Premier League: 5 Storylines to Watch This Season
The 2017-18 Premier League season gets underway on Friday as Leicester City travel to the Emirates to take on Arsenal.
As usual, there's no shortage of storylines heading into the campaign, with a slew of headline-grabbing managers and big-money players littering the league. Let's take a look at five of the biggest storylines heading into what should be another wonderful season of Premier League soccer.
1) Can Pep and Jose Lead Second-Year Surges?
Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho are entering their second season at their respective Manchester clubs. After each had somewhat underwhelming debut campaigns, although Mourinho did get Manchester United back into the Champions League by winning the Europa League, both fan bases will be expecting a better Premier League showing this time around.
Manchester City and United have both spent big this summer. City bought Ederson, Danilo, Bernardo Silva, Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy -- with everyone other than Silva aimed at giving a boost to what was a suspect defense a year ago. The Red Devils, meanwhile, landed Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelof.
Mourinho and Guardiola have each received ample financial backing from their clubs, now it's time for these world-class manager to deliver on the pitch.
2) How Will Lukaku's Move Impact United and Everton?
Speaking of Lukaku, his move from Everton to United should have a big impact on both clubs.
For United, he will step into Zlatan Ibrahimovic's role atop the formation and join forces with Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in what should be an exciting attack force and one that can reverse United's trend of lackluster goal-scoring numbers.
As for the Toffees, Everton have had a very busy summer. The Toffees used the windfall of cash from selling Lukaku to bring on goalie Jordan Pickford, midfielder Davy Klaassen and defender Michael Keane, adding a key cog at three different levels of the pitch. They still need a star man to pour in goals, though, as they're losing the 43 league tallies Lukaku registered over the last two years. Additions of Sandro Ramirez and Wayne Rooney could help, but there's currently a Lukaku-sized hole in Everton's attack.
3) Will Arsenal Right the Ship?
Arsenal had a wild season last year. According to end results, it was a poor campaign as they missed out on a top-four spot and won't be in the Champions League for the first time in 21 years. But the Gunners also ended the season with 75 points, 4 more points than they had during their second-place finish in 2015-16, and they closed the season by winning the F.A. Cup.
The club resisted the temptation to fire legendary manager Arsene Wenger, giving him a two-year contract extension instead, but despite the new deal and positives from last season, Wenger's seat is red-hot.
If they want to get back to title contention -- or even a top-four finish -- they'll need Alexis Sanchez in the side. In his on-going transfer saga, the most recent reports have him staying in north London. To this point, the Gunners haven't lost any key pieces, and their most notable signing has been securing the signature of forward Alexandre Lacazette -- who should give the attack an immediate boost -- for a club-record $60 million.
If Arsenal miss out on a top-four spot again this season, we could see a big shakeup at the Emirates.
4) Can an English Team Make a Champions League Run?
The 2007-08 Champions League Final pitted Arsenal against Chelsea, and another EPL side (Liverpool) made the semifinals that season. Following that banner year, the Premier League was represented in three of the next four UCL finals, but the well has run dry since Chelsea's unlikely run to the 2012 crown.
English clubs have been held out of the final match of Europe's premier club competition for five years running, and only one team (Leicester City) reached the quarterfinals last season, with no EPL sides in the semifinals.
Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham will all be in the Champions League this campaign, with the Blues, Reds and Red Devils taking part after missing out on last season's competition. City, Chelsea and United certainly spend like elite European clubs, and they need to close the gap between themselves consistent Champions League contenders like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich.
5) Who Can Finish in the Top Four?
As it was a year ago, it should be a bloodbath for the top four spots, which ensure a place in the 2018-19 Champions League -- bringing an influx of cash to the clubs and making them more attractive to potential movers in the transfer market.
For clubs like Liverpool, a top-four finish is reason to celebrate, while big spenders like Chelsea, City and United expect to be there. All of the top-six clubs -- Tottenham, United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea and City -- have ultra-talented squads with superb managers, and they all expect to be playing in the Champions League. With only four spots up for grabs (not counting Arsenal being able to qualify via the Europa League), someone is going to be disappointed.