9 things we think will happen in the 2019/20 Premier League season
1. Guardiola will have a VAR-neurysm
Pep Guardiola was remarkably sanguine when video technology denied his Manchester City side Champions League quarter-final passage against Spurs – particularly the marginal offside call which went against what would have been Raheem Sterling’s late winner.
Pep seemed slightly more perturbed that Fernando Llorente’s tie-sealer was allowed to stand, despite an apparent handball. The City boss has been known to throw the occasional tantrum, and if another tight VAR call goes against him – particularly against Liverpool in November – the Catalan could go nuclear.
2. Brendan Rodgers will redo his teeth
Brendan Rodgers has quietly assembled an excellent Leicester City squad this summer, and the Foxes are genuine top-six contenders for 2019/20. They beat the bigger boys to talismanic midfielder Youri Tielemans and spirited Ayoze Perez away from Newcastle for £30 million, adding to an already-hungry and well-stocked squad.
Jamie Vardy, Wilfred Ndidi, Ben Chillwell and James Maddison all offer proven quality, and Rodgers could count on more if human forehead Harry Maguire sticks around. Throw in the relative troubles at Arsenal, United and Chelsea, and his side could challenge.
If they do, you can imagine the Ulsterman finding the need to have his teeth redone because he’ll be smiling so much. They’re already six years old, after all.
3. Fabian Delph will be bargain of the summer
It speaks volumes about the respect Guardiola has for Fabian Delph that he was willing to let the midfielder join Everton for an initial £8.5 million. Delph needs games, and with Manchester City spending a club-record £62.2m (€70m) on Rodri, regular football at the Etihad was never likely.
The 29-year-old was a strong dressing room presence for Guardiola, and Marco Silva will want the Yorkshireman to instil similar character within the Toffees’ dressing room and midfield. There’s talent at Goodison Park – and now there’s some steel, too.
4. Shkodran Mustafi will dislocate his shoulder(s)
It’s not exactly news that Arsenal fans have had it with their German centre-back. The return of Mustafi’s go-to post-conceding pose – shoulders outstretched, on the half turn, and shouting at anyone within earshot as the ball sits in the corner of the net – has brought Gunners out in cold sweats over pre-season.
With such a pose deployed so often, usually when the man himself has been caught out of position, Mustafi’s consistent posturing puts undue pressure on his shoulder blades that it can’t be long before his rotator cuffs give up entirely.
Don’t just stand there, let’s get to it. Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it. Goal!
5. Brighton will reimagine Quadrophenia
In taking minnows Ostersund from Swedish fourth tier to the last 32 of the Europa League and a tie with Arsenal, Graham Potter employed a ‘culture academy’ where players sang, danced and acted in front of an audience to help improve their performances. Shows included a rock concert (with Potter himself taking the mic) and recital of Tchaikovsky ballet Swan Lake.
The former Swansea boss is now promising Brighton a progressive new playing style stymied by predecessor Chris Hughton, and should put together a reimagining of the Who-inspired 1979 film Quadrophenia (set in the Sussex town) to bring his Seagulls players together.
Lewis Dunk playing a naked Ray Winstone in the bath? Or Dale Stephens channelling his inner Sting with a bit of bellboy Ace Face? Potter, Reign o’er Me!
6. Liverpool will win nothing
The eagle-eyed among you will notice this is exactly what we predicted last year. We were wrong, sorry. This year, however, we’re confident we’ll be bang on.
Single-celled amoeba on Saturn can tell that Liverpool’s attention will be on ending their 30-year wait for a top-flight title. The Reds got second prize last season with the Champions League, but the ‘this is their year’ pressure will ratchet up and it’s almost impossible to repeat a season as consistently excellent as 2018/19.
Also, Jurgen Klopp will gurn so much he’ll resemble mad uncle James four days into Glastonbury.
7. Commentators will lose their s*** at Aston Villa’s squad
First it was a Brazilian called Wesley. Then Trezeguet, the Egyptian forward known to his mum as Mahmoud Ahmed Ibrahim Hassan, and named after the French legend by a former youth coach. Most recently it’s Marvelous Nakamba, another big-money recruit from Club Brugge.
Now, these are excellent names. Marvelous, even. So good, in fact, that commentators up and down the land won’t miss the chance to remind us all about it every 15 seconds. Like we just have.
8. Chris Wilder will surprise
We’re not necessarily saying that Sheffield United will stay up this season, but the Blades will bring a new dimension to the Premier League. Wilder’s side play a progressive, intriguing 3-5-2 with overlapping centre-backs (yes, really) who are encouraged to bring the ball out of defence – particularly, converted midfielder Chris Basham.
Wilder is a charismatic leader in the Sean Dyche mould – his opinions on earthworm eating and gravel gargling are yet to be determined – and brings with him a hungry squad that would go to the wall for him. There’s enough tactical ingenuity to trouble even the biggest of Prem fishes.
9. Twitterati will continue to conspire
Not even football is exempt from the post-truth times in which we live. Liverpool and Tottenham are bottlers because they perform over expectations, but can’t quite get over the line. Ditto Leeds. Both Manchester clubs will argue incessantly over transfer fees, net spends and other metrics too tiresome to mention.
The tribalism which now exists in social media’s echo chamber is a frightening thing to behold, and something that isn’t going away any time soon. Why can’t we all just get along?
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