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Premier League season preview part one – Arsenal to Fulham

Premier League football is back this weekend and we’re on hand to preview the eagerly anticipated 2023/24 campaign.

A new season brings hope and expectation across the Premier League, with Manchester City the team to beat as last season’s treble winners look to continue their recent dominance of the division.

Arsenal proved to be the closest challengers to Pep Guardiola’s side last season, though Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and others will be hoping to close the gap to the top.

 

Elsewhere, Newcastle, Brighton, Aston Villa and West Ham prepare for European campaigns, while Luton Town are a Premier League team for the first time after promotion.

Ahead of the season’s kick-off, we preview each of the 20 Premier League sides, beginning alphabetically from Arsenal to Fulham.

Premier League season preview part one – Arsenal to Fulham:

Arsenal

Last season: 2nd

Title odds: 9/2

Key player: Bukayo Saka

TFF prediction: 2nd

Arsenal’s improvement under Mikel Arteta accelerated last season, as the Gunners exceeded expectations to push for the Premier League title.

The north Londoners bounced back from the disappointment of missing out on a place in the Champions League the previous season to lead the division for much of the campaign, spending a record 248 days at the top of the Premier League without winning the title.

Injuries and inexperience cost Arsenal during the run-in, but the Gunners have outlined their ambition for the new campaign with the exciting captures of Jurrien Timber, Kai Havertz and £105m club-record arrival Declan Rice.

The latter in particular will be important as Arsenal look to add presence to their side and optimism is high at the Emirates. The Manchester City machine will be difficult to stop, but Arsenal – even given the added commitment of Champions League football for the first time since 2016/17 – look best placed to challenge.

Arsenal’s best talents are yet to hit their peak and are improving season upon season, with Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard and Gabriel Martinelli having reached new levels last season. The former is now established as one of Europe’s top wide-men and if each of that trio can improve once again, Arsenal have the talent to challenge.

Aston Villa

Last season: 7th

Title odds: 150/1

Key player: Emiliano Martinez

TFF prediction: 7th

Aston Villa are another side full of hope ahead of the new season, following the club’s turnaround under Unai Emery.

Steven Gerrard’s unpopular reign came to an end in November, with European specialist Emery arriving to inspire a surge in form. Had the Premier League began when Emery took charge, Villa would have ended the season fifth in the table.

Their form did lead to Europa Conference League qualification and the club can look forward to a first continental campaign in a decade. Emery’s arrival has made Villa an attractive destination for new signings and the club have conducted some of the most impressive business in the Premier League this summer.

Youri Tielemans’ arrival on a free transfer from Leicester can be considered a coup, while Pau Torres and Moussa Diaby – each linked with moves to some of Europe’s top clubs in recent transfer windows – have arrived to increase excitement levels.

The minimum expectation is for another push for Europe and a strong tilt at winning the Conference League. West Ham’s success in that competition and subsequent celebrations will have whet the appetite.

Bournemouth

Last season: 15th

Title odds: 1500/1

Key player: Philip Billing

TFF prediction: 15th

Bournemouth bounced back from a difficult start to secure Premier League survival last season. Gary O’Neil inherited a squad that predecessor Scott Parker had called ‘ill-equipped’ to cope in the top division and led the Cherries to 15th.

Despite that achievement, O’Neil was surprisingly sacked and Bournemouth will begin the new season under the stewardship of Andoni Iraola. The Spaniard forged a reputation for having his sides punch above their weight, having established Rayo Vallecano in La Liga after guiding the club to promotion.

Last season his team claimed the scalps of both Real Madrid and Barcelona and Bournemouth will hope the new appointment can ensure Bournemouth bloody the noses of the Premier League big boys.

The Cherries are quietly building a team packed full of youthful promise, with Milos Kerkez, Romain Faivre and Justin Kluivert, son of Dutch icon Patrick, the exciting imports to the south coast this summer.

Brentford

Last season: 9th

Title odds: 400/1

Key player: Bryan Mbeumo

TFF prediction: 13th

Brentford laughed in the face of second season syndrome last term to improve on what had been a positive first season in the Premier League.

Thomas Frank’s organised team upset several established names to challenge for a place in Europe, ending the campaign ninth in the Premier League table.

Brentford are disciplined defensively and a threat in the air, leading the division for aerial duels won last season, while only Liverpool scored more set-pice goals.

The Bees will be confident of avoiding a battle near the bottom, but will have to combat the absence of Ivan Toney for much of the campaign. The 27-year-old – who scored 20 goals in the Premier League last season – is banned until January after breaching gambling rules. How Brentford replace his contribution will determine their season.

Brighton

Last season: 6th

Title odds: 50/1

Key player: Kaoru Mitoma

TFF prediction: 9th

Brighton fans might have feared the worst when Graham Potter departed for Chelsea early last season, but replacement Roberto De Zerbi built on Potter’s framework to lead Brighton to their best-ever Premier League finish and European football for the first time.

The Italian’s exciting brand of football has earned admirers across the division, while Brighton’s recruitment team continue to unearth gems. Kaoru Mitoma, Evan Ferguson and Julio Enciso were among the names to break through last season, as Brighton continue to sell on stars, replace them, and keep moving upwards.

The Seagulls face a task to rebuild their midfield with Moises Caicedo seemingly set to follow Alexis Mac Allister out of the exit door, but hopes are high for another strong season on the south coast.

