Pep Guardiola warned Manchester City and hat-trick scorer Raheem Sterling have room for improvement following the 5-0 thrashing of West Ham.

The Premier League champions cruised to a resounding victory in their season opener at the London Stadium on Saturday, shifting through the gears at will in a four-goal second half.

Star forward Sterling grabbed three and looked in irrepressible form, while new signing Rodri and the returning Riyad Mahrez shone in possession.

"In terms of five goals, it is the perfect start, yes," Guardiola told a news conference.

"But the performance of the first half was far away from where we want to be. The other [half] is normal.

"We are still not in the top condition and I knew that we missed and lost a lot of simple balls, so it's so difficult to have a good tempo of our game.

"Today Raheem scored and Bernardo [Silva] is going to score and it was an incredible performance today from Riyad Mahrez, an incredible level.

"I think in all of the pre-season games [Sterling] scored goals from the beginning, so every single game he scored a goal.

"But in the first half, he can do better."

Gabriel Jesus scored City's first in the 25th minute and would have had a brace had Sterling not strayed offside by the barest of margins in the lead-up, an indiscretion spotted by VAR.

Technology also played a part in allowing Sergio Aguero to retake and convert a spot-kick that was initially saved, while the visitors were made to wait for confirmation of Sterling's second goal following prolonged analysis.

Guardiola said players and fans alike will have to adapt during VAR's debut season in the Premier League.

"In that period where you are celebrating, you have to be calm and be strong," he said.

"It is going to change the dynamic not just for the team but for the spectators. The spectators were quiet, and after [Jesus' goal was disallowed], they were looking and thinking 'oh, we can celebrate'.

"It will be a good lesson for our future, but it is what it is."

Raheem Sterling became just the eighth player to score a hat-trick on the opening weekend of a season in the Premier League era.

The Manchester City forward achieved the rare feat in a thumping 5-0 away win against West Ham.

Here, we take a look at the other players who have registered trebles on the first weekend of a Premier League season.


MICK QUINN: Arsenal 0-3 Coventry City, August 14 1993

Bobby Gould's Sky Blues stunned Arsenal at a revamped, newly all-seater Highbury, on the back of a remarkable treble from former Newcastle striker Quinn. The highlight goal was Quinn's second strike, a delicious effort into the top-left corner after smart work from Roy Wegerle.

MATT LE TISSIER: Southampton 3-4 Nottingham Forest, August 19 1995

At The Dell, another stadium from Premier League history, Le Tissier scored two penalties and a late free-kick but still finished on the losing side. A Forest team inspired by two-goal Bryan Roy took the points on the south coast.

FABRIZIO RAVANELLI: Middlesbrough 3-3 Liverpool, August 17 1996

Ravanelli was a £7million statement signing by ambitious Middlesbrough, joining within weeks of scoring for Juventus in the Champions League final. His Premier League debut for Bryan Robson's team was almost perfect, with the 'White Feather' cracking in a penalty, a poacher's finish and a low, skidding strike to secure a draw.

KEVIN CAMPBELL: Coventry City 0-3 Nottingham Forest, August 17 1996

Campbell's treble at Highfield Road was overshadowed by Ravanelli's feat at the Riverside on the same day but two slick finishes and a delightful third goal all of his own making meant it was a day to remember for Forest's former Arsenal striker.

DION DUBLIN: Coventry City 3-2 Chelsea, August 9 1997

After Quinn four years earlier, Dublin was another Coventry opening-day hero. A pair of headers rocked Ruud Gullit's Chelsea before Dublin took advantage of a loose header from defender Franck Leboeuf to drill in a late winner for Gordon Strachan's men.

GABRIEL AGBONLAHOR: Aston Villa 4-2 Manchester City, August 17 2008

Hardly the most prolific of Villa strikers, Agbonlahor nevertheless grabbed the first opening-day Premier League hat-trick for 11 years. He scored with his right foot, left foot and head as the 21-year-old tore apart City at Villa Park.

DIDIER DROGBA: Chelsea 6-0 West Brom, August 14 2010

Chelsea began the defence of their title in six-hitting style at Stamford Bridge, with a free-kick, a close-range finish and a deflected strike seeing Drogba earn the match ball. Carlo Ancelotti's Blues also won 6-0 on the following weekend, beating Wigan.

