Woodward, not the Glazers, is Man Utd’s biggest problem…

Date published: Thursday 8th August 2019 3:05

Send your mails to theeditor@football365.com…

Spurs for the title
I’m guessing no one’s paying attention (or cares) but I have written already this pre-season regarding Liverpool and Man U’s form, some opinion on what’s happening in the clubs and what I expect from them going forward. I didn’t offer any predictions because I wasn’t really sure how I thought their seasons would play out, but as I look to Spurs (in time to catch their deadline day deals) I think it is time to be bold, very bold, and make a prediction to complement the analysis. I think Spurs are going to win the league…

Now, it is probably important to add that this is not just about the last-minute deals, though that does play in to the positivity and solve their biggest weakness, but is also about what they have been building to, what happened last season and where I felt they needed to improve.

Let’s go back 15 months. Liverpool reached the Champs League finals but came unstuck in the last game. Most people thought the final turned decisively when Salah went off with an injury and Liverpool brought on an unfit Lallana. Our weakened side was dealt a knockout blow when Karius’ clangers saw us ship 2 goals and we petered out to a 3-1 loss. This game seemed to shock Klopp into action and he dealt with weaknesses ruthlessly. Karius was shipped off and Allisson brought in for big money. Keita came in to add depth, as did Fabinho and Shaqiri. The result? 12 months later the extra depth told as Liverpool brushed aside a tired Spurs squad, on abysmal form, in a limp 2-0 victory in the final.

But, if you look at Spurs trajectory, they were not that far from City and Liverpool for much of the season. At the midway point at Christmas, Spurs were 3rd 2 points from City and 6 from Liverpool. By matchweek 26 they were still only 2 behind City and now only 5 behind Liverpool. This is mid Feb. They were in the title race, what happened was their paper thin squad was stretched by injuries to key players, and the arduous summer WC and following Christmas periods drained the last of their energy reserves. They were about to fall off a cliff in terms of league form, and within 3 months go from 5 points behind the league leaders to 26 points behind second place.

So, what we can deduce is that to stay with Liverpool and City (two sides who broke records for their domestic form that season) for such a swathe of the season showed Spurs were not lacking quality in their first XI. Admittedly, they were not playing as swashbuckling football as the two top sides, their goal difference being half of the teams above, but they were good enough to beat the vast majority of the teams below them, and as the Champions League showed, capable of beating the very best in Europe on their day. What they lacked, as everyone was aware, was depth in the squad and viable options when first choice players aren’t firing or are unfit.

The recruits (If they all come): Firstly Tanguy Ndombele is an outstanding buy. He is your 21st century central midfielder and absolutely what Spurs needed. When your two deeper midfielders are picked from young and unproven Winks, defensively sound but offensively impotent Wanyama, boring Dier, inconsistent Sissoko or an offensive player played out of position, you need a new face. Ndombele provides excellent physical attributes being big, strong and quick with an excellent range of passing, good tactical awareness and most importantly; an ability to dribble out of tight spaces. In an increasing world of high pressing, the nimble-footed midfielder is becoming key. They can break the press and launch the attack. He averages more dribbles per game than pretty much every other option put together. Sessegnon- They need competition for left back, he is young and English, has bags of talent and could be used further forward depending on development, if you got the money, its a good buy. Dybala- A top player who has shown the world his qualities. These kinds of players aren’t often available, he is young but coming into his peak years. Is it a risk? Of course, there’s big money involved and he’s never played in England, but the days of overinflated fears regarding South Americans are gone; they can do it here, and my opinion is that he will do it too. Lo Celso- I don’t know the player too well, he has good stats that are well-rounded, came with a big reputation to PSG, and his current team didn’t want to see him go, which is a good sign. If Spurs have done their homework and they want him for that much money then a top player coming in to the middle of the park is going to help with their previously thin squad.

If they have a weakness it might be defensively. They have good centre-halves but the full-backs look a little weak. Lloris can also be prone to the odd brain-fart. Otherwise with real squad depth added, I don’t see too much wrong.

