The transfer window is closed, and all Premier League clubs now know the squads that must get them through the first 20 rounds of the season.
For some it was a frantic end to their summer business, and Chelsea for one continued to sign players; for others, such as Arsenal, incoming transfers were wrapped up early in the summer.
Signings and results can change perceptions of course, so fans who were fearing the worst just a month ago might now be relishing the return after the international break. For that, just ask supporters of Tottenham, West Ham and Nottingham Forest. And for others (look away, Manchester United supporters), negativity is starting to creep in.
Before a ball was kicked, we looked at the prospects of each club. How was their squad looking? Where did they need to strengthen? What were the expectations for the campaign?
A month on, we assess every club, taking into account any final transfers and the results of the first four weekends.
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How the Handicap works
Is it a prediction article? Not quite. This is about how teams look today compared to a month ago. Importantly, we’re not saying this is how the league table will finish — but rather how a team’s prospects may have changed since Aug. 7, when the original article was published.
For instance, do Wolves now have a goal scorer? And do Forest have a first-choice goalkeeper?
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City team receive the base level of 0, and everyone else plays catch-up. The list shows how many points each club is behind City depending on how their start to the season has gone, and how effective their transfer window was.
Is Manchester United’s preseason aim of a comfortable top-four finish now in doubt? And has Chelsea’s latest splurge on new players made any difference?
Last season’s final league position: 1
Current league position: 1
City suddenly look stronger than ever
There was a point during the summer when you could have argued that Manchester City’s squad was weaker than the one that won the treble, following the departures of Ilkay Gündogan and Riyad Mahrez, but that’s not the case now.
They acted quickly to sign Jérémy Doku (£55m, Stade Rennais) and Matheus Nunes (£53m, Wolves), adding to Mateo Kovacic (£25m, Chelsea) and Josko Gvardiol (£77m, RB Leipzig). Even with Kevin De Bruyne out for an extended period, they are still the team to beat at home and abroad.
Four wins from four in the Premier League has already put them on course for a fourth title in a row. — Rob Dawson
HAS THE OUTLOOK CHANGED? No, City are still everyone’s title favourites.
2. Arsenal -8 points
(start of season: 2nd, -1)
Last season’s final league position: 2
Points behind Man City last season: 5
Current league position: 5
Injury blow, but reasons to be positive
Losing new signing Jurriën Timber (£34m, Ajax) to a knee injury for the majority of the season left Arsenal scrambling at the end of the window.
Their attempts to sign a replacement were predicated upon moving on other players to free up cash and a place in the squad but they struggled until very late in the window. Ripping up Nicolas Pépé’s contract with a year remaining to allow him to join Trabzonspor on a free transfer, writing off the £72m they spent four years ago, says it all. David Raya, signed on loan from Brentford for the season to add competition for Aaron Ramsdale, was the only recent addition.
Arsenal have not been at their very best so far but 10 points from a possible 12 and a promising start for record signing Declan Rice (£100m, West Ham) suggests a title challenge should be within their grasp. — James Olley
HAS THE OUTLOOK CHANGED? Still expected to challenge, but Man City look stronger than a month ago.
3. Liverpool -9 points
(start of season: 6th, -22)
Last season’s final league position: 5
Points behind Man City last season: 22
Current league position: 3
Salah stays, and Liverpool start strongly
The unexpected exits of Jordan Henderson and Fabinho to the Saudi Pro League left Liverpool scrambling for midfield additions during the final month of the window; they missed out on top targets Moisés Caicedo and Southampton youngster Romeo Lavia, both to Chelsea.
Wataru Endo (£16m) and Ryan Gravenberch (£34m) eventually arrived, from Stuttgart and Bayern Munich respectively, to plug the gaps. The biggest news of the window for Liverpool, however, was rejecting Al Ittihad’s £150m deadline-day offer for Mohamed Salah.
Transplanting an entire midfield unit in one summer is a gamble by manager Jurgen Klopp, but he had little option. At least they had moved quickly in the summer to sign Alexis Mac Allister (£35m) from Brighton and RB Leipzig’s Dominik Szoboszlai (£60m),
Liverpool have the depth to compete and their defence and attacking outlets remain strong, so the club emerged in the positive from a difficult summer. — Mark Ogden
HAS THE OUTLOOK CHANGED? Liverpool have started well, with 10 points from a possible 12, and could once again prove to be Manchester City’s biggest domestic rivals.
