The Premier League Returns!

IT’S BACK! 

They call it the best league in the world and, of course, it is hard to disagree. A plethora of talent is disbursed across the whole league, on any given day a team challenging for the title can be beaten by a side struggling in the bottom three and it all kicks off at 19:45 as Arsenal host Leicester City at the Emirates.

Of course, this season is not just another season, it marks 25 years since the very first Premier League season and Manchester United fans across the world will be hoping that the Red Devils can mark this season with the same title-winning performances as they did all those years ago.

It will be a tough ask for them now they are back in the Champions League but like the last few summer transfer windows, they’ve not been afraid to splash the cash. They currently stand at having spent an eye-watering £179.5m on three players.  It’s hard to see them finishing outside of the Top 4 this season, but you never know.

By far and away the biggest spenders of the window have been Manchester City and this will heap the pressure on Pep, as the board and fans alike will expect instant and long-lasting results. There can be no fade away, no bad patches, no dips in form. This will create a new pressure for the squad he is building and it will take the likes of Otamendi and Kompany in the dressing room to make sure this does not affect the team performances. It will be a tough ask but they have a very capable squad.

Turning to the reigning and defending champions, Chelsea. They have had a very mixed summer, losing Matic, trying to offload Costa and missing out on Lukaku before settling on Morata. The general thought of the football world is that they cannot defend their title and there are also reports that Antonio Conte is not a happy man and may even consider resigning. This would be a massive shock and not something I expect to happen. They should still finish Top 4, comfortably, but they cannot afford to rest on their laurels.

Of course, they aren’t the only teams involved in the Premier League and the standout transfer window so far has been for Everton. They have bought quickly and filled in key areas of the squad. Davy Klaassen is a fantastic addition and also bringing Wayne Rooney back is a real confidence booster for the club.  There have been no other real fantastic windows for clubs, although odd signings have peaked the football fans interest. Namely Lacazette coming over to England and joining Arsenal, it is worth noting he had a decent debut in the Community Shield and will hopefully settle well in England so we get to see the best of him.

This time of year always calls for predictions. Here at Taylor’s Football Talk, we have had a few discussions and the general consensus is that nobody can agree on a title winner. There have been tips for both Manchester clubs and having looked at the signings, I feel like Manchester City ought to win the league but I believe the red side of Manchester will be the ones celebrating, as Pep needs to tweak his tactical style, which I am unsure he will want to do.

At the other end of the table, it is generally agreed that Huddersfield will feature in the bottom three come May 2018 and both Brighton and Swansea have featured on more than one prediction. My own personal predictions are as follows:

  • Manchester United
  • Manchester City
  • Chelsea
  • Arsenal

There are now two notable absences from the Top 4; Liverpool and Spurs but this is not without justification. Tottenham are playing home games at Wembley and this will affect their phenomenal home form from the last couple of seasons and Liverpool could well lose Coutinho before the end of the transfer window.

My thoughts on the bottom three are:

  • Brighton
  • Swansea
  • Huddersfield

I am a Burnley fan, and I have some serious concerns about this season but I believe the Clarets will survive by the skin of their teeth. Also Newcastle will be in the mix, as will Watford. Ultimately, I believe that if Swansea lose Gylfi they will struggle to pick up the necessary points to stay in the league. Other than that, I feel a lack of Premier League experience will hurt Brighton and Huddersfield, which will undoubtedly impact their points tally come the end of the season.

As so many others will be, I am so happy the Premier League is back. Make sure you’ve got your fantasy football teams done, crack open a cold one and enjoy the season long rollercoaster!

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Speculation, it’s all just a Gray area.

Burnley Football Club have achieved so much more than we should have done at this stage of the season, we have 31 points and are only three points off surpassing our efforts from a couple of seasons ago. It truly has been a phenomenal season so far.

We have been amazing at home, having got 29 of our 31 points at Turf Moor with our away form being nothing short of awful. There have been signs of improvement recently but the most recent performance away at Swansea was poor and saw a dramatic late goal that ensured all points were thrown away.

Our fantastic season has had a few key players, and with Burnley being a club of a small stature in comparison to other Premier League teams, there will be increased speculation as to whether we can keep hold of the players we have.

The key players that are coming under transfer speculation are Tom Heaton, Michael Keane and Andre Gray. All three have either featured in, or been heavily linked to, the England squad and with this will come increased transfer speculation, as purists will argue that little old Burnley should not have three players in the England squad.

