EPL Preview: Big-spending Reds, Pogba-Mourinho detente, plus the new Fulhamerica

After hitting the century mark in points (100) and goals (106), Manchester City is the heavy favorite to defend its Premier League title.

Manchester City finished 19 points ahead of second-place Manchester United, yet its manager, Pep Guardiola, says there's room for improvement.

"Of course, we can improve," he said early this week on Sky Sports' season launch show. "If I felt we could not improve the team, I would call my chairman and say: 'I leave.' But still, we believe we can do better and dominate more. Will it happen? I don't know but we believe we can do it."

City has added Algerian star Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City and will have French defender Benjamin Mendy back after missing most of last season with a knee injury.

Here's a look at other storylines around the EPL ...

1. Big-spending Reds. Liverpool finished fourth in the EPL, 25 points behind Manchester City, but its run to the UEFA Champions League final suggested it has championship potential.

The Reds had the second best attack in the EPL behind Manchester City with Mohamed Salah (32 goals), Roberto Firmino (15) and Sadio Mane (10).

With that foundation, Liverpool's American owners backed a spending spree by manager Juergen Klopp, who spent $211 million -- the most in the EPL -- on a new goalkeeper, Brazilian Alisson, and three midfielders, Brazilian Fabinho, Guinean Naby Keita and Swiss star Xherdan Shaqiri.

2. Mourinho-Pogba detente. One of the hot rumors in the last week was that French World Cup champion Paul Pogba would leave Manchester United for Barcelona. Fueling that rumor was Pogba's uneasy relationship with United manager Jose Mourinho. To say the least, Pogba played much better for France at the World Cup than he often did for Mourinho.

Pogba rejoined United on Monday, just four days before its season opener against Leicester City. Mourinho says Pogba looked great at practice, though he wouldn't speculate about how much he might play against Leicester.

"My perception is he arrived Monday, happy, proud, with a desire to work," Mourinho said. "He worked amazingly well Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday."

Mourinho was not happy how the relationship between him and Pogba and other players was being portrayed in the media.

"I have my players and I like my players, I like to work with my players," he said. "One lie repeated 1,000 times is still a lie, but the perception of people is that it's true. When you repeat 1,000 times that my relationship with my players is not good, it's a lie, repeated 1,000 times is still a lie. I like my players and my group. I'm going to enjoy this season."

Everyone will be circling back in a couple of months to see how much Mourinho is enjoying things.

3. Lowered expectations at the Emirates. For the first time in 22 years, there's a new name on the back of the manager's seat at the Emirates.

Spaniard Unai Emery has replaced Arsene Wenger as Arsenal manager. For however fierce the criticism was of Wenger in recent years, expectations are low for Emery.

Few around the Emirates expect the Gunners to challenge for the title held by Manchester City, their opponent on the opening weekend. But it will be a disappointing season for Arsenal if it doesn't finish in the top four after finishing in fifth and sixth place the last two seasons.

EPL managerial changes:
Arsenal (Out: Arsene Wenger; In: Unai Emery)
Everton (Out: Sam Allardyce; In: Marco Silva)
West Ham United (Out: David Moyes; In: Manuel Pellegrini)
Chelsea (Out: Antonio Conte; In: Maurizio Sarri)

4. Fulhamerica is back. A decade after Fulham played five different Americans in one game -- Kasey Keller, Brian McBride, Eddie Johnson, Carlos Bocanegra and Clint Dempsey -- Fulhamerica is back at Craven Cottage.

The Cottagers, who return  to the EPL after four years in the Championship, played three Americans last week in their 1-0 loss to Italy's Sampdoria: Tim Ream, Luca de la Torre and Marlon Fossey.

Five signings on deadline day -- including Cameroonian midfielder Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa acquired from Marseille for $32 million -- brought to 12 the number of players the Cottagers have recruited, so only Ream, Fulham's 2017-18 Player of the Year, has a realistic shot at receiving regular playing time.

In his sixth season at Fulham, the 20-year-old de la Torre made his national team debut in June. Fossey, 19, was the best player for Fulham against Sampdoria and is a player to watch. Both could end up being loaned out.

Americans in EPL (2018-19):
Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham)
Luca de la Torre (Fulham)
Marlon Fossey (Fulham)
Tim Ream (Fulham)
Danny Williams (Huddersfield Town)
DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications