We already know who next season’s top six in the Premier League will be, but what about the others? Here’s a rundown of the other 14 clubs.
It’s that time of year again, but with the transfer window now having been open for more than six weeks it doesn’t seem particularly likely that anyone is going to break the hold that the ‘Big Six’ clubs have over the top places in the Premier League table. But what are the prognoses for the other 14 clubs in the division for the new season? Which clubs have a lot of look forward to, and which should be kicking off with a nervous glance over their shoulders?
7) Newcastle United: Newcastle ended last season on something of a high. After a catastrophic start under Steve Bruce, Eddie Howe came in and steadied the ship, with judicious spending in the January transfer window (and it was well-judged spending, even if it was more than any other club in Europe during that particular window) strengthening the squad to such a point that relegation wasn’t a major consideration by the time spring came around. Newcastle have only lost five league matches so far in 2022, and four of those were against ‘Big Six’ clubs.
Those supporters who somehow convinced themselves that Saudi money would lead to the likes of Kylian Mbappé beating a path to St James’ Park will likely have been a little disappointed. Newcastle’s summer in the transfer market has been quiet.
Matt Targett’s loan from Aston Villa has been made permanent, Nick Pope looks like an upgrade on Martin Dubravka and paying £35m for Sven Botman looks like good business, but it’s not much business, and probably not as much as some had hoped for.
With the financial clout of a nation state’s Public Investment Fund behind them, we may reasonably assume that Eddie Howe has something approaching the squad that he wants, and if the substantial improvements seen throughout the second half of last season can be continued, then Newcastle should be able to push on up the table.
But the fact that four of those five defeats in 2022 came against ‘Big Six’ clubs is also telling. There’s still a big gap to bridge to get to the level of those six, and it may take another year or two before the Saudis can say that they have expanded it to a ‘Big Seven’. Still, though, the optimism around the club is noticeable, and if the momentum of the second half of last season can be continued, then they are capable of being at least the best of the rest.
8) West Ham United: Last season ended on something of a muted note for West Ham United, with defeat in the semi-finals of the Europa League, a tailing-off in the league that saw authentic aspirations of snatching fourth place tail off to nothing, and the feeling that the retirement of Mark Noble at the end of the season marked the end of an era for the club.
West Ham’s season may end up being defined by how fast they have to run in order to remain standing still. At the time of writing Declan Rice remains a West Ham player, and that’s good news for Irons supporters. It seemed more likely than not that he would be leaving the club during the summer, but this has not happened yet. Nayif Aguerd has already arrived from Rennes, and the arrival of 6’5″ Gianluca Scamacca from Sassuolo provides another attacking option, lifting a little of the pressure on Mikhail Antonio.
And David Moyes remains one of the Premier League’s safer pair of managerial hands, as he marks the 20th anniversary of having become a Premier League manager for the first time.
9) Brighton & Hove Albion: After a record-breaking 2021/22 season, it’s little surprise that Brighton are one of the more optimistic clubs in the Premier League as the new season approaches. Brighton’s season ended with the highest final league position in their history, and supporters may be optimistic that, with no-one particularly standing out below the Big Six, they can push on and further improve.
But this would be a challenge. Yves Bissouma has already departed for Spurs, and it remains possible that Manchester City will come back with an offer for Marc Cucurella that Albion find acceptable. City’s offer for him was £30m and Albion’s valuation is £50m, and that’s a big gap in valuations to have to bridge, especially with Cucurella being contracted to Brighton for another four years.
Brighton’s problems last season came in front of goal, and while the arrivals of Julio Enciso and Deniz Undav do add strikers, the former is only 18 years old and may be considered one for the future rather than one for the here and now. If Brighton can unlock more goals this season – of the 17 clubs to avoid relegation from the Premier League last season, only Wolves scored fewer – they may find themselves challenging for a place in Europe.
That may be a tall order, but with one of the Premier League’s more considered managers still in charge, there’s no reason why they can’t match their achievements of last season.
