The 2021/22 English Premier League season is on our doorstep. It’s time to put our panel of esteemed football experts to the test and see if they can tell us what is going to go down in the upcoming season. We’ve asked eight of our finest minds, writers stationed all around the globe, twelve questions and asked for them to make their prediction on each.
We’re going to hold them to account, too. We’ll check in at the mid point of the campaign, as well as seasons close to gauge just whose crystal ball was right, and who’s was just a touch foggy.
Let’s start at the top: who wins the league?
Jarrod Prosser: Liverpool have their defense back in place. Chelsea have signed a player that will presumably outscore Jorginho. Manchester United continue to construct a great looking squad from the back line out. But none of that matters a jot. The title belongs to Manchester City and it is theirs to lose. An already stacked squad replaced the perma-crocked Kun Aguero with Jack Grealish and might still find a way to wait out Daniel Levy and add Harry Kane. The race will certainly be closer than last campaign, but the result won’t change.
Aarav Raina: I don’t really care if I’m being boring because I’m also correct. Manchester City wins the league again. That much talent paired with an amazing tactician in Pep Guardiola sounds like a pretty obvious recipe for success.
Chris Bagdonas: Manchester City
Alex Cervantes: Chelsea. I think Thomas Tuchel has had a full summer with this squad and that will show this season. They are blessed with an array of attacking talent and the stalwart defensive line that won them the Champions League is back. I think Romelu Lukaku’s arrival gives the Blues a clinical finisher up front, an area they desperately needed help in. I wouldn’t be surprised if this title is won on the last match day though.
Garrett Burroughs: It’s hard to argue against Man City. This team never seems to falter, and the teams below them didn’t do enough so far to gain that ground back up.
Christian Ishoo: As a betting man I’ll have to go with Manchester City to win the league title yet again. After Aguero walking and signing with Barcelona the only hole on that squad is a striker which they will be able to replace. Jack Grealish signed and adds another dangerous player in the midfield next to Kevin De Bruyne. As a fan though I will definitely be sprinkling on Chelsea to win it all this year. Champions league winners, the chemistry has developed, Captain America is ready to be a English league champion. He’d be the 2nd American ever after Zack Steffen became the first player to win the Premier League last season with Man City.
Gavin Daly: It’s easy to say Manchester City again with the money at their disposal. If they get Harry Kane it really will be game, set and match, because as was shown against Leicester in the Community Shield you can have all the flash in the world but if you don’t have an end product you won’t get what you deserve. Liverpool will likely be back after a bad season also, but if I was to put an outside bet on a team right now it would be Chelsea. With the London side adding Roman Lukaku they have that goal threat that City are lacking. Only Arsenal had a worst goals scored record than Chelsea last season so it’s definitely an improvement in the right area for the blues. Right now though I’m going for City.
Max Everett: Manchester City. There is no other club that look viable enough to take the throne. Without even taking into account the possibility of having reigning top scorer and lead play maker Harry Kane join the side, the Manchester side have made an excellent attacking addition with Jack Grealish joining a team already boasting the likes of KDB, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus. The throne belongs to the Kings of the North.
Who claims the other Champions League spots? In order of league finish please.
JP: Chelsea to finish 2nd and push Citeh all the way. Tuchel has had a full off-season to work with his troops and in adding my beloved Romelu Lukaku, they’ve solved their most glaring weakness: finishing. Frankly, Lukaku’s presence could see a return to form for the maligned Timo Werner, who should thrive playing in the cracks that Big Rom causes in a defense. Liverpool to claim 3rd on the back of occasionally have eleven fit footballers at the same time. United to slip to 4th, despite being an overall better side that last term.
AR: Chelsea, Liverpool, Man United.
CB: Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool
AC: I’ll go with Manchester United in second, Manchester City third and Liverpool to round out the Top 4. You can’t say I wasn’t bold. The quality of these top four teams is simply greater than the rest of the EPL and I’d be shocked if these four squads weren’t in the Champions League next season. I want to clarify that I have City third because I believe they are focused on winning the Champions League and that if they were to win the Premier League, that is simply icing on the cake.
GB: 2nd: Chelsea (tried to be not biased with this pick, as I support the Blues, but I love their current XI and the addition of Lukaku). 3Rd: Manchester United. 4th: Liverpool (Leicester City was a very intriguing pick here, though).
