1 question facing each Premier League club this season
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Here's a look at one question facing each of the Premier League's 20 sides, listed below in descending order of last season's table, with the three top-tier newcomers listed first. Note: This has been published prior Thursday's close of the league's summer transfer window.

Aston Villa

Can they avoid replicating Fulham's fate?

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Of the three promoted sides, Aston Villa stands alone in terms of offseason activity. The Birmingham outfit has shelled out £133.75 million for the likes of Wesley, Douglas Luiz, Tyrone Mings, and others, while also ditching Glenn Whelan, Ross McCormack, Alan Hutton, and Albert Adomah.

Fulham splurged similarly a summer ago in what turned out to be a series of disjointed acquisitions that were doomed to fail. Will Villa suffer a similar return to the second tier? Probably not, as the midfield triumvirate of Jack Grealish, Conor Hourihane, and John McGinn is miles better than what the West London lot wheeled out a year ago.

Sheffield United

Can Chris Wilder continue to overachieve?

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Blades boss Wilder has a reputation as an overachiever. The former right-back led boyhood club Sheffield United to two promotions in three seasons on the back of a cohesive unit that will run through a brick wall for the boss. Will it be enough for the Premier League?

At a glance, no. The squad has zero star power, though few managers get as much from as little as Wilder does. Skipper Billy Sharp and midfielder Mark Duffy are perfect examples. Wilder also implores his three central defenders to join in attacks and is content to frequently switch formations on the fly. Sheffield United will get thrashed, but not due to a lack of effort.

Norwich City

Can Daniel Farke's bombastic tactics translate to the top flight?

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The Canaries return to the Premier League after a three-year hiatus. Farke has deservedly been praised for his high-risk, high-reward managerial approach, as Norwich City won the second tier by a five-point margin. Will it work in the top flight?

Farke's ideology values pressing in a mid-to-low block without the ball and creating chances from turnovers. Norwich's matches averaged more total goals (3.26) than any promoted side's in the last decade, and only Bournemouth scored more during that run. Norwich conceded 57 goals, the sixth-most of any promoted team, a dicey combination that should make for exciting football.


Can Graham Potter get anything from last year's £50M worth of busts?

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Brighton newcomer Potter has worked miracles at Ostersunds and Swansea City courtesy of his keen development of youth. But with the Seagulls, the tactician will need to get something from predecessor Chris Hughton's signings to avoid relegation.

Before Potter landed on the south coast, a total of £50 million was tabled for Jose Izquierdo, Jurgen Locadia, Florin Andone, and Alireza Jahanbakhsh, and it didn't quite go to plan. Perhaps Leandro Trossard will help, with the £18-million former Genk scorer's arrival surpassing Jahanbakhsh as the club's most expensive transfer prior to Adam Webster's arrival.


Who will be a reliable source of goals?

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Thanks to Ralph Hasenhuttl's midseason hiring, an inspired Southampton finished 16th, five points clear of the drop. Brandishing the moniker of "The Alpine Klopp," Hasenhuttl engineered a run that won over fans, though a dearth of goal-scoring options could hamper his first full season in charge.

Not since Sadio Mane left for Liverpool in 2015 has a Saints player recorded 10 or more league goals. The hope is that Che Adams can translate his form in the second tier with Birmingham into top-flight returns, and that he and strike partner Danny Ings will profit from the set-piece deliveries of James Ward-Prowse and link-up play with south coast returnee Sofiane Boufal.


Can Dwight McNeil become a difference-maker?

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Without extra football to sully Burnley's domestic ambitions, The Clarets faithful will hope last year's 15th-place finish was an aberration fueled by early-season Europa League fixtures, and that a seventh-place standing in 2016-17 was indicative of the team's quality. McNeil could have a say.

The teen winger has drawn heaps of attention from clubs far bigger than Burnley, and for good reason. McNeil's speed mixed with his ability to dish out pinpoint balls and Andy Robertson-esque early deliveries are the perfect tonic for Sean Dyche's slew of robust - albeit one dimensional - forward targets. McNeil could be the difference between a second successive relegation fight or mid-table safety.


Can they cement a best-ever top-flight finish?

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Eddie Howe and Bournemouth mark their fifth Premier League season on the spin looking to better a club-best ninth-placed finish from 2016-17, and with little fanfare outside of the Dean Court environs, the Cherries have given themselves a decent chance. Much of that is due to the club keeping its best players.

