English Premier League

Looking ahead: What the Premier League’s top six need to do next season

Manchester City sealed the title with a record-breaking 100 points as rivals will attempt to play catch-up.

Manchester City set the seal on a record-breaking season by becoming the first side in English top flight history to hit 100 points with victory at Southampton on Sunday.

City also added another landmark by winning the league by a record 19 points from local rivals Manchester United.

So how can United and the rest of the chasing pack get closer next season?

Manchester City

If City maintain their remarkable consistency from this season, there is little hope of a title race next season and ominously the free-spending champions look set to add to a squad that has already cost a reported €878 million ($1 billion, £774 million).

However, Pep Guardiola has insisted he will only tinker this summer, having overhauled an ageing squad in his first two seasons in charge.

“We made a good, high investment last year because it was an old team – 10, 11 players more than 31-years-old,” said Guardiola this week. “Now we are going to change some details...one, maybe two (signings).”

Worryingly for the competition, though, City now have a young squad capable of dominating for years to come.

Guardiola also has a history of building dynasties as his Barcelona and Bayern Munich sides won three consecutive league titles before arriving in Manchester.

Manchester United

United have been good enough for second best to City this season, but have failed to enthral their supporters with many unhappy at manager Jose Mourinho’s brand of football.

The Portuguese’s calling card has been to win leagues wherever he has managed, but even Mourinho has tempered expectations that the gap to City can be breached in one season.

“The difference of points tell a lot,” said Mourinho. “Can we close that gap in one season with a very difficult market? We are going to try.”

With the biggest turnover in the league, United will be busy in the transfer market again with rumours they could make a move for out of favour Real Madrid star Gareth Bale.

However, Mourinho also has to get more out of the marquee signings of his reign in Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez.

Tottenham Hotspur

A state-of-the-art new 62,000 capacity stadium awaits Tottenham next season, but there isn’t much time to settle in with the pressure on to turn four years of progress under Mauricio Pochettino into silverware.

The Argentine is yet to win a trophy as coach and question marks remain over how long the extremely talented young core of the Tottenham team will stay together whilst earning significantly less than their rivals in the top six.

The financial pressures of building the stadium at a reported £1 billion cost could also hamper Pochettino’s progress, although a third consecutive season of Champions League football should ease some of the burden.

Liverpool

A sensational run to the Champions League final, including a 5-1 quarter-final humiliation of City, has proven Liverpool’s ability to beating anyone on their day under Jurgen Klopp.

Extending that form out over the course of 38 games is now the challenge for the German to deliver a first league title since 1990.

“We need more consistency to challenge and a little bit more luck with injuries,” said Klopp on Sunday.

Naby Keita’s arrival from RB Leipzig for £52.75m will add extra dynamism and depth to a midfield decimated by injuries in the latter part of this season.

However, Liverpool’s progress in their strongest title challenge of recent times in 2013/14 was undone when Luis Suarez was sold to Barcelona months later.

Warding off interest that is sure to come for Mohamed Salah after a remarkable 44-goal season is paramount if Liverpool are to challenge for the title next season.

Chelsea

From first to fifth, Antonio Conte’s second season at Stamford Bridge has been a miserable one that is likely to see the Italian take charge for the final time in the FA Cup final next weekend.

However, with Russian oligarch owner Roman Abramovich no longer able to simply outspend the competition, Chelsea are at a crossroads.

Finding the right replacement for Conte should he go is Chelsea’s top priority and the right candidate could be chosen with an eye to finally bring through some of the side that won a fifth consecutive FA Youth Cup final last month.

Arsenal

Arsenal are set for the biggest change of all as after 22 years in charge, Arsene Wenger has stepped aside as manager.

Despite finishing 37 points adrift of City in sixth, Wenger is bullish about the squad he has left behind’s chances of challenging next season.

“I see a bright future for my successor because the team has a good attitude and quality.” said the Frenchman. “The team needs some additions and, if they get them, I think they will compete for the Premier League title.”

The stunning form of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang since completing a club record move in January does offer a glimmer of hope.

But it is at the other end of the field that Wenger’s replacement will need to work hardest as Arsenal conceded 51 goals in the league this season.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.