The new season is nearly upon us! Yay! Although we have had 4 international competitions during this off-season (UEFA Nations League, Copa America, Women’s World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations), our football hunger can never truly be satiated without regular football from Europe’s top leagues. When are they starting? This week we take a look at the first league to begin, the Barclays Premier League.
Kicks off: Friday 9th August 2019
First game: Liverpool vs Norwich
The new season of the BPL kicks off with last season’s runners up Liverpool hosting newly promoted Norwich at Anfield. Liverpool will be looking for a strong start to the season in a bid to better their last season where they lost out on the title despite losing only 1 game all season. Champions Manchester City will be travelling to London to take on West Ham as they begin their title defence in the new season.
Many believe that this season will see Liverpool and Man City battle it out again for the top spot, with both teams miles away from the competition last season. Both teams have had a pretty quiet summer transfer window, with Man City’s capture of Rodri from Atletico Madrid being their only high profile signing whilst Liverpool have not made a single noteworthy signing. With Manchester City strengthening what was already one of the most formidable squad in the leagues (and beating Liverpool to win the Community Shield) while Liverpool did not, it would be easy to say that Man City would have the edge in the race again this year but one cannot count Liverpool out, especially with the way they played last season.
Tottenham take on Aston Villa at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and fans will be expecting great things from this team this season as they had managed to secure 3rd spot last season without making a single signing during the summer. While they have lost defender Kieran Trippier, they have brought in the highly rated Tanguy Ndombélé. With no other departures, having kept their stars like Eriksen and Son and their manager, the season looks bright ahead for Spurs fans.
In the biggest match of the opening weekend, Manchester United host Chelsea at Old Trafford. Much has been made of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, whether he will be able to lead the team back to its glory days or will he just another miss in a long line of misses since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. United have acquired the services of Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who replaces the former club captain Antonio Valencia. The club have also managed to sign a centre back in the world’s most expensive defender Harry Maguire but they have not managed to replace the tenacity of Ander Herrera in midfield. It will be interesting to watch if Solskjaer is able to get the players playing the “United way” and improve from what fans (and pretty much everyone else) considered a dismal campaign.
Chelsea have only managed to make permanent the loan signing of Mateo Kovacic from Real Madrid due to the transfer ban that is in effect. They will also have Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund, who signed for them last season but was loaned back for the duration of the season. The main question for him would be if he is capable of filling the shoes of the brilliant Eden Hazard, who has left for Real Madrid. Rookie manager and club legend Frank Lampard has taken over the helm at Stamford Bridge to mixed response, especially since he has never had top flight experience let alone the experience of managing a team that will be in the Champions League next season. Patience will be key if the Lampard version of the Zidane experiment were to work, especially with Lampard being unable to sign players that fit his vision but with Roman Abramovich watching, it is as defender David Luiz says, “They are going to be patient (only) in the first six months…”.
Arsenal begin their campaign with a tricky tie themselves, travelling to Tyneside to take on Newcastle who themselves have a new manager in Steve Bruce after the departure of Rafa Benitez. As for Arsenal, Unai Emery has had a busy transfer period by Arsenal’s standards, bringing Dani Ceballos on loan from Real Madrid and youngsters William Saliba and Gabriel Martinelli while also breaking their transfer record to sign Nicholas Pepe. Fans are frustrated that Arsenal have done little to shore up their defence though, with the defensive line drawing the ire of fans for majority of last season. Arsenal bought Saliba for a fee of £27million but being only 18, one cannot expect him to be marshalling the entire Arsenal defence.
Teams that may surprise
Two teams that could spring potential upsets for the top 6 sides are Wolves and Everton.
Wolves had an incredible second half of the season last time around, beating Arsenal, Man United, Spurs and Chelsea. They have managed to make permanent the loan signing of Raul Jimenez, who scored 13 goals in the league previously. With the other captures of Neto and Jordao from Lazio, Cutrone from Milan, loan of Vallejo from Real and Nuno Espirito Santo at the helm, Wolves will definitely be no pushover.
The other team that has been doing shrewd business quietly is Everton. They have managed to capture the likes of wonderkid Moise Kean from Juventus, who burst onto the scene last season with 8 goals in 21 games having been used primarily as a substitute all season. They have also made permanent the loan signing of Andre Gomes from Barcelona and signed Gbamin from Mainz and Fabian Delph from Man City. Although they have lost captain Jagielka, Marco Silva will look to build on from last season’s campaign with a higher finish.