The 2021/22 Premier League season is officially in the books as a wild final day provided conclusions to an epic title race as well as an enthralling relegation battle.
Now that the dust is beginning to settle on the campaign that was, Foxsports.com.au analyses every club’s season in this year’s edition of the Premier League Report Card!
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1st: Manchester City – A
There’s simply no stopping Manchester City, is there?
Pep Guardiola’s side once again won the Premier League, the club’s fourth in five years, although they had to come back from a two-goal deficit against Aston Villa with 15 minutes remaining in the final game of the season to do so.
Funnily enough, City didn’t exactly enjoy the greatest start to the season.
A loss to Tottenham Hotspur in the opening fixture was one of two in the opening 10 games, with City also drawing twice against Southampton and Liverpool.
But for the next 27 fixtures, City lost just once as they moved to the top of the ladder in December and stayed there until the end of the season.
For all of the winning form, a series of draws late into the season opened the door for Liverpool to truly ramp up the pressure on City in the title race but ultimately there was little the Reds could do to prevent Guardiola’s side from retaining their crown.
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If there was to be one negative spot in City’s season, it’s the disappointing return from $AUD177 million man Jack Grealish.
The former Aston Villa skipper signed for a British transfer record fee in the summer, but tallied a measly three goals and three assists.
The lack of attacking numbers from Grealish could be put down to him needing to transition from being the focal point of Villa’s attack to then becoming a singular cog in Guardiola’s machine, so next season will be the perfect platform for the football world to judge.
City will no doubt expect to make it five titles in six years next season, but attention will almost certainly be on securing the one trophy that continues to elude them: the Champions League.
2nd: Liverpool – A
Jurgen Klopp must be wondering what else he can do to help his Liverpool side usurp Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
There’s only been five Premier League seasons when a points total of more than 92 — Liverpool’s total for the 2021/22 season — was required to take out the title, underpinning just how good of a season the Reds had.
It’s been a virtually faultless year for Liverpool, and in any other year they might have been just a little luckier.
It’s hard to fault Klopp’s side too given they lost just two games all season long and won 14 of the last 16 fixtures to round out the campaign.
Perhaps the issue that prevented the Reds from leaping ahead of City was the fact that in their first six draws of the season, they took the lead in five of the six games only to concede the equalising goals.
A definite bright spot for Liverpool was the impact of January signing Luis Diaz from Porto, who dazzled on the wing as the club continues to snap up talented stars.
After defeating Wolves on the final day of the season, Klopp said that “finishing second is the story of my life.”
Well, the German is going to have to rewrite plenty of chapters in his book if he wants to bring more Premier League titles to Liverpool, although he will have plenty of time to do so after signing a new deal to keep him at Anfield until the summer of 2026 at least.
3rd: Chelsea – B
It was all going so well for Chelsea.
Entering the season on the back of defeating Manchester City in the Champions League final, the Blues strengthened the squad by bringing superstar striker Romelu Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge from Inter Milan for a jaw-dropping $172 million.
Chelsea started the season strongly, winning four of the opening five games as Lukaku scored three goals in the first four games.
While the Blues went on to lose just one game in 14 fixtures, the goals disappeared for the Belgian, as he failed to score a goal from September 11 to December 26.
Granted, he missed six games in that period due to an injury as well as contracting Covid.
To his credit, he scored two goals in as many matches upon his return, but from then on, it was bleak.
It coincided with Chelsea enduring a horror run over the festive period as Thomas Tuchel’s side had five draws in the space of a month.
Five wins on the bounce followed, but from April onwards, Chelsea won just four games out of 10 to see out the season.
However, the Blues managed to just hold on to third sport and secure Champions League football for another season thanks to a 2-1 victory over the already-relegated Watford on the final day, with the winner arriving via Ross Barkley in stoppage time. Yes, Barkley still plays for Chelsea.
It was a disappointing end to a season that promised so much at the start.
With new owners set to be in place for the start of next season, Tuchel will be expected to challenge for the title as the Blues finished 19 points off champions Manchester City.
4th: Tottenham Hotspur – B+
Tottenham fans should be thanking their lucky stars that Antonio Conte arrived at the club, because without the Italian, the season could have been a whole lot worse.
