Since there is not much news on our transfer front, let's take a look around at our closest rivals (top-6). I think by all indications Leicester won't be as good as last season and they'll do well to finish 7th. Everton perhaps could also be in the conversation, but they have their own thread. Let's take them in alphabetical order: Arsenal Head coach: Mikel Arteta Major signings: CB Gabriel (£28M), CB Saliba (returned from loan), RW Willian (free). Potential signings: CM Aouar, DM Thomas Partey Major departures: none so far, but Guenduzi, Bellerin, Ozil, GK Martinez, Sokratis, Lacazette and Toreira may all still leave. After hitting rock bottom last season, they finally seem to be going in the right direction. Arteta has refashioned Arsenal into a counter-attacking side, with less room for self-expression by players, but far more resiliency, appetite for hard work and better team ethos. Adaptation of new centre-backs Gabriel and Saliba will be key, if they prove to be good enough to play as a defensive pair (together or with one of the existing CBs), perhaps Arteta will be able to start nudging the balance more towards the attack and possession football. Their transfers and potential additions all seem on point, even though it may be a risk in the long-term to give huge contracts to the 30+ pair Willian and Aubameyang (in addition to being saddled with Ozil and Lacazette's contracs), but future does look bright with talents like Saka, Martinelli, Nketiah and Saliba. There are too many changes and uncertainties to challenge for big trophies this season (and let's not forget this will be Arteta's first full season as a manager ever, so he's bound to make mistakes), but they will improve enough to keep Troopz, DT and others generally happy and entertained. My Prediction: 5th place. They won't go through the season evenly; will endure barren spells as well as good runs of form. Chelsea Head coach: Frank Lampard Major signings: AM Havertz (£72M), CF Werner (£48M), LB Chilwell (£45M), RW Ziyech (£36M), CB Thiago Silva (free). Potential signings: GK Mendy, DM Rice. Major departures: Willian, Pedro, potentially also Kepa, Barkley, Kante, Jorginho, Alonso, Emerson, Christensten and Tomori. Chelsea are in the middle of a major overhaul both in terms of the playing personnel and system and style of play, all presided by a relatively inexperienced manager. While all of their major signings are of undoubted quality, if I was a Chelsea fan I would wonder why not do things a little more gradually, building on the existing foundations rather than ripping most of the team apart and starting anew. Lampard has surpassed expectations last season, but is it enough give him a carte-blanche to rebuild a team fully in his image? Sure, replacing Batshuayi with Werner is a no-brainer if you can afford it, but the rumours of Kante being replaced by Declan Rice, the nearly £50M LB Chilwell in place of very serviceable (and title-winning) Marcos Alonso – this smacks of manager who is being indulged to recruit his people just for the sake of it, regardless of whether it objectively constitutes an improvement. Havertz is an interesting case – he is a player I've long followed and have been infatuated by, but I have to say I'm doubtful on whether Lampard actually has any idea of what to do with him. Havertz is a luxury-grade system player; in the hands of a very system-oriented coach, someone like Guardiola, Klopp, Pochettino, Bielsa or Nagelsmann, his marvelous versatility, stamina and tactical malleability can be used to fuse elements of several roles at once, seamlessly shifting from being a facilitator and water-carrier to creator and finisher. He's a lot less exciting or effective if you just judge him purely as a winger or striker or midfielder – and at this point I'm not sure whether Lampard's system is quite sophisticated enough to make the best use of his talents. If not, this could be akin to using a state-of-the-art precision tool as a nail-hammer. My prediction for Chelsea is that all that turbulence around the new signings coupled with pressure to make them work will prove too much for Frank. He'll struggle to make a cohesive whole out of all the new parts and will be one of the first managerial casualties of this season. ============== I'm going to skip Man City for now, because I don't have a clear sense of them at this point. I feel that after Lyon the faith in Guardiola got shaken somewhat among the players, but they could respond in a number of ways, positive or negative. ============== Manchester United Manager: Ole-Gunnar Solskjaer Major signings: GK Henderson (return from loan), AM De Beek (£35M) Potential signings: RW Sancho, LB Regulion Major departures: none Credit to Solskjaer – after presiding over a long period of inconsistency he has worked out a solid basic structure for his team and then started smartly upgrading key positions in that system. Bruno Fernandes was a huge and possibly era-defining upgrade on Lingard/Pereira, young Greenwood usurped Daniel James's spot on the right wing and the pairing of Pogba and Matic in the middle has been found to provide the optimal balance. United went unbeaten in the league from February till the end of the season with 9 wins and 5 draws, which would put them on pace for 87 points over the course of a full season. The defense is solid even without relying on a back 3 and their front 3 has scored more than ours last season. So could they challenge for title? I think United are the closest to us and Man City in terms of squad quality and having a settled system. There are a few question marks: – what will happen when the league inevitably adjusts to United's system? They were a bit under the radar for the majority of their good run and many teams played into their hands by allowing them to play on the counter. – will the penalties dry up? – how will the Maguire situation affect everyone? – will Solskjaer be able to continue solving various problems as they arise without title-winning experience at the top level? I think United will have a strong season with or without Sancho. De Beek adds quality and variety to the attack and Henderson will either overtake De Gea or push him to return to the world-class levels. My prediction is 3rd or possibly even 2nd place. Spurs Manager: the Special One Major signings: RB Doherty (£18M), CM Hojbjerg (£18M) Potential signings: in the market for a back-up striker and a CB Major departures: Vertonghen, potentially Ndombele, Aurier and Danny Rose I think pundits and most fans are seriously underestimating Spurs. Mourinho's "2nd season effect" has been evident across every team and every league he's coached: league titles were won in his 2nd season with Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Real, Chelsea again and he only came 2nd once with a fairly dreadful United team. Another point to consider is that if season started on the day Mourinho took the Spurs job, their results would have placed them 4th in the table. Finally, consider Spurs' final league table positions in the last 5 years: 3rd, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th – they've only finished outside of the top 4 once and yet most people are not giving them a chance. I think a big reason why Jose took this job was because the composition of the squad really suits him – in Kane he has the kind of centre-forward he has always relied on and an interchangeable array of speedy goalscoring attackers around the big striker is characteristic of his best teams. Heung-min Son is a stereotypically perfect Mourinho winger/striker and the likes of Lucas Moura, Bergwijn and Lamela are not far behind – they are the kind of players who don't necessarily need an attacking system to create goals and chances, they like to improvise and hurt opponents on the counter. I think Doherty will prove to be a brilliant signing and a huge upgrade on the hapless Aurier and Hojbjerg should make the midfield stronger. The key to Spurs' season will be Daniel Levy conjuring up something to find a quality back-up for Kane near the deadline day and Mourinho finding his own magic touch to turn around Dele Alli's career. He will also need to shore up the leaky defense – it's kind of his speciality, so I would bet on him solving this problem. My prediction is that Spurs will make the top 4 rather easily, but probably won't go higher than that due to some squad limitations and focus on the Europa League.