10) Crystal Palace: Patrick Vieira’s first season as a Premier League manager was more successful than many predicted. Able to marshal the Selhurst Park crowd to create a fearsome atmosphere for home matches, Palace were comfortable in mid-table and reached an FA Cup semi-final, a reasonable return for a new manager in their first season in this rarefied atmosphere.
The immediate matter at hand for Vieira this summer has been how to replace Conor Gallagher, who lit Selhurst Park up last season to the extent that he was deigned by Chelsea’s hierarchy to have improved enough to stay with them for the season to come. Expected though this might have been, that departure does create a hole in the Palace central midfield that needs plugging and Cheick Doucoure may be the player expected to fill that gap following his transfer from Rennes.
Elsewhere, the 18-year old Malcolm Ebiowei’s arrival should be considered one for the future rather than the present, but bringing in Sam Johnstone from West Bromwich Albion is a good bit of business and Palace should find themselves comfortable in mid-table again this season.
11) Aston Villa: In recent years, Aston Villa have made a bit of a name for themselves for being one of the few clubs below the ‘Big Six’ to be making truly daring signings. They may not always work, but they are always bracing.
After replacing Dean Smith as manager, Steven Gerrard managed to shore up any concerns of getting dragged into a relegation battle, and Gerrard has been further enriched this summer by the arrival of Neil Critchley from Blackpool as his assistant.
On the playing side of things, meanwhile, Villa may be defined by what hasn’t happened over the summer. John McGinn remains a Villa player, with interest in him from elsewhere not having been as great as we might have expected from a player of his undoubted quality. Elsewhere, Phillipe Coutinho did enough throughout the second half of last season to persuade Villa to make his loan move from Barcelona permanent, while the signings of Diego Costa – no, not that one – and Boubacar Kamara should add a little more solidity in the middle.
But finishing 14th last season was a little underwhelming, and the owners will be expecting improvement this season at a club that has had a lot of money spent on it in recent years. Modest improvement on last season is certainly achievable.
12) Nottingham Forest: Well, they’ve been away a long time and there is certainly plenty of optimism in the air following promotion back to the Premier League after a gap of more than two decades, but this isn’t going to be the Nottingham Forest team that won promotion in the first place. Forest have brought in 11 new players for their return, and some of the summer’s most interesting signings will be starting for them this season.
Omar Richards returns to England after a year with Bayern Munich following his move there from Reading, while Wayne Hennessey and Dean Henderson are as good as goalkeeping replacements that they could have expected following the departure of Brice Samba for Lens and there’s plenty of Premier League experience in the form of Wales international Neco Williams and Jesse Lingard from Manchester United.
But the key remains the manager. Steve Cooper’s transformation of Forest last season was so complete that it’s difficult to believe that he will struggle this season, and the recent record of teams promoted into the Premier League after an absence has been that the positive momentum engendered by promotion can be enough to steer a team through their return to the top flight.
Forest have taken a bit of a gamble. Some of the club’s longer-serving players left at the end of last season, and such a large number of changes has the capacity to backfire. But this Forest squad seems to have been rebuilt with more than mere survival in mind, and this ambition may be rewarded with a season in mid-table and an opportunity for Cooper to show that getting this club back into the top flight wasn’t the summit of his ambitions.
13) Wolverhampton Wanderers: With just three wins from their last 14 games, last season ended on a somewhat deflating note for Wolves. The glaring issue was in front of goal. Their 38 Premier League goals was the lowest of the 17 clubs who avoided relegation last season, and only four more than two of those who were. But that’s only a part of the story. Wolves conceded the fewest goals of anyone below the top four, and their goalkeeper Jose Sa was one of the revelations of the season.
Furthermore, the worst fears of what might happen to their squad during the summer have not (yet) come to pass. Raul Jimenez, Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho remain Wolves players, while the return of Adama Traoré following a period on loan at Barcelona adds a little creativity in wide positions that they seemed to be lacking last season.
If Wolves can retain the services of these players, and especially if Jimenez can get back to the form he was in before his head injury – there’s a case for saying that he has not quite been the same player since he returned to the Wolves team last season – then Wolves will have little reason to be nervous, with another year of mid-table consolidation looking more likely than not.
