Premier League: Man City, Liverpool look primed to extend duopoly
Favourites once more
Four titles in five seasons do not come on a platter. That too in a league as competitive as the English Premier League. Pep Guardiola has done just that with Manchester City once branded by their city rivals as ‘noisy neighbours’. If the 2012 Premier League triumph under Roberto Mancini was described as ‘once in a blue moon’, Pep, helped by deep pockets of the Abu Dhabi-based City Football Group, has turned Manchester City into ‘neighbour’s envy’. City are enjoying one of the most dominant periods of success in English soccer history, like Aston Villa did in the 1890s, Arsenal in the 1930s, Liverpool in the 1970s and ‘80s, and Manchester United in the 1990s and early 2000s. As the new season gets rolling on Friday, an early start keeping in mind the six-week break from November 14 to December 25 for the Qatar World Cup, Man City once again start as favourites. Critics point out that Pep, despite the deep pockets of Abu Dhabi-based City Football Group — City have spent an estimated $1.2 billion in the transfer market — is yet to win the Champions League with the club. But does that negate his achievement of taking English football to new levels of excellence? No. His is a team that the fans love to watch. On the field, in the loop. This season they look all the more intimidating with the inclusion of super sniper Erling Haaland, Argentine striker Julian Alvarez and Kalvin Phillips in the midfield. They lost the Community Shield to Liverpool 3-1 on July 30 but that should not leave even an iota of doubt in Pep’s mind.
Klopp eyes top spot
If any team has run Pep and Man City close, it is Juergen Klopp’s Liverpool. Last season took the title chase to the final day of the season. The duopoly is all set to continue in 2022- 23 too. The two most exciting teams in the Premier League are head and shoulders ahead of their rivals who have a lot of catching up to do. Liverpool were chasing a quadruple but had to contend with the poor man’s double, League Cup and FA Cup. Klopp has let go of Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich. And brought in Darwin Nunez, 23, from Benfica, for an initial fee of €75 million. Nunez will take his place in an attack which already has Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz as forward options. Nunez scored one the other day against City and looks all set for a memorable stay at Anfield. With Thiago Alcantara having established himself in the centre of midfield and Virgil van Dijk dominant in defence, the spine of the Liverpool team remains firm. The style of play is likely to be unchanged, however, with wingbacks Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson constantly topping the assist charts for wide players.
Tuchel sees gloom
Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel looks frustrated even before the season has started. If the lacklustre performances in the pre-season are an indication, then it’s all gloomy at Stamford Bridge. Just two significant additions to the team that finished way behind the top-two don’t bring cheers to the fans. Raheem Sterling, arriving from Man City, should add bite to an attack that will no longer feature No. 9 Romelu Lukaku. At the back, Senegal defender Kalidou Koulibaly looks like being a strong reinforcement.
Conte spurs them on
The feeling in Tottenham Hotspur is that they can close the gap on top three and put themselves in the mix for domestic silverware this season. Antonio Conte begins his first full campaign in charge with a fully firing Harry Kane and a squad that looks to have the depth and quality to challenge on multiple fronts. Richarlison, who cost £52 million from Everton, gives Tottenham a third attacking option as a complement to Kane and Son Heung-min.
Arsenal’s acid test
Mikel Arteta will hope the tried and tested quality of two players he once worked with at Manchester City will rub off on his Arsenal squad this season as he attempts to build on the steady progress he has made in north London. As transfer coups go, the signing of Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus and Ukraine fullback Oleksandr Zinchenko was a real statement of intent. Having spent the most — $130million — Arteta knows there can be no excuses this season.
United they rebuild
Manchester United’s lack of arrivals in key areas could hinder any potential revival under new coach Erik ten Hag. Defenders Lisandro Martinez and Tyrell Malacia and Danish midfielder Christian Eriksenhave come in but supporters are still waiting for Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong. The Cristiano Ronaldo saga also is not helping the team’s cause.
Hopefuls & promotees
Saudi-backed Newcastle United hope they can join West Ham and Leicester in the group of clubs pushing to enter the Big Six. The three promoted clubs — Fulham, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest — will all be happy to simply survive for another year in the top flight. Forest are back after a 23-year exile, and have spent the most of the new arrivals, with Jesse Lingard from Manchester United the most eye-catching signing.