Each week we preview the Premier League action and discuss some of the division’s major talking points.
Here are eight talking points ahead of the opening weekend of the Premier League season.
Kompany keen to prove how far he’s come
Burnley begin life back in the Premier League with the toughest of tests, as the Clarets take on treble winners Manchester City in a glamour tie at Turf Moor. The opening weekend will pit Vincent Kompany against mentor Pep Guardiola, with the former handed a chance to prove how far he has come as an emerging coach.
Kompany’s initial decision to take on relegated Burnley caused surprise, but he should be commended for his work to date. The Belgian has had a transformative impact on Burnley, coming into a club rooted in the principles of the Sean Dyche era and making an immediate impact with front-footed football.
🗣️ “He destroyed the Championship.”
Pep Guardiola on Vincent Kompany’s Burnley last season. 💪 pic.twitter.com/1gNsexx2If
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) August 10, 2023
The Clarets cruised to the Championship title to earn an instant return to the Premier League, where Kompany will hope more smart recruitment can lead to consolidation. Additions from the Belgian league have proven inspired to date, while Burnley have added to their squad with the eye-catching arrivals of Zeki Amdouni, Sander Berge and ex-City goalkeeper James Trafford.
The former Manchester City captain will take on his former side well aware of the task at hand however, with Burnley battered 6-0 in the FA Cup quarter-finals at the Etihad as recently as March.
Arsenal start season with expectant Emirates
There’s a different feeling at Arsenal as the season starts this time around. On the opening weekend of last season there was optimism of a push for the top four, expectations that were exceeded as the Gunners pushed Manchester City close for the Premier League title.
The solid progression under Mikel Arteta accelerated during a fantastic season for the north Londoners, who but for inexperience and injuries might have claimed a first Premier League crown in almost two decades.
The boss. pic.twitter.com/5S9llMq0Wp
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) August 8, 2023
Arsenal are back in the Champions League this season and have made a statement in the transfer window, spending a club-record £105m to sign Declan Rice and further bolstering their squad with the arrivals of Jurrien Timber and Kai Havertz.
Hope has been replaced by expectation and how Arsenal deal with those demands will be crucial. Manchester City remain a formidable force and will be difficult to stop, but those at the Emirates will be expecting their side to again be in contention. A home fixture with Nottingham Forest – the worst travellers in the Premier League last season – provides chance for a strong start.
How will Rice-less West Ham start?
Declan Rice’s departure from West Ham became inevitable after the club captain turned down several offers of a new deal, but the expectancy around his exit does not make replacing the influential midfielder any easier.
West Ham have been slow to start their summer business as the £105m sale of Rice was finalised, but brought in their first addition of the window in Ajax midfielder Edson Alvarez. The signing of the Mexico international appears a coup given interest from Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund in recent months and hopes will be high that the 25-year-old can provide steel at the base of the midfield.
Edson Alvarez ranks in the Top 5% of midfielders in Europe for [p90]:
Touches – 97
Pass accuracy – 89%
Passes attempted – 84
Passes completed – 74
Carries – 62
% of dribblers tackles – 61%
Recoveries – 9
Aerials won – 3.3
Clearances – 2.65
West Ham’s new midfielder. 😤 pic.twitter.com/uQ4kPLa8mD
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) August 7, 2023
Deals have also been agreed for Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse and Manchester United centre-back Harry Maguire, each of who have attributes often associated with successful David Moyes sides. The addition of a centre-forward is needed after Gianluca Scamacca’s unsuccessful spell at the London Stadium, with neither Michail Antonio or Danny Ings the long-term solution.
Moyes will hope the late business and loss of Rice does not lead to a slow start, as the Europa Conference League winners look to avoid another disappointing Premier League campaign.
Can Brighton’s NextGen continue momentum?
Brighton are more than accustomed to seeing top talent leave. In the last three seasons alone, Ben White, Yves Bissouma, Marc Cucurella, Leandro Trossard, Alexis Mac Allister and Robert Sanchez have departed for huge profits, while Moises Caicedo is set to follow as the most expensive exit of all as Liverpool and Chelsea compete for the 21-year-old.
It leaves Roberto De Zerbi in need of evolution and the Italian will hope Brighton’s remarkable recruitment record can continue as the club look to maintain momentum. A top-six finish last season was Brighton’s best at the top level and earned a place in Europe for the coming campaign.
— Brighton & Hove Albion (@OfficialBHAFC) August 6, 2023
The onus will now be on the next generation of emerging talents to make themselves household names, with Bart Verbruggen, Simon Adringa and Joao Pedro among those set to be introduced to the side this season.
