Premier League Pre-Season Storylines
Every Premier League Team’s Biggest Storyline Ahead of the 2023/24 Season
After a drama-filled summer, the Premier League is back for another instalment and with plenty of storylines to entice and entertain fans before a ball has even been kicked.
Whether it’s Manchester City’s historic chase for a fourth straight top-tier crown, a pair of talismanic strikers edging towards the exit door or an already-bedraggled club changing their manager with only days to go before the first game, the Premier League has thrown up some tantalising threads to keep an eye on as the season unfolds.
Here, BetMGM UK takes you through every team’s biggest storyline ahead of the 2023/24 Premier League season. Enjoy!
Can the Gunners go one better after last season’s title charge?
The 2022/23 campaign was an incredible season for the Gunners – but they didn’t quite have the ammunition to lift the Premier League trophy for the first time in 20 years.
However, Mikel Arteta has gone into the transfer window and brought in some reinforcements that should help Arsenal remain among England’s elite this season – at the very least.
Let’s start with the £100 million man: Declan Rice. The former West Ham midfielder has been brought in as a replacement for Granit Xhaka in Arsenal’s engine room and, to many, he’ll bring a lot more quality than the Swiss.
His defensive abilities alone – he ranked top five in recoveries per 90 minutes during the Premier League last year with 9.2 – should allow this Arsenal side to play with more attacking freedom.
One of those attack-minded players will be Kai Havertz. While he has not had the greatest time since his arrival in England – barring, notably, a Champions League winner against Manchester City in 2021 – Havertz does offer something that not many attackers in the Arsenal squad do: considerable height.
The 6ft 2in German ranked in the top five for aerial win percentage per 90 minutes (with 57.2%) meaning Arsenal do not necessarily have to play with the ball on the turf.
Jurrien Timber was Arsenal’s only defensive addition during the window, but he has been signed for his passing ability rather than just his defending. He had the highest pass completion among defenders in Eredivisie per 90 minutes last season (91.7%) so he should have no issues slotting into Arteta’s pass-heavy Arsenal.
Balancing European football with the Premier League
Aston Villa have been sensational under the stewardship of Unai Emery.
The Villans transformed themselves from a mid-table side under Steven Gerrard into a bonafide European outfit, propelling themselves to a seventh-placed finish last year with their effective brand of counter-attacking football.
Indeed, Emery’s squad ranked top five in average fast break goals per 90 minutes – behind only Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, and Brentford.
Villa have also been able to add some much-needed depth during the transfer window ahead of their European campaign. Midfielder Youri Tielemans, winger Moussa Diaby, and centre-back Pau Torres should all prove to be shrewd signings for the Midlands club. However, it could be much harder to recreate such an impressive season with Europe to contend with.
Will the Cherries regret swapping Gary O’Neil for Andoni Iraola?
Gary O’Neil did an unquestionably brilliant job when he was appointed Bournemouth manager during the early portion of last season. When O’Neil replaced Scott Parker, Bournemouth sat 16th in the Premier League after a 9-0 defeat to Liverpool. They’d go on to steer themselves clear of relegation and O’Neil would even earn some shouts for manager of the season in the process.
It came as a shock, therefore, when Bournemouth announced that O’Neil would be replaced during the summer with Andoni Iraola – who most recently managed Rayo Vallecano in Spain. His stay at the Madrid-based club was a relatively successful one, though, leading Vallecano into La Liga and retaining their sport for two consecutive years.
His results in the Bournemouth dugout during pre-season have been varied. Wins against both FC Lorient and Southampton were sandwiched between defeats to Atalanta and Maccabi Tel-Aviv.
The real test will come when the Cherries return to Premier League action; the big question is whether Iraola will be able to match O’Neil’s achievements from last season.
How much will Ivan Toney’s absence influence Brentford’s season?
It hurts when a team loses any player before the season, let alone their top goalscorer from all three campaigns prior. Unfortunately, Brentford will have to learn how to play without Ivan Toney until the new year, with the 20-goal forward serving a suspension.
Step forward, Yoanne Wissa and Bryan Mbeumo.
Mbeumo impressed in flashes last season with nine goals and eight assists in the Premier League. Wissa, by contrast, played a bit-part role but still garnered seven goals in 22 starts throughout the league season.
