Premier League title contenders: How ready are the big teams?

The Premier League returns on Friday when champions Manchester City launch the defence of their title against promoted Burnley at Turf Moor.

Pep Guardiola’s team, who achieved a Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League treble last season, are aiming to write more history this time around by becoming the first English club to win four successive league titles.

But two months on from lifting the European Cup following a win against Inter Milan in Istanbul, City have seen their domestic rivals strengthen their squads at the same time as Guardiola’s side has lost key players Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez.

So can we expect one of the chasing pack to beat Man City to the title this season? Or will the champions do it again?

With the 2023-24 season upon us, and three more weeks to go before the transfer window closes on Sept. 1, how are the main contenders shaping up, and how much more do they need to do make themselves title challengers?

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City confirmed themselves as the best club side in the world last season, but football moves on, and they are arguably weaker now than they were two months ago. The loss of Gundogan and Mahrez will be keenly felt by Guardiola’s side. Mateo Kovacic brings proven quality and experience from Chelsea, but he is no Gundogan, and City are still to replace Mahrez.

Josko Gvardiol’s arrival from RB Leipzig has made a formidable defence even stronger, but it is debatable as to whether City needed reinforcements at the back ahead of attacking signings. The big question for City is what they will do if they lose striker Erling Haaland to injury for a period of time. The Norway international avoided fitness setbacks last season and City reaped the rewards, but it would be a big ask of Julian Alvarez to fill the void if Haaland is sidelined.

Meanwhile, after missing out on Jude Bellingham and Declan Rice, City have been unable to add emerging talent to their midfield. And they could still lose Kyle Walker, Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo this window, so the next three weeks will be crucial for their hopes this season.

FIRST-TEAM INS: Mateo Kovacic (£30 million), Josko Gvardiol (£77.5m)

FIRST-TEAM OUTS: Ilkay Gundogan (free), Riyad Mahrez (£30m), Benjamin Mendy (released)


Arsenal have declared that they mean business with their summer recruitment. Big, ambitious deals for Declan Rice and Kai Havertz, followed by the signing of Ajax defender Jurrien Timber, have seen the Gunners address key areas of their squad and show that they are serious about winning the title for the first time in 20 years.

Rice will give Mikel Arteta’s team power and leadership in midfield, more than making up for the departure of Granit Xhaka to Bayer Leverkusen. And if they seal a deal for Brentford goalkeeper David Raya, the club will have two outstanding keepers in the Spaniard and Aaron Ramsdale.

But having led the Premier League for so long last season, only to slip up in the run-in, have Arsenal done enough? It is hard to suggest that they have fallen short in any department, so Arsenal are well-set to go one better than last season and win the Premier League.

But if there is one area they could address before the window shuts it is up front. With Gabriel Jesus injured again, Arteta needs an insurance policy by signing a new striker.

FIRST-TEAM INS: Declan Rice (£105m), Kai Havertz (£67.5m), Jurrien Timber (£35m)

FIRST-TEAM OUTS: Granit Xhaka (£21.4m), Pablo Mari (£4.2m), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (released)


United have benefited from the stability instilled by manager Erik ten Hag and enjoyed an impressive summer window by addressing all priority areas of recruitment. Ten Hag wanted to add dynamism and goals in midfield, a goalkeeper capable of launching attacks with his distribution and a centre-forward and, by signing Mason Mount, Andre Onana and Rasmus Hojlund, United have delivered for their manager.

But United still have business to do. Harry Maguire and Fred are likely to follow David de Gea through the exit door, with Scott McTominay also available. If those players move on, United will try to get a deal done for Fiorentina midfielder Sofyan Amrabat.

After a decade of bad decisions and stagnation, United appear to be on upward curve again, but they still look short of title winners. Much will depend on whether Hojlund settles quickly and scores regularly or if the 20-year-old finds it tough in his first season. But if United can get Amrabat signed before the deadline, they will have a squad capable of pushing for the title if they avoid injuries.

FIRST-TEAM INS: Mason Mount (£60m), Andre Onana (£47.2m), Rasmus Hojlund (£72m)

FIRST-TEAM OUTS: David de Gea (released), Anthony Elanga (£15m), Alex Telles (£4m), Phil Jones (released), Axel Tuanzebe (released)


Financial Fair Play restrictions have hampered Newcastle’s hopes of fast-tracking an upgrade of Eddie Howe’s squad, so only AC Milan midfielder Sandro Tonali and Leicester City winger Harvey Barnes have arrived at St James’ Park to date.

