The new Premier League season kicks off this season for the majority of teams after the shortest of off-seasons following the pandemic-enforced lockdown at the end of last term.
Here’s every club’s burning question heading into the new campaign…
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Will Mikel Arteta be given the time?
Arsenal fans have proclaimed him as a prophet sent by Arsene Wenger back in the year 2004 to restore Arsenal to their highest glory and while he did well to win the FA Cup and the – ahem – Community Shield against Manchester City and Liverpool respectively, he did still see his side finish eighth in the league. The questions will inevitably begin to arise should there be a winless streak around October and we must hope that the board keeps faith with him to let his vision come to life.
Can Jack Grealish save Villa again?
Jack Grealish is Aston Villa’s captain fantastic. He stayed with them while Villa were in the Championship, became captain, scored the winner in the derby and saw them promoted. His next mission – and what was supposed to be his last one – was to save them from relegation, which he did with a goal on the last day of the season. He was supposed to leave the club to ply his trade in Europe and depart a hero – but now he looks like he will stay and have to do it all again. It’s a big ask for such young shoulders.
Can they finally step up?
Brighton have spent far too long as relegation candidates but the signing of Adam Lallana was seen as a huge coup for the club. Now the question is whether that ambition can be replicated on the pitch. All the ingredients are there for a mid-table finish this time around but they will need players to step up, particularly in attack where they have relied too heavily on the now departed Glen Murray.
Will this be Sean Dyche’s last season?
When Dyche took Burnley up to the Premier League, he did a monumental job and then cemented it by staying there. He has since taken them to Europe and a top-seven finish but now the club seems to have reached a glass ceiling. They are not able to invest enough to challenge the top six or seven but Dyche has them too well organised to be pulled into the relegation battle. You feel that if nothing changes this time around, he could finally wave goodbye to Turf Moor.
How will this brand new team gel?
Frank Lampard has been given nearly an entirely new team this season, with Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell and Kai Havertz. Lampard’s been playing fantasy football with a blank cheque this off-season, bringing in $411m of new talent. A new goalkeeper could also be on the way and should he arrive the Blues will have a team genuinely capable of mounting a title challenge. But is Lampard ready and able to do that? His only previous experiences in management has been with Derby and Chelsea where he has relied on young players forging their own reputations. Now he has players with huge reputations already and it is his task to blend them together and repay Roman Abramovich’s near half a billion dollar investment during the transfer window. That, and the fact previous big spenders have found it difficult to have all their new toys gel quickly. And Lampard needs that to happen.
Will Wifried Zaha accept his fate?
Zaha has been priced out of a Crystal Palace exit for the last two seasons and again it appears that he will not get his wish to leave the club for pastures new. If he accepts that and begins firing consistently, then Palace will be safe. The biggest worry is his and the club as a whole’s inconsistency. This could be one season too far for Roy Hodgson, who oversaw eight defeats from Palace’s last nine games of the last season.
Will this be another false dawn?
Everton have had big transfer windows under a new manager before. Both Marco Silva and Ronald Koeman were given big budgets to reshape their squads before being swiftly sacked after a string of poor results. That left the next manager with an uphill battle and expensive players he saw no value in. Carlo Ancelotti is set to bring in James Rodriguez from Real Madrid as his headline signing, with Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan set to follow from Watford and Napoli respectively to shape a new-look midfield. If Ancelotti has got this right, as he so often has in the past, we could be seeing Everton return to the top six. But he needs to be allowed the time his predecessors were not.
Can Fulham right their past wrongs?
Last time Fulham were in the Premier League they brought in 14 new faces, outspent everyone other than Chelsea and Liverpool and were immediately relegated back to the Championship. In short, it was an embarrassment. Now they’re back and Scott Parker has learnt his lesson and is sticking with the bulk of the squad that got them promoted. It’s obviously a gamble by Fulham but it backfired so badly last time what else would they do? It worked for Sheffield United last season so why not again?
Are Leeds United really back?
Finally, one of England’s biggest clubs are back where they belong, but now the challenge is actually staying there. Leeds excelled in the Championship last season but the Premier League is a completely different level and even though most bookmakers have them down as odds on to survive, it will be interesting to see how they do actually get on. This is a completely different Leeds team to the one that was last in the Premier League after all.
Which Leicester City will we see?
