Premier League 2022-23 fan previews, part two: Leicester to Wolves

Leicester

Am I optimistic? Yes and no. Brendan Rodgers promised a rebuild in the window, but so far we haven’t made a single signing. The big boost comes in the reduction of players currently sidelined, and the bittersweet absence of European football this season. Hopefully, we can tread water at least.

Key players/weak links Expect another big season from Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, and keep an eye on the emergence of Patson Daka. But we still lack quality on the wing, especially since Ademola Lookman’s loan hasn’t been made permanent. We’ve also continued to look chaotic defending set-pieces in pre-season, so expect more calamity at the back.

Best and worst away trips I’m no fan of the club that plays there but you won’t find a better “proper” ground than Villa’s Park. The worst? There’s only so many times I can hear the tannoy welcome me to the “world famous City Ground” without dying of laughter.

First-choice XI Schmeichel; Pereira, Evans, Fofana, Castagne; Tielemans, Ndidi; Maddison, Dewsbury-Hall, Barnes; Vardy

Two players from the past who would slot right in We never replaced Riyad Mahrez – we desperately need a slick operator like him back on the wing. And Steve Walsh – a no-nonsense defender who knew how to attack at set-pieces.

We will finish 8th; Top four 1 Man City 2 Liverpool 3 Chelsea 4 Tottenham; Bottom three 18 Southampton 19 Nottm Forest 20 Bournemouth; First manager sacked Frank Lampard

Chris Whiting clippings.me/chriswhiting; @ChrisRWhiting

Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall in pre-season training.
Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall: big expectations. Photograph: Plumb Images/Leicester City/Getty Images

Liverpool

Some personnel have changed, but I can’t see that the system or boss or players will a great deal, so we go again – and this time round, hopefully finish a place higher. So, completely optimistic about that – but I’d like to be as assured of Uefa’s “independent” inquiry into what happened at the fiasco that was the Champions League final. We, as should all football fans, will be watching closely.

Key players/weak links Salah. I’m made up he’s stayed. Same with Joe Gomez. Along with new man Calvin Ramsay, clearly one for the future, our defence looks solid for a while to come. Díaz made an off-the-scale start when he arrived and can only get better. Fábio Carvalho is here from Fulham to strengthen our front line, and the big one to replace Mané, Darwin Núñez. According to most pre-season reports he’s a flop – the four goals against Leipzig notwithstanding. No real weaknesses. Lots of hollering for a midfielder to join with Henderson and Milner, particularly, ramping up the average age. But we have youth in Harvey Elliot and Curtis Jones. There’ll always be cries for more signings, but we’ve got a strong, first-class squad.

Best and worst away trips Goodison Park, for both. It’s easy to get to, it’s an old-fashioned ground, full and mostly we get a result there. On the other hand, you can’t see anything.

First-choice XI Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konaté, Van Djik, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Núñez, Díaz

Two players from the past who would slot right in Johnny Barnes: pizzazz, swagger, work rate and goals. And he could compete with Bobby Firmino as backheel king. And Terry McDermott, for his energy and adaptability.

We will finish 1st; Top four 1 Liverpool 2 Man City 3 Chelsea 4 Arsenal; Bottom three 18 Leeds 19 Brentford 20 Fulham; First manager sacked Frank Lampard

Steph Jones

Darwin Núñez in pre-season action for Liverpool.
Darwin Núñez: in from Benfica. Photograph: John Powell/Liverpool FC/Getty Images

Manchester City

We’ve churned the squad for the first time since 2017-18, brought in some excellent new options and Guardiola is still at the helm. Things are looking rosy. Now, how about that new contract, Josep?

Key players/weak links Erling Haaland. Need I say much more? I can’t express how much of a game-changer I think he will be. After two years of false nine football we’ve signed the best young striker in world football. He’s the biggest signing of the Abu Dhabi era – and arguably the biggest signing of the Premier League era too. De Bruyne will also be fundamental, but I think Haaland is the key. If he hits the ground running, it could be game over. The weakness is the gaping hole at left-back. We’ve let the brilliant Zinchenko go without a ready-made replacement, and seem reluctant to match Brighton’s valuation for Cucurella. A big problem.

Best and worst away trips I love going to Villa Park. Worst? If Bournemouth hadn’t have come up then it’d be the London Stadium.

