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- Only six teams have won the Premier League (PL) since it was reduced to 20 teams in 1995/96: Man Utd (11), Chelsea (5), Man City (4), Arsenal (3), Leicester City and Liverpool
- 26 of 28 PL champions had finished in the top three the previous season – eight were defending champions, 12 had been runners-up and six had been third
- 22 of the last 24 runners-up had finished in the top four the previous season with 11 being defending champions
- Since 1995/96 six teams (Chelsea in 2013 and 2017, Liverpool in 2014, Leicester in 2016, and Man Utd in 2018 and 2020) have finished in the top three having been lower than fifth the previous season.
- 17 of the last 24 defending champions have finished in the top two
- Since 1998/99 all nine PL teams that have reached a Champions League final the previous season have finished in the top four
Premier League Title Contenders
Manchester City 8/11
Only one side has retained the Premier League title since a Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Man Utd produced three on the trot between 2007 and 2009, but that was Man City as they’ve largely dominated the domestic scene in recent times.
Pep Guardiola’s slick outfit are clear frontrunners having stormed to the title last term, a third success in four years, and it’s hard to argue with the assessment that they’re once again favourites.
The addition of Jack Grealish for a cool £100m only further strengthens their grip on power, but although the squad wasn’t exactly in need of more creative options, Guardiola clearly loves a player who can keep hold of the ball and his side didn’t struggle without a recognized striker last term.
Sergio Aguero spent much of the season injured and Gabriel Jesus was in and out of the team, but should Harry Kane also arrive then it’s impossible to look past City to extend their domestic superiority.
Having lifted the Champions League in 2018/19 and then thrilling as they secured a long-awaited Premier League crown the following year, Liverpool were expected to keep pace with City last term. However, an injury nightmare at the back derailed their efforts badly and they will surely prove more competitive this time around.
After selling experienced back-up Dejan Lovren last summer, key man Virgil van Dijk was sidelined in October, Joe Gomez joined him on the treatment shortly after, while the injury-prone Joel Matip couldn’t be relied upon to play week in week out.
Fabinho made a decent makeshift centre-back, but his influence was sorely missed in midfield, with his return to the centre of the park yielding an uptick in form for creative maestro Thiago. The signing of Ibrahima Konate has also helped shore up Jurgen Klopp’s options in defence, while as ever full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson will ensure quality delivery from out wide, with the latter’s recent ankle injury fortunately leaving him on the sidelines for weeks rather than months.
The strike force remains strong, but although Diogo Jota looked the business when called upon before suffering his own injury setback last term, the long-established trio of Sadio Mane, Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino feels like it needs refreshing.
The Brazilian in particular could do with adding more goals to his game, forcing a reliance upon Salah for output, but it doesn’t look set to be a summer of heavy spending at Anfield as their rivals gain ground in the transfer market.
Manchester United 7/1
Man Utd have been criticized for past dealings and spent the whole of last summer chasing Jadon Sancho, ultimately failing to meet Dortmund’s asking price. However, there’s been changes behind the scenes with the appointments of John Murtough as Football Director and Darren Fletcher as Technical Director, and it appears to have paid dividends as they’ve struck crucial deals well in time for the start of the season.
The Red Devils were only outgunned by Man City last term and Sancho’s arrival has only added to some already exciting options in attack, but it’s the capture of serial winner Raphael Varane that has the potential to be a game changer.
With four Champions League titles and a World Cup amongst the honours on his resume, he’ll surely bring a winning mentality and on paper, appears to be the perfect partner for Harry Maguire at the back with the England centre-back severely lacking in pace.
A slight concern has been raised as to how the French international will hold up to the rigours of the English football, having missed a few games through injuries in recent campaigns, though this has been exaggerated somewhat as he’s made 32, 32 and 31 league appearances in the past three campaigns.
Man Utd conceded the most goals of those amongst the top four last term and with time to bring in another right-back to compete with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, the rearguard could now prove a source of real strength.
