The 2022 – 2023 Premier League season, a time of optimism for NUFC for the first time in years.
Other teams will go into it in the same boat, or hoping for a season of endurance at best, a relegation battle at worst. With a bit of luck there will be a couple of new teams challenging for Europe, without that luck there will be a couple of big Premier League clubs staring relegation in the face.
All with the added bonus of a six week long holiday in the middle. Well they wanted a mid-season break, now they’ve got one. You just can’t make some people happy.
Money has been spent and reputations have arrived. NUFC v Man City will see Botman v Superman, Man U v Arsenal will see a Christian meet Jesus at last and Everton will be able to field the entire cast of Jurassic World.
Some of the Laws of the Game have changed. Assistant referees will raise their flags for offsides where a goal is not obvious except when Harry Macguire is defending, there is no obvious with him. Just days after success for England’s least diverse international football team outside of John Terry’s bedroom imagination, taking the knee is gone. Still, if taking the knee before the game is over, hopefully so will Bruno Fernandez and Jorginho taking the whole body during the game.
Now the background noise is at an end we can concentrate on the football. Jurgen Klopp captured the spirit of the excitement by complaining about the date of the charity shield just before the start of the season, Christmas must be a hoot in his house:
“I think Germany plays the Super Cup final and for that the teams involved don’t have to play one cup round.”
Ah but Jurgen, that one cup round is our Super Cup so stop spoiling the fun.
The Teams That Expect To Win The League In No Particular Order:
It has been a summer of transition for the Champions. Perhaps tired of not winning the Champions League, Pep Guardiola has gone for a more direct striker, sold a speedy winger and bought another defensive central midfielder. Will he change their style of play to be a more direct approach, or one without the ball where they play a little deeper? Will he build with a bit more strength after their Real Madrid collapse? With Phillips and Rodri in front of a back four (or maybe three, or maybe two) the Citizens will be more solid and more physical across the pitch. With Haaland up front they will have more presence in the last thirty yards.
Not that Manchester City had many problems last season. Filling their ground and keeping their accountants creative enough to fend off FFP might be their biggest issues this season. They won the league last year and will win it this year. Unless Liverpool do.
The loss of Sadio Mane points to Liverpool being a team in transition too, as well as the off-loading of several squad players. Their endless supply of bit-part players to step in and perform to the required standard was one of the Reds’ main strengths last season. With a top-class defence featuring Konate with a season under his belt and a front three from Salah, Jota, £85million Nunez, Diaz and one to watch Fabio Carvalho, Liverpool will be up there again.
It is a testament to both of the top two teams that they won trophies last year, were miles better than anyone else and yet are still happy to change to try and improve. City and Liverpool may not be so far ahead of everyone else this season but they will still be far too good for anyone else. Unless of course…..
No chance of top two, every chance of top four in no particular order:
Conte may act like a Conte most of the time but he knows how to get the best out of footballers. He is so annoying that players listen, do what he asks and hope that he leaves them alone. The Italian brings that demanding winning mentality with him and it has rubbed off on the Tottenham players who had generally underperformed up to that point. No more arms around the shoulder and it doesn’t matter son at Spurs. You win or you are out.
Tottenham have bought well. Spence, Forster, Lenglet, Perisic, Richarlison and Bissouma are the right mix of age, experience and appetite and Spurs have also held on to their top class players. Both of them. The Lillywhites will need those two players to gel with Richarlison and score a bundle of goals to exceed expectations but they have enough quality in the tank to improve on last season. The only thing certain is that at some point we will play them and it will be 5-1. Who to is anyone’s guess.
‘Conte may act like a Conte most of the time but…’
It has been a difficult summer for Chelsea for obvious reasons.
Firstly, they have had a change of owner as the previous owner, universally unpopular outside of London and Russia became even more universally unpopular, if that is even possible. A consortium made up of United States businessbods bought the club but having a bit of a liking to an invasion or two of their own, they added a Swiss billionaire to the group in case a scarper for anonymity and a swift handover was required.
Secondly, Chelsea have struggled because a lot of their players have left. Some on a free transfer out of contract and some because the Blues have a seemingly endless supply of money to buy great attacking players and then a seemingly limited supply of patience when they don’t score a hundred goals in their first game. If, as predicted, Timo Werner leaves, Chelsea could go into the season without a recognised striker. It didn’t do Man City any harm I know but Chelsea are more Man Bites Dog than Man City. Top signings Sterling and Koulibaly will help but a team usually strengthening in the summer have found themselves weakened this time around. They are looking to chuck some money around, in for De Jong, Cucurella and Fofana as I write this. That Swiss billionaire must have been down to the basement and grabbed a few bars of 1944 gold.
