No rest for the weary. With the Premier League season kicking off Friday, theScore answers the most pressing questions facing every team in the English top flight.
Will Gabriel Jesus fill the void up front?
Arsenal desperately need a reliable source of goals. Whether Jesus can provide them is still unclear. With nine or fewer goals in four of his last six Premier League seasons, he has yet to truly establish himself as an out-and-out striker. For £45 million, you’d expect something close to the finished article. But Jesus’ familiarity with Mikel Arteta – who coached the 25-year-old during his apprenticeship at Manchester City – could benefit the Brazilian. Few managers outside of Pep Guardiola understand how to use Jesus.
Can Steven Gerrard lift Villa into the top 10?
Gerrard had the benefit of the doubt last season. He took over Villa midseason, catching them as they tumbled down the standings. Avoiding relegation was all that mattered. But the goal this season is far loftier. Villa’s squad has youthful exuberance and talent in spades. Midfielder Jacob Ramsey is ready to take the next step, and Philippe Coutinho has settled in since joining in January. If center-back Diego Carlos adapts and two-way midfielder Douglas Luiz stays put, Villa will have what it takes to finish in the top 10. And it will be up to Gerrard to get them there.
Can Solanke carry over his Championship form?
Over his last two seasons in the Championship, Dominic Solanke found the net with impressive frequency, bagging 44 goals. But his time in the Premier League hasn’t been nearly as fruitful – the English forward has just four goals in 63 Premier League appearances to date. That comes with significant caveats, though: The majority of those appearances came as a substitute, and he was still a young player finding his feet at the time. Solanke, now 24, has never had an opportunity to be the guy for a Premier League side. He’ll get exactly that in 2022-23. For Bournemouth to avoid the drop, they’ll need Solanke to translate his prolific Championship form to the top flight.
How much will Eriksen be missed?
Brentford rode the rollercoaster last season. A rip-roaring start to the campaign was followed by a brutal two-month dip that saw the Bees win only once in the league from Boxing Day through February. Christian Eriksen’s uplifting arrival was vital in arresting that slide. With the inspirational Dane now at Manchester United, someone else will have to dictate the tempo and pull the strings in midfield. Replacing Eriksen’s pinpoint delivery from set pieces, where small details make all the difference, won’t be easy, either. Brentford have done some very astute business in the transfer window, but a difficult season could be in the cards if they can’t adequately replace Eriksen.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Was last season the ceiling?
Graham Potter engineered the greatest top-flight campaign in club history last year. Brighton scored more goals (42) and racked up more points (51) than ever before en route to an impressive ninth-place finish. Any upward trajectory from there would see the Seagulls challenging for a European place. But taking that next big step is likely to prove challenging after a summer that, to date, has featured more significant departures than arrivals and could yet worsen with Marc Cucurella’s expected transfer away from the Amex. Much faith is being placed in 18-year-old Paraguayan forward Julio Enciso to invigorate the attack. The teenager is an exciting prospect, but asking for an immediate impact might be too much too fast.
What will Chelsea’s defense look like?
Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea will look very different next season. Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger – two of Tuchel’s defensive pillars in previous seasons – are long gone. New signing Kalidou Koulibaly hasn’t had much time to prepare for the rigors of the Premier League, and if Cesar Azpilicueta leaves for Barcelona, Tuchel will have another hole in defense to fill. Even if the Blues are reportedly set to sign Brighton & Hove Albion left-back Marc Cucurella, they’ll still have a problem at center-back. After missing out on Matthijs de Ligt and Jules Kounde, Tuchel may have to consider a change to a back-four.
Can Vieira sustain the excitement?
His arrival was met with skepticism, but Patrick Vieira didn’t need very long to silence those who doubted his appointment at Crystal Palace. The Frenchman transformed a formerly stodgy, stubborn team that relied almost exclusively on Wilfried Zaha into an outfit capable of slick passing and attractive football. There’s genuine optimism at Selhurst Park that last season was just the beginning of something special; Palace’s expected goals difference was sixth-best in the league, suggesting they deserved better than their 12th-placed finish. The team is also, quite simply, fun to root for, with exciting talents such as Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise now being joined by Malcolm Ebiowei and Cheick Doucoure. The Eagles have all the pieces to soar.
