The Premier League season is upon us and while its frequently cited as the most exciting league in the world, this campaign has the potential to be the most unpredictable yet for a multitude of reasons.
But this season is the first one ever to feature a winter World Cup that will force the league to stop for six weeks.
Man City just pipped Liverpool to the title last year, but other contenders have now improved
How will that effect clubs using their players in the run up to the tournament and how fresh will they be after? Might they targets some tournament gems in the January transfer window?
After a few seasons of Liverpool and Manchester City dominance, the rest of the heavy-hitters in the Premier League are trying their best to close the gap.
The title shakeup could be very different this season but that’s not all that’s hard to call. Here, Sportsmail lists the top 10 reasons the 31st season of the Premier League will be the most unpredictable yet.
Crippling fixture list
As it stands, the Premier League will cram in 16 rounds of games to be played between August 5 and November 12/13, which is a span 14 weeks.
To do this, the Premier League is starting one week earlier than it usually would this season.
The league has been extended so that the final fixtures can be played on May 28, but when you consider the cup games sides will have to play, both European and domestic, that’s a choc-full schedule.
We can expect less emphasis placed on the Carabao Cup and perhaps even the FA Cup for the top sides this year as the fixture traffic jam takes ahold.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino is overseeing the first-ever winter World Cup causing havoc
After the fixtures on November 12, the league will break for the World Cup which starts on November 21.
The World Cup final is set for November 18, then the Premier League resumes on December 26, Boxing Day.
Even the third-place playoff is on December 17, so players who make the semi-finals for their country won’t have long before they’re back in action.
Travelling back from Qatar and only having a few days training before three games in a week – two of which are in the space of three days – is going to be impossible for most.
Due to the condensed nature of the season, UEFA have been forced to make soe adjustments as well.
The Champions League is going to be packed into nine weeks instead of the usual 13. All group stage games are going to be played before the World Cup in November.
The final round of Champions League group games was wrapped up on December 8 in 2021. It will be a full month earlier this time.
Good luck, top four.
The top stars for England’s best clubs are going to have their legs pushed to the limit this year
Squad rotation or giving young players a chance
Teams are going to be forced to rotate their squads, even in the early going.
We’ve seen money spent on ensuring the top sides have big squads this season and that’s because this season more than ever, they’ll need them.
It also presents more chances for promising stars to receive opportunities this season with managers forced to look within after a few injuries or busy weeks.
Some of the top sides have been reluctant to let their young stars go on-loan in the event they might need them this nice. New Chelsea signing Carney Chukwuemeka is a good example of that.
Arsenal and Spurs trying to close the gap
North London, perhaps more than anywhere else in the league, has put their money where their mouth is in a bid to get closer to Liverpool and Manchester City.
Tottenham got busy early and have spent just over £90 million on six new players including Richarlison, Ivan Perisic. Yves Bissouma and Djed Spence.
Arsenal have spent just under £120m recruiting Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Favio Vieira. They also have William Saliba returning from a loan spell with Marseille and he’s expected to make an impact.
With the competition fierce for the top four, Chelsea’s new money and Manchester United’s search for a new identity under Eric Ten Hag, both clubs had to act and have undoubtedly improved their ranks.
Both Arsenal and Tottenham have splashed around £100m in a bid to get closer to the top two
Newly promoted sides shaking things up
Nottingham Forest have returned to the Premier League for the first time in 23 years and turned heads by securing Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard for a reported £100,000-a-week.
Bournemouth are back in the big time, but for the first time without now-Newcastle boss Eddie Howe. However, apart from acquiring Middlesbrough’s Marcus Tavernier, the Cherries have made no major moves in the transfer marker.
Fulham won the Championship this season and are looking to halt their yo-yo club exploits.
After spending big in recent years, the club appears to have learned some lessons with a more conservative net spend of £20 million this summer. But, as beating Liverpool during their last Premier League stint in 2020/21 demonstrated, the Cottagers are always dangerous.
Erik Ten Hag influence on United
The Red Devils have been in serious decline since Sir Alex Ferguson departed a decade ago.
After he dawning realisation that Ole Gunnar Solksjaer couldn’t take the club forward and the stagnating temporary appointment of Ralk Rangnick, United finally appointed a manager with a vision.
Erik Ten Hag arrived from an Ajax side he had guided to three league titles, two domestic doubles and the semi-finals of the Champions League.
How he grew that side and helped make names like Frenkie de Jong and Mathis de Light is a big appeal on his CV. Ajax played total football, but successful football. Now the task is to replicate that with United’s resources and underachieving squad. The club’s fans demand it.
Erik Ten Hag is trying to assert his authority and style at Old Trafford, but it could take time
Lampard and Gerrard full seasons
Gerrard did a sterling job in Scotland with Rangers that boosted his profile to no ends. Once Aston Villa parted ways with Dean Smith last November, the Liverpool legend stepped in and made his mark in the January transfer window.
Phillipe Coutinho arrived on loan and how he is a permanent Aston Villa player. Diego Carlos is their other big deal this summer and Villa appear on the up after finishing a stabilising 14th last season.
Lampard is the one who has his hands full. After the failed Rafa Benitez experiment, former Chelsea boss Lampard was brought in to steady the ship and he only just kept them in the Premier League.
Now the club has lost Richarlison and their only additions have been the relegated Burnley pair James Tarkowski and Dwight McNeil. This season looks like an uphill struggle for Lampard, but will he spring a surprise after a full pre-season?
Is Newcastle’s form sustainable?
If the season was only from January to May, Newcastle would have finished in the top four last season.
That’s how much the Magpies turned around under Eddie Howe as they went from bottom and winless in the first week of December to finishing 11th.
Is it sustainable? Newcastle spent money to move in the right direction in January and it’s largely thought they’ll do the same again this summer with centre-back Sven Botman the headline signing.
The club need some attacking players and, in particular, a striker. Should they add quality in those areas, Howe might have the Arsenal to keep the good times coming.
Eddie How had a dream start with Newcastle, but this season is where the hard work starts
Post-World Cup January transfer window
We’ve all seen teams splash the cash on previously unheralded talent following a good tournament showing – El Hadji Diouf to Liverpool being a prime example – and that could cause a busy January in 2023.
The winter transfer window is notoriously slow, but with squad’s needing an injection and extra bodies to cope with the fixtures, reinforcements will be a must.
There’s sure to be some head-turning performances from many of the 32 teams in action at the World Cup the months prior and that could give us some knee-jerk moves.
English clubs spent £295 million last January transfer window.