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Premier League Verdicts - Football: Arsenal to Burnley

23 May 2022 09:45:15 EST
Arsenal missed out on a Champions League return

It was a frustrating end to the season for Arsenal as they missed out on Champions League football, but it was Burnley who suffered the ultimate heartache of relegation, dropping into the bottom three on the final day.

The 2021/22 Premier League season concluded on Sunday but clubs are already looking ahead to next campaign.

Here are our team-by-team verdicts on every side's exploits and the improvements they may want to make heading into 2022/23.

Team Name: Arsenal

Final Position: 5th

Verdict: In hindsight, after finishing eighth the season before and missing out on European football altogether, fifth spot represents improvement for Arsenal but Mikel Arteta's men could and should have gone one better.

It was a season in which the club's younger players came to the fore - Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah were the team's top three scorers in all competitions - with star player Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang having declined and departed the club in January.

Bringing in an experienced striker will be key this summer - Gabriel Jesus has been heavily linked - while more creativity in midfield would not go amiss either.

Ultimately, 13 defeats is far too many for a club with Champions League ambitions and all too often the club struggled to halt winless runs. The fairly unpopular Arteta will need a quick response next season or his time could be up.

Target for 2022/23: Whoever comes in or goes out over the summer, the primary aim will once again be making the long-awaited return to the Champions League via a top-four finish. The Gunners are 1.66 to end their exile from Europe's elite club competition.

Team Name: Aston Villa

Final Position: 14th

Verdict: Losing star player Jack Grealish to Manchester City in the summer was always going to put Aston Villa on the back foot this term but things turned sour quicker than many expected in the first few months of the season.

By Bonfire Night, the club had already lost seven league matches and that prompted the end of Dean Smith's tenure. Steven Gerrard ditched his project with Rangers to take the reins at Villa Park and although the situation stabilised, Villa were still lacking.

And that was disappointing from a club who were quick to spend the Grealish money on the likes of Leon Bailey, Danny Ings and Emiliano Buendia.

There are some top players in the team but Gerrard still seems seriously unsure of his best attacking combinations and this summer could be more about working that out than drafting in more players.

That said, a more experienced central defender could be worth a look in the coming months in order to provide more protection for the ever-impressive Emiliano Martinez in goal.

Target for 2022/23: A more optimistic Villa fan may suggest European qualification is a possibility but making the top half at 2.00 should be their priority in what will be their first full season with Gerrard in the dugout.

Team Name: Brentford

Final Position: 13th

Verdict: Those who finish in mid-table obscurity can often be overlooked at the end of a season but Brentford are one club who should not fly under the radar for their performance in the 2021-22 campaign.

To have survived so comfortbaly in their first full season of Premier League football after a modest summer transfer window is remarkable.

Much of the credit must go to manager Thomas Frank, who effectively arrested any slumps in form throughout the season - they followed a run of eight defeats in nine matches in January and February with five wins in six games in March and April.

And taking a chance on midfielder Christian Eriksen after his time out of the game proved to be a smart move with the Dane's creativity and dead-ball abilities playing a key role in their pursuit of survival.

Ivan Toney adapted well to the Premier League and Frank's focus must be on keeping together a cohesive squad and bringing in more creativity in midfield should Eriksen leave as expected this summer.

Target for 2022/23: After ensuring Eriksen has been replaced should he depart, merely another season of survival would be a success as the club look to establish themselves as Premier League regulars in the coming years. The Bees are priced at 1.12 to achieve their primary goal of not being relegated.

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Team Name: Brighton

Final Position: 9th

Verdict: The 2021-22 campaign was the season in which Brighton showed they are not merely an established top-flight club but one with ambitions of playing European football in the coming years.

It was a patchy season - they went on a six-game losing run in February and March - but one with a strong start and decent finish and they enjoyed wins over Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United, West Ham and Leicester among others.

Marc Cucurella marked himself out as one of the finest wide players in the division while Enock Mwepu and Yves Bissouma gave them quality options in the middle of the park.

The Seagulls have developed into one of the most intriguing teams to watch in the Premier League and were bold and brave on the road in particular, picking up 29 points on their travels.

But, to go a step further, Graham Potter needs an accomplished striker. Danny Welbeck is past it and Neal Maupay was top scorer with only nine strikes in all competitions. Otherwise, everything is coming together for the south coast club.

Target for 2022/23: After achieving their highest final league position in their history, the Seagulls will surely be looking at breaking into the Europa Conference League and Europa League places next season. Provided they strengthen further in the summer, a top six finish is a possibility and they are 7.00 to achieve that goal.

Team Name: Burnley

Final Position: 18th

Verdict: Hindsight is a wonderful thing and Burnley fans will not be able to stop themselves from thinking what might have been this season had club legend Sean Dyche not been axed in April.

It was a decision which seemed to come out of the blue but one that initially worked as they took 10 points from a possible 12 in their first four matches under the guise of under-23s coach Mike Jackson.

But three defeats in their last four matches, including a decisive final-day defeat to Newcastle when Leeds won at Brentford, consigned the Clarets to the Championship.

And, given the financial structure of the club, one can be forgiven for thinking it will be some time before we see Burnley back in the Premier League.

Their identity was lost after Dyche left and it remains to be seen who will lead them upon their return to the English Football League.

With only 34 goals scored in 38 league matches, their attack is need of an overhaul and they should also look to improve overall squad depth given the relentless nature of the Championship.

It will, however, take more than a lick of paint to get this below-par Burnley side back in the big time.

Target for 2022/23: An immediate promotion would be incredible but realistically Burnley must focus on putting their parachute payments to good use to ensure this community club does not drop down the divisions in the EFL.

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