We go again.

The all-singing, all-dancing, self-proclaimed 'most exciting league in the world' is back with a few new faces and some interesting Irish sub-plots.

We picked out ten things to keep an eye on ahead of Friday's Premier League kick-off.

1. The year of the Parrott

Troy Parrott is the most exciting teenage talent this country has produced since Robbie Keane.

Such is the extraordinarily high level of young players trying to make it in England's top tier, and the enormous resources the biggest clubs have to scour the globe for the latest prodigies, it's never been harder for young Irish footballers to rise through the ranks, particularly at one of the league's big six.

Even the most promising players can be squeezed out by a manager's preference to open the cheque book and bring in an experienced pro rather than take a punt on a novice, but everything about Parrott's progress at Tottenham Hotspur so far makes you believe he's going to make it.

Mauricio Pochettino is a patient and astute manager. He's taken the Dubliner under his wing and has been impressed with what he's seen. The 17-year-old was involved in a couple of matchday squads last season, and played against Manchester United, Juventus and Real Madrid during pre-season, looking made for life alongside the elite in all of those games.

It's inevitable that Spurs will give him minutes this campaign, and a senior Ireland debut can't be too far away either. Parrott is ready to take off.

Believe the hype.

2. Liverpool and Manchester City - a rivalry coming to the boil

If the Community Shield taught us anything (and let's be honest, this glossy friendly rarely teaches anyone anything) it's that these sides don't like each other. There was a needle to the curtain-raiser, an edge to the tackles and extra zest in the City celebrations after they won on penalties.

The two best sides in the country now measure themselves against each other and they're expected to embark on another blow-for-blow scrap in the race to be crowned champions.

It could be every bit as intense as last season's exhausting game of cat and mouse. 

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have never indulged in taking public digs at each other, but the clubs' relationship soured after Liverpool dumped City out of the Champions league in 2017, and Reds fans infamously roughed up the visitors' team bus before the first leg at Anfield. It's been niggly between the two ever since.

These great sides, both possessing fantastic managers, are likely to serve up two brutally competitive league contests, and maybe a couple more in Europe too if their paths cross in the knockout stages.

Lap it up. It's the new Manchester United-Arsenal.

3. New season, new rules 

Brace yourself. VAR is coming to the Premier league.

Like it or loathe it, this divisive technology will no doubt dominate the conversation in the first few rounds of matches. Referees have been given a three-replay limit to try and avoid lengthy in-game delays, but given the game in England sells itself as being faster than the rest, it'll be interesting to see how his one goes down.

There's a few more new rules to keep an eye out for.

Handball is a bit more clear-cut. Now, if the ball hits an attacker's arm, accidentally or otherwise, it will be punished. 

There's a change to the goal-kick law too. The ball will be active as soon as the keeper kicks it, meaning his team-mates - don't have to leave the area to receive it. This one could be used in a few ways by teams who may look to suck opponents in deep or play quick lofted one-twos to get it back into the keeper's hands, as Benfica did in a recent pre-season friendly with AC Milan.

Other changes of note include keepers being required to have one foot on the line when a penalty is being taken, attacking players being forbidden from standing in a the wall for a free-kick, and the abolition of the contested drop ball - from now on the ref will simply return it to the side that last played the ball, or give it to the keeper if it's in the penalty area.

4. Aston Villa's return to the big time

One of English football's fallen giants are back in the big time after a three-year exile in the Championship. It hasn't been plain sailing. Since Remi Garde's disastrous reign both Roberto di Matteo and Steve Bruce have come and gone at Villa Park, and it's taken a Birmingham native, Dean Smith, to resurrect the 1982 European Cup winners. 

Villa finished fifth in the Championship last season having ended the campaign like a steam train, taking that momentum into the play-offs where they ultimately edged past Derby County to seal a return to the top flight.

Jack Grealish and John McGinn both sparkled and Ireland supporters will keep a keen eye on how Conor Hourihane takes to Premier League football for the first time in his career. The Corkman has had a great pre-season and came into excellent form during Villa's late-season surge.

They've splashed the cash over the summer, breaking their own transfer record four times and bringing in 12 players. Smith has beefed up the panel with the likes of Wesley Moraes (Club Brugge, £22.5m), Tyrone Mings (Bournemouth, £20m), Douglas Luiz (Manchester City, £15.1m), Matt Targett (Southampton, £14m), Marvelous Nakamba (Club Brugge, £11m) and the Egyptian attacker Trezeguet (Kasimpasa, £11m).

Fulham spent £100m in the summer of 2018 and went on to get relegated as the second worst side in the division. That's a cautionary tale Villa are aware of but they're confident the pricey recruits will suitably enhance the squad to ensure their stay at the top table is not short-lived.

Time will tell, but it's good to see them back.

5. The Irish Blades

In an era where established Irish players in the Premier League are fast becoming an endangered species, interest in the fortunes of Sheffield United is about to sky-rocket this side of the Irish Sea.

Enda Stevens, David McGoldrick and John Egan are all important figures in the Blades dressing room, while Callum Robinson's arrival from Preston for £8m could prove to be a great move for club and player. This quartet's involvement means a good year for Sheffield United will be good news for the Republic of Ireland.

Chris Wilder hasn't been shy about loosening the purse strings; as well as Robinson, Luke Freeman (QPR, £8m), Lys Mousset's (Bournemouth, £10m) and Oli McBurnie (Swansea, £17.5m) have all made the move to Bramall Lane.

