Andy Robinson runs the rule over the summer signings so far….
With just a few days left of this summer’s transfer window and Sky sports Jim White getting more hysterical by the hour the consensus seems to be that the biggest clubs in the premiership have more or less concluded their major business. Let’s have a look at what the biggest sides have accomplished so far.
The Champions Manchester City have spent big at the back in the purchase of young French international Eliaquim Mangala from Porto but the City fans have already decided the key purchase of the summer is that of his former Porto team mate Fernando for the very paltry sum of £12M. Last season at City, Javi Garcia occupied the holding midfield role but a lack of pace and mobility with City aiming for further progression in the champions league has seen him shipped out and upgraded. With recent incumbents in the holding position at City including Gareth Barry and the tough tackling Nigel De Jong, Fernando “stateless” on the international scene has tough acts to follow. The City hierarchy however who have watched him closely for the past 18 months and the fans on what they have seen so far are convinced they have the new Claude Makalele.
Last season’s runners up Liverpool have spent all the money they have received from Barcelona on Luis Suarez and almost as much again on a variety of young foreign stars and by plundering what until recently was an attractive and promising Southampton side. They seem to have bought reasonably well but I haven’t seen a single player go to Anfield who would have even remotely piqued the interest of Chelsea or City. Despite protestations from Rodgers about needing to improve greatly at the back and in midfield, Rodgers has in fact only improved slightly at the back and in midfield. It does appear now that the key purchase may well be Mario Balotelli for an absolute bargain at £16M. It isn’t going to be enough to win the title but as long as he stays he ensures that Liverpool will be in the news and should probably have enough goals about them to finish in the top four again.
Chelsea may have the happiest set of fans around. The Torres era appears to be over with the signing of the very Drogba like Diego Costa and the return of the original Didier himself. Costa though, for someone so experienced has only really been “at it” for eighteen months or so and possibly this may not be the sure thing everyone thinks. The key buy for Chelsea is the return of Cesc Fabregas. He may not be the best player we have seen in the Premiership but along with Christiano Ronaldo he’s the best player the premiership has seen between the ages of 19 through to 24 and has now reached his peak. Why on earth Barcelona wanted to replace him is beyond me.
Arsenal have confused me. For the first time in a while they seem to almost have the players for a sustained charge at the title but Arsene again has only gone half measures. Alexis Sanchez would be a fantastic addition to any side. Again, just like with Fabregas I am at a total loss as to why Barcelona have got rid of such a talent, although I have heard rumours that Lionel Messi wasn’t fond of him. Arsenal despite having a lengthy list of talented midfielders are still seriously lacking a leader in that department who can make it work against the very best when steel is needed to compliment the sublime. Look at the hammerings they got last season against their rivals for evidence of that. Arteta looks older and slower with each game that passes and the once outstanding Flamini now looks little more than a Championship level thug. What did AC Milan do to him? Another top drawer centre back wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
Roberto Martinez has carried on his good work at Everton from last season. He has secured the services of Gareth Barry for a nominal fee and again found a talented young winger, this time surplus to requirements at Chelsea in Ghanian international Christian Atsu. Muhamed Besic, who was very impressive for Bosnia in the World Cup gives more numbers in midfield and Martinez has also managed not to lose anybody of note. The only problem for Everton that I can see is that the purchase of the fantastic Lukaku for such a big fee will have left them skint in that final flurry of activity on the last day of the transfer window. An exceptional football manager with empty pockets is a sad sight on Sky Sports News on the 1st September. A few days ago Everton would have been my guess for the fourth champions league spot. The injury to Ross Barkley and the transfer to Liverpool of Balotelli has swung it back in Liverpool’s favour. Lesser sides are probably going to know what’s coming.
Tottenham Hotspur have had a very quiet summer as far as transfer dealings are concerned. Today’s signing of Argentinian international Fedirico Fazio for £8M from Seville is their only big deal of the summer. The key signing for Spurs however seems to be that of the manager, Mauricio Pochettino. The influx of a large number of young highly fancied foreign players fetched in last summer with the Gareth Bale money often without the then manager, Andre villas-Boas being consulted did Spurs no favours. Loss of form and injuries meant that most of them never got going. This same set of players have this season made a flying start and they are all falling over themselves to praise Pochettino in the broadsheets. Spurs look like a good outside bet for one of the cups and a dead cert for a Europa league place.
As the last few days of the transfer window approach it seems that just one big club is still prepared to make big statements and splash the cash even though they have spent enough already. As far as I can see, in fact as anybody even remotely interested in the game can see; this transfer window for Manchester United has been an absolute disaster. The new man in charge, Louis Van Gaal arrived late due to world cup duty with Holland and wasn’t in time to stop the chief executive, Edward Woodward shooting his mouth off and telling Europe’s finest how much cash was in United’s kitty. With four of last season’s defence leaving for pastures new and two more key defenders injured only two defenders Marcus Rojo and Luke Shaw have been fetched in, both at a hefty premium. The central midfield area has been addressed with the purchase of long time United target Ander Herrera who isn’t good enough for Spain. Keep in mind that Real Madrid got Tony Kroos for around the same fee. Yesterday, United broke the British transfer record fee for Angel Di Maria. A “worldy” just about but also just about the one player on the planet that Manchester United needed the least. With only a few days left, United as yet have nowhere near enough to push the top four.
So then, the final conclusions. A two horse race will be established before Christmas between City and Chelsea. Arsenal have missed a massive opportunity. Liverpool should be just about OK for this season at least (next season the natives will get really restless) Everton have played their cards well but have been dealt a short hand and for Spurs, a nice fresh start before the whole cycle starts again with Erickson, Lamela and Pochettino probably off to the biggest stages.
For Manchester United it really is anyone’s guess. Unless a few rabbits are pulled out of some very expensive hats in the coming days, I see a season to rival last years though I can honestly say “They are too good to go down”!