Making sure lessons have been learned is key to improvement in 2023/24 and as the Premier League campaign fast approaches we’ve looked at one area each ‘big six’ club must improve ahead of the new season.
Arsenal – Rotation
Arsenal emerged as unexpected title challengers last season, but after spending a record-breaking 248 days at the top of the table fell short in their quest to be crowned champions.
For much of the season Mikel Arteta’s side were flawless, but the Gunners faulted badly down the run-in to allow Manchester City to overhaul them in the title race.
Arteta kept faith with virtually the same starting XI for much of the campaign, with seven players – Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White, Gabriel, Bukayo Saka, Granit Xhaka, Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli – featuring in 36 or more of the club’s Premier League games.
Arsenal’s fine form and lack of depth provided reason for Arteta’s reluctance to change, but the lack of rotation could have played its part in the Gunners’ end-of-season slump. The north Londoners have the added demands of Champions League football this time around and Arteta should look to manage the work-load to ensure Arsenal reach the business end of the campaign in peak condition.
Emile Smith Rowe, Fabio Vieira and Kieran Tierney are among those who will hope for increased minutes, while the additions of Declan Rice, Jurrien Timber and Kai Havertz have added quality and depth.
Chelsea – Goals
An obvious answer, but Chelsea’s dismal campaign was centred around the club’s inability to score goals. Four different coaches tried and failed to address the Blues’ troubles in front of goal, but the campaign came to an end with Chelsea having scored just 38 league goals.
Two of the sides relegated from the Premier League scored more times than Chelsea, while only in 1923/24 have the west Londoners ever scored less goals in a league season.
Chelsea have wasted no time in adding to their forward line with the signings of Christopher Nkunku and Nicolas Jackson, with the former arriving with high expectations after 58 goals across the last two seasons for RB Leipzig.
The Frenchman is a talent and his ability to both create and convert chances will improve Chelsea, though the Blues would benefit from the addition of a more recognised number nine before the window’s closure.
Liverpool – Reduce chances conceded
Liverpool endured a season of disappointment to miss out on Champions League qualification, with defensive issues plaguing the Merseysiders throughout the course of the campaign.
The Reds’ xGA of 55.77 was the highest of any of the ‘Big Six’ clubs and only a remarkable over-performance from goalkeeper Alisson prevented a poorer season from Jurgen Klopp’s side.
An ageing midfield and the decline of Fabinho contributed to a lack of protection for the club’s backline, issues which need to be addressed if the Reds are to challenge at the top once again.
Improvements were made following a change in shape in April, one which saw Trent Alexander-Arnold moved into midfield.
Liverpool picked up more points than any other side from April 9 until the end of the season, while posting the fifth-best defensive record in terms of xGA. Liverpool had ranked 14th in the Premier League for xGA from the opening weekend until the tactical change. It is a tweak that looks likely to continue into the new campaign.
Manchester City – Keep things fresh
How do you improve on near perfection? Manchester City’s 2022/23 campaign will stand the test of time after Pep Guardiola’s side completed a Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League treble.
Despite trailing Arsenal for much of the race, City powered down the straight to claim a fifth title in six seasons, beat neighbours Manchester United in the FA Cup final, and ended their wait for European success against Inter Milan.
Guardiola is always inventing and his move to a 3-2-4-1 formation and box midfield was responsible for City’s recovery from a modest start to the season. Other teams will have had more time to prepare for Guardiola’s system this time around, while some (Arsenal and Liverpool) have even shuffled shape on occasion to mimic City’s system.
Freshness is also required in the final third, where City occasionally struggled to break down low blocks in away games. City scored 34 goals in 19 away games last season, still the third-highest figure in the Premier League, but someway short of the 60 goals plundered at the Etihad.
Manchester United – Improve away form against top sides
Manchester City were the only team to have taken more point from home fixtures than Manchester United last season, with the Red Devils going unbeaten at Old Trafford after an opening weekend loss to Brighton.
Erik ten Hag’s team conceded just 10 goals in their 19 home fixtures in the Premier League, but struggled to repeat that form on the road. Having finished fifth in the Premier League for away points last season, the club’s away record may not appear overly concerning, but a closer inspection shows there is significant room for improvement.
United lost eight away games in the Premier League in 2022/23, their joint-most away defeats in a Premier League season alongside 2021/22 and 2015/16. Each of those defeats came against the teams who ended the campaign alongside the Red Devils in the top nine, with Ten Hag’s team beaten – and beaten badly – on several occasions.
United’s eight away games against last season’s top nine saw them lose seven and draw one, conceding 28 goals in the process and posting a goal difference of -20.
Tottenham – Tighten up defensively
Tottenham’s defensive capitulations cost the club a place in Europe for next season, with no side in the top half conceding more goals than the north Londoners in 2022/23.
Just two sides who avoided relegation – promoted Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest – conceded more than Spurs’ 63 goals in the Premier League.
Ange Postecoglou’s first task will be improving the solidity of the side and while the Australian’s reputation has been built on attractive football, ensuring Spurs are defensively sound will be critical to his hopes of success.
Guglielmo Vicario has arrived as the club’s new goalkeeper after Hugo Lloris’ increasingly erratic form, while additions are required in central defence. Spurs have the firepower to compete at the top end of the division, but were too often exposed defensively last season.