Chelsea were the lowest scorers amongst the top seven last term, scoring at least 10 goals fewer than five of the other sides, and with the imminent capture of Romelu Lukaku should be a force to be reckoned with.
Timo Werner struggled badly to convert chances in his debut campaign, but with the versatility to be utilized out wide as well as centrally, may well benefit from having the goalscoring burden on his shoulders eased.
Thomas Tuchel first steadied the ship before landing not just a top-four spot but the Champions League. Defensive resolve proved key with a three-man defence protected by N’Golo Kante and Jorginho in midfield, and in the end only Man City conceded fewer goals as the Blues were the only ones to come close to the numbers they posted.
In fact, after Tuchel’s appointment in January, no team managed more than their 2.1 expected points per game from that point onwards, as they allowed just 0.68 xGA under the German.
Premier League Top Six Battle
There aren’t any sides beyond last season’s top four that hold convincing title credentials. Arsenal slumped to a new low with an eighth-place finish, Tottenham finished just a point ahead and have a rebuild ahead of them, while Leicester’s ambitions will be set again at cracking the top four.
The Foxes continue to impress under Brendan Rodgers, but have suffered a late collapse from a commanding position in consecutive seasons now. Although they retain all their key players, the spending of the traditional big clubs leaves a feeling that the opportunity has passed them by.
They’ll be reliant upon Kelechi Iheanacho keeping up his form with talisman Jamie Vardy turning 35 in January, though they have splashed the cash on speedy forward Patson Daka to bolster their ranks.
An FA Cup triumphed will have gone some way to alleviate the disappointing end to their league campaign, but there is enough depth to the squad that they should remain highly competitive once again.
However, the injury suffered by Wesley Fofana in pre-season leaves them short at the back, with Wes Morgan retiring and Jonny Evans unavailable until mid-September, while Iheanacho and Wilfried Ndidi will miss a spell with the Africa Cup of Nations in the New Year.
Spurs look in need of a rebuild and although Heung-min Son has committed his long-term future to the club, the jewel in the crown wants away. Harry Kane is unlikely to prove the sort that down tools, but even if the England captain is denied a move, there’s still plenty of work for new boss Nuno Espirito Santo to do in the transfer market.
Toby Alderweireld has left on the cheap with a year left on his contract and quality centre-back options are thin on the ground, though Christian Romero has arrived from Atalanta, along with goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini.
Most of the other departures have been of little significance, with Erik Lamela replaced by Bryan Gil and Danny Rose’s future at the club long since over.
It remains to be seen how Spurs will deal with the air miles as they travel to Europe’s lesser lights in the Conference League, but North London rivals Arsenal have no continental commitments to fill up their schedule for the first time in 25 years. The Gunners are hardly in much better shape overall though, with their hopes of a revival largely pinned upon the signing of centre-back Ben White.
The former Brighton man should help with Mikel Arteta’s desire to see his team play out from the back, certainly more so than the calamitous David Luiz who has now departed the club.
However, Arteta’s star is fading fast at the Emirates after early successes in the FA Cup and Community Shield and he needs a strong start to stave off the doubters.
Left-back Nuno Tavares provides some much-needed cover for the injury-prone Kieran Tierney, while Albert Sambi Lokonga has been signed to strengthen midfield options.
However, creativity has taken a hit with Dani Ceballos and Martin Odegaard returning to Real Madrid following loan spells, producing a further headache for the lowest scores amongst the top nine in the table last term.
The scheduling problems off the back of Covid-19 saw some sluggish starts from European regulars last term and the we’d expect the bigger clubs to reassert dominance this time around. The top four has remain unchanged for two seasons now, even if it came especially close last term, but we’d expect that group to retain their group on the Champions League places.
Pep Guardiola may be accused of overthinking the big games in Europe, but in the weekly grind of domestic football has a team that looks unassailable. The only real weakness at City appears to be the lack of a central striker at present, which doesn’t have to prove decisive, or potentially what would happen if they lost Ederson or Ruben Dias to long-term injury.
