May 16, 2022 7 min read
It’s the time of year known to all football fans as ‘the end of the domestic season’. Ordinarily these fans would expect a World Cup to follow but, given that in Doha temperatures are set to top 100 degrees Fahrenheit this week, it is not prudent to hold a football tournament in June and July. Instead, players can enjoy a month off before an earlier pre-season than usual to allow the season to pause in November for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Many of the Liverpool side who will conclude their season in Paris at the end of the month have played 50 games this season. When the FA Cup final kicked off last weekend, Alisson and Virgil van Dijk made their 51st and 50th starts respectively, while Jordan Henderson it was 42; he had come on as sub in 13 more. Diogo Jota’s figures are 37 + 15, meaning he has played more times than both Mo Salah and Sadio Mané (44 + 5 for both attackers). This is even starker when you realise the two African players met each other in the Cup of Nations final in January so missed several club games in the winter.
Such is the load carried by the elite professional footballer in 2022. Since the Premier League season comes to an end this Sunday, it’s a perfect time to consider the key players for each club this season who could prompt you to raise a toast. Perhaps you can charge your glasses when you have found club-branded alcohol on this site, whether to celebrate a great season or drown your sorrows before it all starts afresh in August, with Fulham and Bournemouth replacing Norwich City and Watford.
Norwich City’s big player Teemu Puuki has now scored more than 10 league goals in each of his four seasons as a Canary. Guess which seasons his team have been in the Premier League and which in the Championship: 29, 11, 26, 11. In 2021/22, that tally of 11 in 36 games is respectable, but it was always going to be difficult for a team which took 11 games to win in the league, one of their losses being 0-7 at Chelsea. Norwich host Spurs on the final day, with fourth place in the sights for the Lilywhites. Injury has not deprived them of their stellar players Hugo Lloris, Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min and Eric Dier, who have all been part of the last decade of success at Spurs. Relative newcomer Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has been another regular this season.
North London rivals Arsenal, for their part, have an English spine for the first time in two decades. Goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale caught the eye of Peter Schmeichel this season, with Ben White solid at the back. Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka, whose combined age is 41, supplied goals and assists, while Eddie Nketiah has recently reminded Arsenal fans of his promise, although he is tipped to seek pastures new in the summer window. Tonight (Monday), the Reds go up to Newcastle.
In a difficult season off the pitch, albeit one in which they followed their Champions League win with a Club World Cup triumph, Chelsea’s cosmopolitan squad has been used to its fullest. A 37-year-old Thiago Silva has guided younger players like Mason Mount and Kai Havertz in a mix of youth and experience. Havertz missed the FA Cup final, which Chelsea lost on penalties as they had done in the Carabao Cup a few months ago.
Watford go to Stamford Bridge on Sunday for Roy Hodgson’s final game in football management. With only eight points won at home and a creditable 15 away from home, it has been a wretched season for the Hornets that included two separate runs of six consecutive league defeats. Captain Moussa Sissoko has played the most games but is set to leave the club. Watford are already planning trips to Wigan and Rotherham with new head coach Rob Edwards joining after steering Forest Green Rovers to League One. Half a century ago, Graham Taylor was brought in from Lincoln City and Watford ended up in the UEFA Cup.
Leeds have also struggled this season with only goalkeeper Illan Meslier an everpresent. It looks probable that he will leave Leeds if they do go down, with similar worries about the futures of Raphina and Rodrigo. 30 years to the month after winning the title, Leeds go to Brentford on the final day. The big Bees player has been Swedish centre-back Pontus Jansson, while it is also notable is that Yoane Wissa has been used 18 times off the bench and Mathias Jensen has replaced a team-mate 12 times. In the Premier League, the entire matchday squad can make a difference to the result.
It looks like either Leeds or Burnley will be relegated. The latter team’s run of 119 Premier League games without a sending off ended in March, by which point they were about to fire Sean Dyche. Burnley have missed captain Ben Mee for much of this season but reliable starters include a core of other Englishmen: goalkeeper Nick Pope (34), defender James Tarkowski (33), winger Dwight McNeil (36) and midfielder Josh Brownhill (33), who scored the winning goal against Watford to push Burnley closer to survival.
