Quadruples? Not being Derby? Winning literally anything? Setting season targets for every Premier League club

Dave Tickner
Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal celebrate
Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal celebrate

You’d have to be pretty arrogant to tell 20 Premier League football clubs what you, a snarky formerly-good football website, deem acceptable from them over the next 12 months, wouldn’t you?

So here’s what we expect, nay demand, of the 20 Premier League football clubs over the next 12 months.


Arsenal – Another top-four and identifiable if not necessarily successful title challenge
The fundamental gist of a piece like this is to set everyone up for a fall. Ideally, none of these 20 damn fool football teams achieves the targets we have demanded of them like the arrogant little turds we are. So we could definitely be harsher here. We could, for instance, go ‘second last time, so you’d better go and win it this time yeah?’

But we all know that would be bullshit. There were two reasons why Arsenal’s collapse at the back end of last season was so galling. The first was the fact that, for all the evasive ‘How can one possibly compete with Man City?’ shoulder-shrugging it was really a series of disasters (bottle jobs, if you must) against mere mortal teams that cost them the title. The second was the knowledge that while this might be the start of something wonderful it could also be a freakish one-off season where everyone else was assorted shades of shit for long periods and even City weren’t quite at their most 100-point ludicrous.

So consolidation is okay this season after last year’s dramatic over-achievement. The first gutting bit is gone. Nothing to be done about that now. But the second can be disproved. Arsenal can’t be accused of not going for it having made a lively and expensive start to the transfer window. Winning a trophy would be great, but far more important in the longer term to prove to themselves as much as anyone that they’re here to stay. Another top-four finish, a decent run beyond the last 16 of the Champions League and something that can at least be pointed at and called a title challenge of some sort for a reasonable period of time would fit the bill.


Aston Villa – Win the Europa Conference League
West Ham have shown the way here for a claret-and-blue team who have for a club of their size got away with extreme trophy-dodging for far too long. It’s hard to win any of the domestic trophies because Manchester City are in them, but the Conference has nobody remotely that good in it. Spurs may have made a complete bollocks of it but you don’t have to be as confused as Spurs.

West Ham had a near-flawless record in the competition and with all due respect to everyone involved, they gave no indication across the remainder of the campaign of being a team who might go through a competition with a near-flawless record. It’s a wonderful opportunity for Villa and who knows when it might come around again.

For most clubs, ‘Still have the same manager at the end of the season as the start of it’ is going to be by definition an indicator of things going well. Villa definitely one of them, but for slightly different reasons than most in that they have the sort of manager who the greedy Big Seven (bar Arsenal, probably) might deem distinctly poachable if their own season shows any unwelcome sign of unravelling.

READ MORE: Emery and Monchi can push Aston Villa to Sevilla-like dominance and challenge Premier League elite


Bournemouth – Avoid becoming a ‘careful what you wish for’ cautionary tale
Replacing Gary O’Neil with a demonstrably superior manager was brutal after he did all that could be asked of him in keeping them up last season. But that doesn’t mean it was wrong. It’s a gamble, it shows ambition, and upgrading absolutely any other member of the football staff when the opportunity arises would not cause a single raised eyebrow at Bournemouth or anywhere else.

But the reality is still that it puts a target on their back. Especially having gone foreign to replace their young – and let’s be honest – wildly underqualified right-place, right-time English manager.

If by October or November people can write drab, ambition-blaming pieces admonishing Bournemouth to be ‘careful what you wish for’ then things have gone wrong. And absolutely none of those pieces will acknowledge the possibility (even likelihood) that O’Neil would have been even less likely to defy gravity.


Brentford – Top-half finish
European qualification a la Brighton would be the stretch target, but Ivan Toney’s absence will surely be keenly felt and it’s unlikely quite so many members of the Big Seven will quite so violently shit the entirety of their beds this season, so if Brentford just quietly keep on keeping on that will be grand.


Brighton – Top eight and a decent run in Europe
There’s going to be a novelty to those European Thursday nights this season given the teams involved. Villa haven’t been in Europe for ages, Liverpool don’t generally slum it on Thursdays and Brighton have never been there. All very strange. When West Ham are the reassuring constant presence, you have found yourself on a very disturbed timeline indeed. Anyway, it’s going to be great fun if they go well in the Europa without entirely f**king their league efforts into the sun.

It’s going to be double hard to do so given their own utter lack of experience at juggling all the extra games and the inherent domestic advantage handed to larger rivals Chelsea and Spurs who find themselves luxuriating in unusually fixture-light campaigns under new managers.