Both will need to stamp their influence on this Brentford side for the Bees not to feel Toney’s absence in a potentially critical way.
Can they cope with losing another round of players?
Whether it was Yves Bissouma, Neal Maupay, Marc Cucurella, Leandro Trossard or Ben White, Brighton have become used to seeing their players poached by bigger teams throwing their financial muscle around.
To their credit, the Seagulls have always been one step ahead in their recruitment.
When Bissouma left for Tottenham Hotspur, Brighton had a ready-made replacement in Moises Caicedo. When Cucurella departed for Chelsea, in came Pervis Estupiñán to ease Brighton’s left-back worries.
But which player will make the leap to become a household name in 2023/24?
There’s already a few options. Julio Enciso began building his reputation by collecting a set of stunning strikes last season, including his goal against Chelsea which won the league’s goal of the season award.
Elsewhere, Simon Adingra has returned from a fruitful spell in Belgium where he managed 11 goals and nine assists from midfield for Royale Union Saint-Gilloise in the Pro League. The Ivorian bagged a notable brace during Brighton’s Summer Series exploits in pre-season, so he could well be one to watch if given the chance.
Will Vincent Kompany’s style of play keep Burnley in the Premier League?
We all remember Burnley in the Premier League. They’ll play 4-4-2; they’ll be hard to break down; they’ll inevitably win 1-0 when the big man up top scores a header. Well, not Vincent Kompany’s Burnley.
The Clarets steamrolled the second tier with a high press and a high defensive line while dominating possession to the tune of a Championship-leading 61.7% on average.
They may not be able to impose their will on the teams in the top flight like they did in the second tier – where they only lost three games the entire season – but it should stand them in good stead in their fight for survival.
Can the Blues rectify the horror show of 2022/23?
It’s hard to describe the Todd Boehly era at Chelsea. Entering the club after the turbulent dismissal of Roman Abramovich, the American certainly showed he was willing to splash the cash.
Mykhailo Mudryk, Enzo Fernandez, Benoit Badiashille, and Noni Madueke all arrived in January alone for north of £200 million but that did not help results on the pitch as they ended the season with one Premier League win in the final eleven games.
Boehly got the cheque book back out this summer too. Christopher Nkunku, Axel Disasi, and Nicolas Jackson have been acquired as the latest batch of blockbuster signings at Stamford Bridge.
Nkunku and Jackson were both brought in to fill the absent number nine role but, with Nkunku out until December after suffering an injury in pre-season, the onus will now be on Jackson to lead the line after his 12 goals last season in La Liga for Villarreal.
What will life look like without Wilfried Zaha?
Roy Hodgson might be back but Wilfried Zaha will not. The Ivorian winger sealed a move to Galatasaray this summer after reported interest from the Saudi Pro League. The former Manchester United man was Palace’s most potent attacking threat in recent seasons – hitting double figures for goal contributions in five of the last seven campaigns.
Fortunately for the Eagles they still have the talented Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise in the attacking third to get the fans excited. Eze ended the Premier League season in the top 10 for successful dribbles percentage per 90 minutes (56.8%) while Olise led the team in ball carries with more than 12 per 90 last term.
If the pair of young attacking talents can influence games even more this season than last, the absence of Zaha may not have such a lasting impact at Selhurst Park.
Finally time for the Toffees to look upwards?
Sean Dyche is the serial survivor. For many years he had Burnley punching above their weight in England’s top flight, even flirting with European football at one stage.
He always kept the Lancashire club’s head above water – and he has done the same at Everton so far. He entered Merseyside as the Toffees seemed destined for the drop and successfully navigated them all the way to another season in the Premier League.
If Everton are to start moving up the table, though, then they’ll have to improve on their home record. Dyche’s men were the third-worst performing team in home games last season and were the league’s lowest scorers at home into the bargain with 16 at Goodison Park.
Will the Cottagers be caught with a case of second-season syndrome?
Every football fan has heard of second-season syndrome. Whether it was Sheffield United finishing a lofty 9th in 2019/20 and then rock-bottom 20th a year later or Leeds United peaking at 9th in 2020/21 before finishing 17th the following season, no team is immune to the sophomore slump.
It is extremely possible that this could be the fate of Fulham in 2023/24. Marco Silva’s side rode their luck at times defensively last campaign – averaging the highest xG against per 90 minutes in the Premier League (1.85).
