FM18: The Next 25 Years – 2020/2021

As football fans we’re always looking back on the good times; the moments that made us laugh and cry and the moments we’ll either never forget or do our best to wipe from our memories forever.

But what about the future? What do we have to look forward to? Can we get excited about what’s to come or should we continue to yearn for yesteryear?

As part of our Premier League 25 years celebration this season, we’ve decided to boot up our copy of Football Manager 2018 and simulate 25 years into the future to see what exactly we’ve got to look forward to. And without wanting to wish our lives away, we’re in for a real treat if this is what the future holds.

With one season per article, we’re looking 25 years in to the future. Below we take a look at the 2020/21 campaign…

Previous seasons: 2017/18, 2018/19, 2019/20

Transfer Window

Back-to-back champions Man United decide to ease on their spending in the summer and spend just £45m on bringing Tottenham’s Talisca, Juventus’ David Calabria and FC Hiroshima’s 18-year-old midfielder Hiroyuki Sakai to Old Trafford. In January Mourinho spends £59m AC Milan’s Franck Kessie. The only two notable departures are Ricardo Pereira, who signs for Zenit, and Leo Dubois’ move to RB Leipzig just a season in to his United career.

In true Spurs fashion, eight signings are made and only one is over the age of 21. Swansea wonderkid Christian Braun is signed for £28.5m while Cardiff’s promising 16-year-old right-back Guto Phillips joins for just £3.1m. Just £54m is spent as Mauricio Pochettino attempts to finally bring the Premier League title New White Hart Lane. The sale of Talisca to United for £22.5m a year after signing the Brazilian on a free transfer is seen as a typical Daniel Levy piece of business, as is the £11.25m sale of Mario Balotelli to Lazio. That’s almost £35m profit in just 12 months. Ben Davies is also sold as he completes a £17.5m switch to Atletico Madrid.

Man City spend big as Max Allegri’s future remains in doubt having not yet delivered a title since replacing Pep Guardiola, and £159m goes on eight new faces that include Barcelona’s Nelson Semedo (£42m), Genoa wonderkid striker Pietro Pellegri (£41m) and Real Madrid’s Mateo Kovacic (£32m). Mohamed Elneny leaves for Southampton and Joe Hart finally leaves City for good and returns to Serie A with Napoli.

Liverpool’s failure to finish in the top six meant a big summer of spending was needed if they were to return to where they should be, but only £83m is spent on 10 new players, the biggest deal being  £40.5m move for Real Madrid’s 23-year-old striker Lautaro Martinez. Edin Dzeko is also signed on a free transfer. On the way out of Anfield are mostly fringe players, while Nathaniel Clyne is sold to Brighton for £7.25m and James Milner makes his loan move to West Brom a permanent one for £3.7m.

Pep Guardiola takes a similar approach at Arsenal but with much less activity. £56m is spent on four new faces, including Leroy Sane from Bayern Munich for £23.3m and former Liverpool midfielder Lucas Leiva for £3.4m.

Chelsea are the biggest spenders, though, as they splash out £168m on eight players. The biggest deal involves a £53m move for Palermo attacker Felice D’Amico while £44.5m is spent on Lorenzo Pellegrini from Roma. Patrick Roberts signs on a free. Alvaro Morata is allowed to leave for Barcelona in a £25.5m deal and David Luiz makes the switch to Shakhtar Donetsk for just £2.1m.

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Sunderland sign 17 new players but no one of real interest. A 33-year-old Marouane Fellaini arrives on a free but is sold to Nantes in January while Premier League veterans Wilfried Bony and Keiran Gibbs are also bought.

West Ham’s transfer window seems productive but largely underwhelming – the biggest deal involves an £18m move for Wolves’ Jordan Graham while Celtic’s Kristoffer Ajer signs for £11.5m. Sam Byram, Winston Reid, Adrian and Edimilson Fernandes are all sold for very small fees under £10m while Borja Baston is sold just year on from signing having scored just one goal all season.

