What has Project Restart changed for the ‘Big Six’ heading into 2020-21?


As the Premier League’s 2019-20 season draws to a close on Sunday, it’s almost impossible to ignore what Project Restart has done to the attitudes and perception of several traditional powers.

Some of the changes have been predictable. Adding a healthy Harry Kane or Paul Pogba to a lineup don’t lend long odds to success.

[ MORE: Which team, player is winning Project Restart? ]

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Other teams, or in Chelsea’s case players, have a few more questions to answer.

Let’s take a look beyond the obvious. What’s obvious? Well West Ham surviving the drop is a huge win but we’re not exactly thinking David Moyes has solved the decade-long puzzle that is success at West Ham and is the answer.

Disclaimer: Any uneven play for any team could totally be excused by two things. One is the incredibly congested schedule presented by the coronavirus pandemic. The other is that each team is a collection of humans reacting to that pandemic, something that the majority of us have never seen. Given vulnerable families and friends, let alone vulnerable players themselves, there’s plenty of reason to just nod at scary variables.

In alphabetical order…


The Gunners have looked a lot better since Mikel Arteta took the reins at the Emirates but they’re also ninth on the Restart table which isn’t much better than their pre-pandemic run in England.

So much of what next season looks like rides on what the Gunners do in the FA Cup Final because they’ll already have to resign Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and recruit players without the prospect of Champions League football. What will the vibe be if there’s no Europa League? Yeah, the iconic red-and-white shirt of Arsenal is always a draw but players want to be on the biggest stage in their primes.

Winning the FA Cup, however, would be able to be sold alongside tournament wins against Chelsea and Man City as well as a regular season win over Liverpool to deny the champions’ centurion hopes.

There’s also an argument to be made about Arsenal having an easier route through 2020-21 if they can only focus on the Premier League, but that’s not the question posed in this post.

Verdict: TBD Aug. 1


Despite a distinct lack of N’Golo Kante and a group of B+ center forwards, Chelsea is three points off the Project Restart lead.

There are unsightly losses to West Ham and Sheffield United, so it hasn’t been a tremendous restart for Frank Lampard’s Blues.

But the story is the same as it was earlier this year. Chelsea is producing chances at a rate as high as anyone not named Man City, and the forwards are just scoring in an average-at-best fashion.

The Blues have Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech, and maybe Kai Havertz coming to Stamford Bridge to join Christian Pulisic as seemingly lights-out options. Even if Havertz doesn’t arrive and Ziyech and Werner take some time to settle, the Blues have those B+ forwards (Olivier Giroud and a still-young Tammy Abraham) to go with Callum Hudson-Odoi as intriguing attackers.

Chelsea will feel it’s got the goods to challenge for a Premier League title next year, and it will definitely feel better about it than it did before the break. Part of that is due to signings, but that’s part of this period isn’t it?

Verdict: TBD


The thrilling 5-3 win against Chelsea joins the Reds’ terrific collection of silverware to stress that Liverpool is a giant without true worries about contending in the future.

But there’s absolutely zero denying that their deserved Premier League title came with heaping doses of “Team of Destiny” medicine. Liverpool has collected about 23 points more than the expected goals table suggests it’s should’ve (This is a metric and not a fact, so we’re not dismissing their amazing season at all).

Going into the final day of the season, the 2019-20 Reds have allowed 10 more goals this season than last, scoring seven fewer (They may still make amends for the latter at St. James’ Park on Sunday, but we digress).

Eleven of the conceded goals have come in Project Restart and seven since they sealed the PL title. And while most teams who clinch early switch off a little bit, the Reds’ faithful would be justified in wondering just how much of that palpable intensity will be conjured next season with that long-sought title in their pocket.

All that said, the Reds are four points of the top of the Project Restart table despite having very little reason to play with desperation or intensity.

Verdict: Slightly down but still very shiny

Manchester City

Here’s a controversial take: Pep Guardiola’s Man City was still the most-feared team in the Premier League and will be the favorites to reclaim their title next season.

