Premier League 2021/22: Gary Neville, Roy Keane and Jamie Carragher assess title race

The Premier League is all set to go again after what feels like the shortest of summer interludes, but who will challenge defending champions Manchester City?

Chelsea have recruited Romelu Lukaku for a club-record £97.5m while Manchester United have finally brought in Jadon Sancho, with Raphael Varane close to following him through the door at Old Trafford. Jurgen Klopp is happy with his squad but can Liverpool wrestle back the crown?

Speaking on The Overlap Live Fan Debate on the eve of the new season, Sky Sports trio Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher and Roy Keane look ahead to how the protagonists are shaping up ahead of what promises to be an enthralling title race…

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Can Man City win title again?

Gary Neville: “Yes they can. It’s interesting to look at their transfer strategy and how they’ve spent the past couple of years. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve spent a lot of money but there seems to have been a different approach this summer. The idea that they’re willing to pay £100m for Jack Grealish is a shift, and it looks like they’re willing to pay even more for Harry Kane.

“They’ve lost Sergio Aguero and there’s no doubt they need a striker. I thought they needed one when Sergio was there. But for Pep to be wanting to buy English players to go along with Phil Foden, John Stones and Raheem Sterling is an exciting prospect.

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“City always have a plan behind things, and I look at their star players and they’re not massive personalities. Kevin de Bruyne, Ruben Dias are fantastic players but they didn’t have many pin-ups. Grealish is massively popular in the country. It’s a football signing but I think it’s a little bit more than that.

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“They’ve got a great team and a great manager but now they’ve got a player who is as big as it gets in terms of how he’s viewed within the country. If City get Kane, they will win the league.”

Roy Keane: “When you think back to the first two or three months of last season, we were writing off Man City. We thought they’d lost their way and that they’d lost their hunger. But they then went on a great run in the new year and they were fantastic.

“It made you think why we even doubted Pep Guardiola, but if they get Kane – he’s guaranteed 20-25 goals. Grealish is a good age at 25 and Pep will want to work with him and improve him. If Kane goes to Man City, it’ll be very difficult to stop them.”

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Jamie Carragher: “Even in the year Liverpool won the league, City still scored more goals. Guardiola’s team, whether or not Kane signs, will in my opinion still score more goals. If City don’t win the league, that will be because they’ve got problems defensively.

“It won’t be a problem with goals as they’ve just got so many creative players. The Grealish deal intrigues me. If he’d signed for Manchester United, I could understand it a bit more, but at City it’s about the ball moving quickly.

“Jack likes to take touches and wants to draw people in to win fouls. There’s talk about him playing in a more central position rather than on the left wing. I’m really interested to see how that dynamic plays out as Grealish isn’t the type of midfielder I associate with City.

“Will City have to adapt to him? I don’t think it’s a game-changer.”

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Who are the contenders to the throne?

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Roy Keane: “Chelsea have always had the quality and when you look back at the end of last season, you saw there was plenty of energy with the new manager coming in with new ideas. But they’ve always had quality players.

“A bit like City at the moment, they’ve been crying out for a natural goalscorer and Romelu Lukaku gives them a great chance. A bit like Kane, he guarantees goals. I know Liverpool have a lot of players coming back but I’d be looking at Man City and Chelsea.

“Unless Liverpool or Manchester United pull something out of the bag in the remaining couple of weeks of the window. I can’t see beyond City or Chelsea.”

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Gary Neville: “I think there are certain players who suit certain clubs and Lukaku was never going to work out at Manchester United. It just wasn’t right. Maybe it was down to the timing, maybe the manager wasn’t right, but it just didn’t feel right.

“Jurgen Klopp wouldn’t sign Lukaku in a million years and neither probably would Pep Guardiola. But Chelsea are the club that have had that type of striker when you think of Diego Costa, Didier Drogba.

“A single-point striker that has that presence to carry the line. They’ve had that in their armoury for 20 years and it suits Chelsea. I have no doubts about him and the deal working.”

Jamie Carragher: “There’s something about Lukaku, even though his goal record is amazing, when we talk about Robert Lewandowski or Harry Kane we never really question them.

“But we seem to always have a question about Lukaku… he scores goals yet there’s always a ‘but’. It still feels like he has something to prove at Chelsea.”

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Will Man Utd mount a title charge?