Despite their good fortune at the back, the Cottagers could always rely on Aleksandar Mitrovic to provide the goals to earn them valuable points. The Serbian spearheaded Fulham’s offensive output with 12 goals and 0.6 goals per game - the fifth best per game ratio in the entire league.
However, the forward wants out. He has reportedly told family members that “he will never play for Fulham again” after the club priced him out of a move to Saudi Arabia earlier in the window. It looks like the pressure will fall on Raul Jimenez and Carlos Vinicius to provide enough goals to keep Fulham afloat.
They will also need to be more cautious when it comes to discipline due to the new rule changes in the Premier League. Joao Palhinha already led the way in yellow cards last season (14) and Fulham were sixth-highest in cards throughout the season.
How will a revamped midfield bolster the Reds’ title chances?
Games are won and lost in the midfield, as the cliche goes, and Liverpool’s midfield has undergone an extreme transformation this summer.
Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabinho, James Milner and captain Jordan Henderson are all out of the door. In their places stand Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szobozslai, while a protracted pursuit of Brighton’s Caicedo endures with the big kick-off looming.
Will this business be enough to turn them into title contenders once again?
Can they make Kenilworth Road a top-flight fortress?
Luton Town’s rise to the Premier League would not look out of place in a Hollywood blockbuster.
Five years ago, they were playing in League Two and now they are rubbing shoulders with some of the best teams in the world in England’s top flight.
The true catalyst for Luton’s ascent has been a combination of formidable home form and rearguard solidity. Rob Edwards’ team had the second-best defence in England’s second tier last season – conceding only 39 goals in 46 matches – while losing just four games at home during the entire season.
Admittedly, the Premier League is of a much, much higher standard but if Luton rely on what they know at Kenilworth Road they just might have the best chance of veering away from the dreaded drop.
Four consecutive Premier League titles?
It’s hard not to simply laud this Manchester City team. They have won three consecutive Premier League titles, are the reigning European champions and became only the second team in English football history to win the treble.
This term, if they were to win the Premier League trophy again, they’d become the first team in the history of England’s top division to win four top-flight titles in a row.
They will have to do it without former captain Ilkay Gundogan and talented winger Riyad Mahrez, though, after both transferred away during the summer.
In response, Pep Guardiola has brought in a pair of Croatians: Mateo Kovacic in midfield and highly-rated centre-back Josko Gvardiol. The Croatian defender will surely enhance the team’s already elite build-up play; he ranked second among Bundesliga centre-backs for ball carries per 90 minutes and second in successful passes per 90.
Are City unstoppable? They just might be.
Have they finally found their true number nine?
On the other side of Manchester, they’ll be hoping they have found their own Nordic striking superstar in Rasmus Hojlund.
The 20-year-old joined the Red Devils from Italian side Atalanta after nine goals in 32 appearances in Serie A last season. Hojlund should fill the striker role that has been left vacant since Cristiano Ronaldo departed for Saudi Arabia, with Marcus Rashford returning to his usual position on the left side of the attack.
Hojlund’s activity in the 18-yard box could be the vital missing piece to United’s attack. The Dane averaged more than five touches per 90 in the opposition area last term, which placed him among the top 10 forwards in Italy. By contrast, United ranked only sixth in that category as a team in season 2022/23 – averaging a whole eight touches fewer than league-toppers Arsenal.
United themselves could do with a little more firepower in the opponent’s area, they ranked sixth in this category last season but averaged eight less touches in the penalty area per game compared to Arsenal who led the league.
The Champions League-Premier League balancing act
Newcastle United are back in the Champions League after 20 years away. Eddie Howe led them to the promised land after a season filled with highs, including a fourth-placed finish and a League Cup final; a feat they achieved while using the fourth-fewest number of players in the division.
With that last factoid in mind, it was not a surprise to see them bolster their ranks by delving into the transfer market this summer.
Sandro Tonali, a player with plenty of European pedigree, joined the club from AC Milan after creating the second-most chances per 90 minutes for the Italian side last season as they marched all the way to the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 2007.
After Tonali’s arrival, two highly-rated Englishmen made the move to Tyneside thus fleshing out Howe’s squad both offensively and defensively: full-back Tino Livramento and winger Harvey Barnes.
