SPORTSMAIL'S PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEW: Featuring Chelsea and Everton
PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEW – PART TWO: Sterling will be crucial in Chelsea’s top-four battle, Lampard can’t afford another dog fight at Everton and it’s time Fulham finally got rid of their yo-yo tag
- Sportsmail’s bumper team-by-team guide to the Premier League continues
- Part One: Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Brentford and Brighton previewed
- Under a new owner, Chelsea face increased competition to finish in the top four
- Crystal Palace’s young crop should continue to improve under Patrick Vieira
- Everton and Leeds will hope to put last season’s relegation scrap behind them
- Fulham have been relegated in their last two top-flight seasons after promotion
There are now just three days to go before all the drama, magic and excitement of the Premier League starts all over again.
Sportsmail is bringing you a comprehensive preview of every side in the division and assessing how their fortunes could fare over the season. You can find part one here.
In part two, we run the rule over top four contenders Chelsea, season openers Crystal Palace, newly-promoted Fulham and last season’s relegation candidates Everton and Leeds.
Chelsea finished third last season but now face increased competition for a top four spot
Arrivals: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City, £50m), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli, £34m)
Departures: Antonio Rudiger (Real Madrid, free), Andreas Christensen (Barcelona, free), Danny Drinkwater (released), Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan, loan), Ian Maatsen (Burnley, loan), Tino Anjorin (loan), Nathan Baxter (Hull, loan)
It has been positive off the pitch.
Considering that it threatened to be a period where instability and chaos would reign at Stamford Bridge after Roman Abramovich put the club up for sale, it has been pretty smooth.
Todd Boehly’s takeover was wrapped up at the end of May and the US businessman has already splashed out on a new defender in Kalidou Koulibaly and new forward in Raheem Sterling.
While Sterling’s arrival is perhaps the more exciting, Koulibaly could prove to be more important as he fills the gap left by departing centre-backs Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen.
Romelu Lukaku is gone too, shipped back to Inter Milan on loan after a disastrous Blues return last season.
Things on the pitch haven’t been great, though. The Blues were beaten on penalties by MLS side Charlotte in a friendly before a shock 4-0 defeat by Arsenal.
Todd Boehly’s Chelsea takeover was wrapped up in May and he has already splashed the cash
Success would be…
A repeat of last season, but with at least one trophy added this time. Chelsea took third in 2021-22 and that is probably the best they can hope for again as it seems unlikely that they will be involved in a title race with Manchester City and Liverpool.
Thomas Tuchel’s team were beaten in both the FA Cup and League Cup finals by the Reds on penalties, so they should target going one step further in those two competitions.
They face increased competition to finish in the top four from Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United, but will feel they still have enough quality to do so.
Disaster would look like…
Failing to qualify for the Champions League. Abramovich may have gone, but boardroom expectations will not have changed and not finishing in the top four would be considered a failure.
Arsenal and Tottenham have both strengthened, while who knows how Manchester United will get on under Erik ten Hag, but it feels as if the Blues will be looking over their shoulders slightly more than they were last season.
The man in charge: Thomas Tuchel
Thomas Tuchel’s first six months in charge of Chelsea couldn’t have gone much better as he dragged the team to a top-four finish and lifted the Champions League.
The Blues continued to develop under the German last season albeit without more silverware and he spoke eloquently on the issues surrounding the ownership. Joe Cole even called for Tuchel to be Prime Minister.
The question now is whether he can take Chelsea to the next level. Boehly is willing to back him, but he must make the team’s attack more potent for a title charge to come in the next few years.
Raheem Sterling arrives after hitting double figures for league goals in the last five seasons
The key man: Raheem Sterling
The man to help that attack might just be Raheem Sterling, who has hit double figures for goals in the Premier League in the last five seasons while helping Manchester City to four titles along the way.
The Blues have benefited from the England international being unhappy with his game time at the Etihad, as they have signed a player in his theoretical prime at 27 years old who instantly improves their team.
Sportsmail’s prediction: 5th
The race for the top four looks extremely hard to call this season and we feel that Chelsea might just be overtaken by Arsenal if the Blues get distracted by cup progress.
Arrivals: Cheick Doucoure (Lens, £22m), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich, £10m), Malcom Ebiowei (Derby, free), Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace, free)
Departures: Martin Kelly (released), Nya Kirby (released), Jaroslaw Jach (Zaglebie Lubin, free), Tayo Adaramola (Coventry, loan), Remi Matthews (St Johnstone, loan)
Conor Gallagher returning to Chelsea after his exemplary loan spell at Selhurst Park last season was always going to be a blow for Palace and the 22-year-old is yet to be replaced in midfield.
But other than that, Patrick Vieira has managed to keep hold of all his young talents so far – from Marc Guehi in defence to Michael Olise in attack – while Wilfried Zaha seems to be sticking around even if he is now in the final 12 months of his contract.
Patrick Vieira transformed Palace last season, exciting fans with an attractive brand of football
Vieira has made some encouraging additions too. Mali international Cheick Doucoure impressed in Ligue 1 last season, while versatile US defender Chris Richards is highly-rated at 22 years old.
Pre-season has passed the Eagles by with no real surprises. They lost to Liverpool and Manchester United, but secured victories over a gaggle of lower league teams.
Success would be…
A top half finish. Vieira transformed Palace last season, lowering the average age of the squad and exciting fans with an attractive brand of football, as the Eagles finished 12th having been tipped for relegation before the campaign began.
There is no reason why the team cannot continue to improve and progress in to the top 10, where they have only ventured twice before in their history and not since 2015.
Palace also reached the FA Cup semi-final last season and may fancy another run in the competition which Vieira won five times as a player.
Disaster would look like…
Getting dragged into a relegation scrap. There doesn’t seem too much chance of it happening, but there is now a sense of expectation around Palace which Vieira and this group of players must learn to deal with.
There is a slight worry among supporters that the element of surprise that the French coach held last season is now gone, so he should not rest on his laurels in order to avoid managerial second season syndrome.
The man in charge: Patrick Vieira
We’ve talked plenty about him already and that’s because he has quickly become a figurehead for Palace since his appointment last summer.
Vieira has embraced everything that the club is about and his stock with supporters is sky high thanks to his easy-on-the-eye football and knack for recruiting talented young players.
A sour end to his time at Nice meant that many people doubted whether the Frenchman was good enough to manage in the Premier League, but he put that concern to bed very quickly last year.
Eberechi Eze put in some promising displays when he got a run of games at the end of 2021-22
The key man: Eberechi Eze
This could be the year that Eberechi Eze takes the Premier League by storm.
The midfielder showed some promising signs in his debut campaign at Palace which ended in a call-up to England’s provisional Euro 2020 squad, but then suffered an Achilles injury that ruled him out of contention for the tournament and also hampered his playing time last season.
He finally got a run of games in the side towards the end of 2021-22 and fans were excited by what they saw. Capable of playing in the centre of midfield, in the number 10 role or out wide on the left, Eze should have a big part to play this year.
Sportsmail’s prediction: 10th
The Eagles are on an upward curve and after some shrewd additions, they should achieve that coveted top half finish. Find a replacement for Gallagher and it’s nailed on.
Arrivals: Dwight McNeil (Burnley, £20m), James Tarkowski (Burnley, free), Ruben Vinagre (Sporting Lisbon, loan)
Departures: Richarlison (Tottenham, £60m), Jonjoe Kenny (Hertha Berlin, free), Cenk Tosun (Besiktas, free), Fabian Delph (released), Gylfi Sigurdsson (released), Joao Virginia (SC Cambuur, loan), Jarrad Braithwaite (PSV, loan), Ellis Simms (Sunderland, loan)
After a season spent fighting relegation, Everton should have been a lot more proactive in the transfer market.
It is never a good sign when a club’s headline piece of business is a big-money sale and while losing Richarlison to Tottenham for £60million helps the Toffees’ bank sheets, they are now without a player who netted 53 goals across the last four seasons.
There were protests against owner Farhad Moshiri during the relegation scrap last season and they have recommenced over the summer as supporters call for a new regime. For his part, Moshiri has told fans to wait until the end of the window to judge the transfer activity.
Everton fans have protested outside Goodison Park against owner Farhad Moshiri this summer
Dwight McNeil and James Tarkowski have arrived from Burnley – who Everton sent down last season – and former Wolves wing-back Ruben Vinagre is in on loan from Sporting Lisbon.
They’ll need more though, as a 4-0 pre-season defeat to Minnesota United set alarm bells ringing.
Success would be…
Staying as far away from the relegation zone as possible. Everton are one of only six teams to have played in every Premier League campaign since 1992, but last season their top-flight status was threatened more than it had been for decades.