Two things will have to happen to keep them in the top four this season. Thomas Tuchel knows what he is doing and will have to know even more about what he is doing. And N’Golo Kante will have to stay fit. Chelsea were on absolute fire with him playing in an advanced midfield role last season. When he got injured, Chelsea struggled. If he stays fit and plays like he did in the first four months of last season, Chelsea will finish fourth. If not…..
You can always dream.
Aiming For Europe, but not in the way that Vladimir Putin is, in no particular order:
New manager. New system. New players. Same old trouble.
A Dutch friend of mine said that Ten Hag would do well if Manchester United gave him the time and money to gradually improve the squad. Next season: New manager. New system. New players. Same old trouble. Still, there has already been improvement. This week Ten Hag complained that lots of players bailed out of a recent friendly before the end of the game. That’s much better. Last season all of the players chucked the towel in before the end of February.
It wouldn’t be the summer without Arsenal chucking a hundred million at a fur coat and forgotten to pack their Y fronts. Throw in their usual all conquering pre-season demolition of everyone and the odds for the title will be slashed as Piers Morgan pretends he has always liked Miguel Arteta.
Fair enough, Jesus will score goals because he is good but the signing of Vieira in midfield from Porto for £34million looks like they are trying to plug the hole left by Patrick Vieira by signing someone with a similar name rather than similar quality. The last time Arsenal won a PL title was 2004. Vieira left in 2005. Their failure to get any sort of die for the cause central players means that next May, once again Xhaka will be moaning about not having the steel to progress. Making Martin Odegaard captain sums their approach up. “He represents the values of the club in the perfect way” according to Arteta. More squeal than steel, just what you need in a skipper. A cynic might say that Arteta struggles with personalities. Champions League or another job for him by the end of the season. Another job then.
Bit of a wild card Villa. It could go either way for them. They are gambling on Gerrard being the great manager that great players rarely become. They are gambling that Coutinho can recreate his form at Liverpool after being on the beach at Barcelona for his prime. They are gambling that £26million Diego Carlos and free transfer Boubacar Kamara from Marseille can handle the physicality of the PL having had to show none of that in the leagues they came from. I think it will work out for them and they will do well but it could just as easily not.
David Moyes and West Ham have re-invented themselves. Good for them, perhaps they didn’t want to be upstaged by the Abba Arena this season. Of all the clubs in the PL they have bought players with the best names. Gianluca Scamacca, Flynn Downes, Nayef Aguerd and Alphonse Areola, I did wonder what had happened to Il Divo. With Onana and Cornet in their sights too, the Hammers have definitely decided to spend the Declan Rice money in advance of him leaving. They better hope he leaves next summer or they’ll go bust. As long as David Moyes doesn’t think he is still managing Sunderland or they get bogged down in the endless European B League, West Ham could finish fifth this season.
If all goes well, this is the pack that NUFC should be running with. A couple of attacking players light to be going higher, a couple of strong defenders too many to go much lower. Great. I’m happy with that. This is the first season for a while when I won’t be thinking we’ll be relegated and I will enjoy it for that reason alone.
Mediocrity, or how I learnt to love mid-table, depending how you look at it in no particular order:
Here by the grace of not being as hopeless as the teams at the bottom, with a special nod to Graham Potter and his Sorcerer’s Stone. Up to now, since getting promoted with us Brighton have been a model in how to run a football club. This season might see a change in fortune. NUFC have taken their Director of Football and Hagrid Burn, Bissouma has gone to Spurs, Cucurella is looking to go anywhere else and the incomings have been young, relatively unknown players. That is the way Brighton roll so there is no reason to think that they can’t overcome it like they have for the last few seasons. They are well organised under Potter and while they might not be looking up this season, they might not have to look down either. As with other teams in the midtable bog, a lot of it depends on the gaffer. Will it be the Order of the Phoenix Nights or the Deathly Hallows. Is that enough Potter references? Absolutely.
Second season syndrome has plagued many an optimistic supporter and over-confident team. Brentford went from a breath of fresh air to a stale fart and back again last season. They were entertaining though and a welcome addition to the PL. They have lost Eriksen but no one else and spent a canny bit of cash on the generally well-respected but over-rated Aaron Hickey and Keane Lewis-Potter from Hull, who I know nothing about but cost £17million. Ben Mee at the back will give them the sort of ugly consistent stability that Burnley made an art form, if industrial thrash metal is your idea of art. Thomas Franck seems confident and as an intelligent talker and strategic thinker, he is probably right to be.
If Brentford can overcome second season syndrome then Patrick Vieira has to do it too. It is usually about this time at a club that he starts realising that all of the players he has at his disposal are just poor versions of himself and starts getting hacked off about it. Without Conor Gallagher this season they won’t be as good as last season but should have enough to avoid getting sucked into the melee at the bottom. Much will depend on how they react to defeats and making sure that one or two on the spin don’t become four or five. If they do, Vieira has become a liability in previous jobs. Like Gerrard at Villa, maybe now is the time for him to show he can do it as much as Palace.
