Manchester — Manchester City begin the defence of their Premier League title away to newly-promoted Burnley on Friday as Pep Guardiola’s men look to hold off an ambitious group of challengers to their crown as English champions.
Arsenal and Manchester United have spent big to try and end their long wait for a league title, while Liverpool and Chelsea are expected to bounce back from last season’s disappointment.
But another transfer window of major investment by English clubs has been overshadowed by the lavish sums luring even some of the Premier League’s best talent to Saudi Arabia.
City still the benchmark
City not only won the Premier League for a fourth time in five years last season, but completed a treble of FA Cup and the club’s first ever Champions League.
Maintaining his side’s hunger is the task awaiting Guardiola, but the Catalan coach is confident City will rise to the challenge of becoming the first side to ever win four consecutive English top-flight titles.
“We have done it in the past, why should we not do it now? What we did belongs in our hearts and minds but while we are here we cannot stop,” said Guardiola.
City have lost captain Ilkay Gundogan to Barcelona and Riyad Mahrez to the exodus from Europe to Saudi.
The arrival of Croatian internationals Josko Gvardiol and Mateo Kovacic has softened that blow, but the champions have been quiet in the market compared to the chasing pack.
Exactly one week to go before the 2023/24 #PL season is up and running 🎉 pic.twitter.com/q9Uyyk6PZa
— Premier League (@premierleague) August 4, 2023
Arsenal were second last season and have splashed out over £200 million ($255 million) on Declan Rice, Kai Havertz and Jurrien Timber in an attempt to go one better this time.
The Gunners saw an immediate reward by beating City on penalties to win the Community Shield on Sunday and goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale believes victory at Wembley was an important psychological hurdle for Arsenal to clear.
“For us it’s a statement,” said Ramsdale. “It’s a marker to know we can go and beat Man City in a big game when it matters. I’m not sure what it will be like this season but that mental block is gone. We’re ready to push on now.”
United remain in limbo off the field as talks over a potential takeover of the Red Devils drag on.
But manager Erik ten Hag has still been handed his desired targets with the arrival of goalkeeper Andre Onana, midfielder Mason Mount and Denmark striker Rasmus Hojlund.
United finished third and won the League Cup in Ten Hag’s first season, but have gone a decade without a Premier League title.
Liverpool are not in the Champions League for the first time in seven years after finishing fifth last season.
A midfield overhaul at Anfield has been accelerated by the departures of captain Jordan Henderson and Fabinho to Saudi Arabia with Argentine World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai coming in.
“At the moment it looks like they have quite an influence. It is massive,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp on the emerging threat in the Gulf to the Premier League’s status as the world’s leading league.
However, Newcastle – who are 80 percent owned by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund – have so far added just Italian midfielder Sandro Tonali and winger Harvey Barnes from relegated Leicester.
New Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino has overseen a huge clearout at Stamford Bridge to trim down a bloated squad that sank to 12th last season.
Tottenham are also under new management, but the early days of Ange Postecoglou’s reign have been overshadowed by the doubt over whether Harry Kane will leave to join Bayern Munich.
Luton’s fairytale rise
As hundreds of millions are spent jostling for positions at the top end of the table, Luton Town are spending big just to get their 10,000 capacity stadium Kenilworth Road up to scratch for life in the top flight.
Luton have risen from the fifth-tier National League to the Premier League in just 10 seasons.
The Hatters, who begin their campaign away to Brighton, will have to wait for a first home game until at least next month after a clash with Burnley was postponed to allow extra time for stadium upgrades to be completed.
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