The English Premier League is back: what’s new this season?

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The Premier League kicks off this evening with Liverpool facing newcomers Norwich at Anfield and Manchester City bid to win the title for a third consecutive year.

Domestic treble winners City, who have picked up 198 points in the past two seasons, are bidding to become the first team to win three Premier League titles in a row since Manchester United’s hat-trick of titles from 2007 to 2009.

European champions Liverpool, who earned 97 points last season – a record high for runners-up in any of Europe’s top five leagues – are tipped to be their main rivals again.

Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal are the other teams expected to be battling for Champions League places.

Several new laws, plus video assistant referees, have been introduced to England’s top flight this season.

Eleven of the 20 clubs broke their transfer record, while there have been three new managerial appointments.

The new faces

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Nicolas Pepe (Arsenal), Wesley Moraes (Aston Villa), Youri Tielemans (Leicester), Rodri (Man City), Joelinton (Newcastle), Oli McBurnie (Sheffield United), Danny Ings (Southampton), Tanguy Ndombele (Tottenham), Sebastien Haller (West Ham), Ismaila Sarr (Watford) and Raul Jimenez (Wolves) have all gone for club-record fees this summer.

There have been the usual high turnover of players, teams and managers this summer.

England defender Harry Maguire’s £80m switch from Leicester to Manchester United was the biggest Premier League signing of the summer, while they sold striker Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan for £74m.

Arsenal spent £72m to sign Lille winger Nicolas Pepe, while Manchester City bought Atletico Madrid midfielder Rodri for £62.8m and Juventus right-back Joao Cancelo for £60m. Spurs spent £53.8m on Lyon midfielder Tanguy Ndombele. That was their first first-team signing since January 2018.

The other biggest transfers are Manchester United right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£50m from Crystal Palace), West Ham striker Sebastien Haller (£45m from Eintracht Frankfurt), Newcastle striker Joelinton (£40m from Hoffenheim) and Leicester midfielder Youri Tielemans (reported £40m).

Chelsea also spent £40m on Real Madrid midfielder Mateo Kovacic despite having a transfer embargo. He was already registered with the club from last season’s loan deal.

Promoted Sheffield United broke their transfer record four times, while Aston Villa spent over £100m. The third promoted team, Norwich, have brought 11 players in, but mostly for smaller fees, loans or free transfers.

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Norwich’s Daniel Farke (left), Sheffield United’s Chris Wilder (centre) and Aston Villa’s Dean Smith (right) are all Premier League managers for the first time.

Chelsea, Newcastle and Brighton all have new managers. Maurizio Sarri left Chelsea for Juventus and was replaced by their all-time top scorer Frank Lampard, who was Derby manager last season.

Rafael Benitez left the Magpies at the end of his contract and was replaced by Sheffield Wednesday boss Steve Bruce, while the Seagulls sacked Chris Hughton and hired Swansea’s Graham Potter.

Which three clubs could go down?

Over the past 10 seasons, two of the three promoted sides on average have survived, with 19 of the 30 teams finishing above the bottom three.

Only three times in Premier League history have all the promoted sides stayed up – in 2001-02, 2011-12 and 2017-18 – while only in 1997-98 have all three been relegated – Bolton, Barnsley and Crystal Palace.

With it likely then that a mix of promoted and current sides will go down, we take a look at the three clubs that came up and three whose place in the Premier League could be under threat.

Norwich: Goals galore

Last season: Championship winners

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Norwich scored an impressive 93 goals in the Championship last season, with only Bournemouth in 2014-15 scoring more on their way to the top flight since 2006.

However, such an attacking approach saw them concede 57 goals in return, meaning that their games involved the most goals of any promoted side since Kevin Keegan’s Manchester City in 2001-02.

Head coach Daniel Farke made the fewest changes to his starting XI in the Championship last season and with the lack of spending this summer, will continue to trust the side that won promotion in such daring style.

After his 29 league goals saw him crowned Championship Player of the Season, much will depend on 29-year-old striker Teemu Pukki. The former Celtic striker has limited experience in Europe’s top five leagues, with a single game for Sevilla and a few seasons as a substitute at Schalke.

Sheffield United: More than they seem

Last season: Championship runners-up

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After conceding the joint-fewest goals and keeping the most clean sheets in the Championship last season, Sheffield United are the most impressive defensively of the promoted sides.

But that’s not to say they’re predictable or dour. Their 3-4-1-2 formation and use of overlapping centre-backs last season – with Jack O’Connell and Chris Basham running beyond the wing-backs – suggests manager Chris Wilder’s tactics could catch a few Premier League teams out this season.

Going forward, the club focuses on quality over quantity. While 13 sides had more shots in the Championship last season, the Blades created the best chances according to expected goals, scoring the fourth-most goals overall.

As with Pukki at Norwich, the club’s goalscoring hopes will rest on captain and boyhood fan Billy Sharp. The 33-year-old striker scored 23 league goals last season, although his only Premier League experience is two substitute appearances for Southampton in August 2012.

Aston Villa: Are they ‘doing a Fulham’?

Last season: Championship play-off winners

 

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With their spending spree this summer, the club have been compared to previous play-off winners Fulham and as the table below shows, there are similarities to what the London club did last summer before being relegated back to the Championship.

However, considering that three of Aston Villa’s signings were at the club last season and five of Fulham’s signings had yet to join this time last year, Villa’s business does seem less chaotic, although the proof will ultimately come at the end of the season.

While Norwich and Sheffield United head into the season with their star scorers, the loss of 25-goal striker Tammy Abraham is a blow for Dean Smith’s side and puts a lot of pressure on club record signing Wesley, who scored 13 league goals for Club Bruges last season.

One player who will be key to Villa’s survival hopes is 23-year-old captain and boyhood fan Jack Grealish. After missing three months through injury, his return to the side in March coincided with the start of the club’s incredible 10-game winning run that took them to the play-offs and the Premier League.

Brighton: Flight risk

Last season: 17th in Premier League

skysports-brighton-premier-league_4692329After finishing just two points above the bottom three last season, Brighton will be hoping new manager Graham Potter can get the club flying again.

For while the club’s poor form last season began in December – winning just three of their final 23 games – their earlier results masked a side that struggled throughout the season, with their form eventually catching up to their performances by the final game.

A major problem is the club’s reliance on striker Glenn Murray, who scored the highest percentage of goals for a Premier League club last season (37%) and who turns 36 next month. The club’s signing of Neal Maupay could solve that, as the striker scored 25 goals in the Championship for Brentford last season.

Since only three Championship teams had more possession than Potter’s Swansea last season and only three Premier League teams had less than Brighton, it’s clear that the Seagulls will look to spread their wings with a more expansive approach this season, but there is little room in which to manoeuvre.

Newcastle: Where are the goals?

Last season: 13th in Premier League

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Despite finishing 11 points clear of the relegation zone last season, the departures of manager Rafael Benitez, top scorer Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon could see Newcastle in trouble this season.

Those two players scored 23 of the club’s 42 goals in the Premier League last season, meaning that, along with the exits of Joselu and Kenedy, the club has lost almost two-thirds of its goals over the summer.

The signings of £40m striker Joelinton and £16.5m winger Allan Saint-Maximin – who scored seven and six league goals last season respectively – will need to fill that goalscoring void, as will the returning Dwight Gayle, who scored 23 goals in the Championship on loan at West Brom last season.

With two top-half finishes and two relegations, Steve Bruce’s record in the Premier League averages out to around 43 points a season, slightly worse than Benitez’s record at Newcastle of 45 points a season.

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