THERE are some areas of society in which the cost of living crisis is but a buzzphrase on the six o'clock news: it is the preserve of the working classes not energy firm bosses, hedge fund managers and certainly not English Premier League clubs.

While the rest of European football struggles to keep the lights on the Big Six in England have spent at a rampant rate accounting for £628 million of the more than £1.2 billion total spent so far, which means the 14 clubs beneath them haven't exactly been tightening their belts either.

Not that it will make much difference come season's end – you can expect a title race involving Manchester City and Liverpool with the rest of the Champions League places perming any two from the usual four of Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United.

There is the potential for a curveball, however, with the World Cup interrupting the league in November and December with the Big Six more vulnerable to injuries and burnout than in previous seasons. Of course, the reintroduction of the five substitute rule is going to help a certain profile of club on that score: yup, you guessed it, those with the biggest squads.

Here, we take a look at the runners and riders for the season ahead...


Amazon's All Or Nothing documentary launched this week and depending on your hue Mikel Arteta is either a motivational genius or a David Brent-style dork. No prizes for guessing which camp the majority of Arsenal fans – who seem to have forgotten all about their sides' total capitulation at the end of last season – tend to fit into. The Londoners look better equipped this time around, but so do most of the other teams who finished above them – with the exception, perhaps, of Chelsea. The main knock on Arsenal continues to be their weak mentality and signings such as Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko are not the kind of characters to transform a weak mindset when the tough months arrive. It would not be a great surprise to see them finish in the top four but nor would it be a major shock if they ended up outside it.

Best bet: Top four finish 9/4

Aston Villa

There is sure to be greater focus on Steven Gerrard in this his first full season in charge at Villa Park. The former Rangers manager arrived in the Midlands to great fanfare last November and his players responded initially – with four wins in six games – to ensure that relegation was never a serious threat. Nevertheless, Villa's form from March onwards was woeful and with his tactical mastermind Michael Beale heading for pastures new, he will be in uncharted territory. Transfer incomings have been modest so in an attempt to shake up the dressing room, Gerrard has stripped Tyrone Mings of the captaincy and installed Scotland midfielder John McGinn in the role. Mings has accepted the decision magnanimously, for now, but it will be a relationship worth monitoring as the season progresses.

Best bet: Steven Gerrard first Premier League manager to lose his job 20/1


Ryan Christie gets his chance to test himself at Premier League level for the first time having been one of the stars of Bournemouth's Championship promotion campaign. The 27-year-old Scotland midfielder admitted recently that manager Scott Parker has devised a new set of tactics to cope with life at the higher level. They will need all the help they can get. Thus far, Parker has made just two signings and those were the free transfer arrivals of full back Ryan Fredericks from West Ham and Blackburn midfielder Joe Rothwell. They are hardly names to make the fans salivate and thus much will depend on how those new tactics shape up. Christie is a believer: "There's parts of our game that need to change and to be fair there's probably no better manager out there to be leading that line for us to do just that."

Best bet: To stay up 7/4


This is the London club's difficult second season. They only need to look at Sheffield United to see how teams can take the Premier League by storm one year under a progressive manager only for the following campaign to unravel completely.

Another Premier League club to succumb to the charms of a Scotland international full-back when they signed Aaron Hickey for £14m from Bologna. Ben Mee is a new arrival who represents a break from the norm in Brentford's recruitment strategy of signing bright young things but is no less significant a move because of it. Despite suffering relegation with Burnley, Mee was part of the ninth best defence in the division and Brentford registered a small coup by securing him on a free transfer ahead of interest from Fulham and Southampton.

