The Premier League is back, and this promises to be one of the most open title races in the history of the division, with the transfer window just closed. It is no exaggeration to say that anyone of seven teams could win it; long gone are the days of the domination of the ‘big four’.
Unsurprisingly, there has been no shortage of money spent, particularly with the new £5 billion television deal coming in to effect. As of early August Premier League teams collectively spent a total of £800 million, with the record £859 million spent in the 2015 summer window surpassed by some distance.
We have seen the arrival of big name players such as Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Leroy Sane to the Premier League. Also, big name managers such as Antonio Conte, Pep Guardiola, and not to mention the inevitable return of Jose Mourinho, who is already up to his usual antics at Old Trafford, have picked the Premier League.
But what does this all mean for the title race? Let us start with the defending champions Leicester City. The shock champions will find defending their title a difficult task ,when you bear in mind that they will now have the demands of the Champions League to deal with, and a style of play that will come as a surprise to no one.
In the transfer market, Ahmed Musa looks to be a shrewd buy, but the loss of N’Golo Kante to Chelsea, the heartbeat of the side last season, will undoubtedly be a huge blow. A defeat to Hull City, a draw with Arsenal and a 2-1 triumph over Swansea has represented a shaky start to Claudio Ranieri’s title defence.
Last season’s runners-up Arsenal will still be questioning why they wasted such a great opportunity to win a first league title since 2004. Many felt that they lacked a top quality striker and centre back, and both of these issues remain unaddressed.
Signings Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez will bolster the gunners’ title prospects. However, they were turned down by Jamie Vardy and have also had a bid rejected by Lyon to sign striker Alexandre Lacazette, meaning Arsenal fans remain frustrated by Arsene Wenger’s failure to find a striker and reluctance to splash the cash properly in the transfer window.
The north London club, like Leicester, have had a nervous start but there will be room for optimism after the 3-1 victory away at Watford before the September international break.
Third-placed Tottenham got their transfer business done unusually early this summer, with much needed strengthening in midfield and attack with the arrivals of Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen.
“It was an odd season for Liverpool; at times they were brilliant, other times anything but”
They played some fantastic football at times last season, however, the pressure of being in the title race appeared to get to the young side, exemplified by the infamous meltdown against Chelsea last year in which a record nine players were yellow carded. A top four finish this term will surely be the main priority.
It was an odd season for Liverpool; at times they were brilliant, other times anything but. But after a pre-season working with the players, no European football to distract and astute signings such as Saido Mane and Joel Matip, Jurgen Klopp will be hopeful of finding more consistency.
However, the title probably looks beyond them and the priority will definitely be to get back in to the top four and secure Champions League football.
Fourth-placed Manchester City no doubt under performed significantly last season with the riches of talent that they possess. That talent has only been improved upon over the summer with the likes of Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan joining, and of course the highly decorated Pep Guardiola taking over the reins.
While it may take time for the players to adapt to Guardiola’s style of play, it is no surprise that they are the bookmakers’ favourites for the title.
Feeling revved up for derby day like… pic.twitter.com/gcIbJzG3f7
— Manchester City (@ManCity) September 7, 2016
Fifth-placed Manchester United may have had the joint best defensive record last season but they struggled to score goals and were at times frankly dull to watch.
Now with a new manager and new stars there is renewed optimism at Old Trafford. Despite Mourinho’s failures at Chelsea last season, he is a three-time Premier League winner, and has added Paul Pogba for a world record £89 million fee, along with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. So far, we have seen a new look United well equipped to challenge for the title.
Chelsea’s title defence was a disaster having finished last season in tenth place. There is certainly renewed optimism with the arrival of Antonio Conte, whose reputation was enhanced by Italy’s strong showing at the Euros.
“Guardiola, Conte and Mourinho have all won three games out of three which represents a formidable beginning to their tenures.”
Michy Batshuayi and N’Golo kante look like solid signings and if Diego Costa and Eden Hazard can rediscover their best form then Chelsea could well be right in the title race. Furthermore, like Liverpool they had the added bonus of no European football distracting them.
These three sides have certainly made statements of intent with their starts to the 2016/17 EPL season. Guardiola, Conte and Mourinho have all won three games out of three which represents a formidable beginning to their tenures at Manchester City, Chelsea and United respectively.
These three could make an early breakaway from the chasing pack because of their summer activity and make it difficult for the likes of Leicester, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool to make up ground in the middle of the season.
However, as we all know from previous experience it is clear that there is no standout team for the title. Who knows, maybe a team will come from nowhere and replicate Leicester City? But one thing is for sure: the title race will be full of drama and twists and turns throughout .
We’re in for a bumpy ride folks.
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