Here we go again. Time to gaze into the crystal ball and predict the final outcome of the 2022-23 Premier League season.
This annual act of folly was a qualified success last season, with the top three predicted in the correct order along with the relegation of Burnley and Watford. However, guarded optimism for Manchester United and pessimism for Brentford were wide of the mark.
Getting my excuses in first? Well, there is still almost a month of the transfer window to go.
This season, forecasting those who will go down is a particularly hazardous occupation – as is this whole enterprise – but here goes.
How did Phil McNulty get on last season?
|hil McNulty’s predicted 2022-23 Premier League positions at a glance|
|Position||Club||Position (cont)||Club (cont)|
|8||Aston Villa||18||Nottingham Forest|
1. Manchester City
Last season – Champions
Manchester City have been Premier League champions four of the past five seasons and I expect another straight fight with Liverpool to end with them on top again.
The signing of Erling Haaland solves the one main flaw in a magnificent side, namely a tendency not to convert so many of the chances they create. He is proven high class and was one of the most coveted strikers in world football.
England midfielder Kalvin Phillips is also an ideal replacement for Fernandinho, while Jack Grealish will be better for one full season under Pep Guardiola.
Guardiola has said farewell to key components of their successes in Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko but City do not look any weaker than last season.
Last season – 2nd
A truly outstanding season last time out ended with them missing out on the title on the final day, losing the Champions League final to Real Madrid but winning the FA Cup and League Cup, both on penalties against Chelsea.
Expect them to fight on all fronts again this term and challenge City all the way, securing at least one trophy.
Sadio Mane is a very obvious loss but striker Darwin Nunez comes from Benfica with a huge reputation and has already shown what he will offer. Watch out for Fabio Carvalho making an impact – a serious talent at Fulham last season.
Premier League: Who can challenge Man City & Liverpool in the title race?
Last season – 4th
I share the big expectations for Spurs this season because they are now in the hands of one of the world’s great coaches in Antonio Conte who will give – and demand – a winning mentality this club has lacked.
Conte has also convinced chairman Daniel Levy that deals are best done early so there has been some serious squad strengthening.
Richarlison, at £60m from Everton, gives an already stellar attack another dimension and added depth while Yves Bissouma was outstanding for Brighton in midfield last season. Croatia international Ivan Perisic will bring experience, quality and versatility.
Out on a limb here. Top four and a trophy for Spurs as long as they keep Mr Conte happy.
Last season – 3rd
It’s never dull at Chelsea but a different type of turbulence played out this summer with a new owner in Todd Boehly and the hindrance of Barcelona seemingly intent on stealing big transfer targets away in the shape of Raphinha and Jules Kounde.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has also expressed various levels of discontent but this is a club that seems to thrive on instability and aggravation once the season starts.
Raheem Sterling’s arrival from Manchester City shows the pulling power of Chelsea while Kalidou Koulibaly has long been touted as one of the game’s finest defenders. He will be expected to fill part of the gap left by the departure of the influential Antonio Rudiger to Real Madrid.
Expect more big names in, with Brighton’s Marc Cucurella a target, and never back against Chelsea being in the shake-up and winning silverware.
Last season – 5th
Arsenal, and manager Mikel Arteta, were left frustrated at missing out on Champions League football at the final hurdle last season but there is a lot to like about their summer transfer business and there is likely to be more to come.
I can see them challenging for the top four again with the signings of Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus – the rare instance of a deal being good for all parties – and his team-mate Oleksandr Zinchenko adding not only quality but experience of what it takes to win under pressure. Fabio Vieira, a £34m signing from Porto, augments midfield strength.
It’s a big season for Arteta but he has the complete faith of the Arsenal board and they have looked a million dollars in pre-season.
He needs a top-four finish and to be challenging for trophies and I fancy Arsenal might just do that. I do not see them as title contenders, though.
6. Manchester United
Last season – 6th
A total horror show last season with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sacked and Ralf Rangnick having no impact whatsoever before the eventual appointment of Ajax coach Erik ten Hag.
The whole club needs a reboot and anyone expecting miracles from Ten Hag needs to get real as he embarks on sorting out a fractured dressing room and serious lack of quality.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s desire to leave is casting a cloud over pre-season while Ten Hag is going with what he knows in signing defender Lisandro Martinez along with a seemingly endless Frenkie de Jong pursuit. Christian Eriksen will provide guile and quality in midfield after proving his return to health and form at Brentford. How will he dovetail with Bruno Fernandes?
Ten Hag needs more potency in attack, and will also hope the likes of Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford revive their form of old and that Jadon Sancho can show why he was valued at £73m.
Top-four challenge and a cup are the best bet. Title contenders? No chance.
7. West Ham
Last season – 7th
West Ham had an excellent season under David Moyes last time out but might still regard failure to win the Europa League, or at least reach the final, as one of the great missed opportunities.
The rejuvenated Moyes will want at least the same this time out with new faces in his squad and the outstanding Declan Rice still at the heart of all that West Ham do, along with Jarrod Bowen.
