Premier League preview: Have Arsenal got it together? Will United fall apart?

Somehow it’s that time again. Cue the dramatic music, fire up the content generator and get ready for the hottest action: the Premier League season is here again.

Of course, it is not yet clear what form this great hubristic soap opera of football will take. That’s the fun of it, after all.

However, as the 20 teams in the world’s richest league return to action this weekend, several questions loom large. How they are answered will largely determine how things turn out.

The obvious question before every new Premier League season starts is which team is likely to win the thing in the end. Unfortunately, in the league’s current incarnation, it’s not a particularly interesting exploration. Manchester City will win it, having won four of the last five editions, and will most likely do so with a spirited but ultimately futile challenge from Liverpool. Although this time there is just one small caveat.

The idea that Erling Haaland’s presence will somehow disrupt City’s rhythm enough to affect the team is overblown. it might be an awkward marriage for a few months, but both are more than good enough to thrive regardless.

Far more important is the fact that Haaland is currently just one of 16 senior outfield players at Pep Guardiola’s disposal. In the regular season, that would be a risk. With a great big World Cup in the middle of it, it feels like a colossal gamble.

It sounds like damning Arsenal praise to say that Mikel Arteta’s side have won pre-season – largely because they have – but amid all the hype and hype, recent weeks have brought some genuinely encouraging signs for the Spaniard and his team-mates. the stars of the documentary.

Gabriel Jesus certainly has the ability to be a game-changing signing and his former Manchester City teammate Oleksandr Zinchenko may not be far behind. Arsenal look a much more complete side than they did a year ago. Perhaps not one ready to challenge City or Liverpool, but one that could end the club’s long exile from the Champions League.

The biggest obstacle to Arsenal’s ascension is right up the road. Not at Chelsea, where a chaotic transfer window will most likely end with a stronger and yet somehow less cohesive squad, but at Tottenham, transformed by Antonio Conte, a supernova coach who comes in, pushes his players to the limit and then explodes. . When he arrived at Spurs, he was concerned that the club had an almost diametrically opposite approach.

It didn’t seem to be a problem. Tottenham are very much in win-now mode. Ivan Perisic, Richarlison and Yves Bissouma have been brought in to transform a team good enough to qualify for the Champions League last year into one capable of chasing the title. Given the strangeness of the season, it doesn’t seem impossible. Spurs have one chance under Conte, effectively. He has gone out of his way to take it.

On his return to Old Trafford last weekend, Cristiano Ronaldo received what may have been the purest distillation of modern football imaginable. Manchester United fans clearly wanted him to know how much he meant to them, even though he has made it clear he does not want to stay at the club.

Around 45 minutes later, after being substituted, Ronaldo left the stadium at half-time, much against the wishes of his manager Erik ten Hag, apparently convinced that he didn’t need to stay on the sidelines.

Believe it or not, progress has been made at Manchester United this summer. Ten Hag is a smart appointment. The club has made a couple of smart signings. But it’s a curious advance, undermined by the fact that United don’t appear to have a list of recruits other than players Hagi knew and liked and were subject to the Ronaldo saga. As it stands, he may only be forced to stay because no one else wants to sign him. How the ten Hagi handle this will determine the opening months of his reign.

From one perspective, this season should be the best chance for a team outside the traditional Big Six since 2016 to push for the Champions League. The World Cup will affect the entire campaign and it is hardly ridiculous to suggest that the superpowers – supplied by the players heading to Qatar – could be more susceptible to fatigue.

Whether any team can break out of the pack, however, is another matter. Newcastle’s season ended at the highest level in Saudi Arabia, but it has been significantly quieter than this summer’s LIV golf series. Leicester and Wolves look set. Perhaps West Ham remain the only viable contenders, bolstered by a couple of smart additions. What is more likely, of course, is that David Moyes’ team will not be able to keep up the pace either and, unlike the others, at the end of the season everything will be exactly the same as before.

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