PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEW - PART TWO, Brighton may kick on again, Burnley could surprise, Mauricio…

12 minute read

The new Premier League season gets underway this Friday as defending champions and Treble winners Manchester City make the trip to newly-promoted Burnley.

The big question is whether anybody is strong enough to prevent City winning a fourth consecutive title, with Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle all hoping to be part of that conversation.

Aston Villa, Brighton, Brentford and Fulham are among those hoping to build on positive campaigns in 2022-23.

Meanwhile, Sheffield United and Luton Town joined the Clarets in coming up from the Championship and hoping they’re not just a one-season wonder.

Mail Sport will look at all 20 Premier League clubs in detail this week and part one features Brighton, Burnley, Chelsea and Crystal Palace.

New boss Mauricio Pochettino will look to kickstart his Chelsea project in style this season


Good summer?

Under Roberto De Zerbi, high-flying Brighton are enjoying one of the most memorable purple patches in their history, if not the very best.

Building on the foundations left behind by Graham Potter, De Zerbi introduced more pace and verticality to his side’s play, making them a formidable machine.

Their use of centre backs in build-up and a devastating ability to rip through their opponents in a matter of seconds secured the club Europa League football this year.

Indeed, they will compete in European football for the first time since their foundation under De Zerbi, further highlighting his stellar job at the helm.

This summer, they have recruited an array of new signings, with Joao Pedro, James Milner, Bart Verbruggen and Mahmoud Dahoud the standouts.

They have lost Alexis Mac Allister and Robert Sanchez to Liverpool and Chelsea respectively but are, at least for now, managing to keep Moises Caicedo at the club.

Regardless of Caicedo’s future, optimism is abound at the Amex once again.

Brighton secured Europa League football last season and will hope for a similar finish this year

Summer signings

Success would be…

Repeating what they achieved last year, such was the magnitude of that feat.

Their sixth-placed finish in the Premier League was more than merited and accurately reflected their willingness to go toe-to-toe with the big boys.

Now, they can count themselves among them - and deservedly so.

In wily playmaker Mac Allister, they were stripped of last season’s top scorer and De Zerbi may be concerned over the lack of a No 9 he can hang his hat on.

However, there is more than enough elsewhere to offset this, with Pedro set to be an inspired addition to the squad.

They will also hope to mount a run in both cup competitions this campaign.

Disaster would look like…

Finishing in the bottom half of the table would be a backward step from last season, certainly, but not a disaster. Expectations are lofty once again, though.

The worst case scenario for Brighton may well be a lack of goals, a regression in De Zerbi’s swashbuckling style and a clamour for points to finish middle of the road.

Midfielder Moises Caicedo is wanted by Chelsea but, for now, remains at the Amex Stadium

The man in charge: Roberto De Zerbi

De Zerbi was seemingly a wanted man this summer but has remained at the Amex to continue his superb job so far. This commitment extends a very fruitful partnership.

Right from the very off, he set about instilling a set of principles that make Brighton a devilish package to handle, with speed, direction and cutting edge their hallmarks.

They may well have been the easiest team on the eye last season, De Zerbi having implemented flowing moves stretching right from the back to the very front.

Seemingly, he can do little wrong.

The key man: Kaoru Mitoma

Assuming Caicedo will indeed depart, Kaoru Mitoma is on hand to step up.

Last season, his first in England, the diminutive magician scored 10 goals and registered eight assists from his 41 appearances across all competitions.

When he wasn’t finding the net, he was a nightmare for defenders to handle, with his two-footed dribbling and lightning turn of pace making him a true wing wizard.

Roberto De Zerbi drew plaudits last season after instilling a flowing, ambitious style of play


Good summer?

Vincent Kompany has certainly made waves during his short stay at Burnley.

Having led the club back to the Premier League, imperiously so, during his first campaign in charge, his mission has now become a very different one indeed.

While his side caught the eye with their patient, possession-based blueprint in the Championship, they will find the top-flight is a brutal war of attrition. As a result, they are guaranteed to see less of the ball and spend more time penned into a shape.

