Several teams were involved in the relegation battle last season. Leeds United managed to avoid relegation on the final day, while Everton and Southampton finished four and five points away from relegation, respectively.
This is the second part of a five-part series previewing the Premier League season. This article will cover Everton and Southampton, along with Aston Villa and Brentford.
Everton is traditionally one of the best teams in the Premier League, but last year saw the club almost relegated to the EFL Championship. The club has not finished better than 10th in the league since 2019.
Frank Lampard became the manager of Everton in January of last year as the team attempted to avoid relegation. He was successful, as the club finished 16th.
This summer Everton’s biggest transfer news has been the departure of Richarlison. The 25-year-old forward departed the club for Tottenham after 135 Premier League games and 48 goals at Everton.
As far as players who have joined Everton, Dwight McNeil joins the team from Burnley this summer. McNeil has played in 134 Premier League games despite being just 22 years old. He has scored seven goals in his Premier League career, and will help add depth at the forward positions after the departure of Richarlison.
James Tarkowski, McNeil’s former teammate at Burnley, signed with Everton as a free agent earlier this summer. Tarkowski will help improve the club’s defense, which allowed the fifth most goals in the league last season.
Everton’s defense will also improve with the addition of Ruben Vinagre, who joins the team on a one-year loan from Sporting. Vinagre has Premier League experience from his time at Wolverhampton, but he has spent most of the last two seasons in other leagues.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin will be one of Everton’s most important players this season, especially after Richarlison’s move to Tottenham. Demarai Gray, who had a solid first season at Everton last year, will also be an important part of the club’s offense this season.
Everton scored 43 goals last year, which they will hope to improve this season, but the main focus will be on defense. Jordan Pickford remains Everton’s goalie and will be an important part of Lampard’s plan to improve the team defensively, while Tarkowski and Vinagre will provide important depth.
While Everton has only made three signings this summer, the team will hope to avoid relegation this year. Lampard will have the benefit of a full preseason heading into his first full season as the manager.
Like Everton, Southampton was nearly relegated last season. The team finished in 15th place, five points ahead of 18th placed Burnley.
Unlike Everton, though, Southampton has spent $62.04 million on transfer signings this summer. The club will hope that results in them avoiding the relegation battle in the second half of the season after finishing 15th in each of the last two seasons.
Gavin Bazunu could be the most important signing for the club. He could be the team’s starting goalie this season and joins Southampton from Manchester City. He has spent the last two seasons on loan in EFL League One before joining Southampton. The team also signed 25-year-old free agent goalkeeper Mateusz Lis, who spent last season at Altay S.K. in Turkey, and he will provide added depth at goalkeeper this season.
Southampton signed another Manchester City player when Romeo Lavia joined the team this summer. Lavia, who is 18 years old, played for Manchester City in both the FA Cup and the EFL Cup last year, but he hasn’t yet made his Premier League debut.
19-year-old forward Sekou Mara is another key new player for Southampton. He spent the last two seasons at Bordeaux in France, where he scored seven goals in 34 games in Ligue 1. Mara has incredible potential to develop into an excellent forward.
Center-back Armel Bella-Kotchap has also joined Southampton. Bella-Kotchap spent the last few seasons at VfL Bochum, and played in 22 Bundesliga games last season after the team was promoted from the 2. Bundesliga.
Another of Southampton’s major transfers of the summer was the signing of Joe Aribo from Rangers. Aribo can play in the midfield and as a forward. He scored nine goals and had 10 assists in all competitions for Rangers last season, and his ability to play multiple positions will benefit Southampton.
As has been the case over the last few seasons, Southampton’s most important player next year will be midfielder James Ward-Prowse. Ward-Prowse has been incredible during his Southampton career, and scored 10 goals and assisted five times last season. He will also hope to be a member of England’s squad at this year’s World Cup.
Center-forward Che Adams will be another key player for Southampton this season. Adams scored seven goals in 30 games last season. He and Adam Armstrong will hope to provide the scoring for Southampton this season.
While the last two seasons have seen Southampton finish 15th, the team will hope to finish in a better position this season after multiple signings in the summer transfer window.
