Manchester City, by Arthur Ferridge
Coming off the back of a historic treble winning campaign in which Erling Haaland scored a stunning 52 goals in all competitions, all eyes will be on the Cityzens and their talismanic Norwegian striker to see whether they can repeat the feat. After impressing in their opening three Premier League fixtures, it seems Manchester skies may stay blue for the foreseeable future.
Following such a successful season, City’s summer transfer business has been relatively quiet. The outgoing Ilkay Gundogan, Aymeric Laporte, and Riyad Mahrez have been replaced by the highly rated Croatian center back Josko Gvardiol, attacking midfielder Jeremy Doku, Portugal’s Matheus Nunes, and Mateo Kovacic, who is looking like a tidy bargain at 25 million pounds following a lackluster Chelsea campaign. City could soon rue the deadline day departure of starlet Cole Palmer, a 21-year old with seemingly limitless potential who has moved to Chelsea after having already netted in both the Community Shield and Super Cup.
At many times last season, it seemed that no team could hold a candle to City. Finishing with just five losses and a goal difference of 64, their dominance was undeniable. With Pep Guardiola at the helm, arguably the best manager in the world, there is very little evidence to suggest that City will be deposed.
Newcastle United, by Raff Tindale
With last season seeing Eddie Howe’s Newcastle secure their highest top-flight finish since the 2002/2003 Premier League season, the expectation for the Magpies to perform is higher than ever. With the club competing in the Champions League for the first time in over two decades, the hopes of the Newcastle faithful are at an all-time high, but will European football prove to be a distraction for Eddie Howe’s men, or will the club’s 60+ year long trophy drought finally be ended this campaign?
Newcastle finished 4th in the Premier League in the 22/23 term, their highest finish for over two decades. With traditional top six clubs such as Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham not performing up to standard, Newcastle pounced on the chance to return Champions League football to St. James’ Park. A season which brought back hope and excitement to the Geordie faithful, the pressure for Eddie Howe to continue improving this season is apparent. While Newcastle have undoubtedly improved the squad quality and depth with summer signings of Sandro Tonali, Harvey Barnes, Toni Livramento and Lewis Hall, many fans remain sceptical as to whether the club can retain their top four status this coming term. With Premier League clubs spending a combined £2.36bn this summer transfer window, Newcastle is certainly not the only club who have spent big this summer. With the quality of the league and their opponents forever improving, in tandem with the added minutes of European football, the amplified physical and mental demand on the players has the potential to lead to a drop-off in form and quality. Newcastle head into the international break having amassed an underwhelming three points from four games. While early on in the season, it is clear Eddie Howe’s team have to improve if they have any chance of retaining their Champions League spot next season.
With Newcastle drawing Paris-Saint-Germain, Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan in Champions League Group F, the Magpies' return to European football may prove to be Eddie Howe’s toughest challenge yet. A group which includes the French champions, the Bundesliga runners-up and last year’s UCL semi-finalists, many fans believe it would be nothing short of a miracle to see Newcastle advance to the latter stages of the competition. But with the fortress that is St. James’ Park, nothing is certain. Newcastle only lost twice at home last season, and backed by a fanbase who haven’t seen European football for over two decades, St. James’ will not be an easy place to pick up points for their European opponents. While Newcastle are by no means favourites to advance to the round of 16, there is no doubt Eddie Howe’s men won’t go out without a fight.
While Premier League clubs do not enter the FA Cup until January, Newcastle have drawn Manchester City in the third round of the EFL cup. Newcastle reached the final of the competition last year, ultimately losing to Manchester United at Wembley, and it is certain Eddie Howe will look to the domestic competitions once more to end the club’s 67-year trophy drought. But with Pep Guardiola’s treble winning Manchester City in their way, Newcastle may have to turn their attentions to the FA Cup to achieve their goal.
Brentford, by Dan Balliston
Brentford’s second season in the Premier League could not have gone much better as the Bees now sit as an established Premier League side looking to break into the European spots. The loss of talismanic striker and last season’s top scorer, Ivan Toney, to the thoroughly documented betting scandal will certainly not aid Brentford’s push to improve on their ninth-place finish last season; however, there is so much more to the London club than just their excellent striker.
