MICAH RICHARDS tackles all the big questions as new season kicks off
Liverpool and Manchester City are weaker after losing key players, but Man United STILL have no chance of winning the title! MICAH RICHARDS tackles all the big questions as blockbuster season kicks off
- Micah Richards tackles the big questions for the new Premier League season
- Ex-Man City star Richards is back for his third years as a Sportsmail columnist
- And the former England international had his say on the title and top-four race
- Richards also discussed the relegation battle ahead of the 2022-23 campaign
- Click here for all the latest World Cup 2022 news and updates
The new season is here and Micah Richards cannot wait for the action to begin.
Back for his third year as a Sportsmail columnist, his opinions have always been forthright and his observations perceptive.
Before a ball is kicked, we asked the former England and Manchester City star to discuss the big talking points, from the title race to the impact of a mid-season World Cup.
His views make for fascinating reading.
The new Premier League season is here and Micah Richards, in his third year as a Sportsmail columnist, has had his say on the big questions, from the title race to the winter World Cup
Liverpool will be hoping to win the league title after being pipped by Manchester City last year
Champions: Man City, Top four: Liverpool, Tottenham, Man United, Going down: Nottingham Forest, Fulham, Bournemouth.
Champions: Liverpool, Top four: Man City, Tottenham, Chelsea, Going down: Bournemouth, Fulham, Leeds.
Champions: Liverpool, Top four: Man City, Tottenham, Arsenal, Going down: Bournemouth, Nottingham Forest, Brentford.
Champions: Liverpool, Top four: Man City, Tottenham, Chelsea, Going down: Brentford, Nottingham Forest, Bournemouth.
Champions: Man City, Top four: Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal, Going down: Nottingham Forest, Bournemouth, Everton.
Champions: Liverpool, Top four: Man City, Tottenham, Chelsea, Going down: Everton, Fulham, Bournemouth.
Champions: Liverpool, Top four: Man City, Chelsea, Tottenham, Going down: Brentford, Bournemouth, Nottingham Forest.
Champions: Man City, Top four: Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal, Going down: Southampton, Fulham, Bournemouth.
Champions: Liverpool, Top four: Man City, Tottenham, Chelsea, Going down: Southampton, Fulham, Bournemouth.
Can anyone stop Manchester City?
Yes — and I say that without hesitation. We saw one of the tightest title races of all time last season with Liverpool only a point behind in the end.
I understand why people automatically assume the title is City’s to lose after winning four of the last five but Liverpool are a brilliant team.
The quality both managers have at their disposal means we are now in a situation where neither side can realistically afford to drop points.
The consistency they have shown has been off the scale and that is illustrated by their numbers from the last four seasons.
City have taken 358 points from 152 games since August 2018; Liverpool have taken 357. There is barely anything between them and I expect it to be another close run thing.
One point I would argue, though, is that both teams start this campaign weaker.
Liverpool have sold Sadio Mane, who was so unselfish and worked perfectly in their system.
City have sold Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus, both of whom were unselfish and worked perfectly in their system and it’s obvious that Darwin Nunez and Erling Haaland will need time to adapt.
I still expect Haaland to score 20-25 goals but, to understand the intricacies of what Pep Guardiola wants, things won’t happen immediately for him.
Forget about the Community Shield, that won’t have a bearing on the season — but it will be tight.
Which new signing are you most looking forward to seeing?
Gabriel Jesus really intrigues me. All through his Manchester City career, I used to look at him and wonder whether he was from the top bracket.
I would watch him in games and have some doubts but then I would look at the runs he made and the selfless things he did for the team.
The runs he used to make and the shapes he made with his body allowed City’s system to flourish and he also scored some big goals.
He always had to put up with people saying he wasn’t as good as Sergio Aguero and he was always frustrated that he wasn’t the main man.
Now he’s got that chance at Arsenal and his form in pre-season has been unbelievable — something from which he can only take confidence.
He will certainly be Mikel Arteta’s main man and I want to see how he handles that responsibility.
