Is Declan Rice Arsenal’s title game-changer? Can Tottenham keep Harry Kane? And will West Ham be dragged down? The 10 BURNING ISSUES ahead of the new Premier League season
- Declan Rice joined Arsenal for £105m and is expected to make a big impact
- Harry Kane’s Tottenham future is uncertain, with Bayern Munich pursuing him
- Click here to watch Mail Sport’s brand new show ‘It’s All Kicking Off’ in full
The Premier League season is less than one week away and excitement is building ahead of what promises to be another fascinating season.
Newly-promoted Burnley get things underway by hosting reigning champions Manchester City on Friday, before a full weekend of action that includes Chelsea facing Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
Last season threw up a number of surprises, with Newcastle, Brighton and Aston Villa all getting into Europe, while Chelsea and Tottenham missed out completely and Liverpool failed to qualify for the Champions League.
What can we expect this time around?
Mail Sport looks at 10 burning issues ahead of the 2023-24 Premier League season.
Vincent Kompany’s Burnley and Pep Guardiola’s Man City will get the new season underway
Unai emery threw up one of the division’s bigger surprises in helping Aston Villa to European qualification
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Can anyone stop City?
Manchester City have won the Premier League title in five of the last six seasons, and will start this year as the overwhelming favourites to do so once again.
They were unstoppable in the final two months of last season, finding top form at the perfect time to complete a historic Treble.
But they did show some frailties earlier in the campaign, which allowed Arsenal to lead the way for much of the year before falling away at the business end.
City’s form around the turn of the year – a period that saw their hopes of a Quadruple ended when they lost to Southampton in the Carabao Cup – highlighted that they aren’t invincible.
Pep Guardiola also questioned his team’s hunger at times last term, and after winning the Treble this may be an issue for him to address once more over the coming months.
City have started seasons slowly in the past, and if the same happens again in the coming weeks, we could have an exciting title race on our hands.
Manchester City won the title last season and are expected to retain their crown this year
Will Rice be Arsenal’s game-changer?
Arsenal exceeded expectations last year by finishing second when many expected them to be focusing on getting back into the top four.
But having topped the table for so long, there was clear disappointment that they weren’t able to hold off City in the final run-in.
The team seemed to lose energy and confidence at a critical stage in the campaign, and they were swatted aside by City in a game that went a long way to determining the destination of the title.
But the Gunners aren’t sitting around feeling sorry for themselves. They have been busy this summer, and finalised the marquee signing of Declan Rice from West Ham for a British record £105m last month.
Rice is an established international who will bring a winning mentality after leading the Irons to Europa Conference League glory in June.
How Mikel Arteta utilises his skillset will be intriguing, with Rice capable of playing at the base of the midfield as well as slightly further forward.
One thing is for certain – he will be expected to make a big impact. Arsenal will hope he can make the difference, and help them go one better than last season to end the lengthy wait for their fourth Premier League triumph.
Declan Rice is Arsenal’s marquee summer signing and look set to make a big impact
Can Hojlund be United’s Haaland?
Manchester United have finally brought in a striker after an extensive search, completing a £72m deal for Atalanta’s Rasmus Hojlund.
The Danish international impressed in Serie A last term, and will now get the chance to show English football fans how good he is.
There are some similarities between Hojlund and City’s Erling Haaland. The two Scandinavian forwards are both quick, powerful and fearless.
Haaland was a revelation in England last season, scoring a remarkable 36 league goals in just 35 matches.
Expecting Hojlund to hit the same numbers would be a stretch, and he has shown in his fledgling career that he still has some work to do to become a consistent lethal finisher.
But the 20-year-old settled in quickly in Italy, and this bodes well for his time at United. Playing in a team with Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes, he will get plenty of chances, and could quickly become a fans’ favourite at Old Trafford.
He has however been dealt a minor blow after a back issue emerged that could keep him sidelined early in the season, which could see the player struggle to hit the ground running.
Rasmus Hojlund has joined Man United from Atalanta in a deal worth £72m
The Dane is nursing a back problem that could see him struggle to hit the ground running
Will Kane stay or go?
It’s the transfer saga that has been dragging on for the past couple of months. Will Harry Kane stay at Tottenham or leave his boyhood club to join Bayern Munich?
