July 21, 2018

Everything is different for Chelsea ahead of this Premier League season

13 August 2017, 08:37 | Max Haynes

With Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney no longer around, there is pressure on Paul Pogba to establish himself as the team's leader after blowing hot and cold in his first season following his return from Juventus.

Mourinho led United to victory in the League Cup and Europa League last season, the latter yielding a place in the Champions League, but their football was drab and they finished a distant sixth in the league. In comparison, Liverpool earned 20, champions Chelsea 16 and Spurs 15.

Both Guardiola and Mourinho could argue that their first seasons were transitional campaigns.

There should not be any shoehorning of players into unfamiliar roles this season after Guardiola signed three top-level full-backs - Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo - at a combined cost of around £124 million.

Across town at Manchester United, Guardiola's old sparring partner Jose Mourinho is also looking to kick on after ending a hard debut season with a silver flourish. No excuses will be accepted by success-hungry fans - silverware is now expected.

In fact, only 16 players now at Chelsea have started a Premier League match in their careers - the joint-lowest total of any Blues squad at the beginning of a season in the Roman Abramovich era.

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United's signings have been thoroughly in keeping with Mourinho's pragmatic approach to the game, the Portuguese having galvanised his squad with extra height and muscle.

While City shimmered in attack, they frequently looked vulnerable in defence and resculpting the back four has been Guardiola's main priority. Brazilian Ederson is believed to be the answer to their goalkeeping troubles and Portugal's Bernardo Silva is a classy addition to the midfield. "Winning everything!" the France worldwide told Sky Sports.

In contrast, the London clubs have been relatively quiet in the transfer market, apparently adopting the approach of not trying to fix what isn't broken. I want the team to be on a par with the club's history, which is something I've been lucky enough to feel at every club.

With Diego Costa widely reported to be leaving the club, the main striker is Alvaro Morata, brought from Real Madrid, and while he is an undoubted talent, he is untested in English football.

In the back, United may be short of right-back options especially with Timothy Fosu-Mensah leaving on loan to Crystal Palace. But additionally there is an expectation that Lukaku will need his fellow attackers to support him, with only three other players hitting double-figure goals last season.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is also looking to trim player surplus to requirements - an issue he discussed with fellow managers at a meeting this week. Ibrahimovic was soon released by the Red Devils at the end of the season, but United offered a generous gesture by providing him complete access to the club's training facilities.

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