May 30, 2017

FREE KICKS: This summer’s big questions

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

Now that the table has been set for next season’s Premier League, we can ask some questions about the off-season that produces as many headlines as the actual season does. And we can start with the newest member of England’s elite: Huddersfield Town.

So, what do we know about the Terriers? Well, we might not need to know them for long.

Huddersfield was just fifth in the Championship and needed two penalty shootouts in the playoffs to achieve promotion. During the season, it was just 14th in goals scored and had a minus-2 goal differential. If this side can’t dominate the second tier, how can it hope to compete with the big sides of the Premier League?

-Will Jose Mourinho be able to win it all in his second season at Manchester United?

Mourinho’s recent MO has been to slowly build in his first season at a new club and then win it all in his second. He has his work cut out for him, but he did manage it with Chelsea in his most recent EPL stop.

If he can bring in some more top-flight talent this summer, it’s not out of the question that the Red Devils will return to glory. Which leads us to our next question.

-Who will be the biggest summer signing?

Man City has already singed Bernardo Silva from Monaco, but it’s a safe bet that it won’t be the last big splash in the transfer market. City is also linked with Spurs right back Kyle Walker to the tune of 40-million pounds.

United is linked with Antoine Griezmann, which would likely win this battle, but anything can happen. Goalkeeping in Manchester is also a hot topic, especially whether or not David De Gea will get his supposed dream move to Real Madrid.

Arsenal obviously needs reinforcements given its poor finish while rival Spurs need that something extra to push them to the top of the table.

And don’t forget about Chelsea and the deep pockets of owner Roman Abramovich, who needs to add -to the squad in order to compete in Champions League while defending its Premier League title.

-Who will play in net for City?

Wily Caballero ended the season in net for the Sky Blues, but he has already been shown the door. Joe Hart is returning from his loan in Italy, but who knows where he stands with Pep Guardiola and is more likely to be sold. Finally, Claudio Bravo didn’t just fail to live up to expectations, he basically cratered in his first season in England.

Ederson is looking inbound, but will he be the answer to one of City’s biggest pressing questions?

-Will Liverpool sell Philippe Coutinho?

The Reds got out of the habit of selling their best player ever summer last year, but now the question surrounds Coutinho with Real Madrid reportedly coming calling.

The Brazilian signed a big extension in the winter and has pledged allegiance, but you can’t overlook the fact that Real is a big step up from the Merseyside squad.

-Liverpool’s other team, Everton, has a massive question of its own: Will Romelu Lukaku stay?

The 24-year-old Belgian is already the Toffees’ top scorer ever, but he isn’t satisfied missing out on Champions League year after year. He would certainly garner a big transfer fee, but his departure could cripple Everton’s attack.

-Lukaku could actually be the answer to our next question: Who will Chelsea bring in to help defend its title?

With Diego Costa forever on the verge of a massive move to China, the Blues could be lacking up front. Lukaku, a former Chelsea man, would fit in excellently.

Depth is also needed with extra European fixtures this season and a replacement for Victor Moses should be in the cards, too. Pedro and Cesc Fabregas are also getting older and could see their time cut down if replacements are found.

-What is Arsenal doing with Arsene Wenger?

The unpopular Arsenal manager received a new two-year deal this week, but will he see the whole thing out? His FA Cup win clinched a new deal, but it’s entirely possible that he’ll be moved upstairs if things turn sour for the Gunners.

Finishing out of the top four for the first time in what feels like forever and the prominence of “Wenger out” signs should be telling that his days are numbered at the North London club.

We wonder if a technical director title would be more his speed at this point of his illustrious career.

-Where will English legends Wayne Rooney and John Terry end up?

Terry we know is out at Chelsea after barely playing this season. The Blues’ “Captain, leader, legend” may not be done playing yet. Would a move to MLS or China suit the defender, or perhaps sticking around the Premier League with, perhaps, Crystal Palace or another midtable club? If he does retire, I’m sure Chelsea will find a spot on its coaching staff for him, even if it’s symbolic.

As for Rooney, the rumours of a move to China have not disappeared since the winter window closed. It would be a huge-money move for the aging veteran that has literally done everything for United.

While we’d usually bandy about a move to MLS, the money that China is offering may just be too much to pass up. Or will he sit another season on United’s bench?

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Congratulations to Manchester United for making it into Champions League through the back door, winning Europa League. Whether you want to say Jose Mourinho is smart for dedicating his team to the second-tier European competition over domestic play remains to be seen, but at least he can say he won the final piece of silverware that United was missing … City has already shown Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy, Jesus Navas, Caballero and West Ham-bound Pablo Zabaleta the door and will reportedly have 300-million Euros to spend this summer. We think buying some wing backs will be in order … Marco Silva couldn’t save Hull City from relegation, but he impressed enough to stay in the Premier League, taking over at Watford. I guess he likes his teams wearing orange and black … It’s pretty easy to find a scapegoat for Chelsea’s FA Cup loss: Victor Moses. How do you dive when you’re already on a yellow? His red card was completely avoidable and sank the Blues – even if they did equalize shortly after.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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