By Manish Pandey.
An Arsenal without Arsene Wenger. Who would have thought that day would come?
Unai Emery has an extremely difficult job on his hands.
Arsenal have gone backwards in the last 5 seasons. They have been a naïve team, set up poorly with little tactical detail. Emery is a football obsessive.
He is not a novice and whilst not having the level of success of the other elite managers, he did win a domestic treble with Paris Saint-Germain and three Europa League titles, consecutively, with Seville. He will pour over the tactics and work with individual players to improve them. Young players such as Alex Iwobi, Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin should benefit from this.
Emery will likely set Arsenal up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with greater intensity and pressing off the ball. It will be interesting to see how he accommodates Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette in the same team.
The signings he has made are not guaranteed to improve Arsenal but are likely to bring something different.
Stephan Lichtsteiner, the experienced Swiss right-back, should bring some toughness, £17.7m Greece centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos from Borussia Dortmund and the £26.5m signing of the talented Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira from Sampdoria should strengthen a weak core. Bernd Leno is expected to take the No. 1 spot from Petr Cech after joining from Bayer Leverkusen for £19.2m. It will be interesting to see how quickly he adapts to the physically tougher Premier League.
Despite the signings, there are still big gaps. A lack of reliable back up options, fitness struggles for the likes of Danny Welbeck and Laurent Koscielny and most crucially, inconsistency from Ozil and Mkhitaryan.
Emery has to be given time to make this Arsenal team tactically smarter and mentally tougher. It will be a tough task, but Arsenal fans should feel optimistic.
Whilst finishing 9th last season, Bournemouth had a rocky time.
They had a poor record against the top six, losing 10 of 12 matches. They only won one of their first eight games, a record they will not want to repeat this season. They only kept six clean sheets, another dismal defensive record that they will want to rectify.
Despite this, Bournemouth showed incredible resilience last season, gaining 21 points from losing positions.
Eddie Howe will want to get Bournemouth back to the high energy and possession orientated team they were in the first few years.
They have strengthened with Colombia midfielder Jefferson Lerma signed from Levante for a club record £25m, David Brooks from Sheffield United and full-back Diego Rico from Leganes. Jermain Defoe will want to contribute more having only scored four league goals after being bogged down by injuries. Howe will hope Lewis Cook will continue his fine form in midfield, forming a solid partnership with Dan Gosling.
It will not be easy, but if Bournemouth get back to doing what they did a few years ago, they will once again be stern opposition.
Brighton and Hove Albion:
In typical Chris Hughton fashion, Brighton have had a calm summer. This is a manager who knows how to keep level-headed and focus on improving the football team. Good organisation and teamwork are the hallmarks of this team.
Brighton play fast, direct football from the wings, with the creativity of Pascal Gross in the No. 10 position in a 4-4-1-1 system. Glenn Murray scored 12 goals last season but will need Jurgen Locadia to ease the goals burden this season.
Iranian Alireza Jahanbakhsh was one of the better players in the Eredivisie league and will hope to replicate his form in the Premier League. Bernardo’s arrival from RB Leipzig gives Hughton another option in the full-back positions. The strong pair of Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk are mainstays in central defence. Hughton will be concerned by his team’s vulnerability at set pieces.
Undoubtedly, Hughton will work hard on correcting that. If Brighton maintain the good traits from last season and improve through the new signings, particularly in scoring goals, there is no reason why they cannot stay up.
Burnley finishing in the Europa League spot last season was the most surprising achievement.
They were very much the best of the teams outside the top six.
Burnley under Sean Dyche have made extraordinary progress. They are now seen as a secure Premier League team with state of the art facilities and infrastructure. They are now a team that players want to come to. Dyche is a manager players want to play for.
The signing of Joe Hart will provide good back up at a time when there are fitness issues with Tom Heaton and Nick Pope. Ben Gibson will give good cover at centre back and Matej Vydra will give another goals option for this Burnley team.
Dyche likes to work with a smaller squad but that will be put to the test with the additional Europa League matches they will have to play this season. The Europa League tends to be a hindrance on domestic performance.
Can Dyche bring out another season of over-achievement with his man-management and style?
Neil Warnock is back in the Premier League and his robust style will make headlines this season.
Preferring a 4-2-3-1 formation, Warnock will be reliant on his wingers, Junior Hoilett and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing to provide speed and direct play.
New signings in Alex Smithies, Bobby Reid, Greg Cunningham and Josh Murphy have 11 Premier League games between them, so they do not necessarily offer top-level experience. Cunningham, a raiding left-back, and Reid, a revelation after being reinvented as a striker at Bristol City, are fascinating buys.
Reid is a persistent runner who has developed goal scoring instincts. He played well against both Manchester clubs in a brilliant cup run last season, hard evidence of how he can trouble top-flight defenders.
