The perfect lines and circles are a brilliant, almost blinding, white against the dark and light velvet green stripes of the meticulously cut grass. In the fresh air is the scent of hope. It’s the start of the football season. Anything and everything are possible. It’s a magical time. Even in England, the sun shines.
But the 2023-24 English Premier League season begins with a familiar question. Can anyone stop Manchester City? City, guided by Pep Guardiola, arechampions of England and Europe, and have already won the European Super Cup, but there is hope.Departures of Ikay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez have weakened City’s midfield, while Kevin De Bruyne continues to have injury problems.
Several improving teams could also stop City.Arsenal have already beaten City, on penalties, in the FA Community Shield (a sort of English Super Cup). Arsenal manager Michel Arteta has spent more than €230m on Declan Rice, Kai Havetz and Jurrien Timber to strengthen his young team. Arsenal should also be more resilient after the disappointment of not winning the Premier League last season, despite being eight points ahead of Manchester City in January.
Jurgen Klopp has rejuvenated Liverpool’s midfield, signing World Cup winning Argentinian Alex MacAllister and young Hungarian international Dominik Szoboszlai. Diogo Jota and Luis Díaz,injured for much of last season, are also back to full fitness. Manchester United continue to progress undermanager Erik ten Hag as he builds a team in his image. Wanting a goalkeeper who can pass the ball, ten Hagbought Andre Onana from Inter Milan to replace David De Gea, who leftUnited after 12 years. Danish forward Rasmus Hojland and England midfielder Mason Mount have also joined United.
Under new ownership last season Chelsea were a mess. Looking for a fresh start under new manager Mauricio Pochettino, Chelsea fended off Liverpool to sign midfielder Moisés Caicedo, paying a UK record fee of €125m.Tottenham Hotspur are also under new management. After success with Celtic, the appointment of Greek- Australian Ange Postecoglou has brought optimism to Spurs after the ‘dark days’ of Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, and despite Harry Kane’s move to Bayern Munich. England international James Maddison and Italy’s Destiny Udogie have joined Spurs and signal Postecoglou’s attacking intent.
Newcastle United will look to improve on last season’s fourth-place finish. Although backed by Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth, Newcastle’s spending on players has been prudent and shrewd. Manager Eddie Howe has strengthened his squad, signing England midfielder Harvey Barnes and goalkeeper Nick Pope as well as Italy’s Tonali.
However, even if Manchester City are not as strong as last season, none of their rivals seem ready to take their place. Returns to the Champions League for Arsenal, after seven years, and for Newcastle after 20 years, will test severely the strength and depth of their squads. Questions over the sale of the club may undermine Manchester United’s efforts to find the consistency needed to challenge City. Liverpool show promise but seem fragile without a defensive midfielder to replace Fabinho who has gone to play in Saudi Arabia. Chelsea’s high player turnover continues.Kai Havertz, Mason Mount, Mateo Kovacic, and N’Golo Kanté are among the 23 players who have left the club, while 13 players have joined.Pochettinowill need time to find his best team, as will Postecoglou at Spurs.
The likely outcome is that Manchester City’s rivals take points off each otherand City become the only club to win the English League for four successive years.
Prediction: 1. Manchester City 2. Arsenal 3. Newcastle United 4. Liverpool
Three teams from Burnley,Everton, Luton, Sheffield United and Wolverhampton Wanderers are most likely to go down. Wolves struggled last season, especially away from home, finding it difficult to score goals. Manager Gary O’Neil has not strengthened his squad, despite experienced players such as Ruben Neves and Conor Coady leaving. Everton have been in the top league of English football for 80 years, but that could end this season. Sean Dyche’s managerial experience may be enough to keep them in the Premier League, but the club have not given him the money to invest in a team that depends too much on injury prone Dominic Calvert-Lewin to score goals and England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
Burnley won the Championship easily last year, and some see manager Vincent Kompany as areplacement for Pep Guardiola when he leaves Manchester City.Kompany has gone for young players with potential to keepBurnley in the Premier League, such as England under-21 goalkeeper James Trafford who has moved from Manchester City, 22-year-old Swiss international, Zeki Amdouni, from Basel and Norwegian international Sander Berge from Sheffield United. The question is whether such young talent can perform.
With departures of key players that won promotion last season, Sheffield United’s squad looks weak. Manager Paul Heckingbottom still has eight players from the Sheffield United team that finished ninth in the Premier League in 2020. It is unlikely to be enough to stave off relegation. Luton Town return to English footballs top division after more than 30 years. Manager Rob Edwards has never managed a Premier League team before,and it would be a great surprise if the club with by far the smallest budget in England’s top league were to survive.
Prediction: 17. Everton 18. Burnley 19. Sheffield United 20. Luton Town