4. Tottenham Hotspur -18 points
(start of season: 8th, -27)
Last season’s final league position: 8
Points behind Man City last season: 29
Current league position: 2
Losing Harry Kane to Bayern Munich could have cast a shadow over Tottenham’s season but their start under Ange Postecoglou has reinvigorated a previously disgruntled fanbase.
Three wins and 11 goals scored with new arrival James Maddison (£40m, Leicester) sparkling in a remodelled attack bodes well for the tougher challenges which lie ahead.
Chairman Daniel Levy has a reputation for last-minute business and a deadline-day move for Brennan Johnson (£47m) from Nottingham Forest adds further excitement, although interest in Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher and Bournemouth defender Lloyd Kelly came too late in the day.
There is a suspicion Spurs remain vulnerable defensively but Postecoglou has many Tottenham fans believing the post-Kane era is nothing to fear. — Olley
HAS THE OUTLOOK CHANGED? Positivity has replaced negativity in spades, and Spurs could challenge for the top four based on their start.
Last season’s final league position: 6
Points behind Man City last season: 27
Current league position: 6
Do Brighton have enough to make top four?
Anyone who thought Brighton would struggle after the departures of Mac Allister and Caicedo will have to rethink their predictions, because the Seagulls look just as good as they did last season. If the 18-year-old Evan Ferguson continues his excellent start — he’s scored four goals, including a hat trick against Newcastle — the Seagulls could have the goals to knock on the door of the top four.
Ansu Fati is an eye-catching loan signing from Barcelona, while the arrival of 19-year-old midfielder Carlos Baleba (£23m) from Lille is further evidence of a club that plans ahead. Germany international Mahmoud Dahoud had already arrived on a free transfer from Borussia Dortmund.
The midfield rebuild is complete, Brighton sit sixth having won three of their four fixtures and they are the top scorers in the division — ahead of Man City and Spurs. The home loss to a resurgent West Ham was a surprise blip, but the early evidence suggests Roberto De Zerbi’s team will definitely be in the battle for the European places again — though a first-ever campaign in the UEFA Europa League presents unknown challenges. — Dale Johnson
HAS THE OUTLOOK CHANGED? Brighton are turning into everyone’s second-favourite team with the way they play, and they seem to be defying every prediction after a player leaves.
6. Manchester United -23 points
(start of season: 3rd, -12)
Last season’s final league position: 3
Points behind Man City last season: 14
Current league position: 11
Concerns grow after stuttering start
The biggest question mark after United’s summer business is whether Rasmus Hojlund (£64m, Atalanta), at 20 years old, can be the man to score the goals that were missing from Erik ten Hag’s team last season.
The optimism after Ten Hag’s first campaign has disappeared after an underwhelming start and there are already fears among fans that this season will struggle to build on the progress achieved last year.
United started slowly last season and turned it around so it’s not panic stations just yet, but they need to start building up some momentum quickly to steady the ship.
However, with Jadon Sancho at loggerheads with the coaching staff and Antony unavailable for selection, Ten Hag’s attacking options have dwindled. — Dawson
HAS THE OUTLOOK CHANGED? Preseason confidence has certainly been drained and they need to turn the corner.
7. Newcastle United -28 points
(start of season: 5th, -19)
Last season’s final league position: 4
Points behind Man City last season: 28
Current league position: 14
Poor start hasn’t lowered expectations
It was a quiet end to the window for Newcastle, with only Lewis Hall moving to St James’ Park after the start of the season. The Chelsea left-back was signed to bolster defensive options, but there were no other significant additions to the squad.
Financial fair play restrictions hampered Newcastle’s ability to sign several players during the transfer window, so only Sandro Tonali (£55m, AC Milan), Valentino Livramento (£32m, Southampton) and Harvey Barnes (£38m, Leicester) were brought in for the first-team squad prior to Hall’s arrival. Newcastle arguably overperformed with a shallow squad last season and they still look short on depth and quality after their summer business, which could be a worry heading into a Champions League campaign.
Newcastle have made a woeful start to the season, losing three of their four league games, and they have also been given a tough Champions League group alongside Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Borussia Dortmund. And their first chance of a trophy in the Carabao Cup has been made much harder by drawing Manchester City in the third round. — Ogden
HAS THE OUTLOOK CHANGED? Expectations of Howe and his team repeating last season’s top-four finish remain, but they are now fighting an uphill battle to achieve that.
8. West Ham United -29 points
(start of season: 15th, -47)
Last season’s final league position: 14
Points behind Man City last season: 49
Current league position: 4
Fear turns to hope after superb start
What a difference a month makes. A few days before the season started, West Ham had lost Declan Rice and hadn’t signed a single player. Fans were starting to question boss David Moyes, even though he won the Europa Conference League. Fears were that last season’s struggles in the Premier League would only worsen.
