Socceroos great Robbie Slater laments the absence of Australian players in the English Premier League.
The new season kicks off on Saturday morning when newly promoted Brentford hosted the underachieving Arsenal.
It’s an Arsenal squad that no longer contains Socceroos goalkeeper Mat Ryan, who finished last season on loan at the Gunners from Brighton.
And with Brighton having since sold Ryan to Spanish club Real Sociedad, no Australians are left in the English top flight.
It’s a situation that doesn’t sit well with Slater, who won a Premier League title with Blackburn Rovers in 1995.
“It’s not only in the EPL, it’s right across Europe,” Slater said.
The only current Socceroo playing in one of Europe’s top four leagues is midfielder Ajdin Hrustic, who plays for German Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt.
“It’s why the Socceroos are not a force anymore. Go back in time and all the players we had in the EPL, and players playing in Germany and Italy, and Spain to a lesser extent, and now today we kick off the EPL with not one Australian featuring in a team,” Slater said.
“Long gone are the days when we had double figures in the Premier League.”
Slater predicts this season’s battle for the premiership to be a tight affair among the usual suspects – reigning champions Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea
And despite City’s amazing depth, Slater has tipped Liverpool – the 2019-20 champions – to regain the title.
The key to the Reds’ success would be the return of star defender Virgil van Dijk from a long-term knee injury that robbed Liverpool of so much composure and class at the back last season, he said.
While tipping Liverpool for the title, Slater said City could easily make it back-to-back crowns, particularly if they bring England captain and ace marksman Harry Kane to the club.
Tottenham’s Kane is sure to contend for the Golden Boot, but Slater predicts Liverpool attacker Mo Salah to be the Premier League’s leading goalscorer.
That’s despite the arrival of powerful Belgian forward Romelo Lukaku at Chelsea from Italian champions Inter Milan.
“He scored bags of goals in Italy and he can do the same in England, and that will be huge for Chelsea in their bid for the title,” Slater said.
Several managers are under the microscope this season, including Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta.
“He’s had 18 months there now, and if they have a bad start to the season, Arteta could be gone,” said Slater, who also tipped trouble for Newcastle’s Steve Bruce and Southampton’s Ralph Hasenhuttl.