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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

All is calm at Arsenal as they face Leicester before Chelsea storm into action against Burnley

A summer of obscene spending might still have a few weeks to run, but at least there will be a little bit of football to distract from the transfer market frenzy, starting at the Emirates Stadium on Friday night when the Premier League kicks off.

Arsenal have bought quality players and look optimistic about improving their fortunes in the Premier League in the new season. Hannah McKay / Reuters
Arsenal have bought quality players and look optimistic about improving their fortunes in the Premier League in the new season. Hannah McKay / Reuters

Arsenal v Leicester City, Friday, 10.45pm

Was this the summer Arsene Wenger finally changed his spots? He shelled out a fortune on a sought-after striker that people had actually heard of, in Alexandre Lacazette.

He bought a defender, Sead Kolasinac, who is more Desperate Dan than Fancy Dan.

And there has not even been a protest about him still being in charge for months. Heady days.

Kelechi Iheanacho, newly arrived at Leicester from Manchester City, will hope to puncture the cautious optimism at the Emirates.

Also read: Arsenal begin new season at crossroads under Wenger

Watford v Liverpool, Saturday, 3.30pm

Watford might have ended up with their ideal manager – by chance. The Pozzos, the club’s owners, initially had former Bayer Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt fitted out for the role, before being spooked by his all-out attack gameplan.

Marco Silva arrived instead having left Hull City. He looks a neat fit, and he landed some decent firepower this week when striker Andre Gray arrived from Burnley. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool provide a tough first assignment.

Also read:

Jon Turner: Salah adds more potency to Liverpool attack

Richard Jolly: Klopp and Liverpool aim for consistency

Antonio Conte, left, could well walk away in disillusionment by Christmas or win the league title two seasons in a row. Andrew Couldridge / Reuters
Antonio Conte, left, could well walk away in disillusionment by Christmas or win the league title two seasons in a row. Andrew Couldridge / Reuters

Chelsea v Burnley, Saturday, 6pm

Antonio Conte, out by Christmas? If he keeps letting his goalkeeper take penalties, then probably.

Recent history shows that winning the league is not a guarantee of long-term employment for the manager of Chelsea. In fact, being the manager of Chelsea at all is not really a guarantee of long-term employment.

If he does not get the players that he wants, maybe the Italian manager will walk, anyway.

Or maybe they will just blitz the league again.

Chelsea's opening-day strike in 2013/14

Also read:

Ian Hawkey: Five men from Barca's class of 99 rival Premier League managers

Crystal Palace v Huddersfield Town, Saturday, 6pm

This time last year, David Wagner explained Huddersfield’s pressing game, their “Terrier identity” as he describes it, thus: “We are not the biggest dog, we are small, but we are aggressive, we are not afraid, we like to compete with the big dogs.”

And that was before a season in League One. Now, after promotion to the Premier League, his yapping pups are up against the Great Danes of the Premier League.

They can measure themselves on the opening weekend against the Medium Danes of Palace, with their new Dutch manager Frank de Boer.

Wayne Rooney has a new challenge in his career. Peter Byrne / Press Association
Wayne Rooney has a new challenge in his career. Peter Byrne / Press Association

Everton v Stoke City, Saturday, 6pm

Fifteen years after he last debuted for Everton, Wayne Rooney is giving it another go.

Back then, a much-hyped teenager took on the world with youthful brio, infusing everyone who watched with the feeling they were seeing greatness in the making.

Now, with a glorious future long behind him, it feels more a case of Ronald Koeman trying to eke what he can from the world’s oldest 31 year old, starting against Stoke.

Southampton v Swansea City, Saturday, 6pm

While these two estimable clubs go about their business on the field, perhaps Virgil van Dijk and Gylfi Sigurdsson can get together in the stands to quarrel over who has been the most hard done to.

Southampton centre-back Van Dijk wants to join a “top club” – so long as one of them is still interested, he says.

Sigurdsson, meanwhile, has been hoping to smooth the path from Swansea to Everton.

The match might provide a pointer as to whose loss will be felt more greatly.

Also from Richard Jolly:

Team-by-team guide and top half predictions

Team-by-team guide and bottom half predictions

West Bromwich Albion v Bournemouth, Saturday, 6pm

With this being the 25th year of the Premier League, there has been plenty of reflection on the past just lately.

West Brom and Bournemouth have got into the spirit of it all by staging their own reunions.

Gary Megson is back in the home dug-out, as assistant to Tony Pulis. He started managing West Brom 17 years ago, at the same time as a young buck called Jermain Defoe was tearing up trees at Bournemouth – just as he will be hoping to do again now.

Pep Guardiola faces the challenge of winning silverware for Manchester City. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images
Pep Guardiola faces the challenge of winning silverware for Manchester City. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester City, Saturday, 8.30pm

Brighton plumbed the depths before returning to English football’s top flight.

They know how hard life can be, so, as such, they probably did not want a nice, easy, one-off-the-mark on their Premier League debut anyway.

Chris Hughton’s side will be straight in at the deep end, welcoming the superstars of City, newly reconfigured under the guidance of the ultimate Galacticoach, Pep Guardiola.

City's opening-day strike in 2015/16

Also read: With youth, power and pace, Man City now shaped in Guardiola's image

Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur, Sunday, 4.30pm

The last time this fixture happened, Newcastle gave Spurs a hiding. Then the winners sloped down to the second tier, while the losers headed off to play in the Uefa Champions League at Wembley.

Weird how life works out. Mauricio Pochettino, the Spurs manager, carried that loss with him ill-temperedly through last summer. Maybe it partly fuelled his team’s sparkling campaign.

Bettering their exploits of last term will be tough having relocated to Wembley for the full season.

Manchester United v West Ham United, Sunday, 7pm

Jose Mourinho clearly has a better command of language than he does iffy English soap operas. He said last week the Europa League is not football’s “Eldorado”.

In the literal sense of it being the land of wealth and opportunity, clearly he is right. But in many ways it is like the short-lived TV show from the early ‘90s: second-rate, dull storylines, nondescript participants.

Mourinho knows United belong in more luminous company than they were last season, and has built a side to take them there – and perhaps even to the Premier League title.

Also read:

Steve Luckings: Mkhitaryan maturing into one of Mourinho's most trusted men

Jose Mourinho's Manchester United are in a better position ahead of the new season. Thanassis Stavrakis / AP Photo
Jose Mourinho's Manchester United are in a better position ahead of the new season. Thanassis Stavrakis / AP Photo
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