Premier League season preview: Focusing on the mid-table battlers

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The 2022-23 Premier League season is almost here and it is time to preview the 20 teams battling it out this season.

[ MORE: Premier League TV schedule

Focusing on the mid-table battlers, which four teams should be clear of the relegation battle with an outside chance of pushing for European qualification?

Below we look at all of the key factors, including their title and relegation odds, key new signings, what these teams are all about and much more.


2022-23 Premier League preview: Focusing on the mid-table battlers

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Aston Villa

Odds to go down: +1400
Odds to win title: +35000

Key new signings: Philippe Coutinho (permanent), Diego Carlos, Boubacar Kamara

The gaffer: Steven Gerrard is set for his first full season as a Premier League manager after arriving from Rangers to replace Dean Smith on Nov. 11. Gerrard’s first 27 PL games saw Aston Villa go 10W-5D-12L as they climbed out of 16th and into a comfortable mid-table place with a month of the season still remaining. From Gerrard’s appointment onward, Aston Villa were the 9th-best team in the Premier League, winning 35 points with a goal difference of +4. His presence at the club, given his name recognition as a generational talent himself not so long ago, can take Aston Villa the next step up the ladder as the club can convince bigger names and talents to come to the West Midlands.

Why you should watch them if your team isn’t playing: There’s attacking talent in spades at Villa Park, so much so that Emiliano Buendia and Leon Bailey — two of the club’s prize recruits from a summer ago, as the Jack Grealish money was aggressively re-invested — face an uphill battle for consistent starts. Not only is Coutinho back after making his loan move a permanent one (a credit to Gerrard), but Jacob Ramsey became a breakout star during the second half of last season, with Ollie Watkins (leading goal scorer two straight seasons since joining Aston Villa) and Danny Ings spear-heading those quick counter-attacks. They’ll create plenty of chances and score plenty of goals, and they’ll allow a lot of chances and concede plenty of goals. Elite (non-big six) entertainment value.

Youngster to watch: Jacob Ramsey, 21, logged 2,477 Premier League minutes last season at the age of 20. The Aston Villa academy product scored six PL goals with one assist while playing primarily as a central midfielder.


Brentford

Odds to go down: +250
Odds to win title: +100000

Key new signings: Aaron Hickey, Keane Lewis-Potter, Ben Mee

The gaffer: Thomas Frank did brilliantly to navigate an injury-ravaged debut season in the Premier League, as the Bees finished 13th, 11 points clear of relegation. What began a small, undermanned squad became bare bones for much of fall and all of winter (three wins in 20 games, with three draws and 14 defeats from mid-October to the end of February), but spring was far gentler with key players returning to go 7W-1D-3L over their final 11 games.

Why you should watch them if your team isn’t playing: Last season’s squad remains almost entirely intact, with Christian Eriksen, who joined in January after suffering a cardiac arrest last summer, leaving for Manchester United after his six-month contract expired. That kind of stability and continuity is something that too many newly promoted sides cast aside when the PL money starts rolling in, and it comes back to bite most of them in the end. Frank’s tactical ideas are demanding — not only physically, but mentally — in a way that takes time to understand and apply. It was a big part of their fast start last season (3W-3D-1L) and should once again play an important part in keeping the Bees up.

Youngster to watch: Bryan Mbeumo, 22, took a significant step forward late last season as he scored once and assisted four times in a three-game stretch against Leicester, Chelsea and West Ham. Mbeumo and Ivan Toney have fantastic playing chemistry and it’s the Frenchman who’ll benefit most from the big man’s stellar hold-up play.


Crystal Palace

Odds to go down: +600
Odds to win title: +50000

Key new signings: Cheick Doucoure, Chris Richards

The gaffer: Patrick Vieira’s first season as a Premier League manager was equally brilliant to those of Gerrard and Frank, as he oversaw the first of a multi-season rebuild at Selhurst Park. After turning over nearly half the squad from the previous campaign, Vieira guided Palace to a 12th-place finish with an emphasis on young, up-and-coming players making their way into the first team.

Why you should watch them if your team isn’t playing: There’s an incredibly exciting nucleus of young talent at Selhurst (thanks to Vieira’s reputation, as discussed with Gerrard). Michael Olise, 20, was another breakout star late last season; Tyrick Mitchell, 22, was sensational in his first season as a full-time starter; Marc Guehi, 22, was steady beyond his years at center back. Zilfried Zaha led the scoring once again last season (14 goals, one assist) and remains the unquestioned leader in the locker room, with Odsonne Edouard chipping in six goals and three assists in his first PL season. There are, however, questions over how they will replace departed loanee Conor Gallagher after he quickly became the star of the show.

Youngster to watch: All of the above.


Wolves

Odds to go down: +500
Odds to win title: +50000

Key new signings: Hwang Hee-chan, Nathan Collins

The gaffer: Speaking of first-year Premier League managers doing a fantastic job during a period of transition, Bruno Lage picked up where Nuno Espirito Santo left off (a 13th-place finish after going 7th back-to-back) and stabilized the club in 10th. But, was it a bit of smoke and mirrors (i.e. goalkeeper Jose Sa performed on an otherworldly level) in arriving at the 5th-best defensive record in the league? 43 goals conceded in 38 games is a wonderful record, but Wolves were actually 5th-worst in expected goals against. Assuming the same attacking unit from last season didn’t morph into a free-scoring juggernaut this summer, Lage will have to orchestrate a far more measured defensive setup to finish mid-table again.

Why you should watch them if your team isn’t playing: They’re a nightmare for the Premier League’s top sides to deal with. Talent-deficient, but willing to match, and out-work, even the most star-studded of sides. Always a threat to cause a major upset, Wolves tend to bring the very best out of the very best.

Youngster to watch: Rayan Ait-Nouri, 21, and Pedro Neto, 22, are the only two returning players under the age of 25 who logged more than 400 minutes last season. It’s a side full of experience, hoping to squeeze one more season out of the core that got where they are now.

Follow @AndyEdMLS