james debate
james debate

Monday 28 August 2023

Another football season is underway, with fascinating competitions and narratives in store all up and down the table. From the rise of Newcastle, the up and coming clubs of Brighton and Brentford, to the chaos and drama at Wolves and Chelsea. Increasingly, the Premier League is proving to be such a tight and competitive league. Arguably any of the top ten clubs could push for Europe, and equally there's no one side seemingly destined for relegation. One outcome that seems in little doubt is the prospect of Manchester City winning yet another title. But this is football and anything can happen. Watch this space.

premier league 2022/23 preview

Premier League 2023/24 Predictions in a nutshell:
Champions: Manchester City
Champions League qualifiers: Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool
Relegated: Sheffield United, Everton, Luton
Golden Boot winner: Erling Haaland (Manchester City)
Golden Glove winner: Ederson (Manchester City)
Player to watch: Erling Haaland (Manchester City)
New signing to watch: Sandro Tonali (Newcastle)
Young player to watch: Levi Colwill (Chelsea)
First manager to get the sack: Paul Heckingbottom (Sheffield United)
Shock of the season: Sean Dyche to flame out and get sacked early by Everton

Nickname: The Gunners
Ground: Emirates Stadium
Capacity: 60,000
Position last season: 2nd
Manager: Mikel Arteta
Last season saw a huge step up from this club. For the first time in a generation, Arsenal looked like genuine contenders, and only a late collapse saw them what miss out on what would have been a first title in twenty years.

The response to narrowly missing out on the title has been to, once again, spend big. Arsenal have spent some £200 million on players this summer, most notably on the former West Ham midfield dynamo Declan Rice, and the Chelsea midfielder who has inexplicably been pretending to be a striker for two years, Kai Havertz. These are very fine signings. I have no doubt that playing Kai in his correct position will elicit improved performances from the player. Along with Martin Odegaard, this may well be the best midfield trio in the league.

The problem that Arsenal face is that their potential rivals have improved to an even greater degree. One could argue that their formidable title charge last season owed as much to the relative weakness of the other contenders as to Arsenal's own brilliance. If the other big clubs manage to hit the ground running this year, Arsenal may not enjoy the same heights as last season.

Key Signing: Declan Rice
Key Man: Martin Odegaard
Verdict: Possible title contenders, but against improved opposition they may struggle to keep pace.

Nickname: The Villans
Ground: Villa Park
Capacity: 42,095
Last season: 7th
Manager: Unai Emery

Predicting big things of Aston Villa, only for the Birmingham club to disappoint, seems to have become a bit of a yearly tradition. The Villans have spent big in the past few seasons, with ambitious plans afoot to finally give England's second city a club worthy of that stature, but a series of false dawns and stuttering starts have so far seen them fail to deliver.

This year there is, once again, great optimism around Villa Park. This is mostly attributed to manager Unai Emery, and the drastic turnaround that took place after his arrival last season. In just six months, the Spaniard transformed the club from a relegation risk to European qualifiers. There is excitement to see what can be accomplished with a full pre-season to prepare.

The headline signing to date has been Moussa Diaby, Emery's primary target and a pacey attacker who can contribute both goals and assists. Equally shrewd has been the free transfer of Youri Tielemans from relegated Leicester City, a midfielder of known Premier League quality in his prime years.

Key Signing: Moussa Diaby
Key Man: Ollie Watkins
Verdict: Optimistic times at Villa Park, who will be targeting a top seven finish.

Nickname: The Cherries
Ground: Dean Court
Capacity: 11,364
Last season: 15th
Manager: Andoni Iraola

It was a difficult return to the top flight for Bournemouth, one that they just about survived. Now the club is ringing the changes, with the aim of consolidating their position.

This started with the appointment of Andoni Iraola, the club's first foreign manager, and continued with the spending of more than £100 million on reinforcements, including the likes of Justin Kluivert, Max Aarons and Hamed Traoré. But the stand out among the new business has to be late signing of Tyler Adams from relegated Leeds, a player who had been linked with high profile clubs such as Chelsea and Liverpool over the summer.

Despite the investment, this still looks among the weaker squads in the league. Defence was a problem last year, one which new manager Iraola seems to believe will be solved by a more attacking playstyle. I suspect he may be in for a rude awakening.

Key Signing: Philip Billing
Key Man: Tyler Adams
Verdict: A prime relegation candidate.


Nickname: The Bees
Ground: Brentford Community Stadium
Capacity: 17,250
Last season: 9th
Manager: Thomas Frank

It's been an impressive few seasons for London's newest representative in the top flight. Brentford increasingly look at home in this league and weren't far off from European qualification last season.

The Bees would do well to temper their ambitions however. The top half of the league is increasingly competitive, and with the club's talismanic striker Ivan Toney sidelined until January they could struggle in these early stages. A great deal will rest on Yoane Wissa, the man who, ostensibly, is set to step into Toney's place. 

The club could also struggle with the loss of goalkeeper David Raya to Arsenal on a season-long loan. Raya was one of the most impressive shot stoppers in the league last season and new signing Mark Flekken has some big shows to fill.

Key Signing: Mark Flekken
Key Man: Ivan Toney
Verdict: Should be safe in midtable, but a season of consolidation could be seen as a victory.

Nickname: The Seagulls
Ground: Falmer Stadium
Capacity: 31,800
Last season: 6th
Manager: Roberto De Zerbi

Brighton's success has been the story of the Premier League in recent seasons. A well run outfit, whose progress up the league system in recent years has made for a remarkable story. Flush with cash and one of the most successful scouting outfits in the country, Brighton find themselves in an enviable position to push on, but how far can they go?

The club is rightly riding a high after last season's record finish, which saw Brighton qualify for their first ever Europa League campaign. But that extra fixture congestion can be a curse as much as a blessing, and Brighton will pay for their success with the additional strain that is normally endured by wealthier clubs with deeper squads. 

It also can't be ignored that the club has lost two huge stars of last season, Alexis Mac Allister to Liverpool and Moises Caicedo to Chelsea. Brighton have spent big to bring in nine players this summer, including club record signing João Pedro from Wolves, but it remains to be seen whether these reinforcements will be able to bring the same kind of success.

That is not to say that Brighton are in store for a bad year, but with these additional challenges they would do well to match the high finish of last season.

Key Signing: João Pedro
Key Man: Pervis Estupiñán
Verdict: Matching last season's feats will be a tall order, but should achieve a solid top half finish.

Nickname: The Clarets
Ground: Turf Moor
Capacity: 21,944
Last season: Promoted (Champions)
Manager: Vincent Kompany

Second tier champions last season, with a whopping 101 points earned. Led by a manager considered one of the hottest in British football and a legend of the sport as a player. The momentum is very much with Burnley, but the Premier League is a different prospect entirely, and they face a steep challenge to stay up.

For those who don't watch much Championship football, be warned that this is not your father's Burnley. This is not Sean Dyche anti-football. Kompany has transformed Burnley into an adventurous, attacking side. If the club's summer signings are any indication, Kompany is looking to emphasise this focus, with additional firepower being brought in with Swansea's Michael Obafemi and Swiss youngster Zeki Amdouni. But anyone who watched Burnley last season will tell you that the key signing so far has been that of defender Jordan Beyer, on loan with the club last season, now signed to a permanent deal.

Otherwise, the club has done well to keep ahold of its key players, midfield Joshes Brownhill and Cullen chief among them. It's a squad with some promise, but whether they can step up to this level remains to be seen.

