EPL 2022/23 preview: Usual suspects at top, scrutiny for ex-Rangers men, former Aberdeen man in demand, captaincy for Hibs hero
We begin with Arsenal’s trip to Selhurst Park to take on London rivals Crystal Palace (8pm). The Gunners were put up on opening night last year, humbled by newly-promoted Brentford. At that point, head coach Mikel Arteta appeared in trouble. The second half of the season, however, was much better, with the ex-Rangers midfielder steadying the ship and then guiding his team on a fine run that so nearly brought Champions League football.
Arteta’s stock is much higher now and he will be looking to improve upon last term’s fifth-placed finish. They have spent £90million, the marquee signing being Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus from Manchester City. He will be the Gunners’ main man in attack and has been in red-hot form in pre-season.
Scotland internationalist Kieran Tierney is still injured but his former Celtic team-mate, Odsonne Edouard, scored in pre-season for Palace and is likely to lead the line on Friday. Under Patrick Vieira, the Eagles have become a much more progressive outfit and his second season at the club will be fascinating.
As much as Arsenal hope to be involved in the title race, defending champions Manchester City and last season’s runners-up Liverpool are deserved favourites. City have finally signed a bona-fide centre-forward after playing much of 2021/22 with a false nine. Erling Haaland’s arrival from Borussia Dortmund is clearly a purchase designed to take them closer to their holy grail, the Champions League, but he will be a star player domestically. Liverpool may have lost Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich, but his replacement Darwin Nunez, an arrival from Benfica, has hit the ground running. And, of course, they still have Mo Salah.
Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea are the nearest challengers. Spurs have recruited, the permanent addition of playmaker Dejan Kulusevski and full-back Ivan Perisic catching the eye. Chelsea landed Raheem Sterling from City and Kalidou Koulibaly in defence. The top four of last season looks hard to break up.
Manchester United, under new boss Erik ten Hag, are in tumult: Cristiano Ronaldo wants to leave, all parties seem at an impasse. The Red Devils are miles away from where they used to be.
Many onlookers expected Newcastle to spend squillions after the Saudi Arabian-backed takeover, but they’ve been prudent. Sven Botman is a fine signing in defence, and they want ex-Aberdeen creative midfielder James Maddison from Leicester City. Those two and West Ham are likely to be fighting it out for Europa League spots.
Everton and Leeds will desperately hope not to be involved in a relegation battle like last year but their squads still looks thin. Many expect Southampton, who bought Joe Aribo from Rangers this summer, to struggle. Speaking of former Gers, Steven Gerrard’s honeymoon period at Aston Villa is over, and he is under more scrutiny. Scotland midfielder John McGinn is their captain now. Wolves and Brighton wear the clothes of mid-table teams one again. Brentford will want to avoid second-season syndrome.
As for the three promoted clubs, Bournemouth look to have already accepted relegation, not reinforcing nearly enough, but Nottingham Forest and Fulham have spent millions in an attempt to stay in the league.
Another fascinating season awaits.
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