From my managers to watch to the players I’m hoping to succeed this season, the preview articles for the 2021/22 season are in full flow. Whether it be due to some exciting transfers, a catastrophic summer or just a general interest, here are my teams to watch for the coming season…
Starting in France and not many teams in Europe have had a more intriguing window so far than Nice. The biggest coup of them all is that they have somehow pinched Christophe Galtier who won the Ligue 1 title with Lille last season. There has been somewhat of a financial crisis following issues with TV deals and most of the clubs are struggling, Nice being one of those to have good enough backing to benefit almost. Justin Kluivert has joined Nice on loan for the season as he fights to get his career back on track and there’s plenty more where that came from. Nice have beaten some of the biggest teams to the signature of fellow Dutch wideman Calvin Stengs, plus Mario Lemina from Southampton, Barcelona centre-half Jean-Clair Todibo and Lyon youngster Melvin Bard too.
Moving over to Germany now and the headlines surrounding Leipzig are all about departures. Not only has manager Julian Nagelsmann departed for big boys Bayern with American Jesse Marsch taking his place, a product of the Red Bull system. He arrives with starting centre-back duo going out of the door, Dayot Upamecano following Nagelsmann whilst Ibrahim Konate has been snapped up by Liverpool. It would be easy enough to focus on the player’s leaving but Caden Clark from the New York Red Bulls is joining. Also there’s Andre Silva for a snip at £20 million, young Croatian defender Josko Gvardiol and Brian Bobbey from Ajax. The managerial merry-go-round in Germany will makes the top half of the table worth keeping an eye on for sure.
Watford, after being a Premier League regular for a few years faced the drop, but they’ve bounced back instantly and I think they’re looking good. The Hornets’ hierarchy have been renowned for their gung-ho style when it comes to managers but maybe Xisco Munoz will get a good chance to prove himself. The Spaniard is only young but he excelled in the Championship and with the likes of Ismaila Sarr and Joao Pedro at his disposal in the attacking third, I have hopes that he can succeed in retaining their top-flight status.
The mayhem at Man United having finished third last season will surely see the big three return to normality but as a result, for this season at the very least, Arsenal will be without Champions League football. Before this was confirmed it was already announced that Australian manager Joe Montemurro would be on his way out and with key players such as Danielle van de Donk and Jill Roord moving on to pastures new, change is afoot at Meadow Park. Nikita Parris has gone the other way to DvD by joining from Lyon as she returns to England with Japanese star Mana Iwabuchi moving over from Aston Villa too. Have they got any chance of pushing Man City and Chelsea all the way?
Twice under Diego Simeone now have Atleti won the league which is crazy really given the presence of the two El Clasico clubs but I think they can retain it this season. Barcelona are an absolute shambles at the moment and their squad is becoming thinner and thinner by the day. Meanwhile, Real Madrid have lost Zidane and Sergio Ramos, their squad is ageing and they’re yet to make any impressive signings really besides David Alaba. Atleti in this time have signed Rodrigo De Paul from Udinese, a very talented Argentinian midfielder, and they still have what is a top, top squad.
A lot of the names on this list are big hitters so the inclusion of Troyes may come as quite a surprise. As previously mentioned, a lot of the French clubs are in a dire situation but Troyes are one of those to be seeing things in a slightly more positive light. Last season, the City Football Group purchased a majority stake in the relatively small club and Man City is of course the face of said group. From Man City to NYCFC, Girona to Melbourne City, they are invested in a lot of clubs and so Troyes may do surprisingly well in the face of this crisis given the financial backing they possess.
Watford may have moved up out of the Championship but Hull instead been promoted to the second division out of League One. In the process Grant McCann has been able to hold onto the bulk of his squad whilst welcoming some new faces too. Mallik Wilks was one of, if not the best player in the league last season and him along with the likes of Keane Lewis-Potter and Josh Magennis make up a lethal frontline. Randell Williams is one of the new faces and he was oh so highly rated at Exeter City, a move up a few leagues has been talked about for a while now.
Finally then, over to Italy where, like Germany, there has been somewhat of a managerial merry-go-round. A lot of the big clubs have changed direction massively but Sassuolo, at the time of writing anyway, have been able to boast continuity. The rumours surrounding some of their star players may well come to fruition but the season is fast approaching and there are yet to be any major sales. Manuel Locatelli has a lot of clubs on read alert after impressing at the Euros so his future seems set to see him at Juventus. Even if he departs, the likes of Domenico Berardi, Jeremie Boga, Giacomo Raspadori and Jeremy Toljan make up an exciting squad going forward into this season.