The chase for Top 6 will be closer than ever this year. Whether that be the downfall of 3 of the supposed ‘Big 6’ but also the improvement and potential from a handful of teams waiting in the wings with a huge opportunity during the 2019/2020 season.
So who is that handful? Without a doubt, Leicester City. The potential in that squad, nurtured by Brendan Rogers and transfers of Tielemans and Perez with more rumoured to be incoming should they get a World Record Fee (for a defender) for Harry Maguire. Wolverhampton Wanderers were very strong last year and caused a number of ‘upsets’ especially at Molineux against the big boys – so with more consistency, bit more investment and now more experience in the PL, why not? Everton have a huge chance this year but they still haven’t filled the most important position on the pitch, the striker, the 20+ goals a season needed to be up there and pushing to break into the top 6.
Who else? Outsiders would be West Ham – after all the moaning from the fans, demonstrations on the pitch, embarrassing scenes really, David Gold and David Sullivan are HEAVILY investing into the club with some huge signings. It will be interesting to see how they do now without the excuses of the new stadium, lack of investment and management not being good enough (under Moyes). Lastly, I think Bournemouth will be a very solid team this season – if they keep the core together for this transfer window and make some more savvy investments.
In all seriousness, I don’t think the 5 above teams will have a better chance in breaking into the Top 6 for years to come.
Man United, Arsenal and Chelsea are all in disarray. Whether that be due to bad management from the top down, lack of transfer budget or just having a transfer ban altogether, these teams are going to be struggling big time to win week in, week out as expected to be able to get a top 4 spot but also Top 6 too.
The situation at Man United is precarious. The club is more divided than ever and the general atmosphere stinks at the moment. The Glazer Family have angered the majority of fans by taking billions out of the club but failing to reinvest or pump money in to keep the biggest club in the world competing on the highest stage. Ed Woodward, the businessman, has somehow ended up running the transfer business and as previous managers have stated, the whole structure of the club is toxic. Unfortunately for Ole, his hands are tied and in my opinion, he is walking the plank in this current position.. why? He has this ‘vision’ or the ‘United way’ as many like to think it.. invest in youth and get players that want to play for the shirt. I get that philosophy, this is something I want at Chelsea BUT the players they are currently attracting aren’t of the world class nature that will enable them to compete against the big boys and after last season’s calamity, they find themselves back in the Europa League.
I could be wrong and Dan James, Aaron Wan Bissaka and Harry Maguire for about £150m could be incredible business in the future, it’s certainly an investment in players that could play for United for the next 10 years and then the fees paid would be justified.
However, these players aren’t going to transform what I and others would consider to be a terrible aging squad but also one that seems to be low on confidence and a strange atmosphere from within. Players such as Ashley Young, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Alexis Sanchez, Rojo etc should not be in a Manchester United squad that wants to move forward and transform. Mix that with Players who seem to want to be elsewhere – Paul Pogba publicly getting his agent to try and force through a move, Sanchez looking to move on, David De Gea unable to force a move but stalling on a new HUGE contract – nothing shouts out to me that this team are going to go and have a good season. I don’t want to exaggerate too much but I can see United 8/9th by Christmas and people may slowly begin to turn on Solskjaer who’s managerial experience will start to become questioned.
Banter FC as some may call them. When their biggest game for a decade was against Chelsea in the Europa League Final and they turned up and lost 4-1 it was never going to signal good things.. and since then they have failed to properly investment and signify any intent that they are going to try and compete. The fans are protesting against the owners, they’ve lost their best player to Juventus and they offered £45m for Wilfred Zaha’s left foot and got laughed out of the door. Club Captain Laurent Koscielny has refused to go on the pre-season tour to try and get out of the Emirates. How are they going to transform this? One positive Arsenal have is that they have kept Lacazette and Aubameyang together and that means goals.. but the core of the team behind that? Still terrible. Why have they not bought a top class Centre Back? Why haven’t they got a world class CM? Relying on Granit Xhaka or Sokratis in defence means that they are settling for being average in my opinion. Rumours coming out of the club is that Emery only has £45m to play with.. yet teams such as Leicester are spending that on players like Tielemans who will go into that midfield and run the show.
If Kroenke really wants to be at Arsenal then they need to stop using the excuse of this new stadium (which opened 13 years ago now) and balancing the books. Arsenal got nearly £200m in TV money last season.. that on top of huge sponsorship deals for the stadium, kit, shirt sponsors.. so where is this money going? They have lost players and never replaced them but also, the youngsters that have come through are yet to set the world alight. I am excited to see what Reiss Nelson can offer this season after his loan, Maitland-Niles needs to push on and cement his spot too. But with a squad still consisting of average players such as Bellerin, Monreal, Mustafi, Jenkinson, Elneny and OZIL – best thing they could do is get rid of him. Poor relationship with the manager, the fans and his wage bill is a drain for his return on Investment.
Ultimately this season is going to be a rollercoaster for Chelsea and the fans. I may be a Chelsea fan but I am also a pessimist and I am not going to expect a lot to come from this season. This transfer ban couldn’t have come at a worse time for Chelsea with the current state of the squad and also the transition between managers. The appointment of Frank Lampard has already sparked some life back into the club. The positivity is back and the connection between players and fans has improved HOWEVER living in the past off Frank’s playing legacy will not mean much if we are losing games more weeks than not.
As I said earlier with United, the youth policy is about to change at the club and the saying of ‘this transfer ban may be a blessing in disguise’ could be true or these players may still not be ready for top level Premier League football.. Mason Mount looks like a player who will benefit automatically from the ban. Reece James will slowly be transitioned into the team, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek will become HUGE members of the team when back from Injury. All this is good but with Champions League football, all the Cups and an aging squad then we still need to aim to knick that Top 4 spot to ensure when we do get our transfer ban out of the way, we will be able to attract the top talent in Europe by having CL football readily available..
Players such as Willian, Pedro, Giroud, Alonso and even going as far as saying Azpilicueta are possibly not good enough to be in a Chelsea team now but these are likely to be regular starters throughout this season and I am worried that many teams will find them out and without that piece of magic that we relied on last season from Eden Hazard then we may struggle to break teams down.
The fans will back Frank and Jody 100% but I hope we can sneak 4th for the long term ambition of their project.
Best of the rest??
My favourite to break into the top 6 would have to be Leicester. The way they ended last season under Brendan Rodgers was a little sneak peek into what is potentially about to come out of the King Power stadium this season. Buying Tielemans who was huge for them last year was a great signing, keeping Maddison and allowing him to grow in the Premier League playing week in, week out and then also keeping Chilwell would be a great bit of business too.
If they let Harry Maguire go, they will do so reluctantly but I think £80m for a centre back who is good but not amazing is a great bit of business. With that money they could potentially reinvest in 2 £40m+ players who can push them again to the next level and allow them to catch up and possibly overtake teams like the above.
Early season prediction
- Manchester City
- Tottenham Hotspurs
- Manchester United
- Leicester City