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It is clear to see why Everton would be interested in Tom Heaton as the ‘keeper position has been the weakest area for them since David Moyes left the club and Roberto Martinez attempted to replace the ageing Tim Howard with the unremarkable Joel Robles. Stekelenburg has been brought in by Ronald Koeman but again, he has not set the world alight and is easily replaceable.

Tom Heaton has been a phenomenal servant to Burnley since joining on a free transfer  from Bristol City, he has become club captain and a fan favourite. In addition to that, he has to have been our most consistent performer over the past three or four seasons and is a key component to our team.

You have to wonder, would it be possible to replace him? Ability wise, you could possibly look at Jordan Pickford from Sunderland but he looks destined for a bigger club than Burnley and also, he wouldn’t replace the influence that would be lost should Heaton leave. I don’t think we would get an offer with a fee great enough to tempt the Burnley board to sell.

Verdict – Irreplaceable and least likely to leave the club.

Andre_Gray_2016

Andre Gray, what a conundrum. Until the last couple of weeks I hadn’t seen his name linked to a move away from Turf Moor but now I barely see anything else. Tottenham Hotspur are considering a bid of around £30m to secure the signing of our key striker, which, if we’re honest, is an astronomical amount of money.

Andre has had a mixed season to say the least, his season has had fantastic highs and miserable lows. Old tweets came back to haunt him just hours after scoring his first Premier League goal against Liverpool in a 2-0 win earlier this season, so the ‘bad-boy done good‘ story was surpassed by the story of a Premier League striker being embroiled in homophobia.

Despite suffering a four-game ban for the abhorrent tweets, Gray has still managed 8 Premier League goals this season, which is a phenomenal return. A brace against Swansea, and a first ever Premier League hat trick for both Gray and Burnley against Sunderland have been the highlights.

There have been concerns about the striker’s consistency this season and his deal does run out in the summer of 2018. If we do receive an offer of around £30m for the striker, it would be very hard to turn down. He is our best striker and that is without question but I think Gray could be replaced, there are strikers out there that could come in and get goals with just as much frequency, so it is possible he could be sold.

Verdict – Replaceable (just about). As likely to leave as he is to stay, however if a new deal is not signed by the end of June, I’d expect to see Gray packing his things and moving on.

Michael Keane

As with Tom Heaton, Everton are the club that are most interested in signing Keane. Whilst there has been talk of him going back to Manchester United or even joining Manchester City, I think the Toffees would be a perfect fit for the centre half.

We have seen Michael Keane mature immensely whilst being at Burnley. He joined as a young centre half with all the potential of a top Premier League player, he had a fantastic pedigree and has gone from strength to strength whilst playing first team football.

He is a player that has outgrown Burnley with our current stature and therefore needs to move on. He has given his all during his time with the club, he has popped up with some vital goals (away at Hull being the most recent) and really should go on to be England’s best centre half. I don’t think any Clarets fan would begrudge him a move away but it is important any potential deal in the summer does not turn into a fiasco.

It is important to remember we signed James Tarkowski for a reason, to replace Michael Keane. Tarkowski is a tank; big, strong, powerful and almost as good on the ball as Michael Keane. He is a ready-made replacement for Keane and this should facilitate a faster sale.

Verdict – Nailed on to leave. Whilst he is our best defender, and with the exception of Steven Defour, probably our best player on the ball, he is not irreplaceable. We should cash in during the summer and focus on strengthening other areas of the pitch (midfield).

Will these players move come the summer transfer window, nobody really knows but with expiring contracts and as it’s now easier than ever for a player to manufacture a move away from a club anything can always happen. As Sean Dyche has said, other managers looking at our players and tempting them away with media releases is something we cannot control but I have faith in Dyche and the Burnley board to do the right thing for the club, as they have always done.

Personally, I believe that both Andre Gray and Michael Keane will leave the club in the summer but with reported sums of around £20m-£25m it might not be the worst thing in the world to have them leave. Arguably, neither are irreplaceable and we would effectively have £40m-£50m to spend on a striker, as we have a somebody ready to step up and take Keane’s place.

What do you think? Will we see any of the much touted trio leave Turf Moor this summer? I would really appreciate your thoughts on this, so get in touch!