The butchered managerial search to find Jose Mourinho’s successor went on longer than it should have as Spurs settled for Nuno Esperito Santo, hardly an inspiring appointment.
The on-field product matched the spark, or lack of, that accompanied his announcement.
Despite three consecutive 1-0 victories to open the season, a run of five defeats in the next seven games allowed the Spurs board enough reason to undo their mistake of handing Nuno the coaching role in the first place.
Enter Conte, a serial winner who led Inter Milan to a Scudetto in 2020/21.
He enjoyed an unbeaten run to start his time as Spurs boss, but four defeats in five games — including an embarrassing 1-0 loss away to Burnley — had Conte wondering if he’d even last the season.
However, with Spurs languishing in 8th spot after the loss, Conte worked his magic as they won 10 out of the last 14 games to lock in a spot in the Champions League next season.
Key to the final run in was the blistering form of star forward Heung-Min Son, who scored 14 goals in as many games to tie Liverpool star Mohamed Salah in the golden boot race, ending the season with 23 goals.
With a full pre-season, this Spurs team under Conte could be something special in 2022/23.
5th: Arsenal – B
On paper, finishing fifth isn’t all that bad for the Gunners considering they got rid of talismanic striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the end of the January window.
But it’s the way that the season ended that leaves somewhat of a sour taste in the mouth of Arsenal fans, as they were forced to watch a Champions League place slip right through their hands as their North London rivals gratefully gobbled it up.
The summer window saw the Gunners splash the cash, bringing in a host of new players who were expected to perform including the likes of Ben White and Aaron Ramsdale, with Arsenal also bringing back Martin Odegaard but on a permanent basis.
After a wretched start to the season, Mikel Arteta managed to turn his side’s fortunes around as Arsenal went on an eight-game unbeaten run.
Another patch of defeats followed, but the Gunners yet again embarked on a brilliant run of form, winning nine out of 11 games.
Despite a rocky patch towards the end of the season, four wins had the Gunners sitting in fourth and in pole position to bring Champions League football back to the Emirates for the first time since the 2016/17 season.
But defeats to Spurs and Newcastle shot those hopes dead, as Arsenal ultimately finished fifth, the highest standing under Arteta.
The lack of a clinical goalscorer proved to be the Gunners’ downfall, with Bukayo Saka finishing as the club’s golden boot winner with 11.
The striker position is one that must be looked at by Arteta ahead of next season, although reports claim that Gabriel Jesus is inching closer to a switch to Arsenal.
6th: Manchester United – C-
The end of the season couldn’t come quick enough for Manchester United fans.
Despite a summer filled with anticipation on the back of Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford and four wins from five to start the season, things unravelled alarmingly fast for the Red Devils.
Five defeats in seven sent Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to the unemployment line and in came Ralf Rangnick on an interim basis.
The Austrian, known as the godfather of gegenpressing, struggled to get a tune out of a side that looked like they barely even knew each other.
Pundits tore the players to pieces as Rangnick was at a complete loss as to how he could get the squad singing off the same hymn sheet.
The embarrassment of 4-0 and 5-0 defeats to bitter rivals Liverpool only added to the storm engulfing the club, with the Ronaldo often bailing the team out of peril with sublime performances which included two hat-tricks in the space of four games.
United slumped to five defeats in the final eight games as the season came to an end, with fans probably happy that the season was finally done and didn’t have to put themselves through any more torture.
Incoming boss Erik ten Hag was on hand to witness the final day defeat away to Crystal Palace and has an almighty job on his hands ahead of next season.
For all of the Red Devils’ shortcomings this season, they will compete in the Europa League so all hope is not lost just yet.
7th: West Ham United – A-
Often when a team embarks on a European sideshow without a great deal of depth, it can easily derail their domestic season.
But West Ham proved that they could compete on both fronts successfully, making it all the way to a Europa League semi-final and finishing high enough in the Premier League to secure continental football for another season, albeit the Europa Conference League.
David Moyes’ side were flying high in the early stages of the season, with many Hammers fans thinking about the potential of a top four finish.
In fact, West Ham were in the Champions League spots as late as February, but a disappointing run to end the season could perhaps be attributed to focus shifting towards going as deep as possible in the Europa League.
The Hammers lost six of the final 11 games, albeit four of those came against teams who finished above them.
