More stoppage time, Saudi spectre and City eye four in a row – PL talking points
Players are preparing to return to Premier League action beginning on August 11, with champions Manchester City looking to follow up an historic campaign last time.
Pep Guardiola’s side are favourites to add another title to their honour roll after last season’s Treble, though rivals will be confident of at least closing the gap.
Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the talking points ahead of the 2023-24 campaign.
City to make history… again?
No English club have won four consecutive league titles, so Manchester City stand once again on the precipice of making history.
How the team respond to last season’s remarkable Treble – whether it will be the catalyst for domination domestically and in Europe or will hang over them like a cloud – is the main question ahead of Guardiola’s eighth season in charge, particularly after finishing the last campaign on such a high.
Manchester United added back-to-back titles after their Treble success in 1999, and with City seemingly not getting any weaker it will be hard to look past them matching their great rivals’ feat again.
Chelsea bidding to return to the elite
Chelsea finished last season in need of major surgery but early indications are that the club are using pre-season effectively, both on and off the pitch, to turn things around.
Transfer activity has looked promising with a bloated squad having been slimmed down, even if new head coach Mauricio Pochettino has emphasised the need for further cuts.
Recruitment has been more targeted to the team’s requirements than in previous windows, with Nicolas Jackson and Christopher Nkunku having impressed in attack on the tour of the United States, while player fitness has also improved.
A return to the Champions League next season after a dismal 12th-place finish last term will likely be viewed as the minimum requirement.
Added time to add up
A significant increase in time added on at the end of either half split opinion when it was introduced at last year’s World Cup, but the change is set to apply to Premier League games this season.
The stated aim from FIFA is to eradicate time-wasting and increase the proportion of a match that the ball is in play.
Luton looking to home comforts
Luton were one of the 22 original signatories to the document that founded the Premier League, but after being relegated in 1992 it has taken the Hatters 33 years to finally take their place back in England’s top flight.
Apart from the novelty of the club’s 10,356-capacity Kenilworth Road becoming the smallest ever Premier League ground – with its famous away entrance that involves effectively cutting through somebody’s back garden – there will be the question of how cut out Rob Edwards’ side are for competing in the world’s richest league.
There has been little transfer activity to reinforce Edwards’ promotion heroes so far, with Aston Villa’s Marvelous Nakamba the only player in with significant Premier League experience. The cramped, inhospitable conditions of their home ground could prove their greatest asset if they are to beat the drop.
The spectre of Saudi Arabia
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has said he is not concerned about the growing financial power of Saudi Arabia and its success so far in luring world stars, but the conversation about the Pro League’s emergence as an attractive home to players still in their prime is unlikely to die down soon.
The question of co-ownership and its potential to undermine Financial Fair Play will continue to be asked, as it was when Allan Saint-Maximin moved from Newcastle to Al Ahli – two clubs owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund – for £23million.
Masters may be moved to revise his outlook should the exodus of stars to the Gulf state continue.
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