Chasing pack look to close gap on PL duopoly
For all the global appeal and excitement the Premier League generates, there is a clear danger that the dominance of Manchester City and Liverpool reaches a level of repetitiveness that undermines the competitive appeal of England's top flight.
The other members of the so-called "Big Six", however, are determined that when the action returns on Friday they can to least close the gap and begin to restore the unpredictable element that has been at the heart of the league's popularity.
City have won four of the last five titles with Liverpool's lockdown success in 2020, the only interruption to the dominance of Pep Guardiola's team.
Not since Chelsea triumphed in 2017, a year after Leicester City's utterly unexpected title, has the Premier League had a winner from outside the two North West clubs.
Chelsea's success was masterminded by manager Antonio Conte and the Italian coach, now in North London with Tottenham Hotspur, is hoping he can again disrupt the dominance of Pep Guardiola and Juergen Klopp.
Spurs finished fourth last term, securing a return to the Champions League, but their improvement under Conte and smart moves in the market have created the belief that they can further improve.
Brazil forward Richarlison, bought from Everton, joins an impressive attack featuring England captain Harry Kane and South Korean Son Heung-min -- the joint top scorer in the league last season with 23 goals.
Croatian Ivan Perisic, who worked with Conte at Inter Milan, will bring extra quality and width while Yves Bissouma, from Brighton, adds energy to central midfield.
Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea finished third last season but their attempt to follow up their Champions League triumph in 2021 with a real push for the domestic title faded amidst the sanctions imposed on Russian owner Roman Abramovich.
A new ownership group, headed by American Todd Boehly, is now in place at Stamford Bridge and Tuchel has moved to freshen up his squad.
Romelu Lukaku's ill-fated return to the club has been cut short with the Belgian striker loaned back to Inter Milan and in his place Chelsea have recruited England forward Raheem Sterling from Manchester City.
Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen will be missed in defence although the signing of Senegalese centre-half Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli goes some way to addressing the losses.
Arsenal have slowly progressed under Mikel Arteta, finishing fifth last year and they have made impressive moves in the market as they push to return to the top four.
Brazil striker Gabriel Jesus and Ukraine's Oleksandr Zinchenko have been brought in from Manchester City and both should improve Arteta's side.
Fabio Vieira from Porto is only 22 but should provide another option in an exciting young midfield.
This promised to be a summer of major change at Manchester United after their dreadful campaign last season during which manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer lost his job and interim manager Ralf Rangnick fail to turn things around.
There is a major question over whether Cristiano Ronaldo will remain with the club and the expected flurry of transfer activity has yet to truly materialise.
New manager Erik ten Hag has brought in centre-back Lisandro Martinez from his old club Ajax and left back Tyrell Malacia from Feyenoord while Denmark's Christian Eriksen has joined on a free after his spell at Brentford showed he is back to full health.
But the main target in this window, Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong, remains with Barcelona despite the best efforts of United's hierarchy to bring him to Old Trafford.
Saudi-backed Newcastle United hope they can join West Ham United and Leicester City in the group of clubs pushing to enter the Big Six although they have been less active in the market than could have been expected.
The three promoted clubs -- Fulham, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest -- will all be happy to simply survive for another year in the top flight.
Forest are back after a 23-year exile, and have spent the most of the new arrivals, with Jesse Lingard from Manchester United the most eye-catching signing.