
18. Brighton & HOVE ALBION
Graham Potter has done a marvellous job at Brighton despite their low league finishes, and the £50 million sale of centre-back Ben White will be decisive. They’ve lost a top defender and a key component of their backline, but the received sale could transform the Seagulls. Will it be enough? Probably not.
17. Newcastle United
Newcastle are a peculiar team. Playing lacklustre football with a pitiful manager, yet securing four consecutive mid-table finishes with consistent forty-plus points tallies. The Magpies are always at risk of relegation and nothing has changed this season, but don’t be surprised if Steve Bruce keeps them up again.
Watford are back and with an impressive, young manager in Xisco Muñoz, who faces a momentous challenge in keeping the Hornets up. What Watford have that their fellow promoted teams don’t is real top-flight experience, and with the likes of Troy Deeney, Ben Foster and Tom Cleverley, they should stay up.
Brentford’s long-awaited return to the Premier League has been 74 years in the making, deservedly earning promotion under the pragmatic Thomas Frank. Survival of any kind would be a success for the Bees, fighting to ensure that their return to the promised land isn’t short lived.
The departure of Carlo Ancelotti will have hit Everton hard, though it cannot be underestimated that their squad is still full of talent and experience. If they do not fix their lack of consistency and performances against mid-table teams, it could be another dismal season at Goodison Park.
Southampton look to be growing from strength to strength with each season under Ralph Hasenhüttl, who has transformed the Saints into an entertaining yet well-drilled team. They will need to build on their 15th place finish from the previous campaign, continuing their momentum and living up to the potential they have generated.
Wolves feel like a team on the slippery slope, peaking with consecutive seventh place finishes before slipping back into mid table. The mental boost of Raúl Jiménez’s return will be crucial, though not much should be expected of the Black Country outfit.
11. Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace are going through a period of transition from Roy Hodgson to Patrick Vieira, something which is evident in their youthful recruitment. Michael Olise, Marc Guéhi and Conor Gallagher should make the Eagles an entertaining watch on Saturday afternoons, but the pieces of this promising puzzle may take time to fall into place.
10. Aston Villa
Determined not to be defined by club captain Jack Grealish’s farewell, Aston Villa have a point to prove with their extremely anticipated new squad. The board’s summer work has been superb and deserving of a strong season, so a top-half finish should be the minimum objective for the Villans.
What to say about Tottenham Hotspur? José Mourinho is no more, the fight to hold onto Harry Kane continues and the Lilywhites remain a club in transition. Their impressive transfer window has gone under the radar, but with problems persisting and issues yet to be addressed, it could be another tumultuous campaign for Spurs.
8. West Ham United
West Ham come off the back of their best league finish in five years, under the expert guidance of David Moyes and set for an exciting season in the Europa League. The newfound addition of European football can burden teams, and while the effect of Thursday night football will shine through, a top-half finish is realistic for the Hammers.
Arsenal always seem to come into the new season with optimism, but their transfer activity is far from complete. White is a decent signing at the back, but is there genuine improvement that suggests a possible return to European football? The Gunners will be lucky to secure any sort of a continental finish.
6. Leeds United
Leeds had a superb season upon their return to the Premier League, finishing ninth and recording the highest points tally for a newly promoted side in 20 years. Now that Marcelo Bielsa has extended his contract into 2022, the expectation at Elland Road will be for bigger and better things this season.
The Whites will certainly be building on their top-flight stability, adding to a hard-working squad with the likes of Lewis Bate and Junior Firpo. Leeds have earned the right to dream, and with the potential they have, Bielsa’s men are capable of returning to the continental stage after two decades.
5. Leicester City
Having kicked off the new season in perfect fashion by winning the Community Shield, the standard for 2021/22 has been set for Leicester. It is remarkable to think that, six years on from avoiding relegation in dramatic circumstances, the Foxes now come off the back of narrowly missing out on Champions League football in back-to-back years.
Patson Daka and Boubakary Soumare add depth and quality to Brendan Rodgers’ squad, which has proven that it can compete with the big boys. They simply have to secure top-four football after being so close yet so far, but the increased quality of their competitors means it may well be another year settling with the Europa League.
Liverpool had a turbulent title defence season which saw them sneak into third, albeit without their defensive partnership of Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez. But the pair are now back from injury, bolstered by the addition of RB Leipzig’s Ibrahima Konaté.
Truthfully though, Liverpool are not title contenders in 2022. Sure, they have a strong squad with a world-class manager, but their lack of depth and further investment this summer will cost them down the line. Silverware may well return to Anfield next year – it is just unlikely that that will be the Premier League crown.
3. Manchester United
Manchester United were the closest competition to the runaway champions last season, showing glimpses of quality but needing further quality. It is safe to say they have done that over the summer, bringing in two world-class stars in Jadon Sancho and Raphaël Varane.
United are one of three expected title contenders and have a decent shot of winning the league for the first time in nine years. It would be a failure to see them finish anywhere outside the top three, and while they may not bring the title back to Old Trafford, they are certainly going in the right direction for newfound glory.
It is never boring at Chelsea, and with Thomas Tuchel’s philosophy coming into fruition, you cannot ignore the titans on Fulham Road. Double European success in the Champions League and Super Cup shows that the Blues are here to compete, topped off with the club-record signing of former striker Romelu Lukaku.
Chelsea are expected to mount a serious title challenge, further closing the gap to Manchester City and perhaps even overtaking their defeated final opponents. However, the midfield depth sufficient to win the league just isn’t there, so while the Blues certainly can win the league, it may well not be their time just yet.
1. Manchester City
The defending champions, winning machine and football powerhouse that are Manchester City will be raring to go in 2021/22, keen to retain their title and make it four Premier League crowns in five seasons. Pep Guardiola is showing no sign of slowing down, here to stay and fight again on all fronts.
Champions League final defeat was a bitter end to the Citizens’ season, yet was evidence that they are so close to European glory. The marquee signing of Grealish is a statement as much as it is a new face, adding to the attacking firepower of Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden. That being said, City are still searching for a new number nine to replace Sergio Agüero, who left at the end of last season.
Manchester City are the benchmark in English football, and they still seem to be the strongest force in the land. They will face more competition than ever in their fight for the crown, but City remain the strongest team in the league and the most likely to lift the Premier League trophy in May.
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