?So, another pre-season has come and gone, with the curtain on the new Premier League campaign finally being raised on Friday evening as 2019 runners-up Liverpool host new boys Norwich City.
No more ridiculous transfer rumours (well, maybe), no more bizarre preparatory friendlies against teams from six divisions below, and most tragically of all, no more illustrious competitions such as the Asia Trophy and the Emirates Cup for another year.
However, what did we learn from all the pre-season action and what does it tell us about the months to come?
??Arsenal’s pre-season seems to suggest that Gunners boss Unai Emery views a number of his squad’s younger players as capable of playing a big role in the upcoming season.
Academy graduate ?Joe Willock, in particular, has been very impressive and has been handed the number 28 jersey as his reward. The 19-year-old, who made an exciting 15-minute cameo in the 2019 Europa League final in May, may well have a breakout season in 2020.
??The Villans have gone big in the transfer window, really big.
Spending in excess of £130m on new arrivals, reveals that Villa have not learnt the lessons from Fulhum’s disastrous campaign last season, where the Cottagers had a similarly liberal approach in the transfer market and ended up going straight back where they came from.
Villa boss Dean Smith should be encouraged by the side’s pre-season results though, as they have a flawless record of five wins and zero defeats. Perhaps the west Midlands side will buck the trend of recent years, and prove that big spending in the best approach for sides promoted from the Championship.
?After a few years in the wilderness, the ?Cherries’ pre-season campaign seemed to suggest that Dominic Solanke may finally experience more Premier League action this season.
Since arriving for a fee of around £19m from Anfield in January, the 21-year-old has been largely restricted to the substitutes bench. However, after impressing with some smart link-up play and netting a goal against Lazio recently, the striker may rival Callum Wilson or Josh King for a starting spot this season.
Brighton and Hove Albion
?All the noises coming out of Graham Potter’s mouth this pre-season have suggested that ?Brighton fans can expect a striking change from the defensively minded football, that was pursued by Chris Hughton over the past five seasons.
Potter’s footballing philosophy is far more possession-based and expansive, and this change has been reflected in the Seagulls results recently. A 4-0 win would have been an unthinkable result under the ultra-conservative Hughton, but it was the scoreline in Brighton’s recent meeting with Birmingham City – a strong indication of the changing philosophy at the Amex Stadium.
After seven years away, ?Burnley favourite Jay Rodriguez returned to Turf Moor this summer and has been delighting Clarets fans with his encouraging performances.
Concerns about the striker’s long-term fitness are now a distant memory, as the 30-year-old has immediately sparked up a lively partnership with Chris Wood up front. Wood bagged a hat-trick recently against Nice, whilst Rodriguez has also been in fine form in front of goal, scoring a brace against Parma.
If this is anything to go by, Burnley have the makings of a reliable striking duo that might just be able to fire them away from a relegation battle this upcoming campaign.
?One of the narratives of Chelsea’s pre-season has been the battle for the ?Blues’ lone striker position.
The departure of Álvaro Morata to Atletico Madrid, combined with their transfer embargo, has left new boss Frank Lampard with Tammy Abraham,
??Crystal Palace’s pre-season has been dominated with transfer sagas concerning their two best players from last term: Wilfried Zaha and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Although Wan-Bissaka sealed his exit to Old Trafford early on in the window, Zaha’s future remained in doubt right up until transfer deadline day. The Ivory Coast star agitated for a move away from Selhurst Park, even handing in a transfer request as Arsenal and Everton circled.
So what have we learnt from all this? Well, obviously five-year contracts, like the one signed by Zaha star 12-months ago, are not worth the paper they’re written on from a player’s point of view. But then again, I think we already knew that?
How he responds – Palace’s opening weekend game is against Zaha suitors Everton – will be very interesting to see.
The Toffees’ free-firing approach to the transfer market this summer, suggests that the club smells blood, and views this season as their best chance of breaking the traditional top six’s hold over European qualification.
Marco Silva has spent over £100m on new players this pre-season, with Alex Iwobi, Moise Kean and André Gomes among the new arrivals.
Worrying though, ?Everton have won just once since the end of the 2018/2019 season and many of their new recruits have had little time to bed in.
Could it be a slow start for Silva’s ambitious side?
?Another club whose summer has been consumed by a transfer saga surrounding one of their stars, the Foxes finally lost Harry Maguire recently for a world-record fee for a defender.
Despite the fact that much of the media attention on the King Power Stadium has concerned who might be leaving, Brendan Rodgers has quietly been conducting some of the best transfer business of the Premier League pre-season.