The German giants have been edging nearer to an agreement in recent days, and at last had a £95m bid accepted by Daniel Levy for the England captain.
Kane appears keen to move on, and had been reportedly willing to buy himself out of his Tottenham contract, but for now he remains in north London.
The uncertainty is not helping Spurs. They had a dismal campaign in 2022-23, finishing outside the European places in a year that saw them have three different managers.
Ange Postecoglou has been brought in to get the side back on track, but that will be difficult when he doesn’t know whether he will have Kane at his disposal by the end of the month.
If Kane does ultimately decide to go, there will also be concerns about whether they have left themselves enough time to bring in suitable replacements for their star striker.
What happens next for Kane will have huge consequences for Spurs, who will know that another bleak season could lie ahead if the 30-year-old walks away.
Harry Kane’s future is up in the air after Bayern Munich at last had a £95million offer accepted
Can Liverpool and Chelsea bounce back?
Liverpool and Chelsea had seasons to forget last year, with the Reds missing out on the Champions League and the west London outfit finishing outside the top half.
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This is not the first time Liverpool have had an off-season, as they struggled badly in 2020-21 with injuries and form before eventually pulling things together just in time to finish third.
They bounced back the following year by winning two domestic trophies, pushing City all the way in the league and making the Champions League final.
Getting back to that level will be the aim, but it will be tricky. They have lost several midfielders in the off-season, including captain Jordan Henderson, and have only brought in two themselves in the shape of Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai, who can also play out wide.
They look particularly short of options for the defensive midfield position, and are targeting Southampton’s Romeo Lavia for this role.
He is still only a teenager, though, and expecting so much of him at a young age is a gamble. Jurgen Klopp also has concerns about his side’s defending, so getting back to competing with City over the next nine months could be a bridge too far.
Meanwhile, Chelsea have an even bigger gap to close. Having finished 12th last term, they have had a major clear-out in recent weeks, with N’Golo Kante, Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy among the big names departing.
They have also added Christopher Nkunku and Nicolas Jackson to their ranks as Mauricio Pochettino looks to stamp his mark on the team immediately, however the Argentine was dealt a bitter blow with the former requiring knee surgery.
The last time Chelsea had a comparable season to last year was when they finished 10th in 2015-16. They went on to win the league 12 months later.
Expecting such a big jump this time is unrealistic, but the squad is starting to look more balanced and settled, which gives them a good chance of moving up the league and back into top-four contention.
Jurgen Klopp has concerns about his Liverpool defence and may still be short of options in midfield
Mauricio Pochettino is trying to get Chelsea back on track after a dismal 2022-23 season
Will Newcastle, Brighton and Villa shine again?
Newcastle, Brighton and Aston Villa all had excellent campaigns in 2022-23 to finish in the European places.
But that success brings its own issues, as they will now have more games to contend with in the upcoming season.
Juggling domestic and European commitments is never easy, but Newcastle are perhaps best placed to handle the congested fixture list.
The club are thriving under their Saudi Arabian owners, and have recruited wisely this summer by bringing in highly-rated Italian midfielder Sandro Tonali and reliable winger Harvey Barnes.
Youngsters Elliot Anderson and Lewis Miley have also caught the eye in pre-season, providing Eddie Howe with more options to allow him to rotate his squad.
Villa also look to be in a strong position. They ended last season like a train to snatch seventh spot, and Unai Emery has strengthened his squad since with the additions of Youri Tielemans, Pau Torres and Moussa Diaby.
Emery also has a brilliant European record, so do not be surprised if Villa go all the way in the Conference League.
Things may be a little tougher for Brighton, who sold Mac Allister to Liverpool, and weren’t able to convince Levi Colwill to rejoin them after his successful loan spell.
They may also struggle to hang on to Moises Caicedo, with Chelsea continuing to pursue the midfielder – and now Liverpool have been in contact over the Ecuadorian midfielder.
But Brighton have lost key players in the past and coped admirably. They also have one of the brightest young managers in Roberto De Zerbi in the dugout, and he will believe the Seagulls can upset the big boys once again.
Italy midfielder Sandro Tonali is an exciting summer signing for Newcastle
Aston Villa snapped up Youri Tielemans on a free and look to have recruited well this summer
Brighton will be without a couple of key players from last season, but still have highly-rated manager Roberto De Zerbi in the dugout
Can anyone else make a bid for Europe?