First-choice XI Ederson; Walker, Dias, Stones, Cancelo; Rodri, Bernardo; Mahrez, De Bruyne, Foden; Haaland

Two players from the past who would slot right in David Silva – what side wouldn’t he improve? And Colin Bell wouldn’t be bad either. RIP, King.

We will finish 1st; Top four 1 Man City 2 Liverpool 3 Tottenham 4 Arsenal; Bottom three 18 Nottm Forest 19 Leeds 20 Bournemouth; First manager sacked Frank Lampard.

Lloyd Scragg ninetythreetwenty.com; @lloyd_scragg

Kevin De Bruyne: fundamental.
Kevin De Bruyne: fundamental. Photograph: Andrew Yates/EPA

Manchester United

I’m optimistic, albeit based on lower expectations. Last season we were easily sussed out and even teams like Brighton bullied us and we rolled over. All teams had to do was work harder, run harder, get a bit physical and the usual suspects were straight on the back foot. We’ve been in an eternal transition since Fergie retired, but Ten Hag looks like the man for the job: players seem to be responding. He needs a few seasons, but could be the next great manager of the Premier League era.

Key players/weak links We can’t stagger on with the same midfield from the José era and expect things to suddenly change. We need players who are calm, can retain possession, have the courage to accept the ball in tight spots and can see a pass. If we can’t sign De Jong we have to find at least two combative midfielders. Martínez should provide bite in the centre-back pairing, but we still need a modern-day right-back who can defend and go forward. Our current two only have one of those attributes each.

Best and worst away trips Best is Leeds for the history and hatred, and we usually turn them over. Worst is Newcastle: I usually need oxygen by the time I’ve climbed to my seat. Sticking away fans up there just kills the atmosphere.

First-choice XI De Gea; Dalot, Varane, Martínez, Malacia; Eriksen, Fred; Fernandes; Sancho, Martial, Rashford

Two players from the past who would slot right in Bryan Robson and Roy Keane: true leaders with the highest standards. They would raise the game of everyone around them.

We will finish 4th; Top four 1 Man City 2 Liverpool 3 Tottenham 4 Man Utd; Bottom three 18 Leeds 19 Fulham 20 Nottm Forest; First manager sacked Frank Lampard.

Shaun O’Donnell

Lisandro Martínez is unveiled by Manchester United.
Lisandro Martínez: bite at the back. Photograph: Manchester United/Getty Images

Newcastle

We’ve surely slipped into an alternative reality: Newcastle fans actually going into a season with optimism. Howe has transformed us with a committed, passionate, talented group: the last few months of last season felt like a rebirth. So we’re not expecting our annual relegation battle, but we’re also realistic … there’s a lot to do to reach the top four.

Key players/weak links With Matt Targett and Sven Botman we can field an entirely different defence to that which started last season. Add our Brazilian midfield maestros, Joelinton and Bruno Guimarães, to the mix, and we could be very difficult to beat. Also watch out for young midfielder Elliot Anderson, who starred for Bristol Rovers while on loan. We hope he gets a chance. Weak links? He’s been a great servant, but it’s not clear how Jamaal Lascelles will fit in now.

Best and worst away trips Best is Goodison for its old-school charm, worst is the London Stadium, which just wasn’t built for football.

First-choice XI Dubravka; Trippier, Schär, Burn, Targett; Shelvey, Joelinton, Guimarães; Saint-Maximin, Wilson, Fraser

Two players from the past who would slot right in Alan Shearer and the much-missed Gary Speed, for their leadership, experience and grit. And Big Al could score a goal or two.

We will finish 7th; Top four 1 Man City 2 Liverpool 3 Chelsea 4 Tottenham; Bottom three 18 Southampton 19 Fulham 20 Bournemouth; First manager sacked Frank Lampard.

David and Richard Holmes

Sven Botman is unveiled by Newcastle.
Sven Botman: defensive overhaul.
Photograph: Serena Taylor/Newcastle United/Getty Images

Nottingham Forest

As with most promoted clubs, I think we can go into this feeling optimistic but realistic (and 17th would be just fine). Last season we learned that Steve Cooper is the best manager we’ve had for at least 20 years, maybe more, so if anyone can …

Key players/weak links Just the 11 new signings so far – but we also lost quite a few over the summer, including our keeper and five key loanees. Obviously the headline grabber is Jesse Lingard, but we’re excited about Neco Williams and Omar Richards too. It will also be interesting to see how last season’s star Brennan Johnson copes with the step up. We’re looking a bit weak in centre mid, though; Jimmy Garner got better and better as last season went on, but the chances of signing him look fairly slim.

