It only takes a few weeks without Premier League football for the excitement to build; only a brief pause for the memories of last season to fade and the blank slate ahead of us to seem loaded with potential. The 2022/23 campaign is still four weeks away but already that childlike feeling is bubbling up, aided by some particularly juicy transfer stories.
We do tend to exaggerate the possibilities. In August last year there was talk of a unique four-way title challenge thanks to the expectation Romelu Lukaku would propel Chelsea towards the title and - far less plausibly - that Cristiano Ronaldo could somehow make up for all the glaring flaws at Manchester United.
But although the 2021/22 season didn't quite live up to that, it was nevertheless a classic: arguably the highest quality in the competition's history and with story-lines unresolved up and down the table right up until May. We were right to predict something special - and there is every reason to think similarly about the campaign ahead.
Unlike last year, when anticipation built around so much quality at the top, this year we ought to focus on the possibility of a significant decline, bringing more clubs into the mix.
A shake-up at the top
Mohamed Salah signing a new contract is huge news for Liverpool and should ensure they maintain ground with Manchester City, although it is likely that both clubs will be slightly weaker this season. That is great news for neutrals, as well as for supporters of Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.
The winter World Cup will play havoc with the Premier League in ways we cannot fully predict, but suffice to say we will have two very distinct half-seasons. Injuries and fatigue will be disruptive and everyone will have to rotate their starting 11 more, creating unpredictability and most likely lower points tallies for the top clubs. The World Cup will also act as a psychological reset, severing the usual through line of morale and mentality.
Liverpool and Man City have undergone big changes this summer that could further unsettle them. Losing Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich is a huge blow and there is no guarantee Darwin Nunez will hit the ground running, while Pep Guardiola has gambled on a dramatic tactical shift by signing Erling Haaland, whose weakness outside the penalty area has the potential to make things worse before they get better.
Add all that together and we might be looking at champions recording a mid-80s points tally, which would hand a rare opportunity for Chelsea or Spurs to sneak into the race. Thomas Tuchel's side are undergoing a pretty significant rebuild of their own and too much depends on how their transfer window will go to predict anything concrete now.
Spurs, however, look set to challenge. Antonio Conte is one of the best tacticians in the world and there is no doubt his team will be better after a whole summer absorbing his methods. What's more, the Italian has won the battle with Daniel Levy as Spurs begin to spend heavily on players who are ready now: Ivan Perisic is an astute addition and Richarlison adds much-needed cover upfront.
Assuming Tottenham land their preferred midfield and defensive targets - and the signs suggest they will - then Conte is capable of grinding out a sequence of early wins to emulate what he did with Chelsea in 2016/17. They are worth a small bet at 15.014/1.
Fascinating sub-plots at both ends
Aside from the title, there are already some obvious points of interest for the 2022/23 season, most notably how Manchester United get on with Erik ten Hag as manager. As we approach the ten-year anniversary of the club's last league title, United happen to be at perhaps the most important - and intriguing - crossroads since Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement.
Ten Hag is a superb tactician but inexperienced; capable of genius but vulnerable to being chewed up by the most pressurised job in the sport. He could revolutionise the club or he could fail spectacularly and there is truly no way of knowing which way it will go, which virtually guarantees interest for neutrals.
Already stories are popping up. Cristiano Ronaldo's transfer request is the first grenade of many, and while their moves in the transfer market seem sensible it remains to be seen whether this basket case of a club can really be fixed by a good manager.
Looking further down, has there ever been a time when the fate of three mid-table clubs has seemed so interesting? Newcastle United's new dawn is one to keep an eye on but, judging by the transfer rumours, will be something of a slow burn, while Aston Villa have gone big and early in their ambitious plans to become a Champions League club in the next few years.
Lastly there's Everton, who - as ever - are buying wholeheartedly into their manager's vision and frankly seem doomed because of it. James Tarkowski, Harry Winks, Jesse Lingard: it won't be long before a new coach is in the dugout trying to work out how to gel the Lampard signings with the Ancelotti and Benitez visions.
And finally at the bottom, Leeds United are about to lose Rafinha and Kalvin Phillips and Southampton's steady decline continues, suggesting these two will join the newly-promoted clubs in another to-the-wire struggle in a relegation battle enlivened by neutrals' favourites Nottingham Forest.
Everywhere you look, plot points and excitement - and we've still got eight weeks left of what looks set to be a particularly busy transfer window. Yes, it's early, and no, it's never quite as good as we envision it to be, but it is not an exaggeration to say 2022/23 is already shaping up to be another classic.