City was outplayed by desperate Bournemouth and ousted from the FA Cup by Chelsea, so it has been far from perfect, but Raheem Sterling has been back to his best and Phil Foden has given every reason to believe that David Silva’s exit is something the club can overcome next season.

The lifting of the European ban also came in Project Restart and that’s a monumental win for the club. Kevin De Bruyne and legions of others are no longer threats to skip town.

The club still need an answer at left back and center back depth with Eric Garcia potentially leaving and no clear cut starter next to Aymeric Laporte, but has Ederson, Laporte, Rodri, and Kevin De Bruyne up the heart of the pitch with those bevy of attackers up top. Laporte missing as much time as he did this season is without question the main reason City finished so far off Liverpool’s pace: John Stones is average for a team of City’s ambition, Nicolas Otamendi is past his once-vibrant prime, Garcia is young, and Fernandinho being able to play with Rodri instead of CB would’ve been a monstrous proposition over 30-plus matches instead of a handful.

City buried Liverpool 4-0 and has the league’s joint-most points and a plus-22 goal differential during Project Restart. And while we pointed out Liverpool’s massive dose of good fortune, City would have a 11-point table lead if xG was the metric (which, we know Liverpool fans, it is not).

Verdict: Maybe, ever-so-slightly down but probably dead level.

Premier League Big Six
Who’s better off at manager: Manchester United with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Spurs with Jose Mourinho? (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Manchester United

The Red Devils are healthy now and Project Restart has shown Paul Pogba that — provided no flop Sunday or, failing that, in the Europa League — he can stay in Manchester and compete for everything he wants in his career.

Pogba has joined Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, and a host of others to show that anything is possible for this Red Devils team. If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer didn’t totally murder his lineup selection for the FA Cup semifinal, they could still be in line for a possible FA Cup-Europa League double.

So, yeah, there’s still a huge question with Solskjaer, who definitely understands the massive renown of playing for United but still needs to cement his credentials.

And they desperately need a healthy and athletic center back to pair with strong, solid, and slow Harry Maguire, but Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s got speed on the right and Luke Shaw is okay on the left.

They also didn’t beat anyone of traditional strength over this stretch, drawing Spurs, but they can only play who’s on the docket.

All that info collected, how can you look at a joint-best 18 points in Project Restart with a plus-14 goal differential and not think there’s every reason United can join Liverpool, Manchester City, and whoever else shows up to the title fight next season.

Verdict: Rocketship to the moon (presuming they get enough fuel for the journey from either Sunday at Leicester or the UEL)

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs have one point less than Restart leaders Man City and Man United, but that’s not a huge surprise given Jose Mourinho has been able to work with healthy Kane, Heung-min Son, and Steven Bergwijn.

But Mourinho hasn’t exactly won over Spurs nation despite the points and a win in the North London Derby.

What he needs to sort out is whether he can co-exist with a very talented Tanguy Ndombele. He needs to determine whether he can turn Dele Alli into the player back into star or find someone more consistent to fit the bill.

Spurs have had a tricky road to travel since coming back and have impressive wins, some decisive like the waxing of Leicester City in a must-have match.

All that said, Tottenham could still be playing and recruiting without European fuel. If that happens, it means Wolves pipped them to sixth and Arsenal won the FA Cup to take seventh place out of Europe. And as much as that will mostly be down to bad summer planning and worse winter injuries rather than Mou, it will leave him in a precarious summer spot.

Verdict: Same questions, same answers.

Tottenham Hotspur hires Celtic’s Ange Postecoglou as next manager


Tottenham Hotspur finally has a new boss: Ange Postecoglou has left Celtic to become the next Spurs boss.

Celtic granted permission for Spurs to speak with their trophy-collecting boss, and things progressed quickly as the 57-year-old looks set to oversee the club’s big rebuild.

Postecoglou will take over the club on July 1, and Spurs boss Daniel Levy issued high praise for the veteran manager.

“Ange brings a positive mentality and a fast, attacking style of play. He has a strong track record of developing players and an understanding of the importance of the link from the academy – everything that is important to our Club. We are excited to have Ange join us as we prepare for the season ahead.”