Best bet: To finish in the top half 5/1

Brighton & Hove Albion

The measure of the job performed by Graham Potter last season can be found in where Brighton find themselves in the wage bill table (15th) in relation to where they finished the campaign (9th). Credit for their performances goes to the coaching prowess of Potter and his assistant, the former Hamilton Accies manager Billy Reid, and the effect it has had on their squad of astute signings and young players. Their success has had a cost: they have lost Yves Bissouma to Spurs and Marc Cucurella to Chelsea but even with the Spaniard's departure, there is enough faith that Brighton's recruitment team will continue to come up trumps when it comes to a replacement with Moses Caicedo already demonstrating last season that he can more than fill Bissouma's jersey.

Best bet: Deniz Undav Brighton top scorer 10/3


The fall out from the end of the Abramovich era and the growing pains of the Todd Boehly regime have characterised a summer of uncertainty at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea, so often the club to hijack other deals, have found out what it is like to be on the receiving end. Stasis in the transfer market has wreaked havoc with Thomas Thuchel's pre-season preparations and – of those clubs which occupied the top four last season – it is the west Londoners who look the most vulnerable to losing their Champions League place. There is still plenty of time for Boehly – who has taken the lead on transfers – to rectify the recruitment issues but £62m on Marc Cucurella smacks of desperation and Tuchel's frustrations have grown louder as the summer has progressed. The longer the German's recruitment plans are interrupted the more likely it will be that Chelsea take time to hit their stride. It is a luxury putative title chasers can ill-afford in the modern Premier League.

Best bet: Chelsea to finish outside the top four 11/10

Crystal Palace

Palace have become one of the smartest teams in the division when it comes to recruitment. Patrick Vieira was appointed as manager last season and director of football Dougie Freedman brought in Michael Olise, Odsonne Edouard, Joachim Andersen and Marc Guehi among others as Palace were rewarded with a campaign in which they remained safe throughout and reached an FA Cup semi-final. They have followed a similar strategy this summer with the arrivals of the much-sought after Malcolm Ebiowei and Chris Richards from Derby and Bayern Munich respectively. The main hole in their squad concerns midfielder Conor Gallagher – another of Freedman's astute signings – who has returned to Chelsea after a hugely successful campaign in which he scooped the club's player of the year award.

Best bet: To finish in the top half 5/2


The Rafa Benitez experiment proved disastrous as Everton won just five matches under the Spaniard's care as the Merseyside club flirted with the drop in a truly forgettable campaign. His replacement, Frank Lampard, fared little better but he did manage to rouse his players – and supporters – for long enough to put a bolt on the trapdoor marked 'relegation'. So what of this season? Well, signing two players from relegated Burnley does not seem the best way to go about ensuring safety this time around but to Lampard's credit he has pilfered two of the Lancastrians' best in the shape of James Tarkowski and Dwight McNeill. The sale of Richarlison denudes them of one of their standout performers, however, and while it is unlikely to be the same scramble for safety this time around, there isn't much to think they will threaten the European places.

Best bet: Frank Lampard first Premier League manager to lose his job 4/1


Marco Silva's side cruised to the Championship scoring 100 goals and racking up 90 points in the process. Having been relegated the previous season they will know their task this time around is considerably more formidable. So far, the Portuguese coach has mainly decided to stick loyally by the men who secured promotion, although he has stiffened up the centre of his midfield with the addition of the excellent Joao Palhinha, a league winner with Sporting Lisbon in 2021. He has resisted the temptation to bolster his attack, however, opting to trust in Aleksander Mitrovic to continue the form which brought him 43 goals in a barnstorming season for the Londoners.

Best bet: Aleksander Mitrovic to be top league goalscorer e/w 40/1

Leeds United

What to make of Leeds. The traumatic sacking of Marcelo Bielsa subsequently proved to be the correct decision even if fans are still mourning the Argentine's departure. Under his replacement Jesse Marsch, there is the sense of a transition but, somewhat understandably, it is from where to what. Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips, Leeds' two best players, are gone and Victor Orta, the sporting director, has used the sum brought in from their sales to completely renovate Marsch's squad with a number of players whom the American is familiar with from his time in both the Austrian and German Bundesligas. Leeds' main failings as they escaped relegation were at the back, haemorrhaging goals in thumping defeats against City, Liverpool and United but in the absence of the injured Patrick Bamford they struggled to find the net at the other end, too. Leeds will not play with such recklessness this time around so much will depend on how quickly new signings Brenden Aaronson and Luis Sinisterra replicate their goalscoring form in Austria and the Netherlands respectively.

