The Premier League returns this Saturday, sadly it will again be without fans for the time being at least. The transfer window is still open and will remain so until the 5th of October, but as it stands here’s a quick review of the state of the clubs and where they might finish.
Liverpool were champions-elect by New Years Day as they ended their 30 year quest to bring the league title back to Anfield. However few expect such a simple march to the title this time. Little has changed with Jurgen Klopp making a few changes around the fringes of his squad, although Thiago Alcantara may be on his way and Georginio Wijnaldum could be heading for Barcelona. Changes to the squad may be minimal, but expect January signing Takumi Minamino and academy products Curtis Jones and Rhian Brewster to have a far bigger role in the first team this season.
Ins: Konstantinos Tsimikas (£11.7m Olympiakos), Rhian Brewster (Returned Loan, Swansea), Harry Wilson (Returned Loan, Bournemouth)
Outs: Dejan Lovren, (£10.9m, Zenit St Peterburg), Adam Lallana (Free, Brighton), Ovie Ejaria (£3.5m, Reading), Sheyi Ojo (Loan, Cardiff), Andy Lonergan, Nathaniel Clyne (both released)
Key Player- Virgil Van Dijk
There’s little wrong with Liverpool’s squad and Klopp previously retained a league title with Borussia Dortmund, suggesting a drop off isn’t likely. Barring long term injuries to Van Dijk or Alisson, it’s difficult to see Liverpool failing to put up a vigorous defence of their crown. Prediction: 1st
After a disappointing season Pep Guardiola has brought in fresh, young talent as City set out to regain the title. City’s defence was exposed by their failure to replace Vincent Kompany and injuries pressing midfield pivot Fernandinho into the back four, exposing City’s glass jaw when teams broke their press. Nathan Ake is a curious signing meaning City’s two best centre backs are now both left footed, perhaps hinting at a tactical rethink from Guardiola.
Going forward City said a fond farewell to club legend David Silva, but that will offer more game time to Phil Foden. Meanwhile young Spain international Ferran Torres will offer a new option down the left with Leroy Sane moving to Bayern.
Ins: Yan Couto (£5.4m, Coritilba), Issa Kabore (£4m, Mechelen), Ferran Torres (£20.7m, Valencia), Nathan Ake (£41m, Bournemouth)
Outs: Leroy Sane (£40.5m, Bayern Munich), David Silva (Free, Real Sociedad), Issa Kabore (Loan, Mechelen), Jack Harrison (Loan, Leeds), Pedro Porro (Loan, Sporting) Claudio Bravo, Aleix Garcia (free Real Betis), Felix Correia, £9.5m, Juventus)
Key Player- Kevin De Bruyne.
Peak City will score more goals than peak Liverpool, but they’ll also concede more. City’s defensive issues run too deep to be completely fixed by Aymeric Laporte’s return from injury. They’ll blow most of the division away yet again, but have the better teams now worked them out at the other end? Prediction: 2nd
After the progress United made in the second half of last season came a summer to forget at Old Trafford. Semi Final defeats were followed by a failed move for principle target Jadon Sancho and then club captain Harry Maguire got into trouble in Greece. Maguire’s case is likely to rumble through the early months of the season, placing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in an awkward position. There has been some good news with the arrival of Ajax midfield dynamo Donny van de Beek, a player who should fit seamlessly into the team. United finally got Alexis Sanchez off their books but the squad remains bloated with average players they simply can’t move on (Jones, Lingard, Bailly, Dalot).
Ins: Donny van de Beek (£35m, Ajax), (Dean Henderson (Returned Loan, Sheffield United), Chris Smalling (Returned Loan, Roma), Marcos Rojo (Returned Loan, Estudiantes)
Outs: Alexis Sanchez (Free, Inter Milan), Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (Free, Oldham), George Tanner (Free, Carlisle), Angel Gomes (Free, Lille), Alex Fojticek (Free, Blackpool), Ethan Hamilton (Free, Peterborough), Tahith Chong (Loan, Werder Bremen), Joel Periera (Loan, Huddersfield)
Key Player- Bruno Fernandes
The impact of Bruno Fernandes signaled better days to come for United, but the transfer window has brought familiar failings. United’s squad looks thin on quality beyond the first eleven and they now have the Champions League to consider. The team is heading in the right direction, but others appear to be making faster progress. Prediction: 5th
The controversial takeover fell through and Newcastle are back yet again to square one and the fans remain unconvinced by the management of Steve Bruce. There are chinks of light for the long suffering Toon Army with local boy Matty Longstaff signing a new deal and Mike Ashley now at least committed to selling the club. In the transfer market Bruce went mostly for tried and tested players, however three of the new signings are coming off relegation campaigns with Bournemouth duo Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser both coming off poor seasons.