This season was also one in which Jarrod Bowen truly broke through, finishing the season with 12 goals and 12 assists.
Bowen is yet to be capped at international level, but with the blistering form he was in a call-up to the England squad surely can’t be far away.
A worrying sign for the Hammers will be the fact that Michail Antonio’s season flamed out in alarming fashion.
Antonio scored seven goals in the first half of the season, but then went on to score just three times in 2022 as West Ham’s lack of depth up front quickly became a glaring issue.
8th: Leicester City – B-
Aside from a last-gasp burst of points, this season on the whole was very average by Leicester’s standards.
With four games to go, the Foxes were sitting as low as 14th, but three wins and a draw ensured Brendan Rodgers’ side would emerge as the leaders of the mid-table peloton.
Leicester enjoyed perhaps the most inconsistent season known to man as they fluctuated between the top and bottom half and conceded the most goals since Rodgers had taken charge at the King Power Stadium.
Once again, Jamie Vardy scored for fun and ended the season with 15 goals, despite missing 11 games through knee and hamstring injuries.
Vardy was just one of many Leicester players on the treatment table throughout the season, as the squad’s depth was thoroughly tested.
Such was Vardy’s importance to the Foxes that from the 11 games he scored in, Leicester lost just one of those.
Patson Daka, a striker who was signed from RB Leipzig in the summer, didn’t quite lead the line as Rodgers would have hoped although it could be put down to the Zambian becoming acclimatised to the Premier League.
The emergence of midfielder Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall was one major positive to come from the season, with the 23-year-old putting in plenty of all-action displays that reportedly caught the eye of England boss Gareth Southgate.
With Leicester now without European football for next season, Rodgers will be eyeing up an all-out assault on the domestic scene as the Welshman looks to get the Foxes back to winning ways.
9th: Brighton – B+
After a season in which Brighton’s position on the ladder failed to reflect their on-field performances, the Seagulls finally got their just rewards with an impressive top-half finish.
However, Graham Potter’s side may be kicking themselves due to the 15 draws — a league-leading figure alongside Crystal Palace — they tallied.
In fact, from September 27 to April 2, the Seagulls won just three games with 13 draws coming in that period of time.
What was perhaps most frustrating for Brighton fans that the performances rarely warranted defeats or even draws, but it highlighted the glaring issue that has plagued Potter’s side for quite some time now.
Across 38 games, Brighton scored just 42 goals, a figure that only the three relegated clubs failed to better.
No player finished with double figures in the goalscoring department, with striker Neal Maupay and winger Leandro Trossard both ending the season with eight goals each.
Another alarming statistic on the goalscoring front is that up until the 35th game of the season, the Seagulls had scored three goals in a match only once.
However, what Brighton lacked in firepower up front was more than made up by their steely resistance at the back.
Potter’s side conceded just 44 goals all season long, a figure bettered by only one side outside of the top four: Wolves.
With Brighton continuing to grow under Potter’s tutelage each season, expectations will once again be high in Sussex and the Seagulls may face a tough fight to keep hold of their manager as bigger clubs continue to keep tabs on him.
10th: Wolverhampton Wanderers – C+
For the first time since 2017, the man in the Molineux hot seat was not Nuno Esperito Santo, but in keeping with the theme at Wolves, another Portuguese manager was at the helm: Bruno Lage.
Having led Benfica to a Primeira Liga title in 2018/19, there was an expectation that Lage turn Wolves’ fortunes around after a disappointing season last year in which the club finished 13th.
Despite a marginal improvement in ladder position, Wolves’ season flamed out in disappointing fashion as Lage’s side lost five of the last seven to fall from 8th to 10th.
What was most concerning for the Molineux faithful was the worryingly low number of goals scored this season, finding the back of the net just 38 times with the three relegated teams scoring fewer.
Star striker Raul Jimenez was the club’s top scorer with six goals, a far cry from previous seasons when he finished with double figures.
However, the dry spell could be put down to the fact that Jimenez returned from sustaining a fractured skull last season.
If Lage can’t find a system that helps his side find the back of the net a whole lot more than they did this year, he might be facing an early fight to keep his job next season.
11th: Newcastle United – B-
Ahead of this season, you’d have been hard pressed to find a Newcastle fan who had a shred of hope about the upcoming season.
