On the eve of the Premier League campaign, there is plenty of anticipation ahead of what promises to be the most exciting season since the league’s inception.
The excitement and entertainment has continued to grow in each of the previous few seasons, and with so many teams capable of running the title race, the unpredictability only adds to spectacle.
Each of the league’s top five teams have completed plenty of business this summer and will have every reason to feel confident ahead of the opening fixtures this weekend.
Will Louis van Gaal have an immediate effect at Old Trafford; have Manchester City learnt their lessons from their last title defence; and does Jose Mourinho finally have the squad he needs to land his third Premier League title?
Here’s a look at the top five teams and those who can be considered the better prepared ahead of the new season.
Arsenal have had one of their best summer transfer periods in all of Arsene Wenger’s tenure at the club. The only outgoing name thus far to cause some bother has been that of Thomas Vermaelen, but it’s a worry that can be easily soothed with the signing of an effective third-choice centre-back.
With regards to incomings, Arsenal have been ambitious and smart in their business thus far. Alexis Sanchez serves multiple purpose: he’s a forward the team desperately need to help fire them to further silverware this season (even if some remain unconvinced that he’s a central striker), and he’s the marquee name the club need in order to convince fans and help to usher in a new era following the unveiling of the new partnership with Puma.
The club have filled in the majority of their needs this summer, with defensive midfielder still a possibility between now and the end of the transfer window.
Arsenal looked a good side last season in the lesser games. Now they have added another star player to the squad and can look to the experience and quality of others, such as Mathieu Debuchy.
Considering their league opener is a home game against Crystal Palace, Arsenal look well prepared for the start of the campaign.
The defending Premier League champions have been relatively quiet this summer, certainly in comparison to their title rivals for the upcoming season.
The club have added veteran squad players in Willy Caballero and Bacary Sagna, who will add plenty of experience to the squad, while Eliaquim Mangala is the most high-profile piece of business to be completed by the club, arriving for £32 million from Porto.
But Manuel Pellegrini will look to those already in his squad to provide the inspiration for a successful defence of the title.
Stevan Jovetic missed the most of last season through injury, and he can be looked at as someone who can add plenty of firepower to the attack. The former Fiorentina forward has the quality to help offset the long-term injury suffered by Alvaro Negredo.
Having one of the strongest squads in the league, there wasn’t a whole lot Pellegrini needed to do this summer. Personnel-wise, City look more than good enough for their league opener against Newcastle.
Manchester United had previously boasted budgets of £200 million for Louis van Gaal this summer, and while Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera have been impressive signings, there are still a number of gaps that need to be filled in the squad.
Pre-season proved to be particularly positive for the team, however, with Ashley Young standing out and the attack looking to thrive in van Gaal’s system.
But there are concerns at the back, and having failed to sign a centre-back thus far, United should come across a few problems in their league opener against Swansea.
Louis van Gaal used counterattacking tactics at the World Cup with the Netherlands as a means to tackle the inexperience throughout his defensive unit, and he may turn to similar tactics this weekend. But the team are still short of personnel, and as good as they can be, nothing is certain for the start of the league campaign.
Liverpool will take a lot of confidence from their 4-0 win over Borussia Dortmund last weekend, but despite a significant outlay this summer in the midst of Luis Suarez’s move to Barcelona, Liverpool are yet to complete a piece of business that really sets the pulses racing.
Brendan Rodgers has done a good job of addressing the defence, which was by far the biggest area of concern last season, but the team also need a specialist in the holding midfield role. As well as he played last season, Steven Gerrard doesn’t have the defensive skills to hold that position for the majority of the season.
It’s been a summer of strengthening the squad for Rodgers, and he may not mind too much that a superstar player hasn’t been signed. For the league opener, the team have retained their breathtaking attack of last season, but may be hampered somewhat by the injury to Adam Lallana and the inexperience of Lazar Markovic.
Chelsea have been by far the most impressive in the transfer window of all the title contenders. Adding full internationals with the experience of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa will do a lot to turn Jose Mourinho’s little horse into standout title favourites, while Filipe Luis, considered by most in Spain as the best left-back in Europe, will do a lot to add even more strength to last season’s best defence.
They travel to Burnley on Monday night for their league opener, and bar any major injury worries, it’s difficult to see where Chelsea are going to struggle this season.
Mourinho has the most complete squad in the league, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Chelsea were to lift the league title in May.