In midfield they will rely on the experience of Aron Gunnarsson and defensively they will remain compact with Sol Bamba at centre-back. The biggest challenge will be whether Cardiff can make the step up to the Premier League in each position.
It has been a difficult summer for Chelsea. The departure of Antonio Conte was protracted and took far too long. The appointment of Maurizio Sarri was late. The World Cup has meant players have reported back very late. Sarri is a new coach in a new country with a new tactical philosophy.
Sarri prefers a high intensity 4-3-3 system, one that brought electric football to Napoli last season. He is an admirer of Pep Guardiola and seeks to emulate him in footballing style.
The departure of Thibaut Courtois will be a blow, but spending a world record £72m on his replacement, Kepa Arrizabalaga, along with gaining Mateo Kovacic in the Courtois deal softens the blow. In the midfield, new signing Jorginho and N’Golo Kante are certain to start, with the third midfield spot up for grabs between Cesc Fabregas and Ross Barkley.
Alvaro Morata has been poor in pre-season and looks to be bereft of all confidence. Willian seems unsettled but is always a hardworking player. The key for Chelsea will be to not only keep hold of Eden Hazard, but to stop him from being unsettled through the season. He is a genuine world-class player who makes a difference.
Unlike previous managers, Sarri has spoken positively of player development and youth players. Will this finally be the time Chelsea youngsters get a chance?
In recent years, whenever Chelsea have looked out of contention, they have found a way. Can they do it again?
It has not been a busy summer for Crystal Palace, but perhaps the most important piece of business was to ensure Wilfried Zaha remains at the club.
Roy Hodgson is the key man to keeping Palace up. He has tactical knowledge, knows how to work with a relegation threatened team and has excellent management skills to get the most out of his players.
There is still quality in the first team with the likes of Mamadou Sakho, Patrick van Aanholt, Luka Milivojevic, Andros Townsend, Christian Benteke and Zaha.
The business that has been done looks promising. Max Meyer has arrived from Schalke to bolster the midfield. Cheikhou Kouyaté is a shrewd signing and will give energy.
Jordan Ayew will provide more firepower to help Zaha and Benteke with the goals.
Hodgson is the key to survival. They have to trust him.
When Farhad Moshiri bought Everton, it was supposed to herald a fresh new era. It has been anything but.
Ronald Koeman’s time in charge left a mess with a big number of surplus players left on high wages.
Marco Silva brings fresh ideas and a will to clean up the mess. There has been smart business in bringing in players, with Richarlison following Silva from Watford for £40m. A trio from Barcelona have arrived with left-back Lucas Digne providing another option, Colombian centre-back Yerry Mina giving the backline an international feel and Andre Gomes reinforcing the midfield. Winger Bernard is a player who fans can get excited about.
To free up the wage bill, Wayne Rooney was allowed to leave. He was the leading goalscorer last season and was one of few players who displayed quality. It is the second consecutive summer that Everton have gotten rid of their leading scorer.
There is a lot of pressure on Cenk Tosun to provide the goals. The wide areas are well covered with Richarlison, Theo Walcott, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ademola Lookman.
Gylfi Sigurdsson will have to show much better form than last season, he will be the main creative spark in the No. 10 role.
Silva’s biggest challenge will be to restore the connection between the fans and team. The fans want exciting football and results. If he can restore that, it will be a successful season for Everton.
Slavisa Jokanovic in an unlikely fashion led Fulham to promotion. They have had an excellent summer bolstering their squad and chances of survival.
The existing squad contains exciting players. Ryan Sessegnon was the key man last season and was tipped as an outside chance of making the England squad. Only 17, he is Fulham’s star and has garnered interest across Europe.
Tom Cairney scored the winner at Wembley and is the creative spark in midfield. They have signed Jean Michaël Seri fron Nice to add more creativity in the midfield. Andre Schurrle is back in England and will give plenty of speed on the flanks.
With Fulham’s game reliant on possession, new Spanish goalkeeper Fabri could start the season because of his distribution. Alfie Mawson will provide proven Premier League class in defence, and is a goal threat from set pieces. Loan moves for Calum Chambers and Luciano Vietto give good options for Jokanovic to choose from.
Aleksandar Mitrovic is a fan favourite and will provide goals, tireless running and hold up play. If he can keep his discipline, it will be a clever signing for Fulham.
Huddersfield’s main issue last season was goalscoring.
They failed to score in 21 of 38 matches. They have tried to remedy this in the summer. Ramadan Sobhi and Adama Diakhaby have skill and speed, but are still young and have not done too well at Stoke and Monaco.
Belgium Under-21 winger Isaac Mbenza is quick and direct. These signings should remedy last season’s failings.
Christopher Schindler and Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen are strong defenders. Jonas Lössl is a reliable figure in goal.
