“English Premier League Soccer–Worth a Look”
The English Premier League season kicks off on Friday with a summer-fall-winter schedule. The EPL..it’s the best league in the world.
It comes, the season start up, with the cloud of the ugly ‘breakaway attempt’ this spring to form a Euro Super League, with the elite teams in England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France attempting to put together a 14-team league that would carry enormous global clout. It led to a revolt by all the other teams threatening expulsion from the Champions League and other tourneys, and followed with massive financial fines of over 1B-to each of the breakaway franchises.
It also was an off season where Lionel Messi went thru a messy divorce in Barcelona. Harry Kane tried to exit Tottenham. Rome Lukaku returned to Chelsea. And Paul Pogba somehow remains tethered to Manchester United.
Ill will remains as they put the ball in play on Friday among the super power teams and the rest of the league. Think of the anger directed at the Houston Astros, and you get a dose what some of these teams will feel when they venture on the road.
Here’s a capsule look at the EPL-teams, the dominant teams and the new ones just added via the relegation rule in the off season, courtesy of NBC-Sports.
20. Watford – A few decent signings but largely the same squad which got relegated, then promoted back to the PL. Xisco Munoz did a great job to drag them up late in the season last season, but I just can’t see them scoring many goals.
19. Norwich City – See above, really. Daniel Farke has done a great job gaining two promotions to the PL in the last three seasons and the Canaries have kept a lot of their squad together too. Adding Billy Gilmour on loan is a massive boost and you get the sense Norwich will be much closer to staying up this time around.
18. Brentford – The new boys have spent smartly, as always, and they have had a good summer of preseason games after winning the playoffs to clinch a first-ever PL season. Thomas Frank’s side will take risks and will be fun to watch but if Ivan Toney can’t deliver in his first season in the PL, who else is going to score the goals? The Bees will be a lot of fun and everyone’s favorite second team. Think Bournemouth and Blackpool when they were first promoted.
17. Burnley – Sean Dyche will probably work wonders to keep the Clarets up but they haven’t added anybody to their squad of note and there are question marks over Dwight McNeil’s future. Having home fans back at Turf Moor is worth 8-10 points a season and that should just keep them up.
16. Southampton – Selling Danny Ings had to happen and they got a great deal from Aston Villa ($38 million for a player who had 11 months left on his contract) but who is going to score for the Saints? There’s a lot of pressure on Che Adams. Defensively they have to improve and Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side were so poor in the second half of last season. Perhaps a full preseason of his rigorous sessions has got the high-pressing side back on track? If not, Ward-Prowse’s set pieces will keep them afloat.
15. Brighton – Same issue for the Seagulls as a lot of the teams down at the bottom of the rankings: who is going to score? They will cause shocks throughout the season and they play some lovely stuff, but Graham Potter needs more end product from his forwards. Selling Ben White was a blow, but understandable. Now they need to reinvest on better forwards.
14. Wolves – They will be an intriguing team as new boss Bruno Lage tries to keep things similar to the Nuno Espirito Santo era which is over after he left, then took over at Spurs. Having Raul Jimenez back is huge and Wolves will look like a totally different team with the Mexican star leading the line. Can they push for the top 10? Let’s see. On paper they have the players to do that but this could go either way.
13. Crystal Palace – Talking about intriguing, all eyes will be on Patrick Vieira at Palace. The legendary Premier League midfielder has done well as a manager at New York City FC and Nice but this is a big step up. Wilfried Zaha has been flying in preseason and Vieira is putting his trust in lots of new young talents. Palace have tried this before and it didn’t work out. It’s a gamble.
12. Newcastle United – Steve Bruce and the Magpies continue to plod along and they had a very solid preseason. Newcastle have yet to bring in any new players but after so many injuries last season, all they need to do is keep Saint-Maximin, Wilson and Almiron fit and they will be fine.
