BY TOBY DENNETT
Itâ€™s been a long, hard summer. Difficult. Hazy evenings spent spinning beer mats, pacing the streets. Waiting, just waiting. The off-season is a tricky time for football fans. Thereâ€™s only so long we can be drip fed transfer window gossip before our eyes glaze over. And try as you might, itâ€™s difficult to get fully emotionally invested in the performances of the Turkish under 19s. Maybe youâ€™ll be able to find some solitude in the cricket? Goes on for quite a long time doesnâ€™t it? Maybe you got really into Wimbledon this year? Itâ€™s just not the same, is it?
We donâ€™t even have Love Island anymore. Chris & Kem, the two greatest friends you never had. And Camilla. Lovely, perfect, angelic Camilla. There was so much good in those hazel eyes. But theyâ€™re gone now. All of them. And the void in your life has become ever more gaping. Hold on. Dig your heels in and cling on for grim death. Whisper it, but the football is coming back. With just a few days to go until the Premier League kicks off, this season (as with literally every season that has preceded it) looks set to be the best ever. Use the Bet365 Bonus Code to back your hunch for this campaign.
Here are some things we are looking forward to seeing.
Rooneyâ€™s triumphant return.
The prodigal son returns. Bring back gold Puma Kings, Ford KAâ€™s and hammering shots past David Seaman. Bring Back beating seven opponents, hitting a football harder than previously thought possible, then snarling into the baying crowd, kissing the badge.
Our Prediction: Rooneyâ€™s nostalgia driven campaign sees him link up with new signing Sandro, who he sees a lot of himself in. Back at Goodison Park, he recaptures his childlike love for the game and spearheads the Everton attack to a record goal tally. Double figures for both goals and assists, universal adulation and a swansong that leads England to the World Cup Final.
What will actually happen: â€œWell the wait goes on for Wayne Rooney, as he leaves the pitch, 65 minutes gone, Everton trail 2-0. Thatâ€™s 11 games now without finding the net for the boy from Croxtethâ€, Martin Tyler says, echoing the sentiment of the nation who grow sadder with each passing game. Every shot ballooned over the bar, miscontrolled pass and half-time pie scribe another line on Rooneyâ€™s footballing headstone, as the wonder boy that very nearly was, fades into the shadows.
The Wenger in/out pantomime.
There have been some truly divisive discussions in recent years. May vs Corbyn; Should we leave the European Union? Did Gabby really love Marcel? Though all important, none have been as toxic and forensically examined than whether or not club legend and inventor of pasta, Arsene Wenger, should step down at Arsenal. With Twitter campaigns, messages flown from planes and two pieces of A4 paper Sellotaped together, itâ€™s hard to get away from the ubiquitousness of the Wenger in/out campaigns. 2017/18 kicks off where 2016/17 left off.
Our Prediction: Arsene Wenger makes an appearance on Arsenal Fan TV and addresses all the haters, mic drop and all, after Arsenal storm to the title. Rejuvenated after a season out of the Champions League, unshackled from the pressures of performing against Europeâ€™s elite, Arsenalâ€™s brand of flowing football comes to fruition. Lacazette scores 25 goals, Sanchez signs a 5-year deal and Piers Morgan self-combusts from internal conflict.
What will actually happen: after a shaky start Arsenal will build up a head of steam, until long term injuries hit 9 first team members in a fortnight. They will somehow draw Bayern Munich in the last 32 of the Europa League and crash out of that, which also leads to Piers Morganâ€™s self-combustion. However, the Gunners will find solace in 17-year-old Reiss Nelson, who inspires them to a 4th place finish on the final day of the season, before signing a pre-contract agreement with Manchester City.
Whether or not Pep is a genius?
Is he a tactical mastermind or just a bloke in a Stone Island jumper with infinite reserves of cash? The jury is still out on Guardiola. After an underwhelming first season where City couldnâ€™t keep pace with Tottenham and Chelsea, Pep will be looking to silence the doubters, by signing full backs. Loads of full backs.
