After a month or so of hibernation, the Prem is finally back with preseason kicking off for clubs across the world. Preseason is a special time where equal shares of hope and despair occupy the minds of fans. These feelings are on the forefront for most fans, as preseason is a seemingly fresh slate after a season’s end.
For the most part, this has been a pretty interesting preseason, if the transfer window is counted as well, as teams have both exploded and imploded. These results, compounded by transfers, are an interesting form of foreplay that never results in anything truly meaningful.
It’s natural for fans to take way too much from preseason results, as it’s the first taste of soccer fans have had in a while. United fans may think their team is well on their way to winning the Prem with Martial’s career revived. While Liverpool fans may be cursing the team for signing the striker who can’t score, Darwin Núñez.
Should fans be discouraged from enjoying preseason and taking too much from it? Absolutely not, preseason is oftentimes nothing more than a way to get fitness in or implement new schemes.
That being said, there have been some great stories for fans of the Prem to keep their eyes on so far. From Antonio Conte creating training sessions worthy of Guantanamo Bay to Everton fans wishing that the pain would go away. Maybe, by taking a look at all these stories, the real meaning of preseason will be revealed.
There was a coach that I once had who knew nothing about soccer, so he focused everything on building up our fitness levels. Our trainings were brutal, suicide sprints for the majority of the time with little time devoted to tactics or even passing drills. Of course, the team was never elite, but we had the fitness of track athletes.
When the images of Son Heung-Min collapsed on the ground broke Twitter, I immediately recognized the pain in his eyes. Conte has turned Tottenham’s preseason into a battle to the death masqueraded as a fitness session. Images from the team’s tour in South Korea reflect more of an Olympian athletic program rather than a team getting ready for a new Prem season.
It’s clear that Conte feels that he must get his side into top shape to properly implement his system. Conte is not my old coach, he is one of the best managers on Earth and a serial winner, so he can run his sessions in this manner.
With the moves that Tottenham has made this window and the appointment of Conte, the side is clearly aiming for something more than their usual 3rd or 4th place finish. It’s why this preseason seems to be pure hell for the players. Conte needs his players to both physically and mentally buy into his tactics and with the firepower this side has, results are desperately needed.
The biggest question will be whether the team can handle a proper title run against talented opponents. Perhaps this grueling preseason will make Tottenham the most fit side in the Prem and power them to the title. Perhaps much like my old coach, the emphasis was placed on the wrong aspect of the game.
Few players have been placed under a microscope like Darwin Núñez has this preseason. Every missed shot or pass instantly has fans rejoicing at his failure or trying to cope with those mistakes.
Núñez has had to face intense scrutiny since his move to Merseyside, as his transfer was immediately compared to Earling Haaland’s move to City. Both players represent their respective club’s ambition to rule both England and Europe. However, Haaland is one of the best strikers on Earth and Núñez is an exciting prospect that has yet to test his skills at the top level.
Eyes from across the globe were glued to his first performance against rivals United where, down 4-0, Núñez missed an open goal from point blank range. Memes quickly began pouring out and some began to doubt the talented Uruguayan forward. He didn’t help his situation when he failed to score in his second game and his mistakes in practice came to light.
Before Liverpool fans lose all hope, Núñez dropped four goals against Leipzig and it’s clear that he will be fine. He has both the technique and traits that proven successful in the Prem.
To the chagrin of many a hater, Núñez will be fine in the Prem as his abilities to run an offense should fit in well alongside Salah. He may never reach Haaland’s level, but he will score more than Firmino and could help push Liverpool to the title. Comparison is truly the thief of joy and by comparing him to Haaland, many will fail to appreciate the talent of Núñez.
From Cristiano Ronaldo desperately begging to leave the side to Frankie de Jong openly mocking the club, Manchester United’s summer has been a disaster. However, United has been beating down opponents in preseason like they were still under Ferguson.
To be honest, United has looked pretty good, somehow ten Hag has made a boring United side fun to watch. Martial doesn’t look like a future Watford player and Rashford looks to be back to that form that carried United to success in 2018. Even Maguire has had some good moments, but that feels very fake given his performances across his time in Manchester.
The sides that United have played, outside of Melbourne, are Premier League sides that United had struggled against, Liverpool and Crystal Palace. Of course both sides rotated heavily, but this should still be a welcoming sign.
Ten Hag has implemented his system and rules of conduct to truly form this side into his vision and, to his credit, it seems to be working. The side is more willing to experiment offensively and with the pairing of Lindelöf and Maguire playing well, the defense looks much better. Fans shouldn’t expect immediate results, but should take these moves as positive changes for the future.
It’s always dangerous to look too much into the results of preseason, but ten Hag has implemented a system that seems to be meshing well with the side. In turn this has given United fans something dangerous, hope.
Everton and pain go hand and hand, with fans seeing ownership drive the side into the ground with terrible managerial appointments and transfers. With their loss to Minnesota United, a mediocre MLS side, they have become the laughing stock of the Prem.
Is it fair to say that Everton was both the biggest failure and joke of the Prem last season? Probably, as the side barely avoided relegation despite Lampard’s best efforts. With the talent that Everton boasted last season, it was a shock to see them barely hang on to their status in the Prem.
So, when the club embarked on their preseason tour, the hope was that the doom and gloom of last season could be left in the past. Just two games into their preseason and all that disaster is now back and staring Everton fans in the face.
Minnesota United are a mediocre MLS side, a team that is too good to not make playoffs, but not elite enough to challenge for the MLS Cup. If Everton had struggled against LAFC or the Seattle Sounders, it would have been understandable as those are the cream of the crop of MLS sides. To be down 3-0 in less than 40 minutes to this Minnesota side is just embarrassing.
Reactions on Twitter just go to show the poor state of this club and seemingly have started to worry fans about the upcoming season. This is a rare case where fans should be worried about the state of the club and the game is just a symptom rather than the cause.
This is a special time of year for soccer fans, as it’s a time of rebirth where all fans can dream about glory once more. It’s also a team where, in an instant, all that hope can be dashed and fans are back to wishing for the season to end before it could even begin. A time of equal hope and despair that welcomes lovers of the sport back to its welcoming embrace.
Featured image: Getty