In under a week the 2020/21 Premier League season gets underway, but it feels like the previous season has only just finished. In reality it has been one of the shortest close seasons on record, the pandemic dictating a stop to the 2019/20 season in March and finally concluded in July after a marathon sprint of games.
Preparations for the upcoming year have understandably been quick and clubs have had to move faster than before to get things right and ready ahead of the big kick off. One constant from the summer of course is no supporters inside stadiums for at least 3 more weeks and there is the likelihood of some unexpected results with no vocal home support to get behind teams.
The question for everyone will be can Liverpool replicate last season or will those in behind them challenge more effectively? Manchester City have been installed as most of the bookies favourites to snatch the title back from Merseyside despite what was an extremely poor defence of their crown last season. Neither City nor Liverpool have strengthened in big numbers but with the transfer window open until 3rd October there is still time left to add one or two more to bolster what are already talented squads.
Chelsea have been the major players in the transfer market which was always expected after completing their transfer ban. It also means the Blues under Frank Lampard must hit the ground running to get value for money, almost £140 million has been spent to restore the West London club’s fortunes. Lampard though knows they can’t afford to lose anywhere near the twelve league games of last year, that will cost him his job long before they get close to that total.
Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham have also added but there is belief that all three clubs still need more reinforcements just to challenge for a top four spot. Leicester City will be hoping to prove last season was no flash in the pan moment, the loss of Ben Chilwell won’t have helped but Brendan Rodgers is shrewd in the market and the arrival of Timothy Castagne to replace Chilwell plus tying down Jamie Vardy, James Maddison and Nampalys Mendy to new contracts keeps the stability.
Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United will be hoping second season syndrome doesn’t affect them whilst Wolves will want to continue their improvement as a club despite the loss of Matt Doherty to Spurs. Burnley again made steady progress last season and with any Sean Dyche team they will set up to be hard to beat once again.
Of the newly promoted clubs Leeds Utd will be expected to do well on their return whilst Scott Parker’s Fulham will be looking to spring a few surprises. West Bromwich Albion will be reliant on a good record at The Hawthorns to stay out of the relegation zone.
With little or no movement in the window it’s hard to see either Aston Villa or West Ham Utd being far away from the bottom three unless something changes drastically in the next few weeks.
Newcastle could turn out to be the dark horses in the quest for European football, with Callum Wilson arriving at St James Park earlier this week and potentially to be joined by ex-Cherries team-mate Ryan Fraser, Carlo Ancelotti will be expecting much more from Everton, too much inconsistency last season cost them any chance of competing higher up the table and the Italian knows they must eradicate that to have a chance of aiming for Europa League spots.
Crystal Palace and Southampton finished comfortably in mid-table last season and there is not much evidence to suggest either will trouble the top ten nor be involved in a relegation dogfight whilst rivals to both Brighton will be expecting a little more this season given the close nature of spending too much time closer to the relegation places than mid-table safety.
As mentioned without fans in stadiums for a little while longer and unlikely to see full capacities until early next year some away teams might be tempted to play more expansive football although expectation is it might take the usual two or three weeks before play becomes really fluid and easier to watch.
Time to strap in for the ride, pray for as little disturbance as possible throughout the year and once again be glad football is back for us to watch.
Follow Trevor on Twitter @trevk37