Best and worst away trips I’ll get back to you – a lot has changed since we were in the Premier League 23 years ago. But I did go to Tottenham’s stadium to watch Guns N’ Roses recently, and it was very impressive.

First-choice XI Henderson; Worrall, Niakhaté, McKenna; Williams, Yates, Colback, Richards; Lingard; Johnson, Awoniyi

Two players from the past who would slot right in Let’s look back at our mid-90s heyday, with Stan Collymore scoring goals out of nothing, plus Dave Phillips to add some authority and bite.

We will finish 15th; Top four 1 Liverpool 2 Man City 3 Tottenham 4 Chelsea; Bottom three 18 Leeds 19 Fulham 20 Bournemouth; First manager sacked Jesse Marsch.

Rich Ferraro 1865: The Nottingham Forest Podcast; @nottm_forest

Brennan Johnson in pre-season action for Forest.
Brennan Johnson: stepping up. Photograph: Robbie Jay Barratt/AMA/Getty Images

Southampton

Hard to be optimistic given the way our season collapsed last time around. The defensive catastrophe demanded an experienced head to marshal the promising younger talent; instead we’ve signed more promising talent. Otherwise the transfer business has been positive (and without having to sell before buying, for the first time in a while) – but pre-season betrayed a concerning lack of creativity.

Key players/weak links Ward-Prowse will again be the talisman, but it looks like there will be a bit of dynamism alongside him in Roméo Lavia and Joe Aribo. Gavin Bazunu seems like an astute signing in goal with a year in League One under his belt, and Sékou Mara should give us a bit more penalty box end product. Weaknesses? Many. Defensively we were a circus act in the latter part of the season, and we lack a little bit of pace and power in wide attacking areas. Hopefully the youthful transfer policy pays off in the long run, but the early part of this season may be a bit of a struggle.

Best and worst away trips Best is Brighton: we’ve a great record there, and the fixture and weather gods have managed to combine so that we always visit when the weather is excellent. Worst is Anfield, terrible record, terrible view and usually a terrible atmosphere. We’re not a big game for them.

First-choice XI Bazunu; Walker-Peters, Bella-Kotchap, Salisu, Perraud; Romeu, Lavia, Ward-Prowse; Aribo, Adams, Mara

Two players from the past who would slot right in Virgil van Dijk and Graziano Pellè in the condition and form they were in when they left us. We’d probably be a top-half team.

We will finish 16th; Top four 1 Man City 2 Liverpool 3 Tottenham 4 Man Utd; Bottom three 18 Nottm Forest 19 Fulham 20 Bournemouth; First manager sacked Frank Lampard.

Steve Grant SaintsWeb.co.uk; @SteveGrant1983

Gavin Bazunu
Gavin Bazunu: astute signing. Photograph: Matt Watson/Southampton FC/Getty Images

Tottenham

The wonderful thing about Tottenham is that no matter the drama, we always find ourselves in a constant state of optimism. And this time it’s not even tinged with delusion. We are finally behaving like a club that wishes to project big-club vibes. Aggressive in the transfer market, backing Antonio and setting a benchmark. I’m hyped.

Key players/weak links We have both improved the first team and the bench: imperative with the five-sub rule. Yves Bissouma and Ivan Perisic give us extra quality, Richarlison is an option, Djed Spence is raw but exciting. We’re building on top of the 202 days Conte took to take us into the Champions League, cementing the energy and polish of Cuti Romero, Harry Kane and Son … I’m super hyped. No weak links, just a few evolutionary questions around the right-wing-back role. Spence? Doherty? Emerson? Or perhaps even Lucas*? *Not Lucas.

Best and worst away trips Craven Cottage is simply a lovely day out and the home fans are super polite which is a little surreal. Worst? The Emirates because everything is so plastic.

First-choice XI Lloris; Davies, Dier, Romero; Perisic, Bissouma, Bentancur, Spence; Son, Kane, Kulusevski

Two players from the past who would slot right in Spoilt. A prime Dele, Eriksen, Modric and Bale would be delicious. But I’d probably opt for peak Paul Gascoigne, and two-knees Ledley King because we may as well have a Bentley parked up next to the Rolls Royce (Romero).

