As this season drew to a late close on a hectic final day, we can finally breathe again and be thankful that we made it after it looked uncertain for quite some time. We have had first-time winners, VAR shenanigans and a global pandemic. Surely next season can’t be any crazier than this one, right?
The 2019/20 Premier League season is one that will never be forgotten and will go down in the history books for many reasons. For the first time, the season had to be suspended due to the outbreak of Covid-19 throughout the world. It looked like we would never have football back as we all locked ourselves inside our homes for over two months. Sport around the globe came to a halt as did just about everything else. While many leagues were written off, the Premier League marched on, determined to see out the season. It was touch and go for quite some time, but as the final day of the season passes us, we can now breathe a sigh of relief that we made it through to the end. Liverpool claimed their first Premier League title, perhaps being the most relieved team throughout all of this. There was a golden sky at the end of the storm for the red side of Merseyside.
VAR was another major talking point from the season and one that is sure to play a significant part next season. There needs to be a significant change in the way it is controlled, or we will have to suffer through the same idiocy we have seen it managed with this year. The outspokenness against the system from all involved in football worries me that it may not survive through next season, even though it is badly needed to tackle the decline of standards with English officials. It is not the system that is the issue but those managing it, so I’d like to see some tweaks made to it for all of our sakes. It’s a debate that could go on for hours, so we’ll leave it at that and see if it survives another campaign.
The biggest question for next season is will Liverpool will be able to keep pushing on and secure another league title, or will they have sterner competition this time around. The season will start back on 12 September, and it is expected that Manchester City will come back stronger by spending another couple of hundred million, to add to their already cash induced squad. Will it be another two-horse race yet again or can one of the following pack leap forward and spring a surprise to English football’s two current powerhouses?
It seems that Manchester United fans are already convinced they will mount a title challenge next year after an excellent run in against bottom table clubs, but “Ole is at the wheel” after all. They have improved a lot since the signing of Bruno Fernandes but they need a lot more to be able to compete for the title after finishing 33 points behind this year.
Chelsea seems to be another strong candidate who may kick on after a good performance this year where not much was expected of them. Their business in the transfer market is another worry for rival fans as Frank Lampard seems to be putting together a squad to be reckoned with. For Arsenal and Tottenham fans, next season may just be a bit too soon for any serious challenge; a top four finish would be a more realistic achievement.
Teams like Wolves, Leicester, and Sheffield United may struggle next season after remarkable campaigns this year as they all overachieved to some degree. Leicester may find it difficult to compete on both fronts with Thursday night football going to be part of their schedule due to the Europa League qualification.
Sheffield United had been the surprise package that looked all set for Europe, but a poor return after the restart ended their hopes. The squad depth and money in these squads is another issue for why I can’t see them pushing on for top four compared to the clubs already placed there. It is an achievement in itself for them to be able to finish in the top half of the table each year and that should remain their target with anything else a bonus.
While these teams were the surprise packages of this season, we are guaranteed to have at least one next season, but who could it be? We are yet to see a big push from clubs like Everton, Newcastle and Crystal Palace as they seem always to finish midtable when they should be challenging for European places with a long history behind them.
Everton has pinned a lot of hope on Carlo Ancelotti, but his spell has been just as underwhelming as previous managers, but if anyone can change their fortunes, it is him. It seems unlikely that Newcastle will ever progress once Mike Ashley is still in charge so there was a lot of optimism with talks of a takeover happening which would have seen a massive influx of cash, but that deal is now dead in the water.
Crystal Palace always shows promising signs, but their inconsistencies hamper them big time, leaving them as one of the mid-table clubs stuck in the middle of Europe and relegation. Burnley have also had one hell of a season which has gone under the radar due to Sheffield United’s success alongside them. Last season showed us that they are better off without European football as they don’t have the squad or finances to play on both fronts weekly.
As we say goodbye to the bottom three, we have three new clubs coming up as they look to stake their claim in the league and pull off their own Sheffield United story. Leeds United are back in the Premier League after 16 long years away., and they will look to ignite old rivalries of the past yet again. With Marcelo Bielsa leading the team, anything is possible, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they pulled off a shock or two throughout the season. With the three promoted clubs looking to make a name for themselves in the league, there is still the massive threat of going straight back down, which will be expected of them from multiple outlets. We have already seen this with Norwich this season and many more down through the years, so they will be looking to avoid this. It’s highly unlikely that all three will go down, so will we see one of the current Premier League teams dropping down? Who are the obvious suspects?
Having just survived by a single point this season, Aston Villa will need a significant turnaround next year to stand any chance of staying in the league. They look destined to go down with just a few games remaining, and they will not want to be in that position again come the run in next year. Brighton are a team who has always flirted with relegation but never seem to fall, proving it yet again this year. They no doubt will be in and around the bottom six, but their experience in this situation may see them survive yet again. West Ham has a great squad on paper, but they came very close to the dropzone before a solid run after the restart which guaranteed them safety. These are the usual suspects who each year flirt with going down yet they always find a way to survive, can they do it for yet another season?
One uncertainty that remains for next season is if fans will be making a return to stadiums. The league hasn’t been the same with the absence of crowds which has resulted in low-quality performances across multiple matches. The filler crowd noise which Sky have added in to give some kind of atmosphere just hasn’t cut it. Football needs fans just as much as fans need football, so the sooner the two are reunited, the better. It has been teased that fans could return in stadiums as early as October in the UK, but this is just an optimistic estimate as a lot can change in the next few months If this does go ahead, we may see a small percentage of the stadium opened up to fans. It is a start, but it will be another while before we see a sell-out crowd.
While fans may not be returning to stadiums for a while, what does this mean for games being televised? We have already seen a significant change in the way that games have been televised since the lockdown with every match being broadcast. Sadly, this doesn’t look like it will continue as the broadcasters have come out and said that they would not be televising every game as they have been post lockdown. It looks like the fixtures will go back to the regular schedule and not the congested one we have become used to on our screens. This will disappoint a lot of fans as having football on our screens every night was something we relished.
It looks like we may see a few new rule changes coming into effect next season. The five substitutions that we have seen introduced since the return won’t be returning in the Premier League. This is a wise decision, as it would have had significant implications for the season as it is something that the top clubs will benefit off more so than the weaker clubs. Manchester City has arguably the best bench in the world and for them to have five substitutions would have benefitted them unfairly. The water breaks that have been added alongside the added subs will not be carried over to next season. We will no doubt see more rule changes brought in for decisions relating to VAR regarding handballs and offsides as they are very unclear currently. The transfer window will run until 5 October, where a further two-week window will be in place for domestic transfers. Premier League clubs will only be allowed to trade with EFL clubs during this period.
There is a lot to look forward to for the new season, and there isn’t long to wait at all. We will no doubt see some twists and turns throughout as well as a few controversies; it wouldn’t be the Premier League without them. There are so many questions that will need to be answered; it’s just a matter of time. Bring it on!