Premier League Verdicts - Football: Liverpool to Norwich
Manchester City and Liverpool went toe-to-toe for Premier League glory during 2021/22, but can Manchester United or even Newcastle mount a challenge next term?
The 2021/22 Premier League season concluded on Sunday but clubs are already looking ahead to next season.
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: Liverpool
Final Position: 2nd
Verdict: Liverpool came up just short in their pursuit of a second Premier League title in three years, finishing just a point behind Manchester City in the final standings.
Jurgen Klopp's side certainly gave their all in their pursuit of glory, winning 16 of their final 18 league fixtures, and regardless of coming up just short in the title race, this will still go down as a hugely successful season.
The Reds have already secured two titles during the 2021/22 campaign, beating Chelsea in the final of both the FA Cup and EFL Cup, while they will add a third trophy if they overcome Real Madrid in Saturday's Champions League final in Paris.
Liverpool are 1.53 to be crowned champions of Europe for a seventh time, and if they do achieve that feat then it means they only missed out on completing an unprecedented quadruple by a single Premier League point (plus goal difference).
Target for 2022/23: The only way Liverpool can improve on a near-perfect season is by winning the Premier League title next term and that is sure to be the top priority for Klopp and co.
Liverpool are 5.00 to land just their second Premier League title, while a priority off the pitch will be sorting out the contracts of key players such as Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, whose current deals are due to expire in the summer of 2023.
Team Name: Manchester City
Final Position: 1st
Verdict: Manchester City wrapped up a fourth Premier League title in five years on Sunday, coming from 2-0 down against Aston Villa to win 3-2 on the final day and pip Liverpool to top spot by a solitary point.
Only Manchester United have won more Premier League titles than City and Pep Guardiola's side have already boosted their hopes of retaining their crown next season with the acquisition of striker Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund.
Having played last season without an out-and-out centre forward, Haaland could be seen as the missing piece in the puzzle for City, although it remains to be seen whether the Norwegian fits into the Citizens' style of play - Romelu Lukaku at Chelsea anyone?
Target for 2022/23: Retaining the Premier League title at odds of 1.36 will once again be a priority for City next season, although conquering Europe will also be on the agenda.
After agonisingly losing to Real Madrid in the semi-finals of this season's Champions League, City will be desperate to right those wrongs without taking their eye of the ball domestically.
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Team Name: Manchester United
Final Position: 6th
Verdict: It was certainly a season to forget for Manchester United, as they accumulated their fewest points in a Premier League campaign, their tally of 58 seeing them finish a full 35 behind champions City.
The sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November did little to lift the gloom at Old Trafford, with interim boss Ralf Rangnick steering the club to a sixth-place finish and even that flattered considering their struggles.
United's season was punctuated by embarrassing defeats, as they lost 4-1 at Watford, 4-0 at Brighton and suffered a combined 9-0 aggregate defeat across their two matches against fierce rivals Liverpool.
Even the return of Cristiano Ronaldo could not help the United cause, he scored 24 goals across all competitions, but often looked perplexed as to what was happening around him.
Target for 2022/23: New boss Erik ten Hag faces a near impossible task to return United to their former glories, with the squad needing a complete overhaul, with the likes of Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Edinson Cavani among those expected to leave.
The good news for Ten Hag is things can surely not get any worse for United and if he can guide them to a top-four finish next season, at odds of 8.00, then that surely must be regarded as a success.
Team Name: Newcastle
Final Position: 11th
Verdict: The 2021/22 season may well go down as one of the most important in Newcastle's history, as the club became reportedly the richest in world football after being taken over by the Public Investment Fund last October.
The new owners arrived with Newcastle engulfed in a relegation battle and as a result they soon parted ways with boss Steve Bruce, bringing in former Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe in his place.
Helped by some impressive business in the January transfer window, with Kieran Trippier, Bruno Guimaraes, Dan Burn, Chris Wood and Matt Targett all arriving, Howe was able to steer Newcastle clear of the relegation zone and into the safety of mid-table.
Such was the improvement Newcastle made under Howe, had the season started on 1st January then only Man City, Liverpool and Tottenham would have finished above the Magpies in the standings.
Target for 2022/23: Newcastle's supporters will be excited by what the future holds, with a busy summer of transfer business expected, although Howe will be keen to only tinker with the success he enjoyed over the second half of the season.
Team Name: Norwich
Final Position: 20th
Verdict: Norwich came into the 2021/22 season believing they had learned from their previous mistakes and could survive in the Premier League, but for the second time in three years the Canaries finished bottom of the pile and went down with a whimper.
Unlike their previous season in the top flight, Norwich did twist by parting ways with promotion-winning boss Daniel Farke, but his replacement, Dean Smith, could do little to halt the inevitable.
Smith was not backed in the January transfer window, with the Canaries having seemingly already given up on survival at the turn of the year, with the former Aston Villa boss now facing an unenviable task, as he will almost be expected to bring Norwich straight back up.
Target for 2022/23: In the last four seasons Norwich have won the Championship title twice and finished bottom of the Premier League twice, and it would be no surprise to see them finish top of the pile in the second tier once again next term.
The Canaries can be backed at 9.00 to win the Championship, but can their squad really go again in the second tier? The jury remains out and it may be a little longer than usual before we see Norwich as a Premier League club once again.
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