Our Prediction: Guardiola once again shifts the paradigm for tactics, as he reinvents the wheel by starting three full backs at a time. Opponents are bamboozled by Manchester Cityâ€™s shape and canâ€™t cope with their dynamism. Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero bag 30 goals each as City romp home to European victory in the Champions League final. Guardiola ends his year by successfully negotiating the reunification of Oasis.
What will actually happen: Kyle Walker is weighed down by his Â£50million price tag, crushed by the weight of expectation he struggles to settle in Manchester. In an attempt to justify his value, inspired by the creative excellence of Benjamin Mendy on the opposite flank, Walker attempts a sweeping 60-yard pass in the closing minutes of the Manchester derby. Itâ€™s intercepted, United score and Pep explodes. City finish 2nd.
Can Lukaku finally turn around Manchester Unitedâ€™s fortunes?
7th, 4th, 5th, 6th. Thatâ€™s how Manchester Unitedâ€™s league finishes read since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013. About to embark on their fifth season since Fergie left, Mourinho has been less the Special One, more the â€˜really quite averageâ€™ one. Having spent the majority of last season marooned in 6th, despite shelling out Â£90million on Paul Pogba, the United fansâ€™ frustration was clear to see. Another summer, another marquee signing, with Pogba acting as chief mediator, agent and hype man for the signing of Romelu Lukaku.
Our Prediction: With Pogba freed up by the signing of Nemanja Matic, he will strike up an almost instantaneous understanding with Lukaku. A shared wavelength that hasnâ€™t been seen in Manchester since Cole and Yorke, sees United secure a top 4 finish. Mourinho is vindicated by winning a domestic cup.
What will actually happen: After 10 goals in his first 10 games, a drought ensues after Pogba and Lukaku eschew training, instead putting in the hours choreographing ever more complex celebrations. Mourinho gets so tired of talking about celebrations in post-match press conferences that he goes on a media hiatus, which is only broken when Tony Pulis replicates Pogba and Lukakuâ€™s celebration right in his face following West Bromâ€™s 91st minute winner. United dab their way to another 6th place finish.
Will the promoted teams actually be any good?
With two of the three sides making their first ever appearance in the Premier League, there will certainly be some unknown quantities in the top flight this season. Will David Wagner â€˜Kloppâ€™ his way into Premier League folklore? Can Brighton replicate their exciting, dynamic brand of football at the highest level? Will Newcastle yo-yo their way out of existence? The enigma of the unknown quantity looms large ahead of the 17/18 season.
Our prediction: Knockaert stars for Brighton. The deadly French winger has been terrorising defences in the Championship for two seasons, as he propelled Brighton to the title. He has seen a Robert Pires sized gap in the market for goal scoring French wingers. His hair is a lot worse though.
Aaron Mooy: head like the largest of the orbiting moons of Jupiter, feet like a Russian Ballerina. And also heâ€™s Australian, and that is never not good. Mooy takes to the Premier League like a duck to water, or like a kangaroo to theâ€¦ surf, or something. He steps up with ease, controlling the pace to dictate games. A silky smooth passer of the ball, Huddersfieldâ€™s record signing could take a few by surprise this season.
Dwight Gayle comes back with a vengeance. The diminutive forward used pace and guile to work his way to 23 league goals last season. Perennially on the fringes during his spell in the top flight with Crystal Palace, the former non-league striker will be looking for a Jamie Vardy-esque rebirth with Newcastle. Hopefully with just as many goals and great performances, and at the very least, some alcopop based fun.
What will actually happen: They get relegated. All of them. Burnley sit in the relegation zone for the entire season but leapfrog Brighton on the final day.
So there we have it. All of the big questions seen to and answered. 2017, the summer of time wasting is very nearly over. Premier League football is coming back to save us. I canâ€™t wait.
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