Start filling in your calendars – the new Premier League season is just one month away and the excitement is building up already.
Pre-season always feels like navigating the wilderness for football fans, but with transfer business in full force and clubs preparing to set off around the world, the feel-good football factor is returning and it won’t be long before the first ball is kicked for the 2022-23 campaign.
Some teams have got the bulk of their transfers done already, while others are playing the waiting game and twiddling their thumbs to grab the best cut-price deals. The race for the league title begins in the transfer window and Manchester City and Liverpool have set the bar high by snapping up Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez respectively.
Tottenham and Arsenal have been busy too as they look to mount a challenge, while the likes of Chelsea and United are playing catch-up – but which other sides have a reason to be positive for the upcoming season, and who’s left biting their nails?
Sportsmail takes a look at how top flight teams are shaping up with 28 days until the Premier League kicks off.
Manchester City will be favourites to retain the Premier League when the new season kicks off in just one month’s time
Alright, Man City only have two signings through the door, but with the squad City have they only really needed one name to carry them through the season, and they got him.
Erling Haaland is a game changer who will strike fear into City’s rivals – a proven goalscorer who will be in dreamland with the amount of chances he’s going to get dished up to him on a plate.
City have won the last two Premier League titles with their hands tied behind their backs – often playing without a recognised striker. Now add one of the most dangerous forwards in world football into the mix, playing off midfielders who create chances for fun? It’s difficult not to back City to win it all next season.
City will be a feared team once again this term after adding Erling Haaland to their ranks
Pep Guardiola’s squad was already in good shape but it is now in a position to dominate
Then a signing they didn’t really need to make but every little helps – Kalvin Phillips. The England midfielder definitely doesn’t get into their starting XI with the likes of Rodri, Bernardo Silva, Gundogan and Kevin de Bruyne at Pep Guardiola’s disposal, but it will help the Spaniard meet his homegrown quota for the Champions League.
Even after selling Gabriel Jesus to Arsenal and Raheem Sterling set for Chelsea, the team’s quality still shines through and that speaks volumes about the squad the club have been building over the last few years. It just needed a sprinkling of firepower and City have done that.
Like their rivals City, Liverpool’s squad is in good shape after regular maintenance throughout the few seasons and doesn’t need too many additions.
Losing Mane was a big blow but the work that’s been done will surely make the fans feel like selling the Senegalese forward to Bayern for £35million was no big deal.
Liverpool always seem to level up and adapt when they need to – call it Darwin’s law of evolution – and so it’s only right that they signed up Darwin Nunez to lead them into a bright future. The Uruguayan looks like football’s next big star after smashing in 34 goals in 41 games for Benfica last season, and the Reds now have that big centre-forward to lead the line that has perhaps been lacking.
Darwin Nunez (L) has helped ease Jurgen Klopp’s worries after selling Sadio Mane
Mo Salah signing a new contract also feels like a new signing as he ended doubt over his future
And with Mo Salah signing a new long-term contract with the club, possibly the best signing Liverpool could make, you could argue the team is actually in a better condition now then when they had Mane.
Looking through that front line is just scary. Salah, Nunez, Diogo Jota, Luis Diaz AND Roberto Firmino. Jurgen Klopp’s players seem to be the only ones who can really challenge City this season, barring any huge surprises.
Other than that, they’ve also been adding to their youth talent by bringing in Aberdeen’s Calvin Ramsey and Fulham starlet Fabio Carvalho – both are highly rated and should keep the rest of the team on their toes.
The last thing you want to hear about Tottenham is ‘this could be their year’, but the club’s fans are beginning to recite the dreaded phrase after becoming the Premier League’s transfer trailblazers with four signings.
To be fair to Spurs, they’re not messing about in this window. The £60m signing of Richarlison from Everton is the big one, and adds much more firepower to an already dangerous frontline of Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Dejan Kulusevski.
The Brazilian will bring a darker side to Tottenham’s play and push his attacking team-mates for opportunities, as well as giving the team another dimension.
Tottenham are in position to challenge for the title after signing Richarlison (L) and Ivan Perisic
Spurs boss Antonio Conte will be happy he now has the tools to gatecrash the elite
In midfield, Brighton’s Yves Bissouma has provided much-needed depth and a player who can break up play and help Antonio Conte’s men counter attack.
And in defence they’ve acquired a man who knows Conte’s system well and his philosophy – Ivan Perisic. The experienced Croatian star is versatile and can play left-back, left wing or on the right side and brings a winning mentality to north London.