In Thomas Frank, the Bees have one of the most promising young coaches out of a fantastic group of innovative managers operating in the top-flight. The way in which the Dane has turned players such as Bryan Mbeumo, Rico Henry and Christian Norgaard into established Premier League players, who are now turning into match-winners, proves that Brentford really are no one-man team.
Even the loss of ever reliable goalkeeper, David Raya, to Arsenal, does not appear to have troubled the Bees as the 3-0 victory away at Fulham followed a very respectable 2-2 draw against a rejuvenated Tottenham Hotspur side. Home form will again be key for Brentford after just two losses out of nineteen at the G-Tech stadium last time out, including a 4-0 victory over Manchester United and 1-0 triumph over eventual treble winners, Manchester City.
A very quiet transfer window and the reintegration of Toney into a settled front three in January will take some careful management; however, Thomas Frank has not got an awful lot wrong in his tenure so far so Brentford fans should be able to look forward to another year of supposed overachieving that is very quickly becoming an expectation.
Crystal Palace, by Mitchell Hall
The start of a new season in football symbolically marks a new beginning and new aspirations, a clean slate on which to build a fresh story. As romantic as that sounds it doesn’t entirely ring true for Crystal Palace who, coming off the back of a turbulent time for the club, must work to steady the ship before setting off on a new course.
Crystal Palace’s summer was always going to be a struggle, with the inevitable yet somehow surreal departure of long-time talisman Wilfried Zaha replacing the usual sense of anticipation with one of anxiety. Things looked to go from bad to worse for the South London outfit as rumours kicked up of a Chelsea swoop for Michael Olise, during the storm of which Palace made their first positive move of the window, a near £20 million move for Brazilian teenager Matheus Franca from Flamengo. The late window saw Olise renew his contract, as well as the shrewd signings of Rob Holding and Dean Henderson for depth.
The results Palace have picked up so far seem to align with the vision of stabilising the club. None of their first three fixtures yielded more than two goals, with just 4 across the three fixtures and Palace being responsible for only two. A narrow home win against Sheffield United on opening day, followed by a tight loss to title hopefuls Arsenal and a draw against a strong Brentford side, might suggest that the Eagles are not in danger but shouldn’t hold their breath for a spellbinding season. As the team grows in confidence and receive the boost from return injuries of Olise and Franca, they might seek to rush the top half in the latter stages of the season, but with the quality present in the league this year don’t be surprised if Palace can only surge to around 12th.
West Ham United, by Castor Chan
Despite the loss of Declan Rice that had fans grumbling over the summer period, the Hammers seem to have recovered their mojo. Currently visible on the FPL app League Table (fourth to be precise), manager David Moyes will be gleeful over how this season has kicked off.
West Ham had a shocking start to last season, with the top 10 form from the year prior nowhere to be seen. But some incredibly late signings - and the record breaking £105m from Rice’s transfer - seem to have perked up Moyes’ side, with new names like Edson Álvarez, Mohammed Kudus, and James Ward-Prowse. Alphonse Areola’s move to starting goalie has also proven to be a clever choice, with the Frenchman boasting an 81% save percentage.
Bournemouth 1 - 1 West Ham was the first result of the season, one that was mildly frustrating for Irons fans. After an away goal by Bowen in the 51st minute, it seemed like a potential win despite two shots hitting the post earlier on. But Dominic Solanke - who West Ham had bid for just a month prior - denied them with an 82nd minute goal to draw the match. A subsequent 3 - 1 win against Chelsea had West Ham looking strong and Paqueta’s status as a key part of West Ham cemented.
But the tide truly turned when Brighton finally fell to the Hammers after a 12-game winless streak. Ward-Prowse shone on the pitch by delivering the first blow 19 minutes in, then two more goals (Bowen, Michail Antonio) in the second half had fans on the edge of their seats. That three goal lead would prevail despite a staggering 6 minutes of added time and 78% possession by the Seagulls, and that win was like a breath of fresh air. This match was one where you could truly see the players making the most of every chance they had and making it count. West Ham face a difficult month ahead, with Manchester City and Liverpool being their next two matchups. But if they continue to show that sharp precision and determination, along with how well the players seem to gel, I think West Ham can do something special this year.