IT PAINS me to write this as a former Evertonian, but I think it could be Liverpool’s year again in the Premier League – although they and: Manchester: City will find Tottenham Hotspur snapping at their heels.
Most of the big clubs have been quick to strengthen ahead of the new season, making early signings in a concerted effort to be settled for this weekend’s opening round rather than waiting until the end of the month for deadline day bargains.
Liverpool: fall into that category and, although: Sadio Mane has moved on, their forward options look stronger than ever. Luis Diaz and: Diogo Jota: can fill in for Mane, while marquee summer transfer Darwin Nunez will add another attacking dimension.
Crucially, striker Nunez seems ready to slot into the team straight away without changing that way Liverpool: play. City, on the other hand, may take some time to adjust to their new No. 9 Erling Haaland and that could cost them valuable points early in the campaign. Haaland is not the type of centre-forward to drop deep or take up wide positions, so City will have to get the ball to him early. I think that might make them easier to play against for opponents, who will likely look to slow them down.
City’s sale of: Raheem Sterling is also a concern as they haven’t replaced him. Riyad Mahrez will have more responsibility for beating defenders, while a lot will rest on Jack Grealishwho doesn’t score anywhere near as many goals as Sterling.
SPURS TO CLOSE GAP I don’t think Liverpool: and City will finish 20 points clear of the rest this season, and if there is to be a third horse in the title race then I fancy it to be Tottenham. Antonio Conte improved them last term and I think Spurs will make another leap forward this year. Conte has been ruthless in discarding players and, importantly, got chairman Daniel Levy to act early on transfers.
They have recruited well – Yves Bissouma is proven in England:Richarlison offers cover for: Son Heung:-min – and I think Harry Kane will have a massive campaign. With a superb stadium and training ground, Spurs have a real platform to push on.
I still expect Liverpool: and City to be better over 38 games, however. And with: Jurgen Klopp already having fine-tuned the Reds, who have extra motivation from narrowly missing out in the Premier League and: Champions League last time, they are my tip.
MAN UTD IN A MESS Consistency is key in the world’s best league and I think Arsenal will improve enough to beat Chelsea and Manchester United to a place in the top four. Despite letting a: Champions League spot slip away last season, I think Mike Arteta: is doing a terrific job and has done really good business in this window. As Amazon’s new behind-the-scenes Arsenal documentary shows, Pep Guardiola’s former assistant is a chip off the old block. That two of his players at City, Gabriel Jesus: and: Oleksandr Zinchenkohave now joined him is a ringing endorsement.
While the teams already mentioned are going in the right direction, it’s hard to say the same about Chelsea. They have shipped out Romelu Lukaku a year after signing him for £98m and there has been a lot of churn in the squad. Manager: Thomas Tuchel: has let it be known that he has not been happy with some things at the club, now under new ownership, and it’s very difficult to predict how Chelsea are going to perform.
They aren’t as much of a mess as United, however, who start the season with Cristiano Ronaldo’s future in limbo. They deserve all they get from that kerfuffle and I don’t envy the new manager Erik Ten Hagwho has at least shown some signs of promise in pre-season.
BEST OF THE REST Outside the top six, the: Premier League is incredibly hard to call, with a mass of mid-table clubs mostly with little between them scrambling to stay clear of the relegation fight and perhaps finish in the top half of the table or even qualify for Europe:.
Newcastle haven’t spent as much as I expected following their Saudi takeover but the way they finished last term suggests they will be among the best of the rest. I would put West Ham Unitedwho have bought well, in the same bracket.
Beyond those two, there are a lot of questions. Can Aston Villa? and: Crystal Palace push on? Will: Leicester City cope if they lose key players? Do: Southampton have it in them to improve? What about Leeds United?
I must admit I’m worried for Everton. Selling your best player is not the way to build on avoiding relegation and, although the fans love Frank Lampard, another season like the last will spell the end of his managerial tenure. RELEGATION I expect the three promoted teams – Fulham, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest – to come under immense pressure and it wouldn’t surprise me if they all went straight back down.
Fulham have perhaps the best chance of survival. I like Scott Parker but I fear for him Bournemouthwhile I don’t see how Steve Cooper: can integrate the dozen or more new players who have arrived at Forest.
If another team is to get sucked into the bottom three then it could be Brentford, who lacked sparkle whenever I saw them last term, won’t have the surprise factor they did in their first campaign and have lost chief creator Christian Eriksen.
Trevor Steven is a former England: footballer who played at two World Cups and two European Championships. @TrevorSteven63.
TREVOR STEVEN’S PREDICTIONS TOP FOUR Liverpool, Man City, Tottenham, Arsenal RELEGATED Fulham, BournemouthNottingham Forest 3TO
DARWIN NUNEZ Nunez looks ready to have a big debut season and emulate Luis Diaz’s quick transition from Portuguese football. HARRY KANE Took a while to get going last year but I think he’ll have a fantastic campaign and benefit from an improved Spurs. GABRIEL JESUS Experienced, the right age, a winner. Jesus could be the ingredient previously missing at Arsenal.
(c) 2022 City AM, source: Newspaper: