Welcome to Premier League 2019-20 season! Too late, it already started, I hear you say!? True, but the first games are only warm-up. Besides, the transfers are still possible, outgoing, however, can impact the shape of the team.
We’ll take a look at the shape of the “Big 6” to see what we can expect from them. What better way to start than with the defending champion.
Manchester City still ahead of everybody
Manchester City is the first team to successfully defend the Premier League title in the last decade. Liverpool pushed the Blues till the very end in a record-breaking season. However, Guardiola and his men made the most of the only defeat the competitors suffered, at the Etihad Stadium!
Championships are usually won on so-called small teams but last season was proof that things might be changing.
Rodri from Atletico Madrid and Joao Cancelo from Juventus are the significant acquisitions that surely will improve the squad. Both young yet with important experience in strong domestic championships as well as Champions League and international football.
However, both will have to step up and prove they’re worth the trouble and money since there isn’t a shortage of competition at City.
Combined cost 135M € out of the total 168M € spent this summer. The rest was spent or invested in other talents which will hardly get a chance this season.
The strange thing is that City didn’t splash out on a central defender! Vincent Kompany left the club on a free transfer and joined Anderlecht, his former club, in Belgium. After 11 years as a faithful servant, the captain called it quits.
He had his fair share of injury problems and wasn’t so influential in the last season, even if he scored one of the goals that eventually led to the title, anyway his leadership and drive will be missed.
Beside him also Mangala left on a free to join Valencia. His legacy at the reigning champions doesn’t come near the one left by the former captain and isn’t the type of player Guardiola wants on the pitch but still was a valid back-up.
Fabian Delph and Danilo, other valuable options in defense also left, at least for a decent amount, however, no replacements were brought.
Squad at disposal
Goalkeepers: Ederson, Claudio Bravo, Scott Carson
Defenders: Stones, Laporte, Otamendi, Walker, Mendy, Cancelo, Zinchenko, Angelino
Midfielders: Fernardinho, Rodri, Aleix Garcia, Gundogan, Foden, De Bruyne, D. Silva
Attackers: Aguero, Sterling, B. Silva, Sane, Mahrez, G. Jesus, Meshino
What to expect?
City will continue on the path set; keeping possession, suffocating opponents and scoring a galore.
However, going into a 60+ games season with just 3 central defenders on the books might come to hunt them at the business end of the season.
Anyway, given the rocky period, the so-called competition is going through, the domestic crown is theirs to lose!
Total income generated from sales accumulated 69M € thus producing a 99M € deficit. But nobody at the club cares too much as long as the Premier League title and especially Champions League glory are achieved.
Liverpool still second-best in Premier League
Liverpool might be the best on the continent but remain second best in the Premier League. If a record 97 points campaign didn’t secure the long-awaited domestic trophy, what can? And more importantly, how to achieve that?
Jurgen Klopp apparently believes in his men since practically no players for the first team were brought in! Or he’s trying to emulate Tottenham’s “no buys” policy which eventually led them to Champions League final for the first time in history?
As already mentioned Liverpool spent basically nothing and signed only Adrian as the back-up goalkeeper on a free transfer as a replacement to departed Mignolet. The only money spent was on Sepp van den Berg, 1.9M €. Who? Exactly!
On the other side, besides the already mentioned Mignolet who at least generated some income, also Sturridge and Alberto Moreno left but on a free. Not first choices by any mean nevertheless long-serving players who occasionally proved as important deputies.
Danny Ings never hit the ground going and was finally sold this summer for a reasonable fee. There might be some additional departures since the transfer market is still open elsewhere in Europe.
Mainly Lovren and Shaqiri have been mentioned as possible candidates.
Squad at disposal
Goalkeepers: Alisson, Adrian, Kelleher, Lonergan
Defenders: Van Dijk, Matip, Gomez, A.-Arnold, Robertson, Clyne, van den Berg, Hoever, Lovren
Midfielders: Fabinho, Keita, Milner, Henderson, Lallana, Wijnaldum, O.-Chamberlain
Attackers: Salah, Mane, Firmino, Origi, Shaqiri
What to expect?
Like City, Liverpool will continue with the trademark type of “rock-and-roll” football. However, the passive transfer session might prove a big mistake particularly if the sale of Lovren and Shaqiri happens.
Alisson got injured in the first game, Adrian in the second. You can’t predict such season openers and you can’t prepare for it.
But not seeing that your team’s thin on both sides of the defense and in the center if Lovren leaves is inexcusable. Same for the attacking dept. in case of additional departures.
The Reds made a profit of 32,5M € this summer, invested nothing and go in defense of the Champions League title with numerically limited man-power.
Last season luck was on their side in Europe and slightly but decisively missing in Premier League. 2019/20 season luck won’t play any role, all the damage was done internally.
Second place in the league will be won with a lot less than 90 points just due to limited competition.
Tottenham attacking the top
A Champions League final and 4th spot in Premier League without spending a penny? Fabulous! However, if you’re to compete with the best you have to keep pace with them both in staff and infrastructure.
