The game is evolving. Gone are the days of defensive, negative, no-nonsense football (sorry Big Sam) but the premise of Premier League football, in a contemporary sense, is attacking, free-flowing football. Take champions Manchester City for example; their football since the arrival of Spanish serial winner Pep Guardiola has been breath-taking at times, moving the ball with precision and the perfect combination of short passes and maintaining possession. Likewise Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s Manchester United, who have individual stars all linked by Portuguese magnifico Bruno Fernandes. The focus of teams now is mainly going forward. Sir Alex Ferguson’s quote, “attacks win you games, but defence wins you titles” has never felt more outdated, well to me anyway.
With potential changes in attacking areas and a clear focus to evolve further from some of the division’s top sides, let’s take a look at how the Premier League’s top four could line-up next season. All of my predictions are based on their current squads and a selection of transfer news since the season ended.
Premier League champions Manchester City looked immense domestically and in Europe last season, reaching the final of the Champions League, with their only defeat in Europe coming in the final against Chelsea. It is common knowledge that City have all of the armoury they need to compete on all four fronts for years to come. Their star-studded attack does seem to be missing one key component though; a number 9.
Although Pep’s genius was shown with the adoption of a false nine for most of the season due to injuries to main man and club legend Sergio Aguero, there have been points this season where a natural finisher was needed and with Gabriel Jesus showing more potential in wide areas, City’s striker options seemed limited. Their top scorer this season was central midfielder-turned false nine Ilkay Gundogan.
With transfer rumours flying around at the Etihad and reported motions set in place for bids on the likes of Harry Kane and Erling Haaland, and also rumoured departures for players like Raheem Sterling – who has not been able to hit top form this season due to the quality of Young Player of the Year Phil Foden – this is how the Citizens could be looking next season. Scary.
The Red Devils have had a frustrating season, mainly because they finished second. This should not downplay their season, though. Manchester United have remained unbeaten away from home all campaign, with only two other clubs managing this in history, Preston North End in 1888/89 and Arsenal in 2001/02 and 2003/04. Both sides went on to win the Premier League (or National Football League at the time of Preston’s triumph) too. Still, it was a sour one for United to take, especially to their rivals City who they did not lose to last season in the Premier League.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side have seen plenty of goals this season with Uruguayan Edinson Cavani hitting form at the back end of the season after joining on an initial one-year contract which has been renewed following the remarkable form of “El Matador”.
The club is reportedly looking to the transfer market to add some more firepower to their attack and have shown keen interest in Borussia Dortmund starlet and winger Jadon Sancho. The English international has a good relationship with a few players in the United dressing room through international duty, most notably Marcus Rashford. This is how Manchester United’s attack could look next season:
The champions of Europe will be looking to retain their crown and also improve on their 3rd place finish in the Premier League last season. To do this, their main focus needs to be on a number 9, similar to Manchester City’s undoubted aims. Chelsea spent £200 million last summer bringing cavalry in mainly for their attack with a few cementing their places in the starting 11 for the Blues, including Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and their Champions League hero Kai Havertz.
To build on the club’s Champions League win and show further progress under Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea must bring in an esteemed finisher as Werner made the highlights reel for misses more than anything else last season. Chelsea were keen on Inter Milan’s goal machine Romelu Lukaku, however the Belgian is happy in Milan. Instead they are reportedly looking at young superstar Erling Haaland, with the Norwegian international being their primary focus this summer. Winning the Champions League will certainly help them in a bid to land one of Europe’s hottest prospects.
This is how the Blues could look in attack next season:
Liverpool have had a season to forget. With a whole plethora of injuries and the team seeing the medical room more than trophies last season, you can’t help but imagine how much more competitive the season would have been without the injuries, with the most notable injury coming to their star defender Virgil Van Dijk. Maybe Sir Alex was right and the defence does matter after all….
The Reds have just signed defender Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig after paying his £36 million release clause. Liverpool have a hefty attack full of firepower but are looking to add to this to strengthen squad depth and decrease the load on their key players in smaller games. Liverpool have reportedly eyed moves for young striker Patson Daka, Raphinha from Leeds United after a promising debut season, Youri Tielemans from Leicester City, and have even been offered former player Phillipe Coutinho from Barcelona, according to reports. Liverpool’s attack is already monstrous with all of these linked moves seemingly to be more for squad depth, although Tielemans potentially coming in would be a direct replacement for Wijnaldum, you’d think.
Liverpool’s potential attacking line-up next season:
Next season is looking tasty!