Kampala, Uganda | XINHUA | It’s a new season but everyone will be looking to the same team to be the favorites to lift the Premier League title.
Liverpool waited 30 years before Jurgen Klopp steered them to glory last season and the 18-point margin of victory, (which would probably have been bigger if they had not relaxed in the closing weeks of the campaign) means everyone else has a lot of catching up to do if they want to overtake Klopp’s men.
So far the only new arrival at Anfield is Kostas Tsimikas, who should provide cover for Andy Robertson at left back, but with plenty of time before the transfer window closes, the club is expected to sign Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich to give further options to an already impressive midfield.
The 2020 season ended disappointingly for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, who never looked like catching Liverpool in the league and then, after beating Real Madrid, saw their European hopes destroyed by Olympique Lyon.
Nathan Ake has been brought in to give more options at the back, but Guardiola’s plans have been somewhat frustrated by new Spain international Eric Garcia’s refusal to sign a new contract, and he could be Barcelona bound, while John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi are not reliable enough over a long season.
Aymeric Laporte’s positive test for COVID-19 means he could miss the start of the campaign, but the Frenchman is vital to City’s options.
Elsewhere, David Silva has left, but that should allow Phil Foden to claim a regular starting place and Ferran Torres is a talented an adaptable signing from Valencia.
On the other side of Manchester, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can be reasonably satisfied after a season that looked destined to end in total mediocrity finished with a third-place finish and a Europa League semi-final appearance.
The fact that those results can be seen as positive shows how far United have fallen since their glory days but the arrival of Donny van de Beek from Ajax should add further depth and control to Solskjaer’s midfield, while Mason Greenwood’s rapid progress alongside Anthony Martial and Marcos Rashford in attack, means they will be tough to defend against even if doubts remain about United’s own back line.
Chelsea have been big movers this summer to give Frank Lampard a squad to challenge for the title.
Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell should strengthen an at-times questionable back line, while Timo Werner and Kai Havertz are big money additions at the other end of the field and overall Lampard can be happy with his summer.
Whether Jose Mourinho at Tottenham will ever be happy is a different question, but it looks to be another season where Spurs’ hopes will rest on the fitness of Harry Kane and with Mourinho there is always a feeling that things could go belly up if results don’t arrive soon.
Mikel Arteta has now had time to put his mark on the Arsenal side he inherited from Unai Emery and winning the FA Cup and the Community shield have given the club a positive air, as have the signings of Willian from Chelsea, central defender Gabriel from Lille and the return of Dani Ceballos on loan from Real Madrid.
Leicester City were last season’s surprise package with their fifth place finish and the challenge for coach Brendan Rodgers will be to get near repeating that, and to get close he needs Jamie Vardy to keep hammering home the goals.
Wolves were impressive all campaign and although Nuno Espiritu Santo has lost Matt Doherty to Spurs, the arrivals of Fabio Silva and Fernando Marcal should compensate for that departure.
Everton fans will be looking for improvement under experienced coach Carlo Ancelotti and the former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss has added James Rodriguez to his squad from Madrid in a move that should bring a bit of magic to his side if James can find his feet in the Premier League.
Elsewhere, Sheffield United impressed in their return to the top-flight last season and now need to repeat that in what could be a tough second season, Burnley will continue to present teams with a physical challenge under Sean Dyche, while Danny Ings’ goals will play a major role in determining Southampton’s fate.
Brighton coach Graham Potter earned praise for his style of football and Adam Lallana’s arrival from Liverpool should add guile in midfield, while Crystal Palace remain in the safe but unspectacular hands of Roy Hodgson and their future could depend on what happens with want-away striker Wilfred Zaha.
Steve Bruce did a decent job at Newcastle United in his first campaign, and he will be happy with the capture of Bournemouth duo Callum Wilson and Ryan Frasier, who should give more firepower to the perennial under-achievers.
Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United will be fascinating to watch after the master tactician earned promotion last season, although Leeds could suffer from a lack of goals.
West Ham United need to progress under coach David Moyes, but could be in for another difficult season, while few will be betting on newcomers Fulham and West Brom to be far from a relegation struggle that given the differences between the bottom six and the top six or seven sides, will probably be decided by results between direct rivals.