Nathan Ake, Ryan Fraser, and Callum Wilson were linked with exits, and instead of making a few quid on the trio, Howe kept them local while adding midfielder Philip Billing. Jefferson Lerma should be better, David Brooks is a stud, and with a history of refining talents plucked from the lower leagues, expect good things from Lloyd Kelly and Jack Stacey. The top half beckons.


Are they worse off than last season?

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Newcastle actually spent money this summer despite the miserly ways of misfit employer Mike Ashley. Around £62 million has been tabled to recruit Joelinton, Allan Saint-Maximin, Emil Krafth and Jetro Willems to St. James' Park, though there's an argument to be made that the Magpies have actually gotten worse.

Rafa Benitez is gone, as are the team's only double-digit scorers, Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez. That leaves Joelinton (whose career-high top-tier haul is eight goals), Yoshinori Muto, and Dwight Gayle to make up the forward line. At least Jamaal Lascelles, Fabian Schar, and Florian Lejeune form a fine central defensive group. A full season of Miguel Almiron might be fun, too.

Crystal Palace

Has the Wilfried Zaha standoff killed their campaign?

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Besides losing last season's stellar performer, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Crystal Palace have been noticeably inactive during the summer transfer window, and much of that is due to the situation revolving around Zaha's desire to leave Croydon, and the club's exorbitant monetary demands for the Ivorian.

"We definitely need players, we definitely need bodies because our squad is very small," manager Roy Hodgson said during the preseason about his aging team. And with all due respect to Gary Cahill, those players have not arrived. Quite suddenly, the comforts of last season's 12th-placed finish are starting to trend toward the perils of a brush with relegation.


Will continuity serve them well?

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The Hornets finished 11th last season as part of a quartet of clubs between ninth and 12th separated by narrow margins. Javi Gracia's appointment added continuity, as did the startling returns to quality from Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra. Fast forward a few months, and Watford are standing pat.

Craig Dawson has come in to replace Miguel Britos, and Danny Welbeck makes the Vicarage Road pilgrimage on a free transfer to presumably do what Isaac Success is unsuccessful at (basically, everything), though it all feels rather underwhelming. Keeping hold of midfield keystone Abdoulaye Doucoure might be Gracia's biggest assignment this season.

West Ham

Is Sebastien Haller their savior?

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Since Marlon Harewood bagged 16 goals during the 2005-06 campaign, no West Ham player has scored more than a dozen times in the Premier League. Chicharito is still collecting a paycheck, and Andriy Yarmolenko is fit again, though it's Haller who carries the Hammers' hopes.

A £45-million buy from Eintracht, the 25-year-old Haller is a versatile modern forward whose metrics for the 2018-19 Bundesliga season should be a reason for unbridled optimism. The Frenchman had the eighth-highest goal contribution per 90 minutes in Europe's top-five leagues and the third-best expected goals (xG) per shot of any forward. Fans in east London have something to be excited about.

Leicester City

Is this side better than the league-winning team of 2015-16?

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How can Brendan Rodgers' current Leicester side be better than the one Claudio Ranieri led to a shocking league title in 2015-16? Well, for starters, City, United, Liverpool, and Chelsea were all significantly worse that season, and even Arsenal and Tottenham dealt with transitory meltdowns.

While Riyad Mahrez, N'Golo Kante, and a younger Jamie Vardy were game-changers, that counter-attacking side has been replaced with a balanced, all-around ensemble littered with emerging stars. James Maddison is a stud, full-backs Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell are threats, and Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi form one of the league's best young midfield pairs. Why not?


Can they shatter the top 6's glass ceiling?

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Everton are hoping that a stellar end to the 2018-19 campaign can be paired with outstanding performances from a slew of newcomers to break the league's top-six monopoly. Easier said than done, but with questions surrounding three of those six clubs, the Toffees retain realistic hopes.

The new River Mersey adjacent stadium plans have helped usher in a new era at Everton, and Moise Kean's acquisition is pegged to end long-standing issues in front of goal. If Yerry Mina can have a steadfast season and a move for Zaha goes through, Marco Silva's charges should have a puncher's chance if they can overcome last season's inconsistent form.


Will a European return curse their top-six hopes?