It is entirely possible, however, that a few more upgrades are required if Newcastle are to possess a squad truly capable of coping with the scheduling demands of being back in the big time.
What’s the expectations after a quiet transfer window?
A lot was made of Nottingham Forest’s transfer window this time last year. It seemed like an endless flow of new additions entering the City Ground on a weekly basis, including big European names such as Renan Lodi and Felipe from Atletico Madrid.
But Steve Cooper managed to galvanise his new-look squad after a turbulent start to the season – finishing 16th in the table and avoiding a trip straight back down to the second tier.
Forest have taken a much more subtle approach to transfers this summer with only four new names being added to Cooper’s already-sizable squad. Anthony Elanga was the most pricey addition from Manchester United, joining for a reported £15m, and he has been joined by striker Chris Wood, goalkeeper Matt Turner, and defender Ola Aina.
They may well find themselves amongst a relegation battle once again but, with a familiar air surrounding the team, Cooper’s aim from the outset will surely be pushing Forest up the table rather than allowing them to fall down it.
Can they fend off relegation after a lacklustre summer?
It feels difficult not to criticise Sheffield United’s window. The palpable feeling of optimism surrounding the club after earning promotion has truly dwindled after some of their best players were let go and not many recognisable names have been brought in.
Out of their top five goal contributors in the Championship last season only one remains at the club in Oliver McBurnie. Iliman Ndiaye and Sander Berge have both been sold – to Marseille and league rivals Burnley respectively – while electric loanees James McAtee and Tommy Doyle have returned to parent club Manchester City.
Blades manager Paul Heckingbottom has placed his trust in youth this summer with five signings under the age of 24. It is unquestionably a considerable leap of faith in the quest to keep United in the top tier.
Another new manager, a different result?
Mauricio Pochettino to Jose Mourinho; Nuno Espirito Santo to Antonio Conte; Ryan Mason to Ange Postecoglou. Can anybody finally take Tottenham back to the promised land by winning a major trophy?
Former Celtic manager Postecoglou will be hoping the time is now on that front. However, the Australian may have to figure out a way of doing it without talismanic striker Harry Kane as German Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich look to ensnare the England captain with the lure of, well, trophies.
If he does indeed have to combat the Spurs curse without Kane’s insatiable goalscoring, the key will lie in whoever Postecoglou finds as his replacement. Last season, the 30-year-old striker unsurprisingly topped the xG per 90 minutes charts at Tottenham with 0.60 – but the worrying aspect is the closest team-mate to him, Son Heung-min, could muster only half that amount.
Kane or no Kane, Postecoglou is going to have a monumental task on his hands to take this Spurs side to Champions League challengers once again.
West Ham United
How much will Declan Rice be missed?
West Ham United cashed in a reported £100 million-plus for midfielder Declan Rice but not much has been done to replace the former linchpin of the Hammers midfield.
To emphasise just how important the Englishman was to the Europa Conference League winners, Rice led the team in recoveries, ball carries, passes, and passes into the final third per 90 minutes last season.
The rumoured replacement is Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse, with a reported £30 million fee agreed between the two clubs. While he does not quite possess the same defensive attributes, the 28-year-old brings considerably more promise in the attacking third alongside his world-renowned set-piece delivery.
David Moyes still needs to get more done in the transfer window as they battle the tribulations of the Europa League alongside the league this season. They proved they could do it when it matters last year – with reports growing of a double move for Manchester United pair Harry Maguire and Scott McTominay, don’t be surprised if the Hammers make their mark again this time round despite Rice’s exit.
A summer of loss – will it be a season full of them as well?
Wolverhampton Wanderers look almost unrecognisable from the team that ended last season. Julen Lopetegui demonstrated his frustrations publicly as he left his role as manager with less than a week to go until the start of the Premier League season.
Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho, Raul Jimenez, and Adama Traore all left the club to see if the grass is greener away from Molineux while former stalwart Conor Coady departed alongside fellow centre-back Nathan Collins to leave Wolves considerably short on numbers at the back.
Over 1,000 appearances and more than 100 goals left the club this window so to say it has been a difficult summer for Wolves would be an understatement. It makes particularly grim reading for a team that were already the worst attack in the Premier League last season.