[ MORE: Recalling Zlatan’s “unicorn” career ]

Spurs suffered through an inconsistent 2022-23 season with Antonio Conte at the helm, followed by Cristian Stellini and Ryan Mason in interim stints.

Tottenham will not have European football this season and is at risk of losing legendary center forward Harry Kane. The club has eight players including Kane going into the final year of their contracts, including Ivan Perisic, Davinson Sanchez, Eric Dier, and Hugo Lloris.

Spurs finished eighth last season, 15 points off the top four despite spending much of the season inside of it. The club’s finished fourth just once in the past four seasons despite qualifying for the Champions League the previous four seasons.

Ironically, Celtic is being linked with pursuit of Brendan Rodgers and Jesse Marsch in the wake of Postecoglou’s departure

Who is Ange Postecoglou?

Postecoglou, 57, was born in Greece and moved to Australia at a young age, starring for South Melbourne as a player and earning for caps for the Socceroos.

He is coming off a domestic treble with Celtic and won five of six trophies available to him in his two seasons with the Bhoys.

At Celtic, Postecoglou played with a 4-3-3 for much of the first half of his tenure but played a lot of this campaign in a 4-2-3-1.

Postecoglou won trophies as a manager with South Melbourne, Brisbane Roar, and Yokohama F. Marinos, claiming the Asian Cup during his stint as Australia national team coach.

He said he expects tricky early times wherever he goes.

“Wherever I’ve been, the initial part is always rocky, because my ideas are… well they’re not extreme to me but I can see how they can be seen as extreme from the outside. It takes a while. Usually it can take me six months, it can take me a year to really bed them in, depending on how many opportunities I have to change the playing squad and the staff and all those kinds of things.”

Fiorentina vs West Ham: How to watch live, team news, updates


Fiorentina and West Ham lock horns in the UEFA Europa Conference League final at the Eden Arena in Prague on Wednesday, June 7 and the Hammers are the favorites.

[ LIVE: Fiorentina vs West Ham live ]

The east London side have only won one major European trophy in their history (they won the European Cup Winners’ Cup back in 1964-65 and were one of three winners of the now also defunct Intertoto Cup in 1999). In total it is their fourth European final.

David Moyes has seen his West Ham side struggle through the Premier League season as they finished 14th in the table but they prioritized winning the Europa Conference League and after winning 13 of their 14 games in the competition so far, they’re just one win away from winning the competition and thus securing a spot in the UEFA Europa League group stage for the 2023-24 season. If the Hammers do prevail in Prague, there will be eight Premier League teams playing in European competitions next season.

As for Fiorentina, the Florence-based club have had a decent season in Serie A but they will finish outside of the top seven so the only way they can qualify for European competition next season is by winning this final. Fiorentina narrowly lost to Inter Milan in the Coppa Italia final in recent weeks as they last won a trophy in 2001 when they won the Italian Cup. Like West Ham, La Viola have only won one major European trophy in their history, also the Cup Winners’ Cup back in the 1960-61 season.

Here is everything you need to know on Fiorentina vs West Ham.

How to watch Fiorentina vs West Ham live, stream link and start time

Dates: 3pm ET June 7, 2023
Online: Live updates via NBCSports.com
How to watch: TUDN, Paramount+

West Ham team news, lineup options 

David Moyes has a very good idea of his starting lineup as Alphonse Areola has been his goalkeeper for European competition this season, while Declan Rice will captain the Hammers in midfield in what could be his final game in a West Ham shirt. Tomas Soucek (playing in his homeland of Czechia) will partner Rice in midfield.

Michail Antonio, Jarrod Bowen and Said Benrahma are certain to start in attack, with Lucas Paqueta also a nailed-on starter. In defense Kurt Zouma will be the main man, with Aaron Cresswell, Nayef Aguerd and Thilo Kehrer completing the defensive line. Gianluca Scamacca is the only injury absentee for West Ham with Danny Ings, Pablo Fornals and Manuel Lanzini very good options off the bench.

