After a difficult few months, this weekend finally sees the return of the Barclays Premier League. It’s been a long summer of transfer rumours and preseason tours, with a charming little international football tournament thrown in for good measure. What lies in store for us, then, over the next nine months?

In many ways, this season looks to be quite similar to every other – some things never change. For one, Arsenal fans, as always, are quite convinced their team is going to win the league. There are, however, changes afoot – for example, this season, there is some small chance that Arsenal might actually win the league.

The Gunners have added star quality to their squad with the purchase of Alexis Sanchez, the Chilean winger formerly of Barcelona. If nothing else, Sanchez brings self-confidence to the Arsenal dressing room – when his schoolteacher told each pupil in the class to bring in a picture of their hero for ‘show-and-tell’, young Alexis brought in a picture of himself. This guy makes Ronaldo look like a quivering nervous wreck.

Arsenal, however, face stiff competition at the top. With Diego Costa, Chelsea look to have finally filled the Drogba-shaped hole at the spearhead of their attack (Drogba himself has, incidentally, returned), while Filipe Luis and Cesc ‘I’ll never sign for another English team’ Fabregas will certainly improve the West London outfit, the latter bringing the added benefit of making Arsenal fans cry. Manchester City, last season’s champions, have invested less – but then again, what need is there to invest when you already have the best squad in the league by some distance? The only obvious weakness in the City line up – a centre back to partner the redoubtable Vincent Kompany, who recently signed a new deal with the ‘noisy neighbours’ – may well have been addressed with the signing of Eliaquim Mangala from Porto.

Across the city, ike a phoenix rising from the ashes of the Moyes era, Manchester United seem to be enjoying a renaissance under Louis van Gaal, having won every single game of their preseason. Indeed, they have already ‘done the double’, adding the prestigious Chevrolet Cup to the overflowing Old Trafford trophy cabinet, and being crowned Champions of the World following a dramatic 3-1 victory over Liverpool in Miami. Ander Herrera looks to be the love child of Paul Scholes and Roy Keane, while Luke Shaw could well prove an invaluable investment. United, then, must surely be regarded as title challengers.

The same, perhaps, cannot be said of old rivals Liverpool, who have replaced Luis Suarez with Rickie Lambert.

The title race, then, should – in a dramatic deviation from Premier League norms – prove tightly contested and bitterly fought. What makes this season particularly exciting, however, is the stellar cast waiting to act out this drama. Familiar faces remain from last season – Mourinho is sure to draw controversy, whilst Arsenal’s resurgence will surely see the return of ‘snarky Arsene’, replacing the genuinely upsetting ‘sad Arsene’ we have been forced to endure in recent seasons.

New characters, however, seem to guarantee a little extra spice. Louis Van Gaal is a man who takes no prisoners, whilst lower down the pecking order at QPR – reports suggest there are in fact more than five teams in the league – the return of ‘Arry Redknapp is sure to add a dash of colour to the inevitable relegation scrap. Redknapp, it seems, is refusing to emerge from 2002, as he reportedly seeks to add any of Samuel Eto’o, Esteban Cambiasso and Ronaldinho to the blockbuster signing of promising young centre-back Rio Ferdinand. Someone, please, please steer him clear of Kleberson.

As you can probably tell, I, like many football fans, am going a little crazy. Kick off cannot come soon enough.