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2019/20 Premier League Season Preview: Club-By-Club News, Latest Signings, Hope And Fears



Do you think Manchester City will regain the 2019/20 premier league Title? Who will be this season’s surprise package? provides a club-by-club review to the forthcoming Premier League campaign.


Arsenal head coach Unai Emery and assistant Freddie Ljungberg

Arsenal head coach Unai Emery and assistant Freddie Ljungberg

Last season’s position: 5th

Players signed: Gabriel Martinelli (Ituano, undisclosed), Dani Ceballos (Real Madrid, loan), William Saliba (Saint-Etienne, £27m).

Players departed: David Ospina (Napoli, £3.1m), Aaron Ramsey (Juventus, free), Petr Cech (retired), Danny Welbeck (released), Stephan Lichtsteiner (released), Charlie Gilmour (Norwich, free), Julio Pleguezuelo (FC Twente, free), Jordi Osei-Tutu (Bochum, loan), Daniel Ballard (Swindon, loan), Vontae Daley-Campbell (Leicester, undisclosed), Ben Sheaf (Doncaster, loan), Cohen Bramall (released), Xavier Amaechi (Hamburg, £2.25m).

Pre-season friendly results

July 6: Boreham Wood 3-3 Arsenal XI

July 16: Colorado Rapids 0-3 Arsenal

July 18: Bayern Munich 1-2 Arsenal

July 20: Arsenal 3-0 Fiorentina

July 24: Real Madrid 2-2 Arsenal (3-2 pens)

July 28: Arsenal 1-2 Lyon (Emirates Cup)

July 31: Angers 1-1 Arsenal (3-4 pens)

August 4: Barcelona (Joan Gamper Trophy) – Nou Camp

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates after scoring against Real Madrid

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates after scoring against Real Madrid

It has been another eventful summer for Arsenal, who smashed their transfer record to bring in much-needed pace out wide in the form of Nicolas Pepe.

  • Arsenal confirm Pepe signing

Gunners fans will hope the Ivorian’s arrival doesn’t prove a precursor to the sale of either Alexandre Lacazette or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. But after another protest against billionaire owner Sam Kroenke’s ownership from supporter groups, Unai Emery will hope for a fast start to the season.

An early North London derby – on September 1 – provides the perfect opportunity to build some momentum, by which point Arsenal fans hope Emery will have worked out his best defence, with captain Laurent Koscielny still angling for a return to France.

Grounds for optimism: A great home and away kit, so whatever the outcome, the players and fans are already winners.

Grounds for concern: Dani Ceballos may a) find Aaron Ramsey’s boots too big to fill b) turn into Denis Suarez II.


Dean Smith guided Aston Villa back to the top flight after three years in the Championship

Dean Smith guided Aston Villa back to the top flight after three years in the Championship

Last season’s position: 5th in the Championship (promoted via the play-offs)

Players signed: Wesley (Club Bruges, £22m), Tyrone Mings (Bournemouth, £20m), Matt Targett (Southampton, £15m), Ezri Konsa (Brentford, £12m), Bjorn Engels (Stade Reims, £9m), Trezeguet(Kasimpasa, £8.75m), Tom Heaton (Burnley, £8m), Anwar El Ghazi (Lille, £8m), Jota (Birmingham City, £4m), Kortney Hause (Wolves, £3m), Douglas Luiz (Manchester City, £15m), Marvelous Nakamba (Club Bruges, undisclosed).

Players departed: Gary Gardner (Birmingham, undisclosed), Tommy Elphick (Huddersfield, free), Matija Sarkic (Livingston, loan), Albert Adomah (Nottingham Forest, released), Mark Bunn (released), Ritchie de Laet (released), Alan Hutton (released), Mile Jedinak (released), Ross McCormack (released), Micah Richards (released), Glenn Whelan (released).

Pre-season friendly results

July 17: Minnesota United 0-3 Aston Villa

July 21: Shrewsbury 0-1 Aston Villa

July 24: Walsall 1-5 Aston Villa

July 27: Charlton 1-4 Aston Villa

August 3: RB Leipzig

Matt Targett is one of 12 new faces at Aston Villa

Matt Targett is one of 12 new faces at Aston Villa

It has been some 12 months for Aston Villa. After missing out on promotion via the play-offs, the Midlands club were facing the prospect of a points deduction after an unpaid £4m tax bill led to a winding-up petition by HM Revenue & Customs.

But after averting that threat and changing manager, Villa are back in the big time under Dean Smith and going shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus – at least in terms of cash spent in the close season.

Key to Villa’s successful promotion campaign was retaining Jack Grealish, and the Birmingham-born star will be delighted with the ambition shown by billionaire owners Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris as no fewer than 12 new faces have arrived at Villa Park for a combined £135.5m.

When you consider fellow newboys Sheffield United have so far spent £23.5m and Norwich just £1.1m, it is understandable why Villa are the hardest club to predict over the coming nine months.

Grounds for optimism: Villa have been free-scoring in pre-season, and fans will feel they are back where they belong.

Grounds for concern: The last team to experience such a robust turnover of players were relegated Fulham last season, while QPR were fortunate to survive after doing the same in 2011.


Eddie Howe continues to defy the odds at Bournemouth

Eddie Howe continues to defy the odds at Bournemouth

Last season’s position: 14th

Players signed: Lloyd Kelly (Bristol City, £13m), Jack Stacey (Luton Town, £4m), Philip Billing (Huddersfield, £15m)

Players departed: Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa, £20m), Lys Mousset (Sheffield United, £10m), Connor Mahoney (Millwall, undisclosed), Marc Pugh (released), Mikael Ndjoli (Gillingham, loan), Emerson Hyndman (Atlanta United, loan).

