Premier League 2017-18: Breaking down the upcoming season
For the last 25 years or so, the English Premier League has played an important role in shaping the history of modern football in England. Come August, every football fan patiently waits for the new season to start in hopes of reigniting the banter that passes along the masses and the sheer excitement one feels when their favourite club steps onto the field. Having said that, waiting for the new season can be tedious and filled with transfer rumours and gossip that may or may not be true. But one cannot underestimate the importance of the transfer window and its impact on the season overall.
For a football club, a transfer window can either make their season or crush it into pieces. It sounds dramatic but do allow me to present exhibit A: the year Arsenal invested and bought Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid was probably one of the best seasons the Gunners have had and ended their nine-year drought of a trophy-less season by winning the FA Cup 3-2 against Hull City. Similarly, when Manchester United bought Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid, it proved to be a little less successful, with the player leaving the club after just one and a half years making things rather difficult for the English giants.
This year is no less when it comes to breaking banks, partaking in controversial rumours, transfers and even a little hijacking of deals, and the first few game-weeks dictate the initial half of the league and allows the whole season to set in due motion and determines whether or not the signings made by all the clubs were worth the trouble.
In the North West, Liverpool and Greater Manchester Area's Manchester United will play Watford and West Ham respectively, to kick-off their season. The interesting thing about Liverpool this season is that they haven't made huge marquee signings and while that may come across as counter-productive, Jürgen Klopp seldom makes decisions that affect him adversely. One of the smarter moves made by the German boss this transfer window was to sign Mohamed Salah from Roma. This will be Salah's second crack at the Premier League, having played for Chelsea in 2014. His performance at London-based club was deemed more or less below average, although it could be due to limited game time.
However, Salah's exploits in Italy was rated as one of his bests. Traditionally a winger, the Egyptian has shown tremendous potential to be an excellent striker and can rotate his shifts with Sadio Mané. When the Reds play Watford next Saturday, all eyes will be on the new recruit, along with the likes of Emre Can and Jordan Henderson, following the exit of Lucas Leiva, who held Liverpool's defence for better or worse. Once a great club, Liverpool's reputation in the last decade or so has declined and while the era of John Arne Riise, Ian Rush, Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez may be a thing of past, Liverpool as a club will be determined this season to call themselves title contenders and eliminate any and all doubts one might have regarding their greatness.
Just a little North of Liverpool is Greater Manchester, where Manchester United will be up and ready for their campaign, leaving very little to chance this time. United have made some pre-eminent deals this window, with players like Victor Lindelof, Romelu Lukaku and the highly talked about arrival Nemanja Matic, who played a pivotal role in Chelsea's title winning campaign in 3 years ago. Having won the Europa League last season, the club was able to rope in high profile players and is still in the process of targeting a few prominent names in the world of football. However, with every addition that a football club makes to their team, they must also unload the players who no longer fit into the matrix of the team's fabric. As Wayne Rooney left for his boyhood club Everton and picked up his lost charm almost immediately in their pre-season campaign, many were left to wonder if the former United skipper and legend was just facing difficulties with the growing pressures of a 'high ranking club'.
The raging question this season, however, is whether or not the defensive problems that United faced last season are finally close to being solved with the arrival of Lindelof and Matic. Jose Mourinho's reign here has just started and the battle is far from being won. The 54-year old Portuguese will have to be clinical about his tactics and outplay the likes of Jürgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and old rival Arsene Wenger.
Moving East near the River of Tyne, Tottenham Hotspur will travel all the way to Newcastle to play their first game of 2017-18. With no additional signings made this season, it would seem that Spurs are extremely confident in their doings. After finishing second last season, Mauricio Pochettino seems to have no doubts about their performance. Top scorer Harry Kane will be the one to watch out for as they make a move for the top 4 position this season as well.
In the South, towards London, another massive club also prepares to break all records and set this season on fire. Based in Highbury, Arsenal FC will be playing Leicester City FC at the Emirates, creating one cracker of an atmosphere. Last season Arsene Wenger, Arsenal's French manager, was bashed for the poor performance the North Londoners put forth, creating uncertainty regarding his future. That is not the case anymore, with the Gunners putting their faith in his hands yet again. The signing of Alexandre Lacazette from French club Olympique Lyonnais has seen their probability of performing well this season double, but puts the future of Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in danger. Their main goal for Saturday will be to defeat the former Premier League winners by a margin that speaks of their intentions of being title challengers this season.
Just a few kilometres from Highbury comes Fulham, where Chelsea FC will be gunning up for their opening day match just as well as anyone can expect from the defending champions. Chelsea has been solid in their playing style and has shown incredible tactical finesse. With two of their main players gone, Conte broke the bank for players like Antonio Rüdiger, Alvaro Morata and Tiémoué Bakayoko, making sure that their line up is fierce and indestructible. Similar to Manchester United, Chelsea said goodbye to their veteran captain John Terry who signed for Aston Villa. Terry served as the most successful captain in the history of the club, which won its fifth Premier League title last season; and by the looks of it, they don't intend to stop at that number. Is a sixth title in play?
This season is full of possibilities not because the teams are in full motion and bloom, but because every team knows exactly what they want. Even the newly promoted teams Newcastle United FC, Brighton and Hove Albion FC, and Huddersfield FC understand what's at stake. That is the beauty of the Premier League, it lets you know unerringly what it needs from you and the teams happily oblige. For the fans, the league means a lot more that they let on. It promotes passion, belief and togetherness. The fact that they get to be a part of something so much bigger all at once is what makes the PL one of the most popular leagues in the world.