Spurs have a top manager, they have a young, hungry squad, a new stadium, new world-leading training facilities, experience of being in a title hunt and getting to a Champs League final. And most importantly, a summer where the majority of the squad wasn’t run in to the ground.

Liverpool haven’t strengthened and seem a little light in the attacking third, Man City have not gone overboard in the transfer market, have lost Kompany. Silva, Fernandinho and Aguero are a year older. They could suffer from complacency, and have just lost Sane to a big injury. The rest seem too far behind.

It’s bold, but I hate being boring…
Ed Ern

 

Enough’s enough, Ed
It seems like, after 6 years of chronic mismanagement, this season could mark a turning point where finally Manchester United fans say “enough is enough”.

Since Ferguson the fanbase has been overwhelmingly supportive of the team – arguably too supportive when you consider how the intolerance of fan bases like Real Madrid’s maintain standards at their club. But now, seeing as we’ve reached the level international laughing stock, and given that the team will arguably be weaker this year than it was last, it seems appropriate for the fans to revolt.

If this happens, I think it’s important they do it in a strategically smart way; one that might bring real change to the club. And to do that I think this is key:

Don’t protest the Glazers, focus on the management: i.e. Woodward and his team.

Now of course the fans have various legitimate problems with the Glazers, but protesting them and their ownership is counterproductive. The management is the key for two reasons:

1) They are the ones who have day-to-day executive oversight; the Glazers don’t. The Glazers are, for the most part, pretty “hands off” owners – they sit back, and let the appointed employees do their thing, happy so long as the numbers are good. Normally this is considered a good attribute for owners, but in the case of United it has started to become a problem due to the rank mismanagement below them. That management is of course led by Woodward. He is the one whose decisions have led the club to this point, not the Glazers; he is the link in the chain which, if fixed would make the greatest difference. New owners with the same management would improve nothing. The same owners with new management could improve everything.

2) More importantly, *the management can be removed but the owners can’t*. Like it or not, the Glazers aren’t going to get out of the club just because the fans want them gone. However, as the ultimate decision makers, they do have the power to change the management. If they decide that Woodward and co aren’t running the club effectively they, just like any other board, will decide to act and make changes. This is the realistic change fans should be demanding – demanding change at a higher level would be impotent and counter productive.

It’s all quite sad really, because honestly Woodward should be commended for the job he’s done on the commercial side of the business, which is genuinely valuable for the health of the club. The problem is that he’s installed himself as director of football; something which, clearly, he just can’t do. The ideal solution would not be his removal, but rather a separation of the football and business sides of the club, with each one run by a specialist (him on the commercial side, someone else on the football side), both reporting into the Glazers. Unfortunately as this would represent, effectively, a “demotion” for him I can’t see it happening – but that would be ideal.

Bottom line, hate the Glazers all you want, but be realistic. Don’t try to change them; *use* them to bring about change; change to what really matters on an executive level. That’s the win here, and the only trophy I have my eye on this season.
Alex

 

…Well, I think it’s fairly safe to say that United have cocked it right up this summer. It was widely acknowledged that United needed a centre back, right back, central midfielder and a right winger as a bare minimum. There was an argument to be made for a left-back to provide cover/competition for Shaw, and of course any replacements for outgoing players. Of those minimum four positions we have managed to sort just two, though we still managed to make a hash of signing Maguire. Leicester’s position was made perfectly clear from day one – £85m gets the player, not a penny less – yet it took until the last weekend of the window to get this one over the line. Instead of pratting about for 6 weeks, we could have been integrating Maguire into the team and the squad – instead, he’ll be going in to the Chelsea game absolutely cold, or maybe not even starting at all.

Daniel James is a good signing with lots of potential, and I’m pleased that we brought him in, but was anyone really looking at the left side of our attack and thinking we needed someone there? As things stand, we have Martial, Rashford, Sanchez, Chong (who played almost exclusively there during pre-season and for the under-23s team in midweek) and now James. Whereas on the right we have nobody really. Maybe Lingard at a push, Greenwood potentially?

We let Herrera and Fellaini go and haven’t replaced them at all, not even with youth; literally exactly the same personnel who started last season, less the two departures. Matic is another year older and slower, Pogba’s commitment to the cause still remains in serious doubt, McTominay shows a lot of promise but is still very young, Pereira is 23 but has still yet to reach 100 appearances at club level and it’s still unclear where his best position is, and there are still considerable concerns about Fred. How that has been allowed to happen is beyond me, and how anyone at United thinks it’s going to go any differently this season is even more puzzling.

Up front, we are letting Lukaku go without replacing him; this is an absolutely enormous mistake. Don’t get me wrong, Lukaku wasn’t right for us but we absolutely had to replace him. Whatever you think about the player himself, he still managed a scoring record of approaching 1 in 2 in his two seasons for us. Expecting or hoping Mason Greenwood to shoulder that burden is naive in the extreme. Not only that but it’s hugely unfair to him; the lad is 17 and has started just one competitive game and yet we’re hoping he can contribute a similar level of goals to Lukaku (12 in the PL last term)? By thrusting him into the first team now we’re expecting him to be able to help a team that consistently struggled to create chances last year for Belgium’s all-time leading scorer. He’s got promise but, bloody hell, talk about asking a lot under such huge pressure.

And all this is with ambitions of a top four finish and a serious challenge for either the Europa League or a domestic trophy. I mean, let’s be honest: we are going into this season now without an out-and-out striker. Our front line is made up of Rashford (who hasn’t managed more than 12 goals in a season), Martial (hasn’t managed more than 11 in a season) and Greenwood (first ever senior season), and it’s a good idea to not replace Lukaku? Where are the goals going to come from?

What makes this even more infuriating is the fact that we will have managed to bring in transfer fees of at least £75m, potentially rising to £100m if this (frankly, ridiculous) Rojo to Everton deal comes off, plus whatever wage budget we have reclaimed from Herrera, Fellaini and Valencia (approximately £300k p/w), so it’s not as if the money wasn’t there to spend. All told, we’re going to be looking at a net spend of about £30m this summer for a team that needed vast improvements in personnel and has also sold their only out-and-out, proven striker. Any way you look at it, we are woefully under strength, in terms of both immediate quality and depth of the squad. I don’t know why I hoped for any different, given that the one consistent factor in our repeated transfer failings (Woodward) is still in place, but it doesn’t make it any less disappointing. One steps forward, two steps back – they should put that on the damn badge.
Ted, Manchester

 

…As I write there is roughly 3 and half hours left of the transfer window and it appears there will be no further signings at my team, Man Utd. Now I know some fellow United fans are getting annoyed at perceived negativity by other fans but whatever way you slice this, this has been a very poor window.

Had you said at the start of the summer that Utd would make just 3 signings and those signings would be James, Wan-Bissaka and Maguire then I really think the majority would have said that that’s nowhere near enough. Add in that we would lose Herrera and Lukaku and it seems that this is all a bit of a joke.

I’m not a fan of Lukaku and am happy to see him go but to not get another striker in is ridiculous. All this talk of doing everything to keep Pogba, I actually think our best midfielder over the last few years has been Herrera and he went for nothing. Even before he left I would have said we badly needed another central midfielder as McTominay is still too young to fully rely on, Pereira bog standard and Matic and Fred just rubbish. Then Herrera goes and it’s a case of we definitely need one, maybe two now. And we’ve bought nobody.

I was really optimistic going in to this window yet at the end of it we have massively upgraded our defence but for a team that at times couldn’t score for love nor money last season we’ve actually weakened our midfield and forward line.

The only thing to cling on to is that these youngsters are going to be world beaters because if not then there’s going to be a lot of 0-0s this season!
Bradley Kirrage.

 

…Hello, its me again, back with a brand new track, predicting the obvious and making you read it.

I’m moaning about Man Utd again. I can feel your groans from here but they really are providing great material at the moment. Its not my fault Arsenal are looking semi competent. Although they are doing their best to keep things interesting. If David Luiz is the answer, I think they are asking the wrong question.

Much like the form of Man Utd in preseason, what goes on tour, stays on tour. I’ve already crafted a perfect, well researched, definitely not flawed email about Ole’s credentials yesterday and now my burning Sauron like gaze turns to Chong, Gomes, Garner, Greenwood or CGGG for short. Placing your faith in a 17, two 18s and a 19 year old is a very big leap of faith. Now they are good players, Gomes in particular has something about him, but where’s the players around them to help guide them. When everything’s on fire and a dog is sitting in a chair with a cup of tea saying ‘this is fine’ who out of this United team is going to be fine! Is Pogba going to suddenly start playing for a manager he has already been insubordinate to? Is Rashford really going to be your main striker? Why is McTominay suddenly a first team starter? I want to go on…and I will…How the hell are Jones and Smalling still at the club? Why is Luke Shaw considered good when he does not contribute anything other than fouls when he lazily ambles back to position!?!…ASHLEY YOUNG IS YOUR CAPTAIN!?!?!?!?! If the structure is not already in place of a good solid team who know what they are doing and can carry the inexperienced youth players, then what do you expect to achieve. Because top four isn’t happening. (Clue examples of wonderkids doing well in terrible teams!)

But Gosh! What is this! Mid email plot twist as the discussion moves to another topic already foreshadowed. How very Game of Thrones!

David Luiz and Mustafi as a centre back pairing could be a massacre, much like the Red Wedding. Imagine as Arsenal play Man City at the Emirates, and ridiculously Emery wants to play out from the back. Man City lay the trap, David Luiz is overconfident, Xhaka is completely devoid of any understanding on what is going on and Mustafi is…well…existing. Poor Old Leno is left with no chance as Sterling makes it 3-0. I know it’s all abit predictable, like Mustafi tweeting ‘Back on Top’ after his latest defeat, but this is a familiar well-trodden trope in Arsenals history, completing folding when they play any big team. I guess sometimes the old classics are the best.

Basically, what I’m getting at is this is all going to be as disappointing as the final season of Game of Thrones.
TJ (Der Der Duh Ded Der Der Duh Ded Der Der Duh Ded Derrrrrrrrr [in Game of Thrones Main Theme])

 

David’s day
Turiyo Damascene is absolutely right. Getting David Luiz is an absolute snip at 8 million. Arsenal will be getting a couple of high profile errors over the season, that’s for sure, but apart from that they’re getting a fantastic defender capable of some spectacular moments, and the Emirates are sure to fall in love with him. He’s a huge fan favourite at the Bridge, but it’s disappointing that he chose to leave like this; having just signed a new contract, not handing in a transfer request and forcing the move by not training (if the media is to be believed), leaving to strengthen a local rival for basically nothing, on the eve of a season where Chelsea couldn’t sign anyone else. It’s all a bit ‘Really David?’

Anyway, I get it, footballers will always look after number one, and why shouldn’t they. It’s not as if he’s a local lad. He looked a bit jaded at times last season, although he finished strongly and put up some brilliant stats, and he played no part in the final game of pre-season, which perhaps suggests he won’t be an automatic starter for the coming season, so transfer embargo aside, maybe it’s for the best. He’s been a fantastic servant for Chelsea, he had everyone’s hearts in their mouths with his run up for that penalty in Munich in 2012 (seriously, watch it on YouTube, the absolute balls on the guy), and I’ve loved almost every minute of him in a blue shirt. One league cup off of winning everything! So despite being a bit of dick just now, muito obrigado and good luck to him!
Juanito (Arsenal looking quite tasty now)

 