Signing Terence Kongolo from Monaco gives David Wagner another option. Huddersfield must ensure they stay defensively solid whilst searching for more goals.
They are, on paper, one of the weaker teams in the league, but David Wagner has an ability to get the most out of his players. He is an inspirational coach, but this season could just be a bit too tough for Huddersfield.
Leicester City are reeling from the expected loss of Riyad Mahrez. They have signed his fellow Algerian Rachid Ghezzal as his replacement. Ghezzal has been excellent in patches but has never shown consistency.
Last season, Leicester started well under Claude Puel, but they lost their way and ended the season playing dismal football. Jamie Vardy was often left isolated and the defence was poor, conceding 60 goals.
Puel believes in youth and he will be afforded the opportunity to use the youngsters. This means Demarai Gray and Fousseni Diabaté will be given more chances.
James Maddison is likely to play the key role of the No. 10 in Puel’s favoured 4-2-3-1. Leicester fans will hope Adrien Silva will show more than he did last season.
It was important for Leicester to keep Harry Maguire away from Manchester United. His partnership with Jonny Evans will be key this season. At right-back, Puel has chosen Portugal international Ricardo Pereira, who played under him at Nice. He is quick and clever.
With Kasper Schmeichel, Maguire, Wilfred Ndidi, Albrighton and Vardy, Leicester have a good core.
Puel will need to get his players showing some spirit if they are to improve on next season.
Liverpool have arguably had the best summer of all the top teams.
On paper, at least, they are the second favourites and likely closest challengers to Manchester City.
They have shown outstanding performance, football and results, but Jurgen Klopp will know his third season will be judged on the ability of his team to win a trophy.
No Premier League club has spent more in the summer than Liverpool who, with the £75m acquisition of Virgil van Dijk in January, have invested £250m in Klopp’s squad in 2018.
The areas of weakness that were on show in the Champions League final, goalkeeper, midfield and bench strength have all been addressed in signing Naby Keïta, Fabinho, Xherdan Shaqiri and Alisson.
Keita will bring creativity and late movement, Fabinho brings strength, experience and versatility, Shaqiri brings speed and an X factor off the bench and Allison brings distribution and a sense of greater reliability than the current goalkeepers at Liverpool.
Retaining the likes of Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and having a core team built around them and the new players, Liverpool are in excellent shape heading into the new season.
Manchester City are best placed to win the title again.
They have lost nobody and gained Riyad Mahrez. Their main obstacle will be themselves.
Retaining the title has been a problem and it will be a challenge for City to show they have the same desire as last season. Pep Guardiola has said the same.
Guardiola has indicated that he has thought up new tactical plans to counter teams who place 11 men behind the ball.
The variety in City’s attackers is something to get excited about. Where will all of these great stars play? Mahrez, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva are all players who will put fear into the opposition.
If there is a weakness, it is in central midfield and cover for Fernandinho. A few injuries or suspensions could see John Stones deployed in midfield. Whilst it is unlikely they will win the title again by 19 points, they will probably retain their title.
Improving individual players and winning the Champions League will be the main aim for Guardiola this season.
It has been a weird pre-season for Manchester United. Jose Mourinho has been vocal in his unhappiness at the lack of transfers in the summer.
That pessimism has filtered through to many fans. Mourinho knows he has to make United genuine contenders or he will be gone.
The football has to improve from the dreary defensive performances served up last season. Can Mourinho avoid his traditional third season meltdown?
He needs improvement from his stars. He needs Paul Pogba to be the Pogba from the World Cup. He needs Alexis Sanchez to be fit and firing once again. He needs Fred to make an instant impact. He needs his full-backs, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young to show more class going forward. Can Luke Shaw finally come of age? He needs Marcus Rashford to terrorise defences. He needs Anthony Martial to play with happiness. Most importantly, Mourinho needs to get the best out of his players using his own man-management.
His treatment of players has been poor and it is no surprise many appear to be unhappy.
He needs to get a spirit within the squad. If he cannot do so, he will be gone.
Once again, it has been a tumultuous summer at Newcastle.
Rafa Benitez has been unhappy with the lack of funds available and Mike Ashley has shown little interest in releasing more funds to the clubs. The business that has been done will help the survival effort.
Benitez has brought in Ki Sung-yueng on a free transfer and will be hoping Fabian Schar and Yoshinori Muto can make an impact. Securing Martin Dubravka on a permanent transfer and completing another loan deal to bring back Kenedy were both important pieces of business given their huge impact in the second half of last season.
Salomon Rondon from West Brom will be important in getting the goals Newcastle need to stay up. Jamaal Lascelles is a strong defender and will be key once again.
The supporters are passionate and remain so because of Benitez. The toxic atmosphere behind the scenes cannot help.
