1. Louis van Gaal
Not just how he will get on with the British press, but how he manages to do with Manchester United. It’s fair to say that United’s fall from 1st to 7th was one of, if not the, story of the season and they’ll probably be even more of an uncertainty at the start of this season than they were at the start of the last. Last year, David Moyes was seen largely as a copy of Ferguson, a man in his mould, and so the team would be mainly similar. This year, United have new players, a new manager, new backroom staff, probably new tactics, and a drive in them to avoid being laughing stocks for the second year in a row.
2. The top 6 (or 7 or 8)
Can Liverpool repeat their brilliant season of last year? Can Arsenal finally improve on being perennial fourth-placers? Can Chelsea for the title this year? Can City hold on? Will United be anywhere near? Can Spurs finally get their squad of talent together to play as a team? What will Southampton be like without Pochettino and half of their first XI? Will Everton be able to hold their own with the top 5? Will Swansea be able to push on after a disappointing season last term? Who will be the big hitters who miss out on a Champions League spot? Will United’s absence from Europe put them at a significant advantage? All these questions, and more, and this is just about the top few teams.
3. New signings
The big, obvious, broad question is how will all the new signings fit in, but this year it’s a little more interesting than that. Arsenal have finally bought big and splashed out on a forward in Alexis Sanchez, will that be enough to push them up to be title challengers? How will signings further down the league affect their seasons, surprise packages, and the relegation battle? The most interesting thing, though, will be at Liverpool. Will they be able to manage without Suarez, and how will their, let’s be honest, bizarre collection of signings, fare at one of the top clubs in the country? That’s the story I’ll be most interested in, despite being a United fan (or maybe partly because of it).
4. Will Sunderland FINALLY get relegated?
Sunderland have looked like they should get relegated for the past few years. And they haven’t. Every single time they manage to scrape their way away from trouble, despite looking pretty poor. The same question could be asked of Aston Villa who have looked less than convincing recently too, and are buying in players like Philippe Senderos and Joe Cole on free transfers, as well as bringing in Roy Keane to their backroom staff. Will it work (for either club), or will they combust in flames of underwhelmsion and mediocre heat.
5. The relegation battle
It’s an obvious thing to mention that it will be interesting to know how the newly promoted clubs will fare in the new season, but this point isn’t just about them. Over the past few years, the relegation battle in the Premier League has been tighter and tighter, with teams as high up as 14th not being safe until surprisingly late in the season. Will the drop zone drag in as many teams as it has in the past, or will it be a straightforward affair this season?
6. What will Match of the Day be like without Alan Hansen?
Big Al is leaving after 22 years on the Beeb’s flagship football show leaving a bit of a hole in the Saturday night line-up. Will we be subjected to more Robbie Savage and Danny Mills (a 5Live stalwart who prefaces every opinion with a tut and a sigh) or will we see more of the levels of insight that the World Cup coverage has brought? Will Seedorf and Henry return or will they have fled to the Alps to kindle obvious their bromance?
Whatever happens over the coming season, it’s sure to bring as many surprises, highs, and lows as the last one, although hopefully (for me) Manchester United will finish higher than 7th. But hey, we can’t do much worse, can we?*
*I’m sorry, I’ll have jinxed it now.
What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Comment below or get me on Twitter @ETNAR_uk