Manchester City have won three of the last four Premier League titles, and if they manage to have both Jack Grealish and Harry Kane on board before the transfer window closes, few would dare bet against their chances of returning. to become champions. But is the picture really as clear as many good judges seem to believe? Especially if City decides to focus on the elusive Champions League crown.
Behind Manchester City, the plot thickens and the candidates face the new campaign with realistic ambitions to unseat the champions.
Chelsea beat Pep Guardiola’s side in the Champions League final, and Thomas Tuchel is hopeful Romelu Lukaku will come from Inter Milan to add firepower to an already gifted team. Manchester United, a finalist last season, is confident that Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane can help them win their first title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013. Liverpool, with a packed Anfield and Virgil Van Dijk back, will have no reason to believe that he will not be able to rediscover the great level he had two seasons ago.
All of this promises a fascinating season, especially given the packed stadiums and the new directives for the VAR, which will be the end of hateful offside decisions “by a nail” and avoidable penalties. Last season’s record of 125 penalties was almost ridiculous; the players seemed to collapse to the ground from a mere draft.
Looking ahead to the opening game on Friday, this is what I think of each club, although at this point the predictions must be tempered by the fact that there is still a possibility that other important movements will take place in the transfer market, given that the window closes at the end of August.
The addition of Brighton and England defender Ben White for £ 50m is the kind of transfer the Gunners needed, but they need much more after finishing eighth two seasons in a row. Young players like Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe are only going to get better, although their success depends on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rediscovering his finishing talent. The jury has not yet decided regarding DT Mikel Arteta.
How will they manage without Grealish, his figure? That should be the key question despite the fact that Dean Smith has invested in Danny Ings, Leon Bailey and Emi Buendía to add variants in attack, and the return of Ashley Young to add a little of that much-needed experience. Villa will surely return to finish in the middle of the table as he consolidates his status in the Premier League.
The long-time youth club from West London will be the 50th team to play in the Premier League, and their Danish manager, Thomas Frank, has the squad convinced that with their entrepreneurial approach they will be able to surprise. But they will need their star forward Ivan Toney to repeat in the first division the level of 33 goals he displayed last season. Brentford certainly deserves his shot after coming very close to promotion several times.
It was a showy team last season, but finished 16th with 41 points. They will feel the loss of White (Arsenal), but they have enough defensive coverage with Lewis Dunk, Adam Webster and Dan Burn, and Yves Bissouma is one of the best midfielders in the league, with several fans. It would be a great help if the rampaging lane player Tariq Lamptey is fit.
There was not much movement in the market with the new owner, ALK, but they are smart enough to know that it pays to keep DT Sean Dyche happy. The Clarets bounced back from a lousy start to finish safe by 11 points last season, and they have enough craft and will – and some very good professionals led by Ben Mee, James Tarkowski, goalkeeper Nick Pope and forward center Chris Wood – – to keep your head above the water again.
They may be the team with the best chance of challenging the Manchester City champions, who they beat with a perfect tactical approach in the Champions League final. They are a multiplicity of talent, but finished eighth in goals scored in the Premier League last season. As we write this, everything indicates that Romelu Lukaku will arrive from Inter for some £ 98m to solve that problem. The Belgian is no longer the inexperienced lad who failed to shine in his first cycle at Stamford Bridge, although where that leaves last season’s great signing, Timo Werner, is a separate question.
It has been a summer of changes at Palace. Patrick Vieira has replaced Roy Hodgson while the club undergoes some kind of restructuring. About a dozen players had reached the end of their contracts, but star Wilfried Zaha and a reborn Christian Benteke stayed, and Palace has added two other good defenders in Joachim Andersen and Marc Guehi, in addition to promising teenage hitch Michael Olise. However, it is an acid test for Vieira.
Carlo Ancelotti left ship for Real Madrid and Rafa Benítez arrived, whom some Toffees fans will never forgive for calling them “a small club” when he was managing Liverpool more than a decade ago. Will Rafa win over the skeptics? Or will there be a crisis at Goodison Park for a team that finished lackluster 10th last season? Nothing that has happened yet in the transfer market makes you think that they could improve their result. Newcomer Demarai Gray must show he deserves to play regularly in the first division, although winger Andros Townsend could have another opportunity in Merseyside.
Last season capped off a fantastic return to the first division with his ninth place in the table, and with Elland Road blasting with the return of the fans, Marcelo Bielsa’s empowered team could put the Top 6 to the test if it is not seen. affected by the “syndrome of the second season”. The graceful and articulate Patrick Bamford could get noticed in England, and Junior Firpo arrived from Barça for £ 13m.