Key Signing: Jordan Beyer
Key Man: Josh Brownhill
Verdict: Great optimism surrounds the club, but they remain a relegation risk

Nickname: Blues
Ground: Stamford Bridge
Capacity: 41,837
Last season: 12th (not a typo)
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino

Round 2 in what has got to be the most disastrous tenure in the history of Premier League owners. Mike Ashley will be looking at this and thinking, "Yeah, I did ok actually."

I've been reading a lot of pundit analysis tipping this Chelsea side for a comeback, for great things, and I just can't believe what I'm reading. Most people seem to be looking at the vast quantities of cash being spent as some kind of indication that the club is building a strong side. But let me ask you this, if Chelsea went out and spent £1 billion on a wheelbarrow, would that make them title favourites? Of course not, the amount of money spent means nothing, it's what you spend it on that matters.

For all the eye-watering expenditure, this is a team whose first choice goalkeeper was Brighton's third choice last season. This is a team that is without a proven top flight striker in the squad. A team whose starting central defence partnership is an unproven 20 year old academy product and a 40 year old who's lost his pace. This is a team that began the season with only one central midfielder (at least until this week's last minute panic signings, another cool £200 million out the window). You might well ask yourself, what the hell have they been spending all that money on? And you'd be right.

So, no, I don't buy all the hype that Chelsea are back. This is a threadbare side with massive holes in the squad and razor thin depth. A side that has sold off its strongest assets and gambled their future on unproven talent (literally, if those 8 year contracts don't work out, this club could very well go bust). I haven't even mentioned the fact that the club sacked its medical team and replaced them with celebrity doctors from Hollywood (and we wonder why their injury rate is through the roof all of a sudden) or that the club literally has no shirt sponsor currently. Club management currently seems unable to perform even the basic functions of running a club, and until that changes I don't see anything above a midtable finish in the cards, no matter how many billions they spend.

Key Signing: Christopher Nkunku (if he ever comes back from injury)
Key Man: Reece James (if he ever comes back from injury)
Verdict: In a good season, they might break into the Europa League places. Most likely, smack in the middle of the table.

Nickname: Eagles, Glaziers
Ground: Selhurst Park
Capacity: 25,486
Last season: 11th
Manager: Roy Hodgson
For a club that is entering its second decade in the top flight, a surprising air of uncertainty remains over Crystal Palace. Every time the club looks set for an upturn in fortunes, setbacks occur. The exciting Vieira boom didn't last, and now the Eagles find themselves looking for a new identity, a new long term strategy.

The man tasked with helping the club to find its way forward is none other than Roy Hodgson, now 76 years young and embarking on his second stint as Palace manager, third stint if you include his playing career. The thinking is clear: Palace face an uncertain future, and the presence of a much loved steady hand brings reassurance to both players and fans alike. Whether this will lead to success is much harder to divine. 

The big development in terms of playing staff will be the departure of the talismanic Wilfried Zaha, an ever present figure at this club over the past fifteen years. While his best may be behind him, replacing his presence will nevertheless be a tall order. A will now rest on the hotly tipped youngster Michael Olise, a player who had been tipped with a move away this summer but now seems set to stay. A more direct replacement for Zaha might end up being the new signing Matheus França, a young Brazilian with a reputation for his exciting, attacking play. His addition to the squad might just be the boost Palace need.

Key Signing: Matheus França
Key Man: Michael Olise
Verdict: I don't expect Palace to be a relegation risk, but this is very much a transition year and expectations should be set accordingly.

Nickname: Toffees
Ground: Goodison Park
Capacity: 40,170
Last season: 17th
Manager: Sean Dyche

In the annals of underperforming Premier League teams, few earn their place more than Everton. For a club with such a significant history and dedicated fanbase, they just can't seem to do themselves justice. After years of stagnation, the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti a few years back seemed promising, but turned out to be a false dawn. Frank Lampard briefly got pulses racing, but failed to take the club forward. Now, the man the club has chosen to take the Toffees to the next level is... Sean Dyche?

