In the end just one of the newly-promoted clubs from last season remained in the Premier League as Brentford comfortably avoided a relegation scrap, with Norwich, Watford and Burnley all enduring the ignominy of dropping out. Will it be a similar tale next term?
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There are few experiences for football fans more nervy, sweat-inducing and stressful than a relegation battle, just ask supporters of Norwich, Watford and Burnley. The 2022/23 season will be no different, with the new boys Bournemouth, Fulham and Nottingham Forest all keen to consolidate their positions in the top flight, while there will be a few middling clubs getting edgy that this could be the year when their luck runs out.
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Scott Parker knows the Premier League like the back of his hand. He also knows what it’s like to be in a relegation battle having previously suffered the drop with Fulham in 2020/21. Both the Cottagers and Parker have bounced back at the first time of asking, only the English coach is now back in the big time with Bournemouth, hoping he can use the experience from his last relegation scrap to avoid a similar outcome in 2022/23.
The Cherries returned to the Premier League with an absolute bang, beating Aston Villa 2-0 but they were brought back down to earth with a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Man City – kicking off a tough run of fixtures which sees them facing Arsenal and Liverpool. Their festive calendar isn’t much kinder, taking on Chelsea on Boxing Day, before ringing in the New Year against Manchester United on January 2. May’s conclusion will also see them clash with Man Utd in their penultimate fixture and Chelsea. It’s a tricky schedule for Scott Parker to navigate.
Having been away from the Premier League for so long, Forest fans will just be happy to see their side rubbing shoulders with the perennial big boys once again. But, if Steve Cooper’s career has taught us anything, he will not be a man who simply wants to make up the numbers in the top division. A progressive coach who produced miracles in taking Forest from the bottom of the Championship to the Premier League, he will want to cause a splash next term — but that does not necessarily mean they will be safe from the drop zone.
Forest will thank their lucky stars they didn’t come up against one of the so-called ‘Big Six’ in any of their opening three matches, but they still lost to Newcastle ahead of games against West Ham and Everton. But from that Goodison Park visit, it’s all guns blazing. Cooper takes on Spurs and then Man City to conclude August, which is a similar case for October as their final two games of that month are Liverpool and Arsenal. Forest get some respite for the World Cup break, but when they come back on Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve, they face Man Utd and Chelsea respectively to conclude 2021.
Cooper will be hoping his side are clear of the drop come May as they take on Chelsea and Arsenal consecutively before finishing up away to Crystal Palace.
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Fulham made light work of the Championship in 2021/22, but as we know, that doesn’t always translate to success in the Premier League. Norwich comfortably won the division in 2020/21 while Brentford scraped in through the play-offs, but it was the latter who created the most buzz in the season just gone (no pun intended). Marco Silva certainly knows the division well, having previously managed Everton, Watford and Hull City.
Silva made his top-flight return with a crucial match-up against Liverpool, drawing 2-2, while he also faces Arsenal in August’s curtain-raising month. The Cottagers then have Man City and Man Utd just before the season stops for the World Cup, but they return on Boxing Day against Crystal Palace and then finish 2021 at home to Southampton. For the final month, the capital club take on the Saints, Leicester, Palace and finish up against Man Utd.
In what proved a chaotic season that culminated in the departure of the much-cherished Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds United just stayed up just the skin of their teeth. Jesse Marsch has already made a strong impression at Elland Road and captured the signing of fellow countryman Brenden Aaronson, a real statement acquisition. The American coach will undoubtedly be eyeing up a top-half finish, but that was also the aim for Leeds in 2021/22.
Marsch kickstarted the new season against Wolves but doesn’t avoid one of the big boys in August, as Chelsea come to town in their third fixture — and they’ll also be looking at that final match just before the World Cup against Spurs as a tricky tie to conclude the first part of the season. City at home and Newcastle away represent a tough set of festive fixtures, while they finish the campaign in May against Pep Guardiola’s men and Spurs on the last day.
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Thomas Frank certainly won’t be resting on his laurels next season. The Bees largely blew hot and cold, capable of taking down anyone on their day as Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham (twice) can all attest to, but then going eight games on the trot without a win, losing seven of those. The west Londoners are tremendous when they fancy turning up, but problems with consistency ultimately proved their Achilles heel.
We’ve seen that in their opening two matches, with the Bees having to come from behind to beat Leicester in their curtain raiser before absolutely trashing Man Utd. Man City await them in their final game before the autumnal pause for Qatar 2022, then it’s full steam ahead when club football returns, taking on Spurs on Boxing Day. Liverpool, West Ham, Spurs and City are their fixtures for May, so Frank will want to make sure there is no relegation dogfight next term when that month rolls around.
The Saints are a little like Brentford, able to look breathtaking on their day and execute pretty passing patterns that belies their position in the table, but a real lack of cutting edge in the final third, and at times a soft underbelly at the back exposes their flaws. Ralph Hasenhuttl didn’t get a moniker like the ‘Alpine Klopp’ for nothing, but he knows inconsistency issues could prove Southampton’s downfall.
The Saints travelled to Spurs on matchday one, and were routinely beaten 4-1, while they conclude August against Chelsea and take on Liverpool just before the World Cup. Hasenhuttl isn’t in for an easy ride. Brighton and Fulham, though, constitute ‘easier’ festive match-ups, but they finish the season very much as they will start it: against a ‘Big Six’ opponent. Only this time in Liverpool.
Could lightning strike twice? It was a gripping finale to the Premier League as Everton ultimately avoided the drop, but at one point they genuinely were teetering on the brink of crashing out of the top flight. Frank Lampard got the job done in the end and he will hope Everton have enough pulling power to bring in the requisite players to ensure the Toffees aren’t battling it out near the foot of the table yet again. Lampard isn’t in for an easy start, facing Arsenal and then Chelsea. The Toffees also take on City on New Year’s Eve and face Guardiola’s reigning champions in May.
And already fans are dreading a repeat of last season, with Everton losing their opening two matches against Chelsea and Aston Villa. It’s Nottingham Forest up next, before the Toffees close the month against Brentford and Leeds.