And then West Ham signed Edson Álvarez (£35m) from Ajax and James Ward-Prowse (£30m) from relegated Southampton. Then followed centre-back Konstantinos Mavropanos (£19m) from VfB Stuttgart and the exciting Ghanaian forward Mohammed Kudus (£35m), also from Ajax.
The Hammers have won three of their first four matches, including victories against Chelsea and Brighton, to sit fourth in the table. Moyes still has to fully integrate all his new signings, and all that preseason negativity has been forgotten.
If ever there’s a case study in how not to judge a club before a ball has been kicked and the transfer window has closed, this is it. — Johnson
HAS THE OUTLOOK CHANGED? You bet. A month ago you’d have found West Ham fans betting on relegation; now they will expect a top-half finish — at least.
9. Aston Villa -30 points
(start of season: 4th, -18)
Last season’s final league position: 7
Points behind Man City last season: 28
Current league position: 10
Waiting for the new signings to bed in
Villa may sit in midtable at the moment, but they will still feel satisfied with their start and their summer business with more favourable fixtures to come.
With loanees Clément Lenglet and Nicolò Zaniolo added to previous summer signings Pau Torres (£31.5m, Villarreal), Youri Tielemans (free, Leicester) Moussa Diaby (£51m, Bayer Leverkusen), Villa have a squad that looks capable of balancing the demands of UEFA Europa Conference League football, too. Diaby in particular has had an excellent start. Philippe Coutinho’s inauspicious stay in the Midlands is over after he headed to Qatari champions Al Duhail for the season.
The heavy defeats at Newcastle and Liverpool may be cause for concern, as these are the clubs Villa must challenge if they are to finish higher than seventh this season. So perhaps the early-season dreams of battling for a place in the Champions League may prove to be ambitions too lofty. — Johnson
HAS THE OUTLOOK CHANGED? Preseason talk of a tilt at the top four was probably premature.
10. Chelsea -31 points
(start of season: 7th, -25)
Last season’s final league position: 12
Points behind Man City last season: 45
Current league position: 12
Will the real Chelsea please stand up?
Chelsea obviously couldn’t go a few weeks of a transfer window without signing someone, and the final few weeks saw moves completed for Caicedo (£115m), Lavia (£58m), Deivid Washington (£17m, Santos), Djordje Petrovic (£12.5m, New England) and Cole Palmer (£40m, Man City).
There are doubts about four of those five: Lavia still needs time to build up his fitness, Washington may go on loan, Petrovic is a backup goalkeeper to Robert Sánchez (£25m, Brighton) and Palmer is hugely promising but only has three Premier League starts to his name at City.
After a truly staggering summer of spending in which Chelsea surpassed the £1 billion mark under the Todd Boehly/Clearlake Capital ownership, the emphasis now shifts onto new manager Mauricio Pochettino and his ability to mould this group of individuals into a team. There have been promising signs, but a home defeat to Nottingham Forest and one win from four games underlines the tough task ahead. No one really knows what this Chelsea will turn out to be — Olley
HAS THE OUTLOOK CHANGED? An inconsistent start suggests the chances of finishing near the top of the table this season are slim.
11. Crystal Palace -39 points
(start of season: 11th, -39)
Last season’s final league position: 11
Points behind Man City last season: 44
Current league position: 7
Eagles start well, and look prepared
Palace’s best bit of business as the days ticked down on the transfer window was to get Michael Olise to sign a new four-year contract when he appeared destined to join Chelsea, who had triggered his release clause.
Boss Roy Hodgson managed to keep hold of all of his key players, save for Wilfried Zaha, who left on a free transfer when his deal expired earlier in the summer. Goalkeeper Dean Henderson, signed from Man United for £20m, was the only arrival of note after the season started.
Palace sit seventh after winning two of their first four matches, with their only loss coming at home to Arsenal. Hodgson may not have rung the changes, though fans are waiting to see Brazilian attacking midfielder Matheus França (£20m, Flamengo). Palace look a solid midtable outfit. — Johnson
HAS THE OUTLOOK CHANGED? Not at all, which in many ways is a good thing as it means the stars are still at Selhurst.
12. Nottingham Forest -44 points
(start of season: 18th, -52)
Last season’s final league position: 16
Points behind Man City last season: 51
Current league position: 9
All change again at the City Ground
Forest’s transfer business was relatively modest by their standards when the season kicked off, so they went and signed 10 players in the final week of the window!
