Rolling Stone India Pitch: What to Expect From the Upcoming Premier League Season
Kicking off next month look ahead to new kits, players, rules and more
Last season saw a nail-biting title race in the English Premier League between Manchester City and Liverpool, with both teams going right down to the wire on the final day. Although City pipped the championship by a single point, Liverpool did go on to win the UEFA Champions League for the sixth time, beating fellow English team Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in the final at Madrid.
If the forthcoming 2019/20 Premier League season is half as exciting as the last one, we won’t have any complaints. Here’s what can possibly go down.
Who will challenge Manchester City and Liverpool for the title?
Although Manchester City’s longtime leader Vincent Kompany parted ways with the club at the end of last season, the champions are still worthy title contenders and Pep Guardiola will look to win the title for a third season in a row. 2018/19 runners-up Liverpool are not too far off from City and Jurgen Klopp’s men will look to end their drought of not having won a league title since the 1989/90 season after successfully claiming the Champions League. Apart from the top two, the likes of London clubs Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur as well as City’s fierce rivals Manchester United will look to mount their own title challenges.
Arsenal lost midfielder Aaron Ramsey to Italian club Juventus after the Welshman’s contract ran down. The Gunners haven’t brought in a notable replacement yet, looking out of sorts in the transfer market with a reported sum of only £45 million to spend. While Arsenal are pursuing Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, it is their defence that needs bolstering. Until they fix that problem, it looks like the best that manager Unai Emery can hope for is a top four finish.
The Gunners’ North-London rivals Tottenham Hotspur are on the rise with their brand new 62,000 capacity stadium and the signing of French midfielder Tanguy Ndombele for a reported £55.45 million. With star striker Harry Kane looking sharp in pre-season – scoring a wonder strike from the halfway line against Juventus, Spurs look the part with a strong backline including goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Danish midfield playmaker Christian Eriksen.
As for Manchester United, they’ve brought in full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace for £45 million, with another £5 million due in potential bonuses. Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has suggested recently that United’s Paul Pogba could have a change in role at the club and move to a playing style in a two-man midfield. Solskjaer’s inexperience of managing a top club and knowing which players fit in his best 11 suggests that United might fall short of reaching glory this season.
Lampard’s return to the bridge
After nearly guiding Derby County promotion to the Premier League in his first stint as a manager in 2018/19, Frank Lampard is now at the helm at Chelsea where he spent 13 seasons at Stamford Bridge as a player, winning the title on three occasions.
The club waved goodbye to their talisman Eden Hazard, who moved to Real Madrid for €100 million and with an ongoing transfer ban, are unable to bring in replacements. They have however called back players from loan to beef up the squad, including American attacking midfielder Christian Pulisic. It’s a wait and watch game to see how Lampard will fare this season and if he can handle the pressure as a Premier League manager.
New rules, count them
Goalkeepers have been ordered to keep at least part of one foot on or in line with the goal-line when a penalty is taken.
Players will have to leave the pitch at the nearest point of exit when a substitution is announced. No more long, deliberately labored walks to waste time!
On yellow and red cards for managers:
Managers (and their staff) will need to control their temper to avoid being brandished a card for disorderly conduct.
On drop balls:
The ball will now be returned to the team who last touched the ball before play stopped, with keepers receiving possession if play ended inside the penalty area.
On attacking players in a wall:
While defending a free-kick, attacking players will not be allowed to be close to or sandwiched in a defensive wall blocking the free-kick.
Introduction of VAR
The use of video assistant referee or VAR will be implemented in the Premier League for the first time. While it may solve a few shoddy decisions we’re sure it will also add to the controversy.
An added season break
Another inclusion for the first time in the Premier League is a winter break. Leagues around Europe have been giving their players a rest mid-season for years, the way the Premier League’s break will work is that the two-week break will take place in February, but fans will still be able to watch football across both weekends during the period, even if their team is skipping a week. That’s because five Premier League matches will take place on the first weekend and five on the second, ensuring that each team gets one week off.
Who’s staying and who’s going?
Newly promoted Norwich City, Sheffield United and Aston Villa will hope to make a mark this season on their return to the top flight from the Championship and battle it out with the likes of Brighton, Burnley and Newcastle United who will look to avoid relegation this season.
With Newcastle United’s owner Mike Ashley rumored to sell the club to a billionaire Abu Dhabi royal, things might change for the team on Tyneside, who recently parted ways with manager Rafael Benítez and have appointed Steve Bruce as head coach.