THE first full day of Premier League action kicks off today with some interesting questions arising ahead of the fixtures on the first Saturday of the new season.
Will Liverpool show their title credentials against Fulham at the Cottage?
Will nouveau-riche Newcastle embarrass returning aristocrats Nottingham Forest?
Can Everton boss Frank Lampard hope for a favour from his former employer Chelsea as he seeks an early reprieve in his already embattled position on Merseyside?
Champions Man City and fan-favourites Man United are not in action until tomorrow, when they play West Ham and Brighton, respectively, so we have to wait a bit longer to judge their new-season abilities.
So, the remaining subject of speculations from today's games is, how will Tottenham Hotspur fare against Southampton? And will it give us an indication of whether Spurs' busy pre-season transfer market business justifies their fans' early optimism?
The arrivals of Ivan Perisic from Inter, Richarlison from Everton, Yves Bissouma from Brighton, and Djed Spence from Middlesbrough, indicate that Spurs boss Antonio Conte is determined to build on the side's quality finish to last season's campaign.
Perisic's move from Inter provides Spurs with a highly accomplished wide player with plenty big-league experience. While Richarlison may be the clearest sign of Spurs' growing ambition as it shows that despite the club possessing one of the Premier League's most effective attacking partnerships, in Son Heung Min and Harry Kane, they are not averse to strengthening the position. That and the fact that Spurs have to balance the Premier League with their return to Champions League, which will probably require Richarlison to fill in for the partnership more than one would normally expect.
Yves Bissouma is a highly rated midfielder and ready to make that step up in class from Brighton. Djed Spence made a mark while on loan to newly promoted Nottingham Forest from Middlesbrough last season, while Clement Lenglet will be eager to turn around what was a pretty horrible spell at Barcelona. However, he had earlier shown signs of his potential while at Sevilla.
While an optimistic mood is always welcome at a club just as a new season commences, critics will point out that this time last year Spurs made an optimistic start to their season under new manager Nuno Espirito Santo. However, after a couple of notable early victories, (most notably against slow-starting Man City) results started to fall off rather dramatically. This was in part the manager struggling to settle in with the squad, as well as the ongoing war of wills over Kane's much-vaunted departure to Man City, which effectively saw the English striker absent from the team for the first quarter of the season.
Even after Conte replaced Nuno Espirito Santo, the misfiring Spurs were knocked out of the Europa League and the FA Cup. And it wasn't until the last half of the season that Conte and Spurs began to find the type of form you'd expect from such a high-profile team. Harry Kane returned to action after his long spell sulking over missing out on the City move which helped, no doubt, and Spurs would go on to only drop seven points from their remaining 11 matches of the season. Placing them in the cash-rich fourth spot, with the added bonus of edging out Arsenal to accomplish it.
So is this to be Spurs year? Well, there are still some lingering doubts on whether they can do enough to break the stranglehold the sides from the north-west have on the Premier League. There were 21-points between Spurs and Liverpool last season. To close that type of gap would require a season of monumental accomplishments.
But I'm confident that they certainly can close the gap and at least swap places with Chelsea, such is the depth of the Spurs' talent now.
The World Cup, in the middle of the season, will throw a spanner in the works for Spurs, but that is the same for every other club too.
Keeping the strike partnership of Kane and Son fit and on the field will be vital to Spurs' ambitions, as will keeping Conte satisfied. The flamboyant Italian is known for demanding the most from a team's owners and this will remain a combustible element in the relationship between the club and the manager.
Should this juggling of variables be maintained, then we may well see Spurs and their impressive new stadium make the move into the big time they so earnestly yearn.
Time will tell.