Best bet: Luis Sinisterra top Leeds goalscorer 5/1

Leicester City

Long held up as the standard bearer for how to run a club efficiently, Leicester now find themselves in a financial pickle of their own making with their wages to turnover ratio perilously high. At the time of writing they are the only club in the top seven leagues in Europe yet to make a signing this summer and their predicament has alerted the vultures with James Maddison and Wesley Fofana of particular interest to covetous eyes. With10 players out of contract next summer, suddenly Leicester look on the brink of a full-blown crisis and without the means to bring in fresh talent, improving on last season's eighth-placed finish looks a tall order for Brendan Rodgers, who seems to have lost the backing of the Leicester crowd despite the FA Cup win of 2021.

Best bet: Brendan Rodgers to be first Premier League manager sacked 8/1


Is this the year when Liverpool usurp Manchester City's dominant position? It depends on how quickly Jurgen Klopp's side adapt to the mini-transition they are in: 120-goal Sadio Mane has gone so the question is now whether Luis Diaz and Darwin Nunez – whose goalscoring prowess has mostly been established in the Portuguese top-flight – replace his output. Diaz was a revelation from January onwards but he finished the campaign with more assists than he did goals while Nunez has looked overburdened by his massive price tag in pre-season. Elsewhere, a familiar cast returns - one that just missed out on an unprecedented quadruple by the finest of margins. Nevertheless, Mo Salah dropped off in the second-half of last season, recording just four goals from February onwards and it remains to be seen whether his dip was the result of contract uncertainty or evidence that his superpowers might be starting to diminish.

Best bet: +4 League handicap betting 15/1

Manchester City

Received wisdom has it that Manchester City will be way out in front with Liverpool once again this season. It's probably the case but there has been a steady turnover of personnel at the Etihad with Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and Oleksandr Zinchenko making way for Kalvin Phillips, Julian Alvarez and, of course, Erling Haaland. The script suggests that the Norwegian will tear up the league but line-leading front men and Pep Guardiola's false nine system do not always make for easy bedfellows. It is unlikely to be enough to disrupt a strong challenge for a fifth title in six seasons but it will be one of the narratives that will persist throughout the campaign should Haaland's pre-season struggles carry over into the league.

Best bet: Liverpool/Man City straight forecast 7/2

Manchester United

For the first time in several seasons, United no longer have the look of the comedy act they had become. Much of the change in atmosphere around Old Trafford has emanated following the arrival of Erik ten Hag as manager. That is not to say that there are still no issues, however. The Dutchman's main transfer target Frenkie de Jong does not appear to be falling over himself to join United while the signings of Lisandro Martinez and Christian Eriksen – good players though they are – hardly seem the sort to move the needle the required amount. Much of United's progress will depend on how quickly Ten Hag's methods bed in – and the signs in pre-season have been impressive – but his system is contingent on the deep-lying playmaking ability that De Jong brings. Signing him – or finding someone who can do the job – will be crucial to United's ambitions.

Best bet: Christian Eriksen top league assists e/w 20/1

Newcastle United

The previously loveable/pitiful Magpies have found themselves vying with Man City and Chelsea for least popular club in the division ever since being taken over by the Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund. That pariah status has not been exacerbated by them chucking vast quantities of dosh at new players in the way that was initially expected. Nevertheless, we're not talking about Mike Ashley levels of frugality either: they might yet splurge £50m on James Maddison and the arrivals of goalkeeper Nick Pope and giant defender Sven Botman add a layer of concrete to what had become an increasingly secure defence following the arrival of Eddie Howe to St James' Park – evidence of which came with Newcastle's run of form after the turn of the year when they lost just five times in 19 matches as they finished 11th.