Will Dominic Calvert-Lewin break the 10-goal mark?
After breaking out under Carlo Ancelotti, Calvert-Lewin endured his worst season as a Premier League starter, recording just four goals across the 2021-22 campaign. A fractured toe compromised the early part of the season, and a change of manager did little to help the 25-year-old reintegrate into the team. Calvert-Lewin struggled alongside Richarlison when the two started up front partly because he wasn’t the main focal point of the attack. If the English striker can stay healthy, he’ll have a chance to show manager Frank Lampard what he demonstrated under Ancelotti: that he can poach goals like the best of them.
Will Silva, Cottagers ditch “yo-yo” reputation?
Having gone straight back down following their last two promotions to the Premier League, Fulham supporters are, understandably, wary heading into the new campaign. Manager Marco Silva, who oversaw last season’s stroll to the Championship title, is tasked with shedding the “yo-yo” tag attached to both the Cottagers and, to a lesser extent, himself. The Portuguese tactician has delivered some rousing football during previous Premier League spells, but his teams could never sustain those bursts. Stability, both for the club and coach, is the name of the game at Craven Cottage. A more understated transfer window than the scattergun approach that preceded Fulham’s previous top-flight return has been an encouraging sign.
Can Marsch put his mark on the team?
Jesse Marsch is no longer operating in the shadow of Marcelo Bielsa. Having barely avoided relegation on the final day of last season, the American bench boss was given the keys to overhaul Leeds United this summer. From a transfer perspective, he’s done just that, bringing in several new faces, including compatriots Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams, who have the difficult task of replacing Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips, arguably the club’s two best players from recent seasons. How quickly the new arrivals adapt to Marsch’s intense, high-pressing 4-2-2-2 system will go a long way to determining the club’s fate. Aaronson, in particular, has looked electric in the preseason, providing hope that things are heading in the right direction at Elland Road.
Have Leicester addressed their set-piece woes?
No matter what he tried, Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers couldn’t stop his team from conceding on set pieces. The Foxes allowed a Premier League-high 16 goals from corner kicks and 20 overall from set-piece situations. At its core, the issue was personnel-related: Dynamic center-back Wesley Fofana sat out the majority of the season with an ACL tear, and experienced defender Jonny Evans missed 19 games because of a hamstring injury. Rodgers will start the campaign with both back to full fitness, but keeping them fit is another question. Leicester haven’t made any signings to date, leaving the pair to carry the load.
What will the post-Mane era look like?
Since joining Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp has never embarked on a full campaign without Sadio Mane at his disposal, but the exhilarating Mane-Roberto Firmino-Mohamed Salah era is over at Anfield. That reality creates some uneasiness but also comes with excitement over the next stage, which could actually feature a more versatile team thanks to the arrival of Darwin Nunez, the continued growth of Luis Diaz, and a reliance on some talented youngsters who should see more minutes this season. And of course, amid all the changes, Salah remains, his future sorted and no longer a talking point to cause distractions. That alone puts the Reds in the hunt for more silverware. Klopp’s side, so close to winning a historic quadruple last season, remains the most tangible threat to Manchester City’s domestic dominance.
How quickly will Haaland adapt?
This may be the most fascinating question of all going into the new Premier League season, and it’s certainly the most pertinent as it relates to the impending title race. Erling Haaland was always going to need some time to adjust, particularly in Pep Guardiola’s complex system. He’ll be just fine, of course, and will almost definitely score a boatload of goals for his new club. But after looking out of sync with his new teammates in Manchester City’s Community Shield defeat to Liverpool, it’s fair to suggest that his acclimatization may take a little more time than initially expected. The margins between City and Liverpool are so razor thin that any little slip – like, say, a slow start for the Norwegian superstar – could make all the difference come season’s end.
Will Cristiano Ronaldo stay the season?
