August 11 – The new English Premier League season begins tonight as triple winners Manchester City lock horns with promoted Burnley – managed by former City legend Vincent Kompany.
City boss Pep Guardiola has strengthened his defence with the signing of Croatian defender Josko Gvardiol for £77 million, the second most expensive centreback of all time but even Guardiola doesn’t expect his club to match the remarkable feats of last season.
“We climbed the highest mountain with what we have done,” Guardiola said in reference to City winning the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League for a rare treble. “I don’t think it will be possible to do again what we have done last season. It’s once in a lifetime. So I said to the players, ‘Forget about it.’”
The champions will be without former captain Ilkay Gundogan, who left for Barcelona, and Riyad Mahrez, who has signed for Saudi side Al Ahli. Mateo Kovacic has joined Gvardiol, his Croatian counterpart, on the arrivals front and Guardiola added: “Our football, our behaviour, our mentality, will dictate how the season will be. What we have done remains in our hearts, our minds. But it’s over … it’s almost impossible to repeat.”
While City chase a fourth straight Premier League crown, Arsenal, runners-up last year after leading for much of the campaign, host Nottingham Forest in Saturday’s lunchtime kickoff having re-inforced their midfield with the £105 million signing of England’s Declan Rice
Manchester City may have lost the Community Shield on penalties to Arsenal at Wembley last weekend but it was hardly a bad omen given that they also lost the previous two and still ended the season as winners.
For Arsenal, however, it was an important statement.
“It’s a marker to know we can go and beat Manchester City in a big game when it matters,” said goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale. “I’m not sure what it’ll be like this season. But that mental block is gone.”
As well as Rice, Mikel Arteta’s team have spent £65 million on bringing in Kai Havertz from Chelsea and £40 million on defender Jurrien Timber from Ajax Amsterdam.
Liverpool, fifth last season having under-achieved big-time, are at Chelsea on Sunday in a mouth-watering opener having smashed the English transfer record from under the Londoners’ noses in acquiring Moses Caicedo from Brighton for £111 million pending a medical.
As for Manchester United, after Erik ten Hag’s first season in charge there is a genuine sense of optimism for the first time in a decade having secured a top-four finish and the League Cup trophy.
England’s Mason Mount has been drafted in to give United more options in midfield while the club ended their long search for a quality striker by signing highly promising young Dane Rasmus Hojlund. “I think the difference is, with reference to last year, now we have the foundation with this squad,” Ten Hag told reporters.
Former Tottenham idol Mauricio Pochettino will be making his Chelsea managerial league debut, with Blues fans eager for signs that last season’s nightmare is over after a massive clearout of expensive misfiring signings. “We are in a good way; we are building something special I think,” said Pochettino.
As night follows day it won’t be long before the sack race clicks into gear. In fact, it already has before a ball has been kicked, with former Bournemouth coach Gary O’Neil appointed at Wolverhampton Wanderers only on Wednesday after Spaniard Julen Lopetegui abruptly quit.
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