Those who want to watch PL matches again after a few weeks break will not have to wait any longer. On 5th of August, Crystal Palace will host Arsenal and the 2022/23 Premier League season will officially begin. As before almost every season, the following questions are the ones that PL fans are most likely to ask themselves. Will City’s dominance in recent years be broken by any of their rivals? Will Arsenal and Manchester United return to the Champions League, or will Tottenham once again be the laughing third? And last but not least, who will be the relegation candidates and which teams will retain their top-flight status in a nail-biting battle?
The main title contenders
In the last 11 seasons, Manchester City have won the gold medal 6 times, and 4 times in the previous 5 campaigns, and a similar scenario is very likely in the coming season, with Guardiola’s side celebrating again after the final round of the competition. An excellent starting point to assess the odds is FiveThirtyEight’s model, which uses a number of different parameters to predict not only the likelihood of each matches outcome, but also the chances of winning or being knocked out of the competitions. The website predicts a 46% probability of City finishing top, but Liverpool’s 30% is a good indication that Klopp’s side should not be written off.
The Citizens have already made two significant changes this summer. Erling Haaland’s £51.25 million buy-out price is really a small amount of money compared to the quality of the striker we are talking about. The Norwegian daredevil, who recently celebrated just his 22nd birthday, scored 22 goals and handed out 8 assists in the 2021/22 Bundesliga season, all after injuries forced him to miss quite a few rounds. After Sergio Agüero, Manchester City once again have a true nr. 9, who could be a viable solution for the centre forward position for at least a decade. Kalvin Phillips left Leeds United, unable to say no to the call of the Spanish manager. Lured for £42+3 million, the English defensive midfielder is in the prime years of his career, with the experience and routine to back him up at 26, but also in a place where he has every opportunity to develop. Although Julián Álvarez arrived from River Plate in the winter for a fee of £14 million, he has spent the spring at the Argentine team and is only now joining the English champion.
His 18 goals and 6 assists in the last season is not a bad recommendation and, even if the 22-year-old striker doesn’t start every game, he will certainly get his chance to prove his worth. All three players are very solid reinforcements, but there are also significant absentees from the squad who should not be overlooked. Raheem Sterling has signed for Chelsea for £47.5m, while Gabriel Jesus (£45m) and Oleksandr Zinchenko (£30+2m) have signed for Arsenal. The English winger and the Brazilian striker have netted 13 and 8 goals respectively, and have also provided 5 and 8 assists, so Haaland and Álvarez should be able to make up for that volume, which is not an impossible task. Another player worth mentioning is Fernandinho, who has worn the City shirt for 9 years, but will be playing in the Brazilian first division at Atlético Paranaense next season. On balance, it is unlikely that the Citizens will suffer any major setback, although the release of key players could cause some problems, especially if the new arrivals cannot immediately get into the rhythm of the league.
Jürgen Klopp’s side have also been busy in terms of summer transfers, with the Reds not afraid to pay £64m+21m for Darwin Núñez, who proved effective against such star clubs as Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Liverpool last season. The Uruguayan is expected to be counted on by the German coach in the nr. 9 role, as the arrival of Luis Díaz in the winter looks set to usurp the left winger position for years to come. Alongside Núñez, Fabio Carvalho has also joined the Mersey-side club (£5+2.7m) after making his mark in the Championship with 11 goals and 7 assists for Fulham. Both arrivals will fit perfectly into the most commonly used 4-3-3 formation, but it is also imaginable that we will see Liverpool in a 4-2-3-1 formation at times. In addition to them, the Reds have also acquired Calvin Ramsay, the 19-year-old Scottish right-back was bought from Aberdeen for £5+3 million, and his primary role will be to relieve Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Sadio Mané’s departure for £27.5+7.5m is a big blow, with the Senegalese trying to continue his excellent goal-scoring form at Bayern Munich. Neco Williams has been paid £17m by newly promoted Nottingham Forest, while Takumi Minamino will be looking to prove himself at Monaco (£12.9+2.6m from the French club). Ben Davies has joined Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s Rangers for £3m after 1.5 years without a single appearance in the English top flight, while Divock Origi the cult hero having been snapped up for free by Italian champions AC Milan. Apart from Mané, the Reds have not lost any of their key players and if Núñez’s acclimatisation goes relatively smoothly, a run like in the previous season is not inconceivable.
