The season is almost upon us. With the Euro’s still feeling tiringly close, it’s time to strap up the boots, take a deep breath and get ready for our bread and butter. The Premier League is back and with more stars than an American flag, it has all the hallmarks of being one of the most unpredictable seasons perhaps we’ve seen in Europe’s top 5 leagues…
For all Arsenal fan’s, transfer windows must be some of the most despairing days of season (or at least until Arsenal’s seasonal injury crisis). In the world of big money moves, exemplified by the fees commanded for Paul Pogba and John Stones, Arsene Wenger lives in a more realistic world.
At the start of the week, Wenger admitted to spending money like it’s his own. In this crazy football world, surely such level headedness should be admired? But the Premier League isn’t the place for sensibility and however much Arsene may live by such admirable principles, Arsenal fans want more and if Wenger want’s his legacy not to be tainted, spending big may become a necessity.
It’s deja vu for Arsenal fans this summer as Wenger continues to be linked with centre backs and centre forwards. Jamie Vardy turned Arsenal down, bids have been rejected for Alexandre Lacazette and now Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi seems to be the flavour of the month. Wenger’s appears to know what he wants but his unwillingness to spend the necessary cash proves a stumbling block once more. If I was Arsene though, completing the signing of Shkodran Mustafi is a must. The German is a highly talented centre back, only 24 years old and one of the few rays of sunshine too emerge from Valencia’s disaster campaign last season. A definite upgrade on Gabriel and potentially an heir to Mertesacker’s starting berth, Mustafi really could be a stellar signing.
Arsenal, when completely fit, still have one of the best squads in the Premier League. The depth in midfielder is just ridiculous, and they have midfielders who can get the goals to supplement Giroud’s 15 or so the Frenchman chips in with each season. Defensively though, Arsenal are light and without reinforcement, could be the biggest undoing for Wenger and any prospect the Frenchman has of earning a contract extension.
Chelsea’s transfer window has potentially been more about the managerial change than the addition of personnel. Whilst the signing of N’Golo Kante will give Chelsea much needed dynamism in the centre of the field, Antonio Conte could potentially have an impact far better than any player for Chelsea this season.
I was sceptical of Conte’s appointment initially, after all it isn’t that hard to win Serie A with Juventus and whilst a good run to the Semi’s in the Champions League hinted at a manager who perhaps had a little more in his locker. His performance though with an under-whelming Italian side at this summer’s Euro’s demonstrated that Conte is more than the big team in a one man league.
Defeats of Belgium and Spain demonstrated Conte’s tactical acumen as a coach, so much so that Joachim Lowe decided to match the Italians in a 3-5-2 in the Quarter Finals to try and nullify Conte’s team. Eventually going out on the lottery that is penalties, it was clear to see that in the games that really mattered, Conte could engineer a shape and prepare a side for any eventuality. Such planning and pragmatism will surely make Chelsea more of an unpredictable side to that of Guardiola’s Manchester City or Mourinho’s United side.
Last year’s second best surprise package. It would be foolish not to include Tottenham as a potential title contenders or at the very least a genuine threat of another hallowed Top 4 finish.
After last season’s wonders, Mauricio Pochettino has furthered solidified himself as one of the brightest coaches in the game and has taken this summer to address the short comings of his Tottenham side by adding depth in the midfield and finally securing that much needed striker to support Harry Kane.
Pochettino knows Victor Wanyama from his time at Southampton and with the Kenyan who have a bullish midfielder who will break up play with ease. Wanyama’s discipline may be course for concern but with the Champions League on the horizon, Wanyama is a fantastic addition to ease the burden on Eric Dier through the campaign.
Vincent Janssen seems a very shrewd by Tottenham. Whilst some strikers struggle coming from the Eredivisie (anyone remember Afonso Alves who after scoring 45 goals in 39 games for Heerenveen, moved to Middlesbrough for like £17m in the summer of 2007 and was just a terrible buy), Janssen seems to be a player who just score goals. 27 last year for AZ Alkmaar led him to be being the youngest player to score 25 goals or more in a season since the first Ronaldo achieved such a feat for PSV in the 94-95 season.
Will Tottenham go all the way this season? It might be difficult with the teams seeming Manchester United and Manchester City are in the process of assembling but what Tottenham do have on their side is continuity from last year and with a strong start to the season, Tottenham really could grow into their season much like last year.
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog