Kevin Palmer: What next for the Premier League's waning superpowers?
The international break always offers up a chance for a period of reflection for Premier League clubs and ahead of a summer of huge change, these two weeks will provide space for plans to be hatched.
With both Manchester clubs, Chelsea and maybe even Arsenal set for managerial changes in the coming months, discussions ahead of next season are already in full swing, with the two-week gap in fixtures likely to be spent discussing moves that could shape the English game for years to come.
There is a perception that the failings of English football’s big-hitters and the rise of Leicester City is a one-season phenomenon, but will the Premier League elite be ready to bounce back to the top next season?
Here is your Indepdendent.ie guide to what should happen for the Premier League’s traditional ‘Big Five’, as they look to get back onto the perch they have been knocked off this season.
Priority: Change of manager to end the misery under Louis van Gaal.
Players under threat: Marouane Fellaini, Adnan Januzaj, Memphis Depay, Juan Mata.
A win in Sunday’s Manchester derby against City may have kept the wolves from Van Gaal’s door for a little longer, but the trauma United have been through this season confirms that change is needed at Old Trafford and it has to come at the top.
Jose Mourinho appears to be the best candidate to replace Van Gaal and his arrival would spark sweeping changes throughout the club, with many of the players who have failed to live up to United’s standards this season unlikely to avoid his cull.
The dilemma’s on the agenda for United chiefs would be complicated if Van Gaal steals a fourth place finish in the Premier League and wins the FA Cup, but even though should not be enough to keep this failing manager in place. The Dutch manager is clearly the primary problem at Old Trafford and he needs to be removed.
VERDICT: United should take the plunge and hire Jose Mourinho.
Priority: Work out what to do with manager Arsene Wenger.
Players under threat: Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere.
Groundhog Day has been experienced among Arsenal fans too often over the last decade, with the promise offered up by Wenger’s teams always ending with disappointing in the major competitions.
After their exits from the FA Cup and Champions League last week, a win at Everton on Saturday was much-needed as their steadied a rocking ship, yet Arsenal need to ask themselves whether another top three finish in the Premier League is enough in a season when they could and should have had so much more.
Wenger is too influential at all areas of Arsenal’s structure to consider sacking him and he has earned the right to go out on his own terms, but he should take up a Technical Director role this summer and work with a younger candidate to bring fresh ideas to a club that has gone stale under his watch.
VERDICT: Wenger needs to take the lead and take on a new role at Arsenal this summer.
Priority: A new manager and a host of new players are required to arrest their slide.
Players under threat: Eden Hazard, Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, Nemanja Matic.
Chelsea’s demise this season has arguably been more remarkable that Leicester’s rise, with so many of the star names that led them to a comfortable Premier League title win last season desperately losing their way.
If Italy coach Antonio Conte is the man to take over as the latest Chelsea manager, he will quickly appreciate that a huge rebuilding job needs to be carried out, with too many of the current squad shown up as mercenaries who have downed tools when the going got tough under Jose Mourinho’s watch.
Conte should raise substantial funds for a squad rebuild by selling Hazard, Costa and their ilk, but he revamped team may take time to find their feet next season.
VERDICT: With their new manager needing time to find his feet in English football, don’t expect Chelsea to turn into a winning machine again next season.
Priority: Rebuilding their squad under new boss Pep Guardiola.
Players under threat: Yaya Toure, Eliaquim Mangala, Martin Demichelis, Wilfried Bony.
We are about to find out whether Pep Guardiola is the super-coach many believe him to be.
The job this decorated Spanish tactician has taken on City is bigger than any other in his career and while he will be given the finances to execute a huge summer of spending, getting rid of some of the highly-paid ‘stars’ who have performed shockingly under Manuel Pellegrini this season is just as big a priority.
City’s failings in the transfer market have been evident for all to see in recent years, with players like Mangala and Bony misfits who need to be ousted. This is a club still trying to find its identity and Guardiola has to offer some clarity.
VERDICT: Guardiola may need a year to turn City into title contenders once again.
Priority: Signing players to inject consistency into manager Jurgen Klopp’s promise.
Players under threat: Christian Benteke, Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge, Dejan Lovren, Joe Allen.
Liverpool have a head start on their rivals as their new manager has been in place since last October and Klopp is now fully aware that he needs to make big changes to his line-up.
A run to the Capital One Cup final and a Europa League victory over Man Utd were highlights in a season that has been a story of one step forward and two back, with Klopp yet to get a chance to put his stamp on a squad that lacks A-list talent.
Expect four or five marquee signings to change Liverpool’s image for the start of next season and if Klopp gets his rebuild right, he could have a chance to jump ahead of rivals Premier League managers who will only be starting their Premier League adventures.
VERDICT: Opportunity knocks for Liverpool if they make the right signings this summer.