The curtains were brought down on an unprecedented Premier League season on Sunday. There was drama, thrill, nerves and the final whistle ended an eleven-month sojourn amidst a raging pandemic which has claimed more than half-a-million lives already across the world.
Football seemed trivial in these times but the financial implications of no football were likely to be catastrophic for an industry that is bloated from within.
The final day of the Premier League season had a lot riding on it and at the end, all the stories ended with a neatly tied bow. European spots were secured, mid-table nothingness was on display and teams were relegated to the Championship.
There was ecstasy at the London Stadium with the Aston Villa players celebrating survival, but on the other side of London, Watford players were in despair and there were tears for Bournemouth as well, despite them beating Everton at Goodison Park. It was too little too late for them.
That kind of sums up the Premier League season – in smiles and tears.
On a normal year, players would be looking forward to at least a month’s break before reporting for pre-season. But 2020 has been anything but normal and little over six weeks’ time the new Premier League season will kick-off and the football industry will be on full-flow.
However, the current campaign is not over for four of the Premier League teams in Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea and Wolves. Their European campaign could stretch until the final week of August.
The 2020-21 season is going to be no less unprecedented due to the short turnover.
Six weeks to prepare for another gruelling Premier League season
Pre-season, this summer, will be unprecedented for everyone involved. The strength and conditioning teams of each club will have their work cut out. If you thought the recently-concluded Premier League season was weird, wait for a campaign that starts in September and ends in May with a winter-break thrown in-between.
And we are not even discussing the European Championship next year.
Pre-season is considered as one of the most important periods for any player as they build their fitness to undergo the rigours of one-season of football and now that time has been eaten into.
A shortened training period is likely to lead to more injuries and there is now a rationale behind the IFAB allowing the five-substitute rule to stay for another season.
But as mentioned earlier, there are four Premier League teams who are likely to find it even trickier.
Let’s assume Chelsea won’t overturn Bayern Munich’s three-goal advantage from the first leg of their Champions League tie and their season will end next week.
But there are legitimate reasons to believe that Manchester City, Manchester United and Wolves could reach the final of the Champions League and the Europa League next month.
The Champions League final is scheduled for the 23rd August and the Europa League final will be held on 21st August. If any of the English team make it that far it would leave them with three weeks to prepare for the Premier League campaign.
While there is talk of giving them a week more to prepare, it would still mean less than a month before they are back in action in the Premier League.
The transfer window adds to the confusion
The summer transfer window in England is now open for business from today. The talk of millions getting wiped off from player values due to the economic ramifications of the pandemic will come under the scanner from now until the middle of October, when the window closes.
The transfer window is likely to add further confusion to the season. With the window staying open for a month beyond the start of the new Premier League campaign, most teams won’t have their squad finalised well into the season.
While the big clubs are expected to conduct their business swiftly, the unprecedented nature of the current football economy is likely to lead to protracted negotiations.
Does anyone expect Manchester United to wrap up a deal to sign Jadon Sancho by the reported deadline of 10th August set by Borussia Dortmund? Expect brinkmanship to be in play as clubs look to decide on the value of players in a truncated football economy.
And we often forget the players in the mix. If you are a top star, you are more likely to know where you are going to be playing by the season starts. But if you are not, there is much uncertainty.
Championship clubs are likely to sign players on loan from the Premier League but those decisions are likely to be taken late in the window and this situation gets worse as you go down the tiers where funds are even tighter this summer.
If you are on the chopping blocks or a young player seeking a loan, your future is likely to remain under the scanner until the middle of October.
Expect the unexpected next season as well
There is actually a lot to look forward to next season in the Premier League. Will Liverpool manage to maintain their supremacy without spending big, as indicted by Jurgen Klopp? Will Manchester City come roaring back in what is expected to be Pep Guardiola’s final year of the club?
Will Manchester United continue to be on an upward trajectory under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or will this turn out to be another false dawn? Will Frank Lampard finally feel the pressure of being in the Chelsea dugout, especially after spending big in the market?
Will Jose Mourinho rekindle his career at Tottenham or flame out in the all so Mourinho style? Can Mikel Arteta convince the Arsenal board to adequately strengthen the squad without potentially no European football?
And finally, how Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds United will fare in the Premier League? The Argentine won’t compromise on his ideals and it will be fascinating to see whether his Leeds side will be able to continue to play their on-the-front-foot style against better players in the top tier.
September 12 is the date. Mark your calendars.