Lots will hinge on how their new £30.5m signing from Sassuolo, striker Gianluca Scamacca, settles in the Premier League but he comes with glowing references and, rest assured, every incoming player will have been studied assiduously by Moyes to suit his needs.
Can see another good season for the Hammers and a potential cup challenge.
8. Aston Villa
Last season – 14th
I’m expecting a big improvement from Villa this season with manager Steven Gerrard having had a pre-season to get his ideas across and new faces provided by an ambitious ownership.
Villa helped Gerrard by getting their business done early and it looks good, with Philippe Coutinho signed permanently and the highly rated pair of defender Diego Carlos from Sevilla and free transfer from Marseille Boubacar Kamara adding real quality.
They need to rid themselves of the inconsistency that so frustrated Gerrard last season but he will expect big things from Villa – and from himself.
Last season – 11th
Huge expectations on Tyneside after an excellent second half to the season under new manager Eddie Howe and the arrival of the club’s controversial Saudi Arabian ownership.
For all the fantasy talk of Hollywood signings, Newcastle’s transfer business has been solid and sensible rather than spectacular, using common sense as opposed to spending for the sake of it, although if they succeed in prising James Maddison away from Leicester City this will be regarded as a serious statement.
England keeper Nick Pope is an excellent addition while Sven Botman from Lille is regarded as a defender of great promise. The first phase laid the foundations to improve mentality and quality, with Kieran Trippier and Dan Burn bringing experience and Bruno Guimaraes that real ‘X factor’ class.
Chris Wood struggled but Callum Wilson is always a threat, along with the unpredictable Alain Saint-Maximin – although Howe will need to bring in more firepower.
I see a season of good consolidation, which should satisfy the Toon Army as this will be steady rebuilding rather than a cash-crazy quick fix.
Newcastle United: What does the new season hold for the Magpies?
Last season – 8th
Strange one this as I rate Brendan Rodgers highly and there is so much talent in his squad but just a sense that momentum has been lost. It has been a dormant transfer summer so far, with more talk of outgoings around the likes of James Maddison, Youri Tielemans and Kasper Schmeichel than of incomings.
If they went, it would knock a large hole in the Leicester dressing room and leave serious gaps to fill.
Rodgers has reached a pivotal point in his reign after winning the FA Cup and twice missing out on Champions League football on the final day of the season.
The Foxes’ manager wanted a “healthy shake-up” to rejuvenate his team and has so far been unable to do that. Crucial weeks ahead and if Rodgers succeeds this prediction of mid-table could yet be a pessimistic one.
Must get players in.
Leicester have to balance the books – Rodgers
Last season – 9th
Graham Potter has done an outstanding job at Brighton and towards the end of last season got the big results their attractive football deserved, such as thrashing Manchester United at the Amex and winning away at Arsenal and Spurs in successive games. The days of living near the bottom of the Premier League look to be over under this highly rated manager.
There’s no reason to expect anything other than another very decent season, although Chelsea may yet sign talented Spanish left-back Marc Cucurella.
This would be a blow to Brighton, in addition to the loss of Yves Bissouma to Spurs, but Potter is talented enough to find a way to recover.
Brighton’s flaw last season was not finishing off the many chances they created. The man they hope will solve this is Turkish striker Deniz Undav, who signed in January but then spent a loan spell at former parent club Royale Union Saint-Gilloise. He scored 27 goals in 41 appearances and was Belgian Professional Footballer Of The Year.
Potter has also invested for the future with the signings of young strikers Julio Enciso from Libertad Asuncion in Paraguay and Ivorian Simon Adingra from Danish side FC Nordsjaelland.
Last season – 10th
Wolves faded last season after looking so good for so long, manager Bruno Lage adopting a move progressive attacking style after succeeding Nuno Espirito Santo.
Now firmly established in the Premier League, they will be looking to Hwang Hee-chan to build on his loan spell last season after completing a permanent move from RB Leipzig while Nathan Collins, a £20.5m signing from Burnley, will add to the defensive resources marshalled by captain Conor Coady.
If Wolves can keep hold of the coveted Ruben Neves then no reason at all why they cannot have another decent season and perhaps have another crack at the top 10.
The potential loss of striker Raul Jimenez for a lengthy period after he picked up an injury in pre-season may also have a serious impact on how they perform.
13. Crystal Palace
Last season – 12th
Patrick Vieira made a big impression as Selhurst Park in his first season as manager but will have to do without Conor Gallagher this term after his outstanding spell on loan from Chelsea.
He will, though, have Cheick Doucoure, the Mali midfielder who Vieira was delighted to sign from Lens in a £21m deal. Sam Johnstone is a solid goalkeeping signing.
It will be intriguing to see whether Vieira can get an improvement out of Palace but I certainly do not expect to see them struggling.
Last season – 16th
This is where the potential strugglers really start and any of the following could end up fighting a relegation battle.
Everton had a horrible season last time out with the failure of the ill-starred appointment of Rafael Benitez, followed by Frank Lampard, who achieved the aim of keeping the Toffees up.
