There are multiple storylines to watch this season as some of the most historic clubs in the Premier League compete to qualify for European competition. The competition for the final Champions and Europa League qualifying places was one of the most dramatic parts of last year, and this season should be the same.
This is the fourth part in a five-part series previewing this year’s Premier League season. This part will take a look at Leicester City, West Ham United, Manchester United, and Arsenal.
Leicester City F.C.
Leicester City was one of the best stories in sports in 2015-16 when the club won the Premier League title against all expectations. Since then, the team has continued to have success, winning its first FA Cup in 2021.
Brendan Rodgers enters this season with a team that should be able to compete to return to European competition, which the team won’t participate in this year after finishing eighth in the Premier League last season.
However, the club has not been active in the transfer market this summer. The most notable move of the transfer window so far is goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel’s departure from the team. Schmeichel was key to the success of the team over the last several years, and was one of the main reasons the club has become one of the best in the Premier League.
Schmeichel may not be the only player that leaves the team this summer. James Maddison, Youri Tielemens, and several other key players may also join new teams before the end of the transfer window.
While the summer has been difficult so far for Rodgers and the team, Leicester City could still have a successful season. The club will benefit from playing fewer games this season, which should result in less rotation of players in the starting lineup, and very good players are still at the club.
Maddison and Tielemens, if one or both remain at Leicester, will be among the club’s most important players. Maddison scores incredible goals on a seemingly weekly basis and is key to the team’s offense. He, Tielemens, and Wilfred Ndidi help to form an incredibly solid midfield that has been a key reason for the team’s success over the past few seasons.
Wesley Fofana and Caglar Soyuncu help form a solid defensive foundation for the club, although Fofana is another player who could depart before the end of the transfer window.
Harvey Barnes, Jamie Vardy, Kelechi Ihenacho, and Patson Daka help form a good group of forwards, but the team is in need of a forward to play on the right wing. It is unclear if Leicester will be able to complete a signing of a forward before the end of the transfer window.
Rodgers and Leicester face an interesting season. The team has been one of the least active teams on the transfer market in Europe, but should still be in a position to have a good season, although more players could leave the team in the coming weeks.
West Ham United F.C.
West Ham United has been extremely successful under manager David Moyes. Last year saw the team finish seventh in the Premier League and qualify for the Europa Conference League; which built off of a seventh-placed finish the year prior and a sixth-placed finish in 2020-21.
The club has also contrasted with Leicester City in the transfer market. West Ham has completed four transfers with a total of $100.05 million in transfer fees, while five players have left the club due to retirement or their contracts expiring.
Gianluca Scamacca is one of the most important signings of the summer for West Ham, he joins the club from Sassuolo. The 23-year-old center-forward scored 16 goals in 36 games in Serie A last year and will be an important goal-scoring contributor for West Ham this season.
Another key signing is Nayef Aguerd, a center-back who joins the team from Stade Rennais. Aguerd should play an important role in West Ham’s defense this season alongside Kurt Zouma, although he is currently dealing with an injury.
Flynn Downes also begins his first season at West Ham this year. Downes is a midfielder who played for Swansea in the EFL Championship last year. Moving to the Premier League will require some adjustment, but Downes will probably steadily play more as the season goes on.
Goalkeeper Alphonse Areola also joined West Ham permanently after spending last season on loan with the club. Areola will compete with Lukasz Fabianski to start in goal for West Ham this season. If Fabianski remains the starting goalie, Areola should still become the starter in the future, as Fabianski will be 37 years old this year.
Perhaps most importantly for West Ham, Declan Rice appears to be staying at the club. Rice has emerged as one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League, with many of the league’s traditionally best teams interested in signing him. However, West Ham’s status as a team in European competition, and Rice’s contract, mean he will continue making key contributions to the team.
He, alongside Tomas Soucek, anchors a strong midfield that helps stabilize the rest of the team on the field. Jarrod Bowen, Said Benrahma, and Michail Antonio help to lead a group of excellent offensive players that helped the club score 60 goals in the Premier League last season; three more than Manchester United and one less than Arsenal.
West Ham United has had consistent success during the last few seasons and is well positioned heading into next year. The club should have a chance to win the Conference League and will be a favorite to contend to qualify for a European competition yet again.
Manchester United F.C.
It could be argued that Manchester United was one of the most disappointing teams in the Premier League last season, if not the most disappointing. The team finished second in the league behind rivals Manchester City in 2020-21, and led the league for parts of the season, but finished sixth last year despite being considered potential title contenders in the preseason.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer left the team in the middle of last season, and he was replaced by Ralf Rangnick, who was the club’s interim manager for the second half of the year. The club’s goal was to qualify for the Champions League, but Manchester United was ultimately unsuccessful in doing so.
