Our Premier League 2022-23 team preview series continues with the clubs I think will finish 14th-10th. They’re not all that exciting but should be solidly good enough to avoid any real danger of relegation and maybe take some points off the top teams here and there.
Key Players: Ben Mee (CB), Bryan Mbeumo (AM), Ivan Toney (CF)
Additions: Keane Lewis-Potter (LW), Aaron Hickey (LB), Thomas Strakosha (GK), Ben Mee (CB)
Losses: Marcus Forss (CF), Christian Eriksen (CM), Dominic Thompson (LB)
Predicted finish: 14th
Why it could be their year: Brentford’s press can cause problems for anybody on their day, even top teams, and the less skilled on the ball an opponent’s defenders are, the more the Bees thrive. Thomas Frank is a good manager and has his team playing well-organized, disciplined football. That alone will get you pretty far in the Premier League.
Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo have a strong attacking partnership. They play well together and attack quickly off turnovers. If they both hit an extended run of form, they could fire the Bees towards the top half of the table.
Why it might not be their year: There’s been a recent trend among Premier League teams who stay up after promotion — they really struggle in their second year, see e.g. Sheffield United, Leeds United. Apart from maybe Ivan Toney, Brentford don’t really have any star players or top tier talent. You need game-changers to be really be successful in the Premier League. Good team play can only get you so far, see e.g. Wolves last season.
Their attack will feel the loss of Christian Eriksen. I think he masked a decent amount of creative deficiencies in Brentford’s attack, and without him, they will struggle to create chances in the run of play and be mostly dependent on scoring on the break and press-forced turnovers.
That said, I think they play good enough football with enough structure to keep themselves out of the relegation zone this season. But they could very easily have a disappointing campaign in comparison with their solid, impressive first season back in the top flight.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Key Players: Marc Cucurella (LB), Adam Lallana (CM), Neal Maupay (CF)
Additions: Julio Enciso (CF), Simon Adingra (LW)
Losses: Yves Bissouma (CDM), Leo Ostigard (CB)
Predicted Finish: 13th
Why it could be their year: Graham Potter is a great manager and the advanced stats love his teams. Maybe this year they turn more of those expected goals into more actual goals and rack up some more wins. Their aim will definitely be another top half finish, but I think they’re going to fall short of that this season.
Why it might not be their year: They lost their best player (Yves Bissouma) and look set to lose their second best (Marc Cucurella). It’s difficult to replace that kind of quality, and they haven’t really brought anybody in to do so. Nor have they brought in any established names to turn those aforementioned expected goals into actual goals. You can create all the chances you want, but if you don’t score, you aren’t going to win.
Key Players: Conor Coady (CB), Ruben Neves (CDM), Pedro Neto (LW), Adama Traore (RW), Raul Jimenez (CF)
Additions: Nathan Collins (CB), Hee-chan Hwang (CF, permanent after loan)
Losses: Romain Saiss (CB), Ruben Vinagre (LB), Marcal (LB), Fabio Silva (CF, loan out)
Predicted finish: 12th
Why it could be their year: Wolves are a strange team. They had a fantastic defensive record last season, the 5th best in the Premier League and the best outside of the Top 4 finishers. They also had the worst attacking output of any non-relegated team. If they can maintain their defensive solidity and find some scoring, watch out. They could put themselves right back in the conversation for a European finish.
Much of that rests on Raul Jimenez rediscovering his scoring form. In his first two seasons in the Premier League, he scored 13 and 17 goals. Last season, he managed just 6 in 34 appearances as he returned from that nasty head injury suffered in a collision with Arsenal’s David Luiz. Jimenez will start the season on the injured list as will several other important players for Wolves. Injuries were partly to blame for their disappointing year last year. If they stay healthy, they could be more of a threat.
Why it might not be their year: I’m not the biggest fan of Bruno Lage’s tactics. He wants to take the air out of matches and win them 1-0. That doesn’t leave much room for error, especially when you struggle to score goals as a team.
There is also the possibility that they struggle to stay healthy again this year. The season looks to be starting out that way for them. Ultimately, I think they’ve got enough talent that they aren’t in danger of relegation.
Key Players: Wilfred Zaha (LW), Michael Olise (CM), Eberechi Eze (CM), Odsonne Édouard (CF), Jean-Philippe Mateta (CF)
Additions: Cheick Doucoure (CDM), Chris Richards (CB), Sam Johnston (GK)
Losses: Conor Gallagher (CM, end of loan)
Predicted finish: 11th
Why it could be their year: Patrick Vieira is a good manager. Wilf Zaha is a game-changer. They’ve got talented attackers like Odsonne Édouard and Jean-Philippe Mateta who could take the next step this year. Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze are exciting, young midfielders who could breakout. Crystal Palace have potential, they’ve just got to live up to / grow into it.
Why it might not be their year: They’ve got a Conor Gallagher sized hole in the middle of their midfield, and they may not have the players capable and ready to fill that void. Even though they’ve got midfielders I like, I don’t know that any of them can do all the things Gallagher did.
Their defense, however, relies more on overall team structure than it does on individual defensive talent, and that worries me. When things break down, I’m not confident in any of their defenders to make that goal-saving play.
Key Players: Emi Martinez (GK), Tyrone Mings (CB), Emi Buendia (RW), Ollie Watkins (CF), Danny Ings (CF)
Additions: Diego Carlos (CB), Philippe Coutinho (CM, permanent after loan), Robin Olsen (GK, permanent after loan), Ludwig Augustinsson (LB), Boubacar Kamara (CDM)
Losses: Carney Chukwuemeka (CM), Matt Targett (LB), Trezeguet (LW), Lovre Kalinic (GK), Conor Hourihane (CM)
Predicted finish: 10th
Why it could be their year: Villa have plenty of talent on their roster. If Steven Gerrard can figure out the right combinations, they’re a team that can make some waves. He certainly seemed to press the right buttons last year, taking the club from genuinely relegation-threatened under Dean Smith to comfortable safety.
They’ve got scoring from Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings, creativity from Emi Buendia, Philippe Coutinho, defensive steel in Douglas Luiz and Tyrone Mings, and young talent in Jacob Ramsey. As Gooners know, they’ve also got a solid goalkeeper in Emi Martinez, who’d be even better if Arsenal had just given him more chances. ***wink***
Why it might not be their year: They don’t have much quality depth on the roster other than in attacking positions. That’s not great. Injuries to and / or poor form from a couple key players in the back half of the formation could be curtains for their chances of pushing higher up the table.
And while I like some of their players, who do they have who would play meaningful minutes for teams higher up the table? Like, they’re fine guys who can do some stuff, but how good are they, really? For me, they are about as mid-table as mid-table can be.