Very few predicted Brighton or Villa would get into Europe last season, nor that Newcastle would get into the Champions League. It acted as a timely reminder that the Premier League is not a closed shop for the ‘Big Six’.
Can anyone else upset the applecart this year? Brentford finished ninth in 2022-23, but will be without Ivan Toney for the first part of the season and he will be a big miss.
Fulham also did better than anticipated in their first year back in the Premier League, but pushing even higher up the table will be difficult, especially if Aleksandar Mitrovic moves to Saudi Arabia.
Crystal Palace flourished in the final weeks of last season under Roy Hodgson, and the veteran manager is targeting a top-half finish this time around.
That was probably the target for Brighton and Villa at this time last year, and they went on to do a lot better than that.
Admittedly it would be a tall order, but if Palace can keep hold of star names like Michael Olise, Marc Guehi and Eberechi Eze, they could be the team sensing a small window of opportunity to potentially push for seventh.
Roy Hodgson is targeting a top-half finish with Crystal Palace, and they may have an outside chance of pushing for Europe
Will West Ham and Everton be dragged into another relegation scrap?
West Ham and Everton narrowly avoided relegation last season, and there are concerns they could be in for another gloomy year.
David Moyes’s side ended their 43-year wait for silverware by winning the Conference League, but that may have somewhat papered over the cracks at the club.
They were poor for the majority of the campaign, with Moyes on the brink of the sack on a couple of occasions.
West Ham have decided to stand by him for now, but their summer transfer window has been bitterly disappointing with the club failing to sign a single player for some time, before announcing the £35.4m capture of Edson Alvarez from Ajax, while they have lost influential skipper Declan Rice.
The Hammers’ late foray into the market looks set to continue, after agreeing £30m fees for both Harry Maguire and James Ward-Prowse, too.
They will also be in Europe again next season courtesy of June’s triumph in Prague. This could lead to them taking their eye off the ball in the Premier League and being dragged into a battle for survival.
Expectations aren’t any higher at Everton. A recent YouGov survey showed the Toffees have the least optimistic fans in the league, and relegation is a realistic prospect.
They have just finished above the bottom three in the last couple of seasons, but are playing with fire.
Sean Dyche looks to be the right man to get the best out of their current squad, yet he is still working with a limited budget and a set of players that have become accustomed to scrapping at the bottom of the league. It is hard to see things being much different this year.
West Ham are yet to make a summer signing, and David Moyes can no longer call on Declan Rice
Sean Dyche looks to have his work cut out after being given a limited budget this summer
How good is Kompany?
Vincent Kompany could hardly have made a better start to management in England than leading Burnley to the Championship title with 101 points in his first season.
But the Premier League is a different kettle of fish.
The Clarets will be facing some of the best teams in the world, and Kompany must come up with solutions to keep his side in the top flight.
Having played under Pep Guardiola, it is little surprise that he wants his team to dominate the ball, but that will not always be possible when going up against City, Arsenal and Co this term.
Can he adapt to prove he is destined to be one of the game’s brightest coaches? That question will be answered this season.
Guardiola has tipped him to be a future City manager, and he now has the chance to audition for the role by helping Burnley continue their upwards trajectory.
Vincent Kompany will get his first taste of Premier League management, and can prove how good he is
Can Luton defy the odds?
Luton Town will become the 51st team to play in the Premier League after winning the Championship play-off final in May.
They have had a remarkable rise from non-league football in recent years, but are widely tipped to go straight back down this season.
Luton are widely tipped to go back down, but manager Rob Edwards will have other ideas
The same has been said about teams in previous years, though. Bournemouth were written off after losing 9-0 to Liverpool last August, but went on to stay up with room to spare.
In fact, all three promoted clubs avoided relegation in 2022-23, proving it can be done.
Like most promoted sides, Luton’s home form will be crucial. Kenilworth Road holds just over 10,000 fans, and they will all be needed to get their team over the line in tight matches.
The home crowd played a vital role in keeping Nottingham Forest up last season, and if Luton can get their supporters on board right from the start they may have a fighting chance of extending their stay in the top flight beyond a solitary year.
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