14) Southampton: Over the course of their last 12 games of the 2021/22 season. Southampton won just one match and scored nine goals, while conceding 30, dropping from 9th place in the table to 15th in the process. It’s now been five years since Southampton finished above midway in the Premier League, and they finished 15th or lower in four of those five seasons.
Southampton may well be preparing for spending another season with one eye looking over their shoulders at those below them in the table.
The arrivals of Gavin Bazunu and Romeo Lavia from Manchester City for £27m are certainly adventurous. These are young players with considerable potential. And Southampton have retained the services of James Ward-Prowse for at least another year, which gives them one of the greatest goalscoring threats in the division from set-pieces.
But there have been times since his appointment at St Mary’s when it’s looked as though Ralph Hassenhuttl was living on borrowed time and it’s not particularly surprising to see him near the top of betting lists for the Premier League’s 2022/23 Sack Race. Southampton only finished five points above the relegation places last season, and it’s difficult to see where substantial improvement upon their 15th-placed finish last season will come from.
15) Brentford: It wasn’t quite single-handed, but it felt a little like it at times last season. Christian Eriksen didn’t quite drag Brentford clear of a relegation fight on his own, but his arrival at the club at the start of March brought about a turnaround in their performances an results which saw them end their season comfortably clear of the bottom three.
Eriksen has gone now, of course. Brentford were never going to realistically be able to match the offer made to him by Manchester United, but their hopes of staying up for a second successive season can hardly be said to have been blown out of the water by him leaving, either.
David Raya, Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo are, at the time of writing, all staying, and there is enough other talent scattered around their squad for us to be able to dismiss the possibility of their second season in the Premier League being Sheffield-United-esque. Furthermore, manager Thomas Frank remains with the club, and their analytical way of doing business will give supporters optimism that those coming in this summer will be able to match last season’s performance.
Yes, this one lavishly talented player has left the club, but there remain plenty of reasons to believe that Brentford can continue to consolidate in the Premier League this season, even if the size of the club itself means that the odds will forever be stacked against them.
16) Leeds United: It’s fair to say that 2022 hasn’t been a terribly good year for Leeds United supporters. Marcelo Bielsa, a manager whose bond with the supporters stretched beyond ‘merely’ getting them back into the Premier League after an absence of 16 years, has gone, as have probably their two best players, Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips.
And while Bielsa’s replacement Jesse Marsch managed to preserve the club’s status in the Premier League at the end of last season, the importing of Tyler Adams, Brenden Aaronson and Rasmus Christensen from the RBs of Lepizig and Salzburg mark a change in direction that carries an element of risk.
Injuries did for Leeds last season, and whether this was down to Bielsa’s training methods seems to be one of life’s great unanswerable questions. If Marsch can achieve his desired effect with the summer’s changes, then Leeds should be able to improve upon just managing to skirt clear of the relegation places again this season, but the changes have made have been substantial and it should be obvious that the loss of Raphinha and Phillips, no matter how expected they might have been, will still be huge.
Furthermore, not being Bielsa means that patience with these changes in the stands at Elland Road might be fairly short, and it’s not difficult to imagine how the atmosphere around the club might turn toxic, should they have a bad start to the season. But for all that, there remains enough to believe that Leeds should be Too Good To Go Down again this season, and that has to be their priority for what should be approached as a season of consolidation and transition, following the drama and excitement of the Bielsa years.
17) Everton: He’s on his third club and has been in the managerial game for four years now, but the post-playing career of Frank Lampard has been nothing if not stop-start and it is noticeable the extent to which it remains difficult to identify what his ‘style’ as a manager might be. But Lampard has so far been a ‘C’ grade manager. He’s usually met what might have been considered the minimum level required without excelling.
At Chelsea, a decent first season under transfer embargo conditions was unwound during the season. At Derby County, getting to the play-off final might have been considered a decent return had the club’s owner not already bet its future on promotion. And at Everton, the aim was not to get relegated, and while he achieved that he didn’t achieve a great deal more.
