What to look out for this Premier League season

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August 11, 2021
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    Van Dijk, Werner, SolskjaerDo Virgil van Dijk, Timo Werner and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer all have a point to prove?

    What are Manchester City's chances of defending the title? Which players have a point to prove? Who are the managers feeling the heat? There are plenty of questions to be answered in the Premier League this season.

    The new campaign starts on Friday when Arsenal take on newcomers Brentford.

    BBC Sport takes a look at some of the subplots to watch for.

    Man City to defend their title?

    Pep Guardiola celebratesPep Guardiola won his third Premier League title in four seasons with Manchester City

    The Premier League begins its 30th season with Manchester City heading into the campaign as champions, but they have a sizeable task on their hands to retain the trophy.

    Pep Guardiola's side were in imperious form as they went 28 games without defeat in all competitions – which included a remarkable 21-match winning streak – to win the title by 12 points over Manchester United.

    But only three teams on six previous occasions have managed to defend their crown the following season. Manchester United and Chelsea have done it, while City were the most recent team to achieve the feat with success in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

    Guardiola told BBC Sport in May: "In the previous season, Liverpool were unstoppable and everyone believed it would be the same again, but that is a good lesson for us.

    "Nothing is taken for granted. We can have injuries, have bad moments and that is why the warnings always have to be on."

    City have strengthened an attacking line-up that is already overflowing with talent by bringing in England international Jack Grealish for a British record £100m, while they could break that fee again if they complete a deal for Tottenham striker Harry Kane.

    But other title challengers have strengthened too, Manchester United have signed Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane to reinforce their right wing and defence.

    Players with a point to prove

    Timo WernerTimo Werner scored just six league goals last season

    The summer signings will be hoping they don't flop for their new teams, but there are a few Premier League old boys that might have a point to prove this season.

    Look no further than Chelsea forward Timo Werner.

    Signed from RB Leipzig for £47m last June, Werner lifted the Champions League trophy with the Blues, but had a substandard time in front of goal.

    Werner scored 12 goals throughout the whole campaign, just six in the league, and went on one run of 13 games without finding the net for club and country, followed by another of 14 matches.

    Staying in London, Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be hoping for a better campaign after the Gunners finished eighth in the table, missing out on European football for the first time in 25 years.

    Aubameyang himself had plenty of problems to deal with – absent from the side in January as his mother was ill, dropped for the win over Tottenham in March because of a "disciplinary issue" and losing four kilos in weight after contracting malaria on international duty in March.

    Leeds striker Patrick Bamford impressed on their return to the top flight by netting 17 league goals, but it was not enough for a place in England's 26-man squad for the Euros.

    Bamford will be aiming to continue that fine form into the new campaign to remind Gareth Southgate of his abilities, but still has room for improvement having missed 21 'big chances' last term – the most of any Premier League player.

    Two stars who suffered injury problems will be keen to showcase their best once more. Leicester's James Maddison struggled after missing two months with a hip problem while Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk returns to action after nine months out with a knee injury.

    Managers feeling the heat

    There are some on the sidelines that need to impress too.

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer signed a new deal with Manchester United until 2024, but will be under pressure to get off to a fast start and deliver a trophy at the end of the season having lost last year's Europa League final against Villarreal.

    Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta started his managerial career in perfect fashion by winning the FA Cup, but his side have fared rather badly since and the Spaniard will need to improve on last season's finish.

    What sort of reception will former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez receive after his controversial move to become manager of Merseyside rivals Everton?

    Benitez once called the Toffees a "small club", while several banners were hung outside Goodison Park protesting at the club's move for the Spaniard.

    The Afcon factor

    Algeria celebrateAlgeria, captained by Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez, won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019

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    The turn of the new year sees the staging of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), taking place from 9 January to 6 February in Cameroon.

    Some clubs could lose key players during a busy period for English clubs.

    Liverpool may be the hardest hit as Egypt and Senegal have both qualified – meaning the Reds may lose attacking duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, as well as Guinea midfielder Naby Keita.

