Erling Haaland ensures Manchester City retain their Premier League crown: Pat Jennings

Former Arsenal and Tottenham hero Pat Jennings says the London giants can close the gap on Manchester City and Liverpool, but he believes Pep Guardiola’s champions will once again be head and shoulders above the rest.

The new Premier League season kicks off tonight with the Gunners at Crystal Palace (20:00).

It will be a campaign unlike any other as the World Cup winter draws attention, but the League’s big players are expected to flex their muscles.

Northern Ireland legend Jennings, who watched Liverpool beat Manchester City 3-1 in the Community Shield last weekend, is now intrigued if City can hold onto their title and if the London giants can put up a convincing fight.

City, who have been champions for four of the past five years, are about to hit a hat-trick of titles and now they have the firepower of Erling Haaland.

Liverpool will be another major challenge and should be as ruthless as ever with Darwin Nunes on board and the future of Mohamed Salah decided.

Life could be a little more unpredictable in London, where Antonio Conte’s Spurs will be looking to develop their fourth-place finish last time.

Arsenal signed Gabriel Jesus, striker Mikel Arteto, whom he knows well from his time at City, but the Gunners were plagued by inconsistency.

They started last season with three defeats in a row, took places in the Champions League, and then capitulated in spectacular fashion, losing fourth place to arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

Jennings, who has won the FA Cup with both Arsenal and Spurs, expects his former clubs to find other equipment, if not a title challenge.

“Both Arsenal and Spurs have had some good deals, so I hope they can make life difficult for Manchester City and Liverpool,” said Jennings, who won 119 caps for Northern Ireland.

“Harry Kane is a big player at Tottenham and they can’t let him go, no chance. City and Liverpool were of a different class, but Arsenal and Spurs have stepped up and I think that will level things out a bit.”

Jennings still hosts on match day for Tottenham and works with junior goalkeepers in the club’s academy.

The football ambassador for McDonald’s NI is looking forward to seeing how Haaland adjusts to life in the Premier League following his move from Borussia Dortmund.

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Pat Jennings coaching at Tottenham Academy

City fought hard to convince the 22-year-old to join them instead of Real Madrid.

His 86 goals in 89 games for Dortmund have made Haaland the most sought-after young player in world football.

Northern Ireland fans witnessed his finishing power in September 2020 when the frontman scored twice for Norway in a 5-1 Nations League thrashing at Windsor Park. Jennings was among the fans impressed by the young striker’s composure and flawless finish.

“I watched him against Northern Ireland a few years ago and they will be very strong again with him,” Jennings added. “Haland will be a handful for either side. He is the best striker and City will create many chances for him.

“That’s one of the reasons why I’m making City favorites to keep my title, but I hope the hunters can challenge again.”

Haaland himself is enjoying this new chapter in his career, saying: “We’ll see how we settle in. People need time, people can get into it right away. We have to see, but I’m not worried. This is the life of a footballer – you have to live with it.