Dyche has a reputation as a tactician, someone who can grind out the necessary results no matter how ugly. Crucially, he has a reputation of someone who can guarantee survival, but I'm not sure this is really earned. Everton's issues run deeper than just the manager, but it's hard to see even Dyche doing much with this threadbare squad. That the marquee signing of the summer looks set to be a 38 year old Ashley Young says it all.

Add to this the spectre of investigations and uncertain ownership, and it paints a gloomy picture for Everton's prospects in the short term.

Key Signing: Ashley Young
Key Man: Jordan Pickford
Verdict: The alarm bells are ringing. Everton are not a side you expect to see relegated, but it's a real risk this season.

Nickname: The Cottagers
Ground: Craven Cottage
Capacity: 22.384
Last season: 10th
Manager: Marco Silva

Tipped by many for relegation last term (not here though, because I am not a hack), it's fair to say that Marco Silva's side exceeded anyone's expectations by achieving a top half finish. Indeed, right up until the tail end of the season, they were within touching distance of European qualification.

Unfortunately, one of the main driving forces behind this success, Aleksandar Mitrovic, has departed the club this summer. Fans will undoubtedly be looking to new signing Raúl Jimenéz to take his place up front. At 32, the Mexican forward is hardly a long term solution, but for the meantime he represents proven Premier League quality

Elsewhere, the club has done well to keep hold of its key performers, midfielder Palhinha and youngster Harrison Reed, but it is that former Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno who may prove most essential in determining the club's prospects this season.

Key Signing: Raúl Jimenéz
Key Man: Leno
Verdict: Should be safe, even without Mitrovic, but repeating the feats of last season seems unlikely.

Nickname: Reds
Ground: Anfield
Capacity: 54,074
Last season: 5th
Manager: Jurgen Klopp
The great Klopp era of Liverpool dominance may already be over, or so the conventional wisdom goes. Ever since their title win, Liverpool have struggled to live up to expectations, and will be disappointed to participate in just the Europa League this season. 

The Liverpool squad is facing a bit of a shake up this season. The captain Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Firmino have all gone to Saudi Arabia. Milner, Keita, Oxlade-Chamberlain, also departing. Taking their places in the squad will be Brighton's World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister, and the hotly tipped Hungarian midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai. This is still a strong squad, but it's difficult to say that they look stronger than last season. Liverpool will be hoping that last term's struggles were a blip rather than an indication of some deeper problem.

Klopp, surely, has achieved legendary status for his past success with the club, but he won't be able to live on that forever and fans will be expecting to see some progress back towards the top of the table this season.

Key Signing: Alexis Mac Allister
Key Man: Mo Salah
Verdict: Will expect a top four finish.

Nickname: The Hatters
Ground: Kenilworth Road
Capacity: 10,356
Last season: Promoted (3rd)
Manager: Rob Edwards
Most pundits' heavy favourite for the drop this season. I am not most pundits... but it's hard to disagree here. The Premier League is probably the most competitive league in the world. It's not enough to be a good side. Even the bottom ranked teams are good squads bristling with talent, and when you look at this Luton squad, it's difficult to see how they compete with those around them.

If recent history is any guide, the newly promoted teams that stay up need to have some spine, and some top flight experience. This Luton team earned their promotion chiefly through their solid defensive play and conservatism. But Premier League offences will ask much greater questions, and it just isn't clear that they will be up to that task. At the other end, Carlton Morris brings goals and had a great season in the second tier, he will no doubt be key to the Hatters' chances. 

As for top flight experience, this is something sorely lacking from this squad. Even their summer signings have tended to be a mix of promising EFL players, rather than those that have proven themselves at the highest level. They may yet step up and prove everyone wrong, but it's a tall order.

Key Signing: Thomas Kaminski
Key Man: Carlton Morris
Verdict: Favourites for relegation.