Fiorentina team news, lineup options

The main men to look out for are Arthur Cabral up top, while Moroccan star Sofyan Amrabat in midfield and Argentina winger Nicolas Gonzalez are key. Fiorentina also have the likes of Luka Jovic and Jonathan Ikone to call on in attack.

Premier League transfer news live, today! Latest updates on the summer window


We are all set for a very summer transfer window, as the latest transfer news keeps flooding in and plenty of big names are expected to be on the move.

[ VIDEO: Premier League analysis ]

The 2023 summer transfer window opens on June 14, 2023 for Premier League clubs and it will close at 6pm ET on September 1, 2023.

From superstars like Declan Rice, Harry Kane, and Jude Bellingham in-demand, to speculation around the future of Lionel Messi and plenty of money set to be spent by the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, this will be a fun summer.

Plus there are Americans to watch as Tyler Adams, Christian Pulisic, Brenden Aaronson, and Weston McKennie are all high-profile USMNT players who could make a summer move.

[ TRANSFER NEWS: Arsenal | Liverpool | Chelsea | Tottenham | Man City | Man United

Below we roundup the latest transfer news, done deals, reports and rumors and give our analysis on what’s going on as Joe Prince-Wright (JPW), Nicholas Mendola (NM) and Andy Edwards (AE) will guide you through a hectic last few weeks of the window.

Transfer news live today! Latest from the summer window, so far…

June 6 – Christian Pulisic views Chelsea return but ‘a lot of things can happen’

Christian Pulisic has been linked with Juventus and AC Milan as things have not gone according to plan at Chelsea over the past season-plus.

But that doesn’t mean he’s absolutely skipping town this summer, Pulisic told reporters in California this week.

“Obviously, it’s been an interesting journey at club level for me. I thought it was a great couple years and the last couple years just haven’t gone at all how I’ve planned them to be,” Pulisic said. “And right now my focus is obviously here with the national team. I’m just excited to get back playing and just enjoy myself and do what I love to do out on the field. And from there, this summer, we’re obviously going to have to see what happens. It’s obviously very early. As of right now I’m a Chelsea player and I plan to go back. But a lot of things can happen. A lot of things can change.” (NM)

June 5 – Real Madrid contact Tottenham over Harry Kane

Harry Kane scoring goals in a white shirt is very familiar, but might the England and Tottenham striker do so next year in another country?

Marca report says Real Madrid is ready to pay over $100 million to Tottenham for the veteran forward, who scored 30 goals this Premier League season.

Kane as it stands now is in heavy pursuit of the Premier League record for goals but he’s also getting deeper into his career without a trophy and Real certainly has a reputation for collecting trophies.

Throw in the fact that Spurs are not going to be competing outside of England this year, and that Daniel Levy is thought to be leery of selling to another Premier League rival, and might Madrid make sense for Harry? (NM)

June 4 – Chelsea, Liverpool closing in on marquee targets

Reports from Fabrizio Romano say that breakthroughs are near for Chelsea and Liverpool when it comes to marquee midfield additions.

Chelsea is nearing a deal to acquire standout Sporting Lisbon midfielder Manuel Ugarte for around $65 million, with Romano saying there are “key hours ahead” in the race to fend off Paris Saint-Germain.

And the father/agent for Brighton star Alexis Mac Allister is expected to arrive in Liverpool to hammer out final personal terms between the Reds and the World Cup winner. Then it’ll go to Brighton and Liverpool, with a fee not thought to be an issue. (NM)

June 3 – In-demand $40M back name checks Liverpool

Wolfsburg defender Micky van de Ven has had a dream to play at Anfield since attending a game there as a youngster. An excellent ball progressor, Van de Ven is viewed as a $40 million target and reports have said Jurgen Klopp is an admirer. So it’s a mutual appreciation society.

“I once went to the Liverpool stadium with my dad,” he told AZ WAZ. “That was over Christmas on Boxing Day. Liverpool vs Arsenal. That was madness. Then when ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ comes [on] – that’s a goose bump moment, that was very cool. It’s a dream to play there.”