RAHEEM STERLING: West Ham 0-5 Manchester City, August 10 2019

England forward Sterling showed shimmering opening-weekend form as he and City carved open West Ham repeatedly at London Stadium. He slotted his first from Kevin De Bruyne's pass, lobbed a second and slid home a third in stoppage time as the champions cruised to their handsome win.

The good news for West Ham is Manchester City's visit to London Stadium is over and done with.

Raheem Sterling starred with a hat-trick as Pep Guardiola's reigning champions began their quest for a third consecutive Premier League title with an imposing 5-0 victory.

Playing their home games at the venue that hosted the 2012 Olympic Games has plenty of benefits for West Ham, but hosting City is not one of them.

Guardiola's men now boast an aggregate advantage of 22-1 in their games in Stratford. Here we look back at some painful hammerings for the Hammers.

January 6, 2017 - West Ham 0 Manchester City 5 (FA Cup)

City were faltering midway through their first season under Guardiola but they swatted aside Slaven Bilic's West Ham, with Yaya Toure opening the scoring from the penalty spot. Havard Nordtveit's own goal and David Silva's tap-in made it 3-0 before half-time, leaving Sergio Aguero and John Stones to complete the rout

February 1, 2017 – West Ham 0 Manchester City 4 (Premier League)

A month later, City were back at London Stadium and still licking their wounds from a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Everton. They remained too strong for Bilic's men as Kevin De Bruyne established a 17th-minute lead and orchestrated a blistering attacking display, with Silva also on target before Gabriel Jesus scored his first City goal. Midway through the second half, Toure again made no mistake from 12 yards.

April 29, 2018 – West Ham 1 Manchester City 4 (Premier League)

Far from the uncertain outfit West Ham had a look at the previous year, City were already crowned Premier League champions for 2017-18 and in full flight on this occasion. Leroy Sane's effort and an own goal from former City favourite Pablo Zabaleta had City in control and, although Aaron Cresswell pulled it back to 2-1, Jesus restored the two-goal cushion before Fernandinho wrapped up victory as Guardiola's men hungrily chased down their historic 100-point haul.

November 24, 2018 – West Ham 0 Manchester City 4 (Premier League)

This was a tale of usual suspects for ex-City boss Manuel Pellegrini as Silva and Sterling scored from close range. Sane joined Silva on three goals at London Stadium by full-time – a stunning piece of skill leaving Fabian Balbuena prone to make it 3-0. Sane's second in injury time did not stop Guardiola describing his team as "quite lucky"

August 10, 2019 – West Ham 0 Manchester City 5 (Premier League)

City were similarly patchy in Saturday's first half, which was illuminated by Jesus' clever near-post finish after Riyad Mahrez and Kyle Walker cut West Ham apart down the right. De Bruyne was a familiar provider to set Sterling on the way to a fine treble. VAR seemed to be the England winger's most capable adversary, while technology also granted Aguero a second go at beating Lukasz Fabianski from the penalty spot.

Raheem Sterling says the correct use of VAR in Manchester City's crushing win over West Ham negated the frustration over foiled goal celebrations.

City star Sterling scored three times as the Premier League champions commenced their title defence with an eventful 5-0 victory on Saturday.

The England international would also have registered an assist had the newly introduced technology not found him to be in a marginally offside position when squaring for an unmarked Gabriel Jesus in the second half.

VAR later worked to the away side's benefit, enabling Sergio Aguero to score from a retaken penalty after Declan Rice encroached into the area to clear following Lukasz Fabianski's save from the initial attempt.

"It's a bit difficult during the game because you want the goal to stand," Sterling told BT Sport when asked about Jesus' disallowed strike.

"But at the end of the day, as long as the decision is right, that's all that matters."

Sterling has now tallied four goals in his two competitive appearances this term, having netted against Liverpool during last weekend's Community Shield.

The 24-year-old believes his superb start is the product of a dedicated focus on finishing in training.