CI: Liverpool and Chelsea to finish 2nd and 3rd in the league. Liverpool was flooded with injuries last season to players including Virgil Van Dijk, Diego Jota and Trent Alexander Arnold, to name a few. I expect them to come back and start the season off hot with a vengeance. If a team grabs the 4th spot I would expect it to be Manchester United. I’m excited to watch Jadon Sancho in the EPL as this kid is a young star. They also brought in Raphael Varane to help their already tough defensive line. They finished 2nd last year which was a big step but I don’t necessarily see that happening again due to it being similar to a “regular” season again, (fans in the stands, game scheduling).
GD: Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer still has some improving to do but all signs are pointing in the right direction for United. A natural goalscorer would be a nice addition while the signing of Raphael Varane should settle their defense.
ME: 2nd are going to be Chelsea. Adding to their Champions League winning squad with the Belgian beast Romelu Lukaku is a signal of intent that the London side are ready to stand toe-to-toe with City, but they will still fall second.
3rd has to be Manchester United. It’s been a rocky road for the Red Devils since Fergie departed, but they finally seem to be regaining their stride. A team with creative and innovative attacking flair already with the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba, they went and added the former Borussia baller Jadon Sancho to their side. They’re in the race for the title but I don’t see them overcoming Chelsea or City. 4th is a lock in for Leicester, they’ll do it this season for sure. They only have to keep Maddison away from the red dead-end of North London and I believe their underdog spirit shines through the declining and often times arrogant Liverpool team.
Who’s going down? Relegation picks, thanks.
JP: In my heart of hearts, I think Burnley have to run out of pixie dust at some point. I’ve been burnt before, but since I’m an idiot who clearly doesn’t learn, I’ll predict Burnley. Norwich will be rock bottom of the table. They’re a lovely story but are just so far short of Premiership quality that it’s kind of depressing. The final team relegated? I think that Palace could sink like a stone without the warm embrace of Uncle Woy to keep them safe. The last time the club went for a progressive manager, they floundered. Also, I remain completely unconvinced by Patrick Vieira as a manager.
AR: Brentford, Watford, Newcastle.
CB: The three newly promoted teams (Brentford Watford and Norwich)
AC: I really struggled to find three teams I definitely think will go down – I could see several teams in a relegation battle. A trio of picks is needed nonetheless; so I’ll go Southampton, Norwich and Watford.
GB: Crystal Palace, Brighton and Burnley get the boot.
CI: Norwich City, Brentford, and Watford simply because all the models I look at have them with a close to 50% or more chance of being relegated… and I’ll take the flip of a coin.
GD: As long as Watford are one of the three I’m okay. It’ll probably be the newly promoted teams bouncing straight back down with Brentford and Norwich joining the yellow bellies. Brighton and Newcastle could be surprise casualties as they continue to struggle season after season.
ME: All three promoted teams are going to feel gravity in full effect. In the most competitive league in Europe, I purely don’t see better candidates for the drop than Brentford, Norwich and Watford. Too good for the Championship, not good enough for the Premiership.
Where will YOUR team finish?
JP: Everton are as unpredictable as any side in recent times. This season, they’ve gone left field, though. Rather than hiring the shiniest bauble to run the team as they have in seasons past, they’ve gone for a man of stature, principle, pedigree, and with a local history. Shame he’s a Red, then. They’ve also ignored the high priced stars and focused on cheaper, complimentary signings. Will it work? Maybe. Maybe not. But if it fails it will be a hell of a lot cheaper than our recent failings! In the end, I think Rafa will lead us in the right direction, albeit in baby steps. We’ll finish 8th.
AR: I promise I’m not a delusional Arsenal fan. Do I think we finish top four? No. Do I think we can string together a spot at 5th or 6th? Definitely. Especially when considering last season, if you only take into account games after Christmas, I believe Arsenal would have been 3rd on the table. C’mon you Gunners!
CB: I have Manchester United finishing 3rd behind City and Chelsea
AC: I’m a Chelsea man. I think we’ll win the league.
GB: As stated above, Chelsea to finish 2nd. In Tuchel We Trust.
CI: I think Chelsea to finish top 4 is a 100% lock. I think they finish 3rd after City and Liverpool.