Pre-season friendly results

July 16: AFC Wimbledon 2-3 Bournemouth

July 20: Girona 2-1 Bournemouth

July 26: West Brom 0-0 Bournemouth

July 27: Brentford 1-3 Bournemouth

August 2: Lazio

August 3: Lyon

Callum Wilson has signed a new four-year contract at Bournemouth

Callum Wilson has signed a new four-year contract at Bournemouth

Bournemouth are well on their way to becoming an established Premier League club as they embark on a fifth season in the top flight. Dean Court is now the Vitality Stadium, but it is not the smashing of transfer records that has continued to breath life into the south coast club.

The hallmark of the Cherries’ stay has been continuity in the dug-out, with Eddie Howe identifying the right characters to help with the natural phasing out of those who took Bournemouth up in 2014.

Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser have not only excelled at a higher level, but both have been retained this summer. Howe has perhaps been at his most vulnerable when given money to spend, as seen by the modest returns from Jordon Ibe, Dominic Solanke and Diego Rico.

Nathan Ake and Jefferson Lerma have both proven to be astute pieces of business, however, and there is plenty of promise in the shape of David Brooks, Lewis Cook and Philip Billing.

Grounds for optimism: No side outside of the top six scored more goals than Bournemouth’s 56 last term.

Grounds for concern: It is at the back where Howe has struggled to strike upon a winning formula; 70 goals conceded last season was only a fraction fewer than Fulham and Huddersfield.


Graham Potter has been appointed Brighton head coach

Graham Potter has been appointed Brighton head coach

Last season’s position: 17th

Players signed: Leandro Trossard (Genk, £18m), Matt Clarke (Portsmouth, £5m), Taylor Richards (Man City, £2.5m), Lewis Freestone (unattached, free).

Players departed: Bruno (retired), Ales Mateju (Brescia, undisclosed), Will Collar (Hamilton, undisclosed), Anthony Knockaert (Fulham, loan), Alexis MacAllister (Boca Juniors, loan), Ben White (Leeds United, loan), Leo Ostigard (St Pauli, loan), Christian Walton (Blackburn, loan), Jayson Molumby (Millwall, loan), Robert Sanchez (Rochdale, loan), Jan Mlakar (QPR, loan), Viktor Gyokeres (St Pauli, loan), Percy Tau (Club Brugge, loan).

Pre-season friendly results

July 13: FC Liefering 2-5 Brighton

July 19: Crawley 0-1 Brighton

July 20: Fulham 2-1 Brighton

July 27: Birmingham City 0-4 Brighton

August 2: Valencia

Matt Clarke is a summer signing from Portsmouth

Matt Clarke is a summer signing from Portsmouth

Brighton didn’t waste any time in seeking to address the wrongs of the 2018/19 season. Chris Hughton was ruthlessly sacked at the end of a disappointing campaign, in which Premier League safety was only secured in the final week.

Hughton has been replaced by perhaps the most intriguing appointment of the close season, with Graham Potter leaving Swansea after just a year. This is a different looking Brighton, with the well-travelled Potter allowing Anthony Knockaert to depart along with the retired Bruno, a piece of furniture that came with the Amex Stadium.

Having slept-walked to the brink of relegation, the Seagulls must perform far better as an attacking unit to ensure that their suffering from second-season syndrome doesn’t linger.

Glenn Murray top-scored with 13 goals last season, but he turns 36 in September. The early signs from new £18m signing Leandro Trossard are good: The Belgian bought from Genk has one goal and four assists during pre-season.

Grounds for optimism: Potter showed at Swansea a knack of developing young talent, and Brighton will hope he can do the same, with Solly March the last academy player to make the grade.

Grounds for concern: Jurgen Locadia, Florin Andone and Alireza Jahanbakhsh have thus far shown very few signs of being capable to take the load off Murray.


Sean Dyche takes Burnley into their fourth successive Premier League season

Sean Dyche takes Burnley into their fourth successive Premier League season

Last season’s position: 15th

Players signed: Jay Rodriguez (West Brom, £10m), Erik Pieters (Stoke City, £3m), Joel Senior (Curzon Ashton, undisclosed), Ryan Cooney (Bury, undisclosed).

Players departed: Peter Crouch (retired), Jon Walters (retired), Stephen Ward (Stoke, free), Anders Lindegaard (Helsingborg, free), Mark Howarth (released).

Pre-season friendly results

July 20: Crewe Alexandra 1-0 Burnley

July 20: Port Vale 1-3 Burnley

July 23: Fleetwood Town 0-2 Burnley

July 27: Wigan Athletic 2-2 Burnley

July 30: Burnley 6-1 Nice

August 3: Parma

Tom Heaton has left, but Joe Hart looks set to remain understudy to Nick Pope

Tom Heaton has left, but Joe Hart looks set to remain understudy to Nick Pope

Jay Rodriguez is back at Turf Moor, and after the Europa League distractions led to Burnley making a pig’s ear of the opening half of last season, Sean Dyche will feel quietly confident that this time around will be less stressful.

The departure of Tom Heaton to Aston Villa on one level makes the battle for the No 1 jersey less of an issue, with Nick Pope given the opportunity to replicate his brilliant form that took the Clarets into Europe.

Dyche will hope to keep hold of James Tarkowski in the final week of the transfer window, with Gary Cahill lined up should their England centre-back join Leicester as a possible replacement for Harry Maguire.

Grounds for optimism: Dwight McNeil – in his breakthrough season, the winger made a mockery of being rejected by Manchester United’s academy at the age of 14, and more is expected.

Grounds for concern: Burnley tried to be expansive last term before reverting to a tried and tested 4-4-2 formula, but were that to break down, what will Dyche turn to? There’s no more Peter Crouch for a Plan B.