In reality, it was more through the efforts of Everton’s fans than players that they somehow survived. They will be needed again as the club wrestles with financial restrictions, the sale of main marksman Richarlison to Spurs and the outcome of a much-touted strategic review – which has been very vague, short on specific detail and carried out by an owner and board of directors who have presided over truly ruinous transfer strategies and decision-making.
Just have a feeling that they will have enough to stay up this time, with Dwight McNeil and James Tarkowski smart signings from Burnley and more set to come.
Last season – 13th
Brentford finished the season in a comfortable position, aided largely by the signing of Christian Eriksen, who halted a freefall and performed so impressively after suffering a cardiac arrest while playing for Denmark at Euro 2020 that he has been snapped up by Manchester United.
Eriksen leaves a large void but manager Thomas Frank showed himself to be a shrewd operator and I fancy the Bees to stay up again, although they will need to make another good start.
They must retain Ivan Toney up front while Ben Mee from Burnley will add defensive experience and Keane Lewis-Potter, signed from Hull City for £20m, had a host of Premier League admirers. The forward will be one to watch.
Last season – 17th
Leeds scraped to survival on the final day of last season and have subsequently lost two of their most influential players in Raphinha and home-grown hero Kalvin Phillips.
This makes life tough for Jesse Marsch as he tries to rebuild on what he inherited from the iconic figure of Marcelo Bielsa.
I think Leeds, rather like Everton, will survive based on the fanatical and unswerving support they receive at home. Elland Road must be their fortress – otherwise they could be in trouble.
Marsch has gone with what he knows bringing in winger Brenden Aaronson from Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig midfielder Tyler Adams, two Americans who have worked under him before. The same applies to defender Rasmus Kristensen, also signed from Salzburg.
Colombian winger Luis Sinisterra has arrived from Feyenoord for £21m to add threat and Leeds will hope a pre-season hamstring injury does not prove too problematic.
This is a big show of faith in Marsch, who wants to put him own stamp on the side. Leeds are another team needing a good start or times could be very tough.
Leeds must keep Patrick Bamford fit. And keep Jack Harrison.
Last season – 15th
Big season for manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, who felt the force of fans’ anger during a dismal end to the league season that saw Saints lose nine of their last 12 games. He will be under scrutiny.
He has revamped his backroom team and will need a fast start to disprove claims his reign at St Mary’s has run out of steam.
Hasenhuttl’s work in the transfer market has focused largely on youth, with teenagers Romeo Lavia and Sekou Mara arriving from Manchester City and Bordeaux respectively. New defender Armel Bella-Kotchap, signed from Bochum, is only 20. Much will be expected from Joe Aribo, who has come from Rangers.
Saints have kept captain James Ward-Prowse away from admirers. He will be key to their season, which I expect to be one of making sure they stay out of trouble.
I do not predict their safety with huge confidence.
18. Nottingham Forest
Last season – Championship play-off winners
Nottingham Forest have marked their return to the Premier League after 23 years by making an expensive and spectacular splash in the transfer market.
Owner Evangelos Marinakis has rewarded Forest’s excellent manager Steve Cooper by making the sort of funds available that he hopes will ensure the two-time European Cup winners do not return to the Championship.
There is an element of gamble as Cooper’s brilliant rejuvenation was based on great team spirit and there is always risk in incorporating so many new faces.
And in Forest’s defence, they had no choice other than to embark on this rebuild as seven of the 14 players who took part in the play-off final win over Huddersfield Town have departed, including keeper Brice Samba and a selection of loanees, such as defender Djed Spence, who has joined Spurs.
Jesse Lingard is the most eye-catching signing of all after his free transfer from Manchester United. He opted for Forest ahead of West Ham and will have a huge responsibility in this revamped team.
But I worry about the sheer churn of numbers into Forest’s squad after the success of last season, even with Cooper’s expertise, hence this pessimistic prediction.
I am saying Forest will go down but think they could draw others into that particular fight and may yet stay up.
Last season – Championship winners
Marco Silva did a fine job in restoring Fulham to the Premier League last season but will face a fight to keep this fine old club in the top flight.
So much will rest on talisman Aleksandar Mitrovic, who scored 43 goals last season. He will need to make a big impact on his return to the top flight, while Fulham will also have to replace talented youngster Fabio Carvalho after his move to Liverpool.
Silva will have high hopes for new Portugal midfielder Joao Palhinha and Andreas Pereira, brought in from Manchester United, while former Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno add Premier League know-how but it’s still hard to see anything other than a fight for survival – and you get the impression the manager feels he needs a lot more reinforcements before deadline day.
Last season – Championship runners-up
Scott Parker got the Cherries back up but will have a fight on his hand to avoid the same fate he suffered when he was relegated with Fulham.
As with Fulham and Mitrovic, much will depend on whether Dominic Solanke can transfer the goal touch that made him so potent in the Championship to the top flight, where he struggled to make his mark with Chelsea and Liverpool.
Marcus Tavernier has been the major summer arrival from Middlesbrough but the Cherries will need a lot more than that.
Survival would be viewed as success but I cannot say I am confident that will happen.