Mau Utd may have been City’s closest challengers but they were in fact only fourth on expected points last term. Although they’ve strengthened in attack and defence, they still look light in defensive midfield with Scott McTominay, Fred and Nemanja Matic poor when compared to the deeper lying options of their rivals.
Edinson Cavani remains the only true number nine but turns 35 in February, while there remains a question as to whether either David de Gea or Dean Henderson are up for the job in goal, or indeed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the dugout.
Liverpool saw a number of their players get rests over the summer, but the Africa Cup of Nations threatens to be a problem with star forwards Mo Salah and Sadio Mane set to miss up to a month each. There’s also a potential lightness in midfield with James Milner not getting any younger and Georginio Wijnaldum departing for PSG, so although they’ll be stronger, they’re not appetizing enough to get behind to reclaim the throne.
Chelsea appear the most likely to mount a serious assault on City’s crown. The defensive improvements under Tuchel warrant respect and whereas Timo Werner was squandering chances left, right and centre last term, Romelu Lukaku will no doubt improve their efficiency. With Man City too short to get behind at the prices, the Blues look the best bet for a new winner.
Whilst the top four almost appears set in stone, Leicester’s consistency under Brendan Rodgers should ensure another top-six finish, building on back-to-back fifth-place finishes. North London duo Arsenal and Tottenham look beset by troubles and in need of a refresh, while the likes of West Ham, Aston Villa and Everton will do well to break the normal order.
Premier League Outsider European Contenders
Beyond the key contenders, the likes of West Ham, Everton, Leeds and Aston Villa will all have aspirations of upsetting the cart in the race for European football.
The Hammers finished just two points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea but it's difficult to see a repeat performance, with David Moyes' men overachieving last term and star loan signing Jesse Lingard returning to Man Utd.
Everton made the controversial move to appoint Rafa Benitez after Carlo Ancelotti jumped ship for Real Madrid, but after years of heavy spending and a new stadium to pay for, financial fair play restrictions prevent the changes needed to the squad.
Leeds will feel anything is possible with Marcelo Bielsa at the helm, but while the Argentine coach has transformed the game of many players at his disposal, most notably England midfielder Kalvin Phillips, it should be more of the same without the reinforcements needed to take the club further.
Aston Villa have a Jack Grealish-shaped whole but have prepared well for the moment with some excellent summer business. Danny Ings, Emi Buendia and Leon Bailey should ensure the team is less reliant on one individual going forwards, while the signings of veteran Ashley Young and Axel Tuanzebe add even greater depth to the squad.
Underpinned by a stellar goalkeeper in Emiliano Martinez, a solid centre-back partnership of Ezri Konsa and Tyron Mings, as well as reliable full-backs Matt Target and Matty Cash, Villa could well throw up a surprise and be in the picture for a top-half finish.
Premier League Relegation Candidates
Whereas last season the bottom three were cut adrift, with 18th-placed Fulham a full 11 points adrift of Burnley, the relegation picture looks wide open this time around with as many as nine teams realistically in contention for the drop.
Wolves have lost Nuno Espirito Santo in the dugout and goalkeeper Rui Patricio, but perhaps more importantly have so far kept hold of Ruben Neves and will benefit greatly from the return of star striker Raul Jimenez.
Another bottom-half finish looks likely, after consecutive seventh-place outcomes in their first two campaigns back in the top-flight, but they should avoid being sucked into a relegation battle.
Southampton could be in a spot of bother after the sale of Danny Ings, but the blow has at least been cushioned with Adam Armstrong arriving from Blackburn after netting 28 times in the Championship last term.
Further, Ralph Hasenhuttl has retained the services of Theo Walcott and Mohamed Elyounoussi returns from his loan spell with Celtic, and so they’ll fancy themselves to be reasonably secure and cover the loss of their star man.