Frank Lampard is back at Stamford Bridge

Frank Lampard is back at Stamford Bridge

Last season’s position: 3rd

Players signed: Mateo Kovacic (Real Madrid, £40m).

Players departed: Eden Hazard (Real Madrid, £88m), Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid, £58m), Ola Aina (Torino, £8.9m), Tomas Kalas (Bristol City, £8m), Jay Dasilva (Bristol City, £2m), Gary Cahill (released), Fankaty Dabo (Coventry City, free), Rob Green (retired), Todd Kane (released), Nathan Baxter (Ross County, loan), Richard Nartey (Burton Albion, loan), Eduardo (released), Kyle Scott (released), Mario Pasalic (Atalanta, loan), Charly Musonda (Vitesse Arnhem, loan), Nathan (Atletico Mineiro, loan), Daishawn Redan (Hertha Berlin, loan), Ethan Ampadu (RB Leipzig, loan), Jake Clarke-Salter (Birmingham, loan), Matt Miazga (Reading, loan), Lewis Baker (Fortuna Dusseldorf, loan).

Pre-season friendly results

May 16: New England Revolution 3-0 Chelsea

July 10: Bohemians 1-1 Chelsea

July 13: St Patrick’s Athletic 0-4 Chelsea

July 19: Kawasaki Frontale 1-0 Chelsea

July 23: Barcelona 1-2 Chelsea

July 28: Reading 3-4 Chelsea

July 31: RB Salzburg 3-5 Chelsea

August 3: Borussia Monchengladbach – Borussia Park, Germany

Ross Barkley has produced fine pre-season performances

Ross Barkley has produced fine pre-season performances

Chelsea ended the 2018/19 season with silverware, but it is the return of a fans’ favourite – not that Europa League success – that has breathed new life into Stamford Bridge.

Maurizio Sarri can hold his head up high after delivering his first trophy in management, but his predicatable substitutions and style of play ultimately left supporters feeling disillusioned.

Not even a transfer ban – which Chelsea have taken to the Court of Arbitration for Sport – and the inevitable sale of Eden Hazard has seemed to diminish hopes for an encouraging season.

Grounds for optimism: The inability to make signings, and Lampard’s man-management qualities, should bring about a greater sense of unity in what became a tense dressing-room. Ross Barkley has shown signs he is ready to fulfil his potential, and the stage is all his for the start of the season.

Grounds for concern: There is no guarantee that Lampard has the capabilties to excel at this level, the absence of Hazard leaves behind a creative void, while Tammy Abraham, Michy Batshuayi and Olivier Giroud doesn’t scream ‘firepower’.


Roy Hodgson expected a busier summer of business at Crystal Palace

Roy Hodgson expected a busier summer of business at Crystal Palace

Last season’s position: 12th

Players signed: Stephen Henderson (free), Jordan Ayew (Swansea, £2.5m).

Players departed: Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Manchester United, £50m), Jason Puncheon (released), Julian Speroni (released), Bakary Sako (released), Levi Lumeka (Varzim, undisclosed), Ollie O’Dwyer (Aldershot, free), Joseph Hungbo (released), Tyler Brown (released).

July 9: Luzern 1-1 Crystal Palace (Palace win 6-5 on pens)

July 13: Young Boys 2-0 Crystal Palace

July 16: Barnet 6-2 Crystal Palace

July 19: Nottingham Forest 1-0 Crystal Palace

July 20: Bromley 1-0 Crystal Palace XI

July 27: Bristol City 0-5 Crystal Palace

July 30: AFC Wimbledon 2-2 Crystal Palace

August 3: Hertha Berlin

Wilfried Zaha is a wanted man on the continent

Wilfried Zaha is a wanted man on the continent

With just over a week until the start of the new season, Roy Hodgson has hardly given his squad a vote of confidence as Crystal Palace continue to fight desperately to keep hold of Wilfried Zaha.

Hodgson said after Palace’s 5-0 win over Bristol City: “I thought we were all pretty much on the same page: we definitely need players, we definitely need bodies because our squad is very small.

“But I’m afraid at the moment we are still there with the ones that started pre-season training.”

Despite the natural allure of playing in London, the Eagles have struggled to entice a striker to Selhurst Park, meaning Christian Benteke will be given yet more chances to score from five yards, while the Belgian’s ability to keep fit-again Connor Wickham out of the side shows just how desperate the search for a No 9 has become.

It’s clear to see why only a ridiculous offer for Zaha would convince owner Steve Parish and sporting director Doug Freedman to do business, while the ease with which Aaron Wan-Bissaka was allowed to depart without an able replacement lined up has added to a disruptive summer.

Grounds for optimism: The introduction of VAR must surely mean that penalty specialist Luka Milivojevic is a dead cert for the Golden Boot award.

Grounds for concern: Zaha may no longer be at the club to win the penalties from which Milivojevic will have the chance to score any goals.


Marco Silva says the improvements made by Everton last season were "clear"

Marco Silva says the improvements made by Everton last season were “clear”

Last season’s position: 8th

Players signed: Andre Gomes (Barcelona, £22m), Fabian Delph (Man City, £8.5m), Jonas Lossl (Huddersfield Town, free).

Players departed: Nikola Vlasic (CSKA Moscow, £14m), Ademola Lookman (RB Leipzig, £22.5m), Idrissa Gueye (Paris Saint-Germain, £30m), Phil Jagielka (Sheffield Utd, free), Brendan Galloway (Luton Town, free), Antonee Robinson (Wigan, undisclosed), Jonjoe Kenny (Schalke, loan), Sandro Ramirez (Real Valladolid, loan), Korede Adedoyin (Hamilton, loan), Kieran Dowell (Derby, loan), Joao Virginia (Reading, loan), Luke Garbutt (Ipswich, loan), Josh Bowler (Hull, loan), Ashley Williams (released), Harry Charsley (released), Boris Mathis (released), Mateusz Hewelt (released), Shayne Lavery (released), Jack Kiersey (released), Danny Bramall (released), Joe Hilton (released), Chris Renshaw (released).

