EPL

Predicting the Premier League: How will the top four look in 2022-23?

By Sports Desk August 03, 2022

It is just over two months since the 2021-22 season ended in drama, with Manchester City clinching the title thanks to a stunning comeback win over Aston Villa.

That dashed Liverpool's hopes of an unprecedented quadruple, as Jurgen Klopp's side – who would go on to lose in the Champions League final six days later – settled for second.

The same top two could battle for the title again this season, and despite both Klopp and Pep Guardiola emphasising the strength of other sides in the league, some would say it is hard to see anybody being able to match their consistency, though Liverpool do have to learn without Sadio Mane, while City might need to get used to Erling Haaland.

Liverpool gained some small form of revenge by beating City 3-1 in the Community Shield on Saturday, with Haaland struggling, so it's 1-0 in the rivalry stakes in favour of Klopp heading into the campaign, though the Reds manager knows that does not mean much.

There will be stiff competition for places in the top four and, of course, the Champions League.

Chelsea have brought in Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly, but Thomas Tuchel and new owner Todd Boehly want more star signings, while Arsenal and their north London rivals Tottenham have been busy bolstering their squads.

Erik ten Hag is in place at Manchester United, but uncertainty surrounds the future of Cristiano Ronaldo, and the Red Devils have so far been frustrated in their attempts to sign Frenkie de Jong from Barcelona.

Here, three Stats Perform writers share their thoughts on who will feature in the Premier League's top four come the end of the campaign.

Patric Ridge 

1. Manchester City

City were not at their best in the Community Shield, though Guardiola was keen to stress that his side have only been back together for three weeks, and they did seem rather undercooked. Haaland's competitive debut was one to forget as, as well as being outshone by Liverpool new boy Darwin Nunez, he hit the bar from six yards out. It might take time, but Haaland – who will have a timely break during the World Cup as Norway did not qualify – is too good not to thrive in this City team, even one that has sold three first-team regulars. They had just too much for Liverpool last season, and with Mane gone, expect the same outcome this term.

2. Liverpool 

If 2020-21 was an off-year for Liverpool, then last season was a glorious return to form. They fell just short in the league and in Europe, but won both the FA Cup and EFL Cup. Mane's departure to Bayern Munich was something of a blow, but the Reds already had Nunez through the door, fresh from his stunning, 34-goal campaign with Benfica, while there is little to separate Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne as the league's best players. Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz add another dimension to a world-class attack. Finish above this team, and you are champions.

3. Chelsea

It has been something of a frustrating transfer window so far for Chelsea. Sterling and Koulibaly have arrived, but that has not necessarily strengthened the squad, with club-record signing Romelu Lukaku having re-joined Inter on loan and defenders Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen having left for Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively. Tuchel wants more, and Boehly is attempting to deliver, with Marc Cucurella a rumoured target, while another centre-back is said to be on the list too. Chelsea's business might well drag on, but they should have enough to edge out Arsenal, Spurs and United to third.

4. Arsenal

It is easy to forget, given the nature of their capitulation, that Arsenal were in the box-seat to secure a Champions League place until the final week of last season, and Mikel Arteta's side have made swift moves. It is hoped Gabriel Jesus will be the poacher Arsenal have lacked and Oleksandr Zinchenko is a fine addition. Fabio Vieira is a promising understudy to the excellent Martin Odegaard, who will be supported by Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli or Emile Smith Rowe. Spurs have strengthened, but with Antonio Conte's tendency to boil over if things do not go to plan, and the likelihood their players will be relied on heavily by their national teams at the World Cup, this could be Arsenal's year.

 

Ben Spratt

1. Manchester City

City were the best team in the Premier League before they made perhaps the signing of the close-season, so why would they not still be the side to beat? Of course, the departure of Sterling could have a big impact, given his knack for vital goals, but Jack Grealish will have a bigger role and has already linked up with Haaland in pre-season. Julian Alvarez adds more depth to that attack, while Kalvin Phillips does likewise in midfield. It is tough to spot a weakness.

2. Liverpool

It would be tough to justify Liverpool finishing second, not first, were their rivals not so outstanding. The Reds are right there with them, but they have not shown quite the same consistency as City over previous seasons, and it is asking a lot for Nunez to arrive from Portugal – where he enjoyed only one truly prolific season – and immediately replicate the performance levels of Mane.

3. Tottenham

Spurs have plenty going for them, and there have been some suggestions they could even trouble the top two. When we come to write our lists of winners and losers of the transfer window, Tottenham will belong firmly in the former group, and those exciting new charges – Ivan Perisic, Yves Bissouma, Richarlison and Djed Spence arguably all improve the first XI – are being guided by a proven winner in Conte. But the gap to City and Liverpool was huge; third place would still be a great achievement.

