Premier League: The Big Interview with Rafa BenitezFeb 2
Alvarez to outscore Haaland and Forest for Europe: Our controversial predictions for the Premier League season
With days to go until a truly unique Premier League season gets underway, we’ve made eight big calls ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.
Big things are expected of Man City new boy Erling Haaland - but will he deliver?
The Premier League returns on Friday and we’ve looked into our crystal ball to make our customary bold predictions ahead of the new season.
The 2022-23 campaign promises to be the most unique in the competition’s history with the league taking a mid-season break because of the winter World Cup in Qatar.
In a major milestone, the Premier League also turns 30 this year and BT Sport will, once again, be with you every step of the way, bringing you 52 games exclusively live from a historic season.
Alvarez to outscore Haaland
This one goes against the grain a bit, but bear with us.
The arrival of Nordic goal-machine Erling Haaland is arguably the biggest signing in Man City's history – but players rarely hit the ground running in the Premier League (unless your name is Luis Diaz).
No player has ever won the Golden Boot in their first season and, as Jack Grealish’s struggles showed last term, it takes time to adjust to Pep Guardiola’s system - and the Catalan does not do sentimentality.
Haaland's Community Shield debut was underwhelming to say the least and adapting to City’s precise, possession-based build-up could be difficult for a striker more used to playing on the counter.
Then there's his injury record. Since 2018, Haaland has spent a combined total of 208 days on the treatment table, with 95 of those coming last season.
In 22-year-old Julian Alvarez, City have more of a like-for-like replacement for Sergio Aguero.
The diminutive Argentinian stole the Norwegian's limelight by scoring on debut in the Community Shield and, with all the fanfare surrounding Haaland, he will be champing at the bit to prove he can be City’s main man.
It’s not inconceivable to foresee a scenario where Haaland makes a slow start, allowing Alvarez more game time as this season sees the return of five substitutions per game.
Cue Haaland smashing the single-season record for Premier League goals!
Chelsea to miss out on top four
Chelsea fans can be forgiven for feeling concerned after a tough US tour and Thomas Tuchel’s warning that he could not guarantee his team would be ready for the new season.
The German is cutting an increasingly exasperated figure and he questioned his side’s commitment after a shock 4-0 defeat to rivals Arsenal in Orlando.
“It was not our strongest line-up, and this is part of an explanation but only a little part,” he said. “The other part is worrying. I cannot guarantee [we will be ready for next season].”
He also said he was in “urgent” need of quality players after a tumultuous summer at Stamford Bridge.
They have brought in Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly and have returning loanees Conor Gallagher and Armando Broja at their disposal, but the squad is arguably weaker than last season.
The Blues look short in defence after the departures of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen and are without Romelu Lukaku who has returned to Inter on loan.
The Belgian failed to live up to expectations last season, but his departure leaves Kai Havertz and Timo Werner to shoulder the goal-scoring responsibilities. The German duo scored 25 between them last term.
Meanwhile, Tottenham look revitalised and ready to mount a serious challenge under Antonio Conte, while Arsenal appear more rounded than last season. Man Utd could yet be a factor under Erik ten Hag, too.
That being the case, the Todd Boehly era could begin with Chelsea failing to finish in the Champions League places.
Tottenham to break trophy duck
It has been 14 long years for Tottenham supporters, but this season Spurs look primed to win some major silverware for the first time since 2008.
Antonio Conte turned the club’s fortunes around after taking over from Nuno Espirito Santo last November and the legendary Italian manager is a proven winner.
He has already worked his magic at Juventus and Chelsea and, with the help of January signings Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur and the inspired form of Son Heung-min and Harry Kane, he guided Spurs to a fourth-placed finish last season.
The club have become synonymous with near-misses and falling agonisingly short in recent years, but Conte has instilled a coherent playing style and a conviction that should serve them well this season.
They’ve recruited smartly, bringing in Richarlison, Yves Bissouma, Djed Spence and Clement Lenglet along with the experienced Ivan Perisic and Fraser Forster.
Crucially, they have kept hold of Son and Kane who have forged one of the most potent partnerships in Premier League history.
Few expect Spurs to break the Man City-Liverpool duopoly and mount a challenge for the league title, but they are more than capable of clinching a domestic cup.
They are also in the Champions League this season and while a repeat of the run that saw them reach the final three years ago is unlikely, they would be well fancied if they drop into the Europa League.
Forest for Europe
Nottingham Forest are an institution of English football and we think they can create more history in their first season back in the Premier League in 23 years.
They have highly-respected manager Steve Cooper at helm, who dragged them off the canvas and guided them back to the promised land for the first time this century.
He transformed the club who spent 46 of the first 52 days of the Championship season in the relegation places.
The Welshman has a talented squad at his disposal including sought-after winger Brennan Johnson who scored 18 goals and provided 10 assists last term.
The 21-year-old was subject to bids from Premier League clubs in January, but he has given the club a huge boost by agreeing a new four-year deal at the City Ground.
