Pre-season is in full swing, new kits and new players are being unveiled, lucrative tours are being embarked upon and giddiness ahead of the new season is on the rise. Time, surely, for the latest round of us trying to half-arsedly gauge the mood around the Premier League clubs and you telling us why we’re hopelessly wrong.
Early-summer rankings in brackets with full reasoning here.
1) Nottingham Forest (3)
Long-time F365 readers will be able to have a pretty decent guess at the source of this, but apparently there is belief among some Forest fans that they could finish mid-table next season. Love that. Absolutely unironically and unashamedly love that. This is precisely the time of year for that kind of utter insanity. Lord knows we all have to spend enough time living in the real world. I can think of no more wonderful thing to wish for anybody in the country right now than to spend the rest of the days as a Forest fan living in July 2022 for perpetuity, where all things are possible and ahead of you and the real world can just f*ck off out of it with its inevitable crushing and relentless misery and despair.
2) Liverpool (10)
The instant and understandable agony of how last season ended has now given way to appreciation of what was achieved. If any other club had signed Darwin Nunez we’d be very confident indeed that he might turn out to be a great big massive flop, but Liverpool do tend to nail those big-money moves and the confidence among the Kop faithful that this will again be the case certainly appears to be well-placed. The general good vibes around the place are further demonstrated by the response to a (meaningless, that can never be overstated, remember) 4-0 pre-season defeat to bitter rivals Manchester United being mainly to sit back and go ‘This Fabio Carvalho lad is a lovely baller, isn’t he?’ That’s the sort of contentment with and confidence in a club’s philosophy that doesn’t come along all that often.
3) Tottenham (1)
Their fans are watching live bleep tests which we’re not convinced is particularly healthy behaviour for anyone. Still, though. You can understand the buzz. Spurs are undeniably doing very neat and tidy and opportunistic – and early – summer business and there remains well-founded excitement in what a significantly upgraded squad can achieve on the back of a full – if absolutely brutally harrowing – Antonio Conte pre-season.
4) Newcastle (2)
It’s all still very sensible and very good and potentially very exciting, but there does now seem to be a sense that Newcastle’s road is still a relatively long one. An acceptance that last season’s freewheeling form with the pressure off probably can’t survive contact with the harsh reality of a new season and very different targets. But they certainly seem to be facing in the right direction. And if you’re facing in the right direction, all you have to do is keep on walking.
5) Manchester City (8)
Erling Haaland’s Etihad Stadium unveiling has made his arrival in the Premier League feel real. Despite the Premier League’s relentless noise and undoubted quality, it remains deeply novel for a great player to arrive here at Haaland’s stage of his career. Essentially even the very biggest Premier League clubs have still been the bit before or after the peak Real Madrid/Barcelona years in the standard elite player career trajectory. We’ve known about Haaland’s arrival for some time now, of course, but the unusual nature of his situation means we maybe hadn’t quite grasped the seriousness or everyone else. Or maybe we just didn’t want to think about it because, and this is not Manchester City’s fault or concern, it could make the Premier League quite a boring competition.
6) Arsenal (17)
Arsenal are a club where the glass is never merely half-full or half-empty, but positively overflowing or bone dry. At the moment, they appear to be lurching towards the former on the back of last season’s undeniably tangible progress and some undeniably interesting summer business. The early-summer pain of losing out on fourth to Tottenham has definitely faded somewhat and they have now convinced themselves they have signed by far the better Brazilian in snaffling Gabriel Jesus rather than Richarlison. Whether either of these positions can hold once play resumes and Spurs are playing on Tuesdays and Arsenal on Thursdays is less clear. Certainly, we’d be far less bullish if we were them, but we aren’t them and that’s that.
7) Brighton (5)
Have a midfield hole to fill now Yves Bissouma has got his long-anticipated Big Six move, but the overall vibes are still good. Likelihood of Gareth Southgate being shuffled out of the England job in December is a potential blot on the horizon, because if Brighton have made any kind of decent fist of the first half of this two-part domestic season then Graham Potter’s name is going to be heavily and repeatedly linked because he is both a) really good and b) really English and there are vanishingly few candidates who fulfil these two key criteria.
8) Brentford (4)
Everything mood-wise at Brentford hinges on one pretty big question. How significant was Christian Eriksen to that startling run of late-season form that extinguished any relegation doubts and propelled the Bees up the table between March and May? A month ago we were quite bullish that it was all going to be fine and there would be no Sheffield Uniteding or even Leedsing going on in Brentford’s second season back in the big time. No longer quite so sure month ago us was right about that, frankly.
9) Crystal Palace (9)
Patrick Vieira’s Palace ended up precisely where Roy Hodgson’s Palace generally did but got there in a much more fun and enjoyable way and that is precisely what the mood rankings are here for. Is exactly what we wrote in June and really it still applies. Their attacking options are still vibes out the wazoo.
10) Chelsea (13)
Absolutely no idea what to do with Chelsea, really. Can’t shake the notion that they should simply be thrilled to still be here, yet that whole ‘existential threat to very existence’ already feels very last year. Move on. Old news. Fake news, even. Seem so far to be managing to resist the dubious charms of Cristiano Ronaldo and we think Raheem Sterling will be good there even if others don’t feel quite so sure.
