Premier League football is back on Friday, when Arsenal take on Leicester City to open the 2017-18 season.
Chelsea won the title with relative comfort last season in a dream first campaign at the helm for manager Antonio Conte.
Tottenham, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United are all looking to bridge the gap this year in what looks like an open title race.
Here, with the help of Opta statistics, we look at an area in which each of the big six Premier League clubs need to improve on from last season.
PEP MUST SOLVE BIG-MATCH WOES & KEEPER STRUGGLES
Manchester City’s struggles in big games and between the sticks hurt Pep Guardiola in his first season as a manager in England.
Guardiola had difficulty against other sides in the top six, winning only two of 10 matches and scoring just 11 times in those games, a record that has to be improved.
City only earned 10 points from matches against their nearest rivals. In comparison, Liverpool earned 20, champions Chelsea 16 and Spurs 15. United also earned 10, with Arsenal on nine.
Guardiola will hope the well-publicised woe of Claudio Bravo has been addressed with the signing of Ederson from Benfica.
Neither Bravo nor his replacement Willy Caballero, now of Chelsea, made it into the top 21 goalkeepers for saves in 2016-17.
CAN LUKAKU HELP MAN UTD TAKE THEIR CHANCES?
Home draws were a regular occurrence in Manchester United’s disappointing sixth-place finish last season.
An inability to break down weaker sides at Old Trafford and a failure to take chances were a huge frustration for Jose Mourinho.
United drew 10 of their 19 home league games as they registered the top-flight’s seventh-best record in front of their own fans.
They scored just 26 times at home, lower than the likes of Leicester City, Bournemouth, West Brom and relegated Hull City.
Across all matches last season, United’s shot conversion was woeful, with just 9.14 per cent of their total shots ending up in goals. That put them 17th in the league for that statistic.
United will hope new £75million signing Romelu Lukaku can help to improve that record. He scored the first goal in a match for Everton seven times in the league last season – a record only bettered by Alexis Sanchez and Harry Kane (nine each).
BETTER AWAY FORM KEY TO SPURS’ HOPES
You would always expect to achieve better results at home than away, but Tottenham’s form drop-off on their travels last season was marked.
They had the top flight’s best home record in 2016-17, winning 17 matches and drawing two. Away, meanwhile, their record of nine wins, six draws and four defeats ranked fifth.
Spurs earned two points more than champions Chelsea in home games, but were nine worse off than the Blues on the road.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men scored 47 goals at home and conceded only nine. Away, that record drops to 39 scored and 17 conceded.
As long as Spurs can stay similarly formidable in home fixtures after moving to Wembley, an improvement in their away form would be decisive.
DEFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT AN ARSENAL PRIORITY
Arsenal’s defensive record will need to improve if they are to challenge for this season’s Premier League.
The Gunners offered little protection to goalkeeper Petr Cech last year, conceding 44 goals, which was the worst record of the big six.
Arsenal particularly struggled in that department away from home, with the 28 goals they conceded a key difference in performance compared to the likes of Chelsea (16), United and Spurs (both 17).
Arsene Wenger’s men allowed their opponents to take 432 shots against them last season, which was sixth best in the league and well below City, who topped that category by only allowing 301.
Of those, 167 were on target, making Cech far busier than his goalkeeping rivals. That tally for Arsenal was the worst in the big six, and also poorer than Southampton, Everton and West Brom.
Wenger will hope his switch to three at the back, which worked impressively towards the end of 2016-17, can help them improve in those crucial departments this term.
LIVERPOOL NEED RUTHLESS STREAK
Liverpool lost an astonishing 18 points from winning positions last season.
That mark was the league’s fifth worst and significantly more than their key rivals. By comparison, Arsenal lost 11, United 10, Chelsea and City nine, while Spurs lost just five.
The arrival of Mohamed Salah improves Liverpool’s attacking threat and Jurgen Klopp will hope the goals and assists the forward brings will help to kill teams off.
Leaking goals was also a concern for Liverpool, with 42 conceded last season – a tally worse than the three teams who finished above them last season, as well as United.
The 18 conceded at Anfield may not sound awful, but it was a higher figure than all the other teams in the top six, as well as city rivals Everton. Spurs (nine) and United (12) came out best in that category.
MORATA HAS HUGE COSTA SHOES TO FILL
The pressure is on Alvaro Morata to make an immediate impact as Chelsea’s first-choice striker, as he seeks to replace Diego Costa, who is not in the plans of manager Antonio Conte.
Costa’s 20 league goals last season won 15 points for the Blues en route to the title, a tally unrivalled by any other player in last season’s top flight.
In that category there was no other Chelsea player in the top 15 spots for points earned by their goals, with Eden Hazard’s 16, by comparison, responsible for only seven points.
Costa was involved in 27 goals last season (20 goals, seven assists), a huge level of production his fellow Spain international Morata now must provide. That tally was only bettered by Harry Kane, Alexis Sanchez and Lukaku. No other Chelsea player made the top 10.
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