Data and Analysis @AdamDatasmith
Which Premier League trends will emerge in 2019/20?
Transfers, English youth, Big Six disruption and Man Utd's overhaul among topics in comprehensive analysis of potential trends
Last Updated: 29/07/19 8:36am
It's been a long wait but Premier League action returns in just 11 days' time. Adam Smith peers into the crystal ball to predict 10 trends that could continue or emerge...
Top two tussle again?
Just one point divided champions Manchester City and runners-up Liverpool last season, making it the closest finale since Sergio Aguero's late strike won City the title on goal difference over Manchester United in 2012.
But it would be safe to say, across the entire campaign, last season's race was the tightest ever during the modern era - with the two teams averaging only 1.6 points apart after matchdays from start to finish.
The final-day drama was a result of City maintaining breathtaking form. Their haul of 98 points was only two shy of the record-breaking 100 the season before - producing a slight dip in goals scored, but conceding fewer at the other end.
Meanwhile, Liverpool improved exponentially and were unrecognisable in the Premier League from 2017/18, collecting 22 more points, scoring five more goals and conceding 16 fewer.
So it comes as no surprise that both clubs have made little movement in the transfer window this summer, with City only signing Rodri - a long-term replacement for 34-year-old Fernandinho.
Can City eke out the final steps towards perfection or will Liverpool's rapid improvements continue and deliver the first Premier League title to Anfield? Either way, an Invincible season could be on the cards.
So the top two will be expected to go toe to toe for a second season running after Liverpool finished 25 points ahead of Chelsea last season - the biggest ever gap between second and third during the modern era.
Big Six disruption?
Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United have collectively earned the title of Big Six in recent years, and that phrase was reinforced further last season - albeit fractured by the top two's superiority.
Wolves exceeded all expectations after promotion from the Sky Bet Championship to become the 'best of the rest', shoring up seventh spot - nine points adrift from sixth-placed Manchester United.
That gap between sixth and seventh has remained almost identical for three seasons running now - having never previously lasted for more than one campaign.
But the Big Six has generally reigned supreme for some time now, with 54 out of 60 top-six places being shored up by this group over the past decade.
Only Aston Villa (2009/10), Newcastle (2011/12), Everton (2012/13 and 2013/14), Leicester and Southampton (both 2015/16) have prevented complete dominance.
But with Chelsea's transfer ban, Arsenal's overhaul and Manchester United's rebuilding project under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the chasing trio of Wolves, Everton and Leicester are serious candidates to disrupt the elite group.
Youth over Galactico?
Real Madrid secured their Galactico signature in Eden Hazard, while rivals Barcelona signed Antoine Griezmann - albeit with complications - and have attempted to resign Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain - all three are in their late 20s.
But there has been no seasoned Galactico arrival in the Premier League. Instead, clubs are increasingly opting to splash cash on emerging young talent.
Only three players over the age of 25 have joined a Premier League club for more than £10m this summer, and two of those were making loan deals permanent: Raul Jimenez to Wolves, Danny Ings to Southampton and Jay Rodriguez to Burnley.
Meanwhile, another 23 deals with values in excess of £10m have been processed for players aged 25 or under, topped by Tanguy Ndombele (Tottenham, £63m), Rodri (Manchester City, £62.5m) and Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Manchester United, £50m).
It's not just the elite clubs looking for longevity. Aston Villa splashed £22m on 22-year-old Wesley, Newcastle signed Joelinton (22) for a club-record £40m, Southampton prised Che Adams (23) from Birmingham for £15m. The list goes on.
And with that emphasis on youth, Premier League clubs are increasingly likely to promote players from within their own ranks - surfacing talent to support the first team or sell at a later stage at an ever-growing value.
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Arsenal fans had grown frustrated with transfer speculation superseding deals with ongoing sagas involving Kieran Tierney and Wilfried Zaha, but have now secured Dani Ceballos and William Saliba - with the latter joining next summer.
There is additional hope for the Gunners too, rising from beneath their very feet. No fewer than five young talents are tipped to make their mark this term from within the development ranks - and they're all English.
Emile Smith Rowe and Reiss Nelson have returned to the club after loan spells in Germany, Joe Willock broke into the first team last term while forwards Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah are pushing for contention.
And then there's Chelsea's transfer embargo, coupled with the appointment of England legend Frank Lampard at the helm - a culmination of events that could be the perfect recipe for the club to unleash its school of talent.
Callum Hudson-Odoi was pulling strings to leave Stamford Bridge in search of first-team football in Germany only six months ago but now looks set to stay, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek should be awarded more game time under Lampard.
Elsewhere, Wan-Bissaka's big-money move to Old Trafford suggests an England debut should be imminent, while Kyle Walker-Peters could be handed more game time at Spurs after Kieran Trippier signed for Atletico Madrid.
At Leicester, James Maddison is on the brink of earning his first England cap and Harvey Barnes looks set to play an even bigger role this term - with Demarai Gray set to impress down the opposing flank and Ben Chilwell at left-back.
And then there's Phil Foden at Manchester City, although the 19-year-old will undoubtedly struggle to nail down a regular starting berth among the abundance of midfield options at the club.