In goal, Fraser Forster has come in as a very trusty No 2 to Hugo Lloris – and there’s more signings on the horizon with exciting right back Djed Spence and centre-back Clement Lenglet on the verge of joining. Whisper it quietly, but Spurs have a very good chance of a having a successful season – emphasis on chance.
After Arsenal fans have had a good cry watching All or Nothing this summer, they can put last season’s disastrous campaign to one side, and optimism will be building for a promising new one that has seen them do a fair bit of business early doors.
The main thing for Arsenal was signing up a reliable striker after Alexandre Lacazette followed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out the door and there’s certainly plenty of excitement around Gabriel Jesus – but will he be the club’s saviour?
Well, he was so good at City that Pep Guardiola decided to play his midfielders up front instead of the Brazilian – his only senior striker – on 14 occasions across the last two seasons, so the jury might still be out on that one.
Mikel Arteta landed his top transfer target by snapping up Man City striker Gabriel Jesus (R)
Arsenal have also added quality in midfield after securing the signature of Fabio Vieira
Maybe he’ll shine as the key man where the team rely on him and he doesn’t have to compete for places? Only time will tell.
Another signing Arsenal fans are pleased with is the arrival of Fabio Vieira, who’s arrived from FC Porto. He scored six goals and showed he is a real creative force with 14 assists from midfield.
If he’s the Gunners’ answer to Kevin de Bruyne or (the good version of) Bruno Fernandes then they could be real contenders this season, but it’s a big ‘if’.
Young Brazilian attacker Marquinhos has also arrived, as has American keeper Matt Turner, and Arsenal have still been linked with plenty of players – including Youri Tielemans and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Mikel Arteta’s business doesn’t look like it’s been wrapped up just yet.
Raheem Sterling could well be the name we’ve been waiting for to kick off the Todd Boehly era as the American’s first big signing. But you still wouldn’t blame Thomas Tuchel to be tapping his fingers with impatience.
If Boehly’s big dream is to get Cristiano Ronaldo through the Stamford Bridge gates it would certainly be a high profile move that would get people talking.
But as we’ve seen at Old Trafford, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner often makes a sideshow of himself and drags the team down with him. Do Chelsea really want that?
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel will be getting impatient over a lack of defensive arrivals at the club, and the potential signing of Ronaldo could cause him problems
The impending arrival of Raheem Sterling is an exciting move for the new Chelsea setup
Sure he’d guarantee goals, but every loss will be met with disgust and a furious strop down the tunnel, all the play will revolve around giving him the ball and the dressing room dynamic will shift significantly.
Would Tuchel be happy to have Ronaldo around and furthermore – does he even want him? Chelsea have just got rid of one forward who didn’t fit into his jigsaw, replacing him with another one would be a disaster.
Meanwhile, the club’s new-look hierarchy – which has dispelled its renowned and experienced team including Marina Granovskaia, Bruce Buck and Petr Cech – need to move for defenders.
After losing Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger on free transfers, Boehly should be focused on bolstering the defence – with former youth star Nathan Ake on his shortlist, as well as Mathijis de Ligt.
The lack of urgency to improve that position will be a worry – and uncertainty from the fans’ point of view about how effective this new board will be in making good signings.
Ah, Leeds. Survived by the skin of their teeth last season and then look to be without their two best players.
Kalvin Phillips has already gone to City to sit on the bench and Raphinha looks likely to follow him out the door – with Barcelona and Chelsea both keen.
But after raking in £45m for England international Phillips, the club have put the funds to good use by bringing in some reinforcements.
American manager Jesse Marsch is eager not to be compared to Ted Lasso – the show about a clueless manager who arrives from the US to take charge of a Premier League team – so he’s signed one USA star in Brenden Aaronson and another in Tyler Adams. Both played under him at Red Bull Salzburg.
Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch (L) has lost key man Kalvin Phillips (R) and could also be without winger Raphinha
Marsch has signed a handful of players – including USA star Brenden Aaronson – but none of them have any Premier League experience
And Marsch is definitely trying to stick to what he knows after bringing in yet another Salzburg player – right back Rasmus Kristensen. He’ll attempt to fill the void of Phillips with Adams, but Bayern’s Marc Roca has also come in to compete for places.
What about attack? Leeds scored 42 goals last season – that was the second lowest of any side – and they survived by a margin of three points. That was when they had Raphinha, who netted 10 goals. If he leaves, who scores the goals?
Luis Sinisterra is on his way from Feyenoord after scoring 23 goals last season, but he’s unproven in the English top flight – much like the other signings.
