Harry Kane transfer saga casts huge shadow over feature match in Gameweek 1
The English Premier League season is set to kick off a new season this afternoon, with Manchester City, champions in three of the past four seasons, already the team to beat.
Even before a ball has been kicked, City have raised the bar to a level not seen before with the British-record £100 million signing of midfielder Jack Grealish from Aston Villa last week. And just in case other would-be title contenders have any doubts about the spending power at a club such as City, Shaun Goater’s former club are also still interested in adding Harry Kane, the Tottenham Hotspur and England captain, to their squad.
As yesterday’s headline in the Daily Star stated: “Man City preparing ‘new £127 million Harry Kane bid’ as Pep Guardiola refuses to give up”.
Premier League clubs outside the elite top six can only sit back and watch as the best players go to the top clubs who have the money to pay exorbitant transfer fees and wages.
Even so, clubs can still dream, like Leicester City did in 2015-16 when they won the Premier League against the odds. Leicester should be good enough to compete for a top-four spot this season along with City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham.
Crowds will make a welcome return to football grounds this season, bringing back the special atmosphere that English football is known for.
Brentford v Arsenal
Two clubs with much to prove this season as Brentford embark on their first season in the top flight, while Arsenal are aiming to build on last season’s modest eighth-place finish. Manager Thomas Frank has promised that Brentford will continue to play the attacking style that brought them the highest number of Sky Bet Championship goals last season, 79, on their way to promotion via the play-offs.
Survival will be their main priority, but Arsenal’s fans will be demanding better than a mid-table finish.
Manchester United v Leeds United
Manchester United are desperate to make the title race closer than it was last season when they second a distant 12 points behind the champions. Leeds enjoyed a good first season back in the top flight, finishing comfortably in ninth place, just two points behind Arsenal and with the same number of wins, 18. It should give them something even higher to aim for this season.
Burnley v Brighton & Hove Albion
Two teams that could be battling to stay clear of the lower half of the tables. Only two points separated them last season, Brighton finishing in sixteenth place and Burnley in seventeenth, but already they have been tipped as two of the clubs who could be fighting for survival.
Chelsea v Crystal Palace
Chelsea were another team making the headlines after they closed in on a deal to bring Romelu Lukaku back to the club. The Belgium striker was a Chelsea player between 2011 and 2014, but was not rated by José Mourinho and spent most of his time out on loan. But after an outstanding season with Inter Milan, having established himself first at Everton and then at Manchester United, the West London club forked out £97.5 million to bring the striker back to the Premier League.
Everton v Southampton
This clash between two bottom-half-of-the-table teams should be a close one, as visitors Southampton unveil new striker Adam Armstrong, the replacement for Danny Ings, who has moved to Aston Villa. Armstrong netted 29 goals for Blackburn Rovers in the Championship last season.
Leicester City v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Two Midlands clubs who finished in different halves of the table last season. Leicester finished a creditable fifth place while Wolves were in thirteenth, although comfortably above the relegation zone.
Watford v Aston Villa
Watford have boosted their squad ahead of their return to the Premier League, one of them being Everton striker Joshua King who is a former Bournemouth player. King signed a two-year contract and will be a key man in their front line as they bid to survive. Villa will enter the season without Grealish but with plenty to spend on new players to boost their ranks.
Norwich City v Liverpool
A tough return to the top flight for Norwich as they host the previous league champions. Norwich won the Championship last season and have tied head coach Daniel Farke to a new, four-year contract. Farke led them back to the top flight at the first time of asking and has followed up with a new contract until 2025.
Liverpool finished third in their failed attempt to defend their title and should be among the title contenders yet again under manager Jürgen Klopp.
Newcastle United v West Ham United
After an outstanding season, which saw them finish sixth, West Ham will aim to prove that they can manage something similar this season. They even finished ahead of North London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal. Newcastle finished twelfth last season, comfortably above the relegation zone.
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City
Champions Manchester City can hardly expected a warm reception when they visit Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for their season-opener, given their summer pursuit of Harry Kane, the Spurs talisman.
Tottenham legend Glenn Hoddle believes the club will have to consider selling Kane should City offer £150 million for the England captain. Kane did make feature for Spurs in pre-season and is not expected even to be in the squad on Sunday.
He has yet to make a public comment on his Spurs future, but it has been widely reported that he is keen to leave the club and sign for the Premier League champions. A bid of £150 million may just be too much for chairman Daniel Levy, a notoriously tough negotiator, to turn down.