The 2016/17 Premier League season has quietly crept up on us just 88 days after Leicester City shocked the world with their astounding title win.
Leicester were priced at 5000/1 at the beginning of last season, but there is no repeat this time around as bookmakers are offering 33/1 to defend their title at the time of writing.
Despite losing N’Golo Kante to Chelsea, The Foxes have kept the core of their league-winning squad together, with top scorer Jamie Vardy signing a new contract.
They have also been boosted by the signings of pacy striker Ahmed Musa and Nampalys Mendy, who is seen as a direct replacement for Kante in midfield.
Whether Leicester can retain their crown remains to be seen, especially with Champions League commitments providing a distraction from their domestic exploits.
If there is one lesson we can learn from last season it’s not to write Claudio Ranieri’s side off.
Elsewhere, the two Manchester clubs look set to slug it out for the spoils with Arsenal and Chelsea.
New Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has signed an impressive array of young talent including £47.5m John Stones, and City will start the campaign as favourites.
Guardiola, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss, has left a glittering trail of trophies behind wherever he has worked and will be aiming to crown his first year in charge at the Etihad with the league title.
Arch rival Jose Mourinho has also made some big signings at Manchester United, breaking the world record transfer fee for Paul Pogba (£89m), while Zlatan Ibrahimovic (free), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£26.3m) and Eric Bailly (£30m) are the other notable acquisitions.
Arsenal have been much quieter, signing only defenders Rob Holding and striker Takuma Asano. With manager Arsene Wenger again reluctant to strengthen his squad, it falls upon his talented team to take a step up in form – however previous seasons suggest it may be too great an ask.
Tottenham have again been quiet in the transfer market after their young side fell at the final hurdle last term.
Mauricio Pochettino has signed midfielder Victor Wanyama (£11m) from former club Southampton and Ajax striker Vincent Janssen (£17m) to give Harry Kane some competition up front.
Chelsea will be aiming for a much better season under new boss Antonio Conte, and the wily Italian will only have the domestic campaign to concentrate on after the London club failed to qualify for European competition.
Michy Batshuayi (£33m) and Kante (£30m) are the club’s big signings and, with Eden Hazard looking best to his best at the Euros, Conte will have plenty to work with as The Blues target a top four place.
Liverpool are outside bets, with boss Jurgen Klopp signing unheralded goalkeeper Loris Karius and centre-back Ragnar Klavan from the German Bundesliga, along with highly-rated defender Joel Matip.
Forwards Sadio Mane (£30m) and Georginio Wijnaldum (£23m) are the biggest deals for the Anfield club so far.
Relegation-wise, the likes of Burnley and Hull appear to be struggling.
Hull have yet to appoint a permanent manager after Steve Bruce’s departure and have made very few signings of note, bringing in only Jonathan Edwards (free) from Peterborough United.
Hull’s squad is dominated by Premier League has-beens such as Jake Livermore, Tom Huddlestone, Michael Dawson and Shaun Maloney.
Burnley will be motivated by the positivity of manager Sean Dyche, but their squad also looks bare and consists of the majority of players relegated from the Premier League
The Clarets will be heavily reliant on the goals of Andre Gray and Sam Vokes, but their defence might not be up to the task – which should prove to be their downfall.
Other than that duo, West Brom have had a tough summer and although they will enjoy a fresh injection of cash from new owner Guochuan Lai their aging squad looks vulnerable this season.
If striker Saido Berahino ends up leaving The Hawthorns this summer The Baggies will seriously struggle for goals.
Boss Tony Pulis loves a challenge and it may be one of the greatest achievements of his managerial career if he keeps Albion up.
Here are my predictions for the 2016/17 season:
- Manchester City
- Manchester United
- West Ham
- Leicester City
- Crystal Palace
- West Brom
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