10 players to watch in the Premier League this season

Taking a look at the most expensive off-season transfers in the Premier League.

The 2017-18 Premier League season begins on Friday, and as always, there will be plenty of intrigue at both ends of the table.

All of the top-six teams completed some key signings, the promoted sides made astute moves and even the mid-table clubs were active this summer.

With the action beginning this weekend, here are 10 players to watch this season.

Alvaro Morata (Chelsea)

Morata was one of Antonio Conte’s top targets in the transfer market. The Spanish international was signed from Real Madrid for a club-record fee of around £70 million with the hope that he could significantly bolster Chelsea’s attack.

The 24-year-old forward recorded 20 goals in 43 matches for Madrid last season, which is a solid return given his lack of starts. Morata also scored in some big matches with Juventus, especially in the Champions League back in 2015.

Morata works hard off the ball and provides solid link-up play, which could help the likes of Eden Hazard. If Chelsea wants to repeat as champions, then Morata will have to be a key figure.

Watch five games from the opening weekend of the Premier League live on Sporstnet, including Watford vs. Liverpool and Manchester United vs. West Ham United. Coverage begins Saturday at 7:00 a.m. ET.

Kieran Trippier (Tottenham)

The play of full-backs Kyle Walker and Danny Rose was a significant part of Tottenham’s success last season. However, Walker has since departed for Manchester City and Rose will begin the season with an injury, which means the spotlight is on Kieran Trippier to perform well.

When reports surfaced that Walker wanted to leave Spurs, Trippier finished the campaign as the starting right-back, earned Mauricio Pochettino’s trust and signed a new five-year contract. The 26-year-old has shown remarkable improvement on both sides of the pitch and fully deserves this opportunity.

Trippier suffered an injury in Tottenham’s friendly against Juventus on Aug. 5, but regardless, he will be worth monitoring throughout the campaign to see if he is a true long-term replacement for Walker.

Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City)

Manchester City’s young forward only played in 11 games after arriving from Palmeiras in January. Despite suffering a broken foot shortly after his debut, Gabriel Jesus was involved in 12 goals for the club in all competitions, scoring seven times.

Jesus had a 30 percent conversion rate in the Premier League, which is practically unsustainable, but he has the ability to score at least 20 goals with creative players such as Bernardo Silva, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne around him.

Even with an unbalanced squad last season, Man City was impressive going forward. The wasted opportunities in front of goal cost the Citizens in marquee matches, especially against Chelsea and Tottenham. That, in turn, squandered City’s title hopes. Pep Guardiola was able to sign skillful fullbacks and a ball-playing goalkeeper in Ederson, who is also a solid shot-stopper. That should enhance the attack even more.

With a fully fit Jesus, Man City could be one of the most clinical attacking sides in Europe. Jesus is also tipped to start up front for Brazil at the World Cup next summer, so all the more reason to watch the young forward this season.

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

Liverpool spent a club-record fee to sign Mohamed Salah from Roma in June. However, the price tag could be considered a bargain if Salah thrives in Jurgen Klopp’s high-pressing, energetic system.

Salah was lethal on counter-attacks during his time in Italy with Roma and Fiorentina. The Egyptian recorded 15 goals and 11 assists, which is an incredible output for a player in his position. In total, the winger had 25 goals and 17 assists in 65 league appearances for the Giallorossi. Not bad at all.

The 25-year-old will be remembered by Premier League fans as a “flop” at Chelsea. However, he did not earn a fair shot at the club. Salah will be even more motivated to prove himself in England, and in this Liverpool setup, he should be a joy to watch.

Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal)

For years, Arsenal has craved a clinical forward in the penalty area. That is why Alexandre Lacazette was an ideal signing for Arsene Wenger’s side.

Watch any Lyon match with Lacazette on the pitch, and it’s evident that the majority of his chances are generated after making darting runs and are taken in the centre of the box. He seldom attempts to score from outside the penalty area.

If Arsenal wants to return to the top four, it needs Lacazette to be in form from the start of the season.

Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

Plenty of focus will be on Romelu Lukaku, mainly due to Manchester United’s offensive struggles at home last season, but the man to watch is Paul Pogba.

Lukaku will influence Pogba’s performances, mainly because the commanding forward does not occupy space deep in the midfield like Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The French midfielder will have more freedom in the final third as a result. That could be a frightening proposition for the Premier League, because even with Ibrahimovic, the 24-year-old was still productive.

Additionally, United signed Nemanja Matic to provide some defensive cover for Pogba. In turn, that will give the French international even more creative freedom.

Jordan Pickford (Everton)

Not only is Jordan Pickford a record signing for Everton, he is also the most-expensive British goalkeeper in history. That should put pressure on Pickford, but he has a tremendous opportunity ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

The 23-year-old shot-stopper represented England at the Euro U-21 championships. He was solid at the tournament and after making the move to a top-seven club Pickford could solidify a spot in England’s World Cup squad if he impresses at Everton.

Javier Hernandez (West Ham United)

Hernandez is a proven scorer in England. The Mexican international had at least 10 goals in each of his first three seasons with Manchester United when he was a starter under Sir Alex Ferguson. He is also accomplished across Europe as well.

‘Chicharito’ racked up 28 goals in 54 Bundesliga appearances with Bayer Leverkusen, including five tallies in nine Champions League games when he first arrived in Germany.

Hernandez is a dangerous poacher in the box and will surely help West Ham move back up the Premier League table in 2017-18.

Mikel Merino (Newcastle United)

Merino was signed on loan from Borussia Dortmund with an option to buy, which could be key because the midfielder may be one of the steals of the summer.

The Spaniard is projected to start in the heart of midfield for Rafa Benitez’s side this season. Merino was deployed as a centre-back for Dortmund, but his preferred position is in a deep-lying role.

Merino is a well-rounded midfielder who is strong defensively, reads the game incredibly well and can spray passes across the length of the pitch. He turned down moves to top-half sides in La Liga to test himself in the Premier League, and it could save his career.

Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town)

The Australian international was crucial last season for Huddersfield Town as it won promotion via the Championship playoffs in May.

Mooy was on loan from Manchester City, but was signed permanently and is now the most-expensive Australian ever. The 27-year-old was Huddersfield’s player of the season and will be heavily involved as a pseudo box-to-box midfielder for the Terriers.