The Premier League has returned. Clubs have gone about their business and will now learn if their new signings are up to the task of making it in the Premier League.
Despite the season beginning, the transfer window is still wide open and after taking a look at the squads of the top four it would be a surprise if there wasn’t more major transfers before the window closes.
League champions Chelsea dominated last year and few disputed the fact that they had a far superior squad to most competitors. However as the the old adage states, getting to the top is easy it’s staying on top that is the challenge. Surprisingly Jose Mourinho has done little to strengthen his squad. Falcao has come in on load as a backup striker, and despite some impressive form in other european leagues the Colombian striker struggled at Manchester United last season. He is hardly an inspiring back up to the injury prone Diego Costa. Loic Remy is another decent backup but it remains a strange fact that Chelsea have not done more to consolidate their excellent squad. Evertons young defender John Stones may yet end up at the club and that could be seen a sound investment to eventually replace John Terry or Gary Cahill, perhaps alongside young talent Kurt Zouma.
If form from the end of last season, the FA Cup final, and the Community Shield are anything to go by than Arsenal could be well equipped to challenge Chelsea this season. Unfortunately the reality that has haunted Arsenal all too much in recent years is that form is temporary. Arsenal often flatter to deceive only to fall at the final hurdle. Petr Cech has been a fantastic addition to their team and is certainly a more world class talent than Wojciech Szczesny but they have failed to strengthen other key areas. Arsenal possess a solid defence and a formidable array of attacking midfielders but they lack depth and top top class in more reserved midfield positions and while Giroud and Walcott are impressive at times they rarely prove themselves as top level against the best teams.
Manchester City are are a team who seem particularly screaming out for some signings. While City possess some supreme talent such as David Silva and new signing Raheem Sterling who are both bound to impress this season but Pellegrini’s side need a few key additions. Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic have departed which leaves Wilfried bony and Sergio Aguero as the only senior strikers at the club. Aguero is arguably the best player in the league but his injury record does not allow City the luxury of depending on his talents to win the title. Fabian Delph is a decent midfielder but is also no world beater and City could certainly do with one or two top quality talents. Wolfsburg’s Kevin De Bruyne has been touted and would be an excellent signing but another defender and a grade A striker seem like more pressing issues. Centre back Eliaquim Mangala should be allowed a second season to prove himself but the former champions are a serious Aguero injury away from being exiled from title contention.
Manchester United have been the most active of the big guns this summer. After signing Memphis Depay, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, and Matteo Darmian United will be expected to challenge right at the top but there are weaknesses at Old Trafford. Goalkeeper David de Gea is still expected to leave for Real Madrid and that will leave United in a less than comfortable position. Louis van Gaal has voiced his distrust of Victor Valdes and while the new keeper Sergio Romero is a decent stopper he is not world class and is certainly not at the same level as the goalkeepers at the other top four clubs in the league. Captain Wayne Rooney will be given the centre forward role and is certain to score goals but should he pick up an injury United will be left with unexperienced striker James Wilson and Javier Hernandez who has been seriously undervalued and underused in recent years. Beyond that the back four raise some alarm bells. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling (or Mike Smalling as Louis van Gaal recently named him) have some ability but have perhaps not quite lived up to their potential at United yet. After the Red Devils missed out on main defensive targets Matts Hummels and Sergio Ramos and it seemed like Van Gaal would put his trust in current players Jones, Smalling, and Marcos Rojo, but recent comments have suggested that he may play dutch left back/centre midfielder Daley Blind at centre back. This is worrying for United and signals a distrust and lack of quality at the back although left back Luke Shaw is being touted to have a much improved season after catching up on fitness levels over the summer. While there are worries up front and in defence the touted signing of Barcelona’s Pedro would go a long way to disguising some of the squads deficiencies.
While the top four have strengthened somewhat the positive investment of most of the other teams in the league should push them to outdo their smaller rivals. Liverpool, who finished 5th last year, are adamant to break into the top four again. Of the top six teams Liverpool have perhaps strengthened the most. Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho impressed in 2014/15 and the midfield has been bolstered by the arrival of James Milner and attacking midfielder Roberto Firmino. Jordan Ibe may get the opportunity to fill i for the departed Raheem Sterling and with the £32.5million capture of Aston Villa’s Benteke Liverpool could be a force to be reckoned with. With Chelsea, Arsenal, and Man Utd all expected to impress this year Liverpool may be hoping for a Manchester City slip up to break back into the top four. Like rivals Manchester United, Liverpool lack a top of the line goalkeeper and could do with better defensive options although new right back Nathaniel Clyne is sure to make in impact this season.
It’s not only fans of the clubs at the top of the table who have expressed concern over lack of transfer activity. The Everton faithful feel than their team has not invested heavily enough despite the signing of Gerard Deulofeu, especially amid rumour that midfielder James McCarthy and defender John Stones have peaked the interest of other clubs. Similarly many Leicester City fans are unsure that Claudio Ranieri is the man to replace outgoing manager Nigel Pearson who performed a miraculous escape from relegation last season. Ranieri has recruited Japanese striker Shinji Okazaki and tough tackling midfielder N’Golo Kante but the jury remains out. One team whose spending has failed to inspire may is newly promoted Watford who have brought in 11 new players. While investment is usually seen as a positive thing a lot of Hornets fans feel that too many singing will unsettle the team that achieved promotion last year.
The money clubs have received from improved TV deals this year has led to investment and improvement across the league. Stoke (now labelled Stokealona) by some have added ex Barcelona players Ibrahim Afellay and youngster Mohamed El Ouriachi to other ex Nou camp members Marc Muniesa and Bojan Krkic. Tottenham Hotspur have focussed on defensive development by signing Kevin Wimmer, Burnley full back Kieran Trippier, and Toby Alderweireld. Newcastle United have improved in almost every area of the pitch too. Chancel Mbemba should sure up the Magpie’s defence and former PSV captain and dutch international Giorginio Wijnaldum could prove to be one of the summer’s best deals. Add to that Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, a target of many of europe’s top teams recently, and Newcastle fans could finally be in for an exciting season.
Last seasons surprise package Southampton lost key players Schneiderlin, Alderweireld, and Clyne but have added quality replacements to the squad. Exciting full back Cedric Soares replaces Clyne as right back and Ronald Koeman has also recruited dutch star Jordy Clasie and centre back Steven Caulker as well as striker Juanmi. Last terms 17th place team Aston Villa have done their best to recruit the whole of the French Ligue 1, bringing in midfielder Idrissa Gueye as well as three Jordans, Amavi, Ayew, and Veretout. Former league winner Micah Richards, Scott Sinclair, and Blackburn Rovers hotshot Rudy Gestede have also joined the ranks at Villa Park to fill in for the departures of Ron Vlaar, Fabian delph, and Christian Benteke. Alan Pardew’s reputation could also be improved after the signings of French international midfielder Yohan Cabaye and young English striker Patrick Bamford (on loan).
Champions Chelsea will be eager to retain their title but the pressure is on the teams around them to reclaim silverware. This pressure coupled with the knowledge that other teams in the league are much improved from last season would indicate that the major transfer business of this window is far from done, especially at the higher end of the table. Angel Di Maria has moved to PSG and more gig names such as David de Gea may also be on their way out of England’s Premier competition. The season may have reached it’s starting line but rest assures the transfer window is still ajar and Sky Sports transfer guru Jim White is most likely destined for a busy transfer deadline day come September 1st.