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Wolves marked their return to continental football after a 39-year absence with a straightforward aggregate victory over Northern Ireland's Crusaders in the Europa League second qualifying round. But for many Premier League sides before them, the tournament has proven to be both a blessing and a curse.

Clubs like West Ham and Burnley have recently been stung by competing on an additional front to the detriment of league form, but Wolves fit the profile of a team with a squad big enough for multiple dalliances. Last season's team returns largely intact, and the additions of Patrick Cutrone and Real Madrid loanee Jesus Vallejo only make Nuno Espirito Santo's troop more determined.

Manchester United

How long is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's leash?

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Former Manchester United forward Solskjaer had two disparate experiences as Red Devils manager. First, the Norwegian guided the club from the Jose Mourinho-inspired malaise to a shock victory over PSG. Then, once permanent terms had been negotiated, it all went pear-shaped.

Solskjaer will hope fans have forgotten the drab final-day defeat to Cardiff that had many summoning their guillotines from storage, though heads could still roll if the team suffers a loss at home to Chelsea to kick off the 2019-20 campaign followed by potential subsequent falls to rivals Liverpool and Arsenal at Old Trafford inside of the first nine matches. The leash will shorten with each result.


Can they overcome imbalance to return to the top 4?

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Arsenal are going to score, a lot. The Gunners bagged the third-most in the league last season behind City and Liverpool, and the addition of Nicolas Pepe will only boost an attack that features Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Will it be enough to secure a coveted top-four return?

With 51 goals conceded in each of the last two seasons, defensive frailties from Arsene Wenger's era have carried over into Unai Emery's. Since Arsenal last finished in the top four in 2015-16, only Liverpool in 2016-17 have shipped 40 goals and finished in the UCL spots. The signs aren't great, though returns to health for Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin should help.


Is Tanguy Ndombele's addition enough to close the gap?

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At this point, jokes about the dust and dirt that populate Tottenham's barren trophy cabinet have become equally stale. Stale yet relevant, and courtesy of Mauricio Pochettino's best efforts, Spurs have enjoyed their best stretch of success since the early 1960s. Still, an 11-year wait for silverware endures.

It's not as though Liverpool or City have gotten any worse. In terms of positives, the midfield addition of Ndombele should help replicate Mousa Dembele's previous do-all efforts. Worries about the suspended progress of oft-injured Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen remain, and Harry Kane's perpetual ankle setbacks linger. A daunting task that offers a glimmer of hope.


Can Frank Lampard and Co. overcome Eden Hazard's absence?

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The timing of Hazard's much-anticipated move to Real Madrid could not have been worse. Saddled by a two-window transfer ban, Chelsea's options to fill the void left by the Belgian's exit were limited to promoting from within in the form of a countless number of loan returnees.

All eyes will be on Christian Pulisic and youth products Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and Mason Mount, with the latter excelling at Derby last season under top-tier managerial virgin Lampard. It's unlikely Chelsea will improve sans Hazard, though they just need to be better than United and Arsenal to secure a Champions League spot. Easy ask, right?


Can they improve on last season?

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Liverpool are coming off a heartbreaking finish to the Premier League campaign in which they landed two points adrift of City and a first top-tier title since 1990. Technically, they were 11.7 millimeters worth of a John Stones clearance from an unbeaten season, and their 97-point haul - the third-most in EPL history - would have won the title in 116 of the previous 119 campaigns.

Months later and the squad remains the same, though so has City's, and for all the boons of capturing a sixth European Cup, the league continues to escape Liverpool. How can they improve on a near-faultless year? Well, a fully fit Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and full seasons from Naby Keita and Fabinho might help, as would a little luck.

Manchester City

Can City secure a rare 3-peat?

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Four English clubs have won three top-flight titles on the spin, and this season, Pep Guardiola and Co. will attempt to replicate previous efforts from Huddersfield Town (1923 to 1926), Arsenal (1932 to 1935), Liverpool (1981 to 1984), and Manchester United (2006 to 2009). Can Manchester City join the club?

The consensus last season was that City and Liverpool captured the trophies the other side desired most, and for Guardiola's charges, a continental conquest would sire a spot among football's best. As such, treble winners City may fancy ceding control of the two domestic cups to both match the three-peat feat and reach a maiden Champions League final.

1 question facing each Premier League club this season
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