5 talking points ahead of the Premier League season
The new Premier League season gets under way on August 9 when European champions Liverpool welcome promoted Norwich to Anfield.
The big guns and the lesser lights will battle it out once again over 38 games, some with silverware firmly in their sights, others hoping simply to garner enough points to remain in the top flight.
Here, Press Association Sport takes a look at some of the talking points surrounding the new campaign.
Three-sy does it for City?
Manchester City became the first side to retain the title in a decade at the end of last season, but no team have won it three times on the trot since arch-rivals Manchester United did it in 2008-09. Liverpool ran City agonisingly close last season as they attempted to end their 29-year wait for a 19th league crown and came up just a point and a handful of goals short, and their Champions League success will increase belief that they can depose Pep Guardiola’s men.
Just like Ole times?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows what it means to scale the heights with Manchester United after playing a key role in Sir Alex Ferguson’s all-conquering team and perhaps most notably, the 1999 Treble success. The Norwegian breathed new life into an ailing giant last season, but a sixth-place finish and a summer spending spree which was launched by a £65million investment in Crystal Palace full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Swansea youngster Daniel James means the honeymoon period is over and significant progress will be expected.
Foxes on the run?
Leicester’s thrilling surge to Premier League glory in 2016 was the stuff of fairytales and few at the King Power Stadium genuinely expected the club to be able to compete at the very top of the table on a sustained basis. However, manager Brendan Rodgers quietly steered the Foxes into ninth place at the end of last season and has signalled his intent to close the gap on the top six this time around with a £30million summer swoop for Newcastle striker Ayoze Perez and the completion of a permanent switch for impressive loan signing Youri Tielemans reportedly worth £40million.
Turmoil on Tyneside
Few clubs do dysfunction like Newcastle and the Magpies have endured another summer of upheaval on and off the pitch. With no takeover in sight and an exasperated Rafael Benitez having said his goodbyes, the next few months will show just how good a job he did – he secured 10th and 13th-place finishes during his spell in charge – as successor Steve Bruce attempts to keep the club in the top flight with a squad shorn of Perez, Salomon Rondon, Mohamed Diame, Joselu, Kenedy and Antonio Barreca since the end of the last campaign.
Don’t mention the VAR
The addition of video assistant referees to the Premier League mix for the first time is certain to be a topic for debate, particularly after the way the system was used at the Women’s World Cup finals this summer. VAR rulings on the already contentious issue of handball have proved particularly controversial and the delays caused and lack of communication surrounding decisions have given plenty of food for thought for those having to implement the system.