Another signing I have to mention is Brenden Aaronson for Leeds. I saw him plenty of times in the Champions League for Red Bull Salzburg and he’s class.
He’s played for Jesse Marsch before, he knows what his manager wants and he looks exciting. Keep an eye on him.
The new signing I am most excited about seeing is Arsenal’s new striker Gabriel Jesus
How many trophies will Liverpool win?
It could easily be another double for Jurgen Klopp; it might be the Carabao Cup and the Premier League, it might be the Champions League and the FA Cup.
They came within two games of winning the lot last season and the respect I have for this squad could not be any higher.
In doing the domestic Cup double last time around, Klopp showed how seriously he is taking these competitions now and they have got the squad depth to give things a really good go.
The Carabao Cup is always a good one to target — you can’t underestimate how good it feels to get a trophy on board so early in the season.
How will Chelsea fare as a new era begins?
They have made two excellent signings. Raheem Sterling frustrates me sometimes because he should score more goals considering the positions he gets into but there is absolutely no doubt about his quality. Manchester City will definitely miss him.
Kalidou Koulibaly is another great buy, a man who will add presence and quality to Chelsea’s defence.
There has been so much talk about him coming to the Premier League over the last few years and, now that he is here, I can’t wait to see how he settles.
The thing with Chelsea, however, is they strike me as a better cup team than anything else.
They can beat anyone but I’m just not sure they have the consistency to launch a title challenge and I expect them to be on the cusp of the top four. They desperately need a No 9.
Raheem Sterling is a fine signing for Chelsea but I don’t think they will challenge for the title
Can Tottenham really challenge for title?
The signings they have made have been brilliant and there is a real sense that momentum is building again.
One prediction I will make without hesitation is Tottenham will be in the top four next May — the decision to appoint Antonio Conte as manager has made them a Champions League club again.
But a title challenge? I just don’t see it at the minute. This answer would have been different had they been in a situation like Arsenal 12 months ago.
If they had a campaign without any European football and Conte was able to work from week to week, a shot at the league was on the cards.
The complication of being in the Champions League, however, will ask different questions of the squad.
Tottenham would have big problems if something happens to Harry Kane (left) or Son (right)
My concern for them is if something happens to Harry Kane or Son Heung-min. If either of those two miss a chunk of games, they would have massive problems.
The other point to make about challenging Manchester City and Liverpool is this: Spurs finished 22 and 21 points respectively behind those teams last season. It is a huge deficit to try to recover in the space of 12 months.
Will Manchester United make top four?
No. I’m not going to sugar-coat this. From what I had seen in early pre-season, it looked like they had some confidence back but the defeat against Atletico Madrid in Oslo concerned me, as if old bad habits were creeping back in.
What worries me most at the moment is the Cristiano Ronaldo situation. This is so unlike anything we have seen from him, he has been an immaculate professional all through his career.
He is still United’s best player but straightaway he has put Erik ten Hag under pressure with how he’s acting. They really don’t need this on the eve of the new season.
There has been too much drama but it’s not going away and I didn’t like the footage that emerged of Ronaldo turning his back on Ten Hag when the manager was giving him instructions. It came across as disrespectful.
Manchester United’s pre-season under new manager Erik ten Hag (third right) has been hit by the Cristiano Ronaldo saga. The fact Frenkie de Jong doesn’t want to move tells you everything
I’m also staggered by the pursuit of Frenkie de Jong. It has dragged on too long and it shows you one thing — United simply cannot attract players the way they used to.
In the not too distant past, De Jong would have walked to Manchester to sign for the club. The fact that he is reluctant tells you everything.
After spending big, is Mikel Arteta under pressure to make top 4?
He’s not just under pressure — he’s under massive pressure.
The documentary on Amazon Prime is only going to increase the scrutiny on Arteta and Arsenal’s results and performances will be under the microscope, after missing out on the top four last season.
Arsenal fans demand the best and it has been a long time since they had the best. They are impatient and they will want to see Jesus come up with a lot of goals and all their other signings to make a difference too.