4. Chelsea

Tottenham may not quite belong to that elite tier, but they might also argue there is another gulf between third and fourth. Neither Chelsea, Arsenal nor United could really be surprised if they fell short of Champions League football. Like Spurs, Arsenal have enjoyed a successful transfer window, but it is difficult to have faith in a team who collapsed so spectacularly last season. For all their own frustrations in the market, I'm backing Chelsea to find a way.

 

John Skilbeck

1. Manchester City

City and Liverpool finished with over 90 points each last season, and the previous time that happened, in 2018-19, it was followed by a dramatic drop-off from Guardiola's reigning champions. The dethroned Manchester giants finished 18 points adrift as Liverpool captured the 2019-20 Premier League title. Yet I fancy City to take the new season's trophy, and probably by a similarly wide margin. Haaland might need a little time to adapt; after all, his former Borussia Dortmund team-mate Jadon Sancho has not found it a cakewalk to transfer his Bundesliga form across to Manchester United. But judge Haaland not by one stinking Community Shield miss but by his excellence over the last three years. City will have to reconfigure to accommodate a pure number nine, swapping Sterling for St Erling, but don't expect their winning habit to alter one jot.

2. Chelsea

The post-Abramovich era is here, and Todd Boehly is pulling the strings when it comes to transfers now. Newcomers Sterling and Koulibaly are proven performers, and while the loss of Rudiger is a blow, offloading Lukaku made complete sense. Better to take firm and decisive action than allow any unhappiness to fester and potentially spread. Chelsea had a troubling amount of injuries last season, with Ben Chilwell particularly missed, and in March coach Thomas Tuchel spoke of a "physical overload". If they are in a better place this term, expect them to fly. Tuchel's squad is loaded with first-class talent, more could soon arrive, and they look well set to pip Liverpool to second.

3. Liverpool

The loss of Mane is massive. Among the 24 players from Europe's top five leagues who managed at least 30 games and 20 goals last season, taking all competitions into account, Mane ranked sixth for the most dribbles attempted (128), eighth for the most chances created (66), third for the most through balls attempted (17) and second for the most passes into the final third (137). You can try to replace that all-round package, but Nunez is far from like-for-like and Roberto Firmino appears to be a rapidly fading force. Liverpool have kept Mohamed Salah for the foreseeable future but will need the likes of Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz to step up, while midfield may have to cough up more goals than in recent seasons. Klopp's Liverpool went the distance in every competition last season, and at some point that effort is going to take a toll.

4. Manchester United

With a reasonably clean slate, wiped of the likes of Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani and Jesse Lingard, there should be optimism coursing through United now the estimable Ten Hag is at the helm. Christian Eriksen ought to prove a fine signing, and Lisandro Martinez and Tyrell Malacia can hardly make the defence any worse. In fact, they should significantly pep it up. Will Ronaldo stay? Now there's a knotty saga that could run until deadline day, but would it be such a bad thing if he were to leave? Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Sancho are at the stage where they ought to be giving Premier League defenders regular nightmares, and this might be the campaign where that happens.

Related items

  • Tuchel comments under investigation by the FA Tuchel comments under investigation by the FA

    Thomas Tuchel's post-match comments about referee Anthony Taylor following Chelsea's 2-2 draw with Tottenham are under investigation by the Football Association (FA).

    Tuchel was furious at some of the decisions made by Taylor during the feisty stalemate at Stamford Bridge, a game that saw tensions boil over.

    The German suggested Spurs' first goal should have been disallowed due to the offside Richarlison standing in Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy's line of sight, and then he felt aggrieved over the visitors' second equaliser due to two incidents.

    Firstly, he felt Kai Havertz was fouled by Rodrigo Bentancur in the build-up to the corner that Harry Kane ultimately headed home from, and at the same set-piece Cristian Romero avoided being penalised for pulling Marc Cucurella to the ground by his hair.

    Tuchel and Spurs coach Antonio Conte clashed during and after the game, with their second confrontation resulting in both bosses being shown red cards.

    This was a particular bone of contention for Tuchel, who sarcastically said: "I cannot coach but the referee can whistle the next game? Good."

    Chelsea fans have voiced their displeasure with Taylor before, but Tuchel went even further when asked about the supporters' concerns, as he suggested "the whole dressing room of us, every person thinks that."

    He was then pushed on whether the players are worried when Taylor is the official in charge, and he added: "Yeah, of course."

    Stats Perform understands the FA is already looking into Tuchel's comments, meaning disciplinary action could be forthcoming.

    The FA's investigation will focus on whether Tuchel has brought the game into "disrepute" by implying bias or attacking the integrity of a referee.