    There are likely to be call-ups too for Chelsea keeper Edouard Mendy, Watford's star forward Ismaila Sarr (both Senegal), Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez and West Ham's Said Benrahma (both Algeria), Arsenal duo Aubameyang (Gabon) and Thomas Partey (Ghana), as well as Leicester's Wilfred Ndidi (Nigeria).

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    326 commentsShowLatestOldestHighest RatedMost Replied

    • M

      Comment posted by MVS, today at 12:14

      Come on the Brentford Bees. A fine old club, with roots deep in the local community, a brand new stadium and an enlightened owner.415

      • G

        Reply posted by Gunner-Idiot, today at 12:21

        "Come on the Brentford Bees. A fine old club, with roots deep in the local community, a brand new stadium and an enlightened owner."Gunner-Idiot replied: I wish them well. They’ve deserved this for a few years. My only negative as someone who does not watch them week in week out, and my main watch was in the playoff finals is I thought the managers antics against Bournemouth were embarrassing. The way he acted on the touch line with his watch made me cringe. Clearly a good manager and he has done great job but still. Hope they stay up though!!110

      More replies (1)

    • L

      Comment posted by Lanta_are_vaahto, today at 11:23

      Anyone but Man U 🤞🤞🤞5322

      • I

        Reply posted by in my opinion, today at 12:32

        "Anyone but Man U 🤞🤞🤞"in my opinion replied: Aaanyone but liverpool 🤞 🤞🤞4233

      More replies (10)

    • T

      Comment posted by Thinkagain, today at 09:53

      Very interesting season ahead. Fans back will make a difference. As a United fan, sadly I think City will win again, with us, a strong Chelsea and Liverpool fighting for 2nd256

      • G

        Reply posted by Grayl1701, today at 10:09

        "Very interesting season ahead. Fans back will make a difference. As a United fan, sadly I think City will win again, with us, a strong Chelsea and Liverpool fighting for 2nd"Grayl1701 replied: Last season when Man Utd went down to early goals they rallied in the 2nd half of games to win…. I can’t see that happening with OT fans on the player’s backs. Man City or Liverpool to win, Chelsea 3rd and Man Utd scrabbling for 4th with Leicester and 1 other team.1722

      More replies (6)

    • S

      Comment posted by Saltway Sweeper, today at 10:22

      Tuchel in the small matter of 4 months beat Pep 3 from 3, and beat 3 of Spains top 4.
      Now he has Lukaku in the team, Chelsea can make a serious push for the title.3012

      • L

        Reply posted by leedsupooltic, today at 10:35

        "Tuchel in the small matter of 4 months beat Pep 3 from 3, and beat 3 of Spains top 4.Now he has Lukaku in the team, Chelsea can make a serious push for the title."leedsupooltic replied: Looking forward to Lukaku being back in prem. The team have a great chance for the title.126

      More replies (11)

    • Q

      Comment posted by Quinnyy, today at 10:51

      Both Manchesters, Liverpool and Chelsea should have a tight title race.

      Then everyone else pushing for 5th (or even hoping to sneak top 4); Leicester, Arsenal, Spurs, Everton, West Ham etc.

      Should be a good season.182

      • G

        Reply posted by Gunner-Idiot, today at 11:02

        "Both Manchesters, Liverpool and Chelsea should have a tight title race.Then everyone else pushing for 5th (or even hoping to sneak top 4); Leicester, Arsenal, Spurs, Everton, West Ham etc.Should be a good season."Gunner-Idiot replied: Agree. We use to have the top 4 (arsenal, Man U, pool, chelas) which developed into the big 6. Now we have a top 4 again. I think the 4 you have mentioned are a mile ahead of the chasing pack, which isn’t easy to admit as an arsenal fan. But they are. And the business they are doing in comparison is just widening that gap.170

      More replies (8)

    • B

      Comment posted by Bielsas Binoculars, today at 10:08

      Agree with Thinkagain but wouldn’t rule out Leicester as an outsider.