…Got to hand it to Arsenal, nobody can say that the board haven’t backed Emery. The David Luiz transfer is a master stroke. Although not everyone’s cup of tea, he’s one of the most experienced cbs in the prem, played in every big game you can think of and his error count dwindling with age. It makes the Maguire deal look quite frankly ridiculous. Maguire is a good age so scope for resale so obviously a bigger price but if you strip the money away and just talk about football I’d be leaning towards Luiz as better. Great piece of business. Pepe is relatively unknown but exciting, Tierney should help them considerably in the left back role. Tip of the cap Arsenal. I’d be leaning towards Arsenal for 4th, superior front three to utd and Chelsea, decent midfield and bringing in two starters in defence to help bolster their weak spot should limit the embarrassing moments. We might even get through a season without the Arsenal home fans booing their own team!
John

 

…Just have to say, I’m delighted that Arsenal are getting (hopefully) Luiz. I think he’s such an underrated, and unfairly overly-criticized, player. Sure, he’s not the best defender in the world, but he is certainly not the worst, and at 8 million is a relative bargain.

I’ve often thought about how I would love to take him, because I see him as such a good defensive mid/third centre back. Swapping between the roles throughout the game based on when the system needs changing. He is fast, has such a good passing range, can hit a thunderbastard, and can actually defend.

The signing of Pepe changes things, but last season I wanted Emery to play a diamond 4-4-2 that changed to 5-3-2, and I saw Luiz as the perfect cog in that machine. Now I’m not sure what formation/starting 11 he’ll go with, but I’m very excited to find out after the summer we’ve had!
Neill, (sad to see The Kos go), Ireland

 

…I often heard Koscielny being described as “Arsenal’s best defender” but that’s a backhanded compliment, if ever there was one when you consider that the “Koscielny Era” was one of shambles and decline. Is being the best defender in a team that was regularly being rinsed by all and sundry (including that well-known goal machine, Craig Dawson) an accolade worth having?

Matthew, Belfast
PS: The Best League in the World is back on Friday night!! I’m referring to the Danske Bank Northern Ireland Premiership but you knew that already.

 

Spurs haven’t improved?
So Jonny Nic thinks Spurs needed serious improvement to finish top 4 again. I can sympathise with being asked to write predictions before the close of the window can make you look silly (and as I write the signings aren’t official so it could still be me) but even if no one else signed it’s still a bizarre assertion that strikes me as controversy for its own sake.

Ndombele in and Trippier out is a significant improvement in itself. Having a home ground should be a significant advantage. And critically, not having a knackered post World Cup squad and a comical amount of injuries would be a huge advantage. If spurs had a ‘normal’ number of injuries next year they would improve a lot without doing a thing. If they do add significantly today (although as I wrote Dybala is allegedly off) then there’s a top 3 then a gulf
Phil, London

 

Conflicted over Liverpool
I like the half-full vs half-empty idea, because I really can’t decide which side I fall on.

Being European Champions will breed confidence, but the league so narrowly getting away should mean the hunger is still there / Being European Champions will paint a big target on our backs, and if we can’t win the league with 97 points and only one defeat, what hope is there?

A settled squad, no key players leaving, the majority in the optimal 25-27 peak age bracket with only two over 30, one of whom is basically immune to the effects of time and the other won’t play / No proven long-term cover for Robbo, Trent, Mane, Salah, Firmino or Allison and we’ve been lucky with injuries to key players in the last season or two so are probably due.

Our back five was the best in the business last year and with an average age of 23 should improve further, and greater contributions are expected from Ox, Keita, Firmino and even Salah after his ‘difficult’ second season / There’s still the lingering feeling that we over-performed last year and a regression to the mean is likely.

Jurgen Klopp is still our manager / Pep Guardiola is still City’s manager.

Klopp’s record of seemingly incomprehensible decisions (choosing to wait for VVD, spending £40m on the Ox, signing Fabinho and then not playing him) always turning out well in the end – this year it’s putting his backup forward eggs in the Rhian Brewster basket / He’ll get one wrong eventually, who’s to say it’s not this one?