With a Champions League campaign on the agenda this season, Newcastle still look short of the depth of they will need to sustain a top four push in the Premier League, especially with Howe losing Allan Saint-Maximin and Chris Wood following summer exits.

Newcastle are likely to push hard for more attacking signings in the weeks ahead having missed out on RB Leipzig’s Dominik Szoboszlai to Liverpool. But having surprisingly qualified for the Champions League by finishing fourth last season, Newcastle need to do more to cope with the demands of the campaign ahead.

FIRST-TEAM INS: Sandro Tonali (£60m), Harvey Barnes (£38m)

FIRST-TEAM OUTS: Allan Saint-Maximin (£23m), Chris Wood (£14.5m), Ciaran Clark (released), Jamal Lewis (loan), Karl Darlow (£400,000)


Liverpool’s summer has all been about their midfield, but Jurgen Klopp’s plans have been turned upside down by the departures of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson to the Saudi Pro League.

Having released Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner at the end of last season, Liverpool added Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szobozlai as Klopp started to rebuild his midfield. But those plans initially included Fabinho and Henderson until big financial offers from Saudi Arabia forced the club to let the two experienced midfielders move on.

So as the season looms into view, Liverpool still need to add to their midfield to avoid being caught short with injuries or suspension. A move for Southampton’s Romeo Lavia is the priority, but even if they land the former Man City youngster, Liverpool will go into the season with too many new faces in a key area of the pitch.

Unless they can make at least two more signings, Liverpool could face a tough season.

FIRST-TEAM INS: Alexis Mac Allister (£35m), Dominik Szobozlai (£60m)

FIRST-TEAM OUTS: Fabinho (£40m), Jordan Henderson (£12m), Naby Keita, James Milner, Roberto Firmino, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (all released), Fabio Carvalho (loan)


Spurs have done plenty of business this summer and appointed a new manager by hiring former Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou, but the only transfer update that anyone connected to the club is interested in surrounds the future of Harry Kane. The England captain, now 30, has been the subject of speculation for three successive summers, but he looks closer than ever to leaving after sources told ESPN on Thursday that Spurs have accepted an offer in excess of €100 million from Bayern Munich.

Until, or unless, Kane says he will stay to see out the final year of his contract, his situation will hang over the club until the transfer window closes. If Kane stays, Spurs have a chance of finishing in the top four. If he goes, they will face a long, hard season simply trying to qualify for Europe. The club know the equation well enough, but the uncertainty helps nobody.

FIRST-TEAM INS: James Maddison (£40m), Pedro Porro (£34m), Dejan Kulusevski (£25m), Guglielmo Vicario (£17m), Manor Solomon (free)

FIRST-TEAM OUTS: Harry Winks (£10m), Lucas Moura (free)


Another summer of transfer upheaval at Chelsea, but the club still haven’t added a centre-forward to the squad. Christopher Nkunku (who has just been ruled out for “an extended period” following knee surgery) a and Nicolas Jackson will play in attack, but new coach Mauricio Pochettino does not have a No. 9 to build his forward line around.

Although Romelu Lukaku is still at the club, his future looks set to be away from Chelsea, so if Pochettino wants a centre-forward, he will have to look outside of Stamford Bridge for the answer, and it could yet be Juventus’ Dusan Vlahovic.

Until the dust settles on their summer ins and outs, it is impossible to predict whether Chelsea will bounce back from last season’s disastrous campaign or once again lurch from one slump to another. It will take time for Pochettino turn the team around, but the sooner Chelsea can find a striker, the better.

FIRST-TEAM INS: Christopher Nkunku (£58.2m), Nicolas Jackson (£34m), Angelo (£12.9m), Lesley Ugochukwu (£23.2m), Axel Disasi (£38m), Robert Sanchez (£25m)

FIRST-TEAM OUTS: Kai Havertz (£67.5m), Mason Mount (£60m), Mateo Kovacic (£30m), Kalidou Koulibaly (£20m), Christian Pulisic (£17m), Edouard Mendy (£15.8m), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£13.75m), Ethan Ampadu (£7m), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (undisclosed fee), Cesar Azpilicueta (free), Abdul Baba Rahman (free), N’Golo Kante (free), David Datro Fofana (loan)

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