Pre-season friendly results

July 7: Kariobangi Sharks 1-1 Everton (Kariobangi win 4-3 on pens)

July 14: Sion 0-0 Everton

July 19: Monaco 0-1 Everton

July 24: Wigan 0-0 Everton

July 27: Sevilla 1-0 Everton / Mainz 05 3-1 Crystal Palace (60-minute games)

August 3: Werder Bremen – Weser Stadion

Fabian Delph has joined Everton from Manchester City

Fabian Delph has joined Everton from Manchester City

Off the field, it has been a significant summer for the blue half of Merseyside. New designs have revealed a steeply pitched 13,000-capacity home end as the centrepiece of Everton’s new £500m stadium. The club hope to move into their new home by 2023, while fans were also boosted by the permanent arrival of Andre Gomes.

The expected departure of Idrissa Gueye to Paris Saint-Germain was confirmed, but Fabian Delph’s arrival for a little over £8m is a shrewd piece of business and more signings are expected in a hectic final week for Marco Silva.

Gylfi Sigurdsson and Richarlison were joint-top goalscorers in the league last term with 13, so the imminent arrival of Moise Kean from Juventus will spread out the work load, but Chelsea’s transfer ban has made it virtually impossible for Kurt Zouma to return for a second spell.

Grounds for optimism: Seven clean sheets in the last 10 Premier League games, alongside big home wins against Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea, suggest that Everton are finally going places again. A strong opening set of fixtures provides them with the ideal platform to build on that strong end to last term.

Grounds for concern: It hasn’t been a thrilling pre-season on the pitch, with a shortage of goals and creativity all-too apparent in the absence of Richarlison. Silva will be wary of an over-reliance again on the Brazilian.


Brendan Rodgers has made a fine start to life as Leicester manager

Brendan Rodgers has made a fine start to life as Leicester manager

Last season’s position: 9th

Players signed: Youri Tielemans (Monaco, £40m), Ayoze Perez (Newcastle United, £30m), James Justin (Luton Town, undisclosed), Vontae Daley-Campbell (Arsenal, undisclosed), George Hirst (OH Leuvens, undisclosed), Ali Reghba (Bohemians, undisclosed), Mitchell Clark (Aston Villa, free).

Players departed: Shinji Okazaki (Malaga), Danny Simpson (released) Daniel Iversen (Rotherham United, loan).

Pre-season friendly results

July 16: Scunthorpe United 0-1 Leicester

July 20: Cheltenham Town 1-2 Leicester

July 23: Cambridge United 0-3 Leicester

July 27: Rotherham 2-2 Leicester

July 27: Stoke City 1-2 Leicester

August 2: Atalanta

Harry Maguire played throughout Leicester's pre-season

Harry Maguire played throughout Leicester’s pre-season

Leicester’s summer has almost entirely been about whether Harry Maguire will join Manchester United, but should the defender depart the King Power Stadium, he will leave behind a very talented group that has shown it is going places, with a clear identity under Brendan Rodgers.

The likelihood is that the Foxes will bow to Maguire’s wishes to move to United, but the delay concerns agreeing a fee with Burnley for Tarkowski to arrive as his replacement. Were that to happen, he and Jonny Evans have plenty of Premier League experience about them.

After the sale of Riyad Mahrez last season, Leicester turned to their full-backs for width, but both Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira will want more from the likes of Marc Albrighton, Demarai Gray and Ashley Barnes in front of them.

Grounds for optimism: The permanent signing of Youri Tielemans and raid on Newcastle for Ayoze Perez should lay the foundations for another European push.

Grounds for concern: Jamie Vardy’s party has now entered its 32nd year. While he has shown no signs of slowing down, there must surely come a time when he does.


Jurgen Klopp missed out on the Premier League crown last season

Jurgen Klopp missed out on the Premier League crown last season

Last season’s position: 2nd

Players signed: Sepp van den Berg (PEC Zwolle, £1.3m), Harvey Elliott (Fulham, undisclosed).

Players departed: Danny Ings (Southampton, £20m), Alberto Moreno (Villarreal, free), Rafael Camacho (Sporting Lisbon, £5m), Sheyi Ojo (Rangers, loan), Marko Grujic (Hertha BSC, loan), Allan Rodrigues de Souza (Fluminense, loan), Kamil Grabara (Huddersfield Town loan), Daniel Sturridge (released), Connor Randall (released), Adam Bogdan (released), Rhys Williams (Kidderminster Harriers, loan).

Pre-season friendly results

July 11: Tranmere Rovers 0-6 Liverpool

July 14: Bradford City 1-3 Liverpool

July 19: Liverpool 2-3 Borussia Dortmund

July 21: Liverpool 1-2 Sevilla

July 24: Liverpool 2-2 Sporting Lisbon

July 28: Liverpool 0-3 Napoli

July 31: Liverpool 3-1 Lyon

Mohamed Salah will again provide Liverpool's chief goal threat

Mohamed Salah will again provide Liverpool’s chief goal threat

For Liverpool, the goal is clear: go one better. Jurgen Klopp has already spoken about the need to “find an extra gear” to beat Manchester City, and that was only ahead of the Community Shield.

Having taken Pep Guardiola’s side to the final day of last season, collecting 97 points along the way, Liverpool shrugged off the disappointment of missing out on a first domestic title in 29 years by lifting a sixth European Cup.