‘A tough season ahead for Bob Monkhouse and his boys?’
There was a time last season, for a lot of it, when if you did a google search on Leicester City then Rebekah Vardy was near the top of the list of results. That shows what sort of a season the Foxes had. The players they bought with bags of potential over the previous seasons like the injured Fofana, Soumare and Daka didn’t produce and some of the older players who had been so good for so long, started to fade.
Leicester still have plenty of quality in Tielemens, Barnes and Maddison but whether they will be there or not by September, only time will tell. As manager Bob Monkhouse said last week when putting in an early shout for the Head Coach job at the next Sports Direct owned pantomime football club:
“I became aware towards the end of the season that the club would have to balance its books. This club will not look to spend money they don’t have and that is where the club is stable and they will always be very sensible.”
Sensible equals fourteenth. If they are lucky. We’ve seen sensible and it doesn’t make sense. Sensewibble more like. A tricky season is in store in the heart of UKIP country.
Do they even exist anymore? Don’t they know the summer sale is on? Or perhaps Jorge Mendes, previously the world’s number one super agent has seen his stable of talent, Angel DI Maria, Ronaldo, Diego Costa, Falcao and Thiago Silva go from number one on the throne to number two on the commode. Wolves have been quiet in the summer and that may mean that their boss has been quietly restructuring the team into a more attacking unit with a back four including £20million Nathan Collins from Burnley. Or it might mean they are out of ideas and will be rubbish.
‘Steve Cooper: Meadowell Paper Round when he was young’
Every team who comes up generally takes one of three approaches. Nottingham Forest have taken the buy everyone at any price approach. I don’t blame them to be honest, like a child in a sweet shop they have just gone crackers. Getting those signings to gel might take time and they might not have that. On the other hand, extreme exuberance might mean they get off to a flyer. Jesse Lingaard and Dean Henderson should both play a part but most of the onus will be on boss Steve Cooper, who talks like he can’t believe his luck. The 42 year old might look like a 57 year-old supermarket trolley collector but he was the Championship’s Eddie Howe last season. Good luck to him. And them. But always remember the Miners Strike.
A couple of major injuries, a couple of the newbies not cutting it, you never know, maybe mid-table is where it is at. It wouldn’t be the end of the world.
The creek is there, the paddle isn’t. In no particular order:
The Cherries look resigned to their fate already. With a couple of free transfers and a Boro midfielder in, they have certainly not gone down the route of over-extending themselves financially like Forest have. Instead they will rely on, well, nothing really. Just hoping that three teams get less points than them. Can’t see any chance of that.
‘An unnecessary look at Jordan Pickford’
On the face of it, Everton will struggle. Their best player Richarlison has left along with a load of squad players including Lewis Gibson and coach Duncan Ferguson. With remaining best player (who isn’t a T Rex) Calvert-Lewin always injured and not surprisingly is injured, there isn’t much for the Toffees to get excited about. Manager Frank Lampard looks unconvincing and while the players they have signed this summer will do a job, it might not be enough of a job to save them. Tarkowski and Vinagre will make them less likely to concede goals, Gordon and McNeil will give them some youthful exuberance on the wings. But as Dwight McNeil said after signing:
“I’m about taking risks and having the confidence to try things – hopefully it pays off.”
He has taken a risk by signing for Everton alright and he knows a thing or two about getting relegated. It might be their home form and support that saves them, or the January transfer window. It could go either way.
They have Marco Silva’s experience. They have a returning Kevin Mbabu. They have Mitro up front. They have no chance.
Leeds had a lot to overcome last season. Major injuries to key players meant a loss in form and confidence and eventually the departure of a special manager as relegation loomed. Jesse Marsch came in and kept them up, not necessarily that Leeds got any better, they just continued to not be worse than the bottom three.
The summer hasn’t improved it. The loss of best players Phillips and Raphinha has given them money to spend, but that they have spent it on a mixture of Americans, players Marsch used to coach and unknown and untried prospects, things could go very badly for Yorkshire’s (and therefore no doubt the world’s) biggest team. If Bamford and Harrison can stay fit, or even stay, then Leeds could have enough to stay clear of danger. Big Ifs. I hope they stay up, if that counts for anything. The PL is better with Leeds in it.
They used to be such a well run club with a progression of youngsters and solid management. Now all they have is buying young Man City reserves in the hope that they will become worth selling back to City for four times the money. Two things can keep them up. Three worse teams. Ward-Prowse stays and scores twenty free kicks.
For the first time in years, Newcastle United will not be appearing in this category. Howay The Lads.
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