Words by: Sandeep Dhanoa
With David Guetta’s miserable attempt to entertain the crowd for the Euro’s, which left many of us banging our heads against the wall, and Iceland’s hair-raising Viking clap now behind us, the focus has now shifted to club football. England’s dreadful showing in the Euro’s will undoubtedly leave them humiliated, so much so, that even Ramsay Bolton would be proud to inflict such misery and humiliation on a person. However, if there’s one thing that England can boast about, it’s the Premier League (PL). Yes, in recent times, the PL has not made a significant mark in the prestigious Champions League, but it remains to be by far the most entertaining football league in the world.
This season the PL will get surely be bigger and better. Why? Two words, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The self-proclaimed ‘God of Manchester’ will certainly light up the PL on and off the pitch, together with the extraordinary pool of managerial talents such as the revolutionary Guardiola, born winner Mourinho, no-nonsense Conte, enthusiastic Klopp, The Godfather Ranieri, ambitious Pochettino and Mr steal yo kids Wenger. With that being said, let’s take a look at the intriguing transfer dealings of these clubs and see if they did indeed get things right. After all, having spent half my life playing manager mode on FIFA surely has had its benefits, no?
Exactly why the Premier League will be fascinating to watch this season
Signings: Xhaka, Holding and Asano.
A major problem lies in the heart of defence for Arsenal. Koscielny lacks a decent partner, and the less said about Mertesacker, the better. Valencia’s Shokdran Mustafi was a rare glimpse of light in Valencia’s turbulent season. The German centre back has time on his side and can surely improve playing alongside the solid Koscielny. Nevertheless, with Chelsea also keeping tabs on the player, Wenger will have his work cut out to seal this move as soon as possible, or resort to his annual customary summer panic buys which includes the likes of Andre Santos and Sebastian Squillaci.
The arrival of Xhaka will give the Gunners some much needed steel since the departure of Viera. However up top, Wenger has problems to solve. It’s vital that Sanchez is staying for another season, because alongside the mercurial Ozil and possibly Mahrez as well, they have a dangerous attack. However, you would be naïve to think that the possible signing of Mahrez solves Arsenal’s striking woes.
I personally feel that Giroud has been unfairly criticized, he has continued to prove that he certainly has goals in him. But the fact remains, you are never going to win the PL with him as your front man. A world class forward is surely required to lead the line. So stump up the cash and get Mauro Icardi, who will offer pace, skill and mobility upfront.
Centre back: Shokdran Mustafi; Forward: Mauro Icardi
Signings: Kante and Batshuayi.
Last season’s defence was as miserable as their title defence. With Terry being in the squad for his voice in the dressing room rather than on the pitch, a top notch centre back desperately needs to be signed, to compete with Cahill and the returning beast, Zouma, as Conte seeks to deploy a 4-2-4 formation. With Juventus building a defence that is capable of withstanding a nuclear attack, and refusing to let go of Bonucci and Chiellini, attentions are now turned to Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly and Valencia’s Shkodran Mustafi.
Furthermore, Baba Rahman’s season long loan to Schalke baffles me, as there is no evident for cover in the left back position, especially with Ivanovic’s disastrous performances last season, which must result in Azpilicueta moving back to his preferred right back slot. Wolfsburg’s industrious left back, Ricardo Rodriguez will surely shore up the defence and offer a serious threat on the overlap.
The arrival of Kante will undoubtedly bring enormous energy to the engine room, and it’s vital that Matic stays and re-discovers his 2014-2015 form. On paper, these two form a midfield that could be the envy of Europe. Also, for heaven’s sake, Mikel needs to be sold.
Up top, it’ll be intriguing to watch Cuadrado’s return to England. The arrival of the pacy Batshuayi will give the Blues another dimension to their attack. Also, I’m a massive fan of Costa, despite his antics. And I would love to see him remain in the PL. This old school, gladiator-like forward has grit and goals in him.
Centre back: Shkodran Mustafi or Kalidou Koulibaly; Left back: Ricardo Rodriguez
You do not want to be caught up in the middle of these two. Expect more flares from Costa this season.
Signings: Musa, Mendy, Zieler, Hernandez, Uche Rubio, Kapustka.
The defence was the bedrock to Leicester’s historic triumph. A lot of it will again depend of the spine of Huth, Morgan, Simpson, Fuchs and Schmeichel. This back five need to keep fit, or Leicester could be in serious trouble.
The arrival of Mendy Nampalys will add depth to the engine room, but with the marathon man Kante now gone, the Foxes still have a massive task to replace this gaping hole. Belgium’s Witsel is a good fit here, as is Portugal’s William Carvalho. But they need to act fast to secure their targets, who are being watched by clubs with deeper pockets.
The Mahrez to Arsenal saga is one that will go on for the entire transfer window. If the deal does indeed go through, Leicester should turn to Croatia’s Ivan Perisic as a replacement. Having enjoyed an excellent Euro’s, Perisic has the skill to step up on the big stage. Lazio’s dazzling Felipe Anderson would also be a good alternative, although this move would require a sizeable amount of cash. In addition, Ahmed Musa will provide good back up front for Vardy, who will continue to have a party as he will relish a chance to run in behind defenders all season long.
Central midfielder: Axel Witsel or William Carvalho; Attacker: Ivan Perisic or Felipe Anderson (if Mahrez leaves)
Signings: Matip, Karuis, Wijnaldum, Klavan, Grujic, Mane and half of the Southampton squad.