How Kompany navigates the sheer gulf between these two styles will be crucial, though the array of summer signings points toward an ambitious side able to play.

James Trafford is the club’s new No 1 after joining from Manchester City for £19million, while Jacob Bruun Larsen and Jordan Beyer are intriguing arrivals.

They have also succeeded in keeping together the main bulk of the promotion-winning group from last season, and this camaraderie cannot be understated.

In short, these signings have flown beneath the radar but look value for money.

Vincent Kompany steered Burnley into the Premier League at the first time of asking

Success would be…

Survival. It is that simple.

Of course, Kompany will hope for more but the first season back in the Premier League for any club has more often than not proven to be a trial by fire.

There is a strong backbone to Burnley and Kompany possesses tactical flexibility to keep opponents guessing, but the expectation is that this year will be a slog.

As a result, anything above the dotted line will be snatched with both hands.

Disaster would look like…

Relegation with a whimper.

A man bursting with as much personal pride as Kompany will do his utmost to prevent this, but just one poor run of games can set the tone for a whole season.

The worst-case scenario for the club would be an immediate relegation to the Championship

The man in charge: Vincent Kompany

Transforming Burnley from the direct and physical iteration under Sean Dyche to their current stylish crop was no mean feat, and Kompany deserves credit for this.

Throughout his managerial career to date, he has remained true to his beliefs and continues to back his group, having overhauled them soon after taking charge.

Last season, he displayed an ability above the typical capacity of a young, fresh-faced manager in his second job and is set to continue improving this year.

The key man: Josh Brownhill

Finding a link man to help bring Burnley up the pitch will be absolutely crucial and Josh Brownhill, a quick-minded midfielder, will aid them here.

He boasts almost 80 appearances in the Premier League to his name already and could well be a hidden gem, having enjoyed a bright pre-season.

Last season, he chalked up a respectable 15 goal involvements.


Good summer?

Mauricio Pochettino inherited a gargantuan job after last season’s horror show but has set about culling his squad and splashing the cash with a rich smile.

Kai Havertz, Mateo Kovacic, Mason Mount, Kalidou Koulibaly and N’Golo Kante are just some of the big names to have departed, all with the club’s blessing.

In their place is now a host of young players with high talent ceilings, performers Pochettino and his refreshingly rosy outlook will hope to mould into world beaters.

For the first time since Todd Boehly’s consortium seized control at Stamford Bridge, calm has finally settled. The new boss has been allowed to work with little distractions and already his trademark style of play has shone through in friendlies.

Finally, supporters are beginning to feel the warm glow of optimism once again. After all, they have a squad packed to the brim with talented players to cheer on and this renewed push may well be enough to banish last campaign’s misery.

However, this is just the first step on a lengthy road toward a full recovery.

Chelsea have enjoyed a strong pre-season, with signs of Pochettino’s style already on display

Success would be…

Returning to the Champions League. As much as the winds of change may well buffet supporters toward wanting more, this would represent steady progression.

A good, strong start to the season will give them a leg up here, but they will also be wary of a number of other clubs gunning it out to finish in the top four spots. It will be a testing dogfight, but Chelsea have the depth to tussle to the very end.

Tightening up defensively and dropping into a tighter, more compact shape will also prove a sturdy foundation for Pochettino to work upon and this will in turn free up his array of talented, attack-minded forwards to cause havoc in the final third.

Looking to progress to the latter stages of the cup competitions may also be on the agenda, but Pochettino will again insist that these are the early stages of his rebuild.

Disaster would look like…

Failing to kick on from last season.

As unlikely as this may well be, the rot last season stretched to the very foundations of the club and Pochettino is only part way through finding a fix to the root causes.

Expect a number of players to flicker in and out of brilliance, creating inconsistency across the board. The manager must be careful this doesn’t hamstring his efforts.