The Clarets have Aston Villa away on Thursday and Newcastle United at home on Sunday; if they go down, they have enough quality to go back up. Villa have a settled starting XI which included goalkeeper Emi Martinez, defenders Matty Cash and Tyrone Mings and striker Ollie Watkins, who have all played over 30 games this year. Newcastle replaced half their team in January and climbed up the league accordingly. Those who have lasted all season include Allan Saint-Maximin (29 starts + 4 as a sub before today’s match) and Joelinton (27 + 5), as well as Jacob Murphy, who has 17 substitute appearance and 13 starts.
The other team at the bottom is, astonishingly, Everton. They host Crystal Palace on Thursday then go to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday in a repeat of the final day of the 1997/98 season where the Gunners won their first league title. Find out more about it on Wednesday in the Charge Your Glasses piece.
All three teams have relied on a core of Englishmen this season. The former have used Jordan Pickford, Anthony Gordon, Demarai Great and Michael Keane, along with a pair of former Watford players, Richarlison and Abdoulaye Doucouré, whose injury has not helped his team’s cause. Palace’s trio of recent England internationals have starred this season: defenders Marc Guéhi and Tyrick Mitchell were joined by Chelsea’s prodigy Conor Gallagher, while Wilfried Zaha has once again been bamboozling opposition defenders.
Wolves go to Liverpool with a line-up that has been familiar for a few seasons now. José Sà has replaced Rui Patricio in goal, but João Moutinho, Raúl Jiménez and Rúben Neves have been immovable this season. As ever they have been joined by captain Conor Coady, who came through at Liverpool and will likely join the crowd in Paris for the Champions League final.
Brighton host West Ham in the battle of this season’s overachievers. The Seagulls Player of the Season was Marc Cucurella, whose fellow Spaniard Robert Sánchez has been behind him. The Hammers have had to rotate their first XI to accommodate their Europa League run, but six players – Fabianski, Rice, Souček, Bowen, Antonio and Fornals – have still started 30 league games or more.
Leicester City meet Southampton to end their respective seasons. Robbed by injury of Jamie Vardy for several weeks, the Foxes have rotated their mix of Englishmen – Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Luke Thomas, James Maddison, Harvey Barnes – and foreign talent such as Caglar Söyüncü and Youri Tielemans. Club talisman Kasper Schmeichel has played 50 games, 35 of those in the league. The Saints have marched on, consolidating their status in the top division. A familiar back line of Kyle Walker-Peters, Jan Bednarek, Mohammed Salisu and Tino Livramento have stood behind captain James Ward-Prowse and pivot Oriol Romeo, with Chelsea loanee Armando Broja also playing over 30 games in an audition for his parent club.
This leaves the two Manchester clubs. United go to Selhurst Park on the final day, the place where Eric Cantona famously launched himself into the crowd in 1995. This season’s equivalent of Cantona has been prodigal son Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored 18 Premier League goals on his return to Manchester. Most impressively David de Gea has not missed a minute of league football, while young Englishman Jadon Sancho has played in 29 of the 37 games so far. The Palace game is likely to be Paul Pogba’s last appearance in a red shirt, with rumours abounding that he may cross the city.
City will have a vacancy in their midfield with the departure of Fernandinho, so Pogba would easily slot into that position and add some World Cup-winning skill into the XI. City have scored 96 goals in 37 league games without, as we are constantly reminded, a recognised number nine. The goals have come from Kevin de Bruyne (15), Raheem Sterling (11), Riyad Mahrez (11), Phil Foden (9) and Gabriel Jesus and Bernardo Silva, with eight each. Two fun facts: half of Jesus’s goals came in the recent 5-1 win against Watford, and Tottenham beat City at home and away.
City are nonetheless in pole position to take the Premier League’s chequered flag in front of their own fans a decade after their first Premier League win. As will be written about by everyone, Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa are the visitors, with Gerrard’s old club Liverpool needing a win against Wolves. And it’s live!
You can find details on gift bottles branded with 10 of these Premier League clubs at Bohemian Brands. Shop by club here.