Wrapping up your transfer business early is never a guarantee that you’ll start the season on a high note, or at least to the expectations raised by the summer spend. It’s about looking good to outsiders, to create an illusion that everything is in order and that you’re well armed to achieve the targets laid out following the closure of the previous season.
Manchester City, with a new manager on the books, stood out immediately, not because their ambition or spend was in such contrast to their counterparts, but because it heavily contrasted Roberto Mancini’s final summer with the club. The Italian wanted big names, both in the way of a striker, namely Robin van Persie, and midfield recruits who would beef up the squad and add genuine quality.
There were no half-hearted appointments this summer. Instead of Javi Garcia or Jack Rodwell, Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fernandinho arrived. Question marks remained, however. Was the Brazilian, arriving from the Ukrainian Premier League, good enough to make an impact in the English equivalent? The midfielder had been impressive in the Champions League last season, taking on a pivotal role as Shakhtar recorded a number of impressive wins. At this stage, Fernandinho looks a good buy – maybe not worth the eventual £30 million valuation, but that’s just reflective of the current market.
Manchester City’s attacking revamp, however, has been significant and impressive. The club secured Stevan Jovetic, Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo, while shipping out Carlos Tevez to Juventus. Not only is it a huge upgrade on what the club did last summer, but City certainly hold a claim to possess the strongest contingent of forwards in the league.
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It was a stark contrast to the lack of movement from city rivals Manchester United, who only brought in one reputable name in Marouane Fellaini with minutes left in window. There has been no upgrade on the attack, though there is a strong case to be made that the champions don’t need additions in that department. The worry, however, is that United may not be able to match City for depth in the middle of the pitch – at least not in terms of quality.
City have power, pace, creativity, and goals from all areas of the midfield. In comparison, United used a scatter gun approach in an attempt to secure anyone who held the label of playmaker to boost their efforts. Despite holding a realistic chance at retaining the league title, Manchester United came out of this window as one of the two worst acts among the top clubs.
The other club to hold a similar place is Arsenal, who despite securing Mesut Ozil and obliterating their transfer record, haven’t really addressed the faults that came to the fore last season. There is no new striker, the defence is even lighter than it was prior to the summer window opening, and injury has ravaged the squad to an extent that there are genuine concerns as to how long it will be until the cracks are exposed again. Lukas Podolski and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain are set for three months on the sideline, while Mikel Arteta is only due back at the end of the month and Thomas Vermaelen has had no fitness preparation this summer.
The signing of Ozil certainly makes the race for fourth interesting, with Tottenham among those who were most impressive this summer. Is it coincidental that Tottenham and Manchester City were most effective in reshaping their squads this summer, with both clubs holding figures behind the scenes who took on the sole task of recruitment, leaving the coaching staff to on-pitch duties? Tottenham’s team will take time to gel, but they now have a fantastic blend of power, creativity and goals; a fine return from the sale of Gareth Bale.
Chelsea, on the other hand, didn’t need a heavy intake of names to hold a place among the best spenders this summer. In Samuel Eto’o, the team have experience and quality in depth in attack. Andre Schurrle, as evidenced by the formation at Old Trafford, will also be an option at centre-forward.
But it’s the depth and undeniable quality in midfield that could see Chelsea as the frontrunners for the title. The addition of Jose Mourinho and the stability the Portuguese provides will also reinforce the charge, as it’s very difficult to pick out a weak spot in this Chelsea side.
Where they differ significantly from Manchester City is the options in defence, with four reliable bodies available for the two centre-back spots as well as genuine quality on both flanks. For Chelsea, it was a matter of tweaking rather than overhauling, and even in the loss to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Super Cup, it’s clear to see that Chelsea are a much more convincing force than they were last season.
The race for the top four and the Premier League title does promise to be the most open and intriguing in years, possibly in the history of the Premier League.
Liverpool have also done excellent business, and in keeping Luis Suarez, they’re not only a contender for a top six spot but also a Champions League place. There’s resolve to Brendan Rodgers’ team that wasn’t there last season. They’ve upgraded in a number of areas on the pitch and have hit the ground running; probably the only club that have add credence to the notion that getting your business done early brings instant rewards, though the continuity in manager also helps.
Which of the big clubs came out on top following their summer transfer activity?
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