The 4 challengers for the Champions League places
FiveThirtyEight’s model gives Chelsea only an 11% chance of winning the title, so it’s not impossible for them to lift the PL title with Thomas Tuchel, but the reality is more likely to be a 3rd place finish. There have been some particularly decisive transfers, and it is relatively rare for all the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place immediately. Both Antonio Rüdiger (Real Madrid) and Andreas Christensen (Barcelona) left for free from the Blues’s defence, and letting two of these players go without the club getting a penny for them may not be a wise and rational decision from a financial point of view. Romelu Lukaku, after a brilliant start, has not lived up to the expectations, to say the least, and the £97.5 million paid for him was hardly worth it, and now he is back on loan at Inter for just £6.9+3.4 million. Raheem Sterling’s arrival has been mentioned before, and it is likely that he will expected to provide a very significant proportion of the goals in the coming years. Kalidou Koulibaly has spent 8 seasons at Napoli in the Serie A, and although the Senegalese defender is 31 years old, his £33.8 million asking price is not too high for a highly rated player. A possible league title would be a big feat, but even if Chelsea finally end up 2nd or 3rd, we might not call their season a disappointment.
Antonio Conte’s Tottenham have not been idle in the transfer market, largely due to the fact that the 4th place in last year’s competition has brought in a good amount of money from the CL qualification. Including performance-related bonuses, the amount paid for Richarlison could be as high as £60 million, a brutal sum for a player who has had some very successful seasons, but it would be an exaggeration to call him a world class forward. Yves Bissouma was the man Spurs were looking at for the Nr. 6 role, and the £25 million was enough to persuade Brighton to accept the offer. The 25 year old Malian international has signed a 4-year contract after 4 years with the Seagulls in the PL. With the wing-backs playing a prominent role in the 3-4-2-1 formation favoured by the Italian coach, so the signing of Ivan Perisic from Inter is a logical move, especially as they secured the experienced Croatian for free.
The 34-year-old Fraser Forster also came for zero cost, and the English goalkeeper is an excellent choice behind Lloris. Clément Lenglet joined the Lilywhites on loan from Barcelona for one year, hoping to get more minutes from Conte than in recent years at the Catalan team. Djed Spence arrives from Middlesbrough after signing for Tottenham for £20m including bonuses. Among the departures, there are just two players, Steven Bergwijn to Ajax (£26.4m) and Cameron Carter-Vickers to Celtic (£6m). There can be no question that, given the above moves, Conte will have an even bigger and better quality squad to work with for the 2022/23 season then in the previous one.
Under Mikel Arteta, Arsenal have been on an upward trend and despite finishing two points off the 4th place in the last season, the Arsenal fans can look to the future with real optimism. It is not very often that the London club sign two players from Manchester City, but this summer they did exactly that, with the aforementioned Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko both agreeing to join them. The acquisition of Fábio Vieira from Porto (£34.26m) also looks like a good move, as the 22-year-old Portuguese helped his side to win the league with 6 goals and 11 assists in the 2021/22 season. New England goalkeeper Matt Turner (£5.7 million) and 19-year-old Sao Paulo winger Marquinhos (£3 million) will also continue with Arteta. Mattéo Guendouzi, on the other hand, is trying his luck in France after being offered £9m by Marseille, while Konstantinos Mavropanos has signed for Stuttgart for £3+1.5m. All in all, Arsenal’s squad has clearly been strengthened and everything looks ideal for them to challenge for Champions League football once again.
A new era begins for the Red Devils with the arrival of Erik ten Hag. The Dutch manager gained valuable experience at Ajax between 2017 and 2022 and will now prove his worth at the highest level in world football. Since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013, he is perhaps the first Manchester United manager to have a long-term future at the club. Christian Eriksen arrived on a free transfer from Brentford after his contract expired, and his exquisite passing could breathe life back into United’s attacks. It is perhaps not a coincidence that the club has signed two players from Netherland, as ten Hag knows the Dutch market perfectly: left-back Tyrell Malacia for around £14 million from Feyenoord, while the Argentine defender Lisandro Martínez has arrived from Ajax for £47+8.5 million (the latter player can also be used as a defensive midfielder).