Burnley are in familiar territory as a lack of spending means Sean Dyche must work his usual magic. However, they also appear well-equipped with tried and tested methods backed up by reliable goalkeeper Nick Pope and centre-backs Ben Mee and James Tarkowski, while the capture of Nathan Collins from Stoke leaves them with greater cover in the heart of defence.
Safety may be painfully ground out, but with Dyche at the helm they should have enough consistency about them to keep their heads afloat.
Graham Potter has been credited with an improvement of style at Brighton and could do with a more reliable marksmen to finish off the chances, while his side is also lacking in the wide areas. The loss of Ben White at the back will hurt hard as well, though Tariq Lamptey should add some impetus from full-back on his return from injury and the engine room looks solid.
New box-to-box signing Enock Mwepu cost in the region of £20m and joins the excellent Yves Bissouma in the middle of the park, while there’s still time (and presumably funds after the sale of White) to plug the gaps.
Steve Bruce is yet to win the Newcastle fans over to his side like predecessor Rafa Benitez, but he certainly brings bags of experience and has ultimately done a reasonable job given the limited the resources at his disposal.
A lack of transfer dealings is cause for concern, but with superb loan signing Joe Willock reportedly set to return, coupled with the forward talent of Allan Saint-Maximum, Callum Wilson and Miguel Almiron, the Magpies should have enough to keep the ship afloat.
Crystal Palace 6/4
Beyond the promoted trio, who lead the market, Crystal Palace could be in real trouble with a mass exodus led by the likes of Patrick van Aanholt, Mamadou Sakho, Scott Dann, Gary Cahill, James McCarthy and Andros Townsend.
The change in the dugout is a huge gamble with rookie Patrick Vieira replacing the vastly experienced Roy Hodgson, but the last time the Eagles swapped safe and steady for a more ambitious approach, it went badly wrong as Frank de Boer was sacked just four games into the season with a 7-0 aggregate score against his record.
Much will depend on whether the former Arsenal midfielder can inspire and incorporate the younger players, while new centre-backs Marc Guehi and Joachim Anderson will need to strike up an immediate partnership.
Crucially, Wilfried Zaha’s price tag continues to keep bidders away, though the Eagles are in danger of being a one-man team. The signings of Reading’s Michael Olise (the Championship’s young player of the year) and Conor Gallagher also help alleviate some of the attacking burden, with Eberechi Eze sidelined for the long term.
Norwich deserved the Championship title last term as they picked up 97 points, playing with the same panache that ultimately cost them a little in their previous Premier League stay. Daniel Farke remains in the dugout and much of the squad is also intact, with Emi Buendia the most notable departure, but Max Aarons, Todd Cantwell and Teemu Pukki will all be better for the previous experience of top-flight football.
Tim Krul is also an experienced operator at this level, though whether they can sustain their style and couple it with results remains to be seen, especially without the 15 goals and 17 assists provided by Buendia last term.
Watford are back at the first attempt, but that was perhaps to be expected as they retained the core of their squad. They unexpectedly appointed Dinamo Tbilisi manager Xisco Munoz in Decmeber, but were safe and steady as they held the best defensive record in the Championship, conceding just 30 times.
Danny Rose has been added this summer to help strengthen them further in that department, but there are question marks around their firepower with as many as five times outgunning them last term despite their second-place finish.
Troy Deeney, Andre Gray and Josh King all look past their best, but star man Ismaila Sarr remains and is a proven performer at this level.
There are also question marks over Will Hughes’ future, with the midfielder only having one year left on his deal, but they have strengthened over the summer with the signings of Peter Otebo, Imran Louza and Juraj Kucka.
Of the three sides to come up, Brentford look the most ill-equipped to survive. Keeping hold of star striker Ivan Toney is a major boon however, with the 25-year-old breaking the Championship scoring records last term as he netted 31 times, as well as producing 10 assists.
Kristoffer Ajer has arrived from Celtic to help improve the defence, physical box-to-box midfielder Frank Onyeka has been brought in from Midtjylland, but this is largely a young group of players that will do well to survive without much experience at the top level.