The top ten transfers involving Premier League clubs are as follows…

As always, there were many transfers that caught many people by surprise…

Raheem Sterling decides that Bournemouth is the best possible place for him to continue his career after being released by Man City in the summer, as does former Barcelona and Stoke star Bojan. Bournemouth also surprise everyone with the £15.25m capture of PSG’s Lucas Moura, which is very quickly tipped to be the signing of the summer.

Olivier Giroud signs for Leicester City on a free, Fabian Delph joins Middlesbrough, Vincent Kompany joins West Brom while the Baggies also secure a  £1m deal to bring 34-year-old Jamie Vardy to the Hawthorns.

Across the continent, PSG sign Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio for £67m and Real Madrid buy Bilbao’s Inaki Williams for £53m. In January, PSG then up their spending by securing a £114m deal to sign Atletico Madrid centre-half Jose Gimenez.

The League Campaign

For the third time in Premier League history Man United win a third consecutive title. Once again they win it without much competition to worry about – they lose just the once all season and finish the campaign 10 points clear of runners-up Man City.

Chelsea return to the top-four with a third place finish while Spurs pip Arsenal to fourth by just two points.

Leicester City and Eddie Howe’s West Ham both secure Europa League spots after impressive season, the Foxes going one better than the previous season by finishing in the top six.

Liverpool stumble to a second consecutive eighth place finish as the good ol’ days of yesteryear seem a long, distant memory at Anfield. Their decision to spend their way back in to the big time backfired just a year after their decision not to spend big backfired. Lots of head-scratching going on inside their infamous transfer committee.

As seasons go, this one will probably be quickly forgotten. While Mourinho’s United ran away with the title again, the relegation battle didn’t do much to get hearts racing. Reading, Sunderland and Burnley are all relegated, the third and final spot in the bottom three going to the Royals two weeks before the end of the season.

Amazingly, West Brom were able to stay up with just 32 points – the lowest ever points haul for a club avoiding relegation.

So the only thing worth getting excited about on the final day of the season was which North London club would secure Champions League football – Arsenal’s thrilling 3-2 defeat to Southampton at St. Mary’s meant Spurs were able to leapfrog them with a 2-1 win away at Everton.

In the eyes of the media, the season’s biggest overachievers were West Ham, Newcastle and Middlesbrough, while the biggest underachievers are undoubtedly Liverpool, Everton and Southampton.

Man United’s only defeat of the season came very early on as Everton thrashed them 4-1 at Goodison Park in September. After that, Mourinho’s side were outstanding as they went on to drop just 12 points for the rest of the season.

Man City were early title contenders, winning their first five games of the season, conceding just two goals in the process. But a defeat away to West Ham at the end of September brought their positive start to a crushing halt, wining just one of their next five league fixtures. They did go unbeaten in their final 12 games, winning nine on the trot, but by then there were made to rue dropped points to the likes of Leicester, Stoke and Newcastle.

Arsenal’s failure to finish in the top four at the very least comes as one of the biggest shocks of the season. They were initial title contenders after going unbeaten until mid-January. A first defeat of the season at home to Newcastle sparked a run of four games without victory and by then, Man United had taken advantage and started running away with it. Just three wins from their final 12 games ended any hopes of a top four finish for the Gunners as Tottenham leapfrogged them on the final day.

Down at the other end of the table, Burnley fully deserve their relegation having won just three games all season. Their final victory of the campaign came on December 20th and they then went on a run of 21 games without a win – picking up just six more points.

Sunderland are also very deserving of their drop back in to the Championship. They registered their first win of the season at the end of January, but by then they were well adrift of safety.

Reading’s story isn’t much different. Just two wins after the turn of the year ensured they would be going straight back down to the Championship after a solitary season back in the big time.

Here’s how the season looked as far as team records are concerned…

End of Season Awards

Arsenal’s Andre Silva wins the Golden Boot with 21 goals but it’s actually Man City’s 20-year-old summer signing Pietro Pellegri who steals the headlines with an impressive 19 goal haul in his maiden season in England. The Italian wonderkid averaged a goal every 107 minutes, which is the best conversion rate in the league.

Harry Kane also nets 19 to take him to within seven of 150 Premier League goals. With Alan Shearer’s record still well and truly in his sights, all the talk is whether he’ll be able to break it. However, Pellegri’s emergence was so impressive that some are tipping him to give Kane a run for his money in the seasons to come.

