Liverpool were surprisingly excellent last season, but this regression is just as startling. Defeat at Crystal Palace was another reason to believe Brendan Rodgers is struggling...
We have plenty of fallout from Arsenal's latest display of outrageous incompetence, plus the question of why every team seems to be getting worse. Plus, another Garcia ghost goal...
What's been said: "I think, now, we are in a stronger situation where we can spend some money. We went out to spend money at Christmas but we didn't find the players. I'm not reluctant to spend" - Arsene Wenger.
The budget: The figure of £70m keeps being mentioned.
What's needed: Pretty much exactly what was needed last summer but the difference is that there is now a) money to spend ("we only had money recently," said Arsene Wenger in March) and b) no pressure to sell. After losing Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri in the last two summers, there are likely to be no major exits in 2013. Laurent Koscielny has made a few noises but there's no suggestion that the Frenchman is any real hurry to go; the itchy-footed Bacary Sagna may well leave but there will be few Gunners mourning his exit if a half-decent replacement can be found.
So the best of 2012/13 - and there was a lot to be admired in the way that side finished the season - will be augmented by some decent business in the summer of 2013. The priorities will, once again, be a goalkeeper (Julio Cesar?), a physical central midfielder (Etienne Capoue?) and a striker (Wayne Rooney? Stevan Jovetic?), with perhaps central defensive back-up and some genuine pace on the left to compliment Theo Walcott as secondary requirements. There will be plenty of cynicism about Arsenal finally spending but after eight years of lean, you get the feeling that there is a genuine appetite (and budget) for fat at the Emirates. Which brings us back to Rooney.
What's been said: "Finances dictate a lot of stuff, If you go and buy experienced players and names, they command a lot of money. I have to keep building this squad. It will have to be rebuilt. It's still in a transitional period" - Paul Lambert.
The budget: There's been little indication but a net spend of around £20m (and a lowering of the wage bill) looks likely again.
What's needed: The big question is whether Villa can keep hold of their big old Belgian Christian Benteke. The supplementary question is whether they will actually want to keep hold of their big old Belgian Christian Benteke if his suitors get anywhere near doubling the £10m they threw in Genk's direction last summer. Sell Benteke and Lambert's budget could be doubled in an instant...and when you're trying to re-build a club, that's a mighty big difference in budget.
Lambert's policy of buying young/unknown players on low wages is inevitably hit (Matthew Lowton) and miss (Karim El Ahmadi) but it's clearly a long-term commitment. That means that Villa are far more likely to sign a Jored Okore than a Joleon Lescott to bolster a disastrously leaky defence, while Ivelin Popov seems more realistic than Jermain Defoe as a striker target. They certainly need strengthening in both areas regardless of whether Benteke starts next season as a Villa player, which makes talk of a £10m-plus move for support striker Younes Belhanda seem a little decadent.
What's been said: "As the levels rise, you've still got to be cute, to be prudent with the money. The owner is certainly someone who doesn't throw good money after bad and every penny I spend, I document and give him a reason as to why it's been spent. It's not about gut feeling, it's about business reasons as to why we should buy players. So that doesn't change. You try to get good players in and they've got to be value for money" - Malky Mackay.
The budget: A reported £25m.
What's needed: Of the three promoted sides, Cardiff are probably best placed to survive in the Premier League - but that's rather a backhanded compliment. Will £25m be enough to make them better than clubs like Norwich and Aston Villa who are likely to be in that relegation battle again? Perhaps. Malky Mackay is right in saying that they need to be 'cute', and rumours of moves for Carlton Cole and Danny Graham can certainly be filed under 'cute', but cute enough to survive? Probably not. Half of that reported £25m budget should go on strikers to augment a distinctly Championship-looking line-up of Nicky Maynard and Fraizer Campbell. 'Cute' would be to follow West Ham's lead and find a striker kicking their heels at a big club - if his inflated wages keep you in the Premier League, it's been a short-term but sensible investment.
At the risk of saying this every sodding year for promoted clubs, Cardiff basically need a fair bit of quality across the park, but with emphasis on the defence. There's no real Premier League quality amongst Kevin McNaughton, Matthew Connolly, Andrew Taylor, Ben Turner and Mark Hudson. To avoid doing a Reading and surrendering their Premier League status with a whimper, Malkay is going to have to be cuter than a whole box of kittens.
What's been said: "We have to improve the team, but when I say improve, people are already thinking about how many millions Chelsea will spend. I mean through work. Work hard, work professionally and make the team better. If after that we can improve the team by buying a couple of players it is fantastic but I have to improve the team with my work" - Jose Mourinho.
The budget: There was talk of £100m but Mourinho's words have muddied the waters.
What's needed: A striker. A really quite decent striker. If we assume that the 2013 Fernando Torres is as good as Fernando Torres is ever going to be again, then Chelsea need a really quite decent striker. Whether that's Edin Dzeko, Steven Jovetic, Mario Gomez or Wayne Rooney is just tabloid guesswork right now, but that has to be the priority. There aren't too many other massive holes in a Chelsea squad that, with a little more stability, already looks talented enough for a title challenge. Another central midfielder (though Michael Essien will return to offer more strength in depth) and some left-back back-up for Ashley Cole are likely to be on Mourinho's wish list about half a page below a really long list of strikers.
One fascinating aspect of Chelsea's summer business will be the returning Belgian loanees Thibault Courtois and Romelu Lukaku, who both have half an eye on a World Cup in Brazil that must seem an awful long way away from the Chelsea bench. Chelsea have the 'problem' of having two of Europe's top ten goalkeepers on their books and one of its most promising young strikers (currently third choice in a one-striker system). Loan them out again? Bring them back and make them fight for their place? Cash in now? Just as soon as he's signed a striker, Mourinho has some big decisions to make.
What's been said: "How much you spend on your group isn't always what gives you success. It's what's inside their hearts and how much they work for you. To me they're Palace heroes" - Ian Holloway.
The budget: Probably closer to £10m than Ian Holloway would like.
What's needed: The noises coming out of Selhurst Park is that it's Selhurst Park rather than the Palace playing staff that will be improved by the £120m windfall of promotion. Holloway's first reaction after winning the play-off final was to admit they were on a "hiding to nothing' in the Premier League. The good news for Palace fans is that he's been here before - spending less than £4m on Blackpool in the summer of 2010 and coming damned close to keeping them in the top flight.
With Wilfried Zaha bound for Manchester United, there are probably only two Palace players - Julian Speroni and Mile Jedinak - who we would deem ready for the Premier League. Holloway is going to have to work some magic to squeeze top-flight football from the likes of Kagisho Dikgacoi and Owen Garvan while picking up a few waifs and strays from elsewhere. The prospects do not look good, but they should end the season with some much-needed work done on a tired old stadium.
The rest of the clubs will be along in due course...