Among the departures, there are also some more familiar names, with Pogba (Juventus), Matic (Roma) and Lingard (Nottingham Forest) all leaving Manchester City for free, while Juan Mata and Edison Cavani are out of their contracts and currently both are without a club. Although Andreas Pereira will bring in £8+2 million from Fulham, this is a modest figure compared to the outlay, so the overall balance (-£52.8 million) is heavily negative. Of course, this is unlikely to bother anyone if the Dutchman is able to get MU back to where they were during Ferguson’s reign.
Major signings at smaller clubs
Finally, let’s take a look at the teams that have also seen significant changes over the summer. Steven Gerrard-led Aston Villa have signed Diego Carlos from Sevilla for £26 million, who could add stability to the centre of the defence. Philippe Coutinho’s successful spring loan spell (5 goals and 3 assists) convinced the Birmingham club that he was worth to pay the £17m sum to Barcelona, so the Brazilian signed until 2026. Matt Targett, on the other hand, after a six-month loan spell, has decided to start the next campaign at Newcastle, with Villa receiving £15m for his services.
Leeds United were just a hair’s breadth away from relegation, but Jesse Marsch was able to keep the Whites above the line, and they have not held back in their transfer activity so far. The traditional club has spent no less than £91 million on reinforcements so far. The most expensive arrival has been the American Brenden Aaronson, bought from Red Bull Salzburg for £22.2m, but Colombian winger Luis Sinisterra, lured from Feyenoord, has not been a cheap buy either with £20m. At Marsch’s request, Leeds also had their eye on another American, the defensive midfielder Tyler Adams, who left Leipzig for £20m. Rasmus Kristensen (Salzburg, £10m) and Marc Roca (Bayern Munich, £10m) also joining the Yorkshire squad, so the Whites coach will have plenty of options when it comes to name his starting line-up.
It is a very exciting project that is taking place at Nottingham Forest. The club, promoted from the Championship after 23 years, currently have a gross spend of £79.59 million, the 5th highest in the Premier League, and the 18 summer arrivals are a league record at the time of this publication. It is not easy to integrate so many new players into the squad, so the lesson is set for manager Steve Cooper if he wants to build a strong and cohesive squad in a relatively short time. Dean Henderson has been loaned from Manchester United and Jesse Lingard has been snapped up for free. They were also keen to strengthen their defence, with the likes of Neco Williams (£17m), who was surplus to requirements at Liverpool, Omar Richards (£10m), who gained valuable experience at Bayern Munich last season, Giulian Biancone (£5m), who played for Troyes, and Moussa Niakhaté (£12.6m including bonuses), who signed from Mainz. In addition to them, Taiwo Awoniyi, who scored 15 goals in the 2021/22 Bundesliga season, was also persuaded to make the switch, with Union Berlin agreeing to a £17.5m fee.
At West Ham United, the spent £76.4 million on summer transfers, with only 6 PL clubs making a bigger investment. What makes the picture even more interesting is the fact that, on the revenue side, the Londoners have so far had a net inflow of just £0, so only Arsenal (£99m) are ahead of them in terms of net spend. The Hammers paid £30.5m+5m to Sassuolo for Gianluca Scamacca, who scored 16 league goals in last season’s Serie A campaign, and they also secured Nayef Aguerd (Rennes), who signed for £30m, which is quite a notable fee for a centre back.
With no less than 13 PL teams among the top 25 spenders, it’s no exaggeration to say that English clubs are by far the strongest in terms of financial resources. Perhaps few expected that Leeds United would be the 3rd biggest gross spenders in the transfer market after Arsenal and Manchester City, but Nottingham Forest have also been very brave if we look at the number of arrivals. With a host of talented players and established ones making the move to the English top flight, Premier League fans look ahead to another tense and immensely exciting season. Which teams will ultimately achieve their goals will probably not be known for months, but one thing is certain: we are unlikely to be bored this time again.