The 2021-22 season of the English Premier League was one of the most closely fought in recent history. The fans were kept on the edges of their seats right up to the final weekend, as both, Manchester City and Liverpool were going neck and neck in the race to the finish line. Finally, it was Manchester City that came out on the top, defeating a spirited Aston Villa 3-2 in its final game for the season, edging out Liverpool by 1 point.
The Reds were worthy opponents to the formidable force created by Pep Guardiola. Chasing a historic quadruple after winning the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup, the unstoppable Liverpool faltered at the very last moment, losing the Champions League title to Real Madrid by a narrow 1-0 margin, and failing to overtake the Citizens despite being unbeaten in it’s last 19 top-flight matches.
Despite the issues surrounding its ownership, Chelsea players were focused on their game and managed to secure third place on the points table, while Tottenham put up some inspiring performances towards the end, and managed to clinch the final spot for automatic qualification to the Champions League.
One of the biggest disappointments of the previous season was Manchester United. Despite the re-entry of Cristiano Ronaldo after more than a decade, the Red Devils endured their worst ever Premier League finish. A mid-season change in team coach proved to be inconsequential, and Manchester United barely managed to secure a spot in the Europa League to join Arsenal, edging out West Ham by 2 points. The Hammers had to settle for a spot in the Conference League qualifiers.
Burnley, Watford, and Norwich City brought up the rear of the table, and are now relegated down to the Championship.
Major transfer news
The summer transfer window, which opened on 10th June, has already seen some hectic activity, especially from the `Big Six’ teams. However, the biggest news so far has come from the Manchester City camp, as they captured the Norwegian striker Erling Haaland for a staggering £51 million from Borussia Dortmund. The combination of Haaland and Guardiola has made Manchester City the favorites to win a third consecutive Premier League title in the upcoming season.
The new owners of Chelsea splurged a cool £47.5 million to poach upon Raheem Sterling from Manchester City. They have also brought in a promising young face in the form of Eddie Beach from Southampton, who is expected to be groomed into a first-team goalkeeper. Gabriel Jesus is another high-profile exit from Pep Guardiola’s camp, and he has been lapped up by Arsenal for £45 million.
After surviving a major scare in the last season, Tottenham has been especially busy bolstering its squad, bringing in names like Ivan Perisic, Richarlison, and Clement Lenglet. The newly appointed Manchester United coach, Erik ten Hag has started rebuilding the struggling squad, bringing in Tyrell Malacia from Feyenoord, Lisandro Martinez from Ajax, and Christian Eriksen. Liverpool has brought in Darwin Nunez from Benfica, to make up for the loss of Sadio Mane, who is moving to the Bundesliga. Calvin Ramsay and Fabio Carvalho are the other two new signings at Anfield. However, the biggest relief for the fans came when Mohamed Salah extended his stay with a new 3-year contract.
With more than a month still to go before the transfer window closes, hectic parlays are still going on between various clubs and players, and we can surely expect a few more surprises in the upcoming weeks.
Betting Previews and Pre-Season Picks
Outright winner: Manchester City (1.57)
Having successfully managed to defend its Premier League title, Manchester City is on a high right now. Ever since Pep Guardiola took over the reins of the club in the 2015-17 season, The Citizens have managed to win English glory in 4 of the 5 seasons they have featured in, and finished as the runners-up in the 2019-20 season.
Despite the exits of Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling, the team looks much stronger with the induction of Kalvin Phillips and Erling Haaland. Also, as seen in the last season, given the inconsistent form of opponents like Manchester United, Chelsea, and Tottenham, there is no real threat to City's supremacy except for Liverpool.
Liverpool’s prospects will be dented by the exit of Sadio Mane, who has consistently performed well for Jurgen Klopp, and fresh entrants like Nunez will take time to fill in his large shoes. We therefore strongly believe that Manchester City is well on track to lift its 7th Premier League title. The odds are a bit shorter than we like but still a good deal considering the strength of the club.
Top 4 finish: Manchester City (1.03), Liverpool (1.10), Chelsea (1.72), and Tottenham (1.72)
While Manchester City and Liverpool have played some exceptional football in the last season, Chelsea and Tottenham were locked in a fierce battle for a top-4 Finish with clubs like Arsenal and Manchester United.
