Arsenal sign four for £265m but Man Utd stuck with De Gea and AWB: predicting 2023/24 starting XIs

Matt Stead
Potential Man Utd XI for 2022/23 with Mason Mount, Antony and Harry Kane.

Man Utd will only be able to add two players to their line-up, Liverpool have one more starter to sign and Arsenal will make an aggressive title push.

‘How [x team] will line up if Kylian Mbappe joins and Diego Maradona is reincarnated’ is a staple of the online football content world. It is almost always nonsense. And this is no different, but we have at least made an attempt to make these opening weekend starting XI predictions vaguely sensible and thus very boring indeed.


Arsenal (v Nottingham Forest on August 12)


Timber Saliba Gabriel Zinchenko

Odegaard Rice Lavia

Saka Havertz Martinelli

The certainties: The goalkeeper, central defence and wide forwards are not budging; Arsenal will bid as often as it takes to capture Rice; Arteta is targeting physicality, flexibility and versatility from players in their mid-20s who are nevertheless experienced; there will be greater durability to cope with injuries, change approach mid-game and even tailor tactics to certain opponents and matches.

The uncertainties: Would Timber and Zinchenko – both inverted full-backs – start together? Does White take up Tomiyasu’s role of right-back and centre-half cover, as a massive improvement in both areas? Would Havertz be a regular centre-forward starter ahead of Jesus or is the German seen as too adaptable – as a No 8, No 10, striker or winger – to fix to one clear, consistent role? Can Lavia be depended on to make the step up to Arsenal and the Champions League?

The next players to be rotated in: White, Kiwior, Jorginho, Smith Rowe, Trossard, Jesus.

How much the starting line-up changes will cost Arsenal: £265m (£100m for Rice, £70m for Havertz, £50m for Timber, £45m for Lavia).


Chelsea (v Liverpool on August 13)


James Fofana Silva Chilwell

Fernandez Caicedo

Madueke Nkunku Sterling


The certainties: A new keeper and central midfield is sorely needed; Chelsea are set up long-term at full-back, with Malo Gusto and Marc Cucurella offering theoretically strong alternatives on either side; Fernandez needs a defensive-minded partner in a midfield which is craving more depth; there are numerous options and ways to change things up in attack, but centre-forward remains a concern even with Jackson joining from Villarreal.

The uncertainties: Will Onana be the new keeper Chelsea decide upon? Can Silva perform for one more season? Might Pochettino favour a three-man defence with Badiashile or Colwill coming in? Is it worth trying to persuade Lukaku to have one more go?

The next players to be rotated in: Badiashile, Colwill, Gusto, Cucurella, Gallagher, Mudryk, Lukaku.

How much the starting line-up changes will cost Chelsea: £180m (£100m for Caicedo, £50m for Onana, £30m for Jackson).


Liverpool (v Chelsea on August 13)


Alexander-Arnold Konate Van Dijk Robertson

Mac Allister Fabinho Thuram

Salah Nunez Diaz

The certainties: The only changes in defence will be in how it is set up in and out of possession; at least one more starting central midfielder will be signed; no more forwards are needed.

The uncertainties: Should the experimentation with Alexander-Arnold’s position continue? If so, do Liverpool need a new starting right-back or is the England international capable of balancing his defensive responsibilities with those of an inverted midfielder? Can Fabinho rediscover his best form? Which midfield signing should Liverpool focus on? What is their most effective possible attack?

The next players to be rotated in: Gomez, Matip, Bajcetic, Jones, Thiago, Henderson, Elliott, Gakpo, Jota

How much the starting line-up changes will cost Liverpool: £35m for Khephren Thuram.

Jurgen Klopp and Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta


Manchester City (v Burnley on August 11)


Gvardiol Ake Dias

Stones Rodri

Silva Kovacic De Bruyne Grealish


The certainties: That spine of Ederson, Ake, Dias, Rodri, De Bruyne and Haaland cannot be touched; there are improvements to be made in central defence; Stones must be in the line-up somewhere; Kovacic would be an accomplished Gundogan replacement.

The uncertainties: Is Stones better deployed in defence or his new hybrid midfield role? Can Gundogan be persuaded to stay? And even if so, is it better to slowly start phasing the 32-year-old out now? Has Guardiola made it impossible to sell Silva?

The next players to be rotated in: Akanji, Lewis, Walker, Phillips, Foden, Mahrez, Alvarez.

How much the starting line-up changes will cost Manchester City: £112m (£87m for Gvardiol, £25m for Kovacic).


Man Utd (v Wolves on August 14)

De Gea

Wan-Bissaka Varane Martinez Shaw

Casemiro Mount

Antony Fernandes Rashford


The certainties: A new goalkeeper, right-back, central midfielder and striker are all needed; the spine of Varane, Martinez, Casemiro, Fernandes and Rashford should be built around; the takeover situation needs to be clarified.

The uncertainties: Should a new keeper or striker be prioritised if the budget will not stretch far enough to make both possible? Was Wan-Bissaka’s impressive late-season form good enough to delay a right-back signing? How close to Chelsea’s reported £70m valuation of Mount is it worth going? Will Premier League experience or exciting potential be the decisive factor when deciding the new striker? Could Rashford be deployed centrally to open up the goalkeeper search?

The next players to be rotated in: Lindelof, Dalot, Eriksen, Fred, Sancho, Garnacho.

How much the starting line-up changes will cost Man Utd: £150m (£80m for Ramos, £70m for Mount).


Newcastle (v Aston Villa on August 12)


Trippier Schar Botman Tierney

Guimaraes Tonali

Almiron Szoboszlai Isak


The certainties: An upgrade at left-back is necessary; central midfield and finding a partner who can reduce the burden on Guimaraes is the priority; Maddison is an obvious target as he can play as a No 8 or off the right, although both he and Szoboszlai are unlikely to join together; a greater goal threat needs to be added throughout the side.

The uncertainties: Should 31-year-old Schar be replaced now? Is Isak better on the left or as the centre-forward? Would Arsenal sell Tierney to a direct rival? Can Howe balance the obvious need to improve in certain areas for Champions League football with the importance of continuity and solidity? Will more money be put aside to increase squad depth, particularly in defence, rather than refining the starting line-up?

The next players to be rotated in: Burn, Lascelles, Targett, Willock, Longstaff, Joelinton, Anderson, Gordon, Saint-Maximin, Murphy.

How much the starting line-up changes will cost Newcastle: £132m (£60m for Szoboszlai, £42m for Tonali, £30m for Tierney).


Tottenham (v Brentford on August 13)


Porro Romero Kilman Davies

Maddison Bissouma Skipp

Kulusevski Kane Son

The certainties: There will be a new keeper and central defender; Ange Postecoglou will offer every player a clean slate, including those who have been ostracised and sent out on loan; the manager’s formation and tactics will suit Rodrigo Bentancur when he returns from injury; Kane and Son will be kept by any means necessary.

The uncertainties: If Spurs don’t cave in and meet Brentford’s £40m demands for Raya, who will they target and how much do they expect to spend on a regular starting keeper? Can Guehi be plucked from Crystal Palace or is Kilman a cheaper and more attainable alternative? Will the intricacies of Postecoglou’s favoured 4-3-3 system favour Davies, a full-back who can play in a three-man central defence in a squad dominated by wing-backs? Is that midfield the least defensive ever? Who are the midfield targets? What number chance would this be for Ndombele?

The next players to be rotated in: Dier, Emerson, Sessegnon, Hojbjerg, Matar Sarr, Perisic, Richarlison.

How much the starting line-up changes will cost Spurs: £130m (£60m for Maddison, £40m for Raya, £30m for Kilman).