The brand new 2023/24 Premier League season kicks off with champions Manchester City heading to Turf Moor to face newly promoted Burnley on Friday evening.
There’s also a huge Sunday clash to look forward to between rivals straight out of the so-called ‘Big Six’ – who certainly didn’t all live up to the lofty expectations last season – and an interesting beginning to the weekend itself when Arsenal will look to enjoy a fast start once again. Rounding off the opening weekend is the first Monday night encounter, which takes place at Old Trafford.
All clubs will be aiming to start the new campaign in a positive fashion, and though not all of them can or will, the first match is still very important and one to mark on the calendar. With that being said, here are 10 things to look forward to in the opening round of 2023/24 Premier League fixtures.
#Can Vincent Kompany get one over his former club?
While Vincent Kompany received plenty of plaudits for getting Burnley to play an entertaining brand of football and guiding them to the Championship title last season, he will find things much tougher in the top flight. His team face a daunting opening fixture against champions Manchester City, who head to Turf Moor on the back of a Community Shield defeat to Arsenal on penalty shootout.
For a number of years, Turf Moor was seen as an intimidating ground for Premier League away teams. Amidst all kinds of weather, a visiting team knew they were in for a fight throughout the game. And having made Turf Moor a fortress once again, Kompany will expect the home fans to play their part and make it as hostile as possible for Man City. He’d definitely love to get one over his former club to kickstart Burnley’s return to the top flight.
#Erling Haaland aiming for another ferocious start
Erling Haaland is presumably looking forward to Man City’s season opener at Turf Moor, and after seeing the Norwegian hit 36 Premier League goals to set a new record in the division, Burnley’s defence will certainly view the striker with significant trepidation.
It would be no surprise to see Haaland better that tally this time around. The 22-year-old had a poor outing against Arsenal in the Community Shield at the weekend, with the striker looking anonymous for the majority part of the 64 minutes he spent on the pitch. So, he’ll be desperate to make a mark in the new season and end his six-game drought.
The Burnley backline certainly seems to have their task cut out on Friday.
#Can Kai Havertz make a case for himself against Nottingham Forest?
In Gabriel Jesus’ injury absence, Kai Havertz started as a false 9 for Arsenal against Man City in the Community Shield. He spurned two golden opportunities in the first half, with City keeper Stefan Ortega thwarting him incredibly well from close range. The German’s lack of composure in front of goal was telling.
Luckily for Havertz, his poor misses didn’t prove costly as Arsenal won 4-1 on penalties after drawing 1-1. Nonetheless, this has led to fresh doubts about Havertz’s ability to lead the line for a side bidding for a first league title in 20 years—a concern he can quell with a strong goal-scoring performance against Nottingham Forest at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
#How Unai Emery’s signings fare against Newcastle
When Unai Emery replaced Steven Gerrard back in November, Aston Villa were in big trouble. But he quickly set about transforming their fortunes and ended the 2022/23 campaign in seventh place to qualify for the Europa Conference League.
Ahead of Villa’s return to Europe, Emery has made some astute signings this summer. Youri Tielemans has arrived on a free transfer from Leicester City, while highly-rated Spanish defender Pau Torres has reunited with Emery at Villa Park. On top of those, Moussa Diaby has provided a lot of excitement and fervour to the fans with his displays in the pre-season.
Having played some brilliant stuff and gone undefeated throughout the pre-season, Villa are in for a strong 2023/24 campaign. When they face a rollicking opening weekend fixture against Newcastle, all eyes will be on Emery’s summer signings.
#Andoni Iraola takes reins at Bournemouth
Bournemouth have made some exciting signings this summer under Andoni Iraola, who will be in the dugout for the first time when the Cherries take on West Ham at the weekend.
Despite helping Bournemouth avoid relegation last season, Gary O’Neil was surprisingly sacked in July and replaced by Andoni Iraola. Being new to this country, the highly-regarded Iraola will be keen to impress and implement a new style of play as quickly as possible. The Spaniard’s philosophy has been often described as ‘rock-and-roll football’, so it may take time for the current crop of players to adapt to that.