But having failed to land a marquee signing this summer, Klopp said: “We invested money in this team. Now it looks like we are not. But we are not in this fantasy land where you just get whatever you want. You cannot do it constantly.

” It looks like there are four clubs in the world who can do it constantly. Madrid, Barcelona, City and PSG. Whatever they need, they do.”

Such a defeatist attitude was somewhat bizarre given the money Liverpool have spent on improving the side, but the return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez from injury will strengten the Reds’ pursuit of City’s crown.

Grounds for optimism: The likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alisson and Fabinho are only likely to get better following their first full seasons. Repeat the same consistency of last season, and City will struggle to contain them.

Grounds for concern: An indifferent pre-season has shown that if for whatever reason Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane aren’t around, a lack of depth remains at the sharp end – but the deadly trio are seldom injured.


Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola

Last season’s position: 1st

Players signed: Rodri (Atletico Madrid, £62.8m), Angelino (PSV Eindhoven, £5.3m), Zack Steffan (Columbus Crew, £7.2m).

Players departed: Fabian Delph (Everton, £8.5m), Taylor Richards (Brighton, £2.5m), Vincent Kompany (Anderlecht, free), Patrick Roberts (Norwich City, loan), Jack Harrison (Leeds United, loan), Aro Muric (Nottingham Forest, loan), Zack Steffen (Fortuna Dusseldorf, loan), Philippe Sandler (Anderlecht, loan), Tom Dele-Bashiru (released), Aaron Nemane (released), Douglas Luiz (Aston Villa, £15m), Yangel Herrera (Granada, loan), Tosin Adrbioyo (Blackburn, loan).

Pre-season friendly results

July 17: Man City 4-1 West Ham

July 20: Wolves 0-0 Man City – Wolves won 3-2 on penalties

July 24: Kitchee FC 0-6 Man City

July 27: Yokohama FM 1-3 Man City

Manchester City unveil new club record signing, Rodri at the Etihad Stadium

Manchester City unveil new club record signing, Rodri at the Etihad Stadium

The unstoppable force, Manchester City cleaned up last season with a domestic treble that was both marginally depressing but highly impressive. Guardiola’s side set the standards, and he has lifted the bar with the signing of Rodri, earmarked as Fernandinho’s successor.

City were at their most vulnerable over Christmas last season in the Brazilian’s absence as back-to-back defeats handed the initiative to Liverpool.

With the influential Kevin De Bruyne now fully back up to speed following injury, and Phil Foden buzzing from Guardiola describing him as “the most talented player” he has seen, City remain the team to catch.

Grounds for optimism: Such is City’s wealth of talent, not even the potential sale of Leroy Sane to Bayern Munich would significantly diminish their chances of a third straight league title.

Grounds for concern: The departure of Vincent Kompany, the leader who dragged City to that vital win over Leicester, leaves question marks over who will galvanise the side during similarly tight spots. It also places huge pressure on John Stones to raise his game.


Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must seek to improve on sixth in his first full season

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must seek to improve on sixth in his first full season

Last season’s position: 6th

Players signed: Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace, £50m), Daniel James (Swansea City, £15m).

Players departed: Ander Herrera (Paris St-Germain, free), Kieran O’Hara (Burton Albion, loan), Antonio Valencia (released), Matthew Olosunde (released), James Wilson (released), Regan Poole (released), Dean Henderson (Sheffield United, loan).

Pre-season friendly results

July 13: Perth Glory 0-2 Manchester United

July 17: Manchester United 4-0 Leeds

July 20: Manchester United 1-0 Inter Milan

July 25: Tottenham 1-2 Manchester United

July 30: Kristiansund 0-1 Manchester United

August 3: AC Milan – Principality Stadium, Cardiff

Paulo Dybala is heading to Manchester for talks

Paulo Dybala is heading to Manchester for talks

Freed from the shackles of the oppressive Jose Mourinho regime, United demonstrated their full potential to such an extent that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s honeymoon period led to his full-time appointment, but a poor Spring underlined the size of the rebuild now facing the Norwegian.

While the signing of Wan-Bissaka and James can only be seen as a good thing, question marks still remain everywhere you look at Old Trafford.

David de Gea’s performances last season hardly warranted him becoming the world’s highest paid goalkeeper – but even that is yet to be confirmed, while United appear not to have any alternatives should Leicester refuse to sell Maguire.

Bruno Fernandes had been heavily linked with a move, but the expected exchange of Romelu Lukaku for Juventus’ Paulo Dybala could prove a masterstroke, not least because it will mean the Argentine is reunited with Paul Pogba. And we don’t need to read any more about what he and his agent have been up to this summer.

Grounds for optimism: Mason Greenwood has shown very promising signs during pre-season, and Solskjaer believes the 17-year-old is ready to compete at first-team level.

Grounds for concern: Alexis Sanchez showed signs of recovery for Chile at the Copa America, which means his form is about to dip when he returns to club football. A £60 parking ticket on his £160,000 Bentley earlier this week – which he can pay off in just 71 seconds – suggests he hasn’t come back too sharp.


Steve Bruce takes charge of training for the first time at Newcastle

Steve Bruce takes charge of training for the first time at Newcastle

Last season’s position: 13th

Players signed: Joelinton (Hoffenheim, £40m), Kyle Scott (unattached, free), Jake Turner (Bolton Wanderers, undisclosed).

Players departed: Ayoze Perez (Leicester City, £30m), Joselu (Alaves, undisclosed), Dan Barlaser (Rotherham United, loan), Liam Gibson (Grimsby Town, loan), Mohamed Diame (released), Cal Roberts (released), Josef Yarney (released), Tyrique Bartlett (released).

