The middle of the Premier League table is one of the most fascinating parts of every Premier League season. Multiple clubs attempt to improve each season and compete to reach European competition, while others fall short and become involved in the relegation battle.
This is the third part of a five-part series previewing this year’s Premier League Season. This article will take a look at Crystal Palace, Newcastle, Wolverhampton, and Brighton & Hove Albion.
Crystal Palace F.C.
Last year was an extremely successful first season at Crytal Palace for Patrick Vieira. The team finished 12th in the Premier League, an improvement from 14th the year prior, and reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
The season also brought about a dramatic change in the club’s style of play. Crystal Palace, previously a defensively focused team, shifted to a more balanced approach in Vieira’s first season which was one of the main reasons for the club’s success.
The most difficult, and important, objective for Crystal Palace in this transfer window and season is replacing Conor Gallagher, who spent last season on loan at the club from Chelsea. Gallagher was key to the progress Vieira made last year, but will return to Chelsea this season where he could play an important role for Thomas Tuchel.
Crystal Palace strengthened their midfield when they signed Cheick Doucoure this summer, but Eberechi Eze may be the player who steps into Gallagher’s role this season. Eze, who is 24 years old, joined Crystal Palace from Queens Park Rangers in 2020.
Eze has played 47 games in his Premier League career for Crystal Palace, with five goals and seven assists during that time. He only played in 13 games in the Premier League last year, but will almost certainly be a key player for Vieira this season. This summer, where he has established himself as a clear option in the midfield for the team, has allowed the club to pursue other players to strengthen the squad.
Most important among those is Doucoure, who joins the team from Lens in France, where he made 67 Ligue 1 appearances. Doucoure is an extremely talented midfielder already, and at 22 years old he should improve moving forward as Vieira continues to establish his system at Crystal Palace.
Center-back Chris Richards is another important signing for the team. Richards joins Crystal Palace from Bayern Munich, where he played a few times for the team and spent a successful few years on loan at Hoffenheim. Richards will continue to help Crystal Palace build defensive depth, with multiple young players, including Richards, set to begin the next era in Crystal Palace’s defense.
Goalkeeper Sam Johnstone and forward Malcolm Ebiowei also join the team this summer after the contracts at their previous clubs expired. The club already has an established group of goalkeepers, led by Vicente Guaita, but Johnstone will add depth and compete with Guaita to be the team’s starting goalie. He already has Premier League experience and will provide flexibility in future transfer windows for Crystal Palace.
Ebiowei is extremely young and has limited professional experience but has extremely exciting potential. He could be an important factor for Crystal Palace this season as he gains more playing time, but his development will be the priority this year. While he joins the team on a free transfer, he could be an important part of the club’s future and adds depth at the forward positions as Crystal Palace continues to add younger players to the squad.
Wilfried Zaha will again be the team’s most important player this season and has had success during the start of Vieira’s tenure. The club’s new style of play benefits the forward, and he scored 14 Premier League goals last season; three more than he scored in the 2020-21 season.
Marc Guehi became a key player for the team last year after joining the club last summer. He leads a developing group of young players that are hoping to lead the club to even more success.
Overall, Crystal Palace is continuing to take steps forward under Vieira. This season could see the team compete to finish in the Top 10 in the Premier League, and they will hope to build upon last year’s semi-final appearance in the FA Cup and have even more success in both the FA Cup and EFL Cup this year.
Like Crystal Palace, Newcastle United is one of the most interesting teams in the Premier League right now, but for totally different reasons. The club aims to compete to become one of the best teams in England after a change in ownership last year.
Bruno Guimaraes, Chris Wood, Kieran Trippier, and Matt Targett, among others, were part of an important January transfer window for Newcastle last year. Those players helped the team finish 11th in the Premier League after they spent most of the first half of the year facing relegation.
New manager Eddie Howe, who joined the team last year, has continued to improve the team this summer. Sven Botman and Nick Pope have joined the team, while Targett’s move to the club, which was originally a loan agreement, became a permanent signing.
Botman is a 22-year-old center-back who joins Newcastle from Lille, who finished 10th in France last season after winning Ligue 1 in 2020-21. Botman played 24 games in Ligue 1 last season, and will immediately compete to start at center-back for Newcastle.
