The Premier League season – that reliable old pal – has rolled around yet again.
And while the break never seems quite as long in a World Cup year, we’re excited as ever to see the best league in the world back on our screens. We’re also excited that England’s chummy love-in over in Russia is over, and they can go back to hating each other and abusing Raheem Sterling for no real reason.
In what’s set to be a massive season ahead, we’ve decided to shelve run-of-the-mill performance predictions for 2018/19, and look slightly leftfield. Here’s five predictions for the upcoming EPL campaign.
1. Mascot wars heat up
If you missed West Bromich Albion’s first game of the Championship season on the weekend, you’ve already missed the football story of the year. As Baggies fans arrived at the Hawthorns on Sunday, they could be forgiven for possessing a tinge of sadness given this is the club’s first season out of the EPL in nine years. Any hint of sorrow vanished, however, when – prior to kickoff – they unveiled their new mascot for the 2018/19 season:
West Brom having a Boiler as a mascot is the highlight of the year. Might as well jib the entire season off, nothing is going to top that. pic.twitter.com/VLupet2Oic
— Ste Hoare (@stehoare) August 4, 2018
Yes, their new mascot is a high-efficiency water heating unit.
That’ll inspire the kids.
"What are your mascots then?"
"Ours is a fox"
"We have a tiger"
"Oh… ours is just a combi boiler with legs" pic.twitter.com/HpRFmgP2ye
— Sean (@wolves_1990) August 4, 2018
Arsenal’s Gunnersaurus has new competition for England’s most notorious mascot, and the stakes are sure to rise on the back of Boiler Man’s unveiling.
2. Comfort over fashion
After a World Cup where England manager Gareth Southgate brought a certain sartorial elegance to proceedings with his now trademark waistcoat, the bar had seemingly risen for manager outfits. Gone are the days of trackies and boots; the glitz and glamour of world football demands that managers bring some sophistication along with their tactical nous. Think Carlo Ancelotti, Antonio Conte, Arsene Wenger – men that not only know their football, but are dedicated subscribers to the ‘look good play good’ mantra.
But it seems Man City coach Pep Guardiola and new Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri have put a stop to that. Last Sunday’s Community Shield – the unofficial ‘opening day’ of the season – is often the time when early-season trends are set. And the pair have decided that being comfortable is far more important than being presentable.
Two of the highest paid managers in football, opening game of the season, in Wembley, and they look like they woke up in bins. pic.twitter.com/kgZJauoLvr
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) August 5, 2018
3. Jose Mourinho turns into Walter White
Mourinho is threatening to unravel before the season even begins. On a one-man mission to undermine everything at Old Trafford, his summer meltdown has included broadsides at Man United hierarchy, criticism of the lack of commitment from senior players, and a pot-shot at how rubbish his young players are. He’s even said: “I wouldn’t pay to watch us”.
The similarities are stark with everyone’s favourite chef, Walter White. Both started off as underdogs and turned into cult heroes. Their against-the-odds narrative stuck with fans who became enamoured with their wily ways. Always one step ahead of authority, they pushed their genius to become the best in their craft. But the deeper they went, the worse their behaviour turned. Relationships began to suffer, and they begun hurting those close to them. Notoriety got to their head, and the wheels began to fall off.
It seems Jose’s one meltdown away from chucking a pizza on a roof.
4. Burnley to sign David Seaman
After completing the signing of Joe Hart from Manchester City, rumours abound that Burnley manager Sean ‘Brexit’ Dyche is looking for even more England keepers to stockpile. Not satisfied with already having England-capped Nick Pope and Tom Heaton in his ranks, Dyche brought in Hart because he simply loves those who bleed #threelions.
Many consider Hart past his best, and some have jokingly asked what old England keeper will be picked up next after Lee Grant (35 years old) and Rob Green (38) earned contracts with Man United and Chelsea respectively. Dyche has said he’s got one more England keeper signing left in him, and rumours have surfaced that the pony-tailed legend himself could be coaxed out of retirement.
Even Burnley’s third choice keepers have to be English. Granite Brexit Dyche cannot be stopped https://t.co/JWvJyJT2Ff
— Sunday League Hipster (@HipsterManager) August 7, 2018
5. Life expectancy to rise in Liverpool
After dealing with years of sub-standard goalkeepers, Liverpool fans have welcomed the arrival of Brazilian Alisson Becker. While he sounds like a 90s pop star, Alisson is actually fairly handy between the sticks.
After the heartbreak of Loris Karius’s performance in the Champions League final and years of Simon Mignolet’s on-again-off-again form, the arrival of a keeper with hand-eye coordination is a welcome relief for Reds fans. Reports that Mignolet’s catching lottery shaved several years off the lifespan of the Anfield faithful were worrying, and we’re glad they can now watch the game without heart palpitations.
What a time to be a Liverpool fan. We have a top keeper who can catch, a future legend in Trent, an elite CB, a left back that doesn't play like he's on day release, a functioning midfield, wingers that actually produce, a beautiful crazy Brazilian bastard up front and Klopp.
— Dan McLaughlin (@Dan23_92) August 5, 2018