Pre-season friendly results

July 17: Wolves 4-0 Newcastle

July 20: Newcastle 1-0 West Ham

July 27: Preston 2-1 Newcastle

July 30: Hibernian 1-3 Newcastle

August 3: Saint-Etienne

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is looking to sell the club

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is looking to sell the club

There’s never a dull moment on Tyneside, and while the battle for domestic honours may once again concern the established top six, one suspects that Newcastle will continue to battle for a share of the column inches.

Mike Ashley has been under immense scrutiny for the vast majority of his 12 years at the club, and fans protested against his ownership following the departure of Rafa Benitez.

Steve Bruce’s appointment was met by even greater frustration, with a lack of ambition cited, but Ashley has opened his chequebook for new £40m Brazilian striker Joelinton.

He and Miguel Almiron, following his first full pre-season, will be tasked with replacing Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez in attack. But Bruce – with a win ratio of just 28.1 per cent in the Premier League – is behind the eight ball from the start.

Grounds for optimism: Bruce – rejected by Newcastle as a kid – has thick skin and he showed at Sheffield Wednesday that he still has an appetite for the game despite a rollercoaster career that has seen him manage three sets of rival clubs.

Grounds for concern: The love and affection from the supporters towards Benitez means his departure leaves behind a permanent cloud that not even a run of positive results is likely to shake.


Norwich manager Daniel Farke will not have much money to spend in the Premier League

Norwich manager Daniel Farke will not have much money to spend in the Premier League

Last season’s position: 1st in the Championship

Players signed: Sam Byram (West Ham, £750,000), Aidan Fitzpatrick (Partick Thistle, £350,000), Daniel Adshead (Rochdale, £300,000), Rocky Bushiri (KV Oostende, £100,000), Archie Mair (Aberdeen, undisclosed), Rob Nizet (Anderlecht, undisclosed), Josip Drmic (Borussia Monchengladbach, free), Charlie Gilmour (Arsenal, free), Patrick Roberts (Man City, loan), Ralf Fahrmann (Schalke, loan), Reece McAlear (Motherwell, undisclosed).

Players departed: Marcel Franke (Hannover 96, undisclosed), Nelson Oliveira (AEK Athens, free), Carlton Morris (Rotherham United, loan), Mason Bloomfield (Crawley Town, loan), Ciaren Jones (Eastbourne Borough, loan), Josh Coley (Dunfermline Athletic, loan), Sean Raggett (Portsmouth, loan), Savvas Mourgos (Dordrecht, loan), James Husband (Blackpool, loan), Ben Marshall (released).

Pre-season friendly results

July 14: Arminia Bielefeld 2-2 Norwich

July 19: FC Schalke 1-2 Norwich

July 24: Norwich 1-3 Brentford

July 27: Luton Town 1-5 Norwich

July 30: Norwich 4-1 Atalanta

August 3: Toulouse

Teemu Pukki scored 30 goals in the Championship last season

Teemu Pukki scored 30 goals in the Championship last season

When it comes to Norwich and the Premier League, only West Brom between 2001 and 2010 can lay claim to being such a ‘Yo-yo club’. The Canaries have often proved to be too strong for the second tier, and that was the case last term as Daniel Farke’s side won the Championship title with 94 points.

But four out of the Norwich’s six seasons in the Premier League have ended in relegation, and the club have opted this time against ripping up the formula that brought 27 league wins albeit at a lower standard.

It will take around 10 excruciating ‘let’s be havin’ you’ victories to consolidate their position back in the top division, and Farke may just be waiting to see what is left behind in the final week of the transfer window, with Norwich very much down the bottom of the food chain.

A couple of inspired loan deals for players similarly too good for the Championship but unproven at a higher level could spring an surprise.

Huddersfield upset the odds when surviving in their first Premier League season under David Wagner, and the Norwich players have similarly bought into Farke’s philosophy.

Grounds for optimism: Norwich will fight until the end having recovered from losing positions on countless occasions last season, with late goals earning 24 points across the season.

Grounds for concern: Sam Byram is hardly the statement signing of the summer and check out those early fixtures: Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City in the opening month of the season.


Chris Wilder has worked wonders at Sheffield United

Chris Wilder has worked wonders at Sheffield United

Last season’s position: 2nd in the Championship

Players signed: Lys Mousset (Bournemouth, £10m), Callum Robinson (Preston, £6m), Luke Freeman (QPR, £5m), Phil Jagielka (Everton, free), Ravel Morrison (unattached, free), Ben Osborn (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed), Dean Henderson (Manchester United, loan).

Players departed: Paul Coutts (released), Martin Cranie (released), Conor Washington (released), Daniel Lafferty (released), Caolan Lavery (released) Nathan Thomas (Gillingham, loan), Rhys Norrington-Davies (Rochdale, loan), Jake Eastwood (Scunthorpe, loan), Oliver Greaves (Barrow, loan), Tyler Smith (Bristol Rovers, loan), Nathan Thomas (Carlisle, loan), Regan Slater (Scunthorpe, loan).

Pre-season friendly results

July 12: Real Betis 0-1 Sheffield United

July 16: Burton Albion 2-1 Sheffield United

July 20: Northampton Town 0-2 Sheffield United

July 23: Chesterfield 0-5 Sheffield United

July 27: Barnsley 1-4 Sheffield United

August 3: Reims – Stade Auguste-Delaune

Sheffield United's captian Billy Sharp celebrates

Sheffield United’s captian Billy Sharp celebrates

The last time Sheffield United were a Premier League club, Alan Curbishley was still in management, and while calls backing Curbs for the next managerial vacancy have dwindled, the Blades will be keen to make up for lost time.

Carlos Tevez remains an unpopular figure at Bramall Lane, the Argentine who spearheaded Curbishley’s West Ham to survival back in 2007, despite being partially owned by Kia Joorabchian, a breach of top flight rules.

