Aug 09, 2023 09:43 PM IST Pep Guardiola will bid to take his team to a sixth Premier League title in seven seasons, but the top contenders will fancy their chance. It’s that time of the year again when anticipation heightens among football fans before the start of the Premier League, arguably the most popular club competition in football. And it’s another year with Manchester City, crowned champions for the fifth time in six seasons, start firm favourites to retain the title. Manchester City players celebrate their Premier League title after the English Premier League match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium(AP) Pep Guardiola’s men finally got their hands on the Champions League trophy last season to complete the treble with the Spaniard further cementing his place among the all-time great managers the game has seen. Heading into his eighth season in charge at the Etihad, he will have his task cut out as the best of the rest aim to stop the City juggernaut. The top challenger for City again this season could be Arsenal. The Gunners came tantalisingly close to ending their Premier League title drought last season, leading the table for the most part before squandering points towards the end to finish second. It was a crushing blow to a club that’s waited 20 years to add to its tally of three league titles, but it could also fuel Arsenal’s ambition and push them to be more clinical this time around. Mikel Arteta’s team will start the season on a high after beating City in the season-opening Community Shield tie. They have been the biggest spenders in the transfer market (£203.5m) and the side bolstered by the arrival of Declan Rice, Kai Havertz and defender Jurrien Timber. “It’s great, that’s why we are here – to win trophies for this football club and make it successful,” Arteta said after the Community Shield win. “Just the joy of seeing so many happy and proud people and the connection again doing it for our supporters feels very different. This is great, it lifts us, the spirit, the belief and everything, we just want to play better and win games.” Manchester United were also much-improved last season. Under Erik ten Hag, they found more stability and finished third in the league, apart from winning the Carabao Cup (League Cup), their first trophy in six years. Acquiring Danish striker Rasmus Hojlund, Mason Mount and Andre Onana, who has replaced David de Gea in the goal, has raised expectations. But a lot will again depend on how Ten Hag brings the best out of the squad. United appear to be on an upward trajectory despite the uncertainty over the club ownership, but they’ll need a special effort to sustain their challenge for the title. Newcastle United sprang a surprise and earned a top four finish last season, their best Premier League result in two decades. Back by the wealth of the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund – it is the majority owner – the club is expected to keep marching forward. The challenge for coach Eddie Howe though will be to manage Champions League football along with the gruelling league schedule. Harvey Barnes and Sandro Tonali arriving has added depth to the squad, but they will need Joe Willock, Sean Longstaff, Miguel Almiron and Joelinton to keep improving. For the first time in eight seasons, Liverpool won’t be in the Champions League. Jurgen Klopp’s men, who won their only Premier League title four seasons ago, came fifth last year. It was a promising finish for them though as they went unbeaten in their last 11 games. Klopp had said Liverpool would “be a contender again”, but the German has a massive challenge ahead as he is set to field a new-look lineup. While Mohamed Salah remains the talisman, James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita, captain Jordan Henderson and Fabinho have made their way out. Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai are two exciting new recruits and a lot will depend on how they dictate play from the midfield. Lastly, Chelsea, after all their problems last season, don’t look like title challengers at the start of the season but there’s renewed hope with Mauricio Pochettino taking over. The Blues came 12th last season, their lowest finish in the Premier League since 1994, but owner Todd Boehly has made some big investments. Although striker Christopher Nkunku, their most expensive signing just acquired from RB Leipzig is set to be out for an extended period after getting injured during a pre-season friendly, the Chelsea faithful will be hoping Pochettino can trigger a revival like he did at Tottenham Hotspur a few years ago.