So here we go again. The table has been sorted by alphabetical order, the points tallies reset and 10 months of goals, drama and even more comedy happenings at Newcastle await.
Yep, the dawn of a spanking new Premier League season is upon us, and if it ends up being half as good as the last one, we’re in for a treat.
As if you needed reminding, it saw one of the all-time greatest title races between Manchester City and Liverpool. At one stage it looked as if the Reds would finally end 29 years of hurt and get their hands on a league title at long last. But, just as we predicted, they bottled it.
Despite losing just once all season and racking up an incredible 97 points, they somehow conspired to miss out on the prize they crave most after a series of costly draws during the hectic winter schedule.
Now, with the experience of that epic battle and the small matter of the Champions League trophy in their cabinet, you’d think this will finally be the season Liverpool lift their first Premier League trophy.
There’s no doubt they’ll be in the race, but a quick glance into Paddy’s crystal ball reveals they are set for a good ol’ fashioned bottling once again.
1. A lack of investment in the squad
With just hours left of the transfer window, Liverpool’s incomings up until now have been underwhelming – 17-year-old centre back Sepp van den Berg and 16-year-old winger Harvey Elliott.
Meanwhile, champions City have splashed £63m on defensive midfielder Rodri and re-signed left-back Angelino.
The addition of Rodri to an already ridiculously great back-to-back title-winning squad makes City an even more daunting title rival. And when the Premier League finishing line moves into sight, that extra bit of quality will inevitably see City edge over the line as Liverpool fall by the wayside.
After all, big bank balances don’t win you titles – quality in depth does.
2. City are in Liverpool’s heads
Jurgen Klopp has overseen only one league victory against City in the past three years, and his side’s only defeat last season came at the Etihad. It was a result that ultimately cost Liverpool the title.
It hasn’t started much better this season, either, as Pep Guardiola’s charges beat them again, this time on penalties in the Community Shield.
There’s no denying City are a millstone around Liverpool’s neck.
Even if that gives the Citizens just a 1% advantage, it’s evidently enough to make all the difference, just as it will once again this year.
3. Fixture congestion
Courtesy of their triumphant Champions League campaign, Liverpool are taking part in seven different competitions this season. It means they will play a bare minimum of 50 games, and that figure could rise to 67 should they go all the way in each of them.
That averages out as a game every 4.5 days, all season long.
That sort of schedule will put an immeasurable strain on the Reds’ squad, and make their legs feel just that little bit wearier compared to their rivals during the finishing sprint.
The cramped fixture list will put added mental pressure on Liverpool too: while they’re fannying about in Qatar at the Club World Cup, City and co will be getting points on the board in the league, leaving Liverpool having to play an unwanted game of catch up. Can they really cope with that?
4. Exhausted players
Rather than putting their feet up at the beach after a gruelling campaign, the Reds’ deadly attacking triumvirate of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane spent their summers representing their countries on the pitch.
Missing the bulk of pre-season means they’ll be playing catch up at the start of the season physically, and the lack of a proper summer break means they’re certain to wane at the business end too.
It’s not ideal for a team so heavily reliant on their first-choice front three.
5. Global warming
Whenever his side faltered last season, Jurgen Klopp always knew where to point the finger of blame: the weather.
They lost to Wolves in the FA Cup because it was too windy; they drew at home to Leicester because it was too snowy; and they drew at local rivals Everton because the wind went in too many different directions.
With global warming causing havoc with the weather these days – it even stopped raining in Scotland for a bit this summer – it means conditions won’t always be as perfect as Liverpool clearly need them to be.
Whether it’s the hailstones or the humidity, Liverpool are bound to succumb to the weather at some point.
6. It’s Liverpool
At the end of the day, bottling title races is simply in Liverpool’s DNA these days. Are you mad enough to actually think this season will be any different?