      Why does the headline pick out Werner. Yes, he was poor in front of goal and constantly offside but it was his first season and did play his part in winning the CL. There are many others who are still struggling after 2 or 3 years, e.g., Martial, Pepe, Mustafi,…215

      • J

        Reply posted by Jimski, today at 10:20

        "Agree with Thinkagain but wouldn’t rule out Leicester as an outsider.Why does the headline pick out Werner. Yes, he was poor in front of goal and constantly offside but it was his first season and did play his part in winning the CL. There are many others who are still struggling after 2 or 3 years, e.g., Martial, Pepe, Mustafi,…"Jimski replied: Because he’s pants1116

      More replies (4)

    • I

      Comment posted by ianH, today at 11:19

      Blimey summats wrong. A piece not about Messi. Get a grip BBC.206

      • H

        Reply posted by HKJ, today at 12:06

        "Blimey summats wrong. A piece not about Messi. Get a grip BBC."HKJ replied: Yet you go and make it about Messi…

        Did you spot the irony? Or just ignore it and forge on regardless? 🤔🤷‍♂️😂108

      More replies (1)

    • F

      Comment posted by Fatbilly, today at 10:00

      Just hope for a season with a wildcard again. Money = League position is tedious in the extreme and a Leicester or what West Ham nearly managed last season makes things a little more exciting.141

      • M

        Reply posted by matt1985, today at 14:26

        "Just hope for a season with a wildcard again. Money = League position is tedious in the extreme and a Leicester or what West Ham nearly managed last season makes things a little more exciting."matt1985 replied: Because obviously Leicester and West Ham don’t spend any money, do they?38

      More replies (2)

    • G

      Comment posted by Gunner-Idiot, today at 10:43

      I know I’m an arsenal fan and YES Leicester ARE a better team than us at present before those replies pour in however lots saying they are an outsider are deluded. They haven’t made top 4 now in last few seasons when they should. If top 4 isn’t the same as last year I’ll eat my right arm. And then LCFC probably a respectable 5th in a bit of a league of their own above the 2 north London chumps142

      • R

        Reply posted by Raedwulf, today at 12:14

        "I know I’m an arsenal fan and YES Leicester ARE a better team than us at present before those replies pour in however lots saying they are an outsider are deluded. They haven’t made top 4 now in last few seasons when they should. If top 4 isn’t the same as last year I’ll eat my right arm. And then LCFC probably a respectable 5th in a bit of a league of their own above the 2 north London chumps"Raedwulf replied: Not sure who you are sating is/isn’t an outsider? The Top 8 aren’t all at the same level, but they’re all capable of beating each other. I think your mob will do better, tho’ won’t quite challenge for 5th. Can’t see TH doing better with no spend, maybe losing Kane, but they’ll still take pts off others.

        MC & CHE for 1 & 2, but LIV/MU might easily have a horror show & be pipped to CL. It’s tight!32

      More replies (1)

    • P

      Comment posted by Philip, today at 09:58

      the only other team to be in the mix is leicester, who have just won the charity shield by the way.124

      • G

        Reply posted by Gunner-Idiot, today at 10:39

        "the only other team to be in the mix is leicester, who have just won the charity shield by the way."Gunner-Idiot replied: Charity shield! 🤣312

      More replies (9)

    • H

      Comment posted by HKJ, today at 12:05

      I hope we’re able to get some good coverage of AfCon – it’s improved for the Copa America, so hopefully greater and better exposure to follow for the African nations too, help fuel the rise in quality and competitiveness against the other continents.

