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Harry Kane – WikiCommons

David Prendeville

With Euro 2020 in the rearview mirror, attention for football fans now turns to the new Premier League season which kicks off on Friday August 13th when Arsenal travel to newly promoted Brentford. A combination of the effect Covid has had on clubs finances and players representing their countries at Euro 2020 has led to a slow transfer window. Big money moves for the likes of Harry Kane and Jack Grealish have been touted but have yet to materialise. By far the highest profile transfer of the close season so far has been the 73 million pound transfer of England international Jadon Sancho to Manchester United. While the uncertainty of what signings may happen in the coming weeks makes predicting how the season will pan out a little difficult, I’ll give it a go while also casting my eye over the transfers that have taken place and speculate on those which might happen before deadline day.
This season could well be the most open title race we’ve seen in some time. Manchester City and Liverpool, title winners of the last two seasons respectively, will likely tussle it out again. But Chelsea, who are currently champions of Europe, may also have something to say about it. Thomas Tuchel has had a transformative effect on the team since taking over from Frank Lampard halfway through last season, culminating in their Champions League triumph in May. Chelsea are in the market for a striker and have expressed huge interest in Dortmund’s Erling Halaand. If the Blues were able to add the Norweigan, one of the hottest properties in world football, to their ranks with the array of other young attacking talents at their disposal, you feel they could be serious title contenders.
Manchester City have so far been quiet in the window, but have made no secret of who their main targets are – Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur and Jack Grealish of Aston Villa. City have already had a bid rejected for Kane, believed to be in the region of 100 million. It remains to be seen whether City will raise their price high enough for Spurs’ chairman Daniel Levy to consider selling his prized asset. It is thought Levy will not consider anything lower than 150 million for the Spurs and England captain. It is expected Grealish would also cost north of 100 million and there have been murmurs that of the two, Grealish is City’s bigger priority. That is likely down to Grealish’s youth compared to Kane, though a striker is the position City most urgently need to fill, with Sergio Aguero having departed after a decade of service. If City do sign Kane, it would seriously boost their title challenge for this season. He’s a here and now type signing that will guarantee immediate results. Kane, who possesses superb play-making capabilities, as well as goalscoring ones, would make City’s attack a mouthwatering prospect. Grealish is also a wonderful player who would likely develop his game further under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola. Whether he would be the difference in them winning the title or not for the forthcoming season remains to be seen, as City already have a plethora of exciting attacking midfield players.
My hunch is that despite the obvious virtues of City and the aforementioned ones of Chelsea, that the title will return to Merseyside this season. Liverpool were desperately unlucky with injuries last season, particularly losing Virgil Van Dijk for most of the season. The addition of centre-back Ibrahim Kounate seems a sensible one, while they are also said to have an interest in Atletico Madrid’s midfielder Saul Niguez. One gets the feeling that Jurgen Klopp and his players will have the bit between their teeth to right the wrongs of last season – a supposedly disastrous season where they still managed to finish 3rd – and if that is the case that could spell trouble for the other title contenders.
Manchester United have been the busiest of all the top four sides, with the aforementioned capture of Jadon Sancho. They are also said to be close to the signing of Real Madrid’s Rapheal Varane. It must also be remembered that, despite City winning with a fairly healthy lead in the end last season, it was United who pushed City closest throughout the campaign. It also represented further progress for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who oversaw a 6th place finish in his first half a season, 3rd in his first full season and 2nd last season. There still remains, however, a lingering doubt about whether Ole really has the credentials to oversee a proper title challenge. And certainly, you would have less faith in him than Guardiola, Klopp or Tuchel. For that reason only, United still seem like longer shots for the title. They certainly have a squad of players capable of challenging.
Brendan Rodgers will hope he can finally break his duck with Leicester this season and secure them Champions League football. In the last two seasons, the Foxes have spent virtually the entire season inside the top four, only to fall away at the last hurdle and finish fifth. Leicester have made some astute looking signings this summer including the highly rated Boubakery Soumare, who they signed from French champions Lille, and they still look the healthiest to mount a challenge on the top four places.
In terms of the other contenders for European spots, Arsenal have had a fairly busy window, though they seem intent on blowing money by buying English and paying the premium that that entails. Ben White at 50 million seems vastly overpriced, while they’re also being heavily linked with a 30 million pound signing of Sheffield United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, a completely insane valuation for a player relegated with his last two clubs and who had a particularly poor campaign last time around. I would also be very skeptical of Arsenal attaining much success while under the stewardship of Mikel Arteta.
Spurs also don’t look to have much prospects for the forthcoming season, particularly if Kane leaves. Though they did get a boost with Heung-Min Son signing a new contract. Nuno is also a decent manager but it just seems like there’s too much upheaval and not enough real quality in the squad for Tottenham to mount a challenge for the top four. Top six will likely be the realistic remit for Nuno.
In terms of the other end of the table, Crystal Palace look set to be in for a difficult season. They’ve lost the vastly experienced Roy Hodgson as manager in the summer and one suspects they may soon realise how good a job he was doing there. Palace have been somewhat adventurous in who they appointed, hiring Arsenal and France legend Patrick Vieira. However, Vieira has so far been unable to recreate his successes on the pitch in the dugout, with mixed spells at Nice and New York City. This coupled with the fact that a large chunk of Palace’s players are out of contract, and with seemingly few incomings on the horizon, this could be a long season for the Eagles.
Newcastle have also been dealt a further blow, with their arbitration hearing to ratify their controversial sale, having been adjourned until 2022. This means another season under the bleak ownership of Mike Ashley and decidedly uninspiring coaching of Steve Bruce. Newcastle do have enough quality players to avoid being in serious trouble you would think – Allan Saint Maximin, Callum Wilson and Miguel Almiron could all arguably play for a top half team – but if they start badly, and with fans returning into the stadium, the off field hostility and turmoil could spill over onto the pitch. They also are yet to make a signing, which doesn’t help their cause, though there is still hope that they may once again secure Joe Willock, so successful there on loan at the end of last season, on another loan deal from Arsenal. One would expect all three promoted clubs – Norwich, Watford and Brentford – to also be struggling at the wrong end of the table. Of the three I would give Brentford the best chance of surviving. They have an excellent manager in Thomas Frank and play a high energy, attacking style of football that could catch some teams in the Premier League by surprise, much like Huddersfield did following promotion some years back.