Barely eight weeks since Manchester City wrapped up a famous treble, they are back in action as they kick off their Premier League title defence away at newly-promoted Burnley on Friday night.
Arsenal, last season’s main challengers, follow that up at home to Nottingham Forest as they look to establish themselves at the forefront of the chasing pack having significantly strengthened during the summer, while Manchester United will also have some expensive stars on show against Wolves and Liverpool’s trip to Chelsea makes up the first Super Sunday of the season.
No team has ever won four successive Premier League titles and having lost influential players over the summer, there is a feeling that the chasing pack could have slightly closed the gap since the end of last season.
Here, the writers at 101 Great Goals have got together to discuss their tips and thoughts ahead of the new season.
Can anyone challenge Man City
Andrew Thompson: On paper, absolutely. With City’s depth at the time of writing having taken a hit with the departures of Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez, while only being counter-balanced by the acquisition of Mateo Kovacic, there is scope to suggest that both Arsenal and Liverpool could be capable of running down the English hegemon.
Additionally, United will always be considered an outlier, while a Chelsea outfit now under the command of Mauricio Pochettino and without European commitments, could have an outside chance of challenging if their signings adapt.
Ben Browning: Arsenal are the ones that look to have taken up the mantle now, and Mikel Arteta’s side have only strengthened this summer so they will expect to run them close again.
Liverpool have the pedigree to do so in recent seasons, but it feels like a step too far for a side that finished fifth last season, while none of the other sides are consistent enough to mount a serious challenge.
Josh Barker: Manchester City have made a few improvements to their treble-winning side and they will be favourites to lift the title once more but as Arsenal showed last season, there is always a chance City can be caught.
Arsenal’s title push was derailed in 2022/23 due to a lack of experience and injuries. However, they have spent £200m so far this summer to strengthen their overall squad, which should help them move one step closer to Pep Guardiola’s side.
Liverpool also cannot be ruled out, especially if they sign another defensive midfielder before the window shuts. Jurgen Klopp’s men ended last campaign in superb form and if they can continue that into 2023/24, they will give Man City a run for their money.
Conor Laird: The straightforward answer here is yes. Whilst Man City will head into the new season as favourites to go all the way once again, they will not have it easy, with all of Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal looking considerably stronger than this past term.
In addition, I don’t buy into the seemingly widespread notion that Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal are primed for a drop-off, with the Gunners, alongside Liverpool, my early picks to push City all the way.
Signing of the summer
Andrew Thompson: Harvey Barnes could be in for a shout here. After scoring 13 Premier League goals last season in a highly-dysfunctional system with Leicester City, his arrival at St. James’ Park could see his direct contributions in the final third increase even further under Eddie Howe.
Given that he does not need to adapt to life in the Premier League when compared to a signing like Chelsea’s Christopher Nkunku, or Aston Villa’s Moussa Diaby, he could hit the ground running on Tyneside.
Ben Browning: There are plenty to go for but for me it is Arsenal extending the contract of William Saliba and Chelsea keeping hold of Levi Colwill.
Both are central defenders that will go on to be world class and that clubs were in danger of losing on the cheap, but keeping them will save them a whole lot of money down the line.
Josh Barker: Whilst Arsenal had to fork over a British record transfer fee to get the deal done, the capture of Declan Rice is a major statement of intent from the Gunners. Rice is one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe and at 24 years of age, he still has at least another 7-8 years left at the highest level.
Conor Laird: A tough call, as always, but I managed to narrow my options down to two players – Declan Rice and Andre Onana, based on just how strongly I feel each will impact their respective sides this season.
Rice, for one, provided a glimpse into the level to which his drive and athleticism will carry Arsenal in his competitive debut for the club, en route to a Community Shield downing of Manchester City.
Onana, meanwhile, looks a wholly better fit for Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United than predecessor David de Gea, with both his ability on the ball, and superior shot-stopping capacities set to add some much-needed confidence to the collective defensive setup at Old Trafford.
Potential flop of the season
Andrew Thompson: Justin Kluivert has certainly not come close to hitting the same heights as his illustrious father, Patrick Kluivert. Despite coming through the youth ranks at Ajax like a house on fire and touted for big things, his career has read more like a journeyman save in Football Manager after failing to truly make the grade at multiple clubs on the continent.
How he gets on at Bournemouth could very much end on one of the extremes. Given his career to date, it certainly seems to be leaning in one direction.
Ben Browning: I don’t think Rasmus Hojlund will flop so much as won’t live up to the expectations put on him by Manchester United fans and his hefty price tag.
Drawing comparisons to Erling Haaland left right and centre, Hojlund is still young and very raw, far from the final product that he will (hopefully) become in a few seasons.
He won’t score 20 goals next season, and that may well become a stick to beat him with.
Josh Barker: Given Kai Havertz spent much of his Chelsea stint underperforming, a case could be made it is almost impossible for him to flop at Arsenal. However, after the Gunners spent £65m on him, a certain amount of quality will be expected from the German but his track record in England suggests he will not deliver.