GD: As a Luton fan, I abstain/don’t really care who finishes where.
ME: I’m a Spurs fan, for better or for worse. And as such have had a fairly rough couple of weeks following the rumours and reports surrounding our key player and vice-captain Harry Kane. However, Fabio Paratici appears to be instilling a clear winning and driven mentality within the team. Driven by the contractual extension of Son, appointment of a forward-thinking manager in Nuno Espirito Santo, and signings like Bryan Gil & the potential incoming Lautaro Martinez; Tottenham finally look to be starting a new chapter similar to the Pochettino rebuild, and as such I can see us returning to Europa League football with a fifth or sixth place finish.
Which club will flatter to deceive?
JP: West Ham might be the most prime of candidates to return to the mean, but given their obvious outlier of a 2020/21 campaign and the failure to secure Jesse Lingard on a permanent basis, surely that regression shouldn’t be a surprise. Rather, I’ll go with the Gunners. There is just enough combination of fresh young talent and a manager with both pedigree and potential to see Arsenal get the odd surprising result. They also hold a sufficient amount of Wenger Era goodwill with the public and press to see their perceived expectations outweigh their realistic abilities. They will be expected to finish 6th or thereabouts. Every solid result will be over hyped. They’ll finish 10th.
AR: I don’t think West Ham comes close to the success they had last year. Jesse Lingard returning to Manchester United certainly doesn’t help a team that was already relatively defensive-minded.
CB: West Ham. If they can’t get Lingard back in and/or lose Rice they definitely won’t be in the race for Europe League places.
AC: Picking Arsenal or Tottenham is too easy, it’s almost expected at this point, so I have to really branch out on this one. Because of that I’ll go with… Manchester City. And I’ll go really bold and say that Pep doesn’t win the EPL or UCL. They will flop both in England and Europe after failing to win on their two most important stages. I’m sure this will age well – watch them win the treble.
GB: I think West Ham could fall back to earth from their Europa League spot from last seasons finish. This team played out of their minds last season, but could a fall from grace be upon them?
CI: Arsenal will continue to deceive under Mikel Arteta, it’s as simple as that to me, he’s not a good manager, most noticeably with in game adjustments and getting the most out of subs. I hope they get out of the whole they’ve dug themselves into, and removing Arteta will be the first step back in the right direction.
GD: Is it really flattering to deceive or just the norm for Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton. It’s probably the latter.
ME: I think Liverpool. This is the season where we see the honeymoon period of Klopp’s success meet its demise. Liverpool struggled with injuries last season it has to be admitted, but even still they were a complete shadow of their Premier League and Champions League winners. Konate was a clever addition to the Anfield side, but I think they might just feel the sting of creative midfielder Wijnaldum’s absence.
Which club will be a pleasant surprise?
JP: Yes, Villa will have a raft of new talent on display, hoping to build on last season’s efforts. But why, dear reader, do they have so much young talent? Because they sold their captain, best player and talisman. That’s why. No matter how well the imports settle, Villa won’t push ahead. Instead, I’m predicting Brentford to defy the naysayers and stay up comfortably. They’ve got all the hallmarks of a 1st season surprise packet: a stout defense in front of an athletic shot stopper; graft in the midfield; a couple of creative sparks and a clinical finisher in Ivan Toney to take the few chances the Bees can conjure.
AR: I think that Wolves have a lot of talent all around the pitch and could make some noise this year. With Raul Jimenez in the lineup they were as high as 6th in the table at one point and his injury really hurt them last year. With a healthy squad they have the talent to surprise some people.
CB: Aston Villa. Even without Grealish I really like the signings they’ve made, especially Buendia and Ings.
AC: Tottenham. They have no expectations, so why not shoot for the stars? If they lose Kane it’s an even tougher battle, but the possible signing of Lautaro Martinez is good for the attack. Nuno was an intriguing hire, but maybe it works, who knows?
GB: Could Tottenham find some form this season and sneak back up towards the top four? Signing Lautaro could keep Harry Kane in town. This squad used to be so good, maybe this is the year they find the magic from before.
CI: Leicester City was in the top four battle deep into last season and I expect the same thing. Jamie Vardy, James Madison and Kasper Schmeichel can lead this team to another impressive season.
