By Gbenga Isaac Abuja
Arsenal will kick off the Premier League season tonight when they take on Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium. Th e Gunners had a below par 2016/17, with a poor run of form ensuring they dropped to the Europa League for the fi rst time in the Arsene Wenger era. Th ey have made some forays into the transfer market, bringing in Alexander Lacazette and Bosnian left back Saed Kolasinac. Th ey go into the game on the back of a community shield victory and will look to get the better of a Leicester side still led by Craig Shakespeare.
Th e Foxes themselves had a season to forget under Ranieri but went through a resurgent period, thanks to Shakespeare, winning a bucket load of games to ensure Premier League safety. Th e objective this season is to ensure that doesn’t happen, and what better way to get started? Tomorrow, Liverpool will get the action rolling with a tie against Watford at Vicarage road.
Th e Reds failure to sustain a consistent title challenge saw them fi nish 4th to qualify for the Champions League, pending a playoff victory. Jurgen Klopp has been quiet in the transfer window with his most high profile signing being Mohammed Salah, as well as young starlet Dominic Solanke. Watford did well to secure Marco Silva as their new manager and have recently added the impressive Nathaniel Chalobah to their ranks. Th ey will now look to start their season in the best way possible. Defending champions Chelsea are also in action against Burnley. Th e Blues have not had the preparation they would have wanted, losing infl uential players Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic as well as a replacement striker in Romelu Lukaku. With more games to play this season compared to the last, the Chelsea squad is thin, and even the arrivals of Antonio Rudiger and Tiemeue Bakayoko is unlikely to ensure a successful title defence this season. Th ey looked extremely short of ideas against Arsenal in the Community Shield in the absence of Eden Hazard, but this is a game they are very unlikely to lose. Manchester City will travel to tackle new boys Brighton and Hove Albion at the Falmer Stadium. Th e Citizens have had an expensive summer, bringing goalkeeper Ederson, fullbacks Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy as well as midfi elder Bernardo Silva. Th ey have also sanctioned some sales, with popular names Gael Clichy, Aleksander Kolarov, Pablo Zabaleta and Kelechi Iheanacho among those to leave. All eyes will be on them this season, but Brighton, led by Chris Hughton have some classy players in the ranks too, with Anthony Knockaert and Glenn Murray able to pop up when it matters. It should be a dicey game. Free spending Everton will host Stoke City at Goodison Park. Th e Toff ees have been extremely busy in the market, bringing in the likes of Sandro Ramirez, Davy Klaassen, Jordan Pickford as wel as former striker Wayne Rooney. Th ey did lose Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United though, and look set to lose Ross Barkley as well. Th ey have nevertheless been clever in the window and could be set for a fantastic season should the new signings live up to expectations.
Stoke have had to contend with losing key player Marko Arnautovic to West Ham, but they will feel they have enough in their ranks to pick up a win on the road. Southampton will entertain Swansea at St.Mary’s stadium. Both sides are battling to keep their key players going into the new season, with defender Virgil Van Dijk handing in a transfer request at Southampton while Swansea have rejected two bids in the region of 45m for Sigurdsson. Van Dijk is unlikely to play in this game but Sigurdsson should be available. Huddersfi eld town are another one of the new boys in action as they face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.
West Brom and Bournemouth will aim for a winning start to the season when they clash at the Hawthorns. On Sunday, Manchester United will tackle West Ham at Old Traff ord. Th e Red Devils will be hoping Mourinho’s second season will be much better compared to his fi rst. Although the Special One picked up three trophies in all competitions, his United side had to settle for a 6th placed fi nish in the League thanks to a string of draws.
Th ree players have been brought in to bolster the squad in defender Victor Lindelof, striker Romelu Lukaku and defensive midfi elder Nemanja Matic. United’s main problems last season were poor fi nishing and a lack of balance in midfi eld, and the latter two are expected to help sort out the problem. West Ham have made some impressive reinforcements themselves, bringing in Pablo Zabaleta and goalkeeper Joe Hart. Former United striker Javier Hernandez has also joined the Hammers and he is set to face his old club. Tottenham will take on newly promoted Newcastle United at the Sports Direct Arena.
Spurs will look to build on their title charge of last season, although they haven’t done anything worthy of note in the transfer market. Th ey have already lost Kyle Walker to Manchester City and now left back Danny Rose seems to want out. Not the start to the season they would have wanted. Newcastle United on the other hand will make Premier League safety their priority, having successfully made it back to the fi rst division at the fi rst time of asking.