A preseason fracture to the leg suffered by young Foxes defender Wesley Fofana is a terrible blow, and may leave them severely lacking deep down. Despite not making the top four again, that first FA Cup victory made for a triumphant season. Patson Daka, Boubakary Soumare and Ryan Bertrand are great additions to Brendan Rodgers’ options and he still has strong players in his squad, with Harvey Barnes recovered from his injury and James Justin progressing very positively.
They will surely think that they will be able to put on a good performance in the Europa League, and why not think that something like this could happen?
It will be an intrigue to see if the “old Liverpool” who waltzed to the title two seasons ago will emerge. After a horrendous midseason run from some major injuries, they were fine, finishing third in May. The return of Virgil Van Dijk and the £ 36m signing of Ibrahima Konate certainly gives them a more solid appearance, but they need Curtis Jones to fill in for Gini Wijnaldum after his departure to PSG. There is also the cloud of the contract dispute with the captain, Jordan Henderson, flying over in the preseason.
An overabundance of riches. How will Pep Guardiola get Grealish to enter? The English ability to run with the ball, attract fouls and create chances would strengthen any team. He is a unique talent and if Kane also joins in, City’s attack will have a daunting appearance with players like Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez fighting for a place on the team, and Bernardo Silva likely on the way out. Remember also that Kevin De Bruyne only started 23 Premier League games last season and he should be back at his best. City was champion by 12 points last season, but this year it will be more difficult.
The club has given Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a huge vote of confidence with a contract extension until 2024 and the funds for Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane. With Marcus Rashford out for two months due to a shoulder problem, Sancho has a chance to show off his sensational talent while Varane and Harry Maguire look like a winning duo in the background. If Bruno Fernandes recovers from a poor performance in the Euro (he looked tired), United should be in the mix at the top of the table, but the usual uncertainty regarding Paul Pogba (his contract expires next June) will not it will help too.
A club in apparent crisis continues, but still rallied to finish twelfth last season while Steve Bruce responded to the criticism. They need Callum Wilson to maintain his good physical condition and close the deal with Arsenal for Joe Willock, whose goals have been vital at the end of last season. They have been quiet in the pass market … thus far.
They bounced back to the top tier on the first try and as Championship winners, keeping faith with the coach, Daniel Farke. They have lost their main chance creator, Buendía, who left with Aston Villa, but they have done well to acquire Chelsea’s excellent young midfielder Billy Gilmour on loan. The Canaries have been a bit more ambitious in the transfer market than in their last trip to the Premier League, but everything seems to indicate that it will be a fight to avoid relegation.
The sudden sale of forward Danny Ings to Aston Villa will have set off alarms for Saints fans. Left-back Ryan Bertrand (Leicester City) has also left and there may also be offers for captain James Ward-Prowse. Unless they can strengthen the squad between now and the end of August, the Saints are in danger of being the surprise team in trouble.
It’s tough times in North London, with a lot depending on how the Kane saga ends. It hasn’t been an easy start for new coach Nuno Espirito Santo, but at least Spurs have added Sevilla winger Bryan Gil and £ 47m Atalanta defender Cristian Romero is also an onerous addition while Toby Alderweireld leaves the team. The new and not-so-glamorous Europa Conference League is the price they will have to pay for finishing seventh last season. It will be crucial to see what they do to replace Kane (if he leaves) although Inter man Lautaro Martínez is one of their targets.
Club Brugge’s precocious youngster Emmanuel Dennis could create a bit of a stir as the Hornets return to the top tier. Former England left-back Danny Rose and Middlesbrough forward Ashley Fletcher are some of the other additions, while dangerous winger Ismaila Sarr is still there as well. But it may be a long, harsh winter on Vicarage Road.
How will you deal with the routine of matches from Thursday to Sunday as you prepare for the Europa League? It was certainly striking last season to finish sixth with a team led by Declan Rice and with players like Tomas Soucek and Michail Antonio as the true dangerous men. They would love to bring Jesse Lingard back after a productive loan stint with Manchester United and add top defender Kurt Zouma from Chelsea or Duje Caleta-Car from Marseille. We should look forward to a busy end of August for David Moyes.
Last season was a wake-up call as they fell to thirteenth with just 45 points after two successive seventh spots. The Nuno era is over – he is now rebuilding Tottenham – and Bruno Lage has entered. At least the top striker, Raúl Jiménez, is on the mend after suffering a terrible skull fracture last season. There were a few low key signings, but it may be a difficult year again unless promising youngster Pedro Neto and Adama Traore (if he stays) can form an effective reinforcement line for Jiménez. Barça winger Francisco Trincao could get fans excited at Molineux.