Ahead of every weekend this season, I will give you my three thoughts on what’s going on in the Premier League. These might not always be the biggest stories, but rather my personal observations.
This week, a special FA Cup final and World Cup three thoughts blog…
A heavyweight showdown
Saturday will feature a great heavyweight tilt (No, I’m not talking about the Queen and her new in-laws at the bar) between Manchester United and Chelsea. Both teams want to win this one bad.
For United, a second-place finish in the Premier League and an FA Cup would have to be considered a decent season, even if at the moment that might be tough to stomach in light of the sheer domination their crosstown rivals enjoyed in the league.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have won five FA Cups since 2000, and after a painful Premier League season, a bit of silverware would at least add to some optimism at Stamford Bridge through the summer.
In reality, of course, a win on Saturday would just paper over the cracks of two clubs entering crucial moments in their history.
Major changes coming?
By that I mean both teams could and should overhaul their squads.
United are a lot closer to the promised land than Chelsea, but Jose Mourinho’s comments over the past few of weeks are those of a manager who has lost patience and/or faith with a number of his players. Jose is going to wield the axe this summer, and throw some huge money at some of the finest transfer targets available.
The Portuguese manager knows that Manchester United has to make a giant step towards catching Manchester City next season, or he will jump ship, either voluntarily or involuntarily.
As for Chelsea, it’s quite obvious there is something rotten at the core of the club. How is it that on two occasions, a superb title winning campaign is followed by a complete capitulation that has resulted in two world-class managers (Carlo Ancelotti and now Antonio Conte) leaving the club?
Whether the stench comes from the ownership, or simply within the squad, something is wrong. Conte will leave Chelsea this summer, and will find great success elsewhere. Certainly, he is not faultless, as he appears to have quit on his players, just as they have quit on him. But more than likely he just lost all patience with whatever problems have emerged with those calling the shots at Stamford Bridge.
Too early for England
Whoever replaces Conte, let’s hope he brings back some of the club’s bright young talent on loan.
Top of the list should be Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Having starred for Crystal Palace in a campaign where injuries did curtail his development, he finished the season strongly, and earned a place in England’s World Cup squad.
Did you see the announcement video? It has been hammered in many quarters, but personally I don’t mind it at all. If only England’s squad had the same creativity on the field.
Not that I am complaining about Gareth Southgate’s selections; he didn’t have too much to choose from at this point. Russia is a little too soon for the vast majority of the U-20 and U-17 championship teams of last summer, but it is still a very young World Cup squad, with some real promise. Promise for Euro 2020 that is, not for Russia 2018.
Sure, England should be favoured to advance from its group with Belgium, but really the expectations are so low, nothing can really be deemed a disaster.
Just before you begin to kid yourself before the tournament (and we all will, you know that, right?) just look at the other squads. France’s roster was announced on Thursday, 24 hours after England, and their forwards are named Griezmann, Mbappe, Dembele, Fekir and Giroud. You get my point. Still, without expectation, I am looking forward to see what Southgate and his 3-4-3 formation will provide in the way of thrills and spills this summer.