And the 2022-23 Premier League team preview train keeps rolling. Right now, we’re pulling into European Outsider Station, where you’ll find the clubs that have a shot to crack the European places. I don’t think any of them have the horses to get into the Top 6 themselves. They aren’t quite good enough, at least not compared to the clubs ahead of them.
As we’ve recently seen, with a strong season and down years at a few of the Big Six, a club like West Ham can make the Europa League. But that’s the rub, these clubs need help to make the Europa or Champions League.
One should get the Conference League spot, provided nothing too wonky happens. Does that competition even count? He says before Arsenal finish a disappointing 7th and find themselves in it next season — just trying to cover my karmic bases here.
Key Players: Wesley Fofana (CB), James Maddison (AM), Harvey Barnes (LM), Jamie Vardy (CF)
Losses: Kasper Schmeichel (GK)
Projected Finish: 9th
Why it could be their year: They’re not in a European competition. Leicester have a thin squad, and they’ve shown a tendency to fall apart in the back half of the season. A large part of that is injuries and fatigue. With fewer games on the schedule, they might be able to keep key players fit, rested, and available for the business end of the Premier League season.
Why it might not be their year: They haven’t done much to improve their squad, and everybody around them in the table has. With Youri Tielemans likely out the door before the close of the transfer window, they have to bring in reinforcements. Thus far, there isn’t much talk of potential incomings.
They’re also heavily reliant on Jamie Vardy, a 35 year old who is picking up injuries and knocks increasingly frequently, to carry their scoring load. That’s not a recipe for success.
Leicester have the most potential to see the bottom fall out of any team in this group or the previous one. They’ve got enough talent, but they are trending in the wrong direction over the last season or two. They could legitimately finish anywhere from 5th or 6th to 14th.
Key Players: Nick Pope (GK), Kieran Trippier (RB), Bruno Guimaraes (CDM), Allan Saint-Maximin (LW)
Additions: Sven Botman (CB), Matt Targett (LB), Nick Pope (GK)
Losses: Dwight Gayle (CF), Isaac Hayden (DM), Ciaran Clark (CB)
Projected Finish: 8th
Why it could be their year: From something like February on, they were the 3rd best team in the Premier League behind only Liverpool and Manchester City. Eddie Howe had them playing a solid, structured game. Solid at the back, strong in the midfield, with just enough scoring pop. That’s a formula that will earn you plenty of points.
Why it might not be their year: When I look at their roster, I don’t see many stars. Allan Saint-Maximin is their only game-changing player. They’ve got a solid bunch of good players, don’t get me wrong. But it’s giving West Ham under David Moyes the last few seasons vibes. A 5th place finish seems like the ceiling. If they really want to push up the table, they’re going to need more impact players.
Key Players: Declan Rice (CDM), Tomas Soucek (CM), Gianluca Scamacca (CF), Jarrod Bowen (RW)
Additions: Gianluca Scamacca (CF), Nayef Ageurd (CB), Flynn Downes (CM), Alphonse Areola (GK)
Losses: Andriy Yarmolenko (RW), Ryan Fredericks (RB), Arthur Masuaku (LB), Mark Noble (CM)
Projected Finish: 7th
Why it could be their year: We’ve seen this bunch do it before. The best indicator of future behavior is past performance. Gianluca Scamacca had a fantastic season in Italy and should provide the Hammers with a scoring boost. An additional goal here and there might turn losses into draws and draws into wins. That’s how you move up the table.
Why it might not be their year: West Ham are solid but not spectacular. There isn’t much exciting about them or the way they play. The Top Six looks to be strong this year, and I think it’s going to take more than “consistently good” to crack it. I think you’re going to need to be great, and West Ham just aren’t. Another club or two that I’ve projected to finish behind them are going to have surprisingly good seasons, and all of a sudden West Ham are sitting in 8th or 9th place come March. Can’t you see that happening?