ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE SOCCER… IS BACK!
Written By: Natasha Turkington
Natasha Turkington was born and bred in Manchester, and is considered one of soccer’s most prolific and knowledgeable fans. Follow her on Twitter at @natashaturk.
I still have sand in my hair and a whiff of coconut sunscreen about me, and then, in what feels like the blink of an eye it is time to swap flip flops for sneakers and bikinis for a soccer shirt!
The greatest sport in the world kicks off its 2023/24 season, and I cannot wait for it to get underway.
Just sixty-two days on from becoming European champions for the first time, Manchester City begin their latest defence of the Premier League by travelling to newly-promoted Burnley.
With a sixth Premier League title in seven years for Pep Guardiola’s team the belief of most soccer fans, including myself, is they expect them to retain the Championship for a fourth successive season.
But who of the chasing pack is shaping up to give Manchester City and the otherworldly Erling Haaland a run for their money?
As a die-hard United fan, I have to back my team to really push Man City this season, but I also have to be a realist. Manager Erik ten Hag’s squad rebuild is under way for only his second season. Last campaign brought the EFL Cup – Manchester United’s first trophy since 2017 – and a return to the Champions League, as well as a run to the FA Cup final, which ended in defeat by Manchester City (don’t remind me).
Long serving goalkeeper, David de Gea has been replaced by Andre Onana, a keeper whose style fits more with Ten Hag’s methods of playing out from the back, having worked with him at Ajax.
The purchase of England midfielder Mason Mount from Chelsea will reinforce the middle of the park and hopefully provide goals and huge focus will be on new $91.6m striker Rasmus Hojlund. The Dane will need to settle in at Old Trafford but with his price-tag, there will be expectation this happens sooner rather than later.
After being superb for the majority of last season, Mikel Arteta’s team will again push to be the best of the rest. Signing $127.7m Declan Rice and $83m Kai Havertz is clever business and Jurrien Timber will strengthen a defence that previously lacked depth. That is all in addition to the quality Arsenal already had in Bukayo Saka, captain Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli and others.
Arsenal already has morale boosting silverware under their belts after beating Champions Manchester City to the Community Shield last weekend.
The big question will be on how they cope with the added intensity of a Champions League tournament but, remaining in the top four seems a secure bet.
Manager Jugen Klopp and his Red men walked away with no silverware and no Champions League football, in what will go down as a failure of a season for Liverpool fans.
There has been a busy exit door at Anfield over the summer. Klopp’s planning was disrupted as the Saudi Pro League check book came knocking, leading to the departures of captain Jordan Henderson and fan favourite Fabinho. He will undoubtably want more additions to those of Argentina World Cup winner Alex Mac Allister and young Hungarian Dominik Szoboszlai. Klopp’s dogged attempts to sign Southampton’s Romeo Lavia have been repeatedly refused so far.
Despite this, I expect a Liverpool resurgence, especially as they boast such quality in attack with Mohamed Salah, Cody Gakpo, Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota and Darwin Nunez.
What on earth is going on at Chelsea FC? After a miserable season which saw a circus of three different managers, ex-Tottenham Hotspur and Paris St Germain boss, Mauricio Pochettino is now in charge at Stamford Bridge but he hasn’t exactly got off to a great start pre-season.
Reading between the lines of Pochettino’s recent comments, it suggests there is already some frustration around the club’s chaotic approach to, well, everything. Granted, exciting young players have arrived but vital experience has departed and they still do not have a proven striker to score goals which win games. It is very much a ‘watch-this-space’ with Chelsea as there is ample opportunity to fix the wrongs before the transfer window closes however, they are unlikely to give Manchester City anything to worry about and a Champions League return will depend on other teams around them performing below expectations.
While their owners throw billions at their shiny new toy, the Saudi Pro League, there hasn’t been as significant spending in the North East of England. And that will be a source of quiet frustration for Manager Eddie Howe and the Magpies fans. The summer saw the arrival of Italy midfielder Sandro Tonali from AC Milan for $70m and the hugely gifted Harvey Barnes was signed from Leicester City to give width and quality.
Newcastle will seek to combine a competitive, long overdue return to the Champions League with another top-four finish, but will they have enough to achieve this?
Who is your money on to finish in the top four?