Iraola wants Bournemouth to play an aggressive, bold style of football and it will be required against West Ham who, despite being armed with £105m following Declan Rice’s sale, are yet to make a summer signing thus far.
#Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea face a daunting task at Anfield
Chelsea need to get moving under Mauricio Pochettino and they certainly made summer signings who can up the ante. The capture of Nicolas Jackson, a highly-rated forward from Villarreal Rennes, appears a shrewd investment while France international Christopher Nkunku will add presence and, judging by his record in Germany, assist and goals.
Having worked really well to trim what was a bloated squad earlier this summer, Chelsea bear a fresh look and it will be a massive statement if Mauricio Pochettino’s revamped group can go to Anfield and leave with a positive result. The task is severe: only Leeds United managed to win against Liverpool at Anfield last season.
Liverpool, having finished fifth in the table, have overhauled their midfield unit. Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai have come in to bring energy, tenacity and creativity to Liverpool’s midfield which has been weakened following the departures of Fabinho and Jordan Henderson on top of the releases of Naby Keita, James Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Yet, the manner in which the Reds ended the last season, the Kop will be up and singing for the challenge of Pochettino’s Chelsea.
#Can Wolves shock Man United at Old Trafford?
There are a lot of questions for Wolves boss Julen Lopetegui to answer. Wolves have parted ways with key, seasoned campaigners and barely added to the group amid FFP problems.
This is hardly a recipe for success and things are looking grim rather than bubbly ahead of the start of the new campaign, with Lopetegui taking every opportunity to express concerns over his threadbare squad. His team’s opening weekend fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford couldn’t have been tougher, considering the Erik ten Hag-managed team’s home record last season, but if the Spaniard can fire up the likes of Pedro Neto, Pablo Sarabia, Matheus Nunes and Max Kilman, Wolves can produce a shock.
#Harry Kane set to lead Spurs against Brentford
Tottenham have reportedly rejected Bayern Munich’s latest offer for striker Harry Kane. Keeping in mind Bayern had suggested if their bid for Kane was unsuccessful on this occasion they would move on to other transfer targets, it appears the England international is set to stay at Spurs unless something dramatic happens from now on and until the end of the window.
Kane was named as captain for Tottenham in their pre-season friendly against Shakhtar Donetsk on Sunday, and he smashed four goals. Facing an in-form and healthy Kane should be bad news for Brentford and Thomas Frank.
#James Tarkowski may be sorely missed by Everton
There was an argument that the smartest piece of business Everton did last summer was signing James Tarkowski from Burnley.
It is difficult to imagine Everton would have beaten the drop last season without Tarkowski’s availability, leadership and defensive actions. The Englishman was key to stopping the Merseysiders from getting relegated, providing them with the much-needed experience and defensive balance lacked during previous campaigns. He even chipped in with a crucial goal—a header in the 1-0 win over Arsenal at Goodison Park that kickstarted the Sean Dyche era.
However, Tarkowski was forced off during Everton’s 1-0 friendly win over Sporting CP at the weekend. With the 30-year-old injured, can Everton cope without him against Fulham?
#Man United’s front three against Wolves
Even though Manchester United rounded off their pre-season with a 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao in Dublin on Sunday, the 3-1 win over FC Lens a day before at Old Trafford was seemingly the final dress rehearsal ahead of their season opener against Wolves.
Against Lens, Erik ten Hag went with a front three of Alejandro Garnacho, Marcus Rashford and Antony. Garnacho impressed the most of the trio, providing an assist for the winning goal and showing his pace and attacking flair on the break. Rashford and Antony got on the score sheet, and the duo are likely to keep their places in the starting XI next Monday.
At Aviva Stadium against Bilbao, Jadon Sancho caught the eye in a false 9 role as he linked play well and caused problems with his sharp movement. The Englishman made a cause for himself at false 9, and with new boy Rasmus Hojlund expected to be out for a couple of weeks due to a minor thigh injury, it’ll be interesting to see what front three Ten Hag picks against Wolves at Old Trafford.