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New season, same old issues at Arsenal in Premier League



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MANCHESTER, England (AP) — New season, same old issues at Arsenal.

Yet another offseason has passed with manager Arsene Wenger failing to sign a prolific striker and a dominant center back. Without doing so, there's a widely held belief that Arsenal will keep coming up short in the race for the English Premier League title.

So get ready for a fresh raft of protests by frustrated fans of the Gunners if they lose at home to Liverpool on Sunday in the first round of league games.

"We want to spend the money when we have it," Wenger said Wednesday. "But we respect the money we have. It is very difficult to find the quality of players who are available."

Over the past two months, the Manchester clubs have each spent around $200 million, Chelsea has brought in its primary transfer target in N'Golo Kante, and Liverpool has been busy strengthening its squad with an outlay of around $90 million.

There's been no transfer activity of note at Arsenal since the club signed holding midfielder Granit Xhaka in May, with bids for strikers Jamie Vardy and Alexandre Lacazette coming to nothing and Wenger unable yet to bring in a center back. This time last season, Arsenal went into the new campaign as the only team in the Premier League not to sign an outfield player during the offseason.

Arsenal is starting this season with the oft-criticized Olivier Giroud still as its first-choice striker, while its defense is stretched following injuries to center backs Per Mertesacker and Gabriel.

The atmosphere at the Emirates could quickly turn hostile if Arsenal struggles against Liverpool. In two of the last three seasons, Arsenal opened with home losses to Aston Villa and West Ham and there was a backlash from fans at the final whistle both times.

Arsenal hasn't won the league since 2004. The team finished in second place last season, 10 points behind Leicester, and Wenger said he still feels "guilt" and "regret" at missing out on the title.

"Guilt because you would not have predicted Leicester winning the league," Wenger said, "so all the other teams would say, 'We should have come in front of Leicester.'"

Good vibes will be coursing through other likely title contenders heading into the first round of fixtures.

Manchester United, under Jose Mourinho this season, might play Paul Pogba at Bournemouth on Sunday for his first appearance back at the club following his world-record move from Juventus. Pep Guardiola takes charge of his first competitive game as Manchester City coach against Sunderland on Saturday, and could field a handful of his eight offseason signings.

Then there's Leicester, which plays its first match as English champion away to Hull.

Here are some other things to look out for this weekend:

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MANAGERLESS HULL

Hull could be the best possible opening match for Leicester.

The promoted club is without a manager following the departure of Steve Bruce last month, hasn't made a single signing this offseason, and has seen injuries rob the team of a number of key players to start the season.

Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri is weighing up whether to start club-record signing Ahmed Musa up front with Jamie Vardy on Saturday, or keep faith with Shinji Okazaki.

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MOYES RETURNS

David Moyes was last seen in a Premier League dugout in April 2014, when he took charge of what would be his last game as Man United manager — a 3-0 loss at Everton. He was fired two days later.

After a brief and unsuccessful stint in Spain with Real Sociedad, Moyes is back in English football at Sunderland and he probably couldn't have picked a tougher game to start: Away to Man City.

Moyes has turned to United in a bid to strengthen his squad. On Thursday, he signed United defenders Paddy McNair and Donald Love, and Moyes has also been linked with a move for United midfielder Adnan Januzaj on a season-long loan deal.

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BOOKIES BACK CITY

Britain's bookmakers make Man City the 5-2 favorite to win the Premier League this season, ahead of Manchester United (3-1) and Chelsea (5-1).

City striker Sergio Aguero is the favorite to be the top scorer in the league at 7-2, ahead of last season's Golden Boot winner Harry Kane (6-1).

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Steve Douglas

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