How things have changed.
Steve Bruce, a manager who was up against it from the Toon faithful from the moment he was appointed, lasted just eight games into the season — failing to win any of them — as the mega-rich new ownership group took over from the maligned Mike Ashley.
In came former Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe, although it took quite some time for the 44-year-old three games before securing his first three points as Newcastle manager.
With the Magpies sitting in the relegation zone at the halfway point of the season, there remained a lingering sense that once the January window arrived and the club could flex its new-found financial muscle and turn around their on-field fortunes.
Boy, didn’t they do just that.
For a combined total of approximately $146 million, the Magpies snapped up Kieran Trippier, Chris Wood, Dan Burn and Bruno Guimaraes on permanent deals, with Matt Targett also linking up on a six-month deal.
After winning just the solitary game in the first half of the season, Howe’s side won 12 of the last 18 games to rocket out of the relegation zone and into 11th place at the end of the season.
With momentum, bucketloads of cash in the bank and a full pre-season under Howe, Newcastle fans have every right to be beaming from ear to ear about what’s to come next season.
12th: Crystal Palace – B+
Palace fans didn’t quite know what to expect with former Arsenal great Patrick Vieira as the new manager having only coached in MLS and Ligue 1.
Not only did he have doubters from the onset, but he wasn’t exactly blessed with a full pre-season to work with the squad either.
There was also the mission of reducing the average age of the squad, as Palace had one of the oldest teams in the Premier League.
Vieira and the club managed to do exactly that, with midfielder Will Hughes the sole transfer over the age of 25 from the ten that arrived in the summer, including the likes of Marc Guehi, Odsonne Edouard and Michael Olise as well as Conor Gallagher on loan from Chelsea.
Not only did the squad have a youthful look about it, the style of play was bolder and fresher than ever.
One moment that proved Vieira’s magic was working came in a 2-0 victory away to Manchester City, albeit the champions had to play a half with 10 men.
Regardless, it demonstrated Palace had the capacity to truly unsettle the big boys.
Vieira also managed to get the best out of star winger Wilfried Zaha, as the Ivorian enjoyed his best goal return in a Palace shirt with 14 to his name this season from 35 appearances.
Gallagher also dazzled under Vieira’s tutelage, scoring eight goals and chipping in with three assists in a spectacular season that landed him an England debut.
Going into his second season as Palace boss, Vieira will need to find a way to ensure his side turn draws into wins, as the Eagles drew 15 times throughout the season.
13th: Brentford – A-
Despite being promoted via the highly lucrative Championship Play-Off finals, Brentford was a heavy betting favourite to be relegated.
The Bees also opted to make small additions in the summer, with Frank Onyeka, Kristoffer Ajer and Yoane Wissa the three main signings arriving at the club.
For all of the concern about how Thomas Frank’s side would fare in the club’s first-ever outing in the Premier League, a 2-0 win over Arsenal in the first game of the season silenced the doubters.
Brentford continued to build on that result and were as high as 7th at one stage, with the Bees faithful enjoying every moment of it.
However, a subsequent run of 14 losses in 20 games handed Brentford a brutal reality check that life in the top flight isn’t as easy at it had first seemed.
As the Bees struggled for results, a January deadline day signing by the name of Christian Eriksen helped turn the tide in the latter stages of the season.
The Dane arrived on a short-term deal until the end of the season, but his attacking qualities were instrumental as Brentford won seven of the final 11 games to ensure safety, with a 4-1 away to Chelsea included in that run.
Brentford certainly outperformed every pre-season expectation from the outside world, with striker Ivan Toney also displaying strong goalscoring form with 12 to his name.
Of course, the big question hovering over the Bees going into next season will be whether they fall into the second season syndrome for promoted clubs.
It happened to Sheffield United, it almost happened to Leeds … can Brentford avoid it?
14th: Aston Villa – C
Life after Jack Grealish was never going to be easy for Aston Villa.
Despite replacing the skipper in the form of three arrivals — record signing Emi Buendia, Leon Bailey and Danny Ings — as well as positive results to start the season, Dean Smith was sacked after a run of five consecutive losses.
Taking Smith’s place in the Villa Park dugout was Steven Gerrard, who was coming off a title-winning season in the Scottish Premiership with Rangers.
