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The Premier League strikes back

The Premier League strikes back

FOOTBALL: The Premier League returns to action this evening (Aug 5) as Arsenal travel south across London to Crystal Palace in the season’s curtain raiser.

FootballPremier-LeagueWorld-Cup
By Ben Tirebuck

Friday 5 August 2022, 01:37PM


Expect Liverpool and Manchester City to be fighting for the title once again this season. Photo: AFP

Expect Liverpool and Manchester City to be fighting for the title once again this season. Photo: AFP

It promises to be another pulsating campaign in the English top flight, albeit with a 44-day break to account for the Qatar World Cup starting Nov 21.

It will be hard to look past defending champions Manchester City adding a further league title, particularly given the astute signings Pep Guardiola has made in Erling Haaland, Kalvin Phillips and Julian Alvarez.

Although Haaland misfired in last weekend’s Community Shield, many expect the Norwegian wonder boy will soon find his groove and be terrorising defences week-in, week-out. Don’t be surprised to see him named as the league’s top scorer come the end of the season.

If any team is to finish ahead of the Citizens then the smart money is on Liverpool. Last season’s runners-up took the title challenge to the wire and, whereas they have lost Sadio Mane, managed to renew Mohamad Salah’s contract and bring in Uruguayan striker Darwin Nunez. Expect Luiz Dias to fire too and fill the gap left by Mane.

The only negative for Liverpool is the number of games they played last season (63 out of a possible 63) which could have an impact, especially given the shortened pre-season rest period.

If any team is going to disrupt the top two then look no further than Tottenham, who many anticipate will have a strong season. Now manager Antonio Conte is fully settled at the club expect to see his side more atuned to his high-tempo, direct style. In Harry Kane and Son Heung-min they have the finest strike force in the land, with the summer signing from Everton Richarlison providing excellent support.

Arsenal have experienced an excellent pre-season and have the ability to push the very best. Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko, both signed from Manchester City, are solid acquisitions and Martin Ødegaard, recently named club captain by manager Mikel Arteta, is a class act.

It has been all change at Chelsea and it will be interesting to see how they fare. Manager Thomas Tuchel is not happy going into the season, claiming his side are not ready after an exhausting pre-season tour of the USA. The signings of Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly, however, are shrewd and suggest a top-four finish is very much possible.

At Manchester United Erik ten Hag has a significant rebuilding job on his hands and a top-six finish seems more likely.

The Cristiano Ronaldo ‘will he stay or will he go’ saga has been dragging on all summer and could prove an unwelcome distraction when they start their campaign against Brighton on Sunday.

Likewise the drama surrounding the purported transfer of Frenkie de Jong to Old Trafford. It has been claimed United and Barcelona have agreed a fee but the Dutch midfielder prefers to stay at the Nou Camp and even take a pay cut rather than head to the English northwest.

However, they have been strong in pre-season with previous outcast Anthony Martial looking especially impressive in the main striker role.

West Ham had an incredibly impressive season last time around and will be looking to maintain momentum into the new campaign. The fact they have (so far at least) managed to keep hold of the services of much-coveted club captain Declan Rice is a huge plus and suggests a top eight finish is very much achievable.

Elsewhere, Everton will be hoping to improve on last season’s horror show which saw them escape relegation by the skin of their teeth. Losing striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin to injury which will see the striker miss at least six weeks is a major blow, however, especially after losing Richarlison to Spurs.

It is a similar situation aspiration wise for Leeds United who lost their way under former manager Marcelo Bielsa last season before replacing him with American Jesse Marsch, who just about managed to keep them up. Marsch has made a number of summer signings to try and compensate for them losing their best two players in Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha but only time will tell if it proves to be enough.

Steven Gerrard, Patrick Vieira, Graham Potter, Thomas Frank, Bruno Lage and Eddie Howe will be looking to continue their fine progressive work at Aston Villa, Palace, Brighton, Brentford, Wolves and Newcastle respectively.

The latter have surprised some by not yet really spending any of the endless cash reserves afforded them by their Saudi-backed owners although the signings of England goalkeeper Nick Pope and young Dutch defender Sven Botman are smart and show that Howe is planning their rebuild and development as a longer term project as opposed to the usual smash and grab approach.

Blue Tree Phuket

There is concern among Leicester City fans as, at time of press, they are still the only club in mainland Europe not to have brought a new signing into the club. Kasper Schmeichel departing to Nice signifies the last of the legendary title winning team squad of 2016 and there are rumours that both James Maddison and Youri Tielemens could soon follow the long-serving goalkeeper out of the exit door at the King Power Stadium. Manager Brendan Rodgers will be hoping they both stay and the return to full fitness of several key players will compensate for their lack of summer signings.

Newly promoted Nottingham Forest, Fulham and Bournemouth are expected to struggle although there is always a surprise team that defy the odds to survive. The experts tip that to be Forest who have signed 12 new players in the summer, including Jesse Lingaard and Dean Henderson from Manchester United.

Should one of the newly promoted teams manage to stay up then expect Southampton to be one of the main candidates for relegation to the Championship come season’s end. No major signings expose an already tired and limited looking squad and it would be no great surprise to see Ralph Hasenhüttl as the first manager to leave his post this season, be it by choice or otherwise.

Fixtures (all Phuket times)

Saturday

Crystal Palace v Arsenal (2am)

Fulham v Liverpool (6:30pm)

Bournemouth v Aston Villa (9pm)

Leeds v Wolves (9pm)

Newcastle v Nottingham Forest (9pm)

Tottenham v Southampton (9pm)

Everton v Chelsea (11:30pm)

Sunday

Man Utd v Brighton (9pm)

Leicester v Brentford (9pm)

West Ham v Man City (10:30pm)

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