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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Lineker predicts Prem title winner and backs big signing to justify price tag

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GARY LINEKER today gives SunSport his lowdown on the new Premier League season. The Match of the Day host was a prolific England striker, a World Cup Golden Boot winner, a star at Barcelona — and even won a major trophy with Tottenham. 7Gary Lineker has spoken to SunSport about the upcoming Premier League seasonCredit: Getty 7The Match of the Day host is predicting Arsenal to win the Premier LeagueCredit: Getty Here he tells us exactly why Erling Haaland is such a lethal goalscorer, why he thinks Arsenal can win the title and the Saudi Arabia threat to the Prem. To mark the launch of his new podcast ‘The Rest Is Football’ — with Match of the Day pals Alan Shearer and Micah Richards — Lineker gives us some of his exclusive takes. Gary on… Arsenal I’M tipping Arsenal to win the title this season — maybe just to avoid being predictable but I do think they have had an impressive summer in the transfer market. Rather than demoralising them, going close and missing out last season will benefit Mikel Arteta’s side. Being in the title race has given them an experience that they didn’t previously have. A lot of players who move for big money struggle to cope with their price tag but I don’t think that’ll be the case with ex-West Ham skipper Declan Rice. He is an exceptional player — a holding midfielder but also far more than that. Rice is a real leader, who will run all day, a player who can break the lines and make things happen with the ball at his feet. Of course, £105million is a massive fee but he will not have the same pressure as a forward player who moves for big money because they are constantly judged on their scoring record. I’d like to see Rice add more goals to his game but nobody is expecting that of him. Most read in Football FREE BETS AND SIGN UP DEALS – BEST NEW CUSTOMER OFFERS I’m also intrigued to see where Kai Havertz fits in because he is a wonderful talent. Despite scoring Chelsea’s winner in the 2021 Champions League final, I don’t think we’ve seen the best of the German yet. He looks to me like his best position might be as a No 10 but Arsenal have the excellent Martin Odegaard there already. Havertz may start the season at centre-forward as Gabriel Jesus is injured but he could also operate wide on the left or right or in a deeper role. He certainly adds depth and I’d expect Arsenal to add to their squad even further before the deadline. Losing William Saliba to injury during last season’s run-in was a massive blow for them — possibly a decisive one — but with more depth Arsenal are capable of going one better this coming season. On.. Erling Haaland 7Erling Haaland netted 36 goals in the Prem last seasonCredit: Getty MOST strikers don’t actually know how to score goals — the fact that Erling Haaland does is the key factor in making him so successful. I don’t agree when people say goalscoring is about instinct. It’s about mathematics, it’s about the law of probability — and you have to learn the art. Haaland has pace, power and stature, he puts the fear of God into defences, who tend to drop deep to combat him but it’s almost impossible to stop him. What really sets him apart, though, is his intelligence. A goalscorer will attack space and nine times out of ten, the ball might not arrive exactly where you want it to — but when it does, you know you have an easy chance to score. Haaland gets this. When I played, people often said that I’d done nothing all game but then scored the winner. But for the rest of the match, I’d be making 15, 20 or 30 runs with the ball rarely going where I’d want it — and with Haaland there are many similarities. I’d seen plenty of him at Borussia Dortmund and when he arrived I knew he was an absolute banker to score a lot of goals for Manchester City. They are such a creative team who get the ball to the byline more than any other team I’ve ever seen. City won the title without an authentic centre-forward the previous season but they didn’t win the Champions League until Haaland arrived and even though he didn’t score in the final or semi-final, the threat of him being there makes such a difference. The genius of Pep Guardiola has helped him. I believe Pep is the greatest manager of all time — an obsessive, who is constantly evolving his tactics. But this season represents a real challenge. Pep will be as dedicated as ever but will his players experience a dip after winning the Treble? On.. Liverpool hopes 7Lineker is expecting big things from Darwin Nunez this seasonCredit: Alamy MY sons are all obsessed with fantasy football teams and when they ask me for tips, I tell them to sign up Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez as I think the forward will have a massive season this time around. The Uruguayan certainly isn’t the only player to take his time to settle into the Premier League but he’d improved by the end of last season and he has great strengths. Sure, he missed a lot of chances but I don’t mind strikers missing chances. It shows he is getting into the right positions. This should be a much better season for Liverpool.  