Marsch is being ambitious in the market but still has work to do to ease the minds of Leeds United fans.
European football beckons again for the Hammers after they reached the Europa League semi-finals last term, but this time its the UEFA Conference League for David Moyes’ men. Perhaps that’s why they’ve only made one signing – a player they already had on loan last season.
West Ham are looking to push on but there’s nothing but tumbleweeds arriving at the London Stadium so far this summer.
If the club can snap up Jesse Lingard on a free transfer then that will be a promising move, and out of favour Chelsea forward Armando Broja could also be a smart piece of business.
David Moyes has got just one deal done this summer – a loan deal turned permanent –
Arnaut Danjuma – the Villarreal forward – is a target too, but there’s too much smoke and not enough fire around West Ham’s transfer window at the moment.
The club will also be anxious about the future of Declan Rice – with Chelsea and Man Unied among the teams sniffing around for this signature.
West Ham would be able to demand a huge fee for the England international, who they will hope is happy to commit himself to the club for at least another season without trying to force a move away from east London.
Remember when Brendan Rodgers turned down the chance to become Arsenal manager? And then rejected Tottenham too? The Irishman’s loyalty knows no bounds – which is great for Leicester – but you do wonder what direction they’re headed in, after radio silence on the transfer front.
The Foxes are trying to bring in some names but their financial position means they’ll have to offload some players before they can sign anyone.
Brendan Rodgers has no incoming signings at Leicester, who must sell before they can buy
The club are in talks to sign Feyenoord youngster Orkun Kokcu and Leicester may have to part ways with Dennis Praet, Ayoze Perez or Jannik Vestergaard to get it over the line.
Leicester will also be fretting about losing Youri Tielemans, who has been linked with both Arsenal and Manchester United.
Rodgers’ men were once European chasers who twice came close to finishing in the top four, but despite having talent such as James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Jamie Vardy, they run the risk of going stale.
Where would you like to start? A team whose confidence is on the floor, a new manager attempting to stamp his mark on a troubled squad – one who is unproven in the Premier League – and now their best player wants out.
Things are not looking good at Old Trafford, and not even the arrival of Tyrell Malacia can change that.
The Dutchman seems to be a quality addition but did United really need another left-back when they already had Luke Shaw and Alex Telles?
The Red Devils need recruits in many other positions and Erik ten Hag has 28 days to bring in some faces who are going to lift morale and restore the team to their former glory, and it could be time for panic stations if more names don’t arrive soon.
Man United boss Erik ten Hag is struggling to secure his top target Frenkie de Jong (left) and he is running out of time to freshen up his squad
It looks like he may have to prioritise a new forward after news that Cristiano Ronaldo is reportedly looking for an exit. The Portuguese star has missed three straight days of training at Carrington amid links to Chelsea and this is hardly the distraction Ten Hag needed just a week into the job.
Lingering questions over his future would be a worry on its own – that’s without uncertainty over the club’s chase for Barcelona star Frenkie de Jong and other positions they look light in – such as at centre-back, right back and defensive midfield.
United have already got rid of a handful of players – including Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata, Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard – but there are holes to fill and the team needs depth and more quality and experience if it is to compete with the big boys.
Cristiano Ronaldo has rocked Man United by declaring his desire to leave this summer – with Chelsea a possible destination
It’s back to square one for Frank Lampard after securing the club’s Premier League status, and after losing his best player in Richarlison he looks like he might have another fight on his hands.
Luckily for him, the fans are on his side and have unleashed their fury at owner Farhad Moshiri instead – which enables him to get on with the job. He’s brought in James Tarkowski from Burnley on a free transfer, but other than that the transfer scene looks underwhelming.
Lampard could have another scrap to keep a key player after losing out on Richarlison – with interest rising in young prospect Anthony Gordon – who was first chased by Spurs and now Newcastle.
James Tarkowski is the only arrival at Everton this summer, with the club at risk of getting sucked into yet another relegation fight
Boss Frank Lamaprd admits his side face ‘a huge challenge’ to get their transfer business done
They’ve got £60m in the bank from Tottenham’s deal to sign Richarlison, but even Lampard has admitted he faces a ‘big challenge’ to get his transfer business right and avoid another firefight.
The club look to have been beaten by West Ham in the race to sign free agent Jesse Lingard, while Lampard is also keen on his former Chelsea youth stars Conor Gallagher and Billy Gilmour. In defence, 19-year-old Levi Colwill is also on his radar, but the club appear to be stuttering through the window.
Even if the club lands all its targets, you still fear for the Toffees and worry where their quality comes from to beat the drop.