Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will be feeling quietly confident on the eve of the new Premier League season.
Liverpool ’s squad is stronger than at any previous occasion during Klopp’s reign, while the Reds have been in fine form during pre-season, none more so than in their last outing as they comfortably despatched Napoli 5-0 in Dublin.
And with the last members of Klopp’s squad now back at Melwood following this summer’s World Cup, Liverpool are well-placed to start the campaign strongly against West Ham United at Anfield on Sunday.
However, the same cannot be said of the Reds’ main challengers with the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea enduring far from straight-forward summers.
Manchester United open the Premier League at home to Leicester City on Friday night but manager Jose Mourinho has frequently voiced his dissatisfaction heading into the new campaign.
Despite bringing in Diogo Dalot, Fred and Lee Grant, the Portuguese remains frustrated at Old Trafford and has regularly bemoaned the club’s failure to land his big targets over the summer.
Trophyless last season, Mourinho has twice taken swipe at Liverpool and Klopp since the Reds beat United 4-1 in Michigan last month.
Speaking after his side’s defeat to Bayern Munich on Sunday, the United boss said: ““My CEO knows what I want and I still have a few days to wait and see what happens.
“The other clubs who compete with us are really strong and already have fantastic teams.
“Or they are investing massively like Liverpool, who are buying everything and everybody.
“If we don’t make our team better it will be a difficult season for us.”
Mourinho recently questioned the quality of his side’s younger players, while Anthony Martial also looks set to leave the club after his relationship with his manager reached breaking point after his late return to training following the birth of his second child.
Add in Alexis Sanchez missing the start of the Red Devils’ pre-season tour due to visa issues, the continued absence of a number of big-name players following their World Cup exploits, including star striker Romelu Lukaku and record signing Paul Pogba, and just one victory from six friendlies and Manchester United’s preparations for the new season have been far from perfect.
Like United, Tottenham Hotspur too have been stung by the World Cup with nine of their players reaching at least the semi-finals.
Unlike United, however, Mauricio Pochettino is yet to add to his squad with Tottenham instead focussing on securing the long-term future of their manager and key players like Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.
It remains to be seen whether Spurs will bring in any players before Thursday’s deadline, but their side could have a rather unfamiliar look when they open their season away at Newcastle United on Saturday should they choose not to rush back the likes of Kane, Jan Vertonghen or Hugo Lloris.
However, the players currently at Pochettino’s disposal have enjoyed a respectable summer, recording victories over the likes of AS Roma and AC Milan and losing just one of their six pre-season friendlies.
Across London, Chelsea’s summer has been something of a soap opera, dominated by the drawn-out departure of Antonio Conte, the inevitable appointment of Maurizio Sarri and questions surrounding the futures of the likes of Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and Willian.
With Conte’s future called into question long before his eventual departure despite winning the FA Cup in his final season at the club, the Italian finally left Stamford Bridge on July 13 with Sarri’s appointment being confirmed the following day.
But the drawn-out process has impacted the club’s summer with the Blues only adding Jorginho and Robert Green to their heavily unbalanced squad so far.
Off the pace in their Community Shield defeat to Manchester City, Chelsea only pencilled in four pre-season friendlies over the summer and are currently without the likes of World Cup winners N’Golo Kante and Olivier Giroud.
And while Hazard currently looks set to stay at Stamford Bridge, Willian reported back late for training amid interest from FC Barcelona and Manchester United and Courtois is still yet to return as he tries to force through a move.
Already a club in transition, a lack of faith in the likes of underperforming striker Alvaro Morata is a mere afterthought with Chelsea playing catch-up on their rivals before a ball has even been kicked.
Following the departure of long-serving manager Arsene Wenger over the summer, Arsenal are another club in transition heading into the new campaign.
But unlike the aforementioned clubs, the Gunners have not been left as depleted by the World Cup as some of their rivals with only Danny Welbeck competing in the semi-finals.
They have enjoyed a productive summer in the transfer market too, bringing in Matteo Guendouzi, Bernd Leno, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Lucas Torreira and Sokratis Papastathopoulos, and are unbeaten in pre-season, picking up victories over the likes of Lazio and Paris Saint-Germain along the way.
However, Arsenal fans have been left unimpressed by the news that majority shareholder Stan Kroenke has made a £600m offer to buy the whole of the club with Alisher Usmanov agreeing to sell his 30% stake.
Kroenke will be borrowing £557million to help fund the takeover, which he says will not be against the club, with the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust (AST) declaring the news “a dreadful day” for the Gunners.
Following ever-growing unrest among fans at the Emirates’ stadium in Wenger’s last years at the club, such negativity will cause further uncertainty heading into the new season.
With title holders Manchester City already well-placed to defend their crown, it remains to be seen which side will emerge as their closest challengers.
But after two fourth-placed finishes and a Champions League Final appearance under Klopp, a summer of stability at Anfield could help Liverpool leapfrog their rivals and forge their best attempt at a title challenge since 1990.