What next for the Premier League's 'Big 7' clubs?
THE SIGHT of Leicester City captain Wes Morgan lifting the Premier League trophy last weekend completed the most remarkable season in English football history and now we ask: What happens next?
Here is our guide to what should, could and (if recent unpredictable evidence is anything to go by) may not happen to England’s top seven clubs in the coming months.
PRIORITIES: Keeping hold of Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and manager Claudio Ranieri.
The euphoria over Leicester’s title triumph will take some time to die down, yet the newly crowned Premier League champions may be in for a rude awakening in the coming weeks.
With advisers for the midfield general N’Golo Kante (below) already in talks with rival clubs over his summer transfer, it’s safe to assume that the agent of their PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez will also be looking to cash their chips in this summer. The wages being paid to Mahrez and his strike partner Vardy could be trebled by their Premier League rivals and therein lies their problem. Leicester’s fairy tale may turn into a nightmare if the vultures swoop for their title-winning heroes in the coming weeks.
VERDICT: Kante will leave and Mahrez could be whisked away if a £50m offer is put on the table. Leicester will be awash with cash this summer, but history suggests surprise success stories tend to be short-lived fantasies. This club is not ready for what is about to hit them.
PRIORITIES: Getting boss Mauricio Pochettino to sign his new contract; hanging on to their best players.
Pochettino must have received assurances that Tottenham will not sell keeper Hugo Lloris, midfielders Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli and star striker Harry Kane (above) before he signed his new contract this week, with all four liable to have their heads turned if an offer to triple their wages is put forward by a rival club.
Spurs need to hand their star men big contracts to fend off admiring glances from Premier League rivals who will pay out the big money to sign players. History suggests Levy will not follow that path.
VERDICT: It would be a tragedy if the best Tottenham team in a couple of generations fails to realise its potential due to financial restrictions imposed by the club’s owners. Spurs should roll the dice as they are champions in the making next season.
PRIORITY: Work out what to do with manager Arsene Wenger (above).
Groundhog Day has been experienced among Arsenal fans too often over the last decade, with the promise offered up by Wenger’s teams always ending with disappointment in the Premier League title race.
Protests against the Arsenal boss may have fallen horribly flat in recent weeks, but that does not banish the notion that a majority of the club’s supporters now believe the time has come for Wenger to make a gracious exit as manager. Wenger’s loyalty to his failing old guard of Olivier Giroud, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott has backfired once again this season and new faces are now needed to drag Arsenal to the next level.
VERDICT: Wenger needs to accept the club has gone stale under his watch and change is needed. Yet he is unlikely to take that view and will stay in charge until the end of his contract in 2017.
PRIORITY: Giving new boss Antonio Conte the tools he needs to rebuild Chelsea.
Chelsea’s demise this season has arguably been more remarkable than Leicester’s rise, with so many of the star names that led them to a comfortable Premier League title win a year ago losing their way in pathetic fashion.
Diego Costa, Nemanja Matic and Eden Hazard (above) are among those who appeared to confirm that their loyalty to the Chelsea cause was fragile, with their lack of desire to shine when the going got tough an alarming indictment on their professionalism. Rebuilding Chelsea is a huge task and Conte cannot be expected to get them back in contention to challenge for the Premier League title right away.
VERDICT: With their new manager needing time to find his feet in English football, don’t expect Chelsea to turn into a winning machine again next season.
PRIORITY: Change of manager to end the misery under Louis van Gaal.
After months of speculation suggesting beleaguered United boss Van Gaal was on his way out of Old Trafford, he is closing in on a finale to the campaign that could, remarkably, see him remain in place for a third and final year.
FA Cup final success against Crystal Palace and a fourth-place finish in the Premier League may well be enough to ensure Jose Mourinho (above) will not take his place at Old Trafford, but that would be a disaster for United. Glory at the end of this season should not paper over the cracks of what has been a disastrous campaign for Van Gaal and his team, with an early Champions League exit compounded by their stumbling attempts to secure a return to the competition once again.
VERDICT: United should be bold and replace Van Gaal with Mourinho. This giant of a club should not settle for the dross their team has served up this season.
PRIORITY: Rebuilding their squad under new boss Pep Guardiola.
We are about to find out whether Pep Guardiola is the super-coach he has been hailed to be over the last decade. The job he has taken on at City is bigger than any other in his career and while he will be given the finances to execute a huge summer of spending, getting rid of some of the star names who have underperformed this season is just as big a priority. Yaya Toure, Wilfried Bony and several more big earners will be heading for the City exit door and they will make a couple of statement signings to herald the start of the Guardiola era.
This is a club still trying to find its identity and the messiah they have been waiting to appoint for many years is expected to find it for them.
VERDICT: Guardiola may need a year to rebuild City and turn them into title contenders once again. Alternatively, he could sign Lionel Messi this summer and change the script in an instant.
PRIORITY: Giving boss Jurgen Klopp the world class talent needed to turn their promise into tangible success.
Liverpool have a head start on their rivals as their new manager has been in place since last October and Klopp is now fully aware that he needs to make big changes to his line-up.
Their inconsistencies in the Premier League have highlighted a flaw in their make-up, with Klopp yet to get a chance to put his stamp on a squad that lacks A-list talent. Expect four or five marquee signings to change Liverpool’s image for the start of next season and if Klopp gets his rebuild right, he could have a chance to jump ahead of rival managers who will only be starting their Premier League adventures.
VERDICT: Opportunity knocks for Liverpool if they make the right signings this summer. With their rivals unlikely to hit the ground running in the Premier League next August, they should be aiming to challenge for the title