Let’s get one thing straight, Mignolet’s form for Liverpool has been erratic. Someone who inspires calmness, and not chaos needs to be signed. Chelsea’s Begovic can be prized away, with the player looking for first team opportunities, and is far more experienced than the recently signed Karius. Severe problems also arise in the centre of defence, with Skrtel now gone, Lovren being inconsistent, and Matip yet to be tested in the PL. Crystal Palace’s no-nonsense Scott Dann is a proven solution. He was brilliant last season, and would bring solidity to Klopp’s back four.
In midfield, Liverpool are well stocked up with Henderson, Grujic, Lucas Leiva, Milner and the ever improving Emre Can. The biggest worry would be to keep Henderson fit all season, as he forms a dynamic midfield alongside Can in the first XI.
Meanwhile, in attack, The Kop are surely rubbing their hands with glee on the newly formed fearsome attacking quartet of Wijnaldum, Mane, Coutinho and Firmino. Together with the powerful Origi, it will be a massacre if clubs try and defend a high line against this attack. Concerns remain on the fitness of Sturridge, who at times seems like a professional hospital patient whose career has been blighted by football. Liverpool need him to be fit, because he still remains to be their most clinical finisher.
Centre back: Scott Dann; Goalkeeper: Asmir Begovic
With a fiery attacking unit, The Kop will hope it’s only a matter of time before they see their beloved team in the Champions League once again.
Signings: Gundogan, Nolito, Sane, Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Aaron Mooy.
If City fail to win the league this season, a lot of will come down to their lacklustre defence. The jury is still out on Mangala. And news of Kompany being injured, is just as newsworthy as the sky is blue. The solution to their woes, John Stones. He’s exactly what Guardiola wants; young, quick, ball-playing centre-back. Stones though, has not had the best of seasons with Everton, and is error-prone. Thus, not justifying his mega price tag. If this transfer does indeed go through, Guardiola would have his work cut out to turn Stones into one of the best modern day centre backs, as he did with Boateng in Bayern.
The arrival of Gundogan has very likely put an end to Yaya Toure’s spot in the first XI, especially with the combative duo of Fernandinho and Fernando battling out to form the base of a 4-2-3-1, alongside the former Dortmund man. With the additions of Nolito and the lighting quick Sane, it is pretty clear that Pep will look to attack down the flanks.
In attack, Bony should leave City, as he never did quite fit into their system. With Aguero’s well-documented injury records, Pep will have to be prepared to put his trust in youngsters Gabriel Jesus and Iheanacho. Nolito’s signing will prove crucial here, as he can operate as a false nine, allowing Aguero to heal those hamstrings of his.
Centre back: John Stones
Signings: Bailly, Mkhitaryan, Ibrahimovic and finally, Pogba.
It’s no secret that Mourinho builds his squad from the back. As SAF once said, “strikers win you games, but defenders win you titles”. The signing of Bailly will go some way to mirror the above statement. But no one really knows if he would be able to fit into the PL. Based on what Mourinho has said, he is confident of developing Bailly just as he did with Varane in Real Madrid. If that is the case, then Smalling and Bailly are to form a formidable pairing.
And now ladies and gentlemen, I give you Paul Pogba. Mourinho himself confirmed Pogba’s move following United’s Community Shield win against Leicester. Sold for £800,000 and soon to be signed for upwards of £100mil, this transfer saga was annoying as it was intriguing. Having said that, I could not be happier that it’s finally on the verge of being done and dusted. I no longer wish to wake up to a string of useless notifications from our beloved Eurosport on this transfer. He will certainly be the midfield general that United have desperately missed since the retirement of Paul Scholes. Pogba will look to provide that extra bite and creativity in midfield just as Scholes did, but with an added touch of flamboyance in his play. Pogba though, will have the weight of the world on his young shoulders, especially with his ridiculous price tag. This might just prove to be his undoing, as he will surely require time to learn to cope with the immense pressure of filling in for one of the greatest boots, not just in United’s history, but in world football itself.
Upfront, it’s all about Zlatan Ibrahimovic. I honestly doubt he will be able to replicate his PSG form in the PL. No disrespect to the French league, but the gulf in class between PSG and their domestic opponents are massive, unlike the ultra-competitive PL. Expect Zlatan to be amongst the goals, but not as much as his PSG days. With Mkhitaryan pulling the strings in the final third, alongside the fearless Martial, United have themselves a potent attacking unit.
None, the Red Devils have a strong squad, unless the current crop of their defensive unit decides to collectively crumble to injuries again.
#JustZlatanThings (Zlatan on Denmark, as they faced off for a spot in Euro 2016)
Signings: Wanyama, Vincent Janssen.
Spurs had one of the best squads of last season, as they surprised everyone with their quality in their first XI and their bench, despite their core of young players. Therefore, there is not much to be said about their current transfer activity. Wanyama’s arrival will provide sufficient back up for the powerful Dembele, while Son and Chadli have stepped up in the attacking trident when required.
The main concern last time out was on Kane, as there was no evidence of a backup for Spurs’ leading man. Eredivisie top scorer, Vincent Jansen who banged in 27 goals last season, will certainly look to put an end to these worries.
None, unless the injuries pile up mid-season, then expect Pochettino to invest in January.
With all that being said, this season’s transfer window has already proven to be an exciting one indeed, with the majority of the top sides requiring heavy investments to overhaul their squads. As for us fans, let us sit back, watch it all unfold, get our fantasy teams ready and prepare some good ol’ banter to be dished out, once the season kicks off.
Say it don’t spray it! You don’t want to be sitting next to Big Sam in the stands as he scouts for potential players for England’s squad.
*all transfer news are as of 8/8/2016.