Soccer

Teams to Watch in the 2021-22 Premier League Season

Chelsea favorites to win.

Despite Manchester City’s status as reigning EPL champions, Chelsea have to be considered favorites for the 2021-22 season. Fresh off a Champions League triumph, Thomas Tuchel’s side has only strengthened over the summer. During the first half of last season, (then-head coach) Frank Lampard leaned heavily on the youth players in Chelsea’s arsenal – Azpilicueta, Rudiger and Jorginho were all sidelined in favor of untested, but promising youngsters. The Chelsea legend was given time despite uninspiring results, as it seemed he had convinced the club’s hierarchy of the long-term merits of his plan. Eventually though, no amount of forward thinking was ever going to make up for poor results. When Tuchel took over, however, the German found a more sustainable combination of experience and potential. The one thing the side lacked was a central focal point up top. With the addition of Romelu Lukaku this summer – a striker at the peak of his powers – even the staunchest critic would find it difficult to identify a weak spot in the current Chelsea squad. 

Arsenal could rise again, or they could stumble and fall.

Of all the Premier League teams this season, Arsenal have the greatest uncertainty when it comes to where they might end up. Under the leadership of Mikel Arteta, Arsenal have struggled for consistency. His first foray into the world of a head coach has been a baptism of fire. Saddled with deadweight players on high wages, struck down with COVID early in the pandemic and forced to build a new club culture during a season with no fans in stadiums, the Spaniard has finally enjoyed a transfer window all his own. Granted, the market was depressed – but still, when the club spends in excess of $150 million on six first-team players, it’s clear that Arteta has been backed. Looking at the likely eleven starters in the Arsenal squad, there’s reason for optimism, too. There is a clear emphasis on youthful, energetic and progressive soccer. Unfortunately, many of Arteta’s favored players have been absent for the first three games of the season – three losses, with no goals scored and nine conceded – and patience among the fanbase is wearing thin. The Gunners need a run of good results quickly, otherwise Arteta may never have the luxury of time to see his grand plan through.

For Villa, can Buendia fill the Grealish void long-term?

Few clubs have been as synonymous with a player as Aston Villa was with Jack Grealish. But now that the giant-calved playmaker has been lured to the blue side of Manchester (for a record $138 million), what will become of the Villains? Thankfully for their fans, the club’s hierarchy seem to be adept at playing the transfer market and spotting good deals. Last season, they snapped up a brilliant striker in Ollie Watkins, and this summer, they seem to have done similarly good business, bringing in the Argentine phenom Emi Buendia from newly promoted Norwich City. In addition, the Birmingham side have added the experience of Danny Ings up top to supplement the talented Watkins. But still, Grealish left big cleats to fill. Only time will tell if Buendia and Ings can fill the void.

How long will Brentford’s energy last? 

Over the last several years, the English soccer world was always abuzz with rumblings about the potential of Brentford. Despite their status as a team in the Championship (second division of English soccer), the west London club were known for producing exciting soccer spectacles and developing future stars of the game – some of whom were inevitably spotted and recruited by Premier League clubs. Now that the club itself is in the big time, will they be able to maintain the same drive and verve that got them promoted? From early results, it seems like they’re undaunted by the spotlight – but let’s see how long the adrenaline lasts.  

Ronal-do or -don’t at Manchester United.

Two weeks ago, everyone thought that Cristiano Ronaldo was going to Manchester City. When it emerged that he was, in fact, returning to the club at which he rose to global fame, the stage was set for a “return of the King” storyline. However, in Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba, Manchester United seem to already have their fair share of alpha personalities. As fellow Portuguese players, there’s every possibility that Ronaldo and Fernandes simply translate their national team chemistry to the club arena. But there’s no denying the fact that Fernandes, Pogba and even recent arrival Raphael Varane will be supporting cast members to lead actor Ronaldo. If they find a way to complement one another, Manchester United fans could be in for a season reminiscent of the Fergie era. But if performances fail to live up to the hype, then fallen star Edinson Cavani will feel hard done by, not least because the newcomer stole his number.

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