We’re a matter of days away from the launch of the 2021/22 English Premier League (EPL) campaign. Attentions have already diverted away from the EURO 2020 finals and the disappointment of England’s loss to Italy at Wembley, with many pundits and analysts trying to ascertain which team stands the best chance of domestic dominance this season.
Although Manchester City regained the EPL title in 2020/21, displacing Liverpool after their inaugural EPL championship, it’s fair to say this coming season is wide open. There are no less than four teams with genuine title aspirations in 2021/22, whose squad strengthening and team news you can read up on in our season preview below.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City showed tremendous resilience to bounce back from the disappointment of missing out on the 2019/20 EPL title win last season. After the euphoria of winning the 2020/21 title, Guardiola is going back to the drawing board to rebuild key parts of his squad after big-name departures this summer. Long-serving star striker Sergio Aguero has left the Etihad Stadium to finish his career with La Liga giants Barcelona.
City and Guardiola are keen to make at least one big-name signing this summer, with Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish both in sight. The latter looks more likely to happen, with the 25-year-old having achieved all he can with Dean Smith and Villa, and a new challenge at the top end of the table likely to whet the appetite.
Liverpool fans were disappointed to see their side fail to muster any kind of challenge to retain their EPL crown in 2020/21. Jurgen Klopp’s Reds were well off the pace at times last term, although crucial injuries in key areas – particularly in central defence – also cost Liverpool dear. It’s safe to say that Klopp’s Gegenpressing style at Anfield was far from conducive to the congested 2020/21 EPL fixture calendar. Academic studies involving UK and German universities recently found that high-intensity movements among EPL stars were immeasurably down when players have less than four days to recover between games.
However, Liverpool’s star centre back Virgil van Dijk is back and raring to go, much to the relief of the Anfield faithful. The likes of attack-minded full back Trent Alexander-Arnold struggled to match the intensity of 2019/20 last season. Yet the club have shown their faith and offered him a new long-term contract, as Klopp looks to remould the team to go again for another bold title bid.
The 2021/22 EPL campaign could be a great opportunity for Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to make their mark. The Red Devils have been slated for several years for a scattergun approach to their recruitment, but in the last 12 months it seems Solskjaer and United are finally starting to aim high and behave like a big club in the market. French international defender Raphael Varane is joining from European rivals Real Madrid to strengthen the central defensive region, alongside skipper Harry Maguire. In addition, Jadon Sancho signed a five-year contract to join from Borussia Dortmund to strengthen United’s forward line.
Solskjaer is still keen to complete additional business, with English full back Kieran Trippier keen on a switch from 2020/21 La Liga champions Atletico Madrid to Old Trafford. Recent additions like Bruno Fernandes will also be better for getting a season of English football under his belt.
Chelsea’s 2020/21 season ended with domestic disappointment but European elation, with Thomas Tuchel’s men becoming Champions League winners once again. The West London outfit stunned Manchester City to win their second Champions League trophy and bag Tuchel a contract extension. It will be interesting to see how the likes of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz take to the EPL this term, having struggled to make an impact in their first season in English football.
At the top of Tuchel’s priority list is to sign a new number nine. Chelsea appear keen to re-sign Belgian international Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan in this summer’s transfer window, with Inter open to selling to ease their troubled finances.
Other notable teams in and around the top four include Arsenal, who have invested heavily in England defender Ben White this summer. Meanwhile Leicester City, under Brendan Rodgers, will continue to upset the EPL applecart.