After a tricky start to life in the Goodison Park dugout, Frank Lampard eventually managed to galvanise the squad and turn their fortunes around, so a year of consolidation would probably be accepted by the Toffees’ faithful.
With a new 52,000-seater stadium on the horizon, Everton will feel they should be pushing to get back into Europe but that seems a little too much to ask straight away.
Disaster would look like…
A repeat of last season. After a promising start under Rafa Benitez, the campaign was miserable from October onwards until very near the end as Everton secured safety with just a game to spare and stayed up by only four points.
The Toffees picked up the joint-fewest points away from home (10) after winning just twice on the road and ended the season with their worst goal difference (-23) for over 70 years. That cannot happen again.
The man in charge: Frank Lampard
There are still question marks over Frank Lampard’s tactical capability as a coach – particularly after the way his time at Chelsea ended – but there are no doubting his qualities as a man-manager.
Frank Lampard has connected well with the Toffees faithful with his passion and enthusiasm
The former England midfielder arrived at Goodison Park in January with the squad at rock bottom mentally and after plenty of huffing and puffing he managed to rejuvenate them enough to pick up three vital wins in the final six games.
He has also connected well with Toffees fans with his passion and enthusiasm, which should at least buy him some time if things do begin to turn sour again. He needs more transfer backing from Moshiri though.
The key man: Dominic Calvert-Lewin
With Richarlison gone, there is more pressure than ever on Dominic Calvert-Lewin to be on red hot form in the final third – that’s if he too isn’t lured away from Goodison Park.
The 25-year-old had an injury-hit season last year but popped up when it mattered to score the winning goal against Crystal Palace in May that confirmed survival.
Sportsmail’s prediction: 14th
With the squad as it is and Richarlison yet to be replaced, Everton won’t be surprising anyone this season and appear to be a mid-table bet at best. Lampard should be able to steer them clear of another basement battle though.
Arrivals: Joao Palhinha (Sporting Lisbon, £17m), Andreas Pereira (Manchester United, £10m), Kevin Mbabu (Wolfsburg, £6.4m), Manor Solomon (Shakhtar Donetsk, loan)
Departures: Fabio Carvalho (Liverpool, £7.7m), Jean Michael Seri (Hull, free), Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (Napoli, free), Fabri (released), Michael Hector (released), Alfie Mawson (released)
It’s been a more sensible summer than their previous two in the Premier League, put it that way.
In 2018 they went wild in the transfer market by spending over £100million on a squad that flopped and then in 2020 they bulked their team out with loanees, which is rarely a recipe for success.
This summer, money has been spent on the areas of the squad that need it. Joao Palhinha and Andreas Pereira have arrived in midfield, while Kevin Mbabu plugs the gap at right-back after Neco Williams starred on loan last season.
The only other member of the Cottagers’ promotion-winning side who is no longer at the club is 19-year-old sensation Fabio Carvalho, who was snapped up by Liverpool after nearly moving to Anfield in January. His 10 goals and eight assists from last term will be hard to replace.
Fulham’s pre-season has been spent testing themselves against European opposition.
A 5-1 defeat to Benfica was a little concerning, but they have held their own against Champions League semi-finalists Villarreal and a Nice side who finished fifth in Ligue 1 season.
Fulham scored a record-breaking 106 goals on their way to the Championship title last season
Success would be…
Survival. After being relegated in each of their last two seasons after promotion, Fulham will be desperate to shake their tag of being a yo-yo club.
In theory, they should be better placed to stay up this season. Their promotion in 2021-22 – as they won the Championship title with 90 points – was more impressive than their previous two conquests when they were forced to go up through the play-offs.
The Cottagers waltzed to promotion with a Championship record of 106 goals and while they will of course not get near that figure in the top-flight, it stands them in good stead for a proper crack at survival.
Disaster would look like…
Another relegation. As Norwich fans can attest to last season, when you go down straight away following promotion for the third time in a row, playing with the big boys becomes a lot less enjoyable.
It is time for Fulham to show that they are capable of maintaining their Premier League status and are not just destined to float between the top two tiers for the rest of eternity.
The man in charge: Marco Silva
This will be Marco Silva’s fourth crack at the Premier League after spells at Hull, Watford and Everton.
At all of those clubs, the Portuguese coach showed plenty of promising signs but left after ultimately failing to succeed. Fulham fans will hope that he does not head the same way in west London after such a brilliant debut season in charge.
