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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - DUBAI: With the new Premier League season just hours away, Arab News takes a look at four of the major talking points ahead of the opening weekend.
Arsenal to get off to perfect start
All of a sudden it’s all sunshine at Arsenal as they kick off the new season with a London derby at Fulham.
Mikel Arteta has in less than one season turned around the fortunes of a club that for almost a decade looked directionless.
Arsenal won the FA Cup with victories at Wembley against Manchester City in the semi-final and Chelsea in the final, and then added the Community Shield against Liverpool, again at Wembley.
With fully firing captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looking likely to stay at the club, Arsenal fans will be expecting at least a challenge for a top four place.
What could have been an uncomfortable start at Fulham will be far less daunting without fans at Craven Cottage, and Arsenal should start their league campaign with three points.
Klopp and Bielsa in battle of the press
Last season Liverpool kicked off a glorious title-winning campaign with a visit from the Championship winners Norwich City. They won 4-1, and Norwich would head straight back to English football’s second tier with barely a whimper.
That’s unlikely to happen to Marcelo Bielsa and his energetic Leeds team, who should prove trickier opponents both at Anfield and for the rest of the Premier League.
Much has been made about the fact both managers like to press high up the pitch, and with arrival of Spanish international Rodrigo from Valencia Leeds will look to give Liverpool as little space as possible to build from the back. Conversely, the champions are very adept at using the long balls to bypass opponents’ pressure and get the ball to their formidable trio of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
Liverpool should have a slight edge, but Leeds will make life far more difficult for them than Norwich did.
Pressure on Lampard to deliver title challenge
Chelsea coach Frank Lampard started last season with plenty of goodwill from supporters and media alike. But that could easily change, starting with the opening weekend trip to Brighton.
Lampard delivered Champions League football, and almost a trophy, in his first season, but after he spent more than £200 million on players for the new season, nothing less than a challenge for the title will be good enough this time around.
With a set of big names arriving at the club and potentially a new goalkeeper and center-half yet to come, Chelsea can claim to have one of the best squads in the league on paper.
Lampard can point to the fact that the money spent on new players will be largely offset by the transfer fee received from the sale of Eden Hazard to Real Madrid. However, this is unlikely to be much of defense if things don’t go according to plan, and he will be judged on results with what is very much his squad now.
At Brighton on Monday, the Blues will be expected to kick off the season with nothing less than three points.
Mourinho aims to maintain remarkable trophy record
Jose Mourinho and his players have recently been making more news for their Amazon Prime docu-series All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur than for any exploits on the pitch.
But the honeymoon period is over for Mourinho as he kicks off his first full season in charge with a home game against an excellent Everton team that should be challenging Tottenham for European places at the very least.
Tottenham fans will be eager to see Mourinho deliver both exciting football and a top four finish — as Mauricio Pochettino regularly did.
Mourinho knows that a title challenge is hardly realistic with Tottenham’s current squad, but he remains a trophy-junkie and could make winning a cup a priority.
Whether that is enough for a fanbase and owners who just over a year ago were 90 minutes from conquering Europe, remains to be seen. On Saturday there will be very little between two teams both eager to avoid defeat.
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