f the backlash to the European Super League was supposed to usher in a brave new era of equality and fan representation, we are still waiting.
The new Premier League season is shaping up to be the most top-heavy ever, as Manchester City and Chelsea spend ruthlessly in a battle for supremacy.
But as the pandemic recedes, it leaves a wreckage of financial hardship and a select few clubs out on their own at the top. The rest are navigating an uncertain landscape.
The return of supporters is reason for celebration and offers hope of a levelling of the playing field in future. Home clubs should feel the benefit after last season finished with the most away wins in Premier League history (153).
After a summer of judicious signings, Leicester are well-placed to mount another top-four challenge, but the other two members of so-called ‘big six’ appear stuck in a state of flux.
Their summer business has been encouraging but there is still significant work to do to overhaul a squad which underwent an accelerated decline under Jose Mourinho.
Villa are hoping to be surprise European contenders after quickly spending the Grealish windfall, but Dean Smith is now under pressure to do more than just survive, while West Ham and Leeds are aiming to build on last season’s successes. The Hammers must add to their squad before the end of the month or face being stretched thin by competing in the Europa League.
Two of the more intriguing clubs are based in the capital in Brentford and Crystal Palace.
The newly promoted Bees are an antidote to the financial distortion at the top of the League, with their intricately run business and statistical approach to transfers.
Wolves and Everton are also starting afresh under new coaches, while Newcastle and Burnley will be relying on the same old methods for survival again.
Brighton will want to kick on under Graham Potter, but Southampton and Norwich start the campaign among the favourites for the drop after losing key players over the summer.
Watford’s priority will be survival under Premier League newcomer Xisco Munoz, but history suggests they will be happy to make a change in the dugout if that begins to look in jeopardy.
Amid so much uncertainly, one thing is clear. From Manchester City to Norwich, the majority of clubs are uncooked as the top flight gets under way.