Southampton have worked hard to ensure they are not left behind.
The traditional summer outgoings have continued with Dusan Tadic, Guido Carrillo, Jordi Clasie and Sofiane Boufal all shipped out.
The incomings are unknown quantities but intriguing choices.
Angus Gunn will likely take over from Fraser Forster having come in from Manchester City, while Mohammed Elyounoussi, Jannik Vestergaard and Stuart Armstrong are also expected to feature in what’s expected to be a new-look team.
Mark Hughes has had a summer to work on implementing his style of play and bringing a more attacking mindset to Southampton. Vestergaard can play alongside the likes of Maya Yoshida and Wesley Hoedt, giving Ryan Bertrand and Cedric more of a licence to push forward and join attacks.
Nathan Redmond and Elyounoussi can flank either Charlie Austin, Manolo Gabbiadini or deadline day signing Danny Ings as attacking wingers.
Armstrong can also provide a different option for Hughes which could allow him to deploy the more conventional 4-2-3-1 formation.
There are enough players which allow Hughes flexibility. Are these players up to Premier League standard?
Tottenham will move into their new stadium this season, and to mark the occasion they have made no signings this summer.
Importantly, they have kept their main stars in Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and even Toby Alderweireld.
It is important, much like with Liverpool, for Mauricio Pochettino to lift a trophy. They have to win something to reflect outstanding recent season form.
Spurs had 9 players in the semi-finals and final stage of the World Cup, undoubtedly hurting preparation for this season. It may take time for these players to hit full fitness once again which could mean a slow start.
Pochettino has been impressed with a host of young players who took their chance on tour but it would be a risk to use them.
Spurs will have to rely on the likes of Lucas Moura, Georges-Kevin N’Koudou and Fernando Llorente. Harry Winks is still rehabilitating from an ankle injury, which leaves Eric Dier, Moussa Sissoko and Dembele as the club’s central midfielders.
With a progressive style of play and an excellent manager, Spurs fans can be excited again for another season of football.
Watford will have problems in scoring goals this season.
They have not replaced Richarlison and there is too much pressure on Troy Deeney, Andre Gray and Stefano Okaka who scored a meagre total of 11 goals last season.
Defensively, Watford are in better shape. Ben Foster comes in as goalkeeper. Adam Masina will slot in at left-back. Marc Navarro from La Masia will come in at right-back and provide leadership qualities lacking in defence.
Javi Garcia prefers a 4-2-3-1 formation and he has the creative players to play in such a way. Will Hughes, Nathaniel Chalobah and Marvin Zeegelaar were smart buys from last season. Andre Carrillo and Gerard Deulofeu provide speed and trickery.
Abdoulaye Doucoure has signed a new five-year contract which is possibly the best bit of business Watford have done this season. He is the key man in midfield providing protection and goals.
It will be a tough season for Watford but they might just scrape through.
West Ham United:
Manuel Pellegrini and excellent summer business has given a different feel to West Ham going into this season.
Pellegrini has won a title and brought in players that he has identified to cover the weak spots. Lukasz Fabianski should cover the goalkeeper area. Jack Wilshere, whilst a fitness gamble, brings creativity in midfield and is still only 26. Andriy Yarmolenko should provide trickery. The biggest excitement is around £35m record signing Felipe Anderson. He is only 25 but completed the most dribbles in Italy last season. Carlos Sanchez and Lucas Perez will provide depth in the squad and an opportunity for Pellegrini to change things up. He has options.
Pellegrini has been brought in to play attacking football and he has been backed with over £100m in the market.
He favours a 4-2-3-1 formation and will likely start with Marko Arnautovic up front. West Ham, with Jack Wilshere, Mark Noble and Carlos Sanchez will move to a more possession oriented style whilst still being swift on the counter-attack.
West Ham will hope Winston Reid can return quickly, easing the burden on the strong new signing Issa Diop. Manuel Lanzini is also ruled out for the start of the season.
Once he returns, the West Ham forward line looks tasty indeed.
It has been an exciting summer for Wolves with signings aplenty.
Portugal midfielder Joao Moutinho for only £5m, Rui Patricio comes in goal, Diogo Jota from Atletico Madrid will provide speed, Adama Traore will give creativity and pace and Raul Jimenez the goals.
Ruben Neves has a reputation for the outrageous but his passing will be the key to find these attacking players.
Nuno Santo has a tactical game setting up in a 3-4-3 which could provide greater defensive protection and control of the ball, allowing the forwards to flourish.
Conor Coady will be tested far more in the Premier League and will have to show he has the defensive ability to cope against the very best.
Another issue for Wolves could be adaptability. How quickly will these new players adapt to a much tougher and more physical league?
On paper, Wolves should survive. Can they do the summer investment justice?