Steven Gerrard followed Dean Smith as manager of Aston Villa in November of last year. Villa finished 14th last season, and was 10 points clear of relegation.
Similar to Southampton, Aston Villa has spent more than $60 million on transfers this summer, but the two clubs’ strategies have been different. While Southampton’s transfers were all agreed to for a similar transfer fee, Aston Villa’s transfer fee costs have been focused on certain players.
One of the most notable transfers for Aston Villa this summer is their agreement to permanently sign Philippe Coutinho for a $22 million transfer fee. Coutinho spent the second half of last season on loan at the club. He scored five goals in 19 Premier League appearances for Aston Villa last year, and he will be an important player in their midfield this season.
Aston Villa also signed Diego Carlos this summer, with a transfer fee reportedly worth $34.1 million. Between Carlos and Coutinho, $56.1 million of the $60.5 million spent by the club this summer was on the transfer fees for the two players. Carlos made 102 appearances for Sevilla last season, and will significantly improve Aston Villa’s defense after the team allowed 54 goals last year.
Goalkeeper Robin Olsen also joined the team permanently from AS Roma in Italy this summer. Like Coutinho, Olsen spent the second half of last season at Aston Villa, and he was the team’s backup goalie.
22-year-old defensive midfielder Boubacar Kamara signed with the team this summer after his contract with Marseille expired. Kamara played 129 Ligue 1 games in his career in France, and was an excellent signing for Aston Villa.
Left-back Ludwig Augustinsson is also set for his first season in the Premier League after Aston Villa agreed to a one-year loan deal with Sevilla. He has played in both the Bundesliga and La Liga, and will provide valuable experience and depth for Aston Villa this season.
While two of Aston Villa’s major transfer moves this summer were making the signings of Coutinho and Olsen permanent, the team is still well positioned ahead of next season. Kamara, Coutinho, Douglas Luiz, John McGinn, and others form a very solid midfield for the team.
Ollie Watkins, who played well last season as he scored 11 goals, will help lead a good group of forwards that includes Leon Bailey and Emiliano Buendia. Carlos will help in defense alongside Tyrone Mings, Lucas Digne, Augustinsson, and Matty Cash.
Aston Villa may not finish in the top half of the table this season, but the team should improve. Gerrard will also benefit from a full preseason to work with the team ahead of the season.
Brentford has one of the most unique approaches to the transfer market in international soccer, often applying analytics to determine which players they want to sign. The strategy has been successful, as the team finished 13th in their first season back in the Premier League.
The club has only made four signings this summer, and Christian Eriksen, who spent the second half of the season with the team last year, signed with Manchester United after his contract expired at the start of the summer.
Keane Lewis-Potter signed with Brentford this summer after beginning his career at Hull City. Lewis-Potter scored 12 goals in the EFL Championship last season to go along with three assists, and at just 21 years old, he will be able to continue to develop in the Premier League.
Left-back Aaron Hickey joins Brentford after playing for Bologna in Italy during the last two seasons. Hickey made 47 appearances in Serie A during his time in Italy and will help Brentford’s defense as they hope to move up the table. Last season, Brentford allowed 56 goals, more than all but three teams ahead of them and Aston Villa and Burnley, the latter of which was relegated, behind them.
In addition to Hickey, the club further improved its defense with the signing of Ben Mee. Mee signed with the team after his contract with Burnley expired after last season. Mee has extensive Premier League experience, with more than 200 games in the league during his career.
Goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha signed with the team as a free agent after his contract with Lazio expired. Strakosha will compete with David Raya to be the starting goalkeeper. Raya dealt with injuries last season but spent the last few months of the season as Brentford’s starter at the position.
Center-forward Ivan Toney will help lead Brentford yet again this season after scoring 12 goals last year. He along with Bryan Mbeumo, Lewis-Potter, Sergi Canos, and others will hope to improve upon the 48 goals the team scored last season.
Brentford should be improved this season. With Mee and Hickey joining players such as Rico Henry and Ethan Pinnock in defense. Lewis-Potter will develop alongside a good group of forwards, and the team should have two excellent goalkeepers in Raya and Strakosha.
Overall, last season was very impressive as Brentford returned to the Premier League. This year, the club will hope to take another step forward.