"It's something I'm trying to improve on," Sterling said. "With the players we've got here - Gabriel, Sergio, Riyad [Mahrez] - there's competition in training every day.

"It's just a joy to put the ball in the back of the net and everyone here is trying to do that to help the team.

"It was quite difficult in the first half to get the cobwebs off.

"The breathing was heavy so some of the touches were sloppy, but once the team got into a rhythm you can find the passes easier and once that second goal went in things went a lot smoother and a lot more chances came."

And so it begins. Where is the game? Has it gone already?

After a ragged first-half showing punctuated by Gabriel Jesus' superbly crafted opener, Manchester City were hitting their stride at London Stadium.

Kevin De Bruyne's typically immaculate throughball allowed Raheem Sterling to double the advantage for Pep Guardiola's Premier League champions and West Ham were cut to ribbons once more as David Silva and Sterling left Gabriel Jesus with a tap-in.

But wait… what?

As both teams prepared to restart, referee Mike Dean was informed Sterling – or, more accurately, the tip of Sterling's left shoulder was offside. No goal.

What followed was an example of the ripples we might expect to see, now VAR has been dropped into the Premier League pond – the choppy waters caused now largely becalmed in Europe's other major leagues.

In the final analysis, City coasted to a leisurely 5-0 win, but in the immediate aftermath of the disallowed goal, their composure deserted them.

Television replays showed Sterling telling Dean exactly what he thought of the call and a home crowd, who were operating at a hush moments earlier, roared West Ham forward.

Issa Diop saw his header drop on to the roof of the City goal, in which Ederson made a stunning double save to maintain a two-goal advantage.

Contentious decisions changing the momentum of games by affecting the composure of those involved is nothing new in football. But those moments normally come through a sense of injustice due to anger at an officiating mistake.

City's second-half wobble jarred because it was caused by a decision correct to the millimetre after an incident that prompted no complaint from any of the 22 players on the field.

This did not feel like the game being made better by technology. The same could be said for Sterling's lengthy wait to have the second goal of his hat-trick confirmed, nor Sergio Aguero getting a second go at beating Lukasz Fabianski form the penalty spot due to Declan Rice encroaching and clearing the rebound.

"It's a bit difficult during the game because you want your goal to stand," Sterling told BT Sport. "But at the end of the day, if the decision's right, that's all that matters."

The Premier League must hope fans are just as magnanimous. They shouldn't hold their breath.

Saturday's early game did not even delve into the murky world of interpretation – foul or no foul – which is where you'd have expected the fun to begin.

The decisions Dean had assistance with were absolutes, a matter of lines and where players stood in relation to them.

But, even though this should be simple – like whether a tennis serve is out or an lbw call in cricket has pitched outside leg stump – football has never operated to such degrees of accuracy.

VAR is subjecting the laws of the game to a scrutiny they were never designed to withstand and, if technology is to be accepted by fans, this is where changes should be.

"It looked level", "borderline" and other such accepted vagaries have to be obliterated along with all other shades of grey.

Perhaps, in terms of offside, there should be a move to drawing the line where "daylight" appears between opponents, as opposed to any part of the body a player can use to score – the factor that did for Sterling.

But defenders would be entitled to argue this skews the balance further in favour of attackers, who have been shown to get the benefit of repeatedly replayed penalty incidents and hardline interpretations of the handball rule.

The technology is only as effective as the rules it is being used to help implement. Right now, those do not feel up to standard.

Raheem Sterling's hat-trick inspired a 5-0 rout of West Ham as Manchester City commenced their quest for a third straight Premier League title in style in a contest where VAR played a prominent role.

The England star struck a sublime second-half treble after Gabriel Jesus prodded the champions ahead in the 25th minute of a one-sided affair at the London Stadium.

Sterling's well-worked first goal came six minutes after the interval and though a VAR review found he was offside before Jesus tapped in, he did find the net again 15 minutes from time to put City beyond the Hammers' reach.

He could have added the third from the spot after Issa Diop fouled Riyad Mahrez but gifted the spot-kick to Sergio Aguero, which the substitute converted on a re-take, awarded following another VAR intervention.