Finally, last season the effective defensive approaches of Arsenal, Everton, Leicester and West Ham against us (yes, even Arsenal) were decisive. If these teams’ attacking signings translate into to a more expansive style, this could play into Liverpool’s hands. On the other hand if they still sit back this will benefit City, who are less susceptible to the counter as they just don’t lose the ball. The games against these sides are where the title will be decided.
JG LFC (the title race will be more roller coaster than relentless perfection this time)

 

Breaking down the breakdown
To Aman – Man Utd have spent a fortune on assembling great ingredients – but they haven’t have a coherent recipe since Van Gaal left –

You can get the best herbs, vegetables and meat but if all you do is boil the hell out of them, all you’ll get is crap stew.

Your Goalkeeper is on a par with the rest of the top six – but unlike some of the others he doesn’t contribute to the team stylistically – he doesn’t progress how they play. He saves shots and claims crosses because he’s not included in the rest of the play.

Your defence is on paper – it hasn’t played together

But… how exactly did the Crystal Palace right back suddenly become the second best right back in the world, was it simply by changing shirt and playing well in preseason?

Maguire was excellent in the world cup and ok last year – he’s not a 50 Million pound defender – even in these mental times.

Your best midfielder doesn’t want to play for you and the others are mid tabled dross. They wouldn’t get near the Arsenal midfield let alone the Liverpool or spurs one.

Your Strikers – You have them nearly right – they are the 5th best – no way are they in the same class as spurs.

You failed to examine the managers.

1./ Pep

2./ Klopp

3./ Poch

4./ Emery

19./ Frank Lampard

20./ Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

And the Management structures above the manager

1./ Man City

2./ Liverpool

3./ Arsenal

4./ Spurs

5./ Chelsea

6./ Man united

If United make the top 4 this season, we have all taken too many crazy pills with our crap stew,

Be good
Michael “Watch as Arsenal wrap the league up by March” Doyle

 

…OK Aman, I’ll bite.

DDG as top keeper? Are we pretending like my mate Howard that last season didn’t happen? If this email was circa 2016 then yeah sure I’d agree but, mate, really?

Defense: You’ve brought in two great players in AWB and Maguire. But ol’ Slabhead wasn’t great last season and struggles against pace. City and Spurs have a better defenses than you by miles son.

Midfield: Oooookkk. The amount of ifs you have in that sentence are simply far too many. Matic has looked every bit his 31 years this pre season. Your star midfielder doesn’t turn up for half your games but sure sure, I’m sure they’ll be consistent. Assuming JLindz doesn’t rebrand himself as JLS in a desperate attempt to cling onto his yoof.

Attack: Spurs attack is far superior to yours. Kane, Son and Moura would walk into your front 3. Please stop seeing things through Busby tinted spectacles.

But my mine gripe here, and admittedly this does somewhat destroy the first part of my argument, is that you don’t rate attacks against other attacks, its one team with set game plan against another. Ole was drunk at the wheel the last part of the season, and I cannot see that improving again this season.
Sam, LFC, North Yorks

 

Predictions
As is traditional, tell me who will win the league. Extra points if you pretend it’s not Man City…

Liverpool. City will really focus on the CL this year and might not be as dominant in the league as a result.

And the rest of the top four, in order. Which nobody ever gets right.

City, Spurs and Leicester. I am feeling whimsical and hoping for a shake up to the bottom half of the Top 6. Wolves have the Europa league distraction, Everton have a good but unbalanced squad and Leicester are one Harry Maguire replacement off having one of the best starting XIs in the league.

Three picks for relegation please.

Norwich, Brighton, Bournemouth. This is the year Eddie Howe gets found out. He has a new back line but can he actually coach a defence? Norwich will concede too many despite playing good stuff and Brighton because, well, I’m a Palace fan and they were lucky to stay up last season.

Which club will be a pleasant surprise?

Other than tipping Leicester for the Top 4 I think West Ham might finally do something good as their owners have accidently stumbled on a good manager and transfer committee combination. Villa and Sheffield Utd might also finish higher than expected with the both having the local-lad dun’ good angle to keep the narrative flowing.