The Villans enjoyed the new manager bounce, winning four of the first six games in Gerrard’s tenure.
However, inconsistent results followed which included a blown 3-1 lead against Leeds to draw 3-3 as well as 1-0 defeats to both Newcastle and Watford.
It seemed that whenever Gerrard’s side would put together a run of wins and show potential of what was possible, a run of defeats was just around the corner.
Having finished 11th last season, the expectation was that Villa would kick on this season but that simply didn’t happen as the club’s wait for its first top-half finish in over a decade continues.
One major benefit of Gerrard jumping on board at Villa Park is the fact he can attract genuine stars to the club, whereas Smith simply couldn’t have done the same.
The loan signing in January of Philippe Coutinho was the perfect demonstration of that, with Lucas Digne also arriving from Everton as both made valuable contributions in the second half of the season.
Having turned Coutinho into a permanent signing for next season as well as securing the sought-after signature of defensive midfielder Boubacar Kamara, a top-half finish next season is the bare minimum expectation for Gerrard.
15th: Southampton – C-
Southampton really is a genuine rollercoaster act.
One minute the Saints are struggling, then the next they’re dreaming of a top-half finish.
But ultimately it was a downward spiral to conclude the season, as Ralph Hassenhuttl’s side lost nine of the final 12 games and conceded 30 goals in the process.
The loss of star striker Danny Ings undoubtedly hampered Southampton’s attacking firepower, as Adam Armstrong and loan signing Armando Broja struggled to replicate his goalscoring output, but then again who could’ve?
Instead, captain James Ward-Prowse stepped up with the necessary goals and ended the season with 10.
With Hassenhuttl guiding the Saints to a second-consecutive finish of 15th, serious questions will be asked of the Austrian ahead of next season.
However, Hassenhuttl can take some solace in the signing of 19-year– old Tino Livramento, who put in plenty of assured defensive performances that defied his lack of experience.
Oh, and the Saints didn’t cop a 9-0 defeat this season, perhaps that’s cause for celebration?
16th: Everton – D-
It’s OK, Everton fans. You can open your eyes now. The season is finally done.
After Carlo Ancelotti’s surprise departure to Real Madrid in the summer, the Toffees’ decline began with the appointment of former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez which was met with plenty of controversy to no-one’s surprise.
Everton actually began the season relatively well, winning four of the first six games.
But the atmosphere quickly turned toxic.
The losses piled up, the boos at Goodison Park grew louder and louder and so too did the calls for Benitez to be sacked.
Everton fans eventually got their wish when Benitez was sacked a day after a 2-1 loss to the last-placed Norwich City, the 10th defeat under the Spaniard’s watch, as the Toffees sat perilously close to the relegation zone in 16th.
With Benitez gone, in came former Chelsea boss Frank Lampard, someone who had no experience of being in a relegation fight as a player or a manager.
Lampard had great difficulty attempting to get the squad firing from the moment he arrived, with January arrivals Donny van de Beek and Dele Alli offering little to nothing.
With just six games remaining in the season, Everton were in the relegation zone as the unthinkable slowly began to become a very realistic scenario.
But thanks to three wins in the final six games as well as the incompetence of the fellow relegation strugglers, Lampard steered the Toffees to safety with a 3-2 win over Crystal Palace in the penultimate game of the season.
Lampard will now enjoy a full pre-season with his squad and must use the transfer market wisely, as Everton must finally learn not to repeat the mistakes of years past with disjointed strategies in securing players.
17th: Leeds United – D
Under Marcelo Bielsa last season, Leeds won the hearts of neutrals by playing perhaps the most eye-catching style of football the Premier League had seen in quite some time.
But this season, things weren’t quite as rosy at Elland Road.
With one of the thinnest squads in the league, a disastrous summer transfer window in which Leeds signed three players (one of which was turning a loan from last season into a permanent deal) put the club on the back foot from the get-go.
While Bielsa is lauded for sticking to his guns when it comes to tactics no matter what, the playing style he rightly earned plaudits for last season quickly turned into kamikaze football as Leeds leaked goals at an alarming rate.
Losing 5-1 to rivals Manchester United in the first game of the season was perhaps a sign of what was to come, as Leeds conceded three goals or more on 10 occasions under Bielsa’s reign.