Sterling was not to be denied the match ball, though, as he raced clean through in added time to compound an embarrassing eighth straight defeat for West Ham in competitive meetings with Pep Guardiola's men.

Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus has become the first Premier League player to have a goal ruled out by a VAR review.

Jesus opened the scoring before half-time against West Ham at London Stadium, with Raheem Sterling putting Pep Guardiola's defending champions 2-0 to the good on the opening weekend.

The Brazil international appeared to have settled the contest when David Silva and Sterling unpicked the Hammers to leave him with a tap-in.

But referee Mike Dean was informed Sterling's left shoulder was fractionally offside when he darted on to Silva's pass, leading to roars from the home crowd and disbelief among the City players.

City were infamously denied in similar circumstances against Tottenham during last season's Champions League quarter-finals – Sterling thinking he had won the tie deep into stoppage time at the Etihad Stadium before replays showed Sergio Aguero's heel was just offside during the build-up.

Manchester City's record signing Rodri has been named to make his Premier League debut as the champions begin their title defence against West Ham.

The Spain international joins Kevin De Bruyne and new captain David Silva in midfield but fellow new arrival Joao Cancelo has to settle for a place on the bench.

Rodri, 23, started the Community Shield triumph over Liverpool and seven members of that team have held their places.

The serious knee injury Leroy Sane suffered last weekend opens the door to Gabriel Jesus, who wins a spot in the XI ahead of Sergio Aguero.

Riyad Mahrez has been cleared to play and replaces Bernardo Silva on the flank opposite to Raheem Sterling.

City left Mahrez out of their Community Shield squad as they had been unable to establish whether he inadvertently ingested a banned substance while on international duty with Algeria at the Africa Cup of Nations.

West Ham, meanwhile, have included their own record acquisition, striker Sebastien Haller, for Saturday's clash at the London Stadium.

Manuel Pellegrini's men will attempt to reverse a seven-match losing streak against City in all competitions.

 

Riyad Mahrez has been cleared to play for Manchester City after undergoing a doping test in the wake of his absence from last weekend's Community Shield.

Speaking after the penalty shoot-out victory over Liverpool at Wembley, Guardiola explained Mahrez was missing from the City squad because they could not be certain whether he had inadvertently ingested any banned substances while on international duty with Algeria at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Mahrez could return to City's squad for the first game of their Premier League title defence against West Ham on Saturday, though, with Guardiola revealing a visit from UK Anti-Doping testers had cleared the 28-year-old to feature.

"He had a little surgery after the African Cup on his nose so he could breathe better, it's a normal situation," Guardiola said.

"The doctor - I don't think he was from the national team - didn't send the necessary [paperwork], that was the only reason why [he didn't play]. We didn't have it in the right moment.

"But after the last week, anti-doping [agents] have made the test. Everything is clear and fine. He can play.

"Our doctors came to me and said they did not know exactly [what he had taken]. Every time you take something you have to inform the club and make the lists. Everyone knows it. We pass one or two controls every month here. 

"We didn't have it in that moment, he did it in Algeria. So it was a precaution, we had to be careful. It was better not to use him, that was the reason why. 

"After this week, they came and tested him and he's ready for tomorrow."

Mahrez may have a bigger impact in the City team in the coming months too - with fellow winger Leroy Sane facing up to seven months out with anterior cruciate ligament damage - having failed to live up to his club-record price tag in his debut season.

That title no longer belongs to the Algerian, though, after defensive midfielder Rodri was brought in from Atletico Madrid for a reported £63million, and Guardiola anticipates his new recruit will make a swift impact in England.

"When you think of defining the holding midfielder, he's a typical, typical holding midfielder," Guardiola added.

"Like Michael Carrick, like [Sergio] Busquets, [the] holding midfielder. You are thinking what is best for the team. He doesn't play to make a good performance, he plays to make it better for the others. No tattoos, no ponytails. Perfect. Normal. That is a holding midfielder.

"He's young, strong, helps us with the long balls, he's so intelligent. He learned at Atletico Madrid with [Diego] Simeone. The work he did with Simeone is going to help us a lot this season.

"I have the feeling. Sometimes, players need more time but, after a week or 10 days, we realised that guy will be nice for us."