Who will win the Golden Boot?

Aguero and Jesus to share starts so I am going for Sterling who is about the only dead on starter now there is cover for Fernandinho.

Which new signing will have the greatest positive impact?

A few options here but I am going for either Heaton or Delph to provide the leadership in an unexpectedly good season for their respective clubs.

And which one will turn out to be a massive flop?

As a Palace fan the bitter ex in me is saying Zaha, wherever he goes. But in reality I think there is already a draft Planet Football article asking whatever happened to Joelinton.

The ‘Pascal Gross award’ for bargain of the summer goes to…

Angelino at just over 5m for City could be a bargain if he solves the LB problem and can actually defend. Craig Dawson for 5.5m is also a bargain by Watford.

Who will be named the PFA Player of the Year?

KDB is due a barn-storming season after a year off.

First manager to leave their Premier League job?

If it isn’t Ole it means Palace will be doing as bad as I feared and Hodgson will have been replaced by someone off the British Managers’ Lunch Club membership list.

Pick the Champions League winner.

City to give it a good go but going to go left field and say Simeone to finally win it.

In five words, tell us what you are most excited about this season.

Mustafi and Luiz at CB.

And to illustrate who wrong I probably am, here are last season’s predictions (comments in brackets):

As is traditional, tell me who will win the league.
City (Who didn’t pick them)

And the rest of the top four, in order.
Liverpool, Arsenal, Man Utd (1 out of 3 ain’t bad, right?)

And who are going down, down deeper and down?
20th – Cardiff 19th – Watford 18th – Bournemouth Brighton to leave it to the wire because Button and Steele will not provide ample cover for Asia Cup-bound Matt Ryan.

(1/3 ain’t bad, right? And was also right about Brighton)

Which club will be a pleasant surprise?
Fulham (Not the only won who fell into this trap)

Top scorer, please?
Aguero (Darn)

Which new signing will make the most positive difference to their club
Allisson but I am going to say Leno/Sokratis/Torreira (Buffoon)

And which one will turn out to be a massive flop?
I think Kepa (Hmmm…does refusing to be subbed ruin a top 4 finish and Europa league medal?)

Who will turn out to be a shrewd bargain?
Agree the freebies are always hard to overlook. Meyer, Rui Patirico and Lichsteiner seem the obvious ones for me. Replacing Cabeye with a German international worth 25-40m is a steal. A promoted team signing a free European Championship title-winning keeper is absurd, even with Mendes connections and getting a defender to dislodge and teach Bellerin also a bargain for different reasons.

In terms of fee, Fabri at Fulham could be the difference between staying up and going down and is 1/3 of Danny Ward’s price as Schmeichel back-up. (face palm)

Who will be named the PFA Player of the Year?
If Liverpool did win the title I would say it will be because of Naby Keita being Kante mk.II (fool of a Took)

First manager to leave their Premier League job?
For trigger-happy board reasons I think Javi Gracia or Claude Puel. Either that or Benitez in an act of martyrdom to radicalise the vocal but passive Toon fans into properly boycotting Ashley. (D’oh)

Pick the Champions League winner for the European football fans.
Bayern always a safe bet.(Who went for Liverpool?)

And finally, what are you most looking forward to about this coming season?

Hopefully the final downfall of Mourinho and the caricature of himself that he has become. The league no longer needs or wants panto performances to mask dull attritional football.

In footballing terms I think teams like Wolves and Fulham will breathe a bit of life into the treading water crowd which will be nice.

For the first time ever I am also looking forward to the first international break. Will the revolutionary evolution of England under Southgate continue?

Also hope to see some of Foden, Brewster, Hudson-Odoi etc. breakthrough as that is always a joy.

