Liverpool to equal their lowest Premier League finish and Frank Lampard to be among three current top-flight managers all to leave in 2023? Oh go on then.
10) Bournemouth, Nottingham Forest and Southampton will be relegated
It’s not particularly outlandish, granted. Southampton are bottom on a five-game losing streak and have not even done the 9-0 thing so far this season. Nottingham Forest are in the relegation zone with the worst goal difference in the division. Bournemouth are only superficially clear of danger, mired as they are in that rabble of teams from 13th down who are separated by five points.
Three from those eight will fall into the Championship after Unai Emery dragged Aston Villa away from the fight and Crystal Palace earned themselves a little breathing space. Julen Lopetegui will clear the lowest of bars for Wolves, Leeds will have just enough and Everton and West Ham will barely sustain themselves on a diet of transfer inspiration, managerial change and/or sheer narrative. Nathan Jones won’t be able to sufficiently improve Saints, Forest’s defense will undermine any hope of survival and Bournemouth will slip into trouble as Scott Parker knots sagely while lifting the Champions League trophy.
9) The holy British coaching trifecta won’t manage in the Premier League for the first calendar year since 1993
Between them, Harry Redknapp, Roy Hodgson and Sam Allardyce have either taken it in turns or shared the burden of managing in the Premier League for every year of the past three decades.
Redknapp took the responsibility upon himself between 1994 and 2001 with West Ham, joined for a couple of years by Roy Hodgson at Blackburn. Sam Allardyce then assumed the mantle, taking it single-handedly at Bolton between 2001 and 2006, before carrying it in unison with Hodgson (Fulham) as he moved to Newcastle and Blackburn until 2010.
Then it was Hodgson’s turn to ride the top-flight wave solo, carrying the flag at Liverpool and West Brom in 2011. He and Allardyce (West Ham) saw 2012 through before the latter shouldered the duty alone until 2016, flitting from the Hammers to Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Everton.
Hodgson (Crystal Palace) and Allardyce (Palace, Everton and West Brom) scrapped together through 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021, with Hodgson filling in the gaps of 2019 at Selhurst Park and 2022 with Watford.
For the first time since 1993, none of them will be heeding a Premier League rescue call while ruing the lack of proper opportunities for British managers.
8) Man Utd break their transfer record
The longest-standing transfer record of any current Premier League club belongs to Man Utd. The £93.2m they parted with to re-sign Paul Pogba in August 2016 remains the highest fee they have paid for a player; Crystal Palace made Christian Benteke their most expensive signing ever 12 days later and no other team comes close.
January seems unlikely to bring anything more than a stopgap but Erik ten Hag’s desire to sign a proven goalscorer is public and potent. Their reported targets – Dusan Vlahovic, Goncalo Ramos, Victor Osimhen and many more – will come at a considerable cost and any selling club will be all too aware that Man Utd have spent £73m and £85m on different forwards in the last two summers.
7) David Moyes leaves West Ham
The good news is that West Ham do not have any away league games against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool or Man Utd remaining this season. The bad news is the rest of it. The five consecutive defeats. The three clean sheets, of which only Southampton (1) have less. The repetitive and unimaginative tactics. The favouritism in team selection. The club-record level of investment in the summer transfer window, the third-highest net spend of any club across the continent, to sink from 7th to a genuine relegation battle.
“How we’ll go about the game is the same way we’ve done for a long period,” Moyes said before the game against Brentford, the most damning and dispiriting defeat of the lot. “We will try and do all of the things we normally do to try and win.” Does anyone have the definition of insanity to hand?
6) Vincent Kompany will manage in the Premier League – and not necessarily just at Burnley
The gap between Blackburn in 3rd and Cardiff in 20th is the same as the gulf between the runaway Championship leaders and their play-off pushing bitter rivals. Jon Dahl Tomasson is doing a fine job at Ewood Park but Vincent Kompany is the accomplished player turned coaching prodigy who is taking the second tier by storm.
Only five teams have ever accumulated more points after 26 games of a Championship season than 2022/23 Burnley – each of those went on to win the title aside from 2016/17 Brighton, who were pipped by a single point. The thought of anyone beating these Clarets in a one-off league game, never mind over an entire season, is starting to become a little ludicrous. That is all down to Kompany’s transformation of a club he inherited in financial uncertainty and with a limited playing style firmly ingrained in the squad.
He will be a top-flight manager in 2023 – but not necessarily only at Burnley. It does not take a vivid imagination to foresee a panicking mid-table Premier League club with grand ambitions looking enviously at Turf Moor and dangling a bigger budget with better players in front of a coach who might fancy his chances of doing the Stepping Stone Towards A Job With Which He Will Be Inevitably Linked thing much more smoothly than Steven Gerrard.
