Can Arsenal better Man City? Talking points as the Premier League kicks off

By Sports Desk August 11, 2023

The new Premier League season kicks off this weekend with clubs still finalising their squads for the challenge ahead.

Champions Manchester City and last season’s runners-up Arsenal will resume battle with the Gunners’ having struck an early blow in the Community Shield, while newcomers Burnley, Sheffield United and Luton begin the task of ensuring their stay among the big boys is not fleeting.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points surrounding the opening fixtures.

Auf wiedersehen, Harry?

Harry Kane’s “will he, won’t he?” summer saga finally approached its conclusion on the eve of the new campaign as he headed for Germany with a view to tying up a £95million switch from Tottenham to Bayern Munich. The England skipper’s impending departure is likely to dismay fans of a club which drastically under-achieved in finishing eighth last season. Spurs open their campaign at Brentford on Sunday with the travelling supporters contemplating what life after Harry may represent.

Big six backlash?

If last season’s top three had a familiar look about it with Manchester United following their neighbours and Arsenal across the finishing line, there was a measure of turbulence below them as Newcastle disturbed the established order to push Liverpool out of the top four and Brighton claimed sixth spot with Aston Villa hot on their heels. Despite losing Jordan Henderson and Roberto Firmino to the Saudi Arabian exodus, the Reds have added World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai to their ranks with Moises Caicedo also seemingly on his way to Anfield, while James Maddison is perhaps the most eye-catching of Tottenham’s summer arrivals and Chelsea’s spending spree shows no signs of abating as the wounded prepare to fight back.

Baptism of fire

If Gary O’Neil felt hard done by when he was relieved of his duties at Bournemouth in June having steered the club to Premier League safety, it did not blunt his readiness to take on a challenge. The former Portsmouth and Middlesbrough midfielder was parachuted into the hotseat vacated by dissatisfied Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui after the Spaniard and the club decided to go their separate ways as a result of disagreements over recruitment. O’Neil stepped into the void with just days to prepare for Wolves’ opening fixture – a daunting trip to a rejuvenated Manchester United on Monday evening.

Welcome to the jungle

Burnley, Sheffield United and Luton will set foot in the top flight knowing the first and overwhelming priority is survival. Last season was the first since 2017-18 when the three promoted clubs all stayed up, with at least one having made an immediate return to the top flight at the end of each of the previous four. The Hatters last played in England’s top division in 1992, but having worked their way back from the non-league ranks in the last decade, they know all about fighting tooth and nail.

In it for the long haul

Unpopular as it may be with some, referees’ chief Howard Webb has insisted moves to eradicate time-wasting are here to stay, and that means there could be some lengthy matches this season. Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and Manchester United defender Raphael Varane are among those to have questioned moves to tackle the game’s “dark arts”, as well as behaviour on and off the pitch, but their concerns have fallen on deaf ears. How will they feel after the weekend?

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    Last August, it was reported the FA had opened an investigation into suspicious betting activity surrounding Paqueta, who said he was cooperating with the FA’s probe in March.

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    Paqueta, who has until June 3 to respond to the charges, addressed the situation on social media saying, "I deny the charges in their entirety and will fight with every breath to clear my name."

    Now, the CBF has confirmed that Paqueta will be staying in the national squad for the upcoming tournament following discussions between the two football associations.

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    "It is right to say that the player is free to perform his professional job until the present moment, the source of his livelihood and that of his family, in a full and unrestricted manner, whether for his club or his country's national team."

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    "They've got good backers, good owners, invest heavily in their team and that shows what they want, but they've got also you need a correct manager and I think Unai Emery has come into that category," Yorke told Stats Perform.

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