(I think this was my best one, bar Fulham)
Joe, Midlands (world class football predictor and exaggerator)

 

…As season draws near, wanted to do my unlikely, but you-never-know kind of predictions for the premier league. Really excited about the new season. Many good and improved teams and close battles for practically all positions. Might be few surprises as well:

– 1st: Arsenal. Emery has one full season behind him and his team has adjusted better to his style of play. They have already won one trophy – The shrewdest transfers of summer 2019 – even before the season started, which can only boost morale. Pepe looks like a wonderful talent and their attack trio seems really scary. Ceballos is another fantastic acquisition who solves their midfield issues after Ramsey and if they get Tierney and Luiz, their defence is good for the first time in ages. As pointed out in the last mailbox, Luiz is very good defender and at 32, should still be in top shape for few years. Could be even better than before as age often brings maturity and reduce the few lapses in concentration he had earlier.
– 2nd: Liverpool. About as good as last year. Will do better in domestic cups since more options especially in midfield with Ox and Lallana
– 3rd: Manchester City: Hope they do as well as last season and I can sigh in relief, but losing Kompany and having few of their key players in advanced years (Fernandinho, David Silva and Aguero) just makes me bit pessimistic. Still, De Bruyne is back so that’s like new signing of the best player in the premier league.
– 4th: Tottenham: Will be again bit better than before, but they still lack that something special that really makes them challenge for PL crown
– 5th: Norwich: They have Teemu Pukki, who will shatter all goalscoring records and after leading Norwich to Europe, he will lead Finland to World Cup in 2022.
Matti Katara, Helsinki (ok, maybe I might have exaggerated Arse…I mean Pukki’s influence a bit…)

 

…As is traditional, tell me who will win the league. Extra points if you pretend it’s not Man City…

Man City.

And the rest of the top four, in order. Which nobody ever gets right.

Tottenham, Liverpool, Arsenal. If Spurs bag Dybala (and with Ndombele, see below) I think they will be the closest challengers. Liverpool’s involvement additional competitions will adversely affect them. And I fancy Arsenal to be slightly less-worse than Chelsea & United.

Three picks for relegation please.

Palace, Brighton, Burnley.

Which club will be a pleasant surprise?

Pleasant surprise? You mean like Liverpool faltering? United remaining in disarray? As pleasant as that would be, generally speaking I fancy the promoted clubs to do OK. (Has that ever happened before? Three promoted clubs staying up, that is?) And maybe Everton to get it together too.

Who will win the Golden Boot?

Agueroooooooooo!

Which new signing will have the greatest positive impact?

Tanguy Ndombele. I think Spurs have played a blinder here. In fact, I think he is the DM we should have gone for…

And which one will turn out to be a massive flop?

If ‘flop’ is directly proportional to cost, then it’s hard to look past Maguire, although I think he’ll do well enough. So maybe Kean (Everton) or Haller (West Ham) only because they’re young and I know nothing about them.

The ‘Pascal Gross award’ for bargain of the summer goes to…

Could Danny Welbeck get 10-12 goals for Watford this year? Not bad for a freebie. Can Jay Rodriguez do likewise at Burnley? Also looking forward to seeing how Douglas Luiz gets on at Villa, I think that’s got potential. Otherwise, maybe Kean (Everton) or Haller (West Ham) only because they’re young and I know nothing about them.

Who will be named the PFA Player of the Year?

KDB seems to be the obvious (and pundits) pick seeing how he is incredible, and was robbed of it back in 17/18, and then injured in 18/19. However, my pick is Bernardo Silva. I don’t say this lightly, but B Silva might just be the most remarkable footballer I have ever seen. And yes, I have also seen Ronaldo, Messi and Wanchope in the flesh, too.

First manager to leave their Premier League job?

Hodgson is a fair shout. Out just before Xmas. But if Zidane leaves Real, then Pochettino to fill that void, meaning I might need to rethink my top 4 prediction order.

Pick the Champions League winner.

Man City.

In five words, tell us what you are most excited about this season.

*VAR negating Liverpool’s outrageous luck

**Winning it all once again
Rusty Blue, MCFC

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