?Youri Tielemans and ?James Justin can both be considered contenders for the bargain of the summer, whilst Ayoze Pérez and Denis Praet are also interesting propositions.
The Foxes were unbeaten in pre-season, beating Serie A surprise package Atalanta 2-1 along the way.
Sections of ??Liverpool Twitter went into ?meltdown on Thursday, as the Reds’ opted against making any transfer deadline day deals, despite a disappointing pre-season.
?New season, same old ?Manchester City. The 2019/2020 campaign hasn’t even really started yet and Pep Guardiola can already count the Community Shield as his first trophy of the season.
By signing Rodri, Guardiola finally has the perfect replacement for Fernandinho, whilst the arrivals of two new full-backs: João Cancelo
Despite being linked with an obscene amount of players this summer, the transfer deadline has now passed and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has added just three new arrivals to a squad that finished sixth last season.
The departure of a certain Belgian striker also leaves the ?Red Devils short upfront. Luckily, one of the stories of pre-season has been the emergence of young attacker Mason Greenwood, as a potential first-team player.
Several exciting performances has seen the 17-year-old score two goals, and may result in the Bradford-born striker getting a further taste of Premier League action in the upcoming campaign.
Newcastle’s Mike Ashley nightmare continued this pre-season, with much-loved manager Rafa Benitez departing in order to manage
Bruce got off to a sold start as Toon manager beating Hibs and St-Etienne, but how his new-look side gels remains to be seen.
??Norwich have had a very quiet summer, transfer wise, choosing instead to frugally improve the squad with loan deals and free transfers.
This represents Canaries boss Daniel Farke placing an extraordinary amount of faith in the side that got promoted against the odds last season, and mirrors the approach taken by his German compatriot: David Wagner, when he guided Huddersfield to the Premier League.
Norwich have had a mixed bag of results in pre-season but will be encouraged by the form of new arrival Josip Drmic, who bagged a hat-trick against Luton recently. If he continues this form, expect him and Teemu Pukki to terrorise defences during the 2019/2020 campaign.
?Despite Billy Sharp grabbing 23 goals in the league last year for the Blades, ?Sheffield United’s pre-season campaign has suggested that the goals may be distributed more evenly this season.
Callum Robinson, a recent arrival from Preston North End, has traditionally been regarded as a winger. However, recently Blades’ boss Chris Wilder has been deploying the Republic of Ireland international in a more advanced role, and has been rewarded with a return of four goals in pre-season from the 24-year-old.
Oliver McBurnie, the club’s record signing represents another striking option, and his arrival has thrown Sharp’s future as the Blades’ number nine into further doubt.
??Saints’ pre-season games have seemed to suggest that they have been working on a new tactical shape, under the guise of manager Ralph Hasenhuttl.
‘The Alpine Klopp’ as he is also known, has been deploying a back three throughout Southampton’s recent fixtures, and a number of different midfield configurations have also been tested. These tactical alterations should excite Saints fans, and suit Hasenhuttl’s high-pressing style more readily.
After disappointing in the transfer window last summer, ?Spurs have spent this pre-season making a number of eye-catching signings and producing several impressive performances.
The athletic Tanguy Ndombélé, and playmaker Giovani Lo Celso will give the Spurs midfield a much-needed spruce up, whilst young talents Ryan Sessegnon and Jack Clarke are both exciting prospects.
Mauricio Pochettino has also managed to avoid any high profile departures, though Christian Eriksen’s future remains uncertain. All in all, a very encouraging pre-season in north London.
?Until they eclipsed their transfer record, bringing in
Amidst this dearth of activity however, Andre Gray has quietly been banging in goals for fun, netting four in four games.
Could this be the year that the explosive front man finally earns his first England cap? No, probably not. Maybe though.
West Ham United
?Is Sébastien Haller the man to break the ?West Ham striker’s curse? Well, pre-season suggests… maybe.
Since joining the Hammers for a club-record fee of £45m, the Frenchman has presented a mixed bag of performances to the West Ham faithful. On his debut against Fulhum, Haller was solid enough, linking up well with West Ham’s other forwards.
However, during his next appearance against Atletico Club he scored a calamitous own goal as the Hammers went on to lose 3-2.
?Wolves’ pre-season is a rather challenging one to assess, as due to their Europa League commitments, it only consisted of two games – both of which they won.
These wins were enough to secure Wolves the illustrious Premier League Asia Trophy, and what kid doesn’t dream of lifting that when they’re playing football down the park?
Nuno Espirito Santo will have now got a taste of silverware and will be hoping the permanent arrivals of Raúl Jimenéz and Leander Dendoncker, will help him secure further success in the next nine months.