In part two, we look at the Season Match Bets for Chelsea v Tottenham, Everton v Leeds, Newcastle v West Ham and West Ham v Leicester.
Original article published 22 August 2022
In the almost-impossible scenario of neither Manchester City nor Liverpool winning the title, Chelsea and Tottenham look best placed according to the odds if nothing else.
Fancied in some quarters for a run at the title last season, Chelsea came up woefully short. Despite a wealth of attacking options, Thomas Tuchel wasn’t able to consistently find the winning formula, with square pegs like Romelu Lukaku being forced into round holes.
The back line is undergoing a total overhaul, with Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen departing, with Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso also in-demand.
Even though it wasn’t Lukaku last season, we still don’t know who will act as the side’s primary goalscorer, and whether Tuchel will stumble upon – and utilise – his best XI.
For Tottenham the only way seems to be up. Had Daniel Levy acquired Antonio Conte in the summer rather than the autumn, the sweating over a Champions League place would’ve been unlikely.
But he got his man in the end, and while there was a period of adjustment, with dissent a regular feature of the Italian’s interviews and press conferences, he’s been backed in the transfer market, and there’s nothing to stop Spurs securing another top-four finish.
Two sides for whom relegation was almost unthinkable 12 months ago, tasked with dusting themselves down and going again.
Both sides were certainly hit by injuries last season, but flirted much too close to relegation after much loftier pre-season ambitions.
The long-term injuries to Patrick Bamford and Dominic Calvert-Lewin left both teams short of firepower, losing a combined 33 league goals from the season before.
But both should be fit and firing this season, aiming to catch Gareth Southgate’s eye ahead of the World Cup.
Regarding transfer activity, Leeds have certainly had the busier window, spending around £100m to plug the gaps left by Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha, with three arrivals from the Red Bull project, which Jesse Marsch is intimately familiar with.
The Leeds head coach has had time to implement his ideas to his players, as they move away from Marcelo Bielsa’s inimitable philosophy, and will be aided by working with some more familiar faces. Should things click, Leeds can look towards a steady mid-table finish.
Meanwhile question marks certainly hang over Everton. Frank Lampard’s appointment didn’t quite have the galvanising effect hoped, picking up just three points in his first seven games.
However a series of backs-to-the-wall performances combined with heroics from Jordan Pickford saw the Toffees go on an impressive run, securing their survival on that famous night against Crystal Palace.
And while Lampard’s record of slightly better than a point per game would likely be enough to keep Everton up, those in the Gladwys Street End will be expecting significantly more this time around.
The ‘best of the rest’ sees Newcastle take on West Ham, and while we’ve often seen new-money clubs splash the cash on big-name signings, almost as a warning shot to their rivals, but Newcastle have recruited smartly.
Bruno Guimaraes could’ve easily been signed by a top-six club, while Sven Botman and Nick Pope should see the Magpies stronger at the back.
The end of the January transfer window saw Eddie Howe’s men ride the crest of a wave to the end of the season, when you dare say one or two clubs may have been on the beach, which saw them pick up the second most points between 21st January and the end of the season.
It would be hard for them to maintain form that would likely see them finish in the Champions League places, but a European spot certainly isn’t out of the question.
West Ham meanwhile continue to establish themselves as a solid, top-half Premier League side.
Anybody thinking the 2020/21 campaign which saw them finish two points off fourth was a one-off was proven wrong as the Hammers juggled European football with the Premier League, to finish seventh and secure another European campaign.
They’ve managed to keep hold of Declan Rice and Jarrod Bowen, as well as adding Nayef Aguerd at the back, and a finish in the European places is the target once again.
Imagine two years ago someone telling you that Leicester would’ve been overtaken by both West Ham and Newcastle.
But after a poor 2021/22, that’s the prospect facing Foxes fans. On the brink of the Champions League places in successive seasons, Leicester fell away massively last season.
They weren’t aided by injuries, and their run to the semi-finals of the UEFA Conference League added a lot of fixtures to the calendar, which they won’t be burdened with this season.
Patson Daka and Kelechi Iheanacho should both be ready for more football, giving Brendan Rodgers more options in attack, and a full season with the likes of Wesley Fofana and James Justin certainly won’t do Leicester any harm.