With the huge influx of money and the most ordinary players going for sums that a few years ago would have raised questions in the Houses of Parliament, this new shiny, glossy and bundles of cash Premier League season promises to be one of the most fascinating in recent history.
Will Pep get it right at the Etihad and again frustrate Jose who might then think about moving to a place where Pep won’t follow?
Will Arsene Wenger defy all of the odds to stay as manager of Arsenal for another season? The fans have a big part to play there in creating an atmosphere that actually supports the team and not one pumped and primed for a defeat, with banners at the ready and the TalkRadio station number on speed dial for another two minute mini moan.
These are just a few of the questions that will be answered this season; see my short preview which includes predictions. See if you agree or disagree.
What to say about Arsenal?
The never ending saga of Arsene Wengers’ future should finally come to an end this season one way or another.
Either they progress satisfactorily in the Premier League and progress means truly competing for the title or the Emirates doommongers may finally get their wish.
Pep Guardiola is arguably the manager under most pressure this year, after replacing Joe Hart with Bravo didn’t really pan out he has now put his faith in another keeper untested in the Premier League, the saving grace being the more possession City have the less he will be tested.
The huge outlays on full backs will also be under scrutiny as will Agueros situation – his happiness and Guardiola’s faith in him.
City need to convince consistently and if they can find a settled team to enable rhythm they should be in for a very, very good season (and I make them favorites) and it needs to be as the spotlight is very much on them.
Mourinho is not under pressure as such but will need a good start to banish the overwhelming feeling of dissatisfaction around the club (despite the Europa League trophy).
Mourinho himself will also need to present a much happier facade as last season as the dour, sour touchline presence coupled with the surly post match interviews only added to the general gloomy feeling around United.
They still look like they need a spark in their play and it might be that the consistent playing of Rashford down the middle may be vital to their overall play as even with Lukaku on board Rashford adds a youthful spark that lights up games and could propel United forwards.
Mourinho’s misfortune may be in his nemesis (Guardiola) following him to England.
Could it be like in Spain where, if Guardiola hadn’t produced one of the best teams of all time, then Real Madrid and Mourinho would surely have dominated, could history repeat itself in the home of football?
A big season for Everton, right manager, good blend of players, the prodigal son back home and a quiet, genuine optimism around Goodison.
The funds from Lukaku need to be used for an absolutely reliable top performing striker who will perform right away and, if they can secure Gylfi Sigurddson, one of the top performers in the Premier League, it will also add to the optimism.
The Barkley situation will be dealt with by Koeman one way or another for the good of the club as Koeman has a hard ruthless side and he can make a decision and just turn away from it and look forward.
I think if Everton can adequately replace Lukaku plus add goals from midfield, it could be an interesting season for the Toffees.
This is a vital season for Stoke.
The seem to have, very contradictorily, while securing their status as a genuine Premier League side, lost the hard-to-beat on a Tuesday night ‘Stokeyness’ and this will be something Mark Hughes will be looking to regain while still retaining the flair that players like Shaqiri provides especially with Arnautovic departing, his unpredictability will need to be replaced.
I think this could be a VERY tricky season for Stoke and, if they start poorly could lead to serious trouble for them in terms of Premier League status.
As the Klopp factor calms down a little and things are no longer at a constant, draining fever pitch, this is the season that Klopp needs to achieve something at Anfield.
There still seems to be a missing element at Liverpool that would propel them into real contenders instead of being ‘not quite there.’
Klopp himself will not be happy until they are really challenging and will be looking to strengthen considerably.
Coutinho will be vital to hold on to and although the front three of Coutinho, Mane and Firmino are quicksilver, one still feels that a real focal point is missing at times.
The rotation of the front three can be mesmerizing at times and messy at others and a focal point may help the teams at times when the flexibility is not quite working.
The goalkeeping situation will also need to be addressed to provide confidence for the team and crowd as this has gone on for too long now.
Is Sturridge still there? The sensible call would be to sell the fragile striker to the highest bidder but Klopp may find the temptation to keep him as back up when needed to. He will need all of his much heralded man management to keep him happy with a bit-part role for another season.
SEE MORE: Schedule of Premier League games on US TV and streaming
Eddie Howe looks to have established Bournemouth as a Premiership club but knows they still need to exercise caution and they need to really guard against any such complacency.
The signing of Jermain Defoe would seem to guarantee at least 15 goals this season. And if they can be meaner at the back, then this should bode well.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION
Firmly established as a top flight club, the question is which way do they go now?
Are they seeking a potential European spot, or are they looking to evolve a more attacking philosophy to please the demanding Albion crowd?
It’s well known that the fans, although appreciative of what Pulis has done for the club and the security he has provided, are still divided and a little unsure as to whether they see a long term future with him and robust style of play.
Jay Rodriguez can add firepower alongside Rondon if Pulis decides on occasions that they can play with a two man strike force. This may also assist Rondon who, at times, seems far too isolated from the rest of this incredibly well-organized team.
