The dust has barely settled on the 2018/19 season but the Premier League bandwagon never truly ceases and, as such, here are our four predictions for next year.
The ‘Big Six’ becomes a ‘Big Two’
At the conclusion of the 2017/18 season, record-breaking Manchester City amassed an outrageous 100 points, putting them 19 clear of Manchester United, their nearest challenger.
The expectation was that such dominance couldn’t be repeated and, sure enough, the title race was much closer this year. However, rather than Man City falling back into the pack, it is Liverpool who have broken free and closed the gap to just a single point.
Finishing on 98 and 97 points respectively, their combined total of 195 is 14 more than any other top two pairing in history, with Man City and Man Utd (2017/18) in second place.
We often hear the term ‘big six’ used to describe the clubs at the top end of the league but, in reality, Man City and Liverpool are now so far ahead that it has become a big two. To put it in perspective, the gap from Liverpool in second to Chelsea in third was 25 points, two more than the gap between Chelsea and Crystal Palace in twelfth.
Whereas Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Man Utd all need major surgery this summer, Liverpool nor City could stay out of the transfer market all summer and still finish streets ahead of the rest. They will strengthen however and, as such, the only question remaining is the order in which they finish first and second again next year.
The race for Europe opens up
With the title race seemingly a closed shop for the moment, the battle for European qualification could become wider than ever. In fact, you can make an argument for several of the mid-table clubs gaining ground on the established elite next year.
Wolves, seventh in their debut season after promotion, were a constant thorn in the side of the big boys this season. With the backing of the world’s foremost agent, Jorge Mendes, they have bulldozed their way out of the Championship and into the upper reaches of the Premier League. With more big name signings expected this summer, it’s unlikely they will want to stop there.
Everton should also have plenty of funds to throw around as well and will certainly be investing heavily themselves to try and close the gap.
Then you have Leicester who have been fantastic since Brendan Rodgers came in and have a talented young side who will only get better as the Northern Irishman has longer to coach them.
With both European finals all-English affairs, it is going to become easier than ever to attract foreign players to the Premier League and these three clubs stand to benefit from that. It wouldn’t be a shock to see the top six breached by at least one of them next year.
Harry Kane regains the Golden Boot
This one is dependant on Mauricio Pochettino remaining as Spurs manager but, if he does, Kane will re-establish himself at the top of the scoring charts next season.
The Englishman has had a stop-start, injury-hit season and often didn’t look himself even when he was playing consistently. Part of the reason for both of those points is the workload that he has endured, with Spurs and England both heavily reliant on his scoring. After spending his summer in Russia helping England to the World Cup semi-finals last summer, Kane has barely had a rest for two years.
Despite this, he still managed to score 17 league goals this season, five less than Mo Salah but having played 828 minutes less.
With a full summer to rest and Spurs presumably left with no choice but to add reinforcements this summer, expect to see Kane firing on all cylinders again next season and putting himself firmly in contention for the golden boot.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sacked before Christmas
Poor Ole’s Old Trafford dream has rapidly turned into a nightmare, with most of his team seemingly downing tools the second he signed a permanent contract.
With Mauricio Pochettino making noises about leaving Spurs after the Champions League final, which he has reached despite not signing a player in two transfer windows, many at Old Trafford will still be casting admiring glances at the Argentine.
In a Premier League table comprised of matches since the Norwegian signed a permanent deal, United sit in 16th place, just two points above Cardiff City who dished out United’s final humiliation of the season at Old Trafford on Sunday.
For the moment Solsjkaer is safe and will presumably be given funds to bring in new faces this summer but if United start next season in the same manner that they have ended this one, expect Santa to be bringing the Norwegian a P45 this year.