We all love surprises and we all love telling our friends I told you so after our favourite wonderkid breaks through or we get a surprise team right, so here are my picks for the teams that will surprise us all next season.
If you watched the back end of last season it should come as no surprise that Aston Villa is included. If the league table had only started when Unai Emery joined the Villans would have finished third, only Arsenal and Manchester City having gathered more points than them in this time period. Apart from reinvigorating the squad and breathing new life into players struggling with form, Emery also managed to pull off three very important signings.
Moussa Diaby is the headline act, signed for 55 million Euros from Bayer Leverkusen, but for me, the capture of Pau Torres for a very low 33 million Euros and Youri Tielemans on a free have to take the crown of business of the summer. The low fee of Torres, who had been touted for a move to the likes of Manchester United during their search for a left-footed center back and the free signing of Tielemans mean that the club signed 130 million worth of players for 88 million.
Over the past few seasons, Rennes have been quietly assembling one of the best squads in France, featuring young players with a high ceiling like Arthur Theate, Benjamin Bourigeaud, Jeremy Doku and Amine Gouiri. With the signings of Enzo Le Fee and Ludovic Blas from Lorient and Nantes for a combined 35 million Euros, Rennes have added two more future stars to their team, and under Bruno Genesio’s steady hand, they look set to improve on their fourth-place finish last season.
With PSG undergoing yet another rebuild, Lens losing key players in Seko Fofana and Lois Openda, the only other contender for the surprise of the season is Marseille who have had an equally impressive transfer season. A three-horse race for the title between Rennes, Marseille and PSG seems very likely.
Similarly to Aston Villa, Die Werkself also had a mid-season manager change that reversed their fortunes. Looking at the table since Xabi Alonso took over, Bayer would have finished fourth and there is no indication that this upward trajectory will end any time soon.
The loss of Mitchell Bakker to Atalanta and especially Moussa Diaby to Villa will surely sting, but the club has reinvested the money smartly, bringing in promising youngsters Victor Boniface from Union Saint-Gilloise and Arthur from America and three more experienced heads in Granit Xhaka, Jonas Hofmann and Alejandro Grimaldo, with all three of them far from being over the hill. With BVB and Leipzig losing key figures like Jude Bellingham and Christopher Nkunku, don’t be surprised to see Leverkusen make a serious push and improve on last season’s sixth-place finish.
After taking a step back last season and missing out on top four, Jurgen Klopp’s side have seemingly learned their lesson for ignoring their midfield in the transfer market, bringing in Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, but it seems that more bodies are needed in the center of the pitch following the exits of Naby Keita, Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia have been linked as potential reinforcements, whilst a left-sided center back also looks to be a priority, but with a strong attacking core and the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ibrahima Konaté at the back, Liverpool have the tools to return to the Champions League spots and prove that 2022/23 was nothing more than a blip in what has been a glorious spell for the German manager at Anfield.
The loss of Sandro Tonali will surely sadden the Milan faithful for years to come, but the immense fee they received meant that reinvestment was done quickly and efficiently. Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus Cheek have a point to prove after falling out of favour at Chelsea, whilst a raft of young talent will accompany them to the San Siro.
Samuel Chukwueze from Villareal, Yunus Musah from Valencia, Tijjani Reijners from AZ Alkmaar and Noah Okafor from Red Bull Salzburg might have been unready for a move to the cutthroat Premier League, but in Milan, they can be given the space to flourish. Around them in the league, Napoli are slowly being picked apart, Inter have a budget of two pounds fifty and Juventus are looking to replace one misfiring striker with another. The Rossoneri should be very bullish about their title chances next season.
Jose Mourinho’s project at Roma is slowly advancing to his ultimate goal of bringing the Scudetto back to the capital in more than 20 years. Roma are kings of the free agent market so far, Evan Ndicka and Houssem Aouar are quality additions snapped up from under the noses of many superclubs and Paulo Dybala has not been lured away for this season. If the special one manages to conjure up the defensive naos of his most successful sides, Roma might be an outside shout for the title.
By: Eduard Holdis / @He_Ftbl
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Tottenham Hotspur FC