Premier League preview: Did Arsenal make it? Will United fall apart?

Somehow, the time has come again. Turn on the dramatic music, turn on the content generator and get ready for the hottest takes: the Premier League season is back on the nose.

Of course, it’s not yet clear what form this edition of the great arrogant soccer soap opera will take. After all, that’s the beauty of it all.

However, as 20 of the richest league teams in the world return to the field this weekend, there are a few questions that are haunting. How they are answered will go a long way in determining how events unfold.

The obvious question before the start of each new Premier League season is which team is most likely to win the case at the end. Unfortunately, in the league’s current incarnation, this isn’t a particularly interesting exploration. Manchester City will win it as they have had four of their last five draws and will most likely do so with a spirited but ultimately futile challenge to Liverpool. Although this time there is only one small caveat.

The idea that Erling Haaland’s presence would somehow disrupt City’s rhythm enough to affect the team was exaggerated; it can be an awkward marriage for a few months, but both are more than good enough to thrive regardless.

Much more important is the fact that Haaland is currently only one of 16 senior outfield players at Pep Guardiola’s disposal. In a normal season, this would be risky. It has a big World Cup in the middle, which makes it look like a colossal gamble.

Sounds like an accusation of Arsenal’s weak praise, assuming that Mikel Arteta’s team won pre-season – mostly because it did – but despite all the hype and exaggeration, the last few weeks have brought some really encouraging signs for the Spaniard and his comrade. documentary film stars.

Gabriel Jesus could certainly be a transformational signing, and his former Manchester City teammate Oleksandr Zinchenko may not be far behind. Arsenal look like a much more complete team than a year ago. Perhaps not someone who is ready to challenge City or Liverpool, but one who could end the club’s long Champions League banishment.

The biggest hurdle to resurrecting Arsenal is just around the corner. Not at Chelsea, where a chaotic transfer window is likely to end with a stronger and yet less cohesive squad, but at Tottenham, transformed by Antonio Conte, a kind of supernova manager who comes in, pushes his players to the limit, but then explodes. . The concern when he arrived at Spurs was that the club had an almost diametrically opposed approach.

This didn’t seem to be a problem. Tottenham are set to win. Ivan Perisic, Richarlison and Yves Bissuma have been brought in to turn a team that is good enough to qualify for the Champions League last year into a team that can challenge for the title. The oddity of the season, it doesn’t seem impossible. Basically, Spurs have one chance under Conte. He did everything he could.

Cristiano Ronaldo, perhaps the purest quintessence of modern football imaginable, received a rapturous welcome on his return to Old Trafford over the weekend. Manchester United fans clearly wanted him to know how much he meant to them, even if he made it clear he didn’t want to stay at the club.

Approximately 45 minutes after being substituted, Ronaldo was leaving the stadium at halftime, against the wishes of his manager Erik ten Hag, and apparently convinced that he did not need to linger.

Believe it or not, there has been progress at Manchester United this summer. Ten Hag is a smart appointment. The club made some smart signings. But it’s a curious progress that’s been held back by the fact that United don’t appear to have a roster of recruits other than players that ten Hag knew and loved and were undermined by the Ronaldo saga. As things stand now, he may be forced to stay just because no one else wants to sign him. How ten Hag handles this will be determined by the first months of his reign.

On the one hand, this season should be the best chance since 2016 for a team outside the traditional big six to compete for a place in the Champions League. The World Cup will affect the entire campaign, and it’s hardly ridiculous to suggest that superpowers, manned by players heading to Qatar, might be more prone to fatigue after that.

However, whether any team can get out of the pack is another matter. Newcastle finished last season at a high Saudi-funded level, but this summer it has been significantly quieter than the LIV golf series. Leicester and Wolverhampton seem to be at a standstill. That leaves perhaps West Ham – bolstered by a couple of clever additions – as the only viable candidate. Even more likely, of course, is that David Moyes’ team will not be able to keep up with this pace either, and that at the end of the season, unlike any other, everything will be exactly the same as before.