GD: I would like to see Brentford do well, simply because they absolutely destroyed Luton every time we played so the longer we stay away from them the better. Crystal Palace could be a surprise top ten finisher.
ME: I think Villa have a decent shout to claiming a Europa League or Europa Conference spot. In any scenario, losing a player like Grealish would be a jugular shot. But the reinvestment to bring in the likes of Danny Ings and Leon Bailey is starting to make the loss of Grealish look more like a flesh wound. Add in the loan signing of young centre half Tuanzebe and the acquisition of club hero Ashley Young and the Midlands team are going to be real contenders this season.
Golden Boot winner? And how many league goals do they score?
JP: No repeat for Harry Kane, I’m afraid. Tottenham are a shambles and should he leave for City he won’t play enough minutes – and even if he does are we sure Pep isn’t signing him to play as a deep lying midfielder? Lukaku will come close to taking the slipper but I can’t go past Mo Salah. My Royal Blue heart hopes I’m wrong, but with the Reds defensive wall back in place, I can see Salah flourishing with the freedom to create with abandon. He’s such a versatile finisher, too. He’ll score 27 goals to lead the Premier League.
AR: If Harry Kane stays at Tottenham I’ll say Kane; if his Man City move comes to fruition then I’ll go with Mo Salah to score 24 goals. This might seem contradictory but considering it’s a new system Kane might take time to get acclimated to his goal numbers could drop, as well as the fact Guardiola is always tinkering with his lineups and there would be games Kane doesn’t even play in.
CB: Harry Kane repeats with 26 goals. Salah was great last season but I don’t think he can catch Kane regardless of if he’s at Spurs or City.
AC: Bruno Fernandes. He’s coming off the heels of a disappointing Euro run with Portugal and will be looking to win a major trophy with United. He had 18 goals last season and I could see him eclipsing the 20 goal mark – I’ll say he scores 24 goals and has 14 assists. I’m not sure how much Kane will score with Tottenham or City, or what that situation will look like, so I chose Fernandes.
GB: Wouldn’t it be incredible if Patrick Bamford picked up from his historic season last year, scoring 17 goals, to take the golden boot? Maybe Bruno Fernandes? Could Lukaku have an incredible first season with Chelsea? If I have to pick one player, I’ll pick Lukaku. He had 24 goals last season for Inter and I think he can keep that pace in the EPL. He finishes with 22 goals to top all scorers.
CI: Mo Salah will win finish one goal away from his 31 goal total last season.
GD: If he ever trains and plays it should be Harry Kane, especially if he moves to Man City. Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku won’t be far behind and I also wouldn’t be surprised if they were tied come season end. I’m going to go with Kane though with 27 goals.
ME: Harry Kane will be up there, whether in a white or baby-blue jersey you can always guarantee two things as far as the England Captain is concerned. He is going to get more than 20 goals, and he will get them even despite a mid-season ankle injury. But my pick is Romelu Lukaku, who is returning to England and West London with a chip on his broad shoulders. Even despite being a goal-machine for Everton and United, he left after a tumultuous time in the North and should return with retribution on his mind. I’d say 25 goals for Lukaku and 24 for Kane, the margins will be thin.
Which signing will have the most impact on their team?
JP: My instinct says Varane at United, even though I think they’ll finish lower than last year. United still need a more reliable goal scorer than the 34 year old Edinson Cavani and that will hold them back overall. But I think that Varane compliments every other part of the United back line, as well as being able to link to midfield more efficiently. There is a very real chance that the Red Devils will possess the stingiest defense in the division this season, thanks to the unifying effects of the Frenchman.
AR: Raphael Varane, He’ll make Manchester United a lot more intimidating to play against. Trying to score on Harry Maguire and Varane instead of Maguire and Victor Lindelöf is a massive difference, and a great upgrade for the Red Devils.
CB: I really like Leon Bailey. I was a fan of his when he played at Leverkusen. His pace and dribbling will link up really well with Buendia’s creativity and Ings/Watkins finishing, in my opinion.
AC: Billy Gilmour. He’s a Chelsea product and I love him. He’ll be thrust into the line-up and I just think it will be a very successful loan. He can control a midfield and will be a bright spot in a dismal year for Norwich. I hope he comes back to Chelsea, though.