I’m not one of those who believes Pulis style of play to be dull. It’s a common sense approach, addressing all of the issues that need addressing in a football team. And match by match, Albion fans might want to be wary of wishing for change at a time when they have never looked more established.
It’s been a close season of unrest at Stamford Bridge, which seems strange when you consider they were worthy champions.
Rudiger and Morata are quality additions. And Conte will need to resolve the Costa saga one way or the other if he wants to maintain the peace.
This season will prove a much tougher test with the Manchester clubs looking stronger and ready to really challenge.
A settled team, a calm changing room and as little top down pressure is vital for Chelsea to maintain their success although I foresee a tough campaign ahead for the Blues.
Mauricio Pochettino now must be under the internal pressure that top performers put on themselves – to win something.
Spurs have now, for two seasons, earned all the plaudits and rightly so, but now this needs to be translated into something tangible like the title or (at least) the FA Cup.
Each year Spurs fail to really challenge, teams strengthen and things get tougher.
Pochettino needs a major trophy if he is to cement his reputation as a top manager.
I can’t help but feel that Palace is not the right club for Frank de Boer.
Palace are a club that nobody quite knows where their place in the overall scheme of things is or what they are aiming for and if Sam Allardyce had been there at earlier more Iess trickier stages of his career, I would be very optimistic for the Eagles.
My fear is that the principled de Boer gets caught in between his ideology and the harsh reality of the Premier League’s ruthlessness. And then Palace find themselves in trouble. But, on the flip side, they do have real attacking threats and this should, ultimately, see them safe.
Paul Clement seems the ideal choice for the Swans, a coach with a certain defined style and a ruthless edge picked up along the way studying and working with master coaches.
A lot will depend on whether Sigurddson stays at the club as he is one of the most effective players in the Premier League.
Home form will be key and if they can start well then they should be okay.
I expect Clement to really stamp his mark on the team this season.
This will be very interesting with a coach who we all know belongs at a really big club. The big question is what can he do with Newcastle – the ‘big club’ (and they are a truly big club) that never wins anything.
The potential is there and always has been, Benitez is one of the best organizers of a team in the business and will ensure his team offer stiff resistance at all times but will he be able to build a team that can bring joy and a little success to Tyneside?
WEST HAM UNITED
West Ham, in possession of one of the brightest managers in Europe, seem perpetually troubled, be it either stadium troubles, stars leaving the club or a lack of a genuine identity or team spirit.
They need to be very careful as relegation could spell total disaster to one of English football’s great clubs but I fear they will be again involved in a very uncomfortable fight, which is tricky to predict which way it will end.
It might also seem a wise move to unplug the Twitter accounts of those in charge to ease the ‘chatter’ around the club who only adds to pressure that Bilic could do without.
Watford seemed to have established themselves as a Premier League club without having established what they stand for as a club and what kind of team they want to be.
Run very much under the Italian model of hiring managers for short term periods and releasing as much through boredom as any rational decision, we have seen this complacency of Premier League status return to bite other clubs.
I think they’re another one of the teams who need to be careful.
David Wagner is a coach who makes an obvious difference to teams in terms of style and ambition and he’s done a fantastic job.
They have made many signings and it will be interesting to see how he copes with the problems of a bigger squad with bigger potential for unrest.
As a side coming up, you would expect them to struggle. I think they will start well and surprise a few people, then dip and then it will be anybody’s guess how the they handle the run-in but it will be a very tough season after the initial excitement subsides and one I think might prove just too tough.
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BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION
Another of England’s best and unappreciated managers has done another fabulous job.
The huge enthusiasm will be needed to carry the Seagulls this season.
I’m a big fan of Murray and Knockaert – two players of Premier League qualify – and if their home form is good this could set them up for a fight to the finish to survive. Although they have a superb manager, I expect them to find it tight going especially away from home.
Sean Dyche is as good a manager, pound for pound, as any in Europe.
His problem now will be managing the expectation of ‘going to the next level’ whatever that is and the Charlton syndrome of being in the Premier League but wanting more can be a curse for clubs of Burnley’s stature.
He knows the league, has more money to spend and will spend wisely.
I don’t see Burnley being in any trouble at all but do expect this to be possibly Dyche’s last season at the club before moving on to bigger things.
On the face of it, sacking Claude Puel would seem a strange move after a decent placing and a cup final appearance in which they really should have won. But if the move is part of a long term strategy (a la Nigel Adkins/Mauricio Pochettino), then we will have to wait and see how that pans out.
With a new very focused and determined manager it may, and probably will, work out. With their model of moderate success and huge profit in player transfers seemingly firmly in place, expect them to easily survive but don’t expect the sparkle of the last few seasons.
After all the turbulence of the last few seasons, it’s good opportunity for Leicester to return to some kind of normality.
With Craig Shakespeare, a sensible, common sense manager in charge, I expect a very steady and, at other times, what would be classed as a wry successful season with a top ten finish.
The core is still there and they can all settle down again and remember and do what made them the most incredible champions of all time, then it will be good times all round again.
I foresee a cup success along the way for the Foxes.
7 August 2017 | 5:44 pm