We will finish 2nd. If I’m hyped and optimistic, I may as well enjoy the journey and throw myself unequivocally into the mix with Conte and his players. Top four 1 Man City 2 Tottenham 3 Liverpool 4 Chelsea; Bottom three 18 Nottm Forest 19 Fulham 20 Bournemouth; First manager sacked Frank Lampard.

Spooky Podcaster for The Fighting Cock and Spooky in Purgatory (Patreon); @LoveTheShirt; @spooky23

Djed Spence is unveiled by Spurs.
Djed Spence: raw but exciting. Photograph: Tottenham Hotspur FC/Getty Images

West Ham

It’s a vital season after a tired finish last time out. An ageing team needs some rebuilding, but with Moyes’ record of building consistent sides, we can hope for a top eight finish and Europa Conference run. The flaky players have gone, our side will always put in a shift, and we’ve retained Rice and Bowen, so I’m cautiously optimistic. And the club was right not to pay Lingard’s inflated demands after he acted all Love Island, flirting with everyone, refusing to make a commitment, ghosting Moyesy and then dating the new arrival with big financial muscles.

Key players/weak links Gianluca Scamacca is a massive boost: we last signed a striker in something like 1895. The big man looks a real handful and Antonio might even get a rest after participating in more work events than Boris Johnson. Nayef Aguerd has immediately got crocked in true West Ham style, but long-term will improve the left of central defence, and Areola is a proven keeper to take over from Fabianski, while Flynn Downes from Swansea likes a tackle and is the sort of hungry Championship player (and WHU fan) that Moyes should improve. But there’s no cover for the ageing Cresswell at left back, unless Filip Kostic signs. We also lack the sort of player who can try something different and win games with a flash of inspiration. Benrahma is sometimes that, but needs to be more consistent.

Best and worst away trips Worst: Newcastle, for the sportswashing. Best is Arsenal – it’s always nice to catch up on my reading in a quiet environment.

First-choice XI Areola; Coufal, Zouma, Aguerd, Cresswell; Rice, Soucek; Benrahma, Fornals, Bowen; Scamacca

Two players from the past who would slot right in Trevor Brooking for his creativity and Julian Dicks to terminate wingers and test the limits of VAR.

We will finish 7th; Top four 1 Man City 2 Liverpool 3 Tottenham 4 Arsenal; Bottom three 18 Fulham 19 Brentford 20 Bournemouth; First manager sacked Steve Cooper

Pete May Author, Goodbye to Boleyn; hammersintheheart.blogspot.co.uk

Gianluca Scamacca in action for Italy.
Gianluca Scamacca: massive boost. Photograph: Andrew Yates/EPA

Wolves

Based on the horrific finish to last season and the fact we’ve only made one major signing to date, I’m not optimistic. We should stay up and maybe sit around mid-table, but it’s fanciful to dream of progression.

Key players/weak links It was an airtight defence that kept us in the hunt for Europe last season. In that respect, José Sá, Max Kilman and Conor Coady were all key figures, and we’ve also added Nathan Collins from Burnley so have good options there. The returning Morgan Gibbs-White could be key to helping us improve a pitiful attack, as will a fully-fit Pedro Neto. But it still needs a lot of work. We’ve only managed goal returns of 38 and 36 in the last two seasons. Had it not been for that defensive resilience we’d have been in a lot of trouble. It might be time to switch to a back four.

Best and worst away trips Tottenham is nice to look at, and we’ve won there twice. And Selhurst for the worst, but only because I have memories of one horrendous coach trip there in the 90s.

First-choice XI Sá; Semedo, Collins, Kilman, Aït-Nouri; Neves, Moutinho; Podence, Gibbs-White, Neto; Jiménez

Two players from the past who would slot right in Steve Bull and Diogo Jota. We’re a good technical side that just doesn’t score enough goals. We need killers and those two would score goals in any side.

We will finish 11th; Top four 1 Man City 2 Liverpool 3 Tottenham 4 Chelsea; Bottom three 18 Nottm Forest 19 Fulham 20 Bournemouth; First manager sacked Eddie Howe.

Thomas Baugh wolvesblog.com; @wolvesblog

Nathan Collins
Nathan Collins: solid option. Photograph: Jack Thomas/WWFC/Wolves/Getty Images

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