Jurgen Klopp’s sides have often had a difficult season every three or four years but come back stronger. They needed a midfield refresh and that is happening. Alexis Mac Allister is an excellent signing and they have also added Dominik Szoboszlai, the Hungarian whose name I am going to learn to pronounce before the first Match of the Day! On.. Chelsea new era 7Mauricio Pochettino will take charge of Chelsea for the new Premier League seasonCredit: Getty CHELSEA have made a really great appointment in Mauricio Pochettino —  and they needed to as last season was an absolute shambles. I got to know Mauricio well when he worked with us at the BBC during the World Cup in Qatar and he is a very smart and engaging man who did a great job at Tottenham. I don’t think any player at Chelsea — those who have left and those who are still at Stamford Bridge — should ever be judged on what happened last term because it was a mess of the club’s making. They have slimmed down their squad, which was absolutely necessary, and signed a fair few as well. One of the reasons Thomas Tuchel left early last season was because he clashed with the owners. I hope they learn from that and listen to Pochettino. He needs time to get things right and Chelsea are the most difficult to predict in the season ahead — although they can’t finish as low as 12th again. On.. Man Utd buys 7Andre Onana will be Man United’s No.1 this seasonCredit: Getty I’M really looking forward to seeing Manchester United’s new goalkeeper Andre Onana. The Cameroonian, from Inter Milan, is excellent with the ball at his feet and I’m interested to see how that changes the way Erik ten Hag’s side build up from the back. Onana’s greatest strength was David de Gea’s real weakness.Sure, Onana will make some cock-ups but the benefits of having a keeper who can play will outweigh those moments when he gets things wrong. Mason Mount is another good signing. He’s an under-rated player because a lot of what he does goes under the radar — he presses so well and works hard. He dipped at Chelsea last year but so did everyone at Stamford Bridge. He needs this fresh start. United have spent a lot of money on 20-year-old Danish striker Rasmus Hojlund from  Atalanta and I can’t say I have seen a lot of him. Perhaps they see him more as one for the long term but I’m not convinced he’s going to make the difference for them. On.. Saudi cash splurge 7Karim Benzema is one of the stars to join the Saudi Pro LeagueCredit: Getty SAUDI Pro League clubs have been throwing around a vast amount of money this summer. But until they sign Kylian Mbappe, or another genuine world star in his prime, then the major European clubs will remain relaxed about it. Right now, it’s just the latest league where older players go to die their footballing deaths — like Karim Benzema joining Al-Ittihad — for one last earner. It’s the same with Major League Soccer in America, it was the same with China for a while, and I did it myself in Japan at the end of my playing career. I don’t want to sound holier-than-thou but Saudi Arabia has a deeply troubling human rights record — last year 80 people were executed in one day, most for what we would regard as minor offences. There are many other serious human rights concerns. It is easy to say, ‘I would never go there for any money’, until millions and millions are dangled in front of your face — then that dilemma becomes very real. Players can guarantee the financial security of their family for generations to come. It can’t be easy to turn down that sort of offer. The Saudis, and their sportswashing project, are not going away — in football as in golf, boxing, tennis and other sports. They have ambitions to host World Cups and Olympics and they have such vast wealth. But until they can land an Mbappe, they will not be seen as a major threat by the top European leagues. Some clubs, such as Chelsea, are even seeing the emergence of the Saudi Pro League as a major positive. They have been able to offload unwanted players for big money, instead of having to loan them out while still paying half of their wages. DREAM TEAM IS LIVE – JOIN NOW TO BATTLE FOR THE £50k TOP PRIZE

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