They have a tricky start to the campaign and nobody will forget what happened 12 months ago when they opened with three consecutive defeats.
Arteta is a fantastic coach — I’ve seen him work and know how good he is. To become a fantastic manager, however, requires another step up. He has to make it.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is under big pressure to reach the top four after spending big
How much will the winter World Cup affect the season?
I’m not sure people have fully grasped how disruptive and how much of an impact the Qatar World Cup is going to have on things. It is a massive hindrance and it will be that way before the tournament kicks off and after it as well.
The World Cup is the pinnacle and there will certainly be players looking after themselves in early autumn to ensure they do not pick up an injury that might rule them out.
This is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some and they won’t want to jeopardise it. So if they are thinking about going to Qatar, they won’t be thinking fully about their domestic form.
There is also another argument that hasn’t been considered — what happens to those who suffer heartbreak and how will they be when they return?
Look at Mo Salah — he lost the Africa Cup of Nations final with Egypt and failed to qualify for the World Cup in the space of six weeks earlier this year and the upshot was that his Liverpool form wasn’t as prolific as before those disappointments.
The irony, of course, is that Salah isn’t going to Qatar and he’ll be fully rested when the Premier League resumes.
The mid-season World Cup will be hugely disruptive but Mo Salah (left) will put his feet up
Leeds and Everton only just avoided the drop… who will finish higher?
Let me flip this question: if you are asking me do I think either of them will go down, my answer is no.
If Everton get a deal done to bring Idrissa Gana Gueye back, there is not a hope of them being relegated. I played with Idrissa at Aston Villa and he’s a machine.
He will do the work of two men — the running he can do is frightening. I saw him do a drill at Villa, during the middle of Ramadan and his stamina was breathtaking. He was literally running on empty but still beat everyone.
I went to Goodison Park towards the end of last season and I still can’t get over the atmosphere I witnessed. If Everton get their fans behind them and get Idrissa in midfield, they will be fine.
I don’t really have fears for Leeds either, though gelling all those new signings together won’t be easy.
Potentially re-signing Idrissa Gueye (right) from PSG could help Everton stay up this season
Which of the promoted sides do you fear for the most?
Sorry to say it but I don’t envisage anything other than a struggle for Bournemouth and Fulham.
Bournemouth have a good manager in Scott Parker and play nice football — the same also applies to Fulham and Marco Silva — but I don’t think either of them have enough quality.
I watched them both a lot in the Championship last season and I liked what I saw, particularly from Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic, who was scoring goals right, left and centre. Neither of those sides, however, made me think they will stay up.
Nottingham Forest, on the other hand, look more than capable of doing enough. I like Steve Cooper, I’m a fan of Brennan Johnson and it will be fun going to the City Ground, where the atmosphere will be bouncing. That could save them.
Exciting young forward Brennan Johnson could fire the goals to keep Nottingham Forest up
What are you most looking forward to this season?
A very good question. Do you know what, I’m looking forward to seeing if Tottenham can rise to the challenge and make it a three-way battle for the title.
I know I’ve said it’s a long shot for them but it really would be brilliant to see them apply pressure to Man City and Liverpool.
I’m also looking forward to seeing how many goals Darwin Nunez and Erling Haaland score. I don’t expect either of them to be the finished article this season in terms of performances but they both know how to finish. It promises to be some shootout.
Finally: Pick a player to break into Gareth Southgate’s squad…
Back on New Year’s Day I tipped West Ham winger Jarrod Bowen to get an England cap in 2022 and that has happened.
I felt he’d get on the plane to Qatar and that looks like being the case though he will face a challenge if Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho start the campaign well for Manchester United.
As a wildcard, I’m going to tip Leicester’s James Maddison. Gareth Southgate may have some reservations about him but I love Maddison’s fearlessness and creativity. He’s different to all our other midfield options so let’s see what he can do.
James Maddison is one wildcard I’m picking to make it into Gareth Southgate’s England squad
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