Nickname: Blues
Ground: Etihad Stadium
Capacity: 55,017
Last season: Champions
Manager: Pep Guardiola

Champions, and favourites to win it again for a record breaking fourth consecutive season. Manchester City's squad is one of the world's strongest, has depth for miles, and probably the single best footballer on the planet in Erling Haaland.

If they weren't already formidable enough, they've strengthened well this summer. Joško Gvardiol is one of the best defensive prospects in world football today, Mateo Kovačić is a highly underrated player who will show his best at City, and Doku provides a different option going forward when plan A doesn't work. It's difficult to think of a real weakness in this side. Kevin de Bruyne's injury problems definitely pose a concern, especially with City's failure to sign Pep's top target in Jude Bellingham as a long-term replacement, but they're not exactly short of options in the short term.

City's greatest obstacle may simply be statistics. No one has ever managed to win four top flight titles in a row in this country, and there's a reason for that. Football is an unpredictable game. Injuries happen, teams under and over perform. Anyone can win on the right day. Still, there's no doubt that City start the season as the most likely team to win by far.

Key Signing: Joško Gvardiol
Key Man: Erling Haaland
Verdict: Title favourites.

Nickname: Red Devils
Ground: Old Trafford
Capacity: 74,879
Last season: 3rd
Manager: Erik ten Hag
A big season for Manchester United. It's been some time since the club could rightly consider itself among the very highest calibre of football clubs, arguably not since Alex Ferguson's retirement. But this year, there's the sense that Erik ten Hag may finally be turning things around. Last season's modest silverware, the EFL Cup, may not seem like such a grand prize, but it's a start. More significant will be the late season surge in form that saw United return to the Champions League.

This is a much more balanced United side than we have seen in many years. Shaw, Wan Bissaka and Varane have really come into their own as a defensive unit, while the captain Bruno Fernandes has led by example going forward. But it's last season's signing of Casemiro that might just have been the lynchpin to pull this whole thing together, and he has quickly become an integral cog in one of the league's tightest midfields. 

Their summer business has been strong, with the big money signings of Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount and the addition of further firepower up front with Rasmus Højlund. But the most significant addition will likely be André Onana, a goalkeeper who has long been tipped with a Premier League move, who now looks set to finally bring stability to a position that has been something of a question mark for United in recent seasons. This team means business, and it will be a sore underperformance if they don't finish top four with ease.

Key Signing: André Onana
Key Man: Casemiro
Verdict: Top four is the minimum expectation, but they have their target set on bigger things.

Nickname: The Magpies, Toon
Ground: St James' Park
Capacity: 52,305
Last season: 4th
Manager: Eddie Howe

What a difference a year can make. Newcastle, formerly the butt of so many jokes for so many years, have been transformed by their new owners from one of the worst run clubs in the country to one of the very best. The result was the Toon making an unlikely return to the Champions League for the first time in two decades.

The club's Saudi owners have defied every fan's worst fears and shown themselves to be measured and shrewd operators, spending well and hiring the right people. Eddie Howe has matured into one of the great managerial stars of the English game. This is a good team, to boot. Nick Pope is one of the finest shot stoppers in the country, Kieran Trippier that rare breed of defender who contributes as much going forward as most attacking players. Sven Botman, Miguel Almirón, both hugely impressive pieces of business. This squad is the envy of any in the league.

They're still building, too. Harvey Barnes and Tino Livramento are great additions, but it is the signing Milan's Sandro Tonali, considered to be one of the most exciting young midfielders in the world, that really makes a statement. These owners are ambitious, and they fully intend to take the club all the way. They might get there eventually, but it probably won't be this season.

Key Signing: Sandro Tonali
Key Man: Kieran Trippier
Verdict: The additional strain of Europe will pose challenges, but I think this squad is good enough to push for top four once again.


Nickname: The Reds
Ground: City Ground
Capacity: 30,445
Last season: 16th
Manager: Steve Cooper
Nottingham Forest survived their long-awaited return to top flight football, just about. But repeating the feat and, in doing so, avoiding the dreaded second season syndrome, will be a tall order. 