Thomas Tuchel has got a worthy number 9 in the form of Raheem Sterling, and Koulibaly from Napoli has strengthened the defenses of the Blues. For Tottenham, strikers Son Heung-min and Harry Kane had been lackluster in the previous year. But 2022 has seen them return to form, and they are likely to propel Tottenham to its second consecutive top 4 finish.
Manchester United will most likely miss out on automatic qualification to the Champions League, as Erik ten Hag has failed so far to infuse any fresh energy into the team so far.
Golden Boot: Mohamed Salah (5.50)
The 30-year-old Egyptian forward is once again the most likely contender for winning the Golden Boot in the upcoming season. Salah has been one of the most reliable players for Jurgen Klopp, producing goals in crunch situations. He finished the 2021-22 season with 23 goals and currently shares the top individual prize with Son Heung-min. A few other contenders for the Golden boot are Harry Kane and Erling Haaland. But the former seems past his prime, while the latter will take time to settle within his new surrounding. Also, none of the other players have shown the hunger and consistency with which Mo Salah has performed. With a new partner in the form of Darwin Nunez, Salah is expected to play only better and is on track to equal Thierry Henry’s record of winning 4 Golden Boot awards.
PFA Player of the Year Award: Kevin De Bruyne (9.00)
Narrowly missing out on the award to Mohamed Salah in the last season, the Belgian midfielder is likely to become the first player to pick up the coveted PFA Player of the Year award for a record-breaking third time. Kevin De Bruyne has been exceptional for Manchester City and Pep Guardiola and has been instrumental in the club’s success in recent years.
Of course, he will have to compete with the likes of Salah, van Dijk and Erling Haaland for this title. But the latter will be playing his first season on English soil and is likely to take time to settle in. Bruyne, with his versatile skills, is most likely to win this one for the third time in four years.
Team to be relegated: AFC Bournemouth (1.61)
After playing two consecutive seasons in the Championship, Bournemouth is back in the top flight for this season. The Cherries won an automatic promotion by finishing second on the points table in the Championship and will be playing its first season in the EPL under Scott Parker. However, Parker has failed to make any significant signings to the team. The only new players inducted so far are Joe Rothwell and Ryan Fredericks, both on free transfers. However, they are unlikely to catalyze any significant upsets, and Bournemouth is tipped by most football betting sites to be one of the first clubs to be relegated in the upcoming season.
To Finish in the Top 6: Newcastle United (3.50)
While it is difficult to picture any other club other than the Big Six book automatic spots in European competitions, the struggles faced by teams like Manchester United in the last season will ignite hope in the `outsiders´ to gun for a top six finish. And the team most likely to snatch such an opportunity is Newcastle United.
After a dismal start to the 2021-22 season, which saw them stay in the relegation zone till match day 21, the Magpies made a strong comeback in the second half of the season, winning 12 of its last 18 matches, beating heavyweights like Arsenal and finishing on the 11th spot.
Under its new owners, Newcastle has splurged in both, the winter and summer transfer windows, bringing in players like Nick Pope, Alex Murphy, Sven Botman, Matt Targett, and Charlie McArthur. Eddie Howe will be competing with other contenders like West Ham and Aston Villa for the coveted European spot. But with a stronger financial backing under the new Saudi owners, he is likely to have an edge in cornering talented players and thereby increasing his chances of breaking into the top 6.
Top Newcomer: Fulham (2.0)
Of the three newly promoted clubs, Fulham, Nottingham Forest, and Bournemouth, we pick Fulham to be the best incoming new team. The Cottagers finished at the top of the Championship tables in the previous season, and are back in the top flight for the third time in 5 seasons. Coach Marco Silva will be looking to buck the yo-yo trend this time around and look to remain within the EPL.
Joao Palhinha, Andreas Pereira, Callum McFarlane, and Kristian Sekularac have been brought in to strengthen the squad. But much of the club’s success will depend on the performance of veteran Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic. Marco Silva has worked considerably to improve the team’s defenses, and that will be the `make or break´ factor in determining Fulham’s chances of remaining in the top flight.
Nevertheless, we feel that the Cottagers are better placed to retain their spot compared to the other two promoted clubs.
If the previous season is anything to go by, the upcoming Premier League edition promises to be a roller-coaster ride for the fans. The entry of three new clubs, as well as star players like Erling Haaland, are likely to keep the fans of English football glued to their screens in the upcoming month. Also, as the transfer window nears its end, we are likely to see some hectic parlays between clubs and players and change the dynamics of the season.