GB: Ibrahima Konate for Liverpool. (This is more of a long term impact signing) At 22, he has the potential to be an anchor for this Liverpool back like similar to van Dijks impact his first year in 2017-2018. I also considered Jadon Sancho in this spot to United but I think Konate will offer more for his club.
CI: I would like it to be Jadon Sancho but he is 21 and I’m not sure how much Solskjaer will trust him from the start, even though he signed that big money deal. A more realistic answer is Boubakary Soumare who is an exciting young midfielder that Leicester picked up from Lille. He will step into the lineup right away and should instantly improve the midfield.
GD: I remember saying back in the day that Patson Daka was a star in the making. Depending on how much of a look he gets at Leicester I stand by that assessment. As far as impacts go if Varane hits the ground running at Man United he could be exactly what they need to take the next step.
ME: If Lautaro Martinez indeed signs for Tottenham, then he may well convince Kane to stay, which furthered by his own attacking exploits would prove quintessential to their campaign. But if we’re talking done deals, then again it has to be Lukaku, the man is just going to transform Chelsea’s attack, and as a Spurs fan it’s a scary sight.
And who will flop?
JP: Ben White – and it won’t even be his fault. White will be perfectly fine at the heart of an otherwise average Arsenal back line. He’ll have his moments. He’ll make the odd rick. Nothing unusual. The reason he’ll be considered a flop, however, is the mad amount of cash the Gunners splashed on the former Brighton man. White being worth €50 million is the clearest example of a player suffering from Brexit Tax in a long while.
AR: Even as an Arsenal fan, I honestly have no clue why we paid over €50 million for Ben White. He’s talented but really young and inexperienced. For the sake of my club, I pray I’m wrong and he’s worth every penny.
CB: Konate at Liverpool. He’s struggled with injuries for a while and I expect Klopp will more than likely take it easy with Van Dijk’s return to the squad. The other centre backs will be playing a lot of minutes and I’m just unsure of how he’ll adapt to the Premier League.
AC: Jadon Sancho. I don’t think this will be a prolonged flop and I think he could have a great rebound sophomore season with United, but this time around, I think his adjustment to the Premiership will be a bit slow.
GB: Jack Grealish. Now listen, I understand he brought Aston Villa to where they are and his leadership is second to none. But he couldn’t even crack the national team lineups at the Euro’s (albeit he also had an imbecile leading that team). I just think the expectations following a €100M transfer fee are going to be too high for the 25-year-old.
CI: Not technically a signing, but Mikel Arteta.
GD: A lot of clubs went for young players whose names may never by mentioned in the Premier League but of the big name purchases I think Jadon Sancho has the potential to be the biggest flop just because he wasn’t what United needed in my opinion and won’t make them instant title contenders. With the money spent that may well be the expectation.
ME: I’m most definitely going to say Ben White. A solid centre half with a drastically inflated mark-up because of his homegrown status. He seems an odd acquisition for a club looking to ascend back to the lofty heights fans of the Gunners had come to expect a two decades ago, but only again because of the price. I see White struggling to rally an already dwindling and devoid of passion Arsenal defense.
Who takes out the PFA Player of the Year?
JP: Oh, who wins the Kevin De Bruyne Perpetual Trophy, you ask? Why, it’s Kevin De Bruyne!
AR: I don’t see any reason why Kevin De Bruyne doesn’t repeat with the award.
CB: If he can stay healthy I think De Bruyne can do it again. He is instrumental in that City squad and it almost feels like a guarantee that they’ll win the league again, should he stay healthy.
AC: N’Golo Kante. Assuming he stays fully fit, he is the catalyst for both Chelsea’s defense and attack. His interceptions lead directly to Chelsea’s attacks along the wings and his constant energy is what makes him the best box-to-box midfielder in the world.
GB: I’m going with Bruno Fernandes. The midfielder for Manchester United has looked like a STUD during his tenure with the squad, and I think he can elevate his game even higher. I was tempted to go with someone like Kante simply based off his performance at the end of last season and how well he played during champions league, but Fernandes gets the nod.
CI: Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo are the only players to win it in consecutive years, until 2021 when Kevin De Bruyne joined that elite list. He missed 9 games this season and still won. He’s the best player in the Premier League. Arguably the best midfielder in the world.
