An Entertaining Season Ahead in the English Premier League
English Premier League Update
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.
Manchester City Crowned Champions of England
By Joe Myko ’19
On April 15, Manchester City officially won the 2017-2018 English Premier League title, coming after Manchester United’s 1-0 home loss to bottom-placed West Bromwich Albion that confirmed the title race was over mathematically. Ultimately, it was Jay Rodriquez’s deft header which would confirm City as champions; however, pundits and fans alike have been blown away by the unrelenting performances of Pep Guardiola’s side this season.
Multiple records have already been broken by this City side this season already, including a previously unprecedented 18 consecutive wins and beating each team in the league this season at least once. It has not just been the amount of games won that has impressed those watching City this season, but also the manner in which the wins have been obtained. They smashed the record for the highest amount of possession in a game with their match against Everton, retaining a ridiculous 82.13 percentage of the ball. They also broke the record for most passes successfully made with over 900 against Chelsea, last year’s champions.
Argentinian striker Sergio Agüero has been City’s top scorer in all competitions this season, having netted 30 goals with seven assists. English winger Raheem Sterling comes in second with 23 goals and nine assists, while Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus is in third with 15 goals and three assists. The 2017-2018 Professional Footballers’ Association Team of the Year awards was somewhat of a rout for City, with five players being named in the side: Agüero, Nicolas Otamendi, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, and Kyle Walker. German winger Leroy Sane also went home with the PFA Young Player of the Year award, after impressively bagging 13 goals and providing 14 assists within all competitions.
Liverpool’s Egyptian winger Mohamad Salah was recently awarded the highly-prestigious PFA Player of the Year award for 2017-2018, after impressively scoring 31 goals in 33 games in his first season back in the league, which appeared to leave somewhat of a sour taste in Guardialo’s mouth. Manchester City’s Belgian midfielder Kevin De Bruyne was a close second for the award, having scored eight, assisted 15 and created more chances (104) than any other this season – albeit from a slightly deeper position. Guardiola told BBC: “When you are analysing nine months or 10 months then there was no player better than him […] I am sorry, maybe with numbers, there are numbers guys better than him, but no player in this season with the team who wins [the title] five games before the end, and he was the best.”
Despite City’s resounding success in the league this season, it is likely that a manager as used to success as Guardiola, having spearheaded both Barcelona and Bayern Munich to many trophies in previous years, may be somewhat disappointed with how his side faired in cup competitions this year. City was knocked out of the Champions League quarterfinals by Liverpool and were also beaten by League One (third division) side Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup. However, they were successful in the Carabao Cup (also referred to as the League Cup) after beating Arsenal in the final.
Currently sitting on 90 points with four games yet to play, coming off the back of their recent demolition of Swansea City in a 5-0 home win, you would be brave to not back Manchester City to smash the record for most points ever obtained in a season–currently held by Jose Mourinho’s 2004-2005 Chelsea side, at 95.