Players may flicker in and out of brilliance this campaign, with Pochettino keen for consistency

The man in charge: Mauricio Pochettino

Promising entertainment for supporters, Pochettino has embraced his raft of responsibilities and challenges in good spirit, optimistic about the future.

He performed miracles at Tottenham with limited backing and his time at Paris Saint-Germain was effectively rendered moot after their Champions League knockout. At Chelsea, expectations are similarly high, but only at the end of their recovery plan.

It is crucial that he is afforded time to make his mark on a club punctuated by sackings and impatience. Eventually, his many qualities will burst to the fore.

The key man: Enzo Fernandez

Enzo Fernandez settled quickly into life at Stamford Bridge following his £107m move from Benfica, a British record. However, his promising performances were lost in the haze of disappointment last season, and he will be expected to step up this year.

Provided he is able to avoid another rollercoaster campaign, Fernandez could well be the man to set the tone for his side in games, such is his progressive ability. Placing a defensive-minded partner alongside him would help to further free him up.

Christopher Nkunku was also in contention for this section but is now facing a sustained period on the sideline, with an injury likely ruling him out until December.

Enzo Fernandez settled quickly into life at Chelsea and will be a crucial player for the club


Good summer?

Not for the first time, Crystal Palace step into a brave new world dogged by uncertainty. The big development, of course, was Wilfried Zaha’s departure.

To compound the misery in SE25, the club talisman left as a free agent, meaning Palace did not bank a single penny. Clearly, the purse strings are drawn tight this summer, meaning they are spending frugally to back boss Roy Hodgson.

After he steered them to safety, with change left over, the experienced manager looked set to leave, satisfied with a job well done. But after much deliberation, Palace returned to the veteran once again, perhaps for one last transitional season.

He certainly has a task on his hands. So far this summer, Jefferson Lerma joined on a free from Bournemouth, closely followed by the promising Matheus Franca. The latter was recruited from Flamengo for £26m, a steal for his unlimited potential.

But there is a sense they need more and with the futures of other key players potentially lying away from Selhurst Park, Hodgson is braced for another headache.

Crystal Palace have lost big names this summer, but Eberechi Eze (left) will be key for them

Success would look like…

Surviving comfortably, potentially in mid-table. Anything close to their 11th place finish from last season would represent another masterstroke from Hodgson.

Finding a reliable source of goals to replace Zaha would also be a step in the right direction for the club, though there is likely to be other outgoings first.

Realistically, this will be another campaign mostly spent working up to the magic 40-point mark, before potential progression beyond that to ease relegation fears.

Hodgson, having witnessed the league’s brutality time and time again, will be happy with safety in what may prove to be his final campaign in management.

Disaster would look like…

Relegation. Hodgson is perhaps the safest pair of hands in a relegation fight, his time at Watford aside, but just under half of the 20 clubs look in real danger this year.

Palace are no stranger to fighting for their very lives at the wrong end of the table, and the loss of Zaha will certainly hit them hard. If Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise were also allowed to slip away, they would have to quickly scramble in the market.

Again, there are aging legs in the squad and the balance doesn’t quite look right yet.

The man in charge: Roy Hodgson

As certain as day will turn to night, Hodgson is back at Palace and bracing himself for another tough slog. It is perhaps a miracle he still has a full head of hair.

There is still a determined twinkle in his eye and the tactician, who will turn 76 before Palace’s first game of the season, remains as sprightly and imaginative as ever.

The top-flight’s elder statesman is also said to be targeting a top 10 finish, meaning he is not yet content to settle for a run of the mill, gloriously predictable campaign.

Veteran manager Roy Hodgson is targeting a top-half finish for Crystal Palace this year

The key man: Michael Olise

Palace are in the dark over Olise’s future, with the midfielder attracting interest from Manchester City and Chelsea after an impressive couple of seasons in south London.

He was named Palace’s Player of the Year last campaign after scoring twice and registering 11 assists, and may be available this summer for just £35m.

If he does stay, this would prove to be a major boost for his current employers.