Somehow, it’s the same time. Cue the dramatic music, crank up the content generator and get ready to soak up the hottest scenes: the Premier League season is upon us once again.
What form this edition of football’s epic soap opera will take, of course, remains unclear. That, after all, is the fun of the thing.
As the 20 teams in the world’s richest league return to action this weekend, though, there are plenty of questions hanging over everything. How they are answered will go a long way in determining how things go.
Will Manchester City beat Manchester City?
The obvious question before the start of every new Premier League season is which team is likely to win the thing in the end. Unfortunately, in the current incarnation of the league, this is not a particularly interesting inquiry. Manchester City will win it, as they have in four of the last five editions, and will likely do so seeing off a spirited but ultimately futile challenge from Liverpool. This time, though, there’s just a small caveat.
The idea that Erling Haaland’s presence will somehow disrupt City’s rhythm enough to influence the team is a no-brainer. It might be an awkward marriage for a few months, but the two have enough to thrive nonetheless.
More important is the fact that Holland is currently one of 16 senior outfield players at Pep Guardiola’s disposal. That would be a risk in a normal season. It has a huge World Cup in the middle of it, which makes it look like a great gamble.
It may seem like naive praise for Arsenal to suggest that Mikel Arteta’s side have won pre-season – mostly because they have – but, amid all the hype and exaggeration, the last few weeks have seen the Spaniard And has produced some truly encouraging symptoms for his partner. Documentary stars
Gabriel Jesus, of course, has the potential to be a transformational signing, and his former Manchester City team-mate Oleksandr Zinchenko may not be far behind. Arsenal look like a much more complete side than they did a year ago. Not ready to challenge City or Liverpool, perhaps, but one that could end the club’s long exile from the Champions League.
Will Tottenham’s impatience end?
The biggest obstacle to Arsenal’s resurrection lies just down the road. Not at Chelsea, where a chaotic transfer window will most likely end with a stronger and yet somewhat less cohesive squad, but like the supernova coach replaced by Antonio Conte at Tottenham who comes in, Pushes his players to the limit and then explodes. . The trouble, when he arrived at Spurs, was that the club had an almost disproportionately opposite approach.
This seems to have been a non-issue. Tottenham are very much in a winning mood. Ivan Perisic, Richarlison and Yves Bissouma have been brought in to transform a side good enough to qualify for the Champions League last year to push for the title. Given the strangeness of the weather, it doesn’t seem impossible. Spurs have effectively had a chance under Conte. He has tried everything possible to take it.
Manchester United: The Debate
In what can be imagined as the purest distillation of modern football, Cristiano Ronaldo was given a standing ovation on his return to Old Trafford last weekend. Manchester United fans clearly wanted him to know how much he meant to them, even as he made it clear he did not want to stay at the club.
About 45 minutes later, after being substituted, Ronaldo was leaving the stadium at half-time, much against the wishes of his manager, Erik ten Hague, apparently convinced he didn’t need to stick around.
Manchester United have made progress this summer, believe it or not. Ten Hague is a great meeting place. The club have made a couple of great signings. But it’s an interesting development, tempered by the fact that United don’t have a roster of players who knew and loved the ten Hague and are undercut by the Ronaldo saga. As things stand, he may be forced to stay simply because no one else wants to sign him. Ten How Hague handles what will define the early months of his reign.
Can anyone break the seal?
At a glance, this season should be the best chance for a team outside the traditional Big Six to make it to the Champions League after 2016. The entire campaign will be affected by the World Cup, and it is hardly absurd to suggest that the superpowers – stocked as they are by the players heading to Qatar – could be more prone to fatigue as a result.
Whether any team can break out of the pack, though, is another matter. Newcastle ended last season on a Saudi-bankroll high, but it has been considerably quieter since the LIV Golf Series this summer. Leicester and Wolves seem to be stagnating. That leaves, perhaps, West Ham – as the only viable candidate – bolstered by some hefty additions. More likely still, of course, is that even David Moyes’ side can’t keep up the pace and that at the end of a season unlike any other, everything will be exactly the same as before.