After a great start, Forest sit in ninth place. They won at Chelsea and at home to Sheffield United, but had they not thrown away an early two-goal lead to lose at Man United and narrowly lost at Arsenal, they could have been even higher in the table.
Thing is, the team that picked up those points might now be completely different, with Argentina World Cup winner Gonzalo Montiel, AC Milan striker Divock Origi and Chelsea starlet Andrey Santos all arriving on loan. Matt Turner (£7m) also switched from Arsenal to become Steve Cooper’s new No. 1.
Plenty for Forest fans to be optimistic about, if they haven’t changed too much too soon. — Johnson
HAS THE OUTLOOK CHANGED? A much stronger squad and a great start mean Forest might not have to look over their shoulders this season after all.
13. Brentford -47 points
(start of season: 13th, -41)
Last season’s final league position: 9
Points behind Man City last season: 30
Current league position: 8
No Toney, no problem?
No one quite knew what to make of Brentford before the season started. With star striker Ivan Toney, who scored 20 Premier League goals last season, suspended until Jan. 16 after breaking FA rules related to gambling, the Bees opted against signing a replacement (though Neal Maupay returned to the club on loan to add depth.) The result? The Bees’ best-ever start to a Premier League season, unbeaten on six points.
Goals haven’t been a problem as yet, though they have drawn all three home games against Spurs, Palace and Bournemouth.
Manager Thomas Frank signed no one of note after the start of the season, so Brentford effectively decided to go with what they had. The signs are that they will be OK this season, though probably in unremarkable fashion. — Johnson
HAS THE OUTLOOK CHANGED? Yes and no. The Bees have had a promising-enough start, though they haven’t done anything to suggest they can match last season’s final position, having drawn all three home games.
14. AFC Bournemouth -49 points
(start of season: 14th, -45)
Last season’s final league position: 15
Points behind Man City last season: 50
Current league position: 16
Slow start leaves concerns for Cherries
Bournemouth embarked on a complete overhaul of their squad this summer under new boss Andoni Iraola, who is something of an unknown quantity after arriving from Rayo Vallecano.
Iraola had already signed Justin Kluivert (£10m) from AS Roma and Hamed Traore (£20m) from Sassuolo, and their business after the season kicked off has undoubtedly left them in a stronger place. Alex Scott (£25m, Bristol City), Max Aarons (£7m, Norwich City) and USMNT star Tyler Adams (£23m, Leeds United) have been brought in, alongside loanee Luis Sinisterra, also from Leeds.
For all that, Bournemouth have yet to win this season, with two points from four games — though they have had to play Liverpool and Spurs. It doesn’t get any easier after the international break, with Chelsea, Brighton and Arsenal next to come.
The Cherries have spent around £113m on new players, though Adams, Scott and Sinisterra are yet to feature, and as yet there’s no sign of an effective team. — Johnson
HAS THE OUTLOOK CHANGED? It’s probably still around the same, lower midtable, but the Cherries are something of an unknown quantity — for good or for bad.
15. Burnley -53 points
(start of season: 12th, -40)
Last season’s final league position: Promoted to Premier League
Points behind Man City last season: N/A
Current league position: 20
Preseason optimism lost in an avalanche of goals
Burnley always knew they faced a very difficult return to the Premier League, taking on Man City, Aston Villa and Spurs in their opening games. But three heavy home losses — they have conceded 11 goals — leave them playing catch-up; Man United, Newcastle and Chelsea are to come in their next five fixtures. At least they know it has to get easier after that … but their fate as relegation strugglers could already be sealed by then.
Of the three promoted clubs they still look to be the best-equipped to avoid an immediate return to the Championship. But Vincent Kompany brought in 15 new players over the summer to make the Clarets competitive, and he faces a major task to gel them into an effective unit. — Johnson
HAS THE OUTLOOK CHANGED? Many felt Burnley would easily be safe this season, but now they need results to show that faith was warranted.
16. Fulham -54 points
(start of season: 10th, -38)
Last season’s final league position: 10
Points behind Man City last season: 37
Current league position: 13
Goals will be a problem for Mitro-less Cottagers
It wasn’t a very happy summer for Fulham. They managed to hold on to boss Marco Silva amid interest from Saudi Arabia, but he still hasn’t signed an extension to his contract, which ends in 10 months. But striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, who scored 14 goals in 24 games last season, made it clear he wanted to join Al Hilal.