Burnley – Still have Vincent Kompany in charge by May
Often tricky for promoted clubs, especially seasoned Premier League clubs returning to the top flight like Burnley. Obviously, avoiding relegation is goal one but for a Burnley that feels a bit of a low bar. Other promoted clubs with less have done rather more than that, and the Clarets should aim a bit higher than mere survival, surely. How high, though? We don’t know. And thus the cop-out. If Vincent Kompany is still their manager on the final day of the season, the season will have gone pretty well.


Chelsea – Top-half finish
It’s asking a lot, but there were some small signs at the back end of last season that plucky bottom-half stragglers Chelsea really could be a top-10 side if they pull their finger out. They’ve landed a coup with former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino intrigued by a project that would appear to be beneath a manager with his CV, but if they can find another half-billion or so to invest and a few more convenient Saudi Arabian clubs to wildly overpay for their forests of deadwood, then who knows what Chelsea might achieve? Brentford and Palace beware!


Crystal Palace – Feel alive
We know why it happened. We get that most Palace fans were happy enough with it and very few actively upset, but we’re still annoyed with them about last season to be honest. There really felt like a genuine attempt at being more than a club that survives in the Premier League when Patrick Vieira was in charge. It may well have all crumbled to dust, but it might not. The relegation threat was always less real than it appeared due to that crazily lopsided fixture list, and going back to the comfort blanket of Roy Hodgson may have been understandable and on its own terms successful (as any competent manager with Palace’s competent squad should have been over such a friendly run of fixtures) but it all felt like a bit of a retreat into a place of safety and familiarity.

So this season needs to be something more than just existing between ninth and 12th in the Premier League. An unlikely European push. A proper cup run. Anything to get the blood pumping.


Everton – Just please anything other than another desperate, fraught relegation scrap
It’s demeaning and exhausting. You should be so much better than this.


Fulham – Another season where everyone forgets all about you by February
Doing a Brighton or even a Brentford would be lovely, but if you’re Fulham and still scarred by just how grimly awful those last couple of relegation seasons were then another quiet season where nobody has to talk much about you at all will be just the ticket. Three years in the Premier League is also the industry standard for loss of the ‘yo-yo club’ label, so it’s not like there isn’t something very real and tangible to play for in Fulham doing nothing more than keeping themselves away from the unpleasantness and drama and stress at the foot of the table. It’s also something a great many teams have singularly failed to do after apparently fine first seasons back in the top flight, so it’s not as easy as it sounds.


Liverpool – Win the Europa League
Obviously the main target is to get back in the Champions League Where They Belong after last season’s disappointment. Should probably be back challenging for the title, really. But the best way for Liverpool to get back into the Big Cup is undoubtedly to win the Europa League. Be lovely stuff, that. It’s the biggest pot Klopp hasn’t won during his time at the club having lost the final to, inevitably, Sevilla in 2016 and not a competition Liverpool get many cracks at these days.

Also, if they win the Europa League and finish, I don’t know, sixth or something we get to see two of our favourite types of stories. One: European qualification permutation and scenario stories where at least one fanbase – and it’s usually Spurs – gets scared into thinking they might miss out on the Champions League if they finish fourth. And two: beard-stroking ruminations on ‘Who’s had the better season?’ out of a team that’s been shit in the league and won a pot and a team that’s been consistently excellent all year but only finished second like giant embarrassing failures.

So we want that, please.

READ MORE: Man Utd trophy trumping Arsenal title challenge? Ferdinand and Keane show true colours


Luton – Don’t be Derby, and pull down the pants of at least one big club at Kenilworth Road
Obviously Luton will hope to stay up. And they might. Stranger things have happened. Not many, though, and the first task for any club promoted unexpectedly into the top flight is to make sure you don’t go full Derby. If after a decent chunk of the season people are even talking about Derby’s astonishing one-win, 11-point effort in 2007/08 you’ve already got problems.

Luton should avoid that because genuinely how do you only get 11 points in a whole season? An outrageous effort. There is also going to be at least one belting night at Kenilworth Road where a big team comes an absolute cropper and everyone patronises the ground and club very nearly as much as we have here.


Manchester City – Quad
If you’re standing still, you’re going backwards. Shades of the old Sid Waddell quote about Alexander the Great and Eric Bristow here, and if City can win all four then and only then can Pep Guardiola be permitted to shed his salt tears.

They should do it really. Miles better than everyone else, even when they spend half a season fannying about and working out how best to incorporate their Norwegian Goalatron 3000. And Erling Haaland has completed the mandatory season of getting used to Pep and his ways now, so we should see a bit more from him this time around.

And it was very careless of them not to win the Carabao last season. It’s been close to their personal possession for so long and yet it’s now two whole years since they won it. Which is just embarrassing really. We’re slightly joking here, but they – a team that won literally everything else in sight last season – did contrive to get knocked out of it last season by Nathan Jones’ Southampton. A significant blot on Guardiola’s record. Does it prove he’s a fraud? Not for us to say.


