The 2018/19 Premier League season begins tonight after the earlier closure of the transfer window, and it promises to be an engaging nine-month battle for the trophy. These are five things to look out for in the new campaign:
Manchester United’s Portuguese manager appeared annoyed throughout pre-season, making it clear that he wanted two more signings to add to Diogo Dalot, Fred and Lee Grant. His wish was not granted on deadline day and United failed to purchase a commanding centre back to lead their defence.
It will now be interesting to see how Mourinho and his squad respond, starting tonight with their league opener against Leicester City. The 55-year-old has form for imploding in his third season – most notably at Chelsea in 2015/16 – so any struggles on the pitch could see history repeat itself.
Closing the gap?
The league’s riches in recent seasons have played a part in the massively inflated prices that are now quoted around the globe. This has also meant, though, that mid-table teams have had access to signings that would traditionally have been out of reach.
Everton, for example, yesterday signed Yerry Mina and Andre Gomes from Barcelona, who joined Lucas Digne from Paris Saint-Germain. Fulham, who have just been promoted, signed Sergio Rico, a Spain international, while Burnley purchased Joe Hart from Manchester City and have three strong goalkeepers to choose from. All this could mean that the gap between top and bottom is much closer, and that there are fewer easy matches for the bigger sides.
Wolverhampton Wanderers are the standout club joining from the Championship after they dominated the second-tier last year. Nuno’s squad has been improved by the addition of Portugal internationals Joao Moutinho and Rui Patricio and it will be an exciting season at Molineux as they chase a top-half finish.
Fulham have also spent well, and Andre Schurrle, Luciano Vietto and Timothy Fosu-Mensah should all mean that relegation is not a major worry – there is likely to be a number of upsets with these two teams both playing attacking football.
Cardiff City under Neil Warnock are likely to find life in the Premier League more difficult, but Josh Murphy and Harry Arter are solid additions.
A proper title race?
The last two Premier League seasons have seen Chelsea and Manchester City win the crown easily, so fans are due a genuine title battle that goes to the wire. There is the potential for this to involve six teams, and Liverpool are City’s nearest challengers according to the bookies. The Reds have strengthened their spine and Alisson is their new first-choice goalkeeper, which should make them more consistent.
Manchester United also have the potential to claim a first league title in six years but their form away from Old Trafford will have to improve. Though Tottenham Hotspur did not make any additions, they have kept their star players as well as manager Mauricio Pochettino and are playing in a new stadium. Finally, Arsenal are an unknown quantity without Arsene Wenger but Unai Emery is a serial winner and has spent wisely.
There are plenty of fresh faces to look out for in the upcoming season. The focus will be on the fortunes of Unai Emery and Maurizio Sarri – who has taken over at Chelsea – and whether they can secure silverware at the first attempt, but the fate of Neil Warnock, Nuno and Fulham’s Slaviša Jokanović will be equally entertaining.
There are also likely to be managerial changes during the campaign as teams panic about their league position – after a summer of underinvestment Chris Hughton and Rafael Benitez are surely candidates to be first unless they can overachieve with their squads.