The 6-foot-4 Van de ven turned 22 in April and has served as the captain of the Dutch U-21 national team. He moved from Volendam to Wolfsburg in the summer of 2021 and became a full-time starter in his second season, occasionally swinging to left back. (NM)

June 2 – Man United in ‘detailed talks’ for young forwards

According to The Athletic, Manchester United have been in ‘detailed talks’ over the signing of Randal Kolo Muani and Rasmus Hojlund. The young forward duo are both being chased by the Red Devils as Erik ten Hag wants to add one of them and a more experienced striker. Per the report, John Murtaugh has spoken to both Eintracht Frankfurt and Atalanta multiple times about Kolo Muani and Hojlund respectively and United are hoping to move on with chasing summer targets despite uncertainty surrounding their ownership status as the Glazer Family continue to explore the option of a full or partial sale of the Premier League giants. Kolo Muani and Hojlund both fit the mould for the type of player Erik ten Hag wants and if United can land one of them and somehow pull off an unlikely move for Harry Kane (unlikely due to Daniel Levy’s unwillingness to do business) then it will be a heck of a summer for the Red Devils. (JPW)

June 2 – Gvardiol wanted by Manchester City

According to a report from The Times, Josko Gvardiol is at the top of Pep Guardiola’s wish-list this summer. The Croatian defender, 21, is thought to be valued at $108 million by RB Leipzig and although the German giants don’t want to sell, it is believed Gvardiol is keen on a move to City. The report says that City plan on moving on at least one of their center backs and all of John Stones, Ruben Dias, Manuel Akanji and Nathan Ake seem certain to stay with Aymeric Laporte perhaps the most likely to move on. Gvardiol has long been linked with a Premier League move and his power in the air as well as his pace and ability on the ball is a perfect fit for the Premier League and City. Josko Gvardiol also got a good look at City this season as Leipzig were hammered by Erling Haaland and Co. in the UEFA Champions League. We’ve seen this season how Guardiola’s side dominated the final months of the season not only due to their incredible goalscoring exploits but largely thanks to a solid defensive unit. Having mobile center backs who can slot in at full back and step into midfield is key to the way they play. Gvardiol can do that. (JPW)

June 1 – Manchester United move to front of queue for Mason Mount

A report from ESPN says that Manchester United have moved to the front of the queue when it comes to signing Mason Mount this summer. Mount, 24, has just one year left on his contract at Chelsea and is expected to move on this summer. Mount has been linked with moves to United and Liverpool but the report says that Mount is keen on heading to United although the Red Devils have some reservations over the $75 million transfer fee Chelsea are asking for. Per the report, clubs are waiting for later in the summer to try and buy Mount as they known Chelsea will have to move players on due to the enormous squad Mauricio Pochettino has inherited and will have to trim. Does Mount to United make sense? It does. He can slot in anywhere in Erik ten Hag’s midfield and is the perfect kind of player to add depth to their squad and be a great 12th man or step in when key midfielders are injured or need a rest. His time at Chelsea is clearly coming to an end and even though Mount has struggled this season at Chelsea, his quality is proven in the Premier League in recent years and on the international stage with England. (JPW)

May 31 – Liverpool eye Bundesliga midfielder

Bild says that the Reds are turning to the Bundesliga to address their midfield. Jurgen Klopp will turn to Borussia Monchengladbach’s Kouadio “Manu” Kone this summer, as Liverpool has reportedly told the player that it will be approaching Gladbach. Kone, 22, has been linked with several big clubs including a late March report regarding Manchester United interest. A ball progressor who reads the game very well, Kone is said to carry a price tag of more than $40 million. (NM)

May 30 – Chelsea all-in on Ugarte

Chelsea are in talks to sign Manuel Ugarte, according to Fabrizio Romano. The Uruguayan and Sporting Lisbon holding midfielder is admired by new Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino. Romano says PSG are in the race for Ugarte too. Ugarte, 22, is exactly the kind of player Pochettino loves as he will dig in, win the ball and get it to others to create. Alongside Enzo Fernandez, Ugarte will add extra defensive stability to Chelsea’s midfield and improve the balance of their squad. Our partners in the UK at Sky Sports says that Ugarte has a $65 million release clause in his contract. (JPW)

May 30 – Declan Rice linked with Bayern Munich

Our partners at Sky Germany say that Bayern Munich are very interested in signing Declan Rice from West Ham. Bayern, who won their 11-straight Bundesliga title on the final day of the season, have made Rice, 24, their top target as Thomas Tuchel is a huge fan of the England international.

