Image credits – ytimg
It has been a typically Chelsea start to the year (for Chelsea of course). They won last year at a canter, introduced the English audience to the proverbial “Three at the Back”, won praise for their record equaling thirteen game run and then broke the record for netting an unprecedented number of own goals in the post season, a record which funnily enough was set by Chelsea itself – only two seasons prior.
It may seem harsh to rank them last as the club have already spent north of 135 million pounds in the window so far. Unfortunately, most of these have been purely replacements. Alvaro Morata, Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko are expected to replace the departing John Terry, the out of love Matic and the warring Costa. Chelsea have failed in their pursuit of a world class wing back in Alex Sandro and faced stiff resistance from Leicester for Danny Drinkwater but that is still not the worst of it.
Romelu Lukaku’s rumoured affair with United turned out to be a full blown Red Wedding and when Matic announced his intention to join the after ‘wedding’ party, that probably was the final nail in the coffin for Blues fans. On the bright side, Man City’s No 2 goalie (Some say No 1 – depends on who you ask) joined the club on a free, handing Master Card some free PR, because all those years ago they got it spot on, ‘Some things in Life are Priceless’.
There are three words that are not very popular in and around Anfield these days. ‘Virgil Van Dijk’. The summer long protracted move for the Dutchman from the Saints has consumed most of the energies of the suits at Anfield Road, who are only now beginning to realize that the watering hole that was Southampton Football Club is no longer free for use for the Liver Birds of Merseyside.
Having raided the club before for regular starters like Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Nathaniel Clyne and Sadio Mane, who could blame them for picking another cherry from the cake when nobody was looking. Except this time, the Saints pulled back on their generosity and reported the Reds to the Premier League for tapping up their prized defender.
More than making the club look bad, it reinforces Klopp’s dire need to bring in a world class defender, something fans have been crying out in recent years. Last season’s acquisition of Joel Matip and Ragnar Klavan did little to appease them on this front. The only reason they are ranked second from last (and not last) is because the two other signings, Mohamed Salah and Dominic Solanke, both come from Chelsea, albeit via different routes. Salah has made rapid strides in his game during his time at Italy and Solanke is fresh off the plane after winning the Golden Ball at the Fifa U-20 World Cup held in South Korea. Liverpool could do worse, but fortunately for them, Chelsea have made that task their own.
This is a tricky one. We all desire football to be good, to be pure. We hope that the ten-year-old who joins his boyhood club, can rise through the age groups and eventually start in the first team one day. It is interesting to note that all but one member of the Celtic European Cup winning team of ’67 were born within ten miles of Celtic Park.
The times have changed but Spurs are looking to try something different within the ever globalizing, multicultural and multinational product that the game has become. It is a simple idea. ‘Lets give the kids a chance’. To execute said idea may be the doing or rather undoing of Mauricio Pocchettino’s unblemished managerial career so far.
At the time of writing, the club were reportedly close to signing their first player of the summer, one Davinson Sanchez of Ajax, who in May started the Europa league final against United. Apart from that, the only notable headline has been the inevitable departure of Kyle Walker to city (No tapping up here). Tottenham have held on to their stars over the summer and there has been perfect synchrony between the squad and the hierarchy, visible from the lack of transfer rumors coming out of White Hart Lane. It appears that all stakeholders are united and invested wholeheartedly in the Spurs project ahead of a potentially difficult couple of seasons before their move back to the Lane.
The only case for placing Arsenal ahead of Spurs is basically a case of intent – and the fact that the beastly Alexis Sanchez is still on their books. Mesut Ozil must have thanked the Gods at the Emirates for taking the ‘Club Record Fee’ tag off him and assigning it to the prolific Alexander Lacazette, who had steadily grown to become one of the most feared strikers in Ligue 1. Wenger’s history with French attackers must be reassuring for the gunners, who have in the past seen the likes of Henry, Anelka and Pires light up Highbury with their deft touches, breezy runs and eye for goals and goalscoring. Four years on from the nadir that was the Forty million and One pound offer for Luis Suarez, Arsenal seem to have learnt from their mistakes. They moved in swiftly and got their man less than a week into the transfer window. He started paying off his fee even faster by heading in after 90 seconds into the opening game of the season. Lacazette’s dribbling ability and lower center of gravity coupled with Giroud’s aerial prowess and hold up play could be the difference between a top four finish and one outside it.
It is strange that one of the richest clubs in the Premier League has flown under the radar for much of the summer in spite of signing important players in key areas for sizeable amounts of dough. The twin arrivals of Ederson and Bernardo Silva in June added much needed solidity in goal and intelligent playmaking (Pep’s own words not mine) up front.
City refreshed their full back offerings by replacing Zabaleta/Sagna and Clichy/Kolarov with Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy respectively. Both are upgrades and are coming off fantastic seasons with their previous employers. Moreover, Pep has also been successful in clearing a lot of the extra deadweight off the squad and bringing down its average age, something that was costing City last season at the deep end of key fixtures – think City and Spurs at home.
Aguero has been sufficiently pacified and it appears that Pep has devised a system that includes both the Argentinian and the inventively named ‘Jesus’ in it. That probably rules out a late move for Mbappe who is being courted by Madrid and PSG simultaneously. Supposedly, the greatest manager of his era – Pep Guardiola was somewhat overshadowed by the chest thumping, fist pumping and tactical innovation of Antonio Conte last year. For him to be happy, his team needs to produce magic on the pitch week in week out as well as win at the same time. If he succeeds in finding the key to unlocking English Football, the debate on greatness maybe over sooner than we imagined.
Mourinho is looking a satisfied man these days. The Glazers have backed him to the hilt during the transfer window and he is increasingly making United his own kind of team. Romelu Lukaku remains the coup of the ‘silly season’, while the additions of Victor Lindelof and Nemanja Matic will provide further strength, height and weight to a squad that is already packed with giants. The manager has retained his core from last season and ruled out further activity in the market.
Along with City, United are the outright contenders to pick up the title in May. Mourinho gave us a taste of what is to come in a blistering display of speed and precision attacking in the home win against West Ham. Regardless what happens from now till the close of the window, United are by far the clear winners as they have recruited three world class players in three different areas of the pitch and look like a settled unit already. Mourinho’s second season syndrome may rub off on Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan who are by now accustomed to the style and pace of the game in England and ready to break out of the shackles that were holding them back in 16/17.