Over the course of the summer, there has been talk of Lampard putting a style on the team that revolves around ‘possession’, but that’s a famously woolly word, and possession doesn’t mean much in and of itself if results don’t follow. Furthermore, Everton have lost their best player, Richarlison, to Spurs and haven’t signed a replacement, and while James Tarkowski is a decent signing – he should improve them, defensively – he’s not the sort of player that is going to lift the whole team, and with financial constraints brought about by years of financial mismanagement mean that it’s unlikely that one will arrive.
Lampard needs to have his tactics on point for the new season, because it doesn’t look very much as though Everton’s squad will be stronger than the one they had last time around.
18) Leicester City: With wins against already-relegated Watford and Norwich City and a last day win against a supremely disinterested looking Southampton team, last season didn’t end on a particular low for Leicester, but this hasn’t been a very successful summer for them and things could yet get worse.
Kasper Schemichel is leaving, while Youri Tielemans is now openly pining for Arsenal, there is interest from Chelsea – who are presumably expecting not to have to tussle with Barcelona this time – in Wesley Fofana, and the rumour mill is now connecting James Maddison with Spurs. And in addition to all of this, there are further problems already stored up for next summer, with Caglar Soyuncu, Daniel Amartey, Ayoze Perez, Jamie Vardy, Jonny Evans, Hamza Choudhury and Ryan Bertrand all out of contract next summer.
We might have expected work to begin on rebuilding this summer, but this hasn’t happened. Seven weeks after the transfer window opened, Leicester are the only Premier League club not to have brought in any new players, and it somewhat surprising that the club has been so inert in the transfer market when a lot of work needs to be done, not only for the season to come, but also for the one after that.
Brendan Rodgers is an able enough manager, but losing Schmeichel, Tielemans and Fofana in one window would be extremely difficult to replace. Leicester have an ageing team with a lot of players out of contract and don’t seem to be doing a great deal to refresh their squad. If Rodgers’ patience snaps, Leicester could find themselves in considerable trouble next season, but their supporters can take a crumb of comfort from my pessimistic assessment: the last time I predicted Leicester to be relegated from the Premier League, they won it.
19) Fulham: Promotion is supposed to be a huge celebration, but Craven Cottage hasn’t seemed a terribly happy place. The Riverside Stand remains unfinished – and won’t be until next season – and Fulham supporters have been up in arms over £1,000 season tickets to sit in the unfinished stand and £100 tickets for those who seem to have been identified as ‘tourists’ but who may actually also include Fulham supporters who can’t afford the cost of a season ticket or who can’t get to most matches.
They’ve lost Fabio Carvalho to Liverpool for good now, and that’s a big loss, and manager Marco Silva’s record in the Premier League is less than stellar, while again Fulham will likely be dependent upon Aleksander Mitrovic for goals, when he has seldom proved able to score consistently at this level in the past.
In the transfer market, Andreas Pereira brings Premier League experience to Craven Cottage while João Palhinha looks like a decent gamble as a replacement for Carvalho, but Fulham face another uphill struggle if they’re to break their current cycle of promotion and relegation straight back.
20) Bournemouth: It’s not that Bournemouth’s promotion last season was a surprise. They were, after all, in receipt of Premier League parachute payments, which gave them a huge competitive advantage over many other clubs in the Championship. But easing into second place in the table and staying there despite some nerves in the closing few weeks when it looked as though Nottingham Forest were becoming the team with momentum at the top of the table.
A quiet summer has seen Joe Rothwell and Ryan Fredericks arrive on free transfers, and Bournemouth supporters of an optimistic persuasion may be able to convince themselves that a settled squad that has just won promotion should have the momentum to steer clear of relegation at the first attempt.
But while it’s possible that there could be further new arrivals before the end of the transfer window – the loan market would seem to be an obvious place for Bournemouth to be looking; extending Nat Phillips’ successful loan from Liverpool would be a start, but this hasn’t happened yet – the current squad doesn’t look strong enough to avoid the relegation and manager Scott Parker abilities at this level remain open to question. It’s likely to be a long season for the newly promoted club.