Here is more from Sky Germany reporter Uli Kohler: “Tuchel had a phone call with Rice. I don’t know what they were talking about – maybe money, maybe about what he can expect here [in Munich]. Bayern is keen on him. They need a strong defensive midfielder but everybody knows there are a lot of other clubs interested in him. Bayern could afford it. They would like to keep it below €100m [£86.4m]. They have to look at their accounts very closely but I think they can afford it.”

Rice has long been linked with a move to Arsenal or Manchester United but it is believed that West Ham’s asking price for their captain and central midfielder (who is out of contract next summer) is putting up Premier League clubs. Bayern appear to be ready to pay close to the $120 million West Ham want for Rice. Is he worth it? He is. There is perhaps no better two-way central midfielder under the age of 25 in Europe and Rice’s ceiling is extremely high. (JPW)

May 25 – Harry Kane, Declan Rice, Mason Mount are summer targets for Man United

A report from our partners in the UK at Sky Sports says that Manchester United are trying to sign a trio of England internationals: Harry Kane, Mason Mount and Declan Rice.

“Manchester United will try to sign Harry Kane, Declan Rice and Mason Mount this summer. Their No. 1 target is Kane. He is the player Erik ten Hag wants most. It is unlikely they will sign all three players and everything depends on what happens with the takeover. Kane, Rice and Mount are exactly the kind of characters Ten Hag wants in his dressing room.”

It is clear Kane will be the top target for United as Erik ten Hag has spoken about signing a new striker and that is their main transfer need. It is tough to see Tottenham selling Kane to a direct top four rival in Manchester United for anything less than $130 million, even with Kane’s contract winding down. That said, do you take that money this summer and use it to rebuild? Or let him go for free in the summer of 2024?

Next up, Declan Rice will surely be their next main target, as all three of these players have just one year left on their contract. Rice, 24, is just the type of player United need alongside Casemiro in central midfield and the England international has become one of the best two-way central midfielders in Europe under the age of 25. Rice’s close friend is Mason Mount and the latter clearly doesn’t want to sign a new contract at Chelsea, so he could be the cheaper option of the three. All of this hinges on Manchester United’s takeover but if, as expected, they qualify for the Champions League, then signing two of these three players would be a huge upgrade on their current options and gives them quality, depth and experience in midfield and attack. First choice would be Kane and Rice but Kane and Mount would still be pretty decent. (JPW)

How many times has a team won the treble? Man City goes for history


There’s been a lot of treble talk these days, talk that’s found a new level of buzz since Manchester City moved within one win of joining the club.

It’s an elite club, by the way, of teams that have won their domestic league, top domestic cup, and the European Cup.

Nine times in history has a team won the treble, and only once has it been done by a Premier League club.

[ MORE: Recalling Zlatan’s “unicorn” career ]

That’s why Man City’s defeat of Manchester United earlier this month in the FA Cup Final rings so true for the Citizens; The blue side of Manchester would join the red side as treble supporters, as United won the treble in 1998-99.

Man City goes for the third jewel of its treble crown on Saturday versus Inter Milan in Istanbul when it kicks off the UEFA Champions League Final.

For more treble trivia, head below the jump.

How many times has the treble been won?

Bayern Munich and Barcelona have each done it twice, with Bayern doing it in 2012-13 and 2019-20 and Barca pulling it off in 2008-09 and 2014-15.

Celtic was the first to win a treble, doing it in 1966-67, while Ajax was the next in 1971-72.

PSV Eindhoven then won it in 1987-88 before Man United made it happen 11 years later. Inter Milan is the only Italian team to pull it off, winning in 2009-10.