Tevez can only partially be to blame for United’s subsequent slide into League One, but under Chris Wilder, they have achieved two promotions in three years. Emotion rips through this part of Yorkshire, but do they have the necessary quality to stay up?

Grounds for optimism: Billy Sharp, at the ripe old age of 33, will finally be handed a hard-earned crack at the big time, and after scoring 24 league goals last season, who’s to say he can’t hit double figures.

Grounds for concern: Ravel Morrison is, as Paul Merson would say without excusing the pun, a bag of revels. Capable of the sublime, but more likely to be a bad influence. Only time will tell, but his re-emergence in the Premier League came out of the blue.


Ralph Hasenhuttl wants to strengthen Southampton's squad

Ralph Hasenhuttl wants to strengthen Southampton’s squad

Last season’s position: 16th

Players signed: Danny Ings (Liverpool, £20m), Che Adams (Birmingham City, £15m), Moussa Djenepo (Standard Liege, £14m).

Players departed: Matt Targett (Aston Villa, £11.5m), Jordy Clasie (AZ Alkmaar, undisclosed), Steven Davis (Rangers, free), Alfie Jones (Gillingham, loan), Jack Rose (Walsall, loan), Kingsley Latham (Havant and Waterlooville, loan), Alex Cull (Totton, loan), Harry Hamblin (Bath City, loan).

Pre-season friendly results

July 14: SCR Altach 1-1 Southampton

July 20: Preston 1-3 Southampton

July 23: Guangzhou R&F 0-4 Southampton

July 28: Feyenoord 1-3 Southampton

August 3: Cologne

Che Adams has impressed during pre-season for Southampton

Che Adams has impressed during pre-season for SouthamptonGetty Images

Time has passed since Southampton were viewed in that bracket of progressive clubs as one too many high-profile departures left the Saints with their head just above water.

The infectious Ralph Hasenhuttl steadied a sinking ship on the south coast, but taking the club back to a time when top eight finishes were the norm still feels beyond the horizon. Make no mistake, Hasenhuttl does not see himself as a firefighter manager.

The ‘Klopp of the Alps’ will expect far more than another season meandering aimlessly in the bottom half, and Nathan Redmond could prove key to a campaign away from any relegation troubles.

Redmond scored six goals after Hasenhuttl replaced the big bad wolf Mark Hughes last season, and the player himself may view this season as an opportunity to become the next Southampton star to earn a big-money move.

Grounds for optimism: New signing Che Adams scored 22 goals for Birmingham last season and he has wasted no time in getting on the scoresheet this summer, netting three times in pre-season.

Grounds for concern: Southampton haven’t come close to replacing Virgil van Dijk, which is partly explained by the world record £75m fee for a defender paid by Liverpool, but also by the sheer ineptitude of Jannik Vestergaard.


Mauricio Pochettino will seek to break the Man City-Liverpool duopoly

Mauricio Pochettino will seek to break the Man City-Liverpool duopoly

Last season’s position: 4th

Players signed: Tanguy Ndombele (Lyon, £53.8m), Jack Clarke (Leeds, £8.5m), Kion Etete (Notts County, £200,000).

Players sold: Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid, £20m), Vincent Janssen (Monterrey, £6.3m), Jack Clarke (Leeds, loan), Luke Amos (QPR, loan), Michel Vorm (released), Dylan Duncan (released), Charlie Freeman (released), Tom Glover (released), Connor Ogilvie (released), Jamie Reynolds (released).

Pre-season friendly results

July 21: Juventus 2-3 Tottenham

July 25: Tottenham 1-2 Manchester United

July 30: Real Madrid 0-1 Tottenham

July 31: Bayern Munich 2-2 Tottenham (5-6 pens)

August 4: Inter Milan

Harry Kane will hope to stay injury free this time around

Harry Kane will hope to stay injury free this time aroundGetty Images

Winning the Audi Cup is not quite the white and blue ribbons draped around the Champions League, but Tottenham have shown they are capable of mixing it with Europe’s elite.

As Kieran Trippier sat at his Atletico Madrid unveiling, the out-of-favour England full-back implied that all was not rosy behind the scenes at Spurs, but in these unstable times across the top six, Mauricio Pochettino still has a very strong deck of cards.

The new state-of-the-art Tottenham Hotspur Stadium welcomes in its first full Premier League season, and Pochettino will believe the players who want to remain at the club are capable of seriously challenging Liverpool and Manchester City.

The run to the Champions League final played its part in Spurs winning just three of their final 12 league games, but the return of Harry Kane and new £65m signing Tanguy Ndombele mean they will be there or thereabouts once again.

Grounds for optimism: The loss of Mousa Dembele was perhaps most acutely felt in that Madrid final against Liverpool, but with Ndombele joining Moussa Sissoko, Spurs shouldn’t lose too many midfield battles.

Grounds for concern: Christian Eriksen has openly expressed a desire to seek a new challenge, so what example will it set to the youngsters when the Dane is selected should he miss out on a move? And will United come back in for Pochettino should the wheels come off for Solskjaer?


Last season’s position: 11th

Javi Gracia will hope to land a top-half finish

Javi Gracia will hope to land a top-half finish

Players signed: Craig Dawson (West Brom, £5.5m), Bayli Spencer-Adams (Arsenal, free), Tom Dele-Bashiru (Man City, free).

Players departed: Obbi Oulare (Standard Liege, undisclosed), Jerome Sinclair (Venlo, loan), Marc Navarro (Leganes, loan), Ben Wilmot (Swansea, loan), Michael Folivi (Wimbledon, loan), Alex Jakubiak (Gillingham, loan), Miguel Britos (released), Tommie Hoban (released).