GD: Kevin de Bruyne. In fact just rename it the KDB award until further notice. He’s light years ahead of anyone else right now.
ME: I reckon KDB will notch another award to his credit. City are going to be the team to beat this season and as such it only makes sense that their talisman will take his place as the Premier League’s best player once again.
First manager to be removed by ‘mutual consent’?
JP: From the moment you clicked on this link, to the moment you reached this sentence, Watford removed three managers. Xisco Munoz was, unfortunately, one of them.
AR: Probably Xisco Munoz of Watford.
CB: Hassenhutl at Southampton. The Saints hit a rough patch last season and it could get even worse without Danny Ings. If they flirt with a relegation battle, I could see him getting the sack pretty quickly.
AC: Mikel Arteta. It’s time, it needs to happen. He’s trying to build a City-like organization in London and the experiment has failed. If there’s a string of successive losses in league play – especially since the Gunners don’t have European football – I expect he’ll be removed.
GB: Patrick Vieira with Crystal Palace. It might not be fair for a first year manager to be gone so early, but it’s always easy to get rid of the new guy than to get rid of someone older and more experienced. A bold pick? Rafa Benitez with Everton.
CI: Mikel Arteta
GD: Only because I don’t think Mike Ashley will sack Steve Bruce I’m going to go with the Watford manager Xisco Munoz. He’s already been there eight months so he’s well past his best by date considering their track record.
ME: I can see Arteta departing Arsenal this season. Fans were begging to see the back of Wenger and when they got it they realised that the luscious green grass they were seeing turned out to be a wilted and yellow mess on the other side. I think this is the same situation with Arteta, who dropped a deputy role with Guardiola to take the reigns of the side he formerly played for and captained. Fans loved him, but now it’s beginning to feel like a different year but the same Arsenal, and something needs to change.
Finally, what will prove the biggest controversy this season?
JP: Putting on my Royal Blue spectacles, the Rafa Benitez experience will be controversial, no matter the outcome. If he fails, then it’s a clear sign that the club erred in, for the first time in it’s 143 year existence, signing a former Liverpool manager. Should he lead Everton back up the table then the narrative will be that Everton can only succeed by taking the Reds sloppy seconds. If inertia reigns and Everton are an upper mid table side, then the cautious and sometimes tedious style that Benitez favours will come under scrutiny.
AR: I don’t know how much we can predict controversy but I’m sure Arsenal starring in this year’s version of Amazon’s series “All or Nothing” will certainly provide fans with a lot of great behind the scenes content and a look at possible drama.
CB: Manchester City and FFP. If they do sign Kane alongside Grealish I believe UEFA must look into their finances again, like they did a few years ago. Two huge signings like that without almost any significant departures seems suspicious to me. They’ll run away with the league but it’s in part because they spend so, so much more than anyone else.
AC: Manchester City and VAR. These are really safe picks, but they aggravate people nonetheless. City can simple buy elite players at ridiculous prices and that pisses people off. VAR pisses everyone off.
GB: This season, with three games left, the top four clubs will be separated by a mere four points. This will be one of the tightest races in recent memory. I know that isn’t necessarily controversial I guess, but more of like a bold take, I suppose.
CI: I’d say the VAR will continue to add controversy.
GD: It’s the last day of the season. Leaders Chelsea are at home to Watford while second place Man City host Aston Villa. Chelsea lead by two points but Man City have the far superior goal difference. Watford are already relegated but Villa need a point to be mathematically safe. Watford are holding Chelsea while City are winning. Suddenly Jack Grealish pops up in the box and scores an own goal, saving Villa but handing the title to Chelsea in the process. At Stamford Bridge as word creeps through John Terry races from the crowd in full kit to lift the Premier League title. Yeah it’ll probably just be VAR again.
ME: I’m going to go out on a limb and say someone who has been signed this Summer will hand in a transfer request in January. I’m not entirely sure who yet, but I can see a big name settling in poorly and desperately trying to move back to their former club. Either that, or Grealish will score against Villa at Villa Park, and celebrate hard. Imagine the scenes!
Which of our panel of experts – if any – do you think have got it right? Who’s so far off the mark that their in a different post code? Let us know! Get involved in the chat.
We’ll check in at mid season to see exactly who wise/crazy our writers are.