As has been the case with so many of these previews, it's not that Forest have a poor side, it's that they are up against some very good sides indeed, even just to survive. 

In order to compete at this level you need goals, and in this side those are going to come from Taiwo Awoniyi, last season's top scorer for Forest and the key focal point in this side's attacking play. Steve Cooper has got his side playing an attractive progressive game, but the flip side to that is vulnerability at the back, and it is conspicuous that Forest conceded the third most goals of any side last term. The signing of fullback and Chelsea academy product Ola Aina to help shore up that defence may prove a shrewd signing in a problem area. 

Forest have done the smart thing in bringing in some proven Premier League talent, but most of those players are on the wrong side of 30, and it's not clear how many of the younglings they're supposed to help mentor will ever reach that level.

Forest would gladly take a boring season of consolidation if it meant another season in the top flight, but when you look at this squad, there's a genuine question of whether they have what it takes.

Key Signing: Ola Aina
Key Man: Taiwo Awoniyi
Verdict: Not a foregone conclusion, but definitely one of the risks for relegation.

Nickname: The Blades
Ground: Bramall Lane
Capacity: 31,884
Last season: Promoted (Runner up)
Manager: Paul Heckingbottom
Even the younger Premier League fans may remember Sheffield United's last adventure into the top flight (it was just four years ago, after all). That brief stay was almost the stuff of legends, achieving a near miraculous top half finish in their first season up, only to go right back down, rock bottom, the following season. The Blades will be hoping for a little more sustained success this time around, but the first order of business is survival, and they face a big challenge to accomplish that.

The summer after promotion is usually a glut of development. The Premier League is a massive step up for any club, and most look to spend their considerable TV windfall to ensure that that they have a squad capable of competing. It is concerning, then, that Sheffield United arguably begin their season with a weaker squad than they ended last season. They've lost their top scorer from last season, as well as a few bright loan signings, and their replacements have little in the way of proven quality.

A lot will depend on newly signed forward Bénie Traoré, ostensibly their main threat up front now, as well as Tom Davies, newly signed from Everton, and one of the few arrivals with Premier League experience. Of the players that remain from last season, there is some genuine quality. Anel Ahmedhodžić has shown himself to be a very influential player, both at the back and also as a goal threat on the other end. He is partnered at the back by the hugely experienced Chris Basham and talented youngster Jayden Bogle. That defence will be key to United's survival chances, because they look threadbare elsewhere.

Key Signing: Bénie Traoré
Key Man: Anel Ahmedhodžić
Verdict: Will be in and around the relegation battle.

Nickname: Spurs
Ground: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Capacity: 62,850
Last season: 8th
Manager: Ange Postecoglou
Whisper it quietly, but Tottenham could be in for a good year? One might expect the club to be a place of doom and pessimism now that the talismanic Harry Kane has departed for greener pastures. But new manager Ange Postecoglou has managed to instil an impressively optimistic atmosphere around the club, and there is a genuine sense that they could build something here.

Postecoglou is an interesting manager. He's achieved some impressive feats in his surprisingly long managerial career, but equally he has shown a tendency to flame out in a spectacular fashion, and remains unproven at the highest level. Still, he has a reputation for being able to squeeze a surprising amount out of very little, which will serve him well at a club like Tottenham. I say this not to be glib, but because that really, truly is an important requirement when managing a club run by Daniel Levy. The club's recent managerial recruitments have tended to focus on the star man, Mourinho, Espirito Santo, Conte, and they haven't worked. Perhaps they needed to think outside the box all along.

Let's not beat around the bush, Harry Kane's departure is a big blow. But the man is 30, it had to happen at some point. The big question mark, then, is where are these goals going to come from. While the club has been busy in the transfer market this summer, they have notably not brought in a star striker by way of replacement. One has to assume that much of the club's fortunes will rest on Son Heung-Min, now surely the central figure in this squad. 