The latter has arrived in a club-record deal from Watford and struggled on his last visit to this level, but Brighton believe the Brazilian has the attributes to shine in the Premier League. He could flourish in De Zerbi’s chance-creating machine.
Villa will hope to follow Newcastle path and upset status quo
One of the standout fixtures of the opening weekend takes place at St James’ Park, as two teams full of optimism collide in the North East. Newcastle will host Champions League football for the first time since 2002/03 after an excellent season for Eddie Howe’s team, while Villa are also looking forward to continental competition after Unai Emery’s impact in the Midlands.
Both sides regard themselves as sleeping giants in English football but on the evidence of last season both are beginning to awaken from that slumber. Villa have enjoyed one of the most impressive transfer windows of the summer so far with the additions of Youri Tielemans, Pau Torres and Moussa Diaby and will be quietly confident of competing at the top end once again.
“We look good, we feel good but it’s about embracing that now in the real games and transferring what we’ve worked on in pre-season.”
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) August 9, 2023
This weekend’s opposition have shown what can be achieved with organisation and belief, securing a top-four finish with the joint-best defensive record in the division. With several of the ‘Big Six’ in periods of transition, there is an opportunity for Newcastle and Villa to upset the status quo.
Brentford and Spurs look to cope with talisman losses
Brentford and Tottenham meet in a London derby on Sunday, with both teams set to start the season without their respective talisman.
Ivan Toney’s suspension for breaching gambling rules has dealt a major blow to Brentford’s hopes of a successful season, after the forward scored 20 league goals to earn England honours last season.
Just two players scored more Premier League goals than Toney last season, one of who is also expected to be absent this weekend. Spurs have accepted an offer for Harry Kane from Bayern Munich and the England captain looks set to sign for the Bundesliga champions in search of silverware.
Harry Kane to FC Bayern, here we go! Deal completed between all parties as Kane has given final green light 🚨🔴
Tottenham to receive €100m fixed fee plus add-ons up to €20m package.
Kane will sign a four year deal, he’ll fly to Germany today.
Medical booked. Done deal. pic.twitter.com/iervbXzkwt
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) August 11, 2023
Both teams will need to end an over-reliance on last season’s leading goalscorers to achieve their ambitions this season, but goals are so often the hardest commodity to come by in England’s top tier.
Transfer battle ahead of Stamford Bridge war
It’s been an astonishing few days in the transfer window. The will-he, won’t-he, saga surrounding Harry Kane looks to be heading towards its conclusion, while the search for defensive midfield reinforcements among Premier League clubs has taken on new twists.
After three rejected bids for Southampton midfielder Romeo Lavia, Liverpool saw Chelsea move ahead of them in the race for the teenager earlier in the week. What followed was stunning, as Liverpool lodged a £110m Premier League record offer for Chelsea target and Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo.
Chelsea have chased a deal for Caicedo all summer, but Liverpool loosened the purse strings in pursuit of the Ecuadorian. Just when all appeared done, Caicedo declared that he wants to move to Chelsea and has reportedly rebuffed the approach from the Reds.
EXCLUSIVE: Moisés Caicedo has just informed Liverpool that he only wants to join Chelsea! 🚨🔵🇪🇨 #CFC
Caicedo has decided to keep his word and only accept Chelsea as personal terms were agreed since end of May.
Chelsea, set to bid again in order to get deal done with Brighton. pic.twitter.com/HI3geVVq9Z
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) August 11, 2023
To add an extra narrative to the drama, the two teams face each other in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
It will likely come too soon for Caicedo to debut should a move to either club be finalised, but the 21-year-old will be a keen observer as to how the two teams match up on the opening weekend.
Forward issues no quick-fix for Manchester United
Manchester United ended their search for a centre-forward with the £72m signing of Rasmus Hojland from Atalanta, securing a big-money deal for one of Europe’s most exciting emerging talents.
The deal was done with the long-term in mind, but fails to solve the immediate issues in Erik ten Hag’s side, not least because the Denmark international is sidelined with a back problem described this week as ‘more serious than first thought’.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 11, 2023
It leaves Ten Hag in need of goals, given an over-reliance on Marcus Rashford last season. Despite Bruno Fernandes leading the Premier League for big chances created, only Rashford scored more than 10 league goals for the club.
Fortunately for the Red Devils, their opening fixture comes against a team with their own issues in the final third. Wolves were the lowest scorers in the Premier League last season (31) and have seen Julen Lopetegui walk out on the club just days before the new season. Gary O’Neil has been tasked with repairing the disarray.