Manchester City have signed young forward Ryotaro Meshino from Gamba Osaka, the Japanese club have announced.

Gamba confirmed the 21-year-old completed a move to the Premier League champions after travelling to England.

City have not released details of Meshino's deal but reports indicate he will join their development squad.

Meshino has scored three goals in 12 appearances in the J.League this season.

Pep Guardiola and City avoided a busy transfer deadline day after wrapping up the signing of Joao Cancelo from Juventus on Wednesday.

Left-back Angelino and midfielder Rodri moved to the Etihad Stadium earlier in the window and could make their Premier League debuts at West Ham on Saturday.

David Silva has been named the new captain of Manchester City, Pep Guardiola has confirmed.

The experienced former Spain international, who signed from Valencia in 2010 and has won 10 major trophies at the Etihad Stadium, takes over the armband from Vincent Kompany, who joined Anderlecht as player-manager at the end of last season.

In June, Silva announced 2019-20 will be his last with City.

Guardiola said the 33-year-old playmaker, who was elected by team-mates, will be supported by vice-captains Fernandinho, Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero.

"A captain has to be what he is," the City manager said ahead his side beginning their quest for a third consecutive Premier League title at West Ham. "It's an incredible, big respect from his mates. The decision they have to take is the best thing for the club.

"David has to be himself, make decisions for the team. Normally, it depends what the captain is like when [in] the locker room. They are nice guys, they know each other, they laugh a lot. It will not be a problem. He will be a good captain."

Champions City are likely to hand a Premier League debut to club-record signing Rodri on Saturday, although the match comes too soon for Joao Cancelo, whose move from Juventus in a part-exchange deal involving Danilo was only confirmed on Thursday.

"Cancelo is not going to play, not yet," Guardiola said. "He's going to settle good, he has experience, especially in Turin with a very important team.

"Rodri, every day I'm more convinced that this deal we have done with him will be one of the best this club has done in the last years. He will be an incredible holding midfielder."

City will also have Aymeric Laporte back from a knock, and Riyad Mahrez is available after he skipped the Community Shield clash with Liverpool due to concerns that medicine he took while on international duty with Algeria could complicate a doping control test.

Guardiola is expecting a difficult test against a side managed by former City boss Manuel Pellegrini, especially given the Hammers' form towards the end of last season, when they claimed three consecutive wins over Tottenham, Southampton and Watford.

"Last season, they finished well," he said. "Manuel has quality in identifying the way he plays. At the start, it was not easy: they lost the first three of four games. But he's a calm person and the board supported him. He made good results at the end of the season.

"The quality in his teams and the quality of the players up front, they've got many good players. It's the first game. Playing away is tricky but we are ready."

Leroy Sane is facing around seven months on the sidelines with his anterior cruciate ligament injury, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has confirmed.

The Germany international was forced off after just 13 minutes of the Community Shield clash with Liverpool at Wembley last Sunday after a challenge with Trent Alexander-Arnold.

City confirmed this week that Sane will require surgery on his right ACL, although the club did not put a time frame on his recovery.

Guardiola, though, does not expect the winger to be available until at least February next year.

When asked if he had an estimate on Sane's recovery time, Guardiola said: "No, I don't know. I'm not a doctor or physio. Normally this type of injury is six, seven months; hopefully February, March he can come back with us."

Sane has been heavily linked with a move to Bayern Munich, with head coach Niko Kovac even forced to apologise in July for publicly stating he was confident of a deal for the former Schalke star.

Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic refused to say whether Sane's injury meant Bayern's interest in the player was over on Thursday.

Guardiola, for his part, has few doubts over Sane's future and is simply frustrated to see another of his players struck down by an ACL problem, with Ilkay Gundogan and Benjamin Mendy each having suffered similar injuries during his City tenure.

"I didn't think about him leaving," he said. The player didn't tell me 'I want to leave'. I always thought he was our player. Unfortunately, it's incredibly bad news because in three seasons we had three ACL [injuries].

"He is a young player. He will hopefully recover well. He's in the best hands possible. The people here will try to help him."

Liverpool's Premier League opener against Norwich City on Friday is a potential "banana skin" as the Canaries will be motivated to cause an upset, according to Reds great Graeme Souness.

