Ten ques­tions for Pre­mier League’s new sea­son

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LON­DON: With the new Pre­mier League sea­son kick­ing off to­day, AFP looks at 10 ques­tions ahead of the new cam­paign:

Just three months af­ter lift­ing the Pre­mier League tro­phy, Chelsea man­ager An­to­nio Conte has de­scribed the new sea­son as the most “dif­fi­cult” test of his ca­reer.

In the past two sea­sons, Chelsea and Le­ices­ter City have both sacked their man­agers less than a year af­ter win­ning the ti­tle.

Conte has spent over £100 mil­lion (RM557 mil­lion) on Al­varo Mo­rata, Tiemoue Bakayoko and An­to­nio Rudi­ger to avoid be­com­ing the third axed cham­pion.

De­spite end­ing last sea­son on a high thanks to their FA Cup tri­umph against Chelsea, di­vi­sions still run deep at Ar­se­nal over Arsene Wenger’s lack of suc­cess in the Pre­mier League and Europe over the last 13 years.

Out of the Cham­pi­ons League for the first time in 20 years, Ar­se­nal must make a fast start and avoid their usual win­ter swoon to keep the na­tives from be­com­ing even more rest­less.

Un­able to repli­cate his dom­i­nance with Barcelona and Bay­ern Mu­nich, Pep Guardi­ola ad­mit­ted his tro­phy­less first sea­son with Manch­ester City had been a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Spend­ing over £200 mil­lion on six new play­ers, in­clud­ing Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur’s Kyle Walker and Monaco duo Ben­jamin Mendy and Bernardo Silva, puts Guardi­ola in po­si­tion to mount a stronger chal­lenge this time.

Jose Mour­inho’s first sea­son at Manch­ester United was a qual­i­fied suc­cess, with a dis­ap­point­ing sixth-place fin­ish in the Pre­mier League off­set by Europa League and League Cup sil­ver­ware.

Not con­tent with that, Mour­inho has spent over £140 mil­lion on Romelu Lukaku, Ne­manja Matic and Vic­tor Lin­de­lof in a bid to win United’s first league ti­tle since 2013.

Tot­ten­ham man­ager Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino has as­sem­bled a side ca­pa­ble of hold­ing their own against any­one, but for two years in a row they have fallen short in the ti­tle race.

Hav­ing fin­ished seven points be­hind Chelsea, Spurs have yet to make a sin­gle sign­ing, while Walker’s sale to City and a sea­son play­ing their home games at Wem­b­ley adds to Po­chet­tino’s prob­lems.

Af­ter a fourth-place fin­ish last sea­son, Liver­pool man­ager Jur­gen Klopp splashed out a club-record £43.9 mil­lion on Roma winger Mo­hamed Salah, boost­ing a squad al­ready brim­ming with po­ten­tial.

But with Barcelona chas­ing star man Philippe Coutinho, win­ning Liver­pool’s first ti­tle since 1990 would be a re­mark­able achieve­ment for Klopp.

Spurn­ing in­ter­est from his for­mer club Chelsea, Lukaku opted to join Manch­ester United in a £75 mil­lion deal that was a record for a transfer be­tween Bri­tish clubs.

Lukaku has scored 85 Pre­mier League goals in the past five sea­sons and the 24-year-old Bel­gian’s abil­ity to re­place Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic will be key to United’s ti­tle as­pi­ra­tions.

En­cour­aged by Ever­ton’s sev­enth-place fin­ish last sea­son, man­ager Ron­ald Koe­man has gone for broke in a bid to crack the top four.

Us­ing the money from Lukaku’s sale, he has brought for­mer Tof­fees star Wayne Rooney back home, while spend­ing over £90 mil­lion on Davy Klaassen, Michael Keane and Jor­dan Pick­ford among oth­ers.

With the fu­ture of un­set­tled Ar­se­nal for­ward Alexis Sanchez still up in the air, France striker Alexan­dre La­cazette ar­rives as the long-term face of Ar­se­nal’s at­tack af­ter his club-record switch from Lyon.

La­cazette hit 37 goals in 45 games last sea­son and Wenger des­per­ately needs the 26-yearold to em­u­late that form.

It seems a lot longer than 15 months since Le­ices­ter City’s fairy­tale ti­tle win in 2016.

A dis­mal ti­tle de­fence and the shock sack­ing of Clau­dio Ranieri raised ques­tions about the play­ers’ char­ac­ter, but a run to the Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter-fi­nals un­der Craig Shake­speare au­gured well.

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