Best bet: Top six finish 9/4

Nottingham Forest

There are those of us of a certain vintage who still find it remarkable that Forest have spent so long out of the Premier League. It's almost as remarkable, however, as the story behind their return to England's top flight. For 10 of the previous 11 seasons they looked more capable of heading in the other direction by dropping into League 1. Indeed, they were bottom of the table when Steve Cooper succeeded Chris Hughton as manager in September before conjuring up 79 points to finish fourth before prevailing in the play-offs. No team has signed more players this summer – and in this matter Forest have taken the all-or-bust approach to their return to the Premier League bringing in 12 players and chucking money at the first team - as highlighted by the decision to pay £200,000 per week to Jesse Lingard.

Best bet: Top promoted club 6/4


Few clubs have been more prepared to shop in Scotland than Southampton and with good reason: they get value for money. Since 2013, the Saints have brought in Victor Wanyama, Fraser Forster, Stuart Armstrong and, of course, Virgil van Dijk. The latest new arrival is Joe Aribo, whom they have picked up for the bargain fee of £6m. The Nigeria midfielder had established himself as one of the best players in Scotland while at Rangers and Southampton supporters are already salivating following his early performances in pre-season. It is not just Scotland where the club has shown an open mind, though. Southampton have not been afraid to buy players from the fringes of the Big Six Premier League clubs and this summer has been no different. In have come Gavin Bazunu and Romeo Levia from Manchester City as well as much-sought after talents Sekou Mara and Armel Bella-Kotchap, from Europe. If Ralph Hasenhuttl can knit it all together, Southampton will continue to hand out bloody noses this season.

Best bet: To finish in the top half 11/2

Tottenham Hotspur

On paper, Spurs have won Premier Leagues, FA Cups and Champions Leagues in summers past but actually only one League Cup in 14 years on the pitch. The 2022-23 campaign promises something different, however. They have one of the best managers in world football in situ and crucially a group of players who actually believe in him in a way that Jose Mourinho did not enjoy. What's more, their signings have addressed some of the weak sports – the lack of a Harry Kane back-up and better wing-backs – that the January window failed to address. If there is one area they still look vulnerable it is at the back where the world class defender Antonio Conte hoped to recruit has not been forthcoming.

Best bet: Dejan Kulusevski top league assists e/w 25/1

West Ham United

The Londoners social media team won the transfer window for best signing reveal of the summer when they revived fond memories of Channel 4's Football Italia coverage by wheeling out James Richardson to interview Gianluca Scamacca. The Italy No.9 is no insignificant signing either – at 6ft 5in and bedecked in neck and arm tattoos he makes for an unmistakable figure on the pitch – but it is not just his physical appearance that has caught the eye. The 23-year-old was a target for Paris St-Germain, Inter Milan and Juventus and he will give West Ham a new dimension in attack with his silky touch and lethal finishing as they compete for another top-six finish and look to go one better than last season's Europa League semi-final appearance, albeit this time in the Conference League.

Best bet: To win the league without the Big Six 4/1

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Bruno Lage proved himself to be a worthy successor to Nuno Espirito Santo by guiding Wolves to a place in the top 10 despite having to contend with a number of issues, notably the travails of Raoul Jimenez as he sought to return to something like his old form following his a sickening head injury that almost killed him in the previous season. The Mexican's woes and the inability of the supporting cast – such as Fabio Silva – to pick up the baton helps explain Wolves' goal return of 38 – by far the worst of any team not relegated last season and only four better than Burnley and Watford who did go down. Thus far, Lage has done little to address that shortcoming with his only signings being Nathan Collins, another defender – albeit a very good one – and Hwang Hee-chan, the South Korean forward, whose loan move has now been made permanent.

Best bet: To be relegated 11/2