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15:08
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09.12.2022
Two months into the season, which teams look likely to finish top and bottom of the league.
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North London has made a bright start to this season’s English Premier League. After seven games Arsenal are top, one point ahead of Manchester City and local rivals Tottenham (Spurs).Chelsea and Liverpool have had troubled starts to their season, while Manchester United search for a new beginning with their eighth manager in 10 years. At the bottom are LeicesterCity with one point from seven games. With 31 games to go things will change.

The top

Although manager Pep Guardiola’s main aim is the Champions League, Manchester City will want to win their fifth title in six years. City’s biggest signing this summer was Leeds-born, Norwegian international, Erling Haaland, from Borussia Dortmund. In the traditional friendly that starts the English season, champions City lost 3-1 to FA Cup winners Liverpool. Haaland did not play well, missing a couple a of good chances. Since then, he has scored 11 goals in seven games. Haalandwill make a big impact, but Kevin De Bruyne remains City’s most important player. Without De Bruyne, City are very good, with him they are exceptional.

Can anyone stop Manchester City? Probably not. Arsenal finished fifth last season and manager Mikel Arteta has strengthened his team, by bringing in Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus from Manchester City. In recent seasons Arsenal have lacked consistency and despite a stronger squad, it will be a surprise if they maintain their strong start. Spurs manager Antonio Conte has signed Richarlison from Everton, to provide pace, goals and support for Harry Kane and Son Heung-min. To strengthen the defence Cristian Romero has joined Spurs from Atalanta. Conte’s teams are hard to beat, if not always pretty to watch. His task is to change Spurs’ long tradition of making a hash of their chances to win anything.

Liverpool have dropped points, looking like a team with a hangover after playing the maximum possible number of matches last season. Despite winning the FA Cup (with a Tsimikas penalty) and the League Cup, disappointingly, Liverpool finished a point behind Manchester City in the Premier League and lost the Champions League final to Real Madrid. Manager Jurgen Klopp has brought in Darwin Nunez, from Benfica, to replace Sadio Mane who has moved to Bayern Munich. Nunez shows promise but will need time to adjust to his new team and the Premier League. Liverpool will return to winning consistently, it just may be too late for this season.

If Liverpool look tired, Chelsea look lost. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Roman Abramovich was forced to sell Chelsea. American Todd Boehly headed a consortium that bought the club for £4.25 billion(EUR 4.75bn). Despite spending almost £260 million (EUR 290m) during the summer on new players, including Wesley Fofanaa and Raheem Sterling, Chelsea made a poor start in the Premier League, losing to Leeds United and Southampton. After losing to Zagreb in the Champions League, Chelsea sacked manager Thomas Tuchel following reports of a rift with Boehly over transfers, including possibly bringing Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo to Chelsea. Tuchel was replaced by Graham Potter who, as Brighton manager has impressed many. But Potter is untested at this level and his appointment is a gamble.

At Manchester United it’s all change…again. New manager Erik Ten Hag, hoping to repeat his success with Ajax, has spent £130m (EUR 150m) to bring Antony and Lisandro Martinez from his old club to Old Trafford. He has also signed Casemiro from Real Madrid. Ten Hag’s new signings, and the departures of many players including Edinson Cavani and Paul Pogba, show his intention to change how United play. That will take time. Progress for United would be to qualify for the Champions League next season.

The team most likely to break into the top six is Newcastle United, technically the richest club in the world after the Saudis bought it last year. Under manager Eddie Howe, Newcastle have made steady progress, as shown by a 3-3 draw with Manchester City this season, and they have a good chance of qualifying to play in Europe next year. Newcastle’s recruitment has been developmental, with an eye to the future, rather than spectacular, signing young players such as Aleksander Isak, from Real Sociedad, and Steve Botman, from Lille.

Prediction: 1. Manchester City 2. Liverpool 3. Spurs 4. Chelsea 5. Manchester United 6. Newcastle United

The bottom

Several teams will face relegation battles. After losing 4-0 to Manchester City and 3-0 to Arsenal, Bournemouth sacked their manager, Scott Parker, following the 9-0 thrashing at Liverpool. Results have improved but Parker has not yet been replaced. Bournemouth are depending on players such as Dominic Solanke and Lewis Cook who played for them in the Premier League when they were relegated two years ago. It is unlikely to be enough.

Evangelos Maranakis’ Nottingham Forest, return to the Premier League after 23 years. They are determined to stay the respending £150 million (EUR 167m) and signing 22 players, including Jesse Lingard from Manchester United (although he cost nothing). Last season, Forest had only one point in seven matches, when manager Steve Cooper took over. He built a cohesive team that won promotion. That team is no more. For Cooper to do it again in the Premier League will be very difficult.

Leicester City are currently bottom of the Premier League. They are unlikely to stay there. Leicester’s first team can beat anyone, but they struggle when key players, such as James Maddison, are injured. The team was not strengthened this summer. Manager Brendan Rodgers has expressed frustration at the lack of money to buy new players. He may not stay.

Southampton’s problem is consistency. This season they have beaten Chelsea and Leicester but lost4-1 to Spurs. During the summer, Southampton focused on youth, signing four young Manchester City players (City have the option to buy them all back).Despite youth, Southampton’s key player is James Ward-Prowse. He needs to stay fit if Southampton are to stay in the Premier League.  

Leeds United survived on the last day of the season. They have lost two of their best players, Kalvin Phillips to Manchester City and Raphinha to Barcelona.To strengthen his squad, manager Jesse Marsch has spent money on five players, but none of them have played in the Premier League. To avoid relegation there just need to be three worse teams. Leeds may have enough to survive…just.

Prediction: 17. Leeds United 18.Southampton19. Nottingham Forest 20. Bournemouth

Then again, I’m not always right.

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