Football: Premier League ready for landmark season

Friday 11 August 2017 2 months ago 29   London    Print

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Report  Web Desk : LONDON: Fuelled by an historically lavish spending spree, the Premier League returns on Friday when Arsenal host Leicester in the opening game of the hotly-anticipated new season. Taking advantage of astronomical broadcast contracts and lucrative sponsorship deals, England s superpowers have been splashing the cash at an unprecedented rate. Since the end of last season, transfer records have been shattered across the country as over one billion pounds has changed hands in a frenzy that could well set a new high for a single window. While some fear the spending is unsustainable and will put clubs long-term stability at risk, the 25th year of the Premier League era should deliver a title race more fiercely contested than ever. Desperate to dethrone champions Chelsea, club record fees have been paid by Manchester United, who splurged a British record 75 million pound for Everton striker Romelu Lukaku, Arsenal, who forked out 52 million pound on Lyon forward Alexandre Lacazette and Liverpool, who put down 37 million pound for Roma winger Mohamed Salah. Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola set the tone with a series of early deals that took his spending in this window to an eye-watering 218 million pound. Frustrated by City s failings in his trophyless first season in England, Guardiola has overhauled his squad with defenders Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo, plus goalkeeper Ederson and playmaker Bernardo Silva. Guardiola s old rival Jose Mourinho hasn t been shy about raiding the United coffers, with the Lukaku swoop headlining a 140 million pound spree that also brought Benfica defender Victor Lindelof and Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic to Old Trafford. Mourinho won the league in his second seasons at Porto, Real Madrid and Inter Milan, as well as in both of his stints at Chelsea, but he expects this season s title race to be an almighty scrap. "Normally the second season should be better than the first, but again, this is modern football. The reality is totally different," Mourinho said. "It s getting much harder for everyone, so we don t know." The no limits spending of Chelsea s title rivals prompted a tetchy response from Stamford Bridge, where boss Antonio Conte has been grumbling about his club s failure to land Lukaku and several other targets. Even so, Conte has done his best to get billionaire Blues owner Roman Abramovich to throw his financial muscle behind Chelsea s title defence. A club record 58 million pound lured Real Madrid forward Alvaro Morata from the European champions, while Tiemoue Bakayoko and Antonio Rudiger also joined Chelsea, whose spending climbed over 130 million pound. Fans will get their first glimpse of how one of the contenders will fare when Arsenal, fresh from their Community Shield victory over Chelsea, face Leicester in the season opener at the Emirates Stadium. Arsene Wenger brokered a fragile truce with Arsenal s dissenting fans by winning the FA Cup last season, but the Gunners boss has no margin for error after going 13 years without Premier League glory. Last season was by far the most difficult of Wenger s 21-year reign, with Arsenal s on-pitch travails exposing him to furious protests from angry fans. (01)