Pre-season friendly results

July 18: Ajax 2-1 Watford

July 20: Watford 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen

July 27: QPR 0-1 Watford

August 3: Real Sociedad

Craig Dawson has signed for Watford

Craig Dawson has signed for Watford

Watford were among the favourites to be tipped for the drop 12 months ago, but Javi Gracia laughed at those odds as he became the longest serving Hornets manager in the Premier League.

Watford stayed up with several games to spare, and Gracia earned an improved contract at Vicarage Road after bringing a sound balance to his side.

Ben Foster proved an astute piece of business, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Etienne Capoue formed a formidable midfield partnership while Gracia has even got the best of the mercurial Gerard Deulofeu.

Grounds for optimism: With Gracia’s feet firmly under the desk, Watford have developed a solid system based on a narrow four-man midfield, and the depth of his squad was demonstrated in reaching the FA Cup final despite heavy rotation.

Grounds for concern: A lack of signings. Having finished in mid-table and FA Cup runners-up, supporters will feel slightly aggrieved that the club hasn’t looked to kick on and demonstrated their ambition towards the likes of Doucoure, who has been lineked with bigger clubs.


West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini is set for a promising season

West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini is set for a promising season

Last season’s position: 10th

Players signed: Sebastien Haller (Eintracht Frankfurt, £45m), Pablo Fornals (Villarreal, £24m), Roberto (Espanyol, free), David Martin (Millwall, free).

Players departed: Marko Arnautovic (Shanghai SIPG, £22.4m), Lucas Perez (Alaves, £2.21m), Pedro Obiang (Sassuolo, £8m), Sam Byram (Norwich City, £750,000), Edimilson Fernandes (Mainz, undisclosed), Marcus Browne (Middlesbrough, undisclosed), Josh Pask (Coventry City, free), Jordan Hugill (QPR, loan), Adrian (released), Andy Carroll (released), Samir Nasri (released), Toni Martinez (released), Moses Makasi (released), Noha Sylvestre (released), Vashon Neufville (released), Nathan Trott (Wimbledon, loan), Martin Samuelsen (FK Haugesund, loan).

Pre-season friendly results

July 11: SCR Altach 2-3 West Ham

July 17: Man City 4-1 West Ham

July 20: Newcastle 1-0 West Ham

July 27: Fulham 0-1 West Ham

July 31: Hertha Berlin 3-5 West Ham

August 3: Athletic Bilbao

West Ham United unveil their new record signing Sebastien Haller

West Ham United unveil their new record signing Sebastien Haller

It might just be that West Ham are finally starting to suss things out. The London Stadium has at times acted like its very own East End soap opera, but this charming man has brought back a welcome dose of serenity.

Manuel Pellegrini has quietly assembled an attractive squad and in allowing Marko Arnautovic to leave at a knock-down price, West Ham were making a rather classy statement of the club they wish to become.

The Hammers – along with Leicester, Wolves and Everton – see Europa League qualification and bridging the gap to the top six as achievable targets.

Pellegrini guided Manchester City to the title in 2014, but breaking into the top six with West Ham would eclipse that feat.

Grounds for optimism: The return to fitness of Manuel Lanzini, who missed the vast majority of last season with a knee injury, but whose undoubted qualities have been lighting up pre-season.

Grounds for concern: The treatment room is never empty at Rush Green. Eleven first-team players were absent at one time last season, while the club struggled to put together back-to-back wins as a result of the multiple injury lay-offs. New boy Sebastien Haller could do with avoiding the curse.


Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo will look to crack the top six

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo will look to crack the top six

Last season’s position: 7th

Players signed: Raul Jimenez (Benfica, £30m), Patrick Cutrone (AC Milan, £16m), Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht, £12m), Hong (Yeovil Town, undisclosed), Raphael Nya (Paris St-Germain, undisclosed), Tsun Dai (Oxford United, undisclosed), Jesus Vallejo (Real Madrid, loan).

Players departed: Kortney Hause (Aston Villa, £3m), Ethan Ebanks-Landell (Shrewsbury, undisclosed), Pedro Goncalves (FC Famalicao, undisclosed), Joao Dias (FC Famalicao, undisclosed), Ryan Leak (Burgos, undisclosed), Helder Costa (Leeds, loan), Christian Herc (Viktoria Plzen, loan), Ryan Giles (Shrewsbury, loan), Ivan Cavaleiro (Fulham, loan), Rafa Mir (Nottingham Forest, loan), Michal Zyro(released), Carlos Heredia (released), Ben Goodliffe (released), Aaron Hayden (released), Diego Lattie (released) Enzo Sauvage (released).

Pre-season friendly results

July 17: Wolves 4-0 Newcastle

July 20: Wolves 0-0 Man City – Wolves win 3-2 on penalties

Patrick Cutrone has joined Wolves from AC Milan

Patrick Cutrone has joined Wolves from AC Milan

Wolves were tipped to have no problems staying up last season after taking the Championship by storm, but few will have predicted such a brilliant season for Nuno Espirito Santo’s men.

A Europa League qualifying berth was richly deserved, and the early indications are that Nuno’s side are better equipped to juggle that competition with domestic commitments than those outside the top six who have crashed and burned before them.

A solid spine again proved the key to a remarkable return to the top flight, and Wolves have not stood still in the market, turning the loans of Raul Jimenez and Leander Dendoncker into permanent deals while Patrick Cutrone’s arrival from AC Milan is further indication that the club are now a force to be reckoned with across the continent.

Grounds for optimism: Jesus Vallejo should prove an upgrade on Ryan Bennett, a well-protected weak link that was a walking yellow card last season.

Grounds for concern: Wolves will be eager to show no signs of fatigue in the early part of the season with Nuno renowned for not rotating as the Europa League qualifiers relentlessly alternate with Premier League fixtures.