Conor Laird: Another category which immediately brings, for me, two players to mind. First comes Kai Havertz, who, amid widespread uncertainty across the Arsenal fanbase, will not be long in facing up to heavy criticism, should he not hit the ground running in north London.
And another whose price-tag, through no fault of his own, will see swift ‘flop’ shouts surface in the case of an unproductive debut season in England, is new Manchester United frontman Rasmus Hojlund.
One to watch
Andrew Thompson: A player that I covered last season, Hungarian international starlet Milos Kerkez could certainly be primed for a breakout season in England after arriving at Vitality Stadium by way of Dutch development house AZ Alkmaar.
Touted as one of the brightest young attacking full-backs in Europe, Kerkez may not have found the most ideal destination in going to Bournemouth, but should his attacking qualities shine through under Andoni Iraola, he could be set for bigger things in the near future.
Ben Browning: Once considered one of the most talented players in world football, Kai Havertz’s career nosedived at Chelsea when he was deployed as a striker.
Still, he got a big money move to Arsenal and it will be fascinating to see what he can do under Mikel Arteta in what looks to be a new role heading into the season.
Keep an eye on him.
Josh Barker: Manchester United’s capture of Rasmus Hojlund may prove a stroke of genius or a major disaster. The Dane’s hefty transfer fee puts a lot of pressure on him and given United’s limited transfer budget, he looks set to be the man tasked with leading the line for the Red Devils this season.
Hojlund’s limited experience may prove his undoing at United, but it is worth noting Manchester United created plenty of chances last season, with Bruno Fernandes’ 119 the most of any PL player. So, if Hojlund can build an understanding with Fernandes, he could become a major asset for the Red Devils.
Best summer business (so far)
Andrew Thompson: Overall, surely it has to be Aston Villa. For less than £80m, Unai Emery’s outfit was supplied with undeniable quality across a trio of deals for Bayer Leverkusen star Moussa Diaby, Spanish international defender Pau Torres, and the midfield talents of Belgian international Youri Tielemans.
All three players fit Emery’s requirements to the ground, and should all three settle, Villa could have an outside chance of a top-six finish come May.
Ben Browning: At this point, just about every club still needs more signings, but Liverpool have done an excellent job in rejuvenating their midfield and setting themselves up for the future. Meanwhile, Bournemouth have also made some fascinating signings, so are a side to watch this season.
Josh Barker: Arsenal’s 2022/23 title charge largely fell apart when William Saliba got injured. The Gunners simply did not have the quality to cover for the Frenchman. But they have now signed a quality central defender in Jurrien Timber, who can also play at right-back.
Elsewhere, Declan Rice is one of the best defensive midfielders in world football and a major upgrade on Arsenal’s other options. Kai Havertz remains a bit of a wild card, but there is no denying Arsenal have strengthened well this summer.
Conor Laird: A few candidates spring to mind here, with the transfer windows being enjoyed by the boards at Aston Villa, Chelsea and Brighton all worthy of mention.
It is Arsenal, though, who have thus far done the best job of adding not only depth, but ready-made first XI-worthy quality, in the form of Declan Rice, Kai Havertz, Jurrien Timber, and (imminently) David Raya.
Andrew Thompson: It has to be Erling Haaland. After breaking the single-season goal record in his inaugural campaign in the top flight of English football, at current, there is no player bar Harry Kane that has a chance at catching the Norwegian goal machine except perhaps Mohamed Salah.
And with Kane looking more and more likely to depart north London for Bavaria, while Ivan Toney is set to miss a large part of the season, it’s surely Haaland’s crown to lose.
Ben Browning: It is hard to look past Erling Haaland, especially with the rumours surrounding Harry Kane’s future. The man is a machine, and now with a full season under his belt at Manchester City is only going to get better.
Josh Barker: It would be silly to pick anyone other than Erling Haaland for this role. The Norwegian broke countless records last season and is sure to dominate the English top-flight once more in 2023/24. Haaland’s chances of picking up the Golden Boot will be further increased if Harry Kane moves to Bayern Munich.
Conor Laird: Erling Haaland – A new goalscoring record in his very first season in the Premier League, is there anything to suggest that City’s prolific frontman will not go from strength to strength in 2023/24?
As things stand, I don’t see any legitimate contender to snatch the Golden Boot away from Haaland.
- Title dark horses - Arsenal
- Top four dark horses - Chelsea
- Top six dark horses - Aston Villa
- Relegation dark horses - West Ham United
Ben Browning: Chelsea are coming off the back of their worst ever Premier League season and expectations are on the floor. But they have a young squad with a new proactive manager all while only having to play once a week. I think they will surprise plenty.
Josh Barker: A Europa Conference League place may be somewhat unrealistic for Crystal Palace, but the Eagles have an outside chance of challenging for that seventh place this season after a solid end to the 2022/23 campaign under Roy Hodgson. Brighton have lost a number of key players and along with Newcastle and Aston Villa, now have to contend with the impact of playing European football each week. Elsewhere, Brentford have lost their top goalscorer and potentially their no.1, leaving Palace with and outside shot of making it into the top seven/eight this season.
