It has been widely reported that Jose Mourinho is set to return to Chelsea in the near future, but Matt Stanger ponders whether this is really a good thing for the Blues and the PL...
Roll up, roll up to have a good laugh at your Football365 scribes, as we look back on our pre-season predictions to see who was wrong, who was right and who was stupid...
It was widely remarked after Sunday's FA Cup draw at Swansea that Arsene Wenger is at present in the unusual position of his best players being English, in the shape of Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and above all Theo Walcott 2.0. England's fans as well as Arsenal's will welcome this remarkable upgrading, though both sets of supporters have endured too many false dawns in recent years to get carried away just yet.
"Expect the unexpected - except at the end of drawn quarter-finals" is a fair motto for the England football follower. 2012, though, took this to extremes - who would have guessed that one of the highlights of the year would be a goal scored by the opposition in a friendly?
As we start a new year we cannot imagine that we will see a goal to match that of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in any of the national side's matches; nor that we will feel the need to stand up and applaud an opponent scoring. The same circumstances that led to a weakened team facing the final minutes in Stockholm - the pressure for key players not to play the full 90 minutes on such occasions - will continue to apply, however. Much, too, as we would like to escape from some of the other more serious prevailing circumstances, England's problems are not that easily evaded.
In January we knew we were in for a difficult ride as two games the previous October left unwanted problems, the matches being Montenegro 2 England 2 and, more serious, QPR 1 Chelsea 0. John Terry's trip to Loftus Road hung over a game that was ill equipped to deal with an allegation of racist language against an opponent from so senior a figure (an issue that demands consideration in greater depth). Still, few guessed that the clash with Anton Ferdinand would cost England a coach as well as a captain, an unintended consequence of Chelsea successfully delaying the criminal trial until the summer.
If you went by the papers it was inevitable that Harry Redknapp would succeed Fabio Capello. Rosie, the bulldog after whom Harry's Monaco bank account was named, has died but he still has plenty of lapdogs; remarkably, the Football Association kennels proved empty. Roy Hodgson was chosen for qualities less flash than Harry's and he had more of an immediate restorative effect than Redknapp has had thus far at QPR, before the former Tottenham manager is able to engage in the wheeler-dealer role that has no equivalent at international level.
Steven Gerrard proved a far more effective captain when handed the role full-time than he ever had as a stand-in. England's play was prosaic but in such unpromising circumstances to win the group - albeit with a touch of fortune - was a solid achievement. The 3-2 victory against Sweden was arguably the tournament's most dramatic match and it has been a while since England have been engaged in such a game.
True, Wayne Rooney never truly shook off the effects of his suspension, despite the winner against Ukraine, and many would have taken him off against Italy, in a game that ended in all too familiar a style. Had Ukraine's valid equaliser been given then we may not have got that far but the fact remains that Ashley Young had the chance to move England to match point in their tie-breaker. The risk in May was that a new manager would be a lame duck within a month of his first game but Hodgson certainly avoided that fate.
He is not beyond criticism. Some of what Steve Clarke's West Brom predecessor did was perplexing or short-sighted to many, such as choosing to persevere with Terry and leaving behind Rio Ferdinand, both the fact and the way he did it, with fulsome praise for the Chelsea captain that looked still more out of place once the FA panel had reached its conclusion. It has to be asked whether whatever short-term benefit Hodgson felt would accrue was worth it, even if the multiple antagonisms - Ferdinand endorsed a race-based tweet criticising Ashley Cole - would have made nothing straightforward. After Gary Cahill was injured against Belgium and Martin Kelly was called up - albeit to play only in extremis - Ferdinand's absence seemed ever less justifiable on football grounds despite Hodgson's argument that he would not take such an experienced player to sit in the stands.
Still, the choice of Steven Gerrard as captain was vindicated, as he looked the part in a way that had proved beyond him when he was merely a stand-in. For once, ambitions were kept limited to the realistic and by winning the group England arguably exceeded them. A disjointedness caused in part by Rooney's lack of match practice and some traditional failings made it a minor miracle that we reached 120 minutes without Italy scoring, but the earlier win against Sweden was a rare tournament delight for England supporters. The exit was accepted with a fair portion of dignity; far from being a source of fear for locals, we became a tourism attraction for the inhabitants of Donetsk and the exit in Kiev was greeted as peacefully as that of any other team.
In a way, though, Hodgson's task only really began after the finals. His realistic summer mission, in which he succeeded, was not to finish Euro 2012 under pressure or even as a figure of fun but the real work was building towards 2014.
He must do so without either Terry, who would surely be in FA-imposed exile had he not jumped the gun, or seemingly Ferdinand. Finally in Sweden, Wilshere was available to Hodgson for the first time but the certainty is that injuries will strike; Gerrard, for example, won his 100th cap in Stockholm but did not make an appearance in 2011.
We kicked off this season with a "home" friendly win against Italy and England remain unbeaten in World Cup qualifying. But the Azzurri were beaten in neutral Switzerland and the enduring Wembley problem was demonstrated against Ukraine. Amid the farce of the Warsaw roof, we were unable to claim three points against the other Euro 2012 hosts, too.
The remainder of the campaign to reach Brazil will be played out against the background of the FA's 150th anniversary celebrations, which begin against the 2014 hosts next month. March's trip to Montenegro, who appear to be the principal threat in Group H, is likely to set the tone, though, unless Brazil give us a proper beating at HQ.
Hodgson has a four-year contract, through to Euro 2016 in France. He avoided becoming an instant lame duck in Ukraine, but were we to fail to qualify this year then he would be seeking to emulate Bobby Robson, who did not reach the 1984 European Championship yet retained his job. But perhaps there is another way in which the incumbent can match his knighted predecessor.
England should qualify, given the talents at their disposal. If we do make it to Brazil then Hodgson will have to deal with a greater level of expectation than last summer, but he can always remember the man who became Sir Bobby, in large part for the fond memories created the last time England proved more than the sum of their parts in a World Cup.