Even if Tottenham never really demonstrated or proclaimed ambitions to win, apart before the final in Madrid, they came close to it last year. And the appetite grew! Held down by investments in the new stadium and still coming close to international success opened a new door for the Spurs; now they’re contenders!
But, are they really?
After 18 months Pochettino got first reinforcement, a 60M € young midfielder from Lyon. Coming from a successful season you might expect that the first acquisition would be somebody who ignites the fans’ imagination and strikes additional fear into opponents.
Ndombele might be a good player with the potential to be great but just doesn’t make the team make a quality leap.
But that just isn’t how things are done at Tottenham so you hope that second arrival will be more exciting. Sessegnon is an extremely talented winger however neither he won’t give any sleepless nights to the opposing defenders just yet.
And the third purchase? Lo Celso. A more familiar name then the predecessors however also closer to a talented player than to a corner-stone of a team.
If incoming traffic didn’t set the world on fire at least the outgoing didn’t ruin it. Despite the loss of Trippier who joined Atletico Madrid.
Only another player who might come useful but left is Fernando Llorente, one of the heroes of the CL semi-final against Manchester City just a few months back.
There are rumors that Aurier might seek for pastures greener somewhere else and the Eriksen situation isn’t resolved yet as he’s in his last year of the contract and might be sold till the end of the summer, just not to give him away for free next year.
Squad at disposal
Goalkeepers: Lloris, Gazzaniga
Defenders: Sanchez, Alderweireled, Vertonghen, Foyth, Rose, Davies, Aurier, Walker-Peters
Midfielders: Dier, Wanyama, Skipp, Winks, Ndombele, Sissoko, Lo Celso, Sessegnon, Eriksen, Alli
Attackers: Kane, Son, Lucas, Lamela, N’Koudou
What to expect?
Same old Tottenham; playing sexy football against small teams, passive against the big teams but still causing them problems. All in all a good season but without any trophy.
Similarly to City and Liverpool also the Spurs look thin in defense, particularly on the right flank. And even if the central area is more crowded than at competitors it lacks a true leader in the shape of Van Dijk or Stones.
Midfield and attack are well covered but no improvement on last season which means another top 4 finish in the Premier League with a similar gap to the winner as last season.
Chelsea in transition
As if the impossibility to buy players wasn’t enough Chelsea had to part ways with its most prized asset; Eden Hazard. Given the difficult period, no renewed manager would accept the task of guiding the club through the storm that’s in front of them, so the club hierarchy turned to a club legend, Frank Lampard.
Lampard made history with the Blues winning everything possible and becoming club’s best-ever scorer in the process. As a player! As a manager, he has still to prove himself.
Whatever he experienced in the Championship with Derby is nothing compared to what he’ll have to live through as the Chelsea manager! Even if it might be one of the most challenging seasons, few punches will be held towards the manager. After all, this is Chelsea we’re talking about…
Even with the ban in place, the Blues managed to bring in Pulišić who was already bought in January and left at Borussia Dortmund on loan till the end of the season. The ban also forced the club to make Mateo Kovačić’s loan permanent.
On the other end the most talented player left, Hazard, along with two of the most influential and experienced; David Luiz and Gary Cahill.
I’ve never been a great fan of neither of them however in the given situation and potential 50+ games campaign, at least one of them would come handy to have around.
Chelsea always have a huge squad and consequently very hectic transfer windows due to numerous loan contracts and negotiations to carry. This summer was more focused on exits.
Squad at disposal
Goalkeepers: Arrizabalaga, Caballero, Blackman
Defenders: Rudiger, Christensen, Zouma, Tomori, M. Alonso, Emerson, Azpilicueta, James
Midfielders: Jorginho, Bakayoko, Kante, Kovačič, Barkley, L.-Cheek, van Ginkel, Kenedy, Mount
Attackers: H.-Odoi, Pulišić, Willian, Pedro, Batshuayi, Abraham, Giroud
What to expect?
Surely not last season’s success! An international success, even if the second tier, is always a great club promotion and needs to be acknowledged.
This year will be a fight to keep afloat! With no stand-out talent to call upon when things don’t go their way, Lampard will be forced to get the best out of the team. Usually, that means a lot of decent/good performances with frustrating results.
For any additional explanation please check the first game of the season at Old Trafford. European Super Cup final against Liverpool is another example.
Champions League progression to the second round and a top 4 PL finish would be a remarkable achievement for this team. But I just can’t see them doing both.
Manchester United still searching the way out of the tunnel
The richest and one of the most recognizable clubs in the world just can’t find the right path! Solskjaer did enough to earn permanent stay, sort to speak, however, last season was a failure!
Some weak spots were sorted with quality additions in defense. However, there’s still a feeling that something isn’t right about the squad, the manager, the organization or all of the above.
The sense is that even if Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar would be added to the rooster, United still wouldn’t be a title contender.
Anyway, the club’s lucrative history demands trophies and that’s what is expected. Mourinho brought some silverware but the style didn’t satisfy.
Solskjaer brought some emotions, unbelievable matches, and historical come-backs but nothing in the trophy cabinet.
If the intention is to have it all, then wrong people are being put on the helm of the team.
Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are quality and costly additions which surely will tighten things up at the back. Both coming at record fees for defenders will only increase expectations and pressure in an already heated environment.
Daniel James is an exciting prospect but surely not the one to change things, even if in today’s football nobody is given the luxury to grow slowly and steadily.
Lukaku’s sale after the market closure in England is a clear demonstration that the club didn’t think of him too much. Failure to bring any other striker while they could implicate that he was judged surplus long ago.
Allowing contracts of some of the locker-room senators to expire, namely Herrera and Valencia, the clubs’ strategy seems to be future-oriented. Hopefully, the fans will understand and support the decision to live for tomorrow, not today. But in football in general and at United, in particular, that’s hard to swallow.
There are more possible exits, most of all Sanchez to Italy. Enormous wage demands make him difficult to place and some chipping-in might be necessary. However, given the return, he should be taken care of before Lukaku.
Squad at disposal
Goalkeepers: De Gea, Romero, Grant
Defenders: Maguire, Lindelof, Bailly, Smalling, Jones, Rojo, Tuanzebe, Shaw, Young, B.-Jackson, Wan-Bissaka, Dalot, Darmian, F.-Mensah
Midfielders: Matić, Pogba, Fred, McTominay, Mata, Pereira
Attackers: Martial, Sanchez, James, Lingard, Rashford, Greenwood
What to expect?
More of the same! And perhaps even worse!
It’s difficult to understand how clubs are planning their season. United has 14 defenders, 6 midfielders and 5+1 (Sanchez) attackers in the squad!!?!
What system will be used with available players? How it is intended to get the best out of the most talented players and keep the team balanced on the pitch?
Naturally, tactics and positioning can differ from game to game and situation to situation. Nevertheless, a base formation has to be known and trained!
Don’t be fooled by the opener against Chelsea, the result seemed to be from another game. Anyway, Chelsea can’t be considered a reference this season.
United fans need to arm themselves with patience and steel nerves because the city will be in light blue fiesta again.
Hopefully, Solskjaer is more intelligent and capable than we all give him credit for, as I can’t figure this out…
Arsenal steadily in the shadow
In contrast to the aforementioned United, Arsenal fans are used and reconciled with trophy-less seasons. European success has never been the club’s forte and the Premier League was won a life-time ago.
So expectations are low, even Champions League qualification isn’t a must anymore, therefore, they can focus on sexy football and enjoy the bohemian lifestyle.
Europa League final counts as success or achievement? Well, that says it all!
However, this season Arsenal might take advantage of Chelsea and Manchester Utd struggles to reach 4th spot and return to Champions League.
In the transfer market, the club didn’t do bad at all. Youthful exuberance and trickery were added with Pepe in the attack, although for a hefty 80M €.
Some steel and experience with an occasional blip with David Luiz in defense and a touch of class in midfield through Ceballos.
To round things off some fighting spirit with Tierney of the left flank and a look to the future with rookie central defender Saliba, who was left at Saint-Ettiene for another season.
The latter came for a very inflated price of 30M € but nowadays throwing tens of millions of Euros on unproven youngsters isn’t news anymore.
If buying isn’t a problem at Arsenal than selling is!
For Iwobi, a talented, proven, young winger with already meaningful experience at the top level the club got 30M €. Koscielny, Ospina and Jenkinson left for peanuts and Ramsey even for free.
Then there’s the Ozil saga. Much like the Sanchez situation at United, the highest-paid player is hard to sell. Even if realistic market value isn’t likely to be cashed in, at least getting rid of the huge salary would be a success.
Don’t get me wrong, Ozil is an extremely gifted footballer with a remarkable track record. But the head doesn’t always follow the feet and at the moment he’s a liability to the team.
A final push to sell Mustafi, one of the worse purchases in club history, is expected to go through to finish on a high.
Squad at disposal
Goalkeepers: Leno, Martinez, Macey
Defenders: Mustafi, Sokratis, D. Luiz, Chambers, Holding, Mavropanos, Kolašinac, Tierney, Monreal, Bellerin
Midfielders: Torreira, Xhaka, Elneny, Guendouzi, Ceballos, Willock, M.-Niles, Mkhitaryan, Ozil
Attackers: Martinelli, Pepe, Nelson, Lacazette, Aubameyang
What to expect?
Nothing new, except for realistic chances to finally qualify for Champions League. Not as a result of the club’s strategy but due to lack of one at contenders.
There is no perfect team but Arsenal is far away from it; overcrowded yet limited defense, crafty but soft midfield and thin attack.
Against Liverpool, despite the result, Arsenal didn’t play bad at all and with a bit more ruthlessness in front of goal, things could be a least more dramatic. But then again, it’s Arsenal we’re talking about.
Everything summed up a deficit of over 100M € in one session with no significant improvement of the team. Yep, classic Arsenal.
Premier League sum up
City to retain the crown, Arsenal snitching 4th in front of ManU and Chelsea. On the relegation side, the battle will be much more intense to exactly predict the bottom three, however, Aston Villa and Norwich stand out as favorites.
This seasons’ Premier League will be exciting, dramatic and entertaining. But if you’re looking and hoping for some surprises, you won’t find them in England.