10 things to look for on opening weekend

1) Arsenal to avoid an encore on the opening night

It has become traditional for Arsenal to look somewhat undercooked during a season, but this time the hosts have more question marks. While Crystal Palace beat them at Selhurst Park in April, a rematch so soon seems to suit the visitors better, and Patrick Vieira’s prediction of “a completely different game” seems hard to deny. Palace are yet to find a replacement for Conor Gallagher, whose energy was so fundamental to their improved performances last season, while Cheikhou Kouyaté has left and the current injury list includes James McArthur and Michael Olise. Reinforcements have taken longer to arrive than Vieira might like, while Mikel Arteta has been able to strengthen in key areas and field something close to his favorite XI in recent friendlies. A year ago, Arsenal’s Covid-weakened side got off to a disastrous start at Brentford, but a Friday night scare doesn’t seem as likely this time around. Nick Ames

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2) Núñez ready to go for Liverpool

Darwin Núñez doesn’t look like he needs to be eased in. The Uruguay striker started on the bench as Liverpool beat City in the Community Shield last weekend, but he appeared to be on the same wavelength as his new team-mates after coming on in the second half. The runs were intelligent and effective, the link-up was smart and there were signs of understanding with Mohamed Salah, who was involved when Núñez scored his first Liverpool goal with a brave header. The question is whether Klopp decides to play the former Benfica striker when Liverpool visit Fulham on Saturday. Is there something to be gained by keeping the 23-year-old back and playing Roberto Firmino through the middle instead? Firmino is an excellent, subtle player, but Fulham’s defenders must dread the thought of trying to keep Núñez quiet. Jacob Steinberg

3) Everton seem to have poor firepower

It was against Frank Lampard’s old club last season that Everton found the spirit, style and support that eventually kept them in the Premier League, but it was thanks to a winner from Richarlison – with both Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Salomón Rondón on the bench as backup. The goalscorer is gone, the England international is out injured for the next six weeks and Rondón is suspended. Another grueling approach is likely, with no recognized forward available for the first game of a new campaign. And to think that it is Thomas Tuchel who has lamented the club’s summer transfer business so far. At least Chelsea have some new faces reflecting an ambitious new era under Todd Boehly in Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly and Carney Chukwuemeka, along with the promise of more. However, they have lost on their last four league visits to Goodison Park and Tuchel’s appeals for reinforcements will only intensify with a fifth. Andy Hunter

4) Will the Pope force Dubravka out?

Nick Pope or Martin Dubravka? That is the dilemma facing Eddie Howe as his Newcastle side prepare to face Nottingham Forest at St James’ Park on Saturday. Pope didn’t join from Burnley for £10m earlier this summer only to sit on the bench. Instead, the 30-year-old has made it crystal clear that he intends to play first-team football which will all but guarantee him a place on England’s World Cup flight to Doha in November. Accordingly, the consensus is that Howe will start Pope ahead of Dubravka on Saturday. That will again upset the Slovakia goalkeeper and his agent, who have reiterated that his client is too good to be anyone’s understudy. Something has to give; could a part swap deal between Newcastle and Leicester involving Dubravka and James Maddison be the answer? Louise Taylor

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5) Kane can hit the ground

If pre-season is a time for optimism, it has been particularly pronounced at Tottenham. First Antonio Conte committed to the project, then the club made quick and targeted signings. Still, one player holds the key to glory, and luckily for all concerned, Harry Kane looks relaxed and ready. This time last year, the striker wanted out. Denied his wish, he labored and scored just one league goal before mid-December. He rediscovered his groove under Conte, who joined at the start of November, to finish with 17 in the competition and he carries the momentum into the opener against Southampton, having had a solid pre-season this time around. Conte’s system is based on getting the best out of his front men and Kane intends to embrace the expectations. David Hytner

6) Hammers are a tough opening test for City

The champions do not have an easy start to their title defence. West Ham are unbeaten in their last three home games against Manchester City and are playing in a manner that worries Pep Guardiola’s side. Much of that centers around the sharpness of Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio on the counter, and while West Ham looked short on creativity in pre-season, that is likely to be less of an issue against City. After all, David Moyes will not plan for his team to dominate possession. It will be about West Ham keeping a low block, keeping a close eye on Erling Haaland and looking for ways to free Bowen, whose diagonal runs from right to left saw him score twice as Moyes’ side held City to a pulsating 2- 2 tied. in this game last season. Jacob Steinberg

Jarrod Bowen gives West Ham a 2-0 lead against Manchester City in May, before the champions came back to draw.

Jarrod Bowen gave West Ham a 2-0 lead against Manchester City in May, before the champions came back to draw. Photo: Adam Davy/PA

7) Parker seeks early points on board

Great expectations. This sentence probably does not express the outlook of Bournemouth fans ahead of their Premier League return. With Scott Parker’s men hard at work for automatic promotion last season, and a worrying lack of summer use so far, the club look set for a trying campaign. After hosting Aston Villa, Bournemouth next travel to Manchester City before facing Arsenal at home and Liverpool at Anfield. A point at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday could be needed to avoid the ominous prospect of losing their opening four league games and see their survival hopes potentially start to wash away along the south coast at the end of August. Villa fans will be expecting bigger things than last season’s 14th place finish and if Steven Gerrard’s men are determined to make big strides up the table, picking up three points in games like this should be a must in the hunt for a first place in the top half . since promotion in 2019. Joel Mians

8) Will Ronaldo appear?

Erik ten Hag’s first Manchester United XI for a Premier League game is not expected to include Cristiano Ronaldo due to the missing striker’s lack of match fitness. The manager labeled the 37-year-old’s early departure from Sunday’s game with Rayo Vallecano as “unacceptable” and anyone watching Brighton’s visit will become body language experts, analyzing every interaction for a hint of discord. The Portuguese’s decision to go awol was surely premeditated as a last-ditch ploy in the pressure to leave a club he is supposedly adored for. As the new manager tries to rebuild a broken side, how Ten Hag handles Ronaldo and an unwanted sideshow could define his tenure. Jamie Jackson

9) Bamford gives Marsch a big boost

The injuries that limited Patrick Bamford to just nine appearances for Leeds last season played a big part in not only the team’s relegation, but Marcelo Bielsa’s replacement by Jesse Marsch. The good news for the latter is that Leeds’ key striker, and leading scorer for 2020-21, is nearing 100% fitness and looks set to start against Wolves at Elland Road on Saturday. If Marsch can keep Bamford fit, he has a good chance of buying the time needed to add his exciting new signings, perhaps most notably attacking midfielder Brenden Aaronson and winger Luis Sinisterra, into the first XI and help Leeds fans to to forget the summer departures of Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha. The American’s chances of making this season a success will increase considerably if he can keep Bamford fit. Louise Taylor

10) Rever faces uncertainty at kick-off

This has been a difficult summer for Leicester. Kasper Schmeichel has quit, the futures of Wesley Fofana and James Maddison are up in the air and the Foxes are the only Premier League club yet to sign a player. A club that came close to qualifying for the Champions League in 2020 and 2021 found last season did not quite go to plan, with Brendan Rodgers’ side finishing eighth, six points off a Europa League spot. There is a different mood among the Leicester fans compared to the start of other recent seasons. They welcome a Brentford side they beat twice last season, albeit casually. The guests have had a busy transfer window marked by the departure of midfielder Christian Eriksen. Given the uncertainty of LE2, Thomas Frank’s side may not get a better chance of staking their hosts. Uzzi Majid

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