Which of the FOUR Premier League’s big guns are shaping up best after their pre-season tours
Four of the Premier League’s big guns are just returning from pre-season tours and have had varying levels of success.
From new £50million signings, emerging young talents and unhappy managers, their respective pre-season preparations have left a number of talking points to discuss.
Sportsmail were with them every step of the way and now, with the new season less than a fortnight away, our reporters Mike Keegan (Chelsea), Daniel Matthews (Arsenal), Jack Gaughan (Manchester City) and Chris Wheeler (Manchester United) assess how the clubs are shaping up.
Sportsmail provides their assessment of four Premier League big gun’s pre-season tours
Has the manager been happy on the tour?
In a word, no. At the start, Thomas Tuchel seemed tired. By the end, he was tired and frustrated. The German admitted the travelling — west and east coasts of the USA — impacted his squad and saw energy levels drop.
But after the Arsenal pasting he let fly. It was no surprise they were not scoring goals, we were told, because they had the same players as last season. We should not be mentioning Manchester City or Liverpool because Chelsea had just been thrashed by a team that was not playing in the Champions League this season. Ouch.
It felt he was sending a message to the new owners about how severe the need for fresh blood is. He also hit out at those in his squad who want a move away.
Things can change quickly but this is a manager who does not appear to be in a good place. He admitted having to get involved in signings was not ideal as he prefers to coach. He will need all of his skills on the training pitch over the next week and a half.
Thomas Tuchel will be left with a lot on his mind after Chelsea’s disappointing pre-season tour
Mikel Arteta’s mood improved as the 10-day trip went on. Hardly surprising, perhaps, given Arsenal picked up three wins and signed Oleksandr Zinchenko from Manchester City while in the US.
The manager rarely gives much away but Arteta grew more relaxed and open as plans began to fall into place. He was particularly frank on the issues of the owners and Arsenal’s captaincy curse.
Following their thumping victory over Chelsea, however, there was a very evident shift in tone.
Arteta ended the tour trying to control swelling expectations, playing down the significance of the match and resisting the chance to heap pressure on Gabriel Jesus.
Mikel Arteta’s mood improved as Arsenal’s pre-season tour of America got underway
One of Pep Guardiola’s final answers on City’s short trip to the US was how excited he was ahead of the new season. The restructuring of their squad has largely gone to plan — although they still want a left back — and the tour went well, particularly after nobody was injured on an uneven pitch in Houston.
Guardiola had City doing double sessions during that first stop in Texas, but they were described as relatively light and more about ball work than fitness.
The performances in beating Club America and Bayern Munich were encouraging and not even the severe storms in Green Bay that cut the friendly against the Bundesliga champions short by 10 minutes could dampen the mood.
Guardiola had City doing double sessions during the first stop of their US tour in Texas
You get the impression Erik ten Hag will never be totally happy given the high standards he sets, but an unbeaten tour with three wins and a draw is a promising start for the new manager.
Ten Hag acknowledged that Liverpool were under-strength and under-cooked when United thumped them 4-0 in Bangkok, as were Crystal Palace when they were beaten 3-1 in Melbourne. There was a routine 4-1 win over Melbourne Victory at the MCG as well, but Ten Hag was angry at the way United threw away a two-goal lead against Aston Villa in Perth.
The Dutchman branded it ‘unacceptable’ as his team surrendered their 100 per cent record to an injury-time equaliser and that proved to be the one negative of the tour.
Erik ten Hag has finally been able to get to grips with his Manchester United squad
How have the new stars fared?
Raheem Sterling played two lots of 45 minutes and Kalidou Koulibaly was on the field for slightly more than 20 minutes. Tuchel says he is happy with them and it would be harsh to judge based on such a short length of time.
Conor Gallagher, following a fine season at Crystal Palace, has been given time in midfield but it remains to be seen if a partnership with Mason Mount can provide the bite that will be needed in the Premier League. Billy Gilmour, back from a miserable time at Norwich City, was booted off the trip and told to join the Under 23s. Bizarrely, Ross Barkley avoided the cut, only to injure himself after the first game.
Tuchel said he let Gilmour go to improve the quality, but with Barkley and the continually mis-firing Michy Batshuayi still there, that seemed an odd statement.
Raheem Sterling will be hoping to make a big impression with the Blues after his City switch
A mixed bag. Jesus already looks a steal at £45million, with his movement and energy giving Arsenal another dimension, while the returning William Saliba oozed class in both matches against Premier League opposition.
Zinchenko enjoyed a promising first run-out against Chelsea, while Matt Turner looks a decent enough back-up goalkeeper.
But Fabio Vieira, who has been struggling with a foot injury, failed to feature, while returning loanees such as Ainsley Maitland-Niles made little impact.
Gabriel Jesus stands with his Man of the Match award from their Florida Cup Final victory
All of the focus is on Erling Haaland, who appears to have integrated into the squad with ease despite missing the first few days of training in Manchester.
They are managing his workload, while Kalvin Phillips has already played as a centre back as well as in his natural central midfield berth. Julian Alvarez’s first couple of outings looked promising, hungry when pressing defenders and robbing possession inside the opposition’s box. Free transfer Stefan Ortega kept goal in the opening match and made a decent stop, but will be second fiddle to Ederson.
Erling Haaland scored 12 minutes into his Manchester city debut against Bayern Munich
That is something else Ten Hag may not be happy about — a slow transfer market for United.
