With the 2019/20 Premier League season set to kick off this evening when Liverpool take on new boys Norwich City at Anfield, we preview the new campaign with a difference…
Most Turbulent Summer
With rumours of Rafa Benitez’s departure circling at St James Park for months this year, the time finally came during the summer when it was revealed that the Spaniard had turned down the option of a new contract, instead heading to the Chinese Superleague to take charge of Dalian Yifang.
Benitez’s departure sparked another round of fan protests against owner Mike Ashley, which has created a difficult environment for new manager Steve Bruce to walk into. Bruce’s appointment came when the Newcastle first team squad were in China for the Premier League Asia Trophy, with the Englishman flown out to meet up with his new club well into their pre-season preparations.
Players came and went throughout the summer with no one quite sure who was in charge of making the signings. £40 million striker Joelinton is the biggest name to arrive on Tyneside during the transfer window, but was he a Steve Bruce signing? Probably not, with the scouting team and people above Bruce making the decision before his arrival.
Injury prone Andy Carroll arrived at St James Park on deadline day, in a move which could be a hit or a miss in terms of the amount he will contribute to the team.
The maverick Brazilian was a centre piece of Chelsea’s pre-season tour to Japan and has played over 160 games for the Stamford Bridge club over two spells. A £50 million signing for French giants Paris St Germain five years ago, David Luiz’s £8m move to Arsenal on deadline day seems to be the best business of the summer transfer window.
At a time when Arsenal were crying out for a new centre half, after club captain Laurent Koscielny sealed a move to French side Bordeaux, David Luiz will slot right into the heart of the Gunners defence. Key players from rival clubs do not come around very often, let alone for £8m in the age of big money signings.
Luiz is a player who will fit in well to the ball playing style of football fans have come to expect at the Emirates. With Celtic’s Kieran Tierney also recruited on the final day of the transfer window, Arsenal fans can expect to see a new look back four over the course of the season.
Worst Value for Money
Although there is no denying Harry Maguire’s ability as a centre half, with solid performances at club and international level over the last few seasons – it is quite astonishing that he has garnered a move to Manchester United for £80 million pounds – eighty million pounds.
Even in the times of astronomical transfer fees, £80 million is a sum which you’d expect to see paid for a match-winning centre forward or a play making midfielder, at very least a top-class player who has solid experience in the Champions League.
In Harry Maguire Manchester United have signed a strong, solid defender who reads the game well, but who will not make a remarkable difference to the United starting XI on the whole. United’s goals against record in the 2018/19 Premier League read 54 goals last season, more goals than Wolves, Everton, Crystal Palace and Newcastle.
Defence was clearly an area United needed to strengthen – but at £80 million for a centre half, it must be said that the money may have been used more wisely elsewhere. Toby Alderweireld, a player who has a wealth of Champions League experience and is only four years older than Maguire, reportedly has a buy-out clause of £25m – and that says it all.
Leicester City will be laughing all the way to the bank having made a £68m profit on a player they signed for £12m from Hull City in June 2017.
First Manager Sacked
Javi Gracia – Watford
With expectations at all Premier League clubs increasing every year and clubs around Watford spending heavily in a bid to secure domestic success, the pressure could be on for Javi Gracia in his first full season in charge of the north-west London side.
Summer signings Danny Welbeck and Ismaila Sarr will be looking to make an instant impact as the league season kicks off tomorrow at home to Brighton and Hove Albion. With Arsenal, a rejuvenated Everton and reigning champions Manchester City to face in the first six fixtures, Gracia will be looking to pick up as many points as possible in matches against Newcastle and West Ham United.
With fans and owners expecting another solid season at Vicarage Road after last year’s run to the FA Cup final, Gracia will be hoping for a quick start to league proceedings in 2019/20 – otherwise the pressure could be on.
Bottom at Christmas
Newly promoted sides are always tipped to struggle in the Premier League and Sheffield United could be in for a tough season back in the top flight.
Fellow promotion winners Aston Villa have spent big money during the summer window, with nine signings made in the hope that it will boost their survival chances, while Championship winners Norwich should build on a very successful season in 2018/19 with a core squad who know each other well.
Chris Wilder’s side will be looking to prove the doubters wrong and have new signings Phil Jagielka and Oli McBurnie to come into the team which will start the Blades’ first season in the Premier League since Neil Warnock’s side in 2006/07.