Farewell then 2022-23. You gave us Todd Boehly, Erling Haaland and Wout Weghorst. Truly, memories to last a lifetime. But we must move forward, the television channels and fantasy leagues demand it. What lies in store for next season? Please enjoy some premature speculation.
A ‘model club’ to struggle
It is a precarious existence when you are considered the star pupils of Premier League football. Previous model clubs have included Southampton, Swansea City and Leicester City. How is that working out for them? The brutal nature of the top flight means it just takes an ill-timed nine-month run of mostly poor form, injuries to key players and a failed gamble on a manager for everything to implode. Special boys Brighton and Brentford seem in good shape but it would be no huge surprise if either finished in the bottom half next season. Fulham, Wolves and consistent overachievers Crystal Palace could also be vulnerable.
Manchester United to spend lots of money
Worrying silence on the new ownership front, in the tricky downtime between 17th and 18th official final final deadline for bids. Shades of Newcastle United, who seemed destined to be sold for months then were off the market and miserable, until the Saudis returned to much rejoicing and ill-considered use of tea towels. But whether it is the Glazers in charge or not by the end of this summer, expect United to spend. The current mob will need to if they are to have any hope of placating a mutinous fan base. If it is to be Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani or a mysterious consortium fronted by William Prunier then lock up your chequebooks, marquee names will be arriving. Business as usual, in other words.
Kompany hype gets out of hand
It is always seductive to anoint a new managerial genius when they have been spectacular players in recent memory. The job Vincent Kompany did to win the Championship with Burnley was highly laudable, just as it was when Steven Gerrard won Rangers’ first title in a decade, just as it was when Patrick Vieira seamlessly blended in a dozen new signings to initially improve Crystal Palace. If Burnley start well expect some extremely frothy coverage of Kompany and all sorts of exotic links to huge clubs. Best to give it a few years before we make any final judgments, though.
Potter’s stock rising the longer he spends away
Next season’s Sean Dyche, whose time at Burnley ended dismally but became an ever-more attractive option for struggling clubs during his absence from the game. If Graham Potter can (or wants to) wait until winter before finding another job he will go in with vastly more goodwill than if he takes one in the coming weeks, with Chelsea misery so fresh in the memory. Some chat that he will look abroad, which seems like a sensible and more pleasant decision, but if you fail at, say, Nice, you reduce your English options significantly.
Shoutier TV coverage
The old guard are gradually drifting away. Graeme Souness is gone, Jeff Stelling, too, Gary Lineker surely cannot have too many years left in him. No question that their replacements will be appointed with social media appeal front of mind, which inevitably means forceful opinions delivered at extremely loud volume. Do not say you were not warned.
Novelty of Kenilworth Road wearing off at exactly 12.47 on the season’s opening Saturday
Picture the scene. With the Friday night opener in the books (Wolves 0 Manchester United 2) attention shifts to Bedfordshire for the lunchtime kick-off. Luton host Liverpool, we see Xabi Alonso scoring from his own half eight times, but only in between nine earnest poems about proper football and entrances to away stands that are between terraced houses. Wonderful stuff, poles in your eyeline, jumpers for goalposts etc. Then the game starts and you realise you are just watching a familiar Premier League scenario – limited low block versus bountiful attacking brilliance – from a worse angle than usual. The early buzz dies down, the crowd quietens, and we are collectively over it.
Tottenham to go full 1990s
However the Harry Kane conundrum shakes out – keep him, lose money, stay semi-competitive, or sell and embrace chaos – it is difficult to see Spurs shaking off the stench that has engulfed them this season. The ongoing hunt for a new manager does not suggest a club with a clear plan. At this rate they will continue to be elbowed out by the newly congested elite and the more agile emergent crew. We know how this goes next. Ready the Travelcard for returning hero Christian Gross.
Shock horror, Manchester City to win the league
The earliest the Premier League title has been won was Manchester United on April 14 2001 with five games to spare. That record could come under threat if City continue on their current trajectory. What will be left to motivate them if, as expected, they secure a European Cup in Istanbul? Becoming the first team in English football history to win four successive titles should be enough. But expect the “asterisk” chat to increase in volume, too. The ruling on alleged FFP breaches cannot come soon enough. Roll on 2037.
Fewer tedious Var debates
A big call and surely the one we would all want to come true. Howard Webb’s Ted talk on Monday Night Football made for intriguing if not quite riveting viewing but was a sign that his PGMOL is embracing transparency, keen to speed up interventions and use a lighter touch. Selling Var has always been an educational as well as a logistical issue. The more occasions when the process and decisions can be explained the better. More to the point, this will be the fifth year it has been used in the Premier League. Surely (hopefully) we have all grown too bored of endless discussions about it to stomach many more?
Regression to the mean
There were plenty of reasons why the just-finished season was unusual. Few expected Arsenal to be so good (well, until the last nine games), it would be odd for Chelsea and Liverpool to struggle again and it would be unsurprising if playing in the Champions League meant a league regression for Newcastle and Arsenal. Both will also have an eye on domestic cups, as teams on the up they will want a trophy of any variety next season. In that light a top four of Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and a Mauricio Pochettino-powered Chelsea feels plausible.