Manchester City pipped Liverpool to the Premier League title by a single point last season, meaning the Reds' stellar efforts domestically went unrewarded.

They start all over again at home to promoted Norwich, as they look to pick up where they left off last season.

Liverpool's record against Norwich in recent times suggests goals are to be expected, as the Reds have scored five times in four of their past six encounters with the Canaries.

But Norwich, who attracted praise for their stylish brand of football as they won the Championship under Daniel Farke last season, will be excited rather than overawed about heading to Anfield for their first Premier League game since 2016, Souness believes.

Speaking to Omnisport on behalf of PaddyPower, Souness said: "Liverpool lost the league by one point last season and that tells you how close it was, it's going to be the same this year, so every single game is a banana skin.

"If you're losing the league by one point, you don't need to be a brain surgeon to work it out, but you need to win every game, that's going to be difficult.

"Both teams [Liverpool and City] played to an incredible standard, can they achieve that again this year? I very much doubt it, but I still see those as the best two teams.

"When the fixtures came out for Norwich, as much as they don't want to be away to one of the best teams in the league, they'll have been excited by it.

"It's a game they'll be looking forward to, going to Anfield, a special place. It's a banana skin, as whoever loses [the title] is going to lose by a small margin."

An issue for Liverpool in pre-season has been the number of key players away on international duty, with Alisson, Fabinho, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Naby Keita and Sadio Mane all appearing in either the Copa America or Africa Cup of Nations.

Souness does not feel that will impact Liverpool's start to the season, though he accepts manager Jurgen Klopp will have to be smart about how he uses his squad.

He added "I don't think it'll be a danger at the start of the season, but he has to manage his resources and that's why you have a big squad.

"They have very big squads and can afford to buy the best and pay the best wages, and they have to have big squads if they're going challenge on all fronts."

 

Graeme Souness was talking to Omnisport on behalf of PaddyPower's Come Out and Play campaign and Proud United, a team of LGBTQ footballers from across the United Kingdom working to tackle homophobia in football.

Ilkay Gundogan has ended speculation over his future by signing a new four-year deal with Manchester City.

The midfielder has recommitted until 2023 in a boost to the Premier League champions a day out from their season opener away to West Ham.

There were fears Germany international Gundogan would leave on a free in 2020 after entering the final 12 months of his previous contract.

Talks over an extension broke down during the second half of last season but Gundogan expressed a willingness to reopen negotiations at the end of City's treble-winning campaign and an agreement has now been reached.

"I have hugely enjoyed the last three years here at City and everyone at the club has helped make me feel at home from my very first day," Gundogan told his club's website.

"It's a privilege to be a part of this team, playing the style of football we do and winning trophies. It's very difficult to do that and I'm delighted to be a part of it.

"I'm really excited about what we can go on to achieve in the next few seasons."

Gundogan joins full-back Kyle Walker in recently agreeing fresh terms at the Etihad Stadium.

The former Nurnberg and Borussia Dortmund player became Pep Guardiola's first signing for City when he arrived in 2016, although a cruciate knee ligament injury curtailed his debut season before the turn of the year.

He has since won two Premier League titles, two EFL Cups and an FA Cup but was linked to Real Madrid and Inter towards the end of last term.

City director of football Txiki Begiristain hailed Gundogan's new contract as an "excellent" development for City.

"He has shown how important he is to the team and has played a huge part in everything that we have achieved so far," Begiristain said.

"We are thrilled he has committed his long-term future to Manchester City."

Three months on from a gripping and relentless title race reaching its conclusion, the Premier League is back.

Manchester City are aiming to become the first English team since Manchester United in 2008-09 to win three consecutive top-flight crowns, although Liverpool enter the campaign buoyed by their status as European champions.

Tottenham have finally bolstered Mauricio Pochettino's imperious management by making some big moves in the transfer market, while Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea find themselves in various stages of transition and possibly vulnerable to the top-six ambitions of Leicester City, Wolves and Everton.

Ahead of the big kick-off, nine Omnisport journalists considered the above and predicted their Premier League top six for 2019-20. Here's how our scores averaged out.

