It is always a fool’s errand making predictions before a ball has been kicked in anger. When those prophecies are at the unlikely end of the scale, that foolishness is ramped up ten-fold.
And yet the scenarios detailed below feel distinctly possible even if they will raise the nation’s eyebrows should they unfold. Each are certainly plausible and that’s as good a place as any to start.
Spurs to be serious title challengers
Last season, Tottenham finished 22 points behind the champions Manchester City having lost eight games more. The chasm in goal difference alone was substantial, an enormous 44.
To bridge such a gap necessitates a significant upgrade from one team, and a regression from the other, and though the latter feels unfeasible, don’t discount Spurs adding ten or so points to their tally this time out.
Largely, that’s because they have recruited so well over the summer, bringing in genuine quality to strengthen areas where it was most needed and perhaps they still lack a difference-making number ten but if any club has ‘won’ the transfer window it is the North London outfit. Not for nothing is Antonio Conte – a renowned complainer – seemingly content with his lot right now.
What’s more, in a season broken in half by a World Cup, it is unlikely that any side will scale 90 points this term.
Will Spurs win their first league title for 61 years? No, no they won’t. But they’ll be in the mix for the duration.
Howe to be sacked by Christmas
Post-takeover, Newcastle’s transfer activity has pleasantly surprised, with many suspecting they may focus on marquee names, spending a whopping fortune in the process. For ‘marquee names’ read ‘superstar mercenaries’.
Instead, they have bought wisely, targeting the right kind of players for the job at hand. Nick Pope and Sven Botman are the latest examples of this commendable pragmatism.
Eddie Howe meanwhile has also excelled beyond initial expectations, unifying the squad and implementing a structure where previously there was none. The 44-year-old deserves a good deal of credit for the efficient work he has undertaken to this point in the north-east.
But this is still the wealthiest club in the world, with ambitions that are lofty indeed, and if the Magpies are adrift of the top six by the time the World Cup rolls around – and if an international coach walks after his side exits said competition – then it’s easy to put two and two together as to what happens next.
Everton to be relegated
Some will claim this isn’t a far-fetched shout at all, with the Toffees narrowly avoiding the drop last season and proving to be a disappointment week on week.
Yet it matters that Everton have not succumbed to relegation since the Fifties, and it matters that on the rare occasions the situation has looked especially perilous they have found a way to survive, leaning on the quality at their disposal. They have always had qualify at their disposal.
Can the same be said of this season?
Even assuming Dominic Calvert-Lewin remains fit it’s hard to see where a sufficient number of goals are going to come from and minus Richarlison, it’s a front six that looks distinctly uninspiring.
Worse yet, mired in financial strife, Frank Lampard will likely be prohibited from adding depth to a threadbare squad that is in dire need of it. You fear for them.
Aston Villa to finish top six
A hunch and only that, but though inconsistency was a problem for Villa under Steven Gerrard last term there were signs that he was slowly turning the ship around, improving the mindset of the squad as much as its application.
Boubacar Kamara is a very good coup, as too is Diego Carlos who should tighten up a defence that forgot how to keep clean sheets in the latter half of the campaign. If Philippe Coutinho shows more than just flashes of his brilliance and if Ollie Watkins hits the ground running, then Villa could be the surprise package of 2022/23.
Grealish to be in contention for Player of the Year
A widely held theory concerning Pep Guardiola’s exacting footballing blueprint is that it takes a year of intensive tuition for a player to instinctively ‘get’ it. This we have seen born out in remarkable second-season improvements from Joao Cancelo and Riyad Mahrez to name but two in recent years at Manchester City.
Last term, Jack Grealish was focusing so hard on not being the individualistic player he was at Aston Villa that he over-compensated and became merely a cog in the machine, doing the kind of basics that a £1m player can do, and ignoring the skill-sets valued at a hundred times that.
If it all clicks for the England star this term, expect him to thrive, delivering the calibre of creative output not even Gareth Southgate can overlook.