London (AFP) – 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 Spurs 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, 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 centreback 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 to ArsenalWay.
“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.
“All teams compete highly to have a top squad.”
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 was given the heave ho 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 the Euro 2016 championships 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 term.
“There were wonderful examples of what football really is – about building a team, creating a bond between the team, supporters and whole countries.”