The Premier League big six was back on top in 2021/22, with all the clubs occupying the top six spots in the division.
This restoration of order came after two straight years of Leicester crashing their top six party. So now we are forced to contend with the question: who has the best chance of breaking the big six’s hold on the top six for the 2022/23 season?
Manchester City and Liverpool to be an unassailable front two, but each of the other four members of the big six have weaknesses.
Things could change over the summer, of course, but for now Chelsea have no defence and no striker. Arsenal are still a very young side even if they snag all their transfer targets, to say nothing of how Mikel Arteta will cope with having to play every three days instead of even seven.
Spurs look like a monstrous side in the making but Antonio Conte has always had incredible difficulty juggling a league and European campaign simultaneously and who knows if he just gets mad and quits.
Then there’s Manchester United, who need to earn the right to be taken seriously again.
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It only takes one of those four clubs to have a bad year to let someone in, but someone has to play well enough to penetrate their position atop the table. Who could do it? We’ve had a look and come up with a list:
Newcastle (15/8 with Sky Bet)
- 2021/22 position and points: 11th (49)
- Goals scored: 44
- Goals conceded: 62
Theoretically one of the wealthiest clubs in the world, the expectation is that Newcastle will break into the top six at some point and will do so with such might and authority it’ll have to go from big six to big seven.
However, is that seismic shift going to happen this season? There’s certainly a chance, but it feels like PIF are taking things slower in terms of their investments. Newcastle have signed Sven Botman, a canny move to help them advance, but not the kind of bold, game-changing signing that would catapault the Magpies into that top six.
Newcastle’s other transfer business (Nick Pope and Matt Targett) feel like the kind of sustainable squad building that will leave Eddie Howe’s men firmly in mid-table at the very least and with a little bit of luck, up in seventh spot with a chance to play in Europe.
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West Ham (9/2 with Sky Bet)
- 2021/22 position and points: 7th (56)
- Goals scored: 60
- Goals conceded: 51
For a substantial part of last season the Hammers looked like they were going to gatecrash not just the big six but even the top four Champions League spots, ending 14 gameweeks as one of the four highest-placed sides in England.
In the end, of course, that didn’t happen. Injuries in attack disrupted their form and they began to slide, first out of the top four and then the top six in general. They ended the season in seventh, clinching a Europa Conference League play-off spot.
David Moyes will have his men back on track to try again in 2022/23, but unless they manage to sign a striker in the summer it’s unlikely that they will have the firepower necessary to keep them in the hunt over the long season.
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Leicester (5/1 with Sky Bet)
- 2021/22 position and points: 8th (52)
- Goals scored: 62
- Goals conceded: 59
As the last team to smash the big six apart, Leicester have to be mentioned here despite really suffering through 2021/22. Injuries and the now terminal decline of Jamie Vardy really made life tough for Brendan Rodgers’ men last seasonas they scraped their way to 8th.
It’s unlikely they will have so much injury woe this coming season, however. And if they can find the courage to move past Vardy and use Patson Daka as their primary striker, then the Foxes could be in the hunt again. The rest of the squad, when healthy, is seriously impressive and Youri Tielemans’ struggles may be a blessing for the side as he has played himself out of a big move that seemed inevitable.
They could probably do with signing a centre-back, but their squad is quality.
|Summer transfer odds 22/23: To sign for before 3rd September||Sky Bet|
|Cristiano Ronaldo to Atletico Madrid||8/1|
|Antony to Man Utd||4/7|
|Lucas Paqueta to Newcastle||13/8|
|Frenkie de Jong to Man Utd||6/4|
|Timo Werner to Juventus||1/1|
|Denzel Dumfries to Chelsea||5/2|
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Aston Villa (5/1 with Sky Bet)
- 2021/22 position and points: 14th (45)
- Goals scored: 52
- Goals conceded: 54
It’s quietly remarkable the progress Aston Villa made under Steven Gerrard. Results picked up massively, and performances improved too. Most importantly, the club appears committed to moving forward.
The Villains did some solid work in the transfer market and they did it very early as well. They have bolstered their squad (which already contained the phenomenal Copa America-winning Emi Martinez), added quality starters, and there’s scope for them to do more as well.
Gerrard appears to be a coach of tremendous nous and Aston Villa making a big jump up from their 14th place finish in 2021/22 seems likely. Will it be a jump all the way into the top six? Only time will tell, but if you’ve watched any English football this century you’ll know that ruling Steven Gerrard out from doing the impossible nearly always backfires on you.