     

  • Klopp mocks early critics of Nunez and Haaland Klopp mocks early critics of Nunez and Haaland

    Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp thinks it is "crazy" how quickly critics were on the backs of Darwin Nunez and Erling Haaland in pre-season.

    Uruguay striker Nunez joined the Reds from Benfica in a transfer potentially worth £85million (€100m) in June, while Manchester City sealed a reported £51m (€60m) deal with Borussia Dortmund for Haaland a month earlier.

    Both major investments were seen as deals that could widen the gap between them and the rest of the Premier League, though each player has courted criticism.

    For Nunez, the flak arrived as early as his first pre-season game after missing a big chance in a 4-0 defeat to Manchester United.

    Haaland was then ridiculed for a difficult day against the Reds as Klopp's side won the Community Shield at the end of July.

    Nunez scored in that win over City before coming off the bench to find the back the net and provide an assist for Mohamed Salah in a 2-2 draw at Fulham, while Haaland marked his Premier League debut with a double in a win at West Ham.

    For Klopp, the desperation tp write players off is unhelpful and unfair.

    Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of Monday's clash with Crystal Palace, Klopp said: "Five weeks ago, when we started pre-season and [Nunez] had his first game and it didn't look great from the outside world.

    "Not for us, but it's crazy how quick we judge people… wow!

    "Imagine if somebody did that to us and said, 'First day of work, it didn't work out. Go home, we never want to see you again! And you don't get a second chance by the way' – we would have all been long gone! No chance.

    "Everybody can now see, 'Ah he's a proper striker' – so good for us and good for him.

    "He's a handful and is a different type to what we had. He's very lively and very energetic. Physically he's really strong and technically he's really good, that obviously goes together with being more settled and confident and more secure in yourself in a new environment.

    "You can't say, 'Come on, you have to give me 100 per cent immediately' – you have to develop it and that's what we're doing at the moment and in a good way.

    "It's funny as well, we won against Manchester City the week before the season and everybody was asking, 'Will Haaland score this and that?'

    "A week is like 10 years in football!"

    Klopp has had to contend with the disruption of several injuries already, but he reiterated the Reds are not planning to go into the transfer market.

    "If there was the right player and an opportunity, we would have done it, we would do it, but I don't see it because we had a lot of conversations already and it doesn't look like something will happen," he added.

    "I'm happy with the strength, size and quality of my squad but we have injuries. There are plenty of solutions for it. One of them is the transfer market, but that only makes sense if you can bring in the right player.

    "All the other solutions are inside the squad. We have too many injuries, that's clear. Naby [Keita] will be back for Monday and Kostas [Tsimikas] will train for the first time, so he might be back as well."

  • Klopp confident the goals will come for Reds winger Diaz Klopp confident the goals will come for Reds winger Diaz

    Jurgen Klopp is confident the goals will come for Luis Diaz after the winger was wasteful in the 2-2 draw at Fulham last weekend.

    Diaz missed two Opta-defined 'big chances' in the Reds' opening match of the Premier League season at Craven Cottage, rattling the post in the first half.

    The Colombia international took no time to settle at Anfield following his big-money move from Porto in January, scoring six goals and providing five assists in 26 appearances last season.

    Liverpool lost Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich in June, but Klopp is backing Diaz to help fill the void left by the Senegal forward.

    Asked if Diaz can score 10-15 goals this season, the Reds manager said: "Oh definitely, that is his quality. We need to see but of course that is his potential.

    "We work on it but not with Luis specifically. We don't take him out because the other two scored and he didn't, so we show him how. That's not necessary. It's not a problem. You can't force it

    "Last week people were asking ‘How can you play without Sadio?' but in November/December everybody was thinking about when he would score the next goal, and Mo [Salah] was on fire. You just let it go.

    "You see the situations Luis had, big chances, and he was just unlucky. He started on the first day with us and took part in all the sessions and that is the most important thing.

    "All the rest will come. In the long term it is of course not a problem. It is about being prepared and fighting through moments like this."

    Klopp called for patience with Diaz ahead of Liverpool's first home game of the season against Crystal Palace on Monday.

    He added: "When Sadio played against us, he scored three times for Southampton but it was not that he scored every week. He didn't even start the game when he played against us.

    "So the consistency came with the confidence and with the team-mates, the structure of our game. So that is what we're working on that doesn't change. The way we play should help strikers. It is the way we play. It's the way we bring the boys in the situation.

    "Of course it is about whether it is in you or not, but it's the way we play, how we position the players, how we protect the players, where we win the balls back.

    "And it is how the boys can use their speed in these moments. They will be in a lot of goalscoring situations and that then makes you the player we remember."

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