Pope joins Newcastle from Burnley, who were relegated last season. He could play an important role for England at this year’s World Cup, and will immediately compete with Martin Dubravka to be the club’s starting goalie. Pope has extensive Premier League experience with 141 career games played in the competition.
Newcastle United will continue to build towards the future this season. Allan Saint-Maximin, Joelinton, and Joe Willock, among others, remain important players for the team and will be helped by the players who have joined Newcastle over the last six months.
While it is probably too early to expect Newcastle to compete to qualify for European competition this season, the team is still undoubtedly improving. This year is another opportunity for Howe and Newcastle to take a step forward as the club continues moving towards its long-term goals.
Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C.
Wolverhampton was one of the best stories in the Premier League when they returned to the competition and finished seventh in back-to-back seasons in 2018-19 and 2019-20. However, since then, the club hasn’t been as successful, finishing 13th in 2020-21 before finishing 10th last season.
Bruno Lage, who enters his second season at the club this year, is aiming to return the team to the success it had during its first two years back in the Premier League. Nathan Collins has joined the team this summer, and Hwang Hee-Chan’s move to Wolverhampton became permanent after he spent last season on loan at the club.
Collins begins his career at Wolverhampton after spending the last few seasons at Burnley. Collins is only 21 years old and played 19 games in the Premier League last season before making the move to Wolverhampton, where he will continue to play more often and become an important part of the future of the Wolves’ defense.
In Hwang’s first season at Wolverhampton, the forward scored five goals in 30 Premier League appearances. During the year, he made important contributions as part of Wolverhampton’s group of forwards.
One of the biggest remaining questions for Wolverhampton this summer is whether or not Ruben Neves will remain at the club. Transfer rumors have surrounded Neves for the past few transfer windows. He is one of the team’s best players, and if he departs before the end of the transfer window it could have a big impact on Wolverhampton’s season. However, the probability of Neves leaving the team has likely decreased over the last few weeks.
Wolves have had incredible Premier League success with most of their current squad in the past. The team should continue to improve as Lage enters his second season.
Wolverhampton has finished in the top ten in the Premier League in three of the last four seasons and will have a good opportunity to do so again this year. It is even possible the team could compete to qualify for a European competition; an area where the club has had recent success as the team competed in the Europa League in 2019-20.
While Wolverhampton may not have made as many signings as other clubs this summer, they should still be a very good team this year.
Brighton & Hove Albion F.C.
Brighton returned to the Premier League in 2017 and spent most of their first four seasons back in the Premier League trying to avoid relegation. The club finished 15th, 17th, 15th, and 16th during those seasons, and came as close as two points to being relegated.
However, last season was an incredible success for the club. Brighton finished 9th in the Premier League and was only five points away from qualifying to participate in the Europa Conference League.
Brighton now turns their attention to ensuring they remain out of the relegation battle. In addition, the club wants to establish itself as one that consistently finishes in the top half of the Premier League table.
The biggest storyline of this summer’s transfer window for the club was the departure of Yves Bissouma, who joined Tottenham. Bissouma had an incredibly successful career at Brighton, and his departure will have a significant impact on how manager Graham Potter approaches the season.
Meanwhile, Marc Cucurella, who was one of the main reasons for the club’s success last year, could still leave the team this summer. If he does, Brighton will have to continue to adjust their defensive system after the departure of Bissouma.
Two players have joined Brighton this summer; forwards Julio Enciso and Simon Adingra. Adingra will spend this year on loan at Union SG. In addition, Kaoru Mitoma and Deniz Undav will return from loans and could have important roles for the team this year.
Enciso is only 18 years old and has yet to play in Europe. While he might not make a huge immediate impact, he will develop during the course of the season and should contribute more as the year goes on.
Mitoma and Undav both spent last season at Union SG. Mitoma scored seven goals across 27 appearances, while Undav scored 26 goals in 39 games. Both could be important players at the forward positions for Brighton this season.
Key players such as Neal Maupay, Leandro Trossard, Lewis Dunk, and Tariq Lamptey will be extremely important at the start of the season as Brighton adjusts after the departure of Bissouma and potentially Cucurella. They will likely make huge contributions all season as Brighton hopes to avoid any possibility of relegation.
Brighton has not been one of the most active teams in this year’s summer transfer window. However, last year’s ninth-placed finish will provide confidence that the club can continue to have success in the Premier League.