Less than 5 weeks until Liverpool takes on Manchester City in the Community Shield and clubs are already putting their players in place for the new campaign. Some have acted rapidly to get their business done early; others seem to be taking their time. Either way, we are getting a good look, and who will be improved next season and who is getting left behind in the competition? Predicted finishes (by me) follow each club’s name outlined below.
“EPL’s Big 5 Minus the Best”
Manchester City – (Premier League 1st/2nd, Champions League Elite Eight+)
The Citizens are methodically shuffling the deck as new players, spearheaded by the arrival of Haaland, are arriving to replace older departures. Guardiola’s tribe is likely the only club that can pip Liverpool to the Premier League Title and they have to be considered a strong contender in the Champions League as well.
Arsenal – (Premier League 3rd/4th, Europa League Elite Eight+)
The weather looks good at The Emirates Stadium. Missing out on Champions League football may prove to be a blessing in disguise as the Gunners retool for the long term in the easier Europa League. Arteta and Technical Director Edu seem to be dialed into the same plan. They’ve cleared out the undesirable characters and are methodically replacing them with the kinds of players that fit their competent ideology.
Tottenham Hotspur – (Premier League 3rd/4th, Champions League Round of 16)
Spurs may be riddled with debt but Football Director Fabio Paratici convinced Chairmen Daniel Levy to come up with the money to get Manager Antonio Conte to stay, and now they are about the task of remolding the squad the Italian way. Conte’s side just squeaked into the Champions League but will have a hard time impressing beyond the Group Stage.
Manchester United (Premier League 5th/6th, Europa League Elite Eight+)
it’s now the Erik ten Haag show at Manchester United, or is it. There still seem to be unseen forces in the hierarchy, be it technical or financial, that seem to get in every manager’s way at Old Trafford. So while they’ve pursued players and personnel in the market they’ve been flat turned down from some corners, have yet to secure anyone, and are now in a wrestling match to hold on to Ronaldo.
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Chelsea – (Premier League 5th/6th, Champions League Round of 16)
It’s a sea of change at Stamford Bridge! Gone is their Russian owner and his £75m/year financial subsidies! Gone are 3 key front office personnel in Bruce Buck, Petr Cech, and Marina Granovskaia! Going, going gone are defenders Alonso, Azpiliceuta, Christensen, and Rudiger along with top scorer Lukaku! New principal owner Todd Boehly needed to stabilize, instead as a football novice he’s lost key personnel and taken over negotiations himself. His only response so far has been the pursuit of Raheem Sterling, although 2 new defenders are also supposed to be inbound. It sort of reminds me of the dark days at Anfield in 2010 when Christian Purslow (a finance guy new to football at the time) was running the transfers that summer. Chelsea is unlikely to finish Top 4 again and could be in far worse trouble.
Top Clubs Across Europe
Real Madrid – (Champions League Elite Eight+)
Los Blancos are re-tooling while retaining their aging core. They somehow found just enough to get by Chelsea, City, and Liverpool in the Champions League but failed to impress against dampened opposition in winning La Liga. But they have a great Manager and will be in the mix once again.
Barcelona – (Champions League Round of 16)
Now reduced to employing some of the same financial juggling employed at Spurs, Barcelona looks like an NBA Trade waiting to happen. They are talking big on the recruitment side but exactly how they get all the pieces to fit remains to be seen.
Bayern Munich – (Champions League Elite Eight+)
Blessed with the fact they have little competition in the Bundesliga they can prioritize European football. They are swapping Lewandowski for Mane which will freshen things up a bit but I don’t know if it makes them any better.
Borussia Dortmund – (Champions League Round of 16)
Germany’s number two club has been quietly strengthening in key areas following the loss of Haaland. There are enough ingredients for the club to challenge, but probably not enough to come out ahead. Regardless I think they’ll be a better side than last season.
Paris St Germain – (Champions League Elite Eight+)
PSG is a hyper-inflated version of Woodward’s Manchester United. They buy players like a kid with gift vouchers right after Christmas. On a grander scale to Everton, they are stuck with a boatload of players that were another Manager’s wish list. Talent-wise they are as good as anyone but the environment sucks and too many players are just punching the highly lucrative clock.
This is the competition! Liverpool remains good enough to challenge on all fronts. There are indications that the squad size might be a couple of players thinner, and that will impact the chances of success in the Domestic Cups. Prediction – (Premier League 1st/2nd, Champions League Elite Eight+).
What say you? Let us know in the comments below and up the Reds! YNWA