More than Wayne Rooney, Everton one of the five Premier League teams to watch this season

By Sam Johnston

LONDON — Five teams and five players to keep an eye on in the Premier League season, which starts Friday.


Antonio Conte ignited the first managerial feud of the season when he said that Chelsea must avoid “a Mourinho season” as the champions seek to defend their Premier League title.

Conte was referring to Chelsea’s implosion under Jose Mourinho during the 2015-16 season when the Portuguese coach was fired before the halfway point as the team failed to defend its title.

Unlike the last defence, however, major acquisitions have been made for the side that dominated the top flight last season, with more expected to come.

Spain striker Alvaro Morata has been signed from Real Madrid as a direct replacement for Diego Costa, who is set to depart after falling out with Conte.

Tiemoue Bakayoko, who joined from Monaco, is expected to be an upgrade on midfielder Nemanja Matic, who has followed Mourinho to Manchester United. Germany defender Antonio Rudiger also joined from Roma.

Manchester United

Judging by its manager’s recent history, Manchester United should be considered a major contender to win its first title since 2013.

Jose Mourinho is beginning his second season at Old Trafford. He claimed league titles at the same stage of his tenure in his last two jobs, with Real Madrid and Chelsea.

But United enters the new campaign having finished in sixth place, 24 points behind champion Chelsea.

The season was saved by a pair of titles — the League Cup and Europa League. The latter crucially earned United a place in the Champions League and maintained its pulling power in the transfer market.

United beat Chelsea to the signing of striker Romelu Lukaku from Everton for 75 million pounds ($97 million), while the club hopes the signing of midfielder Nemanja Matic from Chelsea can bring out the best in Paul Pogba. Sweden defender Victor Lindelof also joined from Benfica.

Manchester City

It’s been another off-season of comings and goings as Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola attempts to deepen his imprint at the Etihad Stadium by spending around $300 million.

There were flashes of the “total football” played by Guardiola’s dominant Barcelona and Bayern Munich sides but inconsistency, particularly in defence, saw City finish third in the Spaniard’s first season in charge.

Since then, goalkeeper Ederson Moraes was signed from Benfica along with fullbacks Kyle Walker from Tottenham, Benjamin Mendy from Monaco and Danilo from Real Madrid.

The signings of Mendy’s former Monaco teammate, Bernardo Silva, and 19-year-old Brazilian Douglas Luiz have added further talent to City’s already loaded attack. The fight for a starting place between strikers Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus will provide further intrigue.

Room has been made for the new recruits by the departures of Nolito, Aleksandar Kolarov, Pablo Zabaleta, Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna, Jesus Navas and Joe Hart (on loan to West Ham).


Despite the likelihood of losing two of its best players, Everton remains the club best prepared to displace one of last season’s top six.

Romelu Lukaku has gone to Manchester United and Ross Barkley looks set to follow him out of Everton before the transfer window closes on Aug. 31.

But Everton has reinvested the Lukaku windfall.

Wayne Rooney is back where he began his career after 12 seasons at Old Trafford. While the striker’s return on a free transfer might have attracted the most attention, it is manager Ronald Koeman’s other signings that make Everton a threat.

The Merseyside club has added two promising English players in goalkeeper Jordan Pickford from Sunderland and defender Michael Keane from Burnley, while Koeman looked closer to home to sign Netherlands midfielder Davy Klaassen from Ajax.

Spanish striker Sandro Ramirez, who is only 21, has been acquired from Malaga to help Rooney replace Lukaku’s goals, while first-team regulars Tom Davies (19) and Mason Holgate (20) should only continue to improve.


While its rivals have been spending money, Tottenham’s priority has been preventing key members of the side that finished second in May from leaving.

Aside from Kyle Walker, who moved to Manchester City, Tottenham fended off interest in its talented young core. Crucially, for now, Tottenham has kept hold of Harry Kane and Dele Alli, who combined for 47 league goals last season.

Mauricio Pochettino’s team will be temporary residents at the 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium while the redevelopment of its White Hart Lane home is completed.

Success will be largely dependent on whether Tottenham can replicate its home form from last season — winning 17 of 19 Premier League games and drawing the other two.

Chairman Daniel Levy’s habit of leaving his recruitment to the last minute will ensure Tottenham fans remain hopeful of additions right up until the transfer window closes on Aug. 31.

Alexandre Lacazette

Alexandre Lacazette says he followed Arsenal as a child because of Thierry Henry.

If the 26-year-old striker can be as prolific as his fellow Frenchman, the club-record €60 million ($68 million) spent on signing him from Lyon will be worth it.

Lacazette, who scored a personal best 28 league goals last season, netted 129 overall for Lyon after coming through the youth academy and making his debut during the 2009-10 campaign.

His impact could be crucial as Arsenal attempts to return to the Champions League after missing out on qualification for the first time in 20 years.

Mohamed Salah

After sealing a return to the Premier League with Liverpool, Mohamed Salah is hoping to become the latest player to prove Chelsea wrong.

The 25-year-old Egypt winger arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2014, but he rarely played during an uninspiring year before being loaned out to Fiorentina and eventually sold to Roma last year.

However, 15 goals and 11 assists in Serie A last season persuaded Liverpool to break its club record by paying 42 million euros ($49 million) for him.

Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku have both excelled in the Premier League after being let go by Chelsea.

At Liverpool, Salah will have competition from Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge to make the starting lineup.

Alvaro Morata

Not for the first time in his career, Alvaro Morata was not the first choice.

Manchester United beat Chelsea to the signing of Romelu Lukaku — and the London club had to turn to Morata.

Despite not being his primary target, Morata, who began his career at Real Madrid, is a player that Chelsea manager Antonio should be able to rely on for goals.

The 24-year-old Spain international helped Juventus reached the Champions League final in 2015 under Conte. His performances persuaded Madrid to re-sign him last year.

Madrid regained the Spanish league title and retained the Champions League, but Morata’s 20 goals were not enough to convince his hometown club to keep him.

The six-foot-two Morata has a powerful physique and the Premier League should provide the perfect setting to prove that he can be the main man up front.

Benjamin Mendy

Benjamin Mendy is the most expensive member of the most expensive defence ever assembled in world soccer at Manchester City.

If the France full back lines up alongside new goalkeeper Ederson, right back recruit Kyle Walker, John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi, the club will have a back-five worth nearly 200 million pounds ($260 million).

The 23-year-old Mendy only joined Monaco from Marseille a year ago, but his impact as the club won the domestic title and reached the Champions League semifinals ensured that Europe’s elite came knocking.

He had four assists in seven Champions League appearances last season.

There will be some familiarity in Manchester for Mendy, with former Monaco teammate Bernardo Silva making the same switch at the beginning of the off-season.

Javier Hernandez

“Chicharito” is back in the Premier League with West Ham.

The diminutive striker, whose nickname translates as “Little Pea,” scored 59 goals for Manchester United from 2010-14 before being loaned out to Real Madrid and then sold to Bayer Leverkusen in 2015.

Hernandez scored 39 goals in 76 appearances during his time in Germany, leading West Ham manager Slaven Bilic to call upon the Mexican to reinvigorate the Hammers.

Bilic will now have the option of employing Andy Carroll alongside Hernandez, with the arrival of forward Marko Arnautovic from Stoke also helping out the attack.

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