Ins: Mark Gillespie (Free, Motherwell), Jeff Hendrick (Free, Burnley), Callum Wilson (£20m, Bournemouth), Ryan Fraser (Free, Bournemouth), Jamal Lewis (£13.5m, Norwich)
Outs: Jack Colback (Free, Notts Forest), Freddie Woodman (loan, Swansea), Rob Elliot, Jamie Sterry (both released)
Key Player- Allan Saint-Maximin
Newcastle don’t score enough and with goalkeeper Martin Dubravka currently injured they might ship goals too. Steve Bruce will be hoping Dubravka makes a speedy recovery and that Wilson will prove more prolific up front than Joelinton. If Newcastle don’t get a good start the mood on Tyneside will turn ugly very quickly. Prediction: 16th
Almost universally tipped for relegation, Sheffield United stunned the Premier League to finish ninth. Chris Wilder has solved his biggest off-season problem by acquiring the promising Aaron Ramsdale to replace the departed Dean Henderson. Little else has changed but Wilder can expect much more from record signing Sander Berge, now the young midfielder has had time to acclimatise to the Premier League.
Ins: Wes Foderingham (free, Rangers), Aaron Ramsdale (£18.45m, Bournemouth), Ethan Ampadu (Loan, Chelsea), Jayden Bogle & Max Lowe (Combined £15m, Derby), Olivier Burke (Swap, WBA),
Outs: Dean Henderson (Returned Loan, Manchester United), Luke Freeman (Loan, QPR), Mark Duffy, Nathan Thomas, Ben Heneghan, Kieron Freeman, Leon Clarke, Ravel Morrison (all released), Ricky Holmes (Retired), Callum Robinson (Swap, WBA),
Key Player- John Egan
Second season syndrome has struck down plenty of teams in the past, Ipswich and Norwich among the most notable casualties. Chris Wilder’s Blades seem set on firmer foundations and assuming Ramsdale fills Henderson’s gloves they should be fine. They could use more cutting edge in attack with just 39 goals scored last term, with Ollie McBurnie the striker most likely to move the needle. Prediction: 12th
Southampton’s revival under Ralph Hasenhuttl has given the club’s fans more optimism than they’ve seen since Mauricio Pochettino was in charge. Hasenhuttl wisely focused on improving the defence with Kyle Walker-Peters brought back and Mohammed Salisu looking a solid addition in the centre. Captain James Ward-Prowse has signed a new deal although he could use a new partner in central midfield now Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has left. Top scorer Danny Ings has stayed and Che Adams’ late season form suggests he can kick in this season.
Ins: Kyle Walker-Peters (£12m, Tottenham), Mohammed Salisu (£10.8m, Real Valladolid), Fraser Forster (Returned Loan, Celtic), Josh Sims (Returned Loan, NY Redbulls), Guido Carillo (Returned Loan, CD Leganes), Wesley Hoedt (Returned Loan, Royal Antwerp)
Outs: Harrison Reed (£8.1m, Fulham), Mohamed Elyounoussi (loan, Celtic), Mario Lemina (Loan, Fulham), Cedric Soares (free, Arsenal), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (£15m, Tottenham), Maya Yoshida (Free Transfer, Sampdoria) Jack Rose (released)
Key Player- Danny Ings
Southampton are on an upward curve and their form during the run-in illustrated they are able to compete with anyone on their day. They won’t bother the Champions League places but The Saints could make the Europa League. Prediction: 8th
Tottenham have provided the most entertainment this summer with their Amazon Prime documentary. Mourinho unsurprisingly made the most of his time in front of the lens and has cut a happier figure this summer than the one we saw at Old Trafford. Tottenham have addressed their biggest issue by adding right-back Matt Doherty to replace the erratic Serge Aurier, whilst Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will provide the steel Mourinho craves in midfield. There are still issues to resolve notably how to get more out of record signing Tanguy Ndombele and replacing Jan Vertonghen
Ins: Giovani Lo Celso (£28.8m, Real Betis), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (£15m, Southampton), Joe Hart (free, Burnley) Matt Doherty (£15m, Wolves)
Outs: Kyle Walker-Peters (£12m, Southampton), Troy Parrott (Loan, Millwall), Oliver Skipp (Loan, Norwich), Luke Amos (£1m, QPR) Jan Vertonghen (Free, Benfica), Michael Vorm (Released)
Key Player- Harry Kane
Mourinho is a trophy collecting manager and Tottenham need to add some silverware, making a focus on the cups very likely. After a strong close to last season and with their frontline at full fitness, things are looking up again. Prediction: 6th
West Bromwich Albion
Slaven Bilic masterminded West Brom’s return in his first season at The Hawthorns, but after an impressive season West Brom limped over the line. Over the season West Brom deserved their top two finish thanks to Bilic’s assured management and the deepest squad in the Championship. West Brom’s transfer focus has been fixed on retaining last season’s loan stars with Matheus Pereira a snip at just over £8 million, Grady Diangana signed from West Ham and the man who got the crucial promotion goal Callum Robinson all back. Midfielder Filip Krovinovic was another key loanee last term and is expected to return. The defence could use an upgrade having conceded 45 last term and they do lack a dependable centre forward. On the plus side West Brom do have quality in midfield and options out wide.