Silva is popular with supporters thanks to his attractive brand of football and you certainly feel he is more capable of keeping the club up than Claudio Ranieri or Felix Magath.
Serbian front man Aleksandar Mitrovic scored just three goals in his last top-flight season
The key man: Aleksandar Mitrovic
Much like how this is Fulham’s best chance to prove themselves in the Premier League, the same goes for Aleksandar Mitrovic.
The Serbian front man scored just three goals as the Cottagers were relegated in 2020-21 but after netting a record 43 goals in the Championship last season – he had 34 by the end of February – he is primed to hit the ground running in the top-flight.
Sportsmail’s prediction: 18th
Fulham should come closer to survival than in their previous two Premier League seasons when they finished 10 and 11 points adrift of safety respectively, but it’s hard to see them not being involved in a scrap which they may ultimately lose.
Arrivals: Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg, £25m), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig, £21m), Luis Sinisterra (Feyenoord, £21m), Marc Roca (Bayern Munich, £10.4m), Rasmus Kristensen (Red Bull Salzburg, £8.5m), Darko Gyabi (Manchester City, £5m)
Departures: Raphinha (Barcelona, £56m), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City, £45m), Leif Davis (Ipswich, £1m), Liam McCarron (Stoke, £200k), Laurens De Bock (Zulte Waregem, free), Kiko Casilla (released), Charlie Cresswell (Millwall, loan), Tyler Roberts (QPR, loan), Jamie Shackleton (Millwall, loan)
The proof will come a couple of months into the season, but Leeds do not seem to have massively improved a squad that only narrowly avoided relegation last term – even if they rounded off pre-season with a 6-2 thrashing of a Cagliari side who have just been relegated from Serie A.
The Whites have received around £100million for their two best stars – Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips – and reinvested it in a group of players who come with promising reputations from abroad but have not played a single minute of Premier League football between them.
With Jesse Marsch’s links to the Red Bull Group group, it is unsurprising that three of the new faces come from their portfolio of teams – attacking midfielder Brenden Aaronson and right-back Rasmus Kristensen from Red Bull Salzburg and holding man Tyler Adams from RB Leipzig.
Jesse Marsch has used his links to the Red Bull group to recruit three players this summer
Meanwhile, Luis Sinisterra will hope to transfer 23 goals last season for Europa Conference League finalists Feyenoord over to the Premier League and former Spain under-21 international Marc Roca is in search of game time after leaving Bayern Munich.
Success would be…
Survival again, frustrating as that may sound for Leeds fans. After maintaining their top-flight status for two years, in an ideal world the goal would be for the Whites to kick on and push towards the top half.
But the exits of Raphinha and Phillips really are huge blows, as inevitable as they were, and the rest of the team severely underperformed in 2021-22.
Of course they did finish 9th in their first year back in the Premier League before the disaster of last season that saw the end of deity Marco Bielsa’s reign. Jesse Marsch came in and kept them up and that will be the American’s goal again.
Disaster would look like…
Relegation. Only three points separated Leeds and the drop last season, while they were in the bottom three at the beginning of play on the final day.
The Whites’ fate probably depends on how their new signings settle in and how well they are able to adapt to the Premier League. If they struggle, it looks bleak for Jesse Marsch’s side.
Leeds must also tighten up defensively. They conceded 79 Premier League goals last season (an average of just over two per game) – only relegated Norwich shipped more.
The man in charge: Jesse Marsch
Jesse Marsch was always going to have a hard time winning around Leeds fans after succeeding Marco Bielsa, but he did at least fulfil his remit of keeping the club up – even if the Whites left it late.
The American is also battling the stereotype of his countrymen and in many ways he is acting as the litmus test for other coaches who want to come over from the United States.
This summer Marsch has set about putting his stamp on this Leeds side, particularly with the three Red Bull signings, and now is his chance to show that his blueprint for success does work.
The key man: Patrick Bamford
Last season may have turned out very differently for Leeds had Patrick Bamford been fit. The striker played just nine league games due to ankle, hamstring and foot injuries.
Patrick Bamford missed most of last term through injury but hit 17 league goals the year before
The one-cap England international scored 17 Premier League goals in 2020-21 though, so if he is available then he could be the difference between survival and relegation.
Sportsmail’s prediction: 17th
Another relegation scrap awaits Leeds but with a raucous Elland Road behind them, they might just survive by the skin of their teeth again.
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