Premier League Preview: 5 Things to Look out for as the 2018-19 Season Kicks Off

The Premier League returns on Friday night, as Manchester United host Leicester at Old Trafford in the first game of the season.

For the first time since the league's inception in 1992, the transfer window closed before a ball had been kicked in anger, leaving a number of clubs short of options and frustrated by a lack of time to finalize their business.

Liverpool have had arguably the best transfer window since Jurgen Klopp's arrival, Manchester City have added a sprinkle of talent to what was already the best team in the league, while Manchester United and Chelsea endured largely disappointing summers.

Among the newly promoted clubs, Wolverhampton's spending betrays the ambition of a team not content simply to survive. And how will Arsenal fare in their first season without Arsene Wenger since 1997?

Newsweek has picked out five things to keep an eye out over the next nine months

Can anyone catch Manchester City?

City became the first team in Premier League history to break the 100-point barrier last season, scoring 106 goals and conceding just 27 as they won the title at a canter, finishing a whopping 19 points ahead of Manchester United.

While Pep Guardiola has spent less than in his previous two summers at the club, he has added Riyad Mahrez—for a club-record fee no less—to a squad already bursting with attacking talent, and will have Benjamin Mendy available after the left-back missed most of last season with a serious injury.

If there's a slight chink in City's armor is in the middle of the defense, where Vincent Kompany's fitness remains a concern and Nicolas Otamendi is prone to the occasional defensive lapse. However, Aymeric Laporte has now had a full pre-season after joining the team in January and John Stones will continue to develop under Guardiola. Since the Premier League's inception in 1992, only Manchester United and Chelsea have retained the title. Expect City to make it a three-team list this season.

Will this finally be Liverpool's year?

Liverpool were the only team to match City last season, winning 4-3 at Anfield in the Premier League and demolishing them 5-1 on aggregate in the Champions League. However, while their style of soccer won plaudits and proved consistently entertaining, Liverpool ended the season empty-handed after losing the Champions League final to Real Madrid.

After criticizing his rivals for their lavish spending, Jurgen Klopp has gone down exactly the same route, making Alisson (briefly) the most expensive goalkeeper in the world and adding Fabinho, Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri to his midfield options.

Liverpool's signings put them right behind City in the race for the title but they also pile pressure on Klopp to deliver silverware. The Reds last won the league in 1990 and the German last lifted a trophy when he triumphed in the German Supercup with Borussia Dortmund in 2014. Will their break their drought this year?

Wolverhampton and Fulham hoping to make waves

The duo have signed players with a gusto that betrays their status as newly-promoted teams. Wolverhampton have added Joao Moutinho from Monaco, signed Adama Traore from Middlesbrough for a club-record fee and added Portugal's number one goalkeeper, Rui Patrício, to their squad. Fulham, meanwhile, have spent a combined $77.6 million on Aleksandar Mitrovic–who made his loan move permanent–Alfie Mawson and highly rated midfielder Jean Michael Seri, while adding Premier League experience in the form of Calum Chambers and Andre Schurrle.

While both clubs will obviously be looking first and foremost at retaining their Premier League status come May, it would not be surprising to see them challenging for a mid-table finish.

Will Chelsea and Manchester United find a cure to their malaises?

When Chelsea and Manchester United met in the FA Cup final last season, the two clubs appeared to be heading in different directions. Antonio Conte was a sitting duck waiting to be sacked, while Jose Mourinho looked to secure a third trophy in two seasons.

Instead it was Chelsea who lifted the trophy and three months later both clubs enter the new season with far more questions than answers. The Blues eventually sacked Conte in July before appointing Maurizio Sarri, who has had precious little time to assess his squad and has lost Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid.

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Jose Mourinho attends the warm up prior to the pre-season friendly football match between FC Bayern Munich and Manchester United at the Allianz Arena in Munich on August 5. The Portuguese has been unhappy at United's lack of signings this summer. Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images

Mourinho, meanwhile, turned gloomier as each pre-season day went by, frustrated by a lack of signings and the protracted absence of players who were involved at the World Cup. Neither team appears to have done enough in the summer to be a realistic title contender, but while Chelsea could be building long-term under Sarri, United look set to experience the full wrath of Mourinho's traditional third season meltdown.

A first season without Arsene Wenger

Arsenal fans got their wish last May when Arsene Wenger bowed out after 22 largely illustrious seasons in charge of the Gunners. The club moved swiftly to appoint Unai Emery as his successor and the Spaniard was similarly quick in getting his business done this summer.

Yet Arsenal remain a club difficult to decipher. Forced to watch the Champions League from their sofas for the second consecutive season and far from being a title contender, there's a feeling the Gunners will have to retune their expectations this season.

That might not necessarily be a bad thing as it could give Emery the chance to build the team he wants and rectify some of the mistakes that were not addressed in the final stages of Wenger's tenure.

Premier League Preview: 5 Things to Look out for as the 2018-19 Season Kicks Off | Sports
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