In 2017-18, City earned more English top-flight points than any other team in history and registered more wins and scored more goals than any other Premier League side before them.
They also recorded the most consecutive wins, attempted and completed the most passes in a game and spent the least amount of time behind in matches – a remarkably brief 153 minutes over the whole campaign. That is just 4.5% of their season.
In preparation for the 2018/19 season, the champions have splashed out a club record £60m to sign 2015/16 Premier League player of the year Riyad Mahrez and have been linked with a host of other high-priced global superstars.
Manchester United begin the 2018/19 Premier League season against Leicester City at Old Trafford on Friday, but there are also tough fixtures for the rest of last season’s top six.
Tottenham Hotspur will get Saturday under way with a tricky away trip to take on Newcastle United. Saturday will also see Maurizio Sarri make his league debut in the Chelsea dugout, as the Blues travel to face Huddersfield Town and put the Italian’s vision of free-flowing football into practice.
Champions Manchester City are at Arsenal on Sunday, with Unai Emery taking his league bow as Gunners boss after succeeding Arsene Wenger this summer. Earlier in the day, a Liverpool side fancied by many to be City’s biggest challenger will host new-look West Ham United at Anfield.
Unsurprisingly, Manchester City go into the game as favourites, although not as clear as many would think. The World Cup may have had a detrimental effect on Guardiola’s choices, but an enticing effect to their value in the Arsenal vs. Manchester City odds. The odds suggest Manchester City have a 47% chance of taking all three points in their opening game.
Another season with extremely high expectations for Manchester City got off to an impressive start at the weekend. A comfortable 2-0 victory against Chelsea in the Community Shield gave Pep’s team their first taste of silverware this season.
The difficulties that Guardiola may face are balancing his strongest squad with necessary rest after a gruelling World Cup. No team had more representatives at the summer’s major tournament than Manchester City with 16 representatives. Whilst the Spaniard agrees that this is something to be immensely proud of, the toll of the tournament could easily impact their performance in the first few games.
Arsenal has avoided this possible issue. Whilst Manchester City had 16, Arsenal only had eight, with many falling before the business end of the tournament. In fact, Leicester’s squad played more minutes in Russia than Arsenal.
Instead, Arsenal find themselves in new territory as Unai Emery takes charge of his first game in the Premier League after over 20 years of Arsene Wenger at the helm. In a sense, the Gunners are a little bit of an unknown prospect, yet their pre-season form has offered a sense of optimism.
Arsenal didn’t lose a game within 90 minutes throughout pre-season, only losing to Atletico Madrid on penalties, all whilst scoring 17 and conceding just three.
United’s pre-season preparations have been contentious, to say the least. Manager Jose Mourinho appears to have lost his smile as injuries have mounted, while the club’s efforts in the transfer market have been slower than he expected.
The Portuguese’s public frustration has caused unrest among some United players and staff members, according to Luke Edwards and James Ducker of The Telegraph.
Mourinho has been left angered by star midfielder Paul Pogba not ending his holiday early after helping France win this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia, per Tuttosport (h/t Calciomercato).
United’s manager has also been left clinging to the hope of one more signing being secured before the window shuts on August 9, per BBC Sport’s Simon Stone. The need for reinforcements was underlined when holding midfielder Nemanja Matic was ruled out after surgery.
Despite Mourinho’s gripes, his squad is still well-enough equipped to beat the Foxes on opening night. Summer signing Fred will get his first chance to anchor a midfield where Mourinho can still call upon Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and Scott McTominay.
Up front, Alexis Sanchez can decide any game with his flair. The 29-year-old has struggled somewhat in a United shirt since joining the Red Devils from Arsenal back in January. However, a full pre-season should help the Chile international return to his match-winning best.
Leicester will be missing a spark in the final third after selling Riyad Mahrez to reigning champions Manchester City. It leaves Fousseni Diabate tasked with keeping the supply lines open to striker Jamie Vardy.