Balancing Europa League commitments will pose a new challenge, though it’s one De Zerbi will relish. Few teams will fancy facing Brighton in continental competition this season, a team who have the style to shine in Europe.

Burnley

Last season: 1st (Championship)

Title odds: 1500/1

Key player: Josh Cullen

TFF prediction: 16th

Burnley return to the Premier League a rather different proposition than the one that left, following Vincent Kompany’s transformative impact at Turf Moor.

The old-school principles of the Sean Dyche era are gone, with Kompany – the latest Pep Guardiola disciple set to face his former mentor in the Premier League – having made Burnley an attractive watch on route to 101 points in the second tier.

Kompany’s knowledge of the Belgian market saw key figures in Anass Zaroury, Josh Cullen and Manuel Benson signed last season, while Burnley have added to their squad this summer with youthful promise in James Trafford – a hero of England u-21’s European Championship win this summer – and Basel forward Zeki Amdouni.

Kompany is unlikely to abandon his principles, but may need to tweak tactics on occasion to survive. The Premier League can be an unforgiving beast.

Chelsea

Last season: 12th

Title odds: 14/1

Key player: Mason Mount

TFF prediction: 5th

Chelsea endured a nightmare campaign last term, with the west Londoners slumping to their lowest league finish since the mid-nineties. Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter were both sacked during a chaotic campaign, one which saw Todd Boehly’s brash spending upset the balance at Stamford Bridge.

Mauricio Pochettino has now inherited a talented squad thrown together by extravagant spending and has been quick to make changes, with established names in N’Golo Kante, Mason Mount and Mateo Kovacic heading for the exit door.

The Argentine’s task will be to turn promise into results, after under-performance from several stars signed for high fees. More will be demanded from Mykhailo Mudryk and Enzo Fernandez after big-money arrivals in January, while Axel Disasi, Nicolas Jackson and Christopher Nkunku have been added to the club’s options.

How Jackson adapts will be crucial to Chelsea’s chances and the Senegalese striker has been impressive in pre-season. His goals will carry added importance after marquee recruit Nkunku was sidelined with a knee issue. A lack of European football could help a transitional Chelsea close the gap to the top.

Crystal Palace

Last season: 12th

Title odds: 500/1

Key player: Eberechi Eze

TFF prediction: 11th

Crystal Palace turned to a familiar face after a difficult start to last season, with the wily Roy Hodgson returning to Selhurst Park to salvage their season.

Rather than tighten up what had been a sinking ship, Hodgson’s return to the club invigorated Palace’s attacking talent and saw the Eagles fire themselves away from trouble. Eberechi Eze earned an England call-up after a brilliant run of form, while Michael Olise excelled in a creative role and Cheick Doucouré was authoritative in midfield.

Palace will enter the season without Wilfried Zaha for the first time in nine years after the forward departed for Galatasaray, but the South Londoners have enough talent to cope with the exit of their long-time talisman.

Matheus França is an exciting addition from Flamengo in Brazil, while Jefferson Lerma should prove to be a shrewd pick-up from Bournemouth on a free. The Colombian was named as Bournemouth’s Player of the Season in 2022/23.

Everton

Last season: 17th

Title odds: 500/1

Key player: Arnaut Danjuma

TFF prediction: 18th

Everton have not been relegated from the top-flight of English football since 1951, but the Toffees have come precariously close across the last two campaigns.

After a narrow escape during the run-in in 2021/22, Everton needed a final day win to secure safety last season. The objective for Sean Dyche’s side is to avoid another dogfight, but their squad has been reduced following exits of names including Yerry Mina, Conor Coady and Tom Davies.

Financial restraints have again impacted transfer business and the Toffees face an October hearing on whether the club breached profit and sustainability rules. A points deduction is possible and could prove catastrophic to chances of survival.

Ashley Young (free) and Arnaut Danjuma (loan) have arrived and the latter has the talent to improve this team. He will hope for an improvement in fortunes after struggling at Spurs last season, after the north Londoners had hijacked Everton’s January move for the Dutchman.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s ongoing fitness issues have also impacted Everton, given the lack of reliable goal threat elsewhere in the squad. Addressing that issue on a shoe-string budget appears a difficult task.

Fulham

Last season: 10th

Title odds: 1000/1

Key player: Joao Palhinha

TFF prediction: 12th

Fulham will spend consecutive seasons in the same division for the first time since 2017/18 after Marco Silva’s side impressed on their Premier League return to end a recent yo-yo existence.

The Cottagers remained clear of trouble all season to secure a top-half finish, with summer signings Andreas Pereira, Bernd Leno and Joao Palhinha excellent additions. Palhinha led the Premier League for tackles and duels won and Fulham have had to fend off interest in his services this summer.

Keeping hold of the core of the side will be crucial, with leading scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic also unsettled after Fulham rejected a bid from Saudi side Al-Hilal for his services. The Serbian has scored 111 goals across the last five-and-a-half seasons and retaining the 28-year-old will feel like a major win as Fulham look to go again.

In terms of incomings, Fulham have taken a chance on Raul Jimenez despite his decline at Wolves, while Calvin Bassey could be a shrewd signing after arriving from Ajax. The latter will hope to improve a defence which had the highest expected goals against figure in the Premier League last season despite their top-half finish. Room for improvement.

Read – Midfield Generals: Edgar ‘The Pitbull’ Davids

Read Also – Five must-watch football fixtures on TV this week

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