Forest have acted shrewdly in the transfer window, with more than £70m spent on a raft of new arrivals.
Jesse Lingard, exceptional on a previous loan spell at West Ham, has joined in a statement deal. They have also broken their transfer record to sign forward Taiwo Awoniyi from Union Berlin and brought in Neco Williams from Liverpool and Omar Richards from Bayern Munich among others.
Forest are a club on the up. The febrile atmosphere of the City Ground will play a huge role and they could sneak into Europe, with seventh qualifying for the Europa Conference League.
There is a precedent of sorts after Sheffield United defied all expectations to finish ninth in their first season back in the Premier League in 2019-20. Forest can go even better.
Everton to get relegated
Everton survived by a whisker last season, dragged over the line by the defiance and passion of a fan base undeserving of the football they have been subjected to in the years since Farhad Moshiri’s big-money takeover.
The Toffees have become a case study exemplifying exactly what not to do with the riches of a generous benefactor, whose decision-making has mystified those watching from afar.
The appointment of Frank Lampard to succeed Rafa Benitez - who should never have even been considered for a role at Goodison Park - was a risk given the former England midfielder’s solid if unspectacular managerial career to date.
However, Lampard will consider his debut season on Merseyside at least a partial success having achieved his mission to keep the club in the top division.
Unfortunately for him, this season does not look like it will be any less of a struggle.
The departure of the talismanic Richarlison will leave a massive hole in the forward line that an injury-ravaged Dominic Calvert-Lewin will need to make up for. The 25-year-old made 18 appearances in all competitions last season, scoring five times.
A 4-0 demolition job at the hands of Minnesota United during Everton’s pre-season tour of the US sparked further alarm among the fanbase, leading to a harsh reprimand from Lampard to his players.
“The players in the dressing room need to understand that they’ve put in a very poor performance individually and collectively, and got well beaten,” he said.
Fresh faces need to be brought in before the window closes but with financial fair play still a major handicap to their spending power, the future looks bleak for the Blues.
Mitrovic to fire Fulham to safety
This will be the season that Aleksandar Mitrovic proves his doubters wrong, excels in the Premier League and leads Fulham to safety.
The striker shattered records as the Cottagers clinched the Championship title last season, scoring an incredible 43 goals in a history-making campaign.
The Serbian record-breaker, still only 27, averaged over a goal per game last term but his top-flight numbers do not reflect his prodigious talent.
He has played four seasons in the Premier League, two each for Fulham and Newcastle, and hasn’t shone. But there is mitigation.
He was much younger, only 20 when he signed for Newcastle, and far more impetuous when he arrived in England. He also fell out of favour under Rafa Benitez and Scott Parker, managers who adopted systems in which Mitrovic could not prosper.
He showed his potential in 2018-19, scoring 11 goals for the London side and has had his moments in the Premier League without ever consistently delivering.
But Mitrovic became one of the most prolific scorers in a single campaign in the modern era last season and returns to the top flight full of confidence and a far more complete forward.
He is the linchpin in manager Marco Silva’s trusted 4-3-3 system and lack of playing time won’t be a factor this time around.
So, Premier League beware because Mitrovic is at the peak of his powers and ready to fire Fulham to safety.
Jacob Ramsey to go to World Cup
If Euro 2020 was all about Jack Grealish, World Cup 2022 could all be about another precocious Brummie.
Aston Villa midfielder Jacob Ramsey enjoyed a breakout season last term with six goals in 35 games, but this could be the year he becomes a star.
His brace in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Leeds first made the Premier League stand up and take notice back in February.
Both goals came from powerful, driving runs from midfield and cool finishes evoking memories of his manager Steven Gerrard in his playing days.
“He will be a terrific player. It won’t be long before the whole country is watching him. He is right up there,” said the Aston Villa manager of his young charge, and it’s not difficult to see why.
The progress of Ramsey, who has been at Villa since he was six, helped Villa fans get over the loss of former hometown hero Grealish.
Another big season and he could emulate Grealish in becoming England’s hottest new talent.
Rooney to return
Wayne Rooney has made no secret of his desire to manage in the Premier League.
“I believe I will be a Premier League manager – I believe I’m ready for that, 100%,” he said when he rejected the chance to be interviewed by Everton in January, claiming he had unfinished business at Derby County.
It would take an unexpected turn of events, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility for the legendary former player to return in a managerial capacity in the year the Premier League turns 30.
He emerged from a spell in charge of Derby with his reputation enhanced despite failing to guide the crisis club to Championship safety.
The 36-year-old left following a tumultuous period and made a swift return to management after being named as the new head coach of his former club DC United.
England’s record goal-scorer would not have been short of offers from Championship or even Premier League clubs over the last 18 months and his stock could improve further if he impresses stateside.
Rooney is one of the Premier League’s most iconic players and is always likely to be a candidate for a future managerial openings.
Everton is the immediate assumption, but he could be courted by several clubs if they decide to make a change after a slow start to the new season.
The Premier League begins on Friday 5 August and you can watch every televised match from the English top flight live on BT TV.