John Aldridge runs the rule over the Premier League's top six
THE new Premier League season kicks-off in less than a month - and I defy anyone to make a confident prediction over who will end up as champions.
With all the top clubs struggling to make signing that would send a shiver of fear down the spines of their rivals, we are still waiting for the big deals that could be so significant in what looks set to be the most open title race in years.
If the season started today, my money would have to be on Chelsea to regain their title, but that is only because they were champions with something to spare last May.
Yet last season already feels like a long time ago, with the story of what is set to be the most crazy transfer window of all-time yet to be told.
With Chelsea yet to make any big signings and appearing to have a problem resolving Diego Costa’s future at the club, the door is ajar for the chasing pack to close the gap that appeared between the Blues and the rest last season.
So here is my guide to what I believe could and should happen at each of the top six clubs this summer.
Status: Champions in need of a revamp
Transfer business: Signed Tiemoue Bakayoko (Moanco), Antonio Rudiger (Roma)
On the way out: John Terry, Diego Costa.
Aldo says: Chelsea were brilliantly consistent last season and won games when they were not at their best, but not having any European football was the main reason why they managed to glide through the season without any major injuries.
All that will change this year and they need to get some key positions strengthened if they are to have any chance of defending their title or taking on the best in Europe.
Diego Costa looks to be on the way out, so a top striker needs to be signed to replace him and when you consider they only used around 13 or 14 players for most of last season, they may need five or six signings this summer.
Verdict: There are still some rumours that manager Antonio Conte is not happy awith the club’s transfer trading and I’m not convinced their current squad would win trophies amid a more hectic fixture schedule.
Status: Always the ushers, never the groom.
Transfer business: Linked with Ross Barkley (Everton), Luke Shaw (Man United).
On the way out: Kyle Walker, Moussa Sissoko, Vincent Janssen.
Aldo says: Okay, here is my first big prediction for the new Premier League season; Tottenham will fail to finish in the top four.
That might sound like a bold statement for a well balance team loaded with talent and led by a superb manager in Mauricio Pochettino, but I think the fact that they are playing their homes games at Wembley will be a killer for them.
They struggled to win their European games at Wembley last season and the reality will be that every club playing an away game against Tottenham will look forward to the big day out at the national stadium.
They have effectively given up home advantage for the year and when you consider they didn’t lose a single game at home last season as they finished second, that’s a major problem for them to overcome.
Verdict: Spurs may be forced to focus on one of the cup competitions next season, but there is a problem in the plan. The finals tend to be played at Wembley and they just can’t win there!
Status: Wondering when the real Pep Guardiola will stand up.
Transfer business: Signed Ederson Moraes (Benfica), Bernardo Silva (Monaco), Kyle Walker (Tottenham), Douglas Luiz (Vasco da Gama), linked with Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal).
On the way out: Joe Hart, Willy Caballero, Jesus Navas, Bacary Sagna, Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy.
City have made a couple of big signings already this summer, but one of them was trying to replace the bloody awful Claudio Bravo, who manager Pep Guardiola insisted on buying last summer.
We all know that City will spend big by the time this transfer window closes, but what we saw from them last season suggests there is no guarantee the Guardiola methods will work on the Premier League.
When they were at their best, City were fantastic last season, but they were a long way short of top form far too often and they did well to finish third in the end considering how difficult Guardiola seemed to find the competitive English league.
Pep is under massive pressure to confirm that the hype around him is justified and as several teams have proved in recent years, spending massive money is not a guaranteed route to success.
Verdict: City need to mount a sustained Premier League and Champions League challenge this season, but they need to make some big signings if they are to make that happen.
Status: Needing several key signings
Transfer business: Mohamed Salah signed from Roma, linked with Naby Keita (Leipzig), Virgil van Dijk (Southampton).
On the way out: Divock Origi, Mamadou Sakho.
Liverpool’s summer transfer market has not started well, with the aborted bid for Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk and unrealistic links with Kylian Mbappe causes for concern for the club’s fans.
Mohamed Salah could be a decent signing, but he needs to be just one piece of a bigger jigsaw and after breaking even on transfer trading last summer, the club need to show some real ambition now.
I’m still hoping there is some way of reviving the Van Dijk deal and Leipzig’s Naby Keita is clearly a player manager Jurgen Klopp would like to bring to the club.
The trouble is, most clubs have plenty of money in the bank now and don’t need to sell their best players, which leaves me to wonder whether Klopp may be forced to start the season with Daniel Sturridge as his first choice striker.
As we all know, that is a risky plan given his woeful injury record.
Verdict: Liverpool have more need than most to get their new players into the club as the Champions League qualifier is on the horizon now. Hopefully we see some big movement at Everton now that the manager and players are returning to training.
Status: Wondering how to flog tickets for Europa League games
Transfer business: Signed Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon), Sead Kolasinac (Shalke), linked with Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez.
On the way out: Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud, Francis Coquelin.
The arrival of Lacazette is likely to be the tonic Arsenal fans will need when the inevitable departure of star man Alexis Sanchez is confirmed.
Arsenal are making all the right noises in the transfer market and seem to be prepared to pay big money to sign players and big wages to keep a big name like Mesut Ozil. Not that I’m convinced the German is worth a pay rise, by the way.
The fact that manager Arsene Wenger has decided to stay at Arsenal after so much speculation in the first half of 2017 means that he needs a fast start to this season or all the pressure will be on him very quickly.
Verdict: If I’m right and Spurs struggle at Wembley, Arsenal may have a route back into the Premier League’s top four, but the problems they have had for a few years will not disappear. They are still a soft touch at times.
Status: Trying to spend lots of money
Transfer business: Signed Victor Lindelof from Benfica, Romelu Lukaku from Everton.
On the way out: Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw, Wayne Rooney.
My theory that it is harder than ever for clubs to sign the players they want is highlighted by United’s transfer efforts so far this summer.
Antoine Griezmann turned them down, they struggled to sign Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid and Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic and they had to pay a huge sum to get Lukaku out of Everton.
United manager Jose Mourinho knows his team were miles away from being competitive at the top of the Premier League last season, but the signings he is crying out for are not arriving.
The only player they have signed so far is defender Victor Lindelof from Benfica and that is in a position that was not their main problem last season.
Verdict: United need goals to add to their solidity under Mourinho and even though they have the money to buy those players, they are not kicking the door down to get into Old Trafford. Hopefully that problem continues for them because I’d love to see them finish sixth again next season!