Despite the Argentine being revered by the entire city, the Leeds board was forced into action after a deflating 4-0 loss to Tottenham with 12 games left in the season, sacking Bielsa in a decision that divided the fanbase.
Jesse Marsch took over but lost his first two games in charge, sparking fears that the change was too little, too late.
But Leeds don’t enjoy doing things the easy way, as two consecutive wins secured with stoppage time goals injected life into the survival bid.
Despite three losses towards the end of the season, a last-gasp equaliser against Brighton in the penultimate game was followed by winger Jack Harrison scoring a 94th-minute winner against Brentford in the final game to secure survival.
It capped off a nightmare season in which the squad was ravaged by injury as the goalscoring exploits of last season also deserted Leeds.
Marsch knows he must bring in more bodies through the door at Thorp Arch to keep Leeds competitive, as the club begins to move on from the special Bielsa era that was.
18th: Burnley – D-
When you sell your star striker and one of the main goal threats on the team to a relegation rival at the time of purchase, what else did Burnley expect?
Letting Chris Wood move to Newcastle in the January window was a major nail in the coffin for the Clarets’ survival hopes, especially when the side couldn’t buy a goal if they tried.
Burnley won just one game in the opening 21 fixtures, a statistic that reeked of the stench of relegation.
Sean Dyche had somehow managed the team out of trouble numerous times, but the Burnley board felt that not even the ‘Ginger Mourinho’ could work his magic one last time, with a 2-0 defeat to Norwich proving to be the final straw for the board.
U23 coach Mike Jackson was made interim boss as a new face took charge at Turf Moor for the first time in almost a decade and he had the Clarets in strong form when the club needed it most, picking up 10 points from his first four games.
But Jackson and Burnley’s luck ran out, as three losses in the final four fixtures of the season brought an end to the Clarets’ six-season stint in the Premier League.
The lack of goals proved to be a major pitfall for Burnley, scoring 34 times across the season with nine of those coming via summer signing Maxwel Cornet.
The next highest goalscorers were centre-back Ben Mee and Wood, who scored three goals each.
With a financial mess looming at Turf Moor, it could end up being a long route back to the Premier League for Burnley.
19th: Watford – F
Watford once again made up the numbers in the Premier League season, finishing just one point above last-placed Norwich City in an appalling season for the Hornets.
Of course, what would a Watford campaign in the top flight be without not just one, but two managerial changes?
Xisco, the man who steered Watford through the Championship and into the Premier League, lasted just seven games before he got the flick although the cracks had begun to emerge late in that Championship season that showed he likely wouldn’t have lasted terribly long.
In came Claudio Ranieri, who led Leicester City to an improbable Premier League title in 2015/16.
However, he could only dilly-ding dilly-dong his way to two wins (including a 4-1 win over Manchester United), one draw and ten losses and was promptly sacked less than four months into his tenure.
Replacing the Italian was Roy Hodgson who, like his predecessors, won a measly two games, drew three and lost twelve in what truly seemed like a gig doomed from the start.
The only bright spot in an otherwise dreadful season was $5.9 million summer signing Emmanuel Dennis, who scored ten goals and chalked up six assists.
Having demonstrated success amid a poor squad and with a season in the second tier looming, Hornets fans might have only enjoyed Dennis for just one season as the vultures look set to swoop in and pick him up now that the Nigerian star proved himself.
20th: Norwich City – F
It feels as if we could copy and paste this exact paragraph in the end-of-season report cards for Norwich City.
The latest relegation now means that the Canaries’ last four seasons spent in the Premier League have all ended with a one-way ticket back to the Championship.
However, this one certainly stings more than most given that Norwich spent approximately $95 million in the summer window on new signings, only for none of them to have the desired impact.
Norwich had also hoped that sacking Daniel Farke — even after a win against Brentford — and bringing in former Aston Villa manager Dean Smith in November would have the desired effect, but it did little to divert the club from what seemed like an inevitable fate from the first day.
For a team that had been in the relegation zone for 99 per cent of the season, a failing grade is ultimately the only one that can be given.
But given Norwich’s earned status as a yoyo club, most of the current crop in the top flight can almost certainly look forward to returning to Carrow Road in 2023/24.