Leo Hainline ’22
The 2021/22 English Premier League season is off to a competitive start and is shaping into one of the most intriguing title races in recent years. There are four clubs that could be argued as title contenders: Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Manchester City. Each has made improvements to their squads during the summer and currently hold four of the top five spots in the EPL table.
Chelsea look poised for a run at the Premier League title, especially after signing striker Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan for $135 million. The Belgian goalscorer is making his return to Stamford Bridge after starting his time in English football playing for the Blues back in 2011. Lukaku was a key factor in Inter Milan’s success the previous season, winning Serie A and ending Juventus’ dominant streak of nine consecutive league titles. His game matured during his two-year stint in Italy, and he returns to English football as an established world-class talent. Lukaku has scored three goals in four Premier League matches this season.
The Blues are also coming off a successful 2020/21 season as they claimed their second ever Champions League title. Manager Thomas Tuchel, who took over for Chelsea-playing legend Frank Lampard midway through the season, deserves much credit for their recent triumphs. He turned a talented but inconsistent Chelsea roster into a dominant force that can consistently compete with Europe’s best.
Chelsea sits at the top of the Premier League table with Liverpool and Manchester United, each winning four and drawing one through five matches. Liverpool and Chelsea drew against each other on Matchday 3 in a highly entertaining 1-1 draw that saw Chelsea hold on against a relentless Liverpool attack after going down to 10 men in the first half. Liverpool added depth to their defense by adding Red Bull Leipzig’s Ibrahima Konate, but unlike the other title contenders, decided not to sign any player that would notably alter their starting XI. The team is fairly similar to their 2018/19 Champions League winning squad and the one they fielded during their 2019/20 record breaking season. They will continue to rely on Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to create scoring chances and Dutch center-back Virgil van Dijk to lead the defense.
Manchester United, on the other hand, added to their squad multiple world-class players whom they will rely on to bring glory back to Old Trafford. Of course, Cristiano Ronaldo headlines this list. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who established himself among the footballing greats at Manchester United from 2003-2009, has already asserted his presence since arriving from Italian club Juventus, scoring four goals in his first three matches. He is also reunited with former teammate Raphael Varane, who the Red Devils also acquired this summer. Varane and Ronaldo won four Champions League trophies at Real Madrid and will hope to claim more silverware together soon.
United also signed 21-year-old English winger Jadon Sancho from German club Borussia Dortmund. Sancho returns to Manchester having played his youth career for rivals Manchester City. Despite his $100-million price tag, Sancho may not establish himself as a consistent starter in manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s starting XI, as the Red Devils have arguably the deepest squad in the Premier League. They have backups in every position that would start on nearly any other team in England’s top flight.
Manchester City round out the title contenders. The defending champions made headlines this offseason in their pursuit of Englishmen Harry Kane and Jack Grealish. They were only able to acquire the latter, signing the Aston Villa winger for $139 million. Kane, who plays for Tottenham and captains England, would have been an even heftier price tag. City decided against matching Tottenham’s asking price, leaving a void in their attack after the departure of club-legend Sergio Aguero and lack of an elite no. 9 on their roster. This weakness proved to be detrimental earlier in the season, with City losing to Tottenham 1-0 and dropping points at home to Southampton in a 0-0 draw. However, they are only three points back from the league leaders, and manager Pep Guardiola is an established winner who can get the most out of his players, expecting nothing less than another trophy.
Simply put, this will be the most entertaining EPL season in years. The number of legitimate title contenders and pure talent influx into the league this offseason has already made for must-watch entertainment, and the stakes will only get higher as the season persists into its later stages.