The year of...
Leicester achieved the impossible in 2015/16 and it was an unlikely hero - a defensive midfielder - in N'Golo Kante who received the lion's share of plaudits, earning himself a lucrative move to Chelsea.
Again, the France international flourished after his move to London and lifted the trophy once more come May under Antonio Conte.
That trend of recognising players behind the frontline continued last season, when Virgil van Dijk was named PFA Player of the Year, while rampaging wing-backs such as Andy Robertson received considerable acclaim.
PFA Player of the Year winners
|18/19||Virgil van Dijk||LIV|
|11/12||Robin van Persie||ARL|
One notable stat from last term was how the Golden Boot was split almost by its studs, awarded to three players for only the third time in Premier League history, with Salah, Mane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on 22 goals each.
It was the lowest total since Dimitar Berbatov and Carlos Tevez shared the prize in 2010/11 and suggested a shift within the top teams towards diversifying goal sources.
The Big Six appear to be relying less on one talismanic goalscorer - as was seen with Liverpool's 'fab three' and Manchester City's host of goalscorers during the previous campaign - enabling the spotlight to shine on other areas of the team.
In an age where goalkeepers become sweepers, wing-backs fulfil two roles and defensive midfielders drop into central defence, it's difficult to see where acclaim could fall... but a rampaging wing-back is overdue the PFA award.
Inverted wingers and 4-3-3
Perhaps the most defining trait of Manchester City and Liverpool's success last season was their emphatic use of inverted wingers: Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, cutting in from wide positions.
Deployed most effectively in a 4-3-3 formation, the tactic enables attacking teams to overload the box with runners, epitomised by the majority of Sterling's 17 league goals being converted from in or around the six-yard box.
Among all 20 clubs last season, the 4-3-3 formation was used more than any other system - for the first time in Premier League history.
Title-winning formations have swung with an almost seasonal rhythm in recent years, with Leicester lifting the trophy in a 4-4-2 and Chelsea running away in a 3-4-3 the season after - before City took hold with a 4-3-3 in 2017/18.
The stats behind City and Liverpool's incredible title race last term signalled two teams entering stages of near perfection. So, expect tiny tweaks here and there - but 4-3-3 is likely to achieve its third season of dominance.
All eyes on Man Utd
Manchester United finished 2017/18 as runners-up but struggled at the start of last season. That poor form, coupled with fans' discontent at negative tactics, prompted the club to sack Jose Mourinho in mid-December.
Solskjaer was drafted in as interim manager and produced an incredible reversal in form, while restoring a positive, attacking style of play and earning a permanent position at the helm - but the bounce effect was short-lived.
As the graphic below shows, United hit their prime in mid-January, culminating in an extraordinary, against-the-odds win at Paris Saint-Germain - but that form fell into rapid decline.
United capitulated in the final weeks, missing out on a top-four finish and ending the season with their lowest five-game average for points-per-game in two seasons - averaging at just 0.4 after their 2-0 defeat against Cardiff on the final day.
Solskjaer has undertaken the project to inject youth and energy at United, signing the likes of Daniel James and Wan-Bissaka - but last season's capitulation will resurface and ramp up pressure on the Norwegian if his team start slowly.
PL clubs to maintain Euro reign?
It was an all-English final in both the Champions League and Europa League competitions last term - an event that had never before happened in the same season: Liverpool toppled Spurs in Spain and Chelsea outclassed Arsenal in Baku.
Previously, there had only ever been one previous all-English final in the Champions League or European Cup, when Manchester United defeated Chelsea in Moscow in 2008.
And in the Europa or UEFA Cup, there had also only ever been one all-English final, in the first year of its existence all the way back in 1972 - when Spurs emerged victorious against Wolves across a two-legged affair.
As the graphic below shows, Spain have been dominant finalists across both competitions in recent years, claiming three out of four spots in 2013/14 and 2015/16.
Italy enjoyed a decade-long period of success in the 1990s, achieving three out of four finalists on three occasions during that period, while Germany are the only other nation to shore up three places in a season, back in 1980.
But the Premier League's lung-busting pace and tactical lessons implemented by Pep Guardiola and Co have catapulted English sides to the European summit - so expect more adventures this season.
Away wins reach unprecedented levels
Last season produced the highest proportion of top-flight away wins since the Football League was founded in 1888, with the visitors claiming victory in 128 out of 380 games - equating to 33.7 per cent.
The graphic below shows how home advantage has been on the wane since the league was founded 127 years ago.
In contrast, only 71 games were drawn (18.7 per cent) - the lowest proportion in England's top tier since 1931.
There were 35 successive Premier League games without a draw between March and April, while Spurs set a Premier League record after going 32 games without a stalemate - a run that began last season and ended in February.
Goals, goals, goals...
And finally, expect more net-bulging strikes. Last season produced 1,072 goals, the highest total in a 38-game Premier League season - surpassing the previous high of 1,066 set in 2011/12.
So, does another record-breaking year of top-flight football await? It's almost time to take your seats and watch the drama unfold.