Ins: Matheus Pereira (£8.2m, Sporting), Grady Diangana (£18m, West Ham), Callum Robinson (Swap, Sheffield Utd), Cedric Kipre (£1m, Wigan)
Outs: Nathan Ferguson (free, Crystal Palace), Jonathan Leko (£1m, Birmingham), Filip Krovinovic (Returned Loan, Benfica), Chris Brunt (Free, Bristol City), Lee Peltier, Ali Al-Habsi, Jonathan Bond (all released), Gareth Barry (Retired) , Olivier Burke (Swap, Sheffield Utd),
Key Player- Matheus Pereira
Bilic is a fine coach and West Brom won’t lack for character, but at present the squad is no better than the one he had in the Championship. West Brom ultimately look too good a squad for the Championship but just short at the highest level. Regaining Krovinovic will be a boost but they really need a proven goalscorer at Premier League level. Prediction: 17th
West Ham United
David Moyes brought a semblance of competence to West Ham who avoided the relegation trapdoor last season, but West Ham’s owners and supporters remain poles apart. After the expensive outlay of the Pellegrini era, Moyes found the striker West Ham craved in longtime winger Michail Antonio, Declan Rice is still there and keeping loanee Tomas Soucek was another good move. However there’s no new talent (so far) heading to East London and the sale of academy graduate Grady Diangana to a direct rival has caused outrage among the fans and even saw club captain Mark Noble publicly voice his annoyance.
Ins: Tomas Soucek (£15m, Slavia Prague)
Outs: Albian Ajeti (£5m, Celtic), Jordan Hugill (£3m, Norwich City), Grady Diangana (£18m West Brom), Kane Wilson (free, Forest Green), Stephen Hendrie (free, Morecambe), Jeremy Ngakia (free, Watford), Roberto (free, Real Valladolid), Pablo Zabaleta, Carlos Sanchez (both released)
Key Player- Michail Antonio
On paper West Ham have a talented squad, but rebuilding the team looks dependent on moving on the expensive flops. Talk of adopting the Red Bull model was mooted through the summer, but there’s little evidence to suggest that will happen. With the fans already angry, lifting the gloom at the London Stadium looks dependent on who comes through the door before deadline. Prediction: 18th
Wolves will be late starters this season after an exhausting 382 day season. Missing out on a return to Europe was a blow to Wolves but could prove beneficial with this season’s tight turnaround. Wolves stayed quiet in the transfer market until the shock signing of Porto teenager Fabio Silva for a club record £35million. The youngster has only played 21 senior games making him the biggest projection in this window, however with Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore retained there’s less pressure on him to make an instant impact.
Ins: Matija Sarkic (free, Aston Villa), Fabio Silva (£36m, Porto), Ryan Bennett (Returned Loan, Leicester), Marcal (£1.7m, Lyon), Vitinha (Loan, Porto)
Outs: Helder Costa (£16m, Leeds), Matt Doherty (£15m, Tottenham) Jordan Graham (free, Gillingham), Ming Yang-Yang, Phil Ofosu-Ayeh (released), Morgan Gibbs-White (loan, Swansea),
Key Player- Raul Jimenez
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side can beat anyone on their day and their lack of squad depth will be less of a factor without European football. Wolves have gambled on the potential of Fabio Silva and it seems unlikely he’ll be a regular contributor at least at the start of the season. After starting last season slowly Wolves need to get going sooner this time if they are to threaten a top four finish. Prediction: 7th