"We'll be playing against some of the best teams in Europe, in the world," Egan told RTÉ Sport back in May. "That's the level you want to be at. You want to be proving yourself against the likes of Man City and Man United, testing yourself against the best. It's going to be exciting.

"You can't fear anything. You've got nothing to lose at the end of the day. What's the worst that can happen? You lose a game to a top team. It's 11 against 11. You just have to keep the belief and stick to what you're good at."

6. Everton ready for lift-off?

These are exciting times at Everton. While a terrific new £500m stadium is slated to be built on Liverpool's Bramley-Moore Dock within the next four years, their summer business has further heightened the sense of optimism among Blues fans.

Marco Silva has been busy in his efforts to build on last season's eight-placed finish and he's made some of the most eye-catching signings of the window. Idrissa Gueye (to PSG) and Kurt Zouma (back to Chelsea after a loan spell) are big losses, but they've been offset with the permanent signing of Andres Gomes from Barcelona, the arrival of Manchester City's Fabian Delph and - most excitingly - the surprise swoop for Moise Kean from Juventus.

Kean is the type of player who could ignite a team of such potential. The 19-year-old was one of the hottest prospects in Europe when he broke through at Juventus and the Turin giants' willingness to let him go was a genuine surprise.

He's a real coup for the Toffees, and could provide the star power and the fire power to make them top-six contenders again.

7. Lampard's back at the Bridge

It's difficult to imagine any other other point in the last 15 years where a novice manager like Frank Lampard would be given the opportunity to helm Chelsea, but these are interesting times at Stamford Bridge.

He takes charge of the Europa League winners with much to prove, albeit his standing as a player with the Blues should see him get more leeway from the fans than the departed Maurizio Sarri enjoyed.

Chelsea have been restricted in the market this summer as they're serving a a two-window transfer as punishment for breaking FIFA regulations over the transfer of minors.

They've lost Eden Hazard, though the arrival of Christian Pulisic - signed last January - softens the blow. In a strange way the transfer ban makes Lampard's job a bit easier. He'll be given room to work with what he's got and should get time to try and improve the likes of Callum Hudson Odoi, the teenage wonderkid who turned down a move to Bayern Munich to stay in London.

Lampard showed real promise in his first year of management at Derby. It'll be a different ball game with one of the country's biggest clubs but he might just turn out to be a shrewd appointment.

8. McCarthy's fresh start 

It's been such a tough 18 months for James McCarthy. Still only 28, the combative midfielder has made a single Premier League appearance in 20 months, after breaking his leg in January 2018.

That's a massive chunk of time to lose in a playing career and with Everton spending big money to bolster their options in the middle of the park, a move always seemed inevitable.

Crystal Palace confirmed they'd snapped him up last night, and it's an opportunity for McCarthy to kick-start his career. Ireland need him fit and firing - a confident James McCarthy is a valuable asset as we head for the climax of Euro 202 qualification - so this is really is a crucial period for the former Wigan man.

"I'm really pleased we've been able to bring James to the club because he's a player I've admired for a very long time," said Palace boss Roy Hodgson.

"He's a player with a vast amount of Premier League experience, given his six and four years playing for Everton and Wigan respectively, and will be an excellent addition to our midfield." 

He needed a fresh start, now he needs it to go well. 

9. Ole's at the wheel

It's been a mad few years at Old Trafford. Once untouchable as England's supreme force, they've done a Liverpool and allowed the empire to gather dust as major rivals steal a march.

Ole Gunnar Solksjaer is the fourth permanent man in the hot seat since Alex Ferguson stepped away in 2013, and he's been busy trying to change a culture of over-entitlement and underachievement. It might take time. Paul Pogba looks like he'll be sticking around despite prolonged rumours of a switch to Real Madrid, while Romelu Lukaku seems certain to get his desired move to Italy. 

Those sideshows have been unwelcome distractions, but Solksjaer has made positive moves in the market. The recruitment of hungry young prospects Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka signal a change in their transfer philosophy, with Harry Maguire's £85m arrival from Leicester City expected to give them more solidity at the back.

Crucially, the likes of David de Gea and Marcus Rashford remain tied to the club and though it may take Solksjaer another couple of windows to build a side in his image, they should, at the very least, improve upon last season's awful campaign. The recovery starts here.

10. Breakthrough for a new wave of talent?

As mentioned, we need a few Irish lads to step up, but there are a few bright hopes. Michael Obafemi broke through at Southampton last season, going on to make his full Ireland debut in the Nations League draw with Denmark. There's a lot more to come from the speedy frontman whose season was cut short by a hamstring injury.

At Norwich, Adam Idah will hope for an opportunity to show what he can do in the first team, though his best chances of getting game time may come in the domestic cups.

His Ireland Under-21 comrade Aaron Connolly will likewise be knocking on the door at Brighton. The Galway man was named the Premier League 2 Player of the Year last season and signed a new three-year deal with the Seagulls in February.

Goalkeeper Mark Travers made a dream debut for Bournemouth when he produced a star turn in the 1-0 win against Spurs in May and has also just penned a fresh deal, while the future of free agent Jonathan Afolabi remains up in the air.

He was brilliant for Ireland in the recent Under-19 European Championships and has reportedly turned the heads of Crystal Palace, Newcastle and Aston Villa.

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