11. Everton – Weird vibe around Everton right now with former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez taking charge. Carlo Ancelotti bounced this summer and went back to Real Madrid and that has left a lot of players with an uncertain future. With Richarlison away at the Olympics they are missing their main man too. There will be a lot of pressure on Benitez and Everton early in the season and Jordan Pickford needs to stand tall to give them a solid base to build from.
10. Aston Villa – They’ve sold Jack Grealish, which is a big blow, but bringing in Buendia, Ings and Bailey to replace him is very smart. Villa will be just fine and will be in midtable if it doesn’t go well and pushing for the top six if their new signings settle in. Smart and savvy business from Villa.
9. Leeds United – They have gone properly under the radar this summer but Marcelo Bielsa always has a few tricks up his sleeves. Leeds have signed Junior Firpo and Lewis Bate as their main signings this summer and they showed everyone last season how good they can be. Can they avoid the dreaded Sophomore slump and teams knowing their tactics a little better? The answer is likely yes.
8. Arsenal – Hmm. Where do we start here? Singing Ben White for $70 million is a huge statement but also a bit of a risk. Arsenal believe they have their new center back star but they need help elsewhere too. The main issue for Mikel Arteta has been failing to move on players who are surplus to requirements. Still a very stale feel about this Gunners squad.
7. West Ham United – What a preseason they’ve had! David Moyes’ boys are flying with so many impressive wins and displays and they look sharp ahead of their Europa League group stage campaign. Will they make any more signings after bringing in goalkeeper Areola on loan? A new center back is on their list but West Ham seem to have got away from spending money for the sake of it. That’s a good thing. This is now a very settled squad.
6. Tottenham Hotspur – The Harry Kane saga is a huge problem for Spurs but it appears like he will now be staying and after signing Cristian Romero, Bryan Gil, Pierluigi Gollini and potentially a huge deal for Lautaro Martinez (wow), Tottenham are doing all they can to keep their superstar striker happy. Nuno Espirito Santo’s tactics could work well with this squad of players, and a top four finish would be a big achievement. It all hinges on Kane staying.
5. Leicester City – Brendan Rodgers’ side looked very sharp in their Community Shield win over Manchester City and they have been really good in the transfer market once again. Bertrand, Soumare and Daka have come in and the Foxes are well-stocked to push for a top four finish and go far in the Europa League. Such a well-run club.
4. Liverpool – Jurgen Klopp has added in Ibrahima Konate to help with their defensive woes and Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez coming back is a massive boost. But it will take them a little while to get back up to speed. Liverpool ended last season so well but it has been a busy summer for a lot of their players. Can they plug the Wijnaldum gap in midfield? Will the trio of Salah, Mane and Firmino regain their best form once again? A few big questions, but they will be right on the edge of the title race.
3. Manchester United – Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane arriving is a big statement from United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is making his squad stronger all of the time. Defensively they are improving (Maguire and Shaw are so important) and now they need Sancho to slot straight in and the likes of Martial and Bruno Fernandes to deliver plenty of goals behind Cavani. In theory they should be title challengers but they just seem to be one or two players away from doing that.
2. Manchester City – Hear me out, the only reason they aren’t number one is they have a lot of players who have yet to return to action after busy summers in the European Championships and Copa America. Signing Jack Grealish for $139 million was incredible but also a little strange given all of their attacking midfield options. If they sign Harry Kane, or any other word class center forward, they will be unstoppable. But until then, you get the sense their sluggish end to last season may carry over, especially the disappointment of losing in the Champions League final to the next team in our rankings…
1. Chelsea – Okay, this may be controversial but I think Chelsea are title favorites. Thomas Tuchel has done an amazing job since day one when he arrived in January 2021. Chelsea were one of the best teams in the PL in the second half of last season, they won the Champions League, reached the FA Cup final and were so tough to beat. Defensively they are well-organized and N’Golo Kante is a machine in this 3-4-2-1 formation. If they sign Romelu Lukaku, as expected, then Tuchel has his clinical finisher. With Havertz, Werner, Pulisic, Ziyech, Mount and many others underneath him creating, Lukaku could score over 30 goals. That is what makes Chelsea my title favorites. For now.