Dybala’s tally of 17 goals means he ends his third season in England with 60 Premier League goals in just 106 appearances.

And Eden Hazard joins the 100 club, taking his overall Premier League tally to 104 in 310.

An injury plagued season means Sergio Aguero can only register 10 Premier League goals, while Romelu Lukaku scores nine.

The Golden Glove goes to David De Gea for the third consecutive season, registering 16 shut outs in 34 appearances.

Man City’s Bernardo Silva ends the season at the top of the assist charts with 14 and his nine goals on top are enough for him to be voted Premier League Player of the Year.

Paulo Dybala is voted Players’ Player of the Year and Chelsea’s Lorenzo Pellegrini is voted Players’ Young Player of the Year after an impressive return of seven goals and five assists in his debut season since his £44.5m move from Roma in the summer.

Unsurprisingly, Jose Mourinho is voted Manager of the Year for the fifth time in his career.

And the Premier League Team of the Year is more of a mixed bag competed to the Manchester domination in previous seasons. While both clubs still dominate the XI, Tottenham’s Serge Aurier, Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Arsenal’s Andre Silva all make the cut.

Manager Movements

It was relatively quiet season where manager movements are concerned as only six clubs decide to make changes.

The first to wield the axe are Sunderland, who sack Roberto Martinez just before Christmas and replace him with former West Ham manager Tony Pulis. West Brom sack Jorge Sampaoli the very next day and decide that only Tim Sherwood is capable of saving them from the drop, which proves to be the correct call. Just.

Tottenham leave it until Boxing Day to sack Mauricio Pochettino, much to the surprise of the entire world. Scott Parker takes caretaker charge until the 9th of January when Carlo Ancelotti is named the man in the dugout at New White Hart Lane.

Crystal Palace sack Javier Aguirre midway through January and turn to Reading’s Garry Monk as his successor. Palace are made to wait a month before opting for Marcin Wasilewski as Monk’s successor.

And one of the biggest shock’s of the season came in February as last seasons’ Premier League Manager of the Year, Nuno Espirito Santo, loses his job at Southampton after losing the dressing room. Saints convince former Liverpool boss Jorge Jesus to take the job three weeks later.

Just a day after the season finishes, Liverpool announce the sacking of Vincenzo Montella, just 353 days after appointing him.

What to expect next season?

Man United will have their eyes fully on winning an unprecedented fourth consecutive Premier League title, but they’re bound to face a much bigger fight from the likes of Man City, Tottenham and Chelsea.

There will also be a lot of eyes on Liverpool. After a few years out of Europe, they’ll be looking to appoint the right manager to steer them back to where they belong. Trouble is, with the competition in the top six, perhaps even top eight, so fierce there’s a chance they may miss out again.

Arsenal, fresh off the back of another finish outside the top four will want to put rivals Tottenham back in their place but with Ancelotti now in charge at New White Hart Lane it looks as though Spurs could be about to embark on an exciting new era.

West Ham and Leicester will both have ambitions of breaking the top four, but the Hammers will be wary of the effects of Europa League football. The last time they qualified they made it all the way to the final, but it meant their league form suffered and they could only managed a 10th place finish.

Newly promoted Watford, Leeds and Ipswich will all obviously have survival down as their number one objective.

Meanwhile, Aston Villa fans will be pleased to see that League One was no match for them as they run away with the title, finishing a huge 23 points ahead of runners-up Nottingham Forest. Now, can they make it back to the Premier League?

2020/2021 Overview

Premier League Champions: Man United
Champions League qualification: Man United,Man City, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur
Europa League qualification: Southampton, Chelsea and Leicester City
Relegated to Championship: Reading, Sunderland and Burnley
Promoted to Premier League: Watford, Leeds United and Ipswich Town
Community Shield Winners: Man United
FA Cup Winners: Tottenham Hotspur
Carabao Cup Winners: Arsenal
UEFA Super Cup Winners: Man United
Club World Championship: Man United
Champions League Winners: Man United
Europa League Winners: Chelsea

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