1st – Manchester City

A near unanimous choice as champions, eight of our panel backed Pep Guardiola's men to make it three in a row on the back of 100- and 98-point hauls in the past two campaigns.

STRENGTHS: Even allowing for Leroy Sane's knee injury and potential departure, City boast a stacked attack where Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez will be bolstered by triumphant international outings. Their midfield dominance will only be enhanced by a fit-again Kevin De Bruyne and record signing Rodri.

WEAKNESSES: Vincent Kompany's departure leaves Guardiola a senior centre-back light and without one of the most inspirational leaders the Premier League has seen. Benjamin Mendy's fitness woes and questions over Oleksandr Zinchenko and Angelino's capacity to produce elite performances over the course of a season mean left-back is as close as City come to a problem position.

2nd – Liverpool

Despite their unforgettable heroics in Europe, seven of our writers believe Jurgen Klopp's men will be the bridesmaids once more.

STRENGTHS: The best defence in the league, including a pair of full-backs as good as any operating in tandem in world football. Similarly, Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane remain a fearsome attacking proposition for all opponents.

WEAKNESSES: There is onus on Naby Keita to improve and Jordan Henderson to excel in his advanced role over a prolonged period as midfield creativity is often lacking. The drop-off between the first-choice front three and the back-up underlines a relative lack of depth that a quiet transfer window did not address.

3rd – Tottenham

Outside of the top two, Spurs were the only other unanimous pick to finish in the top six.

STRENGTHS: Tanguy Ndombele was a headline-grabbing addition and, although Pochettino would undoubtedly have preferred an earlier arrival, Giovani Lo Celso should ease the creative burden placed on Christian Eriksen and thrive behind Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.

WEAKNESSES: An ageing defence could find itself overworked in protecting the talented but error-prone Hugo Lloris. Having been a position of strength, Kieran Trippier's departure leaves Spurs looking slightly flimsy at full-back.

4th – Manchester United

The mixed nature of United's preparations – from strong friendly showings to a now typically disjointed effort in the transfer market – resulted in the widest range of predicted placings, with two of our panel placing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men outside the top six.

STRENGTHS: Pace and flair in attack, enhanced by the raw but exciting Daniel James. United paid top dollar for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire but the pair should add steel to what had become a troublingly leaky defence. On ability alone, Paul Pogba remains in this column.

WEAKNESSES: Romelu Lukaku's departure felt increasingly necessary but United now lack a proven, consistent goalscorer. Despite his status as a club legend, Solskjaer's lofty position in the sack race odds tells you all you need to know about a manager whose credentials – or lack thereof – will be under the microscope at the first sign of trouble.

5th – Arsenal

Despite two votes going in favour of the Gunners ending their Champions League absence this time around, the consensus was Unai Emery's team will fall short despite providing their fair share of entertainment.

STRENGTHS: Adding record signing Nicolas Pepe to an attack featuring Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette means the Gunners can do serious damage to any opponent and could become a must-watch team. Dani Ceballos excelled as Spain claimed glory at the European Under-21 Championship and could prove to be one of the most shrewd acquisitions of the transfer window.

WEAKNESSES: The other element in Arsenal's appeal to neutrals is a defence that might never veer too far away from shambles. David Luiz and Kieran Tierney were much-needed arrivals on deadline day but a new-look backline has plenty to prove.

6th - Chelsea

Leicester's top-six credentials were given strong consideration but Chelsea just edged out the Foxes, despite Frank Lampard's lack of top-flight experience and having their hands tied in the transfer market.

STRENGTHS: Lampard's affinity with the supporters means last season's poisonous negativity surrounding Maurizio Sarri's reign should be a thing of the past. The likes of Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and injured duo Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are expected to thrive as Lampard gives chances to graduates from the best youth system in the country.

WEAKNESSES: Eden Hazard's combined goals (16) and assists (15) last season accounted for almost half of Chelsea's Premier League goals. Making up for that shortfall will be nigh on impossible. Sarri was not flavour of the month in west London but the fact is a coach poached by Serie A heavyweights Juventus has been replaced by a man with one year of senior managerial experience.

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