“We’ll do well to finish in the top six this season.”
Has a season gone by in living memory when this hoary old chestnut hasn’t been tripped out at some stage before a ball is kicked in anger? Yet time and time again we confound those prophesies of doom. This year will be no different.
“But everybody else has strengthened.”
Have they? Have Man Utd? In Carrick they’ve lost one of their most influential players of the last decade and it remains to be seen if Fred has what it takes to replace him. Their manager (and also their highest-paid player) has been openly critical of this window and it must be only a matter of time now before they part company. I’d certainly much rather be in our shoes than theirs right now.
Arsenal have lost Cazorla, Wilshere and Mertesacker and replaced them with … what, exactly? They’ve also lost one of the finest managers this country has ever seen. Okay, so he may have been in the twilight of his career but it remains to be seen how well his successor fares in his wake. Like Ferguson, he might just prove to be a very hard act to follow.
Chelsea have recruited Jorginho and Kovacic, but possibly sidelined the likes of Barklay, Drinkwater and Loftus-Cheek in the process. Whether that’s a good thing or not, time will tell. They’ve lost Courtois and now have an anxious three-week wait to see if any of their other stars will jump ship. It’ll be interesting (to say the least) to see what happens if they get off to a slow start to the season.
City? Well, they’re clearly the best in the land, have added Mahrez to their ranks (to say nothing of the emerging talent that is Phil Foden) and I suspect no amount of business would have been sufficient to catch them this year.
On the face of it Liverpool appear to have done good business but they paid well over the odds to get their business done early. The pressure is now on them to win something. And with City being as powerful as they are that won’t be easy.
As for the others? Well a few years ago it was Stoke who had bought well and were primed to mount a challenge. Where are they now? Then it was West Ham. Ditto. Last year it was Everton who were going to gatecrash the party. That went well, didn’t it?
Bottom line: we still have the same squad that performed so well last season. We’ve not lost anyone and there’s a few really exciting prospects coming through the system now. With another year of collective experience under our belts I feel we’re in a much stronger position that many are giving us credit for.
We’ll finish top four this season.
But then, I’ve been saying that every year for the past three years now…