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Roy Keane: “I still have my doubts. The couple of signings they have made have been fantastic and there’s no doubting the quality they’ve brought in but I’m still worried about the middle of the park.

“I still have my doubts in the right-back and goalkeeper areas, too. I have a feeling United will pull something out of the bag in the next few weeks. They need someone in the midfield. Scott McTominay is a good young player who’s improving.

“There’s talk of them moving to a 4-3-3, but the middle of the park in that No 6 role worries me. People talk about recruitment at clubs and it’s also about shifting people on. Sometimes you are waiting for a couple of players to go out as United have a lot of players in the background.

“They’ve got the likes of Jesse Lingard. They’re not the answers. I don’t think he’s done enough to warrant re-entering the fold, but football’s about opinions.

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“I don’t think Lingard is going to get United back challenging for titles, and I’d say the same for Fred. Jesse did well at West Ham and perhaps they’re a good fit for him.

“When you talk about winning league titles over the past few years, United have come up short. They’ve not even been close to winning. United have a huge problem with the goalkeeper.”

Gary Neville: “I’m comfortable with Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The reasoning being, if you look at the back four, United have an outstanding attacking left-back. We’ve got two excellent centre-backs in Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane.

“If you look at Chelsea or Liverpool’s back four, they’ve both got someone who’s not perfect. You can’t have world-class across the field. I think Wan-Bissaka is improving and he’s a good defender. He’s not had a consistent partner down that right since he joined so I’m hopeful Jadon Sancho will provide that for him.

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“I do share the concern in midfield but they’re not going to spend another £70m on a world-class holding midfielder. Their business is done but it is a problem. United have signed Sancho and Varane who are good signings but I still don’t think it’s enough.

“I’d still want to sign a centre forward and I’d be going all out to sign Harry Kane. If City can get Kane, why can’t we? We can compete with them. If United bought Kane, they’d have a great chance.

“Kane would provide five years of absolute gold. You could then hold the likes of Wan-Bissaka and McTominay as they’ve got the right spirit and they’ve got guts.

“When I was playing, we had personalities such as Darren Fletcher, John O’Shea, the list goes on. We had great players around us which enabled us to win titles.”

Have Liverpool done enough to challenge?

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Jamie Carragher: “They’ve got enough to challenge but for Liverpool now, that’s not enough. Once you’ve won a Premier League title for the first time, a challenge is not enough. I feel the squad can challenge.

“The big thing for Liverpool is I wonder how much fans not being there last season affected certain players attacking-wise, thinking of Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino. Mane is someone who feeds off the crowd but I must say I’m worried about Firmino ever getting back to what he was.



Norwich City
Liverpool


“I still want a striker to come into Liverpool. I know Firmino is not a striker and Liverpool don’t play with one, but the club don’t actually have a centre forward on their books. Even Divock Origi plays left wing when he comes on.

“We don’t have a striker and that’s where I’d like to see Liverpool invest. If they did that, I think they’d be there or thereabouts. I don’t think Liverpool will win the league with what they have right now.

“I’d like to see one more come in, but that will come down to whether Liverpool can move certain players on. They have Shaqiri, Origi and Minamino to go with Diogo Jota and you wonder if that’s enough if the front three were out. I’d like to see better quality in that area.”

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What excites you about the new season?

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Gary Neville: “I’m really looking to seeing fans back in stadiums – 75,000 people back in Old Trafford on Saturday against Leeds – and football being back to normal. The last 18 months, it’s not been real for us. We saw a glimpse of it in the Euros when Wembley was absolutely bouncing. We’ve all spoken about how important fans are, but you’d literally forgotten what it’s like.”

Roy Keane: “I’m always interested to see how clubs do with their new signings. With Jack Grealish going to Manchester City, it’ll be interesting to see how Aston Villa do. You’re always keen to see how the promoted teams do, and when football is in your blood you just look forward to the games. The fans being back in just brings an energy to the stadiums. It’s always interesting to see who can win the league.”



Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester City


Jamie Carragher: “We’ve never really had it where more than two teams can win the league. But this time feels different. You’ve got Chelsea signing Romelu Lukaku, Manchester United have brought in Jadon Sancho, and Raphael Varane is close to being done.

“Will Liverpool go again and will Harry Kane go to Man City? It just feels like those four teams could fight it out. In the end, there always seems to be two teams left, but it’ll be great if the four could still be battling it out come around March or April.”

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