Manchester United – Win a bigger pot, title challenge that exists in real world
Turning Manchester United back into a proper football club rather than elaborate and expensive joke was always a long-term project that couldn’t possibly be completed in a single year, but Erik ten Hag did as much as could reasonably be asked in his first season. The trophy drought was ended to give those poor long-suffering United fans something to celebrate at last and warm the hearts of other teams’ supporters across the land who had for so long looked at their United-following brethren with pity and sadness. A return to the Champions League was also secured, and the more fanciful, click-hungry elements of the football media landscape began talking very giddily indeed about a quadruple that had quite literally zero chance because United had blown their chances of winning the league before August was out.

Daft as such chat was, it did leave a feeling of anti-climax when neither the Europa League nor FA Cup could be added to the Carabao – City duly matching the 1999 Treble didn’t help – and the ongoing takeover situation is destabilising. So it’s going to be hard for Ten Hag to easily build on what he did achieve last season, but build he must.

United don’t have to win the title, but something approaching an identifiable and real title challenge is long overdue. Goes without saying that the top four is mandatory once again, while winning something bigger than the Carabao would also be welcome after last season’s near-misses.

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Newcastle – Identifiable title challenge, trophy
Newcastle’s season targets are essentially the same as Manchester United’s here, which is an indication of how far they’ve come and how quickly. Consolidating their place among the elite should be a given – it will be for other clubs (Spurs, we are as ever looking at you) to determine whether it’s a Big Six or Seven or Twelve but Newcastle should definitely be in it. Winning the title is a lot to ask, but being there or thereabouts for a decent chunk of the season seems a reasonable request for a club with more money than god, while their new-found status among the gilded elite means they will need to be ticking off that ‘winning a trophy’ box before it becomes an albatross (Spurs, again, we glance in your banterous direction).


Nottingham Forest – Stay up, keep Steve Cooper, don’t buy another whole new squad
All very achievable. Says much – good and bad – about the club that the last one is the one we’re worried about here.


Sheffield United – a 2019/20 rather than a 2020/21
Although without all that pandemic unpleasantness, ideally. They’ve been an odd kind of yo-yo club in recent years, the Blades, doing the usual shuttling between the Barclays and the Championship but with their own twist: they spend two years at a time in each division, rather than just the one. Interesting. Anyway, the clear target this year is to give themselves a chance to break that cycle in the good way rather than achieving it straight off in the bad way.


Tottenham – Win a cup so we can all move on with our lives
It is now genuinely more likely that all those ‘Days since Spurs won a trophy’ banter accounts on twitter will die because of Elon Musk rather than Spurs actually winning a thing. Only two half-realistic chances this year as well with no European football, but perhaps that will give them a chance to use their whole arse in the Carabao and FA Cups rather than the half-arsed efforts of the last 10 or 15 years.

Spurs are, one way or another, going to be one of the more interesting themes of the season having fallen into such a state of disrepair that they’ve taken a genuinely exciting but extremely high-risk gamble on a new manager who might well be absolutely brilliant but arrives with zero big-league experience and is also an Australian. Which is an even less popular thing to be in England right now than normal.

You sort of think they can’t possibly be worse than last season but then you remember Harry Kane might leave and think they obviously absolutely could. Early transfer window signs are encouraging on both the in and importantly out side of the ledger, because Spurs have a lot of deadwood to shift and apparently no friendly Saudi contacts to help them out with that.

But a time-traveller could risk the very fabric of the universe to travel back from May 2024 to tell us that Spurs have finished third or that Spurs had finished 15th and we wouldn’t be surprised. Apart from the time-traveller bit. That part would freak us out slightly.


West Ham – Enjoy their trophy-winning status, don’t get in another silly relegation battle
Have rather adorably taken to describing themselves as ‘European Champions’ after winning the Europa Carabao but when you haven’t won a trophy for 42 years you have to be allowed to slightly lose the run of yourselves when you finally scratch that itch. Especially after the manner in which they beat Fiorentina with Jarrod Bowen’s last-minute goal.

Can thus spend this entire season revelling in it, reminding Spurs about it at every opportunity and just making sure they don’t do anything completely stupid like getting relegated.


Wolves – Top-half finish
Secured the same number of points as Spurs from Julen Lopetegui’s appointment until the end of the season. Says arguably more about Spurs than Wolves but the point is under a quietly impressive manager they were a thoroughly mid-table team – their 31 points from 23 games put them 11th in the post-World Cup table – and that should be the very least they aspire to this season after a dangerous flirtation with relegation trouble in the earlier part of 2022/23.

Their most important work of the summer has already been completed in convincing Lopetegui to stay, but the signings he was presumably promised have not yet materialised. Lots of time, though. No panic just yet.