The new Premier League campaign kicks off again with Manchester City aiming to retain their dominance, while promoted clubs Wolves, Cardiff and Fulham will all be out to hold their own.
Here, we look at some key talking points ahead of the opening round of top-flight fixtures.
World Cup hangover
Football may not have come home this summer, but just how quickly the likes of England captain Harry Kane and the rest of the Premier League’s World Cup stars can focus on club matters again remains to be seen. Burnout will be a worry, certainly over the winter months, and after lifting the greatest prize of them all in Moscow on July 15, an opening-day trip to Newcastle might not provide much inspiration for Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Pep Guardiola’s men swept everyone aside last season on the way to amassing 100 points in their record-breaking Premier League campaign. While City might not hit such heights again this season, the bar has been set and it is up to their title rivals to offer a sustained challenge. Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho will hope his squad – despite claiming to not have made enough signings during the transfer window – can raise their game and look to quieten down the noisy neighbours.
Will the Reds cash in?
Jurgen Klopp is not concerned with critics who suggest he is looking to buy Liverpool’s way to the title, but with more than £170million spent in the summer – including a short-lived world record fee for a goalkeeper of £65m to bring Brazilian Alisson Becker to Anfield from Roma – the pressure is now firmly on the German’s team to deliver. While Europe will again offer Liverpool an outlet to entertain, getting themselves back into the Premier League shake-up is the priority, both in the stands and the boardroom.
In Unai we trust
After 22 years with Arsene Wenger at the helm, Arsenal enter into a new chapter this season with head coach Unai Emery. The Gunners have improved the defence with some positive summer transfer business. However, the fixture list has not been kind, with the visit of champions City on Sunday followed by a trip to Chelsea. No points from Emery’s opening two games is a distinct possibility – and one which would give the divided fanbase something new to rant about.
New kids on the block
Battling to get out of the Championship was hard enough, but Wolves, Cardiff and Fulham will all have to raise their game to yet another level when taking on the elite. All have bolstered their squads, and should expect to again in January, but whatever the next 38 games bring, you can bet the fans cannot wait for kick-off.
Provided by Press Association Sport
Welcome to the inaugural Sport360 Premier League Stock Exchange – or 360SE for short.
Now, this is not a market which will command your life quite in the way the real thing does, but we’ve decided to add a little twist to the usual rankings you’ll see elsewhere.
Using club reputation and squad worth, we’ve assigned an initial ‘stock’ value to each of the 20 Premier League sides and once the 38-game slog kicks off, it will shift into a rolling, performance-based rankings system.
After each gameweek, we’ll focus only on output and results to assign a new value – higher or lower – to assess the best and the rest.
For example, if Manchester City beat Cardiff City, that’s an expected result so the Citizens’ stock will rise from, say, 500 to 502 while the newly promoted sides would remain at 200.
Conversely, if the defending champions lost, then their value would fall to 480 while Cardiff’s is boosted to 225.
Bear in mind, this is subjective rather than pure science but it will be interesting to see how the table will look come May 2019.
Below is how the 360SE looks before heading into the first clash of the season as Manchester United host Leicester City at Old Trafford on Friday night.
The new-look summer transfer window in the Premier League could lead to increased spending in January, according to a leading industry analyst.
The window closed on Thursday night, the eve of the new top-flight season. There was a late flurry of activity led by Everton and Fulham, but overall spending was reduced.
The 20 top-flight clubs – or 19 of them, with Tottenham inactive all summer – combined to spend £110million on deadline day and £1.23billion over the window as a whole, compared to £210m and £1.43bn 12 months ago.
Tim Bridge of Deloitte’s sport business group is awaiting the knock-on effect of the earlier closing of the window.
Bridge told Press Association Sport: “The fact that clubs are not able to make purchases on the back of three or four results feels to be a healthy move, in terms of the financial stability of the league.
“The key question for me is if you take a team that last year lost its first three games and then purchased heavily on the last day of the window – does that mean that that spending is going to flick across to January?
“Does that mean therefore that January is going to be a much more active market? (But) the market in January is much more challenging, does that mean that the transfer values are going to stay at a relatively lower level?
“Nothing would surprise you in the way Premier League clubs work – if they were to go out and spend a lot in January, you wouldn’t be surprised.”
For the first time since the summer of 2010 Premier League transfer spending has fallen, Deloitte report reveals. Still at a massive £1.23bn pic.twitter.com/PZsgVY3Mob— James Benge (@jamesbenge) August 9, 2018
Last season’s January window saw Premier League clubs spend £430m – almost double the previous January record of £225m in 2011 when strikers Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll joined Chelsea and Liverpool respectively.
“The 17-18 season, the spending in January was massive in comparison to other years,” said Bridge.
“We’d had anomalous years in the past, with the Andy Carroll transfer and that sort of thing, but January has traditionally been a difficult month to make a lot of headway in the transfer market.”
Despite the slight reduction in this summer’s gross figure, Premier League clubs’ net spend stands at a record £865m – but that figure could be reduced with the window still open throughout the rest of Europe.
It remains to be seen whether other leagues will follow suit in future years by closing the window before the season begins. The window in Italy closes on August 17, the day before the Serie A campaign begins.
Bridge added: “Clubs around Europe may feel this gives them an advantage in the transfer market so they may have a desire to leave their transfer window where it is.
“It gives them time to compete in the market without the Premier League.
“Have the European clubs been holding back, almost, and waiting for the Premier League window to close? It’s quite intriguing really.”