5) Antonio Conte and Spurs mutually consent themselves
It only really seemed likely to end one way when Spurs appointed Antonio Conte on an 18-month deal in November 2021. There have been hints at a different path being taken, of tangible progress made and philosophies aligning. But ultimately Spurs were never going to go all in the way Conte demands and Conte was never going to change the approach which has delivered success elsewhere.
Performances have been sub-standard for some time, results are starting to turn and Conte’s post-match demeanor is that of a man who considers the whole episode beneath him. The Italian’s aura is of someone doing Spurs a favour, a master trying to give instructions to an apprentice who won’t listen. Frankly, he sounds like a 53-year-old who really doesn’t need this shit. And Spurs will eventually realize it is no longer worth punching in a relationship which is making neither party happy.
I get the ‘Conte needs to be backed’ argument. But I also think it’s undeniable that a manager of his ability & on his salary should be getting better performances out of the players at his disposal. We’ve been outplayed regularly by lesser teams. We don’t need to excuse that.
— Chris Miller (@WindyCOYS) January 1, 2023
4) Newcastle end their domestic trophy drunk
A League Cup quarter-final with Leicester awaits in January for Newcastle, for whom a third-round FA Cup tie at promotion-chasing Sheffield Wednesday should also offer hope of a deep competition run.
Last season summed up their recent history in the domestic cups: beaten by Burnley and Cambridge United – at home in both ties – at the first hurdle. The Magpies have reached two FA Cup quarter-finals since 2006 and only five times this century have they made the last eight of the League Cup.
Eddie Howe is in an enviable position: pushing for Champions League qualification with a substantial mid-season budget and a strong enough squad to compete on multiple fronts. That first Newcastle trophy since 1955 is on the horizon.
3) Everton sacks Frank Lampard
The point earned at Manchester City might kickstart a reign that has stuttered and stumbled for almost 12 months. It has to. Frank Lampard is working under incredibly difficult circumstances at Everton but at some point the general theme of his coaching career must change.
He took Derby from 6th to 6th, pushing them one step further in the play-offs. His reward was the Chelsea job, with the club’s transfer ban canceled out both by the proliferation of excellent young players breaking through at Stamford Bridge, and the actual £40m they still managed to spend on Mateo Kovacic; fourth in his only full season was par. Then to Everton, who appointed him in 16th, four points clear of relegation, and who were heroically guided to 16th, four points clear of relegation, come season’s end.
No club lost more Premier League games in 2022 and that sort of momentum is tough to shift in the right direction. Lampard can’t even really play the investment card after spending £85m in the summer. Displays such as those at the Etihad show promise but all too often that has been subsequently squandered. Lampard will leave in the same way he arrived: on a wave of Everton anxiety.
2) Liverpool equal their worst Premier League finish
This is more like it. Could play it easy and go for something obvious like ‘Darwin Nunez will score 30 goals but somehow still be shit’ but there’s no fun in that. These are predictions and we must go big.
Liverpool have finished 8th in the Premier League on three occasions: through the combined efforts of Graeme Souness and Roy Evans in 1994, under Kenny Dalglish in 2012 and with Jurgen Klopp himself at the helm in 2016, given no little help from Brendan Rodgers.
This current side is not as bad as any of those iterations but their main problem – that sodding midfield and a subsequently less protected and more porous defence – makes Liverpool seem every bit as clueless and feeble. A matter of months on from pushing to win all four trophies, they look tired and dysfunctional. And it would not be particularly surprising if the five clubs currently above them remain there with, say, Chelsea bucking up their ideas and Brentford or Brighton continuing to progress. The emergence of a strong Premier League mid-table has coincided with a drop in the standards of the two previously imperious title challengers and Liverpool have yet to hit the lowest point of this self-inflicted nadir. Just buy a midfielder next time.
1) Arsenal win the Premier League title
The team currently seven points clear as the season approaches its halfway stage is going to win the Premier League title. Huge claim. Ground breaking stuff. And yet it actually sort of is. Manchester City remain the odds-on favourites. The wider expectation is that Manchester City will claim the crown but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that people only think this specifically because it’s what they always do. It’s the accepted wisdom that a reigning champion and perennial trophy hoarder will overcome a brilliant but young and naive challenger who has never done it before. But Arsenal aren’t slowing down. It’s rather the opposite. They’re improving, learning, developing, confounding critics who formed their opinions on Typical Arsenal years ago – those soft, weak, technically pretty but structurally questionable transfer market failures who cannot get things right on or off the pitch – and have been so stunned by the pace of this transformation that they have yet to reassess any and all preconceptions.
They’re not bottling this. They won’t choke. St Totteringham’s Day is back in the calendar. The fourth place trophy is a speck in the rear-view mirror. This is happening. And Arsenal fans will be absolutely unbearable, as is their right.