As a result, Erik ten Hag’s first season at Manchester United will be spent in the Europa League and competing to finish in a Champions League qualification place in the Premier League. Ten Hag had extensive success as manager of Ajax, where he reached the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2019 and won the Eredivisie three times.
The priority of this summer’s transfer window for Manchester United has been signing Frenkie de Jong, although they have yet to complete the signing, and there is a strong possibility De Jong will remain at Barcelona. However, the club has had success in signing other players.
Lisandro Martinez has been the most important signing of the summer so far for the club. Martinez spent the last few seasons at Ajax, where he played for Ten Hag, and can play both at center-back and in defensive midfield.
Tyrell Malacia, who also played in the Eredivisie last season at Feyenoord, will be another important signing for the club’s defense. Malacia will compete with Luke Shaw to start at left-back for Ten Hag, and he may be the starter at the position to begin the season.
The most significant addition to Manchester United’s offense this summer has been Christian Eriksen, who signed with the team after his contract with Brentford expired. Eriksen will give Ten Hag more opportunities to rest Bruno Fernandes, and Eriksen’s versatility will allow Ten Hag to adapt his midfield system and roles, something he frequently did at Ajax.
However, the departures from Manchester United have also been significant. Paul Pogba, whose contract expired this summer, joined Juventus. While Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata, and Edinson Cavani all left the club this summer after their contracts expired. The biggest storyline, however, is the potential departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, who wants to leave the club this summer.
Manchester United’s biggest questions are in midfield and defense. Harry Maguire, the club’s captain, did not perform as well as expected last season, while Raphael Varane, who joined the club last year, has dealt with frequent injuries during his Manchester United career so far. Malacia and Shaw are still competing to determine who will start at left-back, while Ten Hag still wants to add another right-back to compete with Diogo Dalot, who will likely begin the season as the starter, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
In the midfield, Donny van de Beek will likely have an increased role, especially if the club signs De Jong, one of his former teammates at Ajax. Scott McTominay and Fred will both continue to play in the midfield, and Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen will provide added options as attacking or central midfielders. It isn’t yet clear how Ten Hag will organize his midfield, Eriksen and Fernandes can both play in a wide variety of roles, as can Van de Beek, and Fred also has versatility as a central or defensive midfielder.
Forward may be the position where the team has the least depth, especially if Ronaldo departs. Anthony Martial is set to begin the season as a key forward after returning from a loan at Sevilla. Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Anthony Elanga will all play often, but Sancho and Rashford didn’t have the season they were expecting last year, and Elanga has only played 23 Premier League games.
Manchester United could compete to make the Champions League this season, and Ten Hag will almost certainly help the team improve. However, the club still needs to add depth to its group of players and will need to improve in every area of the pitch this season.
Mikel Arteta has steadily rebuilt Arsenal over the last few seasons, and it almost culminated in qualification for the Champions League last year. However, Arsenal ultimately finished the season in fifth, two points behind rivals Tottenham for fourth place.
While the team hasn’t yet returned to the Champions League, it will enter next year with a significantly improved squad. This year, Arsenal will be one of the favorites to finish in a top-four position.
Gabriel Jesus is the most significant player to have signed with Arsenal so far this summer. Jesus spent the last several years at Manchester City, where he scored 58 goals in more than 150 Premier League games. Arsenal needed to improve at center-forward, and Jesus should help them accomplish that goal.
Attacking midfielder Fabio Vieira also joins the team this summer from FC Porto. Vieira can play as a midfielder, or as a forward on both the left and right sides. He will add important depth for Arsenal at all of those positions, and, at just 22, adds to a talented group of young players on the team.
Left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko, who also joins the team from Manchester City, should help the team improve in defense. Arsenal allowed 48 goals last season, eight more than Tottenham, their closest rivals in the competition to finish within the top four.
American goalkeeper Matt Turner will provide important depth behind Aaron Ramsdale. Ramsdale is already established as Arsenal’s starting goalie, but Turner will hope to compete for that role this season.
In addition, Marquinhos, a 19-year-old forward, signed with the team this summer. He could join another team on loan this summer, or continue to develop and gain more playing time at Arsenal during the course of the season.
Heading into next year, Arteta could be set to have his best season so far at Arsenal. The club has several incredibly talented young players, including Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli, Emile Smith Rowe, Vieira, and several others.
Last season was incredibly encouraging for Arsenal, and this year it is time for the club to take another step forward. They will have a very good chance to finish in the top four this season.