London, Aug 5 (IANS) The new Premier League season kicks off on the weekend with fans anxious to know who will come out on top of what looks likely to be another head-to-head battle between Manchester City and Liverpool.
Manchester City just about go into the season as favourites, despite their defeat to Liverpool in last weekend’s Charity Shield, with Pep Guardiola’s side pulling off the signing of Erling Haaland.
The Norwegian, who won’t be on World Cup duty in November, looks likely to provide more goals than Gabriel Jesus, and his partnership with Julian Alvarez (who was signed from River Plate in January) looks likely to offset the departure of Raheem Sterling and Jesus, while England player Kalvin Phillips is an upgrade of the veteran Fernandinho (if he can stay fit).
Darwin Nunez is the man everyone will be looking out for at Liverpool and the former Benfica striker has a big task to fill the boots of the departed Sadio Mane, Xinhua reports. Fabio Carvalho looks like a promising buy from Fulham and Jurgen Klopp will be pleased to see Diogo Jota and Mohamed Salah pen new deals.
It has been a tumultuous summer at Chelsea, with new owners coming in to replace Roman Abramovich, but the signings of Sterling and Kalidou Koulibali show ambition, even though the defence looks weaker after losing Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen and the possible departures of Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta.
Thomas Tuchel also needs to find a reliable goalscorer if his side to have any options of a top-four finish.
Tottenham could be the “dark horse” in this year’s title race with Antonio Conte having the summer to form a side in his image with important arrivals, such as Richarlison, Yves Bissouma strengthening in all areas of the pitch.
Harry Kane and Son Heung-min guarantee goals and Conte’s side keep things tight in defence and could be challengers.
Arsenal flickered and promised last season, before fizzing out at the end of the campaign and Mikel Arteta’s side will provide moments of magic again after the arrivals of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko from Manchester City. However, the question is whether Arteta’s entertaining young side can maintain their challenge consistently over a full season and the answer is probably “no”.
As for Manchester United, surely it can’t be worse than the collective chaos and individual disappointments of last season, as Erik ten Hag steps into the Old Trafford hotseat.
In a best-case scenario, players such as Harry Maguire, Jadon Sancho and Marcos Rashford will bounce back to their best under the former Ajax coach, while Christian Eriksen provides some silk in midfield and Lisandro Martinez adds steel at the back.
In the worst case, last season saw too much damage to repair in one year and a want-away Cristiano Ronaldo spends the campaign in a self-imposed sulk as United again struggle to qualify for Europe.
Elsewhere, Newcastle United can be expected to progress thanks to a combination of Saudi Arabian finance and Eddie Howe’s intelligent management. West Ham United have added much-needed firepower with the signing of Gianluca Scamacca, who should allow Michail Antonio a rest now and then, while Leicester City have yet to make any signings, but have defender Wesley Fofana fit again after missing nearly all last season with a broken leg.
Much of Leicester’s hopes will depend on them fending off Newcastle United’s offers to sign creative midfielder James Maddison and Jamie Vardy continuing to score goals.
Wolves can be depended on to play attractive football, but need Raul Jimenez to rediscover his touch in front of goal, while it will be interesting to see how Brighton adapt after losing midfield motor Bissouma to Spurs.
Graham Potter’s side can be relied on to play attractive football, but once again they need a bit more bite in front of goal.
Southampton also need to find goals if they are to avoid turning inconsistency into an all-out battle against relegation.
Patrick Viera had an excellent first season at Crystal Palace, changing them from a dogged defensive unit to an expansive passing team and we can expect more of the same in south London, and while Brentford will be hard-pushed to repeat their excellent first season in the elite, Thomas Frank has kept most of his squad together (except for Eriksen) and Keane Lewis Potter is a promising young forward.
Steven Gerrard’s first full season at Aston Villa promises to be interesting and he will be pleased to have secured central defender Diego Carlos from Sevilla.
Things look tougher for Gerrard’s England companion as Frank Lampard faces another difficult campaign at Everton. Lampard has the fans on his side after narrowly avoiding relegation, but the loss of Richarlison is a big one and the signings of James Tarkowski and Dwight McNeil from Burnley will have to add some steel of they want to avoid further struggles.