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This year is truly setting itself up as a potentially monumental one for the Premier League’s and that’s without a ball being kicked in anger. The return of Jose Mourinho and acquisition of uber-manager Pep Guardiola has imbued the league with a certain razzmatazz from the outset. The injection of cash from new Sky television deals has swung the pendulum of spending power even further in favour of England’s elite clubs. Just look at Middleborough landing the services of Alvaro Negredo. And it’s in that domain that I wish to investigate the top club’s chances. Because perhaps more now than ever, the transfer window is set to play a vital role in determining the holders of next year’s Premier League crown.
The injection of cash from new Sky television deals has swung the pendulum of spending power even further in favour of England’s elite clubs. Just look at Middleborough landing the services of Alvaro Negredo. And it’s in that domain that I wish to investigate the top club’s chances. Because perhaps more now than ever, the transfer window is set to play a vital role in determining the holders of next year’s Premier League crown.
To Win OutrightManchester City 5/2 | Manchester United 7/2 | Chelsea 11/2 | Arsenal 6/1 | Tottenham 8/1 | Liverpool 8/1 | Leicester City 28/1 | West Ham 80/1 | Everton 80/1 | Bar & Better 100/1
Leicester City’s greatest task has been fending off the desire for their three key players: Vardy, Kante and Mahrez. And they will be hoping to emulate Meatloaf’s famous words and be singing ‘two out of three ain’t bad’. They managed to see off demands for Vardy but were left slightly disappointed by N’Golo Kante’s desire to join Chelsea. Mahrez is being openly courted by Arsenal and Leicester will do well to retain his services. But otherwise, Leicester have done well. New striker Ahmed Musa comes with a fierce reputation and will bring added firepower. Mendy will help alleviate Kante’s loss in the engine room of the midfield while Luis Hernadez provides cover for the war-horses Morgan and Huth.
Clearly United’s most prominent signing was that of Jose Mourinho. He is one of the few managers able to pry players away from the Holy Grail that is Champions League football. And then he managed to land the marquee free transfer of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swedish striker possesses that specific Cantona swagger that has been largely absent from the club. Mkhitaryan is class while Eric Bailey addresses their defensive frailties. A lot also depends on their much-publicised pursuit of Paul Pogba. I personally agree with Paul Scholes and believe that a transfer in excess of eighty million pounds should bring guaranteed goals. They perhaps missed a trick in not pursuing Kante more aggressively. But all in all, this is starting to look like the dawn- not false-dawn- of a new era of United football.
Man City have managed to acquire the services of the brilliant Pep Guardiola. They have also managed to acquire the services of both Gundogan and Nolito. The beauty of these two skilful players is their versatility. They are concrete indications of Pep’s desire for this Man City team to play with the braggadocio that has come to define his clubs. He requires dominance of possession and aesthetic excellence.
Spurs have done well to secure the services of Victor Wanyama and free-scoring Janssen. The examples of Vardy and Kane from last season have illuminated the need for reliable sources of goals.
I am somewhat concerned for Arsenal. They will argue that they are already in possession of a terrific squad. The purchase of Granit Xhaka will solidify an area where Wenger’s Arsenal have perpetually been criticised. But surely- giving what is happening around them - they should be bolstering their squad. Per Mertesacker is out for up to three months, leaving their central defensive area slightly threadbare. And it seems as if young Akpom is going to be their starting striker this season due to their injury woes, while their pursuit of Gonzalo Higuain came woefully short. This season may be the one where Monsieur Wenger has to betray his values and make a big purchase.
Liverpool also concerns me - the decision to part with Skrtel especially. He was surely still their best defender, even with Matip and Ragnar coming into the squad. Saido Mane and Wijnaldum add some quality up front - but they have been recruited from Southampton and Newcastle respectively. Giving the pull of both Guardiola and Mourinho, one wonders whether life on the Klopp - forgive me for that one - will be as optimistic this season as previously thought.
Chelsea have done well to acquire both Batshuayi and N’Golo Kante. Kante should give them the vigour in midfield that was sorely lacking from Matic last season. They also seem to have convinced Diego Costa to stay whilst retaining the service of star players Hazard and Willian - inspirational leader John Terry also remains as club captain.
It is still too early to cast complete aspersions onto any side. The wheeling and dealing will no doubt throw some demons into the transfer works. But at this point, there definitely do seem to be some sides getting their noses in front of the pack. United seem intent on breaking back into title contention while Arsenal seem cautiously optimistic with what they have. But I do feel that now - perhaps more than ever before - is the time for action - whatever the cost. The fierce competitiveness of the league is not likely to reward idle hands. The era of Pep-Jose Mach 2 will necessitate a decisive approach to buying that the likes of Wenger will need to address.