New £14.6million left back Tyrell Malacia did well on his debut against Palace and Anthony Martial, back from loan at Valencia, impressed with three goals.
But Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez were signed too late to process their visas in time to go on tour.
Meanwhile, negotiations over Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong have become mired in a wage dispute between the Dutchman and his club.
Ten Hag also wants another forward — regardless of Cristiano Ronaldo’s future at Old Trafford — and United still hope to sign Brazil winger Antony from Ajax.
Tyrell Malacia completed a £14.6million move from Feyenoord at the start of the month
Did any young players impress?
No. Some, like Gilmour, were hardly given a chance. Trevoh Chalobah was given plenty of game time but made a number of mistakes and, following his latest blunder in the build-up to Arsenal’s opener, his manager was furious.
Given Chelsea remain in the market for at least one defender, this was an ideal opportunity for Chalobah to shine. Saying he failed to grasp that opportunity would be a huge understatement.
Gallagher played well against Club America, showing some decent touches, but failed to catch the eye against Charlotte and Arsenal. He will get more chances though. Given the club’s proud tradition of producing players through its academy, however, this was a disappointing trip.
Trevoh Chalobah is looking for redemption after making a number of mistakes in pre-season,
Well, very few went. Of the 28 outfield players who flew to the USA, Reuell Walters was the only academy star included. Instead, Arteta took several senior players who appear to be on their way out. ‘It was impossible’ for more kids to come, he insisted.
The manager also namechecked Flo Balogun but did not use him, while Walters, 17, had only a brief but impressive cameo against Everton.
It is easy to forget how young many of Arteta’s squad are. Saliba and Gabriel Martinelli are only 21, for instance, while Martin Odegaard is a senior figure at 23.
Arsenal’s young guns continued to fire on all cylinders during their American tour
Left-back is the area City want to now strengthen, with Marc Cucurella at Brighton a target and Stuttgart’s Borna Sosa an alternative.
But they do have 19-year-old Josh Wilson-Esbrand coming through and he did his chances no harm in the States. He drew praise from Guardiola and could act as a deputy to Joao Cancelo if City do not secure a new defender.
He is aggressive defensively and confident on the ball, prerequisites for Guardiola’s full backs.
Rico Lewis, 17, produced an eye-catching cameo against Bayern and hit the post.
He should now start training with the first team squad after signing professional terms earlier this month. Cole Palmer, Liam Delap and James McAtee also showed glimpses.
City youngster Josh Wilson-Esbrand drew praise from Pep Guardiola during pre-season
Ten Hag gave youth a chance off the bench in all four matches after starting with his senior XI.
Charlie Savage played in the first three games and Robbie Savage’s son took his opportunities well. Zidane Iqbal appeared in all four matches and was particularly impressive alongside Savage in midfield against Liverpool.
This could also be a big season for James Garner if Ten Hag decides not to loan him out again and it was notable Ethan Laird went on ahead of right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka against Melbourne.
Charlie Savage took his opportunity to shine during United’s first three pre-season games
What do they need to do in next fortnight?
Where do you start? All of a sudden there are more issues than thought. While it is folly to read too much into pre-season tours, the form of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy — in particular his distribution — is a concern.
The arrival of Sterling helps the front three but a prolific central striker remains elusive. Timo Werner’s hint that he would be happy away from Stamford Bridge went down like a lead balloon with Tuchel and Kai Havertz is not going to be the answer. Batshuayi looks like he could not hit a barn door, and Armando Broja could be going to West Ham.
With Romelu Lukaku on loan at Inter Milan the return on investment when it comes to a central striker is mindblowing. Good luck solving that problem, Thomas.
Timo Werner has hinted that he may be happier away from Stamford Bridge in recent weeks
Even though Arsenal have done so much business, so early, their to-do list remains incomplete.
Arteta has still to confirm his captain and senior leadership group, while important players like Kieran Tierney and Takehiro Tomiyasu are battling injury.
The club are still eyeing more signings but another priority now must be shedding dead wood. Arsenal’s touring party included at least half a dozen players who have no future at the club, despite Arteta insisting everyone starts the season with a clean slate.
Selling the likes of Hector Bellerin, who is on big money, will not be easy. It is possible Arsenal will have to let people leave for free, or even pay for them to go.
Arsenal need to sort out the situation of Hector Bellerin before the new season starts
City have seemed in better shape than they usually do at this stage of pre-season. The Community Shield against Liverpool will be their final warm-up game at the weekend and the important aspect now is to see how stars who were not on tour are progressing.
Phil Foden, John Stones and Ilkay Gundogan were all in Croatia with the development teams after not meeting American entry rules. Aymeric Laporte stayed in Manchester to work on his fitness.
It will be interesting to see who Guardiola picks for the opening game at West Ham. Jack Grealish was a standout performer over the past 10 days, which could see him now ahead of Foden.
Jack Grealish will be hoping to feature in City’s starting eleven on the season’s opening day
First off, they have to sort out the Ronaldo issue. He is too big a player to let this situation drift.
He can be a big asset if United persuade him to come back, but a huge distraction if this carries on until deadline day.
The De Jong saga is also dragging on. He is Ten Hag’s top target and United need to make a breakthrough and decide if he actually wants to move to Old Trafford.
Otherwise, they need to pick another target or give the job to an existing member of the squad
Manchester United are still hoping to find a solution to Cristiano Ronaldo club issues