Replacing Mitrovic’s goals will be difficult, especially as Fulham have only brought in Mexico striker Raul Jimenez (£5m) and Adama Traoré (free) from Wolves to improve their attacking options. At least they still have João Palhinha, who saw his move to Bayern Munich collapse … at least until January.
Fulham sit 13th, with their one winning coming at Everton; only the bottom three have scored fewer goals, and just bottom club Burnley have conceded more. Other clubs have more worries, but it’s difficult to find too much to be positive about now that the window has closed. — Johnson
HAS THE OUTLOOK CHANGED? Fulham are far from safe from a season of struggle after Mitrovic’s departure.
17. Everton -57 points
(start of season: 16th, -48)
Last season’s final league position: 17
Points behind Man City last season: 53
Current league position: 18
Is Beto good enough to save Everton?
Everton fans’ preseason fears were realised when they failed to score in their first three fixtures, losing at home to Fulham and Wolves and being thrashed 4-0 at Villa. At least they got on the board with a 2-2 draw at Sheffield United, but that will barely be any comfort.
Sean Dyche has signed two Portuguese forwards, Youssef Chermiti (£13m, Sporting CP) and Beto (£26m, Udinese) to try to fix the scoring problems. The unpredictable Beto may be their best hope, as he achieved double figures in each of the past two Serie A seasons. Jack Harrison has joined on loan from Leeds to add more creativity, after Arnaut Danjuma arrived from Villarreal earlier in the summer.
The Toffees find themselves in the relegation zone after four matches, and they’ve shown nothing to suggest anything other than another battle against the drop beckons. — Johnson
HAS THE OUTLOOK CHANGED? No. Everyone knew Everton had no one to score any goals, and the evidence is they still don’t.
Last season’s final league position: 13
Points behind Man City last season: 48
Current league position: 15
Wolves confirm fears of a season of struggle
Coach Julen Lopetegui jumped ship at the start of the season when it became clear limited funds would be available to strengthen a squad short on quality, with Gary O’Neil brought in with the remit of reproducing his rescue job at Bournemouth last season.
After being controversially beaten at Man United on the opening weekend, Wolves’ only points came through a late win at Everton. A 4-1 home defeat to Brighton and a loss at Palace don’t bode well for O’Neil, and a lot may rest on striker Sasa Kalajdzic — signed from VfB Stuttgart 12 months ago but who missed virtually the whole of 2022-23 with a serious injury.
Kalajdzic scored the winner at Goodison Park, and with no other attacking reinforcements before the window closed, Wolves will need a return on the £15m they paid for the Austria international if they are to stay up. — Johnson
HAS THE OUTLOOK CHANGED? The results tell you it hasn’t. Wolves face a season-long battle to remain in the top flight.
19. Sheffield United -63 points
(start of season: 17th, -49)
Last season’s final league position: Promoted to Premier League
Points behind Man City last season: N/A
Current league position: 17th
Thin squad may struggle to compete
Sheffield United suffered a huge blow on the eve of the new season when key midfielder Sander Berge left for relegation rivals Burnley, though they did strengthen with Gustavo Hamer (£15m) moving from Coventry City and Cameron Archer (£18.5m) from Villa. Both new arrivals have netted in the opening weeks of the season, yet the Blades still have only one point to show for their efforts.
Luke Thomas (Leicester) and James McAtee (Man City) have joined the club on loan for the season, but the squad looks short on quality and depth. Up next? Tottenham, Newcastle, West Ham, Man United and Arsenal in their next six fixtures. — Johnson
HAS THE OUTLOOK CHANGED? With little money to spend and their best player gone, if anything the Blades’ prospects have worsened in the past month.
20. Luton Town -66 points
(start of season: 20th, -61)
Last season’s final league position: Promoted to Premier League
Points behind Man City last season: N/A
Current league position: 19
Few bright spots as Luton stay financially prudent
Luton were never going to throw money at the Premier League, preferring to invest in their squad for the future.
The loan signing of Albert Lokonga from Arsenal and the capture of free agent, and former England international, Ross Barkley were the most eye-catching pieces of business over the past month.
The Hatters have lost all three of their opening fixtures, to Brighton, Chelsea and West Ham. It’s certainly not been the easiest of starts, though there have been few signs of promise.
It’s Fulham, Wolves, Everton and Burnley up next, and after those four games we’ll have a pretty good idea if coach Rob Edwards has any hope of keeping the team in the top division. — Johnson
HAS THE OUTLOOK CHANGED? Luton have shown nothing in the opening month to defy the predictions of an immediate return to the EFL.