Ready to rumble: Arsene Wenger, Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino out to upset Manchester club scene in English Premier League
The top-flight gets underway this weekend after Manchester United beat champions Leicester City in the season-opening Community Shield on Sunday
Arsene Wenger, Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino head into the new Premier League season with the burden of expectation weighing heavily on their shoulders.
In contrast to the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea, the trio are familiar with their surroundings, no one more so than Wenger at Arsenal, whilst Pocchetino starts his third campaign with Tottenham Hotspur and Klopp his first full season with Liverpool.
Wenger and Klopp have struck already in terms of arousing the ire of Manchester United’s fiery coach Jose Mourinho in criticising the huge fee paid for Paul Pogba.
Many Arsenal fans may have expressed the unease they feel over their cash rich board failing to act once more in the transfer market.
Despite signing Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka for around £35 million (HK$353), there have been few other forays into the high end except a failed bid for French striker Alexandre Lacazette.
This also adds to the sense that the phrase ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ is coming true at Arsenal, where unless Wenger produces a genuine title challenge in his 21st campaign the small bands of supporters who dared to flash banners asking him to go last season could evolve into mass protests.
Wenger’s hesitancy to launch into the transfer market has already had an impact as he scrambled around this week for a centre back with both Per Mertesacker and Gabriel out injured.
“Everybody is ambitious – never has the Premier League been gifted with so many ambitious people or clubs at the start of the season,” said the 66-year-old Frenchman.
“But sometimes the media give too much importance to the managers and I believe that what is important is the quality of the players on the pitch.
Arsenal fans might take those remarks with a pinch of salt as their regular complaint has been that their squad is not strong enough, and with the Frenchman’s contract up at the end of the upcoming campaign, he will hope the longest-running love affair in football’s elite doesn’t end in a messy divorce.
Klopp for his part will be seeking to build on the progress he made at Liverpool when he came in after Brendan Rodgers departed last season.
The charismatic German has brought in some interesting recruits such as the Dutch attacking midfielder Giorginio Wijnaldum, who was one of the rare players to produce top-class performances for relegated Newcastle United last season.
Klopp may find his side’s weakness is in central defence, and says his intention was never for wholesale personnel changes. Instead he prefers to draw on the unlikely successes of Euro 2016 as an example to follow.
“If you want to have proof of the different ways that football can work you only have to look at the European Championship,” said the 49-year-old, whose side finished eighth last season.
“There were wonderful examples of what football really is - about building a team, creating a bond between the team, supporters and whole countries.”
Tottenham manager Pochettino is relishing the start of the season hailing it as a “new era” for the north London club.
The Argentine steered Spurs to a third place finish at the end of last season earning them qualification for the Champions League and is now eager to prove his team’s worth amongst Europe’s elite.
“We have to put that third place finish to one side and focus on all the things we achieved - and move on,” he said.
“What we can now go on to achieve in the Champions League is very important.”