With the 2019-20 campaign fast approaching, here are the top 10 storylines that will play out over the next 10 months.
Pressure on Tottenham to deliver
Nothing is holding Tottenham back, not a lack of funds, not a lack of ambition, and not even Wembley Stadium.
With a new home and money in the bank, Spurs have every reason to believe they can compete for trophies. The acquisition of Tanguy Ndombele – the club’s first in more than a year – is welcome business. It’ll be even better if perennial starters Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld stick around. Perhaps the only area of concern heading into the 2019-20 campaign is the full-back position, but the spine of the team, from front to back, is as sturdy as ever. There are no more excuses.
Solskjaer’s honeymoon is over
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ended his first half-year as Manchester United’s manager with little optimism. The levity he restored in the aftermath of Jose Mourinho’s reign of terror slowly dissipated. Solskjaer’s tactics were questionable at best. Now he has to piece together a squad that’s under construction, and there’s little to suggest the Norwegian – a failure at Cardiff City and a relative unknown at Molde – is the man for the job. The bookmakers believe Solskjaer will be one of the first Premier League managers to be sacked.
Stick or twist with Lampard
Slapped with a transfer ban for violating rules relating to minors, Chelsea are taking the opportunity to hit the reset button. Some of their youth products are getting a shot at first-team football, a complete change from the club’s usual modus operandi. Frank Lampard has also been handed the keys to the operation. Without many expectations – it’s difficult to see the Blues in any title conversation – Lampard should be given the chance to build his squad from the bottom up and develop players who’d otherwise stake out somewhere on loan.
Chasing pack getting hungry
Everton, West Ham, Leicester City, and Wolverhampton all hope to break into the Premier League’s top six, and it may well happen for one club out of this hopeful quartet. West Ham, Leicester, and Wolves each look more formidable in attack, but Everton look the most likely to burst through the ceiling. Having made five key purchases this summer, the Toffees made it a goal to reinforce every position. The loss of Idrissa Gueye is tough, but manager Marco Silva still has a lot to work with.
Liverpool showing title credentials
Liverpool pushed Manchester City to the limit in the Community Shield on Sunday, proving once again they have what it takes to mount another challenge in 2019-20. It’s really up to the Reds to give City some kind of competition; no other team in the Premier League has a true stake in the race. Even though Liverpool abstained from big spending this summer, they still have Jurgen Klopp, who’s always worked best with a tight-knit squad. Naby Keita, fully recovered from an injury he suffered at the Africa Cup of Nations, should also feature a lot more than he did in his first season of English football.
Aston Villa spending to stay up
Following in the footsteps of Fulham, who spent more than £100 million on 12 players upon promotion to the Premier League, Aston Villa wasted no time in retooling their squad. Only Manchester United have spent more than the newly promoted side this summer. A good amount of Villa’s transfer kitty was allocated to the permanent signings of Tyrone Mings and Anwar El Ghazi, who helped the club reach the top flight in the first place. But another 10 players were brought in after that. Will they keep Villa up, or will it all end in tears as it did for Fulham?
City targeting dynasty status
Manchester City are undoubtedly the favorites to win a third consecutive Premier League title. Only three other teams in the history of English football have achieved the three-peat: Manchester United, Arsenal, and, surprisingly, Huddersfield Town in the mid-1920s. Pep Guardiola’s domestic success is unprecedented: How many other managers can say they’ve won back-to-back-to-back championships in three different leagues? Apart from the signing of Rodri, who’s expected to replace Fernandinho at the base of midfield, City are much the same. And for good reason: They’re magnificent as they are.
VAR destined for scrutiny
The introduction of video assistant referees is bound to stir up some drama. VAR has made enemies across Europe for a host of reasons, but mostly for the amount of time it takes to reach decisions. There are legitimate fears VAR will disrupt the flow of games that cost ridiculous sums of money to televise. So the pressure is on the referees, and their new colleagues in a centralized booth in London, to be efficient and correct at all times. Because the world will be watching, and the world always has something to say.
Arsenal built to score goals
To Arsenal, the best defense is a good offense. With Nicolas Pepe added to a front three of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, the Gunners have the ammunition to blow teams away. Pepe, who arrived from Lille for a reported club-record £72 million, can play as a winger or as a secondary striker. He gives manager Unai Emery the option to deploy several formations. But the concern is not what Arsenal can do with the ball; it’s what they’ll do without it. Captain Laurent Koscielny is reportedly pushing to leave the club, and error-prone center-back Shkodran Mustafi is still set to start. That doesn’t leave the defense in good shape.
Newcastle at war with Ashley
Mike Ashley has become the villain on Tyneside, failing to relinquish control of a club that deserves a more dedicated and involved owner. Rafa Benitez, who left the club in the summer, accused Ashley of making “unfulfilled promises” during his tenure. It’s not the first time someone of repute has taken a shot at the 54-year-old businessman. But despite all the allegations of penny-pinching, Newcastle have made some decent signings. The addition of 22-year-old Joelinton from Hoffenheim is encouraging, as is the arrival of speed merchant Allan Saint-Maximin from Nice. If the Magpies and new manager Steve Bruce can put on a show at St. James Park, Ashley’s many naysayers may finally have something to smile about.