The Foxes won’t have enough firepower to puncture United’s defence, while Sanchez and Co. can create the goals Mourinho’s men will need to start with a win and quiet the negative noise around the club, at least for the moment.
All eyes will be on Sarri when Chelsea arrive at the John Smith’s Stadium. The 59-year-old likes his teams to play a stylish, possession-based game.
His approach will rely on getting more from playmakers Cesc Fabregas and Ross Barkley. They were often overlooked by predecessor Antonio Conte, but both possess the technique and vision to make Sarri’s plans work.
New boy Jorginho will also be a key figure after acting as the hub of possession for Sarri at Napoli:
Regardless of who pulls the creative strings for Chelsea, the burden is on Alvaro Morata to finish moves off. It’s something the misfiring striker couldn’t do during a recent match against Arsenal in the International Champions Cup.
Morata will get chances against a Huddersfield back line reinforced by the signings of full-back Erik Durm from Borussia Dortmund and Terence Kongolo from AS Monaco.
Chelsea will pay for early profligacy before their pass-masters eventually take over.
City owned Arsenal during Wenger’s final season in charge, beating the Gunners three times—including in the 2018 Carabao Cup final—by an aggregate score of 9-1.
Mahrez will add yet more quality to City’s already devastating attack.
The bad news for Arsenal is City’s record-breaking, title-winning squad is largely intact. Mahrez is the marquee addition, joining Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane to give manager Pep Guardiola an enviable contingent of creative wide forwards.
While the Citizens are largely unchanged, Arsenal have a new look after Emery spent most of the summer adding to the group Wenger left behind. Goalkeeper Bernd Leno, defenders Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Stephan Lichtsteiner, along with midfielders Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi, have all been signed during the window.
While Emery is reshaping the squad, he also has some top-class attacking talent at his disposal. Fitting Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang into the same starting XI will be a challenge Emery should welcome.
Emery won’t get off the mark against Guardiola on his debut in the English top flight, either. City are still slicker on the ball and more confident in front of goal than an Arsenal squad engineering a tricky transition from the Wenger era.
Players to watch
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool): The fast and hard working Salah will try to stamp his authority at the top scorer chart and prove that last season was no fluke.
Virgil Van Dijk (Liverpool): If liverpool wants to challenge for the title their defence has to stand firm throughout and Van Dijk has to be the leader of the back line.
Eden Hazard and Jorginho (Chelsea): Unless Chelsea succumb to the Real Madrid interests, Hazard will be the main man for the creativity in their attack. The latter can be the catalyst as they adapt to the Sarri-ball style of play.
Harry Kane (Tottenham): With no new addition to their attack, Kane once again carries Spurs hope of a title all by himself.
Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City): The champions had no definite weak links last season but the addition of the more experienced Mahrez who most probably would replace Leroy Sane in the starting XI, they have only added to their creativity.
Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United): For United to win the title, Lukaku has to start topping the scoring charts and with the confidence taken from a highly successful World Cup campaign, he can lead a devastating attack.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal): He showed last season how lethal he can be by scoring 10 goals in 13 Premier League games and with a full season at his disposal, he can be a challenger to lead the goals table.
Wilfred Zaha (Crystal Palace): With growing interests from big clubs this may be his standout season as he will be trying to impress.
Jordan Pickford (Everton): Earning a lot of praises for his world cup performances, his stocks can only rise from here on as Everton eyes a top six finish.
Aleksander Mitrovic (Fulham): The former Newcastle man has the ability to score a lot of goals and can keep Fulham in the Premier League.
Man Utd v Leicester
Newcastle v Tottenham
B’mouth v Cardiff
Fulham v C/Palace
Huddersfield v Chelsea
Watford v Brighton
Wolve v Everton
Liverpool v West Ham
S’Ampton v Burnley
Arsenal v Man City
Marseille v Toulouse
Nantes v Monaco
St-Étienne v Guingamp
Nice v Reims
Montpellier v Dijon
Angers v Nîmes
LOSC v Rennes
Lyon v Amiens
Bordeaux v Strasbourg
PSG v Caen