Conor Laird: Fresh off an impressive seventh-placed finish last time out, keep an eye on Aston Villa this coming season. With mastermind Unai Emery in the dugout, and the trio of Pau Torres, Youri Tielemans and Moussa Diaby now on the books at Villa Park, the Claret and Blue could well be primed for a big year in 2023/24.
Also worthy of mention are Vincent Kompany’s Burnley, who will head into the term with high expectations, after building on the club’s latest Championship title by way of a head-turning summer of transfer business.
- Manchester City
- Manchester City
The first two pick themselves, and I don’t see enough goals in Manchester United’s side to get them in again. Newcastle may find their squad stretched by European football and could miss out too.
- Manchester City
Manchester City are obviously nailed on to finish in the top-four and are probably once again favourites to win the Premier League. Elsewhere, whilst Arsenal are unlikely to push City like they did last year, the foundations Mikel Arteta has built coupled with their summer spending will see them back in the top-four yet again this season.
Liverpool should also return to the Champions League spots in 2023/24 after their smart summer spending and the reinvention of Trent Alexander-Arnold. The finally top-four spot is tough to call but given the quality of their squad, the sale of many under-performing players and the appointment of Maurico Pochettino, Chelsea stand a great chance of pipping Manchester United to fourth place.
Conor Laird: Predicting this year’s top four in the Premier League is essentially a toss of a coin, with so many quality-filled squads having only continued to get stronger.
As many as eight clubs could well have their sights set on a Champions League berth for 2024/25, with Newcastle United and Aston Villa ready to upset the established ‘big-six’ once more. Ultimately, though, I have opted for Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United, in no particular order.
- West Ham United
- Luton Town
- Sheffield United
- West Ham
Coming up last season, I think the Premier League will be just too strong for Luton and Sheffield United, but the third spot is a bit trickier. I’ve gone for West Ham but I expect it to be close between them, Wolves and Nottingham Forest.
- Sheffield United
Of the three newly-promoted teams, only Burnley look to have the quality of a side capable of staying in the Premier League longer than one season. The finally relegation spot could be handed to Bournemouth. The Cherries do not have the best squad or biggest budget, and after the shock sacking of Gary O’Neil earlier this summer, their future in the top-flight is very much threatened.
First manager to be sacked
Andrew Thompson: David Moyes. Perhaps through no fault of his own, at least not completely, West Ham United have failed to recruit appropriately enough at the time of writing, especially after the loss of captain Declan Rice.
Now, with the buzzards circling around Gianluca Scamacca as well as Nikola Vlasic, and the club still struggling to acquire one or multiple replacements for the aforementioned Rice, the Hammers, who have Europa League football to contend with, could really struggle.
Ben Browning: No summer signings, reports of falling out with those above him, a squad that has just lost it’s star player. David Moyes should have walked after the European cup salvaged a dreadful season, and that might still buy him some time, but he is blocking any progression at the London Stadium and a poor start could see his job on the line.
Josh Barker: Rob Edwards did an excellent job securing Luton promotion to the Premier League. But their lack of quality and limited finances likely means the will struggle to compete in the top-flight. As a result, it seems likely Edwards will be sacked fairly early in the campaign as most owners do not have the patience to stick with one manager when fighting relegation
Talking point of the summer
Andrew Thompson: Harry Kane, and not shockingly so. With Premier League immortality nearly in touching distance in the wake of already becoming the all-time leading scorer for both England and Tottenham, Kane’s possible move to German giants Bayern Munich would strip the English top flight of undeniable world-class talent, while also likely throwing Spurs’ plans under new boss Ange Postecoglou into relative upheaval. Should he stay, then the league’s goal record will surely be he is in time; if he stays.
Ben Browning: Without a doubt it’s the Premier League being played at its own game by Saudi Arabia. Losing star after star to the Saudi league offering far more than seems reasonable must be how every other league in Europe feels when the English top flight calls.
Josh Barker: Cristiano Ronaldo’s transfer to Saudi Arabia midway through last season has started a domino effect that has seen countless Premier League players swap England for the Middle East in search of major paydays. The likes of Jordan Henderson, N’Golo Kante, Fabinho and Kalidou Koulibaly have flocked to Saudi Arabia over the summer. Whilst the majority of these players were past their prime, it will be interesting to see if the Saudis can begin to attract younger, more quality players to their league from England.
Conor Laird: Is there really any other choice here? The emergence of the Saudi Pro League as a viable destination for not only those players over the hill, but those in their very prime, too, represents a seismic shift in the sport of football as we know it.
To this point in the summer, a whole host of high-profile names have opted to call time on their respective stints in England, for a new (money-laden) adventure in the Middle East.
Whilst the likes of N’Golo Kante, Kalidou Koulibaly and Roberto Firmino making the move to Saudi were perhaps in some way predictable, few could have foreseen Fabinho, Allan Saint-Maximin and Ruben Neves following suit, in what has proven one of the most memorable transfer windows in recent history.