While they may not have brought in a striker, they've spent that Harry Kane money wisely, bringing in the goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario, wing back Pedro Porro, and the talismanic star of relegated Leicester City, James Maddison. Even without Kane, this is a strong squad that could make a good go of pushing for top four this season.

Key Signing: James Maddison
Key Man: Son Heung-Min
Verdict: A strong top four contender..

Nickname: The Hammers
Ground: London Stadium
Capacity: 60,000
Last season: 14th
Manager: David Moyes

I think people have been sleeping on West Ham a bit this summer. That's saying something coming from me, a commenter who typically mocks the media's fascination with The Hammers and that bold new era of success that never comes. 

True, West Ham were far from impressive last season, stumbling their way to a finish in the lower mid table. They've also lost their star man Declan Rice this summer. But his sizeable transfer kitty has been put to good use, with well over £100 million spent on the trio of James Ward-Prowse, Edson Álvarez, and Mohammed Kudus. Ward-Prowse, in particular, I have always considered to be an underrated player, whose set pieces alone should win the club points this season.

While it's hard to get too excited about a side managed by David Moyes, West Ham's is a squad surprisingly stocked with top level quality. Last season's record signing Lucas Paquetá has proven to be an influential figure in the squad, while Antonio remains a handful up front. The defence is sturdy and has depth. But the underrated lynchpin of this team is Jarrod Bowen, shrewdly signed from Hull some three seasons ago for relatively little, by today's standards. As a winger, Bowen creates problems for any defence and is frequently the channel through which West Ham launch their most effective attacks.

So what can this side achieve? I think pushing into the top half of that table is a very realistic target, perhaps with a push on the Europa League places.

Key Signing: James Ward-Prowse
Key Man: Jarrod Bowen
Verdict: Will push for Europa League qualification, finish in the top half.

Nickname: Wolves
Ground: Molineux Stadium
Capacity: 32,050
Last season: 13th
Manager: Gary O'Neil

Last, but not least, Wolves. For a number of years, Wolves were seen as one of the next big things in English football. With deep pockets, some shrewd business, and hugely ambitious owners, Wolves were shaping up to be a very fine squad with the potential of pushing on into Europe. That era seems to have passed now, with the club slumping in the last few seasons to lower mid table. A chaotic summer, with seemingly little in the way of a long term plan, leaves the club adrift, with the risk that things could go horribly south if not steadied soon.

This all came to a head with the sensational departure of manager Julen Lopetegui, just days before the start of the season. His choice of replacement, Gary O'Neil, has raised more than a few eyebrows. The fact is, the club finds itself in a dire financial mess, which has resulted in an exodus of key players, most notably Rúben Neves, Raúl Jiménez, Adama Traoré and Nathan Collins. Despite this, they've gone for the big money signing of Matheus Cunha, their hand forced by the terms of last season's loan agreement. This outlay has forced the club to be somewhat stingier in the rest of its business, with a number of mostly free transfers coming in, including the re-signing of Matt Doherty from Atletico.

Nothing about this situation instills confidence for the upcoming season. No one wants to say it, but Wolves really need to consider the possibility of being drawn into the relegation battle. We've seen it time and time again, but chaos off the pitch can often be as fatal as lack of quality on it.

Key Signing: Matheus Cunha
Key Man: Neto
Verdict: Without further reinforcements will struggle, and perhaps risk relegation.

Predicted table:
1. Manchester City
2. Manchester United
3. Arsenal
4. Liverpool
5. Newcastle
6. Tottenham Hotspur
7. Chelsea
8. West Ham United
9. Aston Villa
10. Brighton
11. Brentford
12. Fulham
13. Crystal Palace
14. Burnley
15. Wolverhampton Wanderers
16. Nottingham Forest
17. Bournemouth
18. Sheffield United
19. Everton
20. Luton

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