With the Premier League season reaching its eventual conclusion on Sunday, clubs have a quick turnaround this summer before they return to action again.
The 2020-21 Premier League season is due to get underway on Saturday September 12, giving the players a short rest before August’s makeshift pre-season begins – and that’s despite some clubs still being involved in European competition.
Ahead of the new campaign, Sportsmail’s wise men Martin Keown and Chris Sutton give their predictions and discuss the key talking points.
Manchester City, and that’s it. Their players and Pep Guardiola will be hurting. They might even be embarrassed by the sight of the Premier League table, given how easily they were shoved aside by Liverpool.
The Amazon Prime cameras aren’t at City’s training ground any more but you can guarantee Guardiola will be holding meetings in which he’s ordering his players to show some fight. I can’t see Liverpool getting 99 points again, so we should see more of a challenge from City.
Why don’t I think Chelsea or Manchester United can join the race? The standards set by Liverpool and City are too high.
Frank Lampard’s side finished fourth but lost 12 league games. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men were consistent towards the end of the season but will struggle to maintain that over an entire campaign.
Manchester City have work to do if they want to make it a two-horse race next season because we saw nothing of the sort this time.
City fell a long way short of the standards they set in 2017-18 and 2018-19. They lost to Norwich and Wolves in their first eight fixtures, then to Liverpool at Anfield in November.
That ruled them out of the race early — when your opponent is so formidable, you cannot afford such slip-ups.
But City have what it takes to make a comeback. Jurgen Klopp is my Manager of the Year but Lampard would be my Young Manager of the Year if such a category existed. He’s ambitious and wants to battle with the big boys — we saw how he went head to head with Klopp on the touchline last week.
I suspect it’ll be a two-horse race between Liverpool and City, but Chelsea and Manchester United are coming up on the rails.
They needed a commanding defender last summer and still need one now — Guardiola evidently isn’t having John Stones or Nicolas Otamendi. Eric Garcia is getting games but this is the area I expect them to focus on.
They need to find their Virgil van Dijk. Meanwhile, David Silva has gone but in Phil Foden, they’ve got a talented youngster who has been moulded for the position.
City need to buy a central defender if they’re going to compete. One of their biggest victories of 2019-20 was winning that appeal against their Champions League ban. Now they could go big and buy the best.
Signing a striker is worth considering, too. They were the Premier League’s top scorers this season but Gabriel Jesus is not as ruthless as Sergio Aguero, who has just turned 32.
I suspect Tottenham supporters have been left pretty underwhelmed with how their team have performed under Jose Mourinho. I know I have.
Spurs fans want to see front-foot football. It’s hard to say there’s been a big improvement since Mourinho took over and if that doesn’t change next season it’s bound to end in tears, like it did at each of his previous clubs.
Mourinho seems like he’s lost some confidence as a manager. He’s not the same man we saw oozing self-assurance at Chelsea. The pressure is on him now.
Mourinho has spent money throughout his managerial career, including more than £350million at Manchester United in his last job. But he’s not going to get that at Tottenham. He has to work with what he’s got there, so he’s up against it.
I was surprised when Mourinho said last month that January signing Steven Bergwijn was ‘not my first option’ but he’s happy the club followed through with buying him.
I admire the honesty but I wouldn’t want to be hearing that if I was that player! It was Mourinho letting us all know these are not his recruits.
Once the FA Cup final is out of the way, Mikel Arteta’s top priority has to be tying Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang down to a new deal and getting rid of Mesut Ozil.
Whether they can push for serious honours, even if Aubameyang stays, looks a tall order. They’ve just recorded their worst league finish for 25 years.
But Arteta is a demanding manager. With him in charge, I could see them closing the considerable gap to the top four next season, and that’s a start.
These drinks breaks have given us a snapshot of the managers and you can see how Arteta, like Guardiola, is animated. It’s like watching the conductor of an orchestra.
Arteta is clearly a good tactician. He found a way to get the best out of David Luiz by using him at the centre of a back three. But he has to think about the system he wants to use for the foreseeable future.
Arsenal reverted to a back four against Watford but that doesn’t seem to give them the same defensive security. Arteta worked with a great man in Guardiola.
That doesn’t make him instantly great but we can see he is learning and developing. Success will largely depend on the quality of the personnel he has.
Norwich’s players didn’t do themselves any favours in Project Restart as they became only the third club in Premier League history to lose 10 consecutive games.
The likes of Max Aarons, Ben Godfrey and Jamal Lewis are clearly talented but when push came to shove they didn’t stand up to the challenge. That would worry me.
But I like David Brooks at Bournemouth. He gave Eddie Howe’s side an extra edge in attack. There will be Premier League clubs coming in for him.
Watford could disintegrate. Abdoulaye Doucoure, Ismaila Sarr, Etienne Capoue, Roberto Pereyra — there will be takers for those players.
If you’re a young manager you’d be brave taking over at that club. Whatever you might build, there’s always the chance the rug will be pulled from under you.
It was ruthless what happened to Nigel Pearson who, let’s not forget, previously orchestrated a 3-0 win over Liverpool which lifted them out of the relegation zone.
Both clubs need to get their recruitment right. Leeds were the best team in the Championship by some way and won’t show any fear among the big boys. Marcelo Bielsa will have them organised and playing on the front foot.
My only concern is their lack of strength in depth and that’s why signings are needed. But it’s exciting to have Leeds back after 16 years away.
They’re even being linked with Zlatan Ibrahimovic — imagine! West Brom gained a reputation as a yo-yo club. Slaven Bilic has to have them break that habit but they need new recruits.
Everyone tipped Sheffield United to drop down, then they proved us wrong. When us pundits get asked for our predictions closer to the start of the new season in September, a few might plump for Leeds.
It’s up to Bielsa’s side to prove us wrong, too.
Bielsa has a reputation as a fine coach — and so does Bilic at West Brom — but tactics can only take you so far. You need the players, too.
Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood. One knows how to create chances from midfield and the other knows how to bury them.
Chelsea’s Reece James faces a challenge — England have an embarrassment of riches on that right side. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Kieran Trippier… it’ll take some doing for James to break into Gareth Southgate’s squad.
: It’s hard to recall a more exciting time for England.
There’s Greenwood starting for Manchester United and Foden getting more game time for Manchester City. Both players have the opportunity the impress, along with James at Chelsea.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on how 17-year-old Jude Bellingham fares at Borussia Dortmund, too. If you perform, Southgate is not afraid to reward you.
Dean Henderson must not go back to Manchester United and simply sit on the bench.
Ask your manager a straight question: ‘Am I going to play?’ If the answer is anything but yes, get yourself out on loan.
Return to Sheffield United or fight to join another Premier League side — we know Chelsea want a new goalkeeper!
Everton’s Jordan Pickford is now third in my England shot-stopper rankings, after Henderson and Burnley’s Nick Pope.
Henderson is my current choice from what we’ve seen of him at Sheffield United this season. Pope is a very good reflex goalkeeper — and he just missed out on the Golden Glove to Ederson — but his feet need work.
Pickford can make a comeback but he’s getting caught out by the basics. We saw him concede another weak goal on Sunday.