No other club seems interested in rescuing Ronaldo from his current predicament. The lack of suitors is surprising – who wouldn’t want one of the greatest players of all time? – but also understandable. As direct as they come, the 37-year-old doesn’t exactly personify today’s modern pressing tactics. The fact remains, though, that he can still do the hardest thing there is to do on a pitch: score goals. At least United boss Erik ten Hag seems willing to play to Ronaldo’s strengths, and if the Portuguese superstar stays, bet on him to prove the doubters wrong.
Are Newcastle ready to make the great leap forward?
Eddie Howe lifted Newcastle up to 11th place last season, not only saving them from relegation but setting the tone for 2022-23. With Nick Pope’s reliability in goal, Sven Botman’s aerial prowess, and Bruno Guimaraes protecting the back line, Newcastle are sturdier than they’ve been at any point in the last few years. They just need help scoring goals. While 17 different players hit the back of the net last season, none broke the 10-goal mark. Chris Wood and Callum Wilson simply aren’t prolific enough, and Allan Saint-Maximin often lacks end product. A big signing in attack would make the Magpies a contender for the European places.
Have Forest changed their squad too much?
Somewhat impressively, Forest have made 12 signings since achieving promotion to the Premier League in May, putting their newfound riches to immediate use. Taiwo Awoniyi arrived from Union Berlin for a club-record fee, Neco Williams joined for nearly the same amount, and Jesse Lingard signed a one-year contract reportedly worth up to £120,000 per week. Somewhat worryingly, half of Forest’s acquisitions played outside England last season, leaving them with a steep learning curve. The rate of turnover is also concerning. Just ask Fulham, who were relegated in 2019 after signing 15 players in the summer window.
Will risky transfer strategy pay off?
Relying on inexperienced youngsters like Tino Livramento and Armando Broja proved fruitful last season, so Southampton decided to go all in on that recruitment approach this summer. The Saints have spent over £50 million on five players who have combined for zero Premier League minutes in their respective careers to date. Having Premier League experience is by no means a panacea, but it’s undeniably risky to put virtually all of your eggs into such a raw basket. Gavin Bazunu, 20, and Romeo Lavia, 18, have no senior professional appearances to their name; Sekou Mara, 20, started 10 Ligue 1 games for Bordeaux over the last two seasons; Armel Bella-Kotchap, also only 20 years old, is coming off his first Bundesliga campaign at Bochum; Joe Aribo, the ex-Rangers standout, is the elder statesman of the new recruits at 26 years old. It’s a bold and exciting approach, but it’s fraught with risk.
How will Antonio Conte use Richarlison?
If Conte could autogenerate a player, it would look something like Richarlison. The Brazilian is a good player with a work ethic and willingness to play wherever the manager wants. But how much will he play? There’s no way Richarlison will supplant Harry Kane up front, and it’s unlikely he’ll take Son Heung-Min’s place on the left side of Tottenham’s attack. That leaves the 25-year-old with two options: to compete with Dejan Kulusevski on his off wing or settle for substitute minutes across the front line. That’s not a decision a £50-million signing should make.
West Ham United
Will Jarrod Bowen replicate success from last season?
Bowen recorded 12 goals and 11 assists in the 2021-22 season, finishing the year as one of just three Premier League players to reach double digits in each category. He then made his international debut in June, raising his chances of making England’s World Cup squad. Another prolific campaign would likely result in a big-money move to one of the league’s biggest clubs. That would cap his extraordinary ascent from non-league football. Expect West Ham’s speedy and durable winger to hit double digits again.
Where will the goals come from?
Only three teams scored fewer Premier League goals than Wolverhampton Wanderers last season, and all three were relegated; Wolves’ expected goals numbers were, somehow, even bleaker. Bruno Lage’s side needed to find some additional scoring punch heading into the new campaign, but instead, things are going in the opposite direction with Raul Jimenez, the club’s only recognized No. 9, expected to miss the first several weeks of the season due to knee and adductor injuries. With the Mexican striker sidelined and Fabio Silva shipped to Anderlecht, the burden up front will fall largely on Hwang Hee-chan, while outstanding goalkeeper Jose Sa will need to sparkle once again at the other end to help offset stinginess up front.