      Speaking as an England fan, but genuine improvement for all footballing nations can only be for the betterment of the game.81

      • S

        Reply posted by ScottishNOTbritish, today at 12:32

        "I hope we’re able to get some good coverage of AfCon – it’s improved for the Copa America, so hopefully greater and better exposure to follow for the African nations too, help fuel the rise in quality and competitiveness against the other continents.Speaking as an England fan, but genuine improvement for all footballing nations can only be for the betterment of the game."ScottishNOTbritish replied: African football is worse than the SPFL.
        Then they want their international players for a tournament at a time that suits nobody.
        These players need to make a club or country choice.
        If it’s ‘country’ then join a club other than mine.721

      More replies (7)

    • P

      Comment posted by Patrick Duverne, today at 10:07

      Chelsea under Tuchel and with Lukaku will be right up there, without a doubt. Liverpool need another big signing to really compete. United have got players in they needed but still not convinced Ole is the man take get them to win over 38 game season… which leaves Man City to be Man City… can they retain it?81

      • G

        Reply posted by Grayl1701, today at 10:18

        "Chelsea under Tuchel and with Lukaku will be right up there, without a doubt. Liverpool need another big signing to really compete. United have got players in they needed but still not convinced Ole is the man take get them to win over 38 game season… which leaves Man City to be Man City… can they retain it?"Grayl1701 replied: All Liverpool need to do is keep their main players fit to compete. Man Utd won’t win the league while Ole is in charge regardless of the players.1710

      More replies (17)

    • M

      Comment posted by macaroni and cheese please , today at 13:05

      Norwich and Brentford top, Arsenal to be relegated and Man City mid table. Chelsea in a relegation battle

      😆 wouldn’t that be fun115

      • T

        Reply posted by Tom, today at 13:22

        "Norwich and Brentford top, Arsenal to be relegated and Man City mid table. Chelsea in a relegation battle 😆 wouldn’t that be fun"Tom replied: It sure would!40

    • N

      Comment posted by Niru_mitcham, today at 11:39

      You’d have to put Chelsea as current favourites if they finalise Lukaku. I’d then bring City on par if they bring in Kane. It’ll be a great season.115

      • F

        Reply posted by Fan Of Whoever Plays Man Utd, today at 18:12

        "You’d have to put Chelsea as current favourites if they finalise Lukaku. I’d then bring City on par if they bring in Kane. It’ll be a great season."Fan Of Whoever Plays Man Utd replied: Don’t know, Chelsea are still shaky at the back and in goal.10

      More replies (2)

    • R

      Comment posted by Renegade2021, today at 11:29

      Well Spurs won’t be winning it………shocking outfit…………….104

      • A

        Reply posted by Axemad, today at 12:51

        "Well Spurs won’t be winning it………shocking outfit……………."Axemad replied: Says as Arsenal ‘fan’ who is totally impartial. Focus on your own ‘shocking outfit’60

      More replies (3)

    • D

      Comment posted by Diamond Flight, today at 18:03

      Not a City supporter but the reality is they win it again (and not because they signed Grealish, who in my opinion will not improve them as a squad).50

    • D

      Comment posted by David, today at 10:50

      Please can Gerrard be next Liverpool manager72

      • I

        Reply posted by in my opinion, today at 12:12

        "Please can Gerrard be next Liverpool manager"in my opinion replied: Is this Klopp’s last season? Surely Gerard is next. Or maybe they’ll try and get Rodgers back? Doubt he’d leave Leicester though, he’s doing a good job there62

      More replies (6)

    • G

      Comment posted by Gunner-Idiot, today at 09:55

      It’s very difficult to see past arsenal this year. We signed Ben White which was just the final piece of the jigsaw.1510

      • J

        Reply posted by Jimski, today at 10:21

        "It’s very difficult to see past arsenal this year. We signed Ben White which was just the final piece of the jigsaw."Jimski replied: Lol130

      More replies (2)

    • T

      Comment posted by tizzy123, today at 15:20

      I am almost certain Arsenal have never retained a Premier League title.40

    • D

      Comment posted by Doors_of_perception, today at 15:01

      African cup of nations could be killer for Liverpool. Losing two of their front three just when you need squad depth most.51

      • F

        Reply posted by FOAD Sadford, today at 15:09

        "African cup of nations could be killer for Liverpool. Losing two of their front three just when you need squad depth most."FOAD Sadford replied: William Blake, Aldous Huxley and Jim Morrison were all Liverpool fans.15

      More replies (1)

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