There were two sides to Leicester last season: the one that got them into the Champions League places and kept them there nearly all season, and the one that saw them agonisingly slip out after a poor run of results. They suffered injuries to key players but the slide was alarming and Brendan Rodgers now again faces the challenge of proving himself as a top level manager after questions began to creep in. And he will have to do it after losing a key player in the transfer market once again.
Is this team a dynasty or a one-hit wonder?
Only three teams have retained the Premier League in its history, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City. Only one team has done a three peat (twice). Ask any former player who has done it and they will tell you: winning it is the easy part, defending it is far tougher. This Liverpool team has won everything and now they must motivate themselves to win it all again. The squad is certainly physically capable of it, but mentally? That will be their biggest challenge, especially after suffering a big dip in form after finally losing their unbeaten run to Watford.
Will Pep Guardiola ever win the Champions League with City?
The Premier League seems almost irrelevant to Guardiola now. He was hired to win the Champions League and it’s the only thing he hasn’t won at the Etihad. In reality, he hasn’t even come close. This is what he really wants to prove, that he can win it without his Barcelona team, and it might mean sacrificing the league when we get around to March time, unless City are leading. Much still depends on who else in brought before the transfer window shuts, with Kalidou Koulibaly high up on the priority list.
Will burnout get the better of them?
One thing that we can all agree on now is that Manchester United showed in the second half of last season that they now have a starting XI capable of challenging for the Premier League title. However, titles are won with squads, not starting XIs and what was just as evident after the restart last season was how poor those coming off the bench were. Solskjaer didn’t make a substitution until it was too late in the Europa League and it was because he believed that the weary legs on the field would be better equipped than the fresh legs on the bench. And with only one signing brought in so far, the fear is there again. You worry what will happen if Bruno Fernandes fatigues and begins to run cool.
Will Mike Ashley manage to sell the club at all this season?
Having optimistically thought they may be starting the season with the likes of Kylian Mbappe in their line-up, it’s certainly the question that all Newcastle fans want answering as soon as possible. They want Ashley out and Ashley wants out – at the right price. However, staying in the Premier League is key to this and a lot will again rest on Steve Bruce’s ability to get the best out of his players.
Has Sheffield United’s shock factor faded?
Sheffield United’s progress this season will be an interesting one to keep an eye on given how they defied all of their pre-season predictions last term. But will the Blades kick on and build on what happened last time or will they struggle as teams begin to work them out? Chris Wilder was one of the managers of the year and it will be fascinating to see how he manages one of the biggest challenges of his career to date.
Can Danny Ings continue his scoring renaissance?
Ings was a revelation last season and finished runner-up in the scoring charts with 22 goals, one behind golden boot winner Jamie Vardy. At 28, he is hitting his prime years as a striker and there is no reason why he can’t replicate his stunning form throughout last season again. Southampton’s bounce back from that 9-0 defeat against Leicester was very impressive and Ings was a huge part of that.
Can Jose Mourinho end Tottenham’s trophy drought?
Mourinho is heading into his first full season at Tottenham after taking over from Mauricio Pochettino midway through last term and this will be the first opportunity we get to really see his impression on the squad. He will have two key objectives this season: securing a top-four finish and winning a trophy. He has won trophies wherever he has worked so don’t be surprised to see Spurs put together a League Cup or FA Cup run, as well as going deep into the Europa League.
Have West Brom solved their defensive issues?
More than a third of the goals West Brom conceded in the Championship last season were from set pieces and that will need to improve drastically as they enter the Premier League as favourites for the drop. They also allowed more shots on goal from outside the box than all but one of the top six from last season, with 204. Given the higher standard of shooting from those areas in the Premier League, it will be something that Slaven Bilic will have to work on if the Baggies are to have any hope this season.
Can West Ham learn to hold their nerve?
West Ham are aiming to become a team challenging for European places but to do that they must first learn to hold on to winning positions. Last season the Hammers lost a massive 26 points from winning positions and were in the mix for the relegation places until Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen drove some impressive post-lockdown form. Even if they halve their points lost to 13, they would have finished 11th so it is clear where they need to improve.
Can Nuno Espirito Santo cope with workload?
Nuno tends to prefer to work with a smaller squad than most other managers but he will need to recruit during the final month of the transfer window in order to get through the huge number of games they had last season. There was certainly fatigue creeping in and the addition of a couple of new players will freshen up the squad and ensure key men can be rested during busy periods of the season. A trophy would be a dream scenario but there is no reason they won’t be in the mix for the Champions League again, especially if they can keep their impressive record of only dropping four points from winning positions last season.