Will the real Manchester United please stand up? 10 questions ahead of the new Premier League season
Manchester United: laughing stock or team reborn?
So far under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it has been a case of boom and bust for Manchester United - a thrilling start followed by a crushing couple of months.
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Solskjaer will be hoping that a full pre-season with his players will allow for a more coherent, and less reactive, approach. The start of the season will be crucial in shaping perceptions around a manager who is unproven at the top level. Summer signings, with talk of more business being done before the transfer window closes, should help, but there remains a fear that United's midfield remains some way short of the required quality.
Failing to qualify for the Champions League for a second straight season would be a disaster so Solskjaer will have to quickly prove he is up to the job full time.
Will transfer ban be a blessing in disguise for Chelsea?
The return of adored club legend Frank Lampard, the promise of youngsters getting a chance, goodwill from the fans - are we going to see a more wholesome Chelsea this season?
Certainly there are many observers who feel the club's transfer ban could be a blessing in disguise in forcing Chelsea to finally blood some of their talented young players.
Lampard has made all the right noises about wanting to maximise the talent at his disposal, so for the moment at least there is hope that the club's record goalscorer can provide the stability that has been lacking over the past decade or so.
Much will depend on how Chelsea can absorb the loss of talisman Eden Hazard.
Is there trouble brewing for Spurs and Pochettino?
For someone who in almost all respects must be a dream employee, Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino does enjoy the odd outburst.
His latest follows another summer of relative inactivity in the transfer market and led an angry Pochettino to say that "maybe the club need to change my title description now, because my job now is to coach the team".
It is likely that Pochettino was just venting and ensuring that chairman Daniel Levy does all he can to get a couple of deals over the line, but it is not the sort of thing Spurs fans will want to hear on the eve of the new season. Even with a new stadium and his obvious love for the club, Pochettino will not accept debilitating financial restrictions indefinitely.
Will Arsenal end Champions League exile?
Having been ridiculed for their consistency in finishing fourth, Arsenal have now sunk even lower and missed out on Champions League qualification for three straight seasons.
To end their exile, head coach Unai Emery will be relying on greater cohesion in his second season in charge, and fewer defensive mishaps.
However, they are still a reliable centre-back short of looking like a serious team, even if the arriving Nicolas Pepe will give them some much-needed unpredictability up front.
Should Emery fail in creating a more solid defensive unit, Arsenal may have another near-miss of a season.
Can anyone gatecrash the Big Six party?
After their heroics in finishing seventh last season, many will be looking at Wolves to try to break the 'Big Six' cartel. In reality though, Nuno Espirito Santo's side may well be handicapped by trying to juggle domestic commitments with the Europa League.
Everton, who have strengthened their midfield this summer, could be in a stronger position to capitalise, while Watford will also fancy their chances.
Outside of those clubs, West Ham will hope to build on a creditable mid-table finish, but are likely to lack the consistency to challenge the elite.
Perhaps it will fall to Brendan Rodgers' Leicester, who finished last season strongly and look to have the clearest identity of the chasing pack, especially if the money from the sale of Harry Maguire is put to good use.
Is Rodgers reborn?
This season promises to be a restorative one for Rodgers, who went from Next Big Thing to Deluded Brendan within a year at Liverpool.
Having racked up the trophies at Celtic, Rodgers improved Leicester after taking over in February, and looks like a good fit at the King Power.
A successful period at Leicester would surely pique the interest of the Premier League's bigger clubs.
In the more immediate term, another Leicester upset - if not quite on the scale of 2016 - looks well within their grasp.
Have the three Bs outstayed their welcome?
To varying degrees and over slightly different time periods, Bournemouth, Burnley and Brighton have exceeded expectations since being promoted to the Premier League. There is a suspicion now though that one of them might go the way of a Stoke or Bolton in succumbing to relegation after years of punching above their weight.
Brighton have been in the Premier League only two seasons and, after staggering to safety last season, look the most vulnerable. Bournemouth and Burnley should have enough savvy about them to survive another year, but injuries for the former and a sense of being found out for the latter could cause problems.
Burnley will be hoping they can maintain the momentum of an improved second half of last season.
Will the new boys have enough?
Predicting which promoted teams will thrive and which will suffer is a tricky business, but perhaps we can draw some parallels with last season.
The most obvious one is between Fulham and Aston Villa, both of whom spent big after winning promotion via the play-offs. For Fulham the result was a disaster, with signings failing to settle and established players being sidelined. Villa manager Dean Smith will aim to do a better job of integrating the recent arrivals.
As for Norwich and Sheffield United, the fear is that without having spent significantly, there might be too much of a quality deficit to make up.
How much VAR discussion can we bear?
Clear and obvious errors, unnatural position of arms, silhouettes - the most boring discourse in the history of the world will soon be coming to a Premier league ground near you. The introduction of Video Assistant Referees will in theory clear up officiating errors, but in practice lead to even more debate and obsession around the decisions of referees and linesmen.
A lack of clarity over the laws of the game - hence the growth of terms such as a player's "silhouette" - will only alienate fans further and put the game more in the hands of the bureaucrats.
The first few weeks of the season especially will be dominated by talk of all things VAR.
Which of the new signings will take the league by storm?
Aaron Wan-Bissaka promises to be a hugely exciting player for Manchester United, while Christian Pulisic at Chelsea (signed before the ban was imposed) and Rodri at Manchester City should add a bit of star quality. At Tottenham, Tanguy Ndombele will provide a thrill partly by dint of the rarity of Spurs making a signing.
Elsewhere, the arrival of Joelinton at Newcastle should provide decent debut-goal potential - and the chance for pundits to go dewy-eyed about the club's great tradition of No 9s.
The big kick-off