11) Aston Villa (12)
Five signings relatively early is excellent work, with Diego Carlos’ arrival from Sevilla definitely approaching official ‘transfer coup’ territory. Downside to all that smart and sensible early work is that things can then go a bit quiet, which appears to be the case for Villa. And they really could do with another striker around the place if this season is going to see them lift themselves clear of the mid-table mulch or at the very least become a more interesting part of it like, say, Crystal Palace.
12) West Ham (6)
We were told in no uncertain terms that our view that West Ham would be pretty pleased and feeling good about life after securing back-to-back European qualifications via the league was in fact bollocks. Now we certainly do expect West Ham to stop defying gravity quite so spectacularly next season, and we understand the ‘This is us, it’s bound to all go tits up’ sentiment that is all too common across so many of this nation’s great football clubs, but even so this still surprised us. It’s all going quite well, isn’t it? Got some really good players, haven’t you? Apparently, some Hammers fans are even talking gloomily about relegation battles. Tish and fipsy, you silly Irons. But we must take these findings, baffling as they are, into our considerations and tumble the Hammers downward accordingly.
13) Bournemouth (11)
June’s fears that Bournemouth’s return to the Premier League merely marks their joining ranks with Fulham and Norwich in the too-good-for-Champo-but-brutalised-in-the-Prem purgatory have not been eased by the current status of Ryan Fredericks on a free from West Ham as their marquee summer signing.
14) Wolves (14)
Nothing has really changed since June’s update, which thus still applies: ‘Finished tenth in an eight-horse race. Bit annoying and undeniably underwhelming when they were challenging for Europe for most of it. It’s still not a bad season, but we must also point out that it’s exactly what Everton did in 2020/21, and look what happened to them.’
15) Fulham (7)
Transfer progress has been slow given Marco Silva’s reported desire to see 10 new faces at Craven Cottage this summer. Given the manner in which the Cottagers limped over the finishing line in the Championship and the abject nature of their most recent attempts at Premier League survival, that’s just starting to become a bit of a worry now the immediate post-promotion glow has worn off. The whole palaver with the ticket prices isn’t exactly a vote winner, either. Premium prices for shonky product may be very 2022, but it’s not really very Fulham who have long prided themselves on their ‘family club’ reputation.
16) Southampton (19)
Ended the season in thoroughly miserable form and nothing much has happened this summer to suggest a sudden improvement is on the cards other than the fact that Southampton frequently make these lurches from dreadful to good and back again under Ralph Hasenhuttl. That’s a flimsy premise on which to hang much optimism, though, and while we disagree with a lot of what the idiot who wrote June’s Mood Rankings said, the idea that Southampton’s current one-word summary of their feelings heading into a suddenly very nearby new season is ‘trepidation’ still seems a decent one. The fixture computer has curled out a crowning turd in the bowl as well: Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea all await before August is out.
17) Manchester United (20)
Spanking a half-interested, half-strength, half-fit Liverpool 4-0 was an absolutely lovely bit of pre-seasoning which has, to United’s credit, proved just as convincing that all is well at the club as any pre-season result should – i.e. not in any way convincing. Just a bit of comic relief, really. Something to bring up for a self-deprecating hate-chortle in April when Liverpool are 35 points ahead of them again. It’s all still just a horrible mess with a Ronaldo Situation that is fast approaching the point where, whether he stays or goes, United lose either way because there is no time left to act upon whichever timeline they find themselves on. Not really relevant here but just on a personal level we are already entirely and murderously bored of the daily training updates on Erik Ten Hag’s methods and routines and the like. Please can the football come back soon?
18) Leeds (15)
Having sold hometown hero Kalvin Phillips to Manchester City, now find themselves in the invidious position of having to be relieved that Raphinha is at least going abroad to Barcelona and thus won’t be nutmegging Leeds players next season for Chelsea or whoever. They’re not even wrong to cling to that small crumb of comfort. In a non-Watford year, Jesse Marsch looks as good a shout as any for first Premier League manager out of a job and that’s particularly worrisome when you’ve let him sign all his old mates from his former clubs. Leeds are all-in on Marsch and desperately need the gamble to pay off. It looks almost certain to go wrong.
19) Leicester (16)
They’ve signed nobody and July Brendan has started talking absolutely dreadful bullshit about what February Brendan meant by saying the squad needed a “healthy shake-up”. What once appeared to be a stepping stone to bigger things for Rodgers now look more likely to end in a sacking. Somehow finished eighth last season which fooled nobody and they can’t afford to stand still while Newcastle and the like improve.
20) Everton (18)
Only just barely survived last season and have since our last update sold the primary reason for that survival. Have brought in a relegated centre-back on a free transfer, though, so it’s not all doom and gloom… Sorry, I’m just hearing in my earpiece here that it is all doom and gloom. We remain devotedly wedded to the idea that Frank Lampard is not a good manager, and we look forward to seeing how the media make the disaster that will unfold at Goodison this season in no way his fault. Likewise, in the unlikely event Everton don’t stink the place entirely out, the lengths we will go to in order to avoid giving him any credit whatsoever. Fun times either way.