The Premier League season is now just days away, with clubs finalising their preparations ahead of the eagerly anticipated kick off on Friday.
The league’s top six will all have high hopes of enjoying a successful year, and silverware is likely to be on the agenda for the division’s elite sides.
Ahead of the Premier League’s opening weekend, we’ve looked at one major question facing each top six manager ahead of the new campaign…
Unai Emery – Arsenal
Who will play at centre-back?
Arsenal’s long-term Achilles heel seems to have been their defensive fragility, and it has come as a surprise to many that the club are yet to bolster their defensive ranks.
Unai Emery has splashed a club-record £72m on Lille winger Nicolas Pepe, but defender William Saliba will spend the coming campaign on loan at Saint-Etienne after signing from the French side this summer.
Captain Laurent Koscielny’s strike and subsequent departure to Bordeaux leaves Emery with another dilemma, the veteran centre-back having been a key figure at the Emirates during nine seasons at the club.
Emery’s defensive options look severely depleted. Greek international Sokratis is the experienced option, whilst the much-maligned Shkodran Mustafi remains at the club despite Emery indicating a willingness to part with the German.
Rob Holding is recovering from a long-term injury, Konstantinos Mavropanos remains raw and unproven, while returning loanee Callum Chamber’s best performances at Fulham came in central midfield.
Emery is believed to be targeting additions and getting the balance right early will prove crucial to Arsenal‘s hopes of securing a top four finish, or they could find themselves playing catch up.
Frank Lampard – Chelsea
How to replace Eden Hazard?
Chelsea have lost arguably the finest player in the Premier League this summer, with Belgian international Eden Hazard departing for Real Madrid after seven successful seasons at Stamford Bridge.
The 28-year-old’s loss was untimely, particularly given the club are currently serving a two-window transfer ban and are unable to sign a replacement.
New Chelsea manager Lampard must now find a way to fill the creative void left by Hazard, who scored 16 goals and provided a league-high 15 assists in the Premier League last season.
Christian Pulisic has arrived from Borussia Dortmund after a £58m deal was agreed in January, and the US international has looked promising in pre-season. However, the 20-year-old is far from the finished article and will have to improve his productivity to truly replace Hazard.
Ross Barkley could be the player who proves crucial to Lampard, having shone since being handed a more attacking role in pre-season. The England midfielder has been utilised in a central attacking role in Lampard’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, scoring several goals and taking over the team’s set-piece duties.
Barkley is yet to reach the heights many expected following his emergence at Everton, though the 25-year-old could now be set for a defining season under Lampard’s stewardship.
Jurgen Klopp – Liverpool
Can the ‘front three’ stay fit and fresh?
Many expected Liverpool to enter the market for attacking reinforcements this summer, with the club often heavily reliant on the forward trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
The Merseyside club have been fortunate over the past two seasons that their star strikers have remained fit for the majority of their fixtures, though each has played a lot of football in recent times.
All three featured in international tournaments over the summer, with Mane only reporting back for pre-season following Sunday’s Community Shield defeat to Manchester City.
Divock Origi deputised admirably and memorably on occasion last season, though many feel the drop in quality to Liverpool’s reserve forwards is significant.
Should Liverpool be without any of their star trio for any length of time, their ability to challenge may be hindered.
Pep Guardiola – Manchester City
Can City crack Europe?
Despite enjoying unprecedented domestic dominance, including becoming the first side in a decade to win back-to-back titles, City’s billionaire Sheikh owners want Champions League success.
Guardiola’s arrival as manager was seen as the catalyst to bring an elusive European Cup to the Etihad, though the Spaniard’s record in Europe’s premier competition has been poor since taking over.
Having twice won the competition with Barcelona, City’s owners hoped Guardiola would be the man to help them to Champions League success and the 48-year-old is now better prepared than ever before.
City possess arguably Europe’s strongest squad, and the club’s owners will want improvement after quarter-final exits in the past two seasons.
Those eliminations, against Liverpool and Tottenham respectively, came against Premier League rivals who finished a combined 52 points behind them in the league.
Champions League success would truly crown this City team as one of the greatest ever sides, they’re the bookmakers favourites and will be expected to reach the latter stages.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – Manchester United
How to get the best from Paul Pogba?
Paul Pogba’s Manchester United future has been arguably the longest-running and most tedious transfer-saga of the summer window, though with the transfer window set to shut the Frenchman remains at Old Trafford.
Pogba had flirted with the likes of Real Madrid and former club Juventus, and United’s ability to keep the 26-year-old at the club could prove vital in their bid to enjoy a successful season.
The midfielder has often mixed performances of brilliance with inconsistent displays, whilst his best position has long been subject of debate.
The left-hand side of a midfield three is widely regarded as the position in which Pogba plays his best football, and Solskjaer is likely to play with three central midfielders.
Striking the balance with Pogba’s midfield partners could be where Solskjaer finds his success, if he can give the World Cup winner the platform to deliver his best performances.
In three seasons at Old Trafford, Pogba has failed to deliver on a consistent basis. It is now time for both club and player to show this can be changed.
Mauricio Pochettino – Tottenham
What’s wrong with Dele Alli?
The England midfielder burst onto the scene following his £5m arrival from MK Dons in 2015, scoring prolifically from midfield and winning consecutive PFA Young Player of the Year awards.
After hitting a career-best 18 Premier League goals in 2016/17, Alli’s numbers have slowly declined over the past two campaigns, with just nine and five scored respectively.
Injuries played their part last season, the 23-year-old making just 25 league appearances, but his performance levels have certainly dipped.
His best position still remains uncertain, having been utilised in a variety of roles under Pochettino last season. The Spurs boss must now decide how to get the best from Alli, who looks set to miss the start of the season with a hamstring problem.
The midfielder has been used as a ‘false 9’ during pre-season, as Pochettino works out his best options as cover for Harry Kane. Fernando Llorente and Vincent Janssen have both left this summer, leaving Kane as the club’s only recognised senior forward.
Kane is likely to start most games should he stay fit, but Pochettino’s experiment indicates he believes Alli remains an attacking threat.
Alli’s best football has often come in tandem with Kane, arriving into the box late from a number 10 position and Pochettino will hope that partnership can rediscover it’s touch next season.
This preview of the new season is brought to you in association with our friends at Carling, who are launching their innovative new lockable pint glass that allows you to easily carry four pints all at once!
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