Premier League preview: who’s in the running, standout players, and the cash splash

 

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Xherdan Shaqiri has shown some good pre-season form including this spectacular strike against Manchester United.

By TAS MAVRIDIS,
sport editor

Another Premier League season has arrived,  with 380 games between now and May sure to keep fans around the world entertained.

With the World Cup occupying much of the off season, football fans have been treated to non-stop action.

However, for some club sides the late return of some star players for pre-season will test squads early on.

Last season, Manchester City set a benchmark in their title run becoming the first side to crack the 100-point barrier.

Can the likes of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool topple the Cityzens to record their first league title since 1990, or will Chelsea or Arsenal rise under their new managers, Maurizio Sarri and Unai Emery respectively.

Here are some of the key things to look out for in the new Premier League Season

Title race

Despite Manchester City winning the title last season by a whopping 19 points, strong off season recruitment by top four rivals will likely lead to a much more competitive title race.

The recruitment of Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City has certainly strengthened City with their attacking artillery continuing to grow in numbers.

Many experts are predicting Liverpool to be City’s closest rivals with the Reds splashing the cash in their summer with what looks to be a very impressive series of signings.

Jurgen Klopp reinforced his midfield options with the signings of Naby Keita and Fabinho from RB Leipzig and Monaco, providing the German with more power and drive through the middle of the park.

Liverpool also addressed the lack of depth in the attacking third with the signing of  Xherdan Shaqiri from Stoke City for  13 million pounds from Stoke.

The signing of Shaqiri as well as the rejuvenation of Daniel Sturridge and the promise of youngsters such as Rhian Brewster means that the Reds look to finally have depth to support the deadly trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mo Salah.

However, Liverpool’s most important signing looks to be the capture of goalkeeper Alisson Becker from Roma.

With the pressure building on Loris Karius since the Champions League Final, the arrival of Becker will give Jurgen Klopp the opportunity to take the struggling German out of the firing line as the season begins.

Chelsea and Arsenal have also been active in the transfer windows as the two London sides look to rebound after disappointing campaigns in 2017/18 which saw them miss out on Champions League football.

With lack of activity for Tottenham and uncertainty surrounding Manchester United and coach Jose Mourinho, could an unexpected side breakthrough and disrupt the powerhouse sides?

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Ruben Neves starred during Wolves’ title winning campaign and looks ready to go for the new Premier League season.

Newly promoted teams splashing the cash

With the latest Premier League TV deal giving all 20 sides huge amounts of money to spend, even the likes of Wolverhampton and Fulham have seemingly pulled off signings that would have seemed impossible only a few years ago.

For Wolves, a partnership between agent Jorge Mendes and the club has seen several big-name Portuguese players sign up to ply their trade at the Molineux stadium.

Ruben Neves became the first domino to fall last season as he signed up to lead the side back to the Premier League after six years.

With the additions of Portuguese first choice keeper Rui Patricio and veteran midfielder Joao Moutinho, the experience recruited will leave them in good stead to make a splash in the top flight.

The playoff winners from 2017/18, Fulham, have also showed plenty of ambition as they return to the top flight for the first time since 2014.

With exciting talents such as Ryan Sessegnon already retained, the addition of defender Alfie Mawson from Swansea and Callum Chambers from Arsenal will provide Fulham with important defensive strength.

The  signing of World Cup winner Andre Schurrle from Borussia Dortmund and Aleksandar Mitrovic from Newcastle will provide the London based side with some attacking experience.

However, the real statement signing from the Craven Cottage based side, is the capture of Jean Michael Seri from Nice.

Linked with clubs such as Arsenal, Liverpool and Barcelona over the last 12 months, the signing of Seri will certainly add some midfield steel to a team that looks destined to worry some teams.

However Cardiff have seemingly struggled to reinforce their squad, therefore it looks like the Bluebirds’ campaign in the Premier League might be short-lived.

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New Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri being unrelieved at Stamford Bridge. 

 Managerial recruitments

Several clubs have also made high-profile managerial signings which will shape the way the Premier League season plays out.

Most notably, Arsenal appointed Unai Emery as Arsene Wenger’s successor after the Frenchman spent 22 years as Arsenal’s boss.

Emery, most recently at PSG, experienced most of his success as Sevilla manager winning the UEFA Europa League three times in a row.

Emery impressed during his time in Spain with both his style of football as well as his shrewd transfer business which led his sides to European success.

Following the departure of Antonio Conte at Chelsea, Maurizio Sarri will join the Blues after leading Napoli to second place in Serie A last season.

Sarri, an eccentric figure, will likely bring a completely new style of football to Stamford Bridge.

The signing of Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic will provide Sarri with a new look midfield while the world record signing of Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao will aim to replace World Cup 2018 golden glove winner Thibaut Courtois.

A former Premier League winning manager also returns to the league with Manuel Pellegrini taking charge of West Ham.

After a highly successful final season at the Boleyn Ground, life at the Olympic Stadium has not been easy.

However, Pellegrini has added the likes of Felipe Anderson, Andriy Yarmolenko, Jack Wilshere to his existing talents such as Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez.

With the tactically astute mind of Pellegrini and quality across the park, West Ham should be one of the big climbers towards Europa League football.

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 Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon celebrates scoring a goal in the championship during the 2017/18 season. 

The breakout players 

Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli and Trent Alexander Arnold are just some of the more recent players to have breakout campaigns in the premier league as teenagers.

As this season progresses, three players that could set the league alight are Manchester City’s Phil Foden, Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon and Liverpool’s Curtis Jones.

For Foden, the task of breaking into a stacked Manchester City midfield will be a massive challenge.

However, Foden has already made several appearances in the league, cup competitions and European competition and looks ready to make the leap.

With the likes of David Silva not getting any younger, Pep Guardiola could place trust in players like Foden to offset some of the pressure.

Curtis Jones has had a rapid rise through the youth ranks, and throughout the preseason has shown a calmness on the ball which could provide Jurgen Klopp with another midfield option.

Jones was part of the squad in the backend of the last campaign, however as Liverpool also look to juggle four competitions, be sure to watch out for Curtis Jones getting more minutes.

The lack of minutes won’t be an issue for Fulham’s Ryan Sessegnon, who at the tender age of only 18 has already  made over 70 appearances in the Championship as either a left back or a winger.

Sessegnon won the Player of the Year Award and became the first non-Premier League player to be nominated for PFA Young Player of the Year.

With coach Slavisa Jokanovic already placing significant trust in Sessegnon, there is no doubt he will take the Premier League by storm.