The Premier League Contenders from the North

As we move north, the three biggies from the North West really start to put the cat amongst the pigeons on trying to predict this season’s Premier League.

 

It’s been a summer of change and transitions from Liverpool to Manchester. As Pep and José decide to kick start their rivalry from Spain in the same city and Jürgen Klopp finally gets his pre-season, it could be more than feasible to see all three of Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United vying for title honours come April and May next year.

There really must be some excitement starting to build up on the Mersey as Jürgen Klopp’s new look Liverpool side starts to take shape. In Klopp’s whistle stop 8 month tour of the English game, the German was often saying just how little time in this country you actually have to train players, to tactically develop a side in your vision, purely due to the amount of games English sides have to play. Klopp here has a point as with successful runs to the League Cup and Europa League final Klopp ended up overseeing 51 games in his first 8 months at the helm. But hey, we don’t need a winter break in this country do we?

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The biggest outlay for anyone player is Liverpool’s purchase of Sadio Mane. As Liverpool ventured south for now annual pillaging of the seaside club, a reported fee of roughly £34m does seem very steep but what Liverpool get in return is a player with boundless energy and with real pace and incisiveness out wide, potentially something lack from last year. Throw in the Georginio Wijnaldum (again for a seemingly crazy high fee of £25m – he has just been relegated and cost half that just 12 month ago), and Klopp has a team which can gegenpressing all day long this season.

Can Liverpool really win the title? With no European football and with a manager who will be able to pick up where he left off last season (something that City, United and Chelsea don’t have the luxury of), Liverpool could very much go that little bit further than the Brendan Rodger’s side of 13/14.

Manchester City have finally got their man. Pep Guardiola has finally be lured to the Etihad and with an expenditure too match the expectations of how big of an impact the arrival of the Catalan could have on Manchester City.

As the window progresses it seems that every day Pep’s Manchester City is in the process of emerging with City’s Champions League squad perhaps most telling of who Pep sees as surplus to requirements.

With UEFA announcing the acquisition of John Stones for them, £45m seems very steep for a defender who actually isn’t that great at defending. His talent on the ball is perhaps unrivalled by anyone defender of his age on the planet but his ability to read the game defensively and then do the necessary dirty work leaves much to be desired. What was also telling is that it seems Mangala and perhaps unsurprisingly Bony and Nasri will all be looking to move on after their oversight for Europe’s big competition.

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Leroy Sane comes in for big money but with a big future. With speed coming out of his ears, if Raheem Sterling can find any kind of form then Manchester City have two incredibly young and gifted wide men now on their books.

City’s best buy so far under Pep was the early capture of Nolito from Celta Vigo. £14m is a snip for a proven goal scorer at Celta Vigo and proved his worth this summer with some very good performances for Spain at the Euro’s, Nolito is very much the polished article and potentially in the prime years of his career. Is he a signing to take City to the title? Perhaps not him alone, and it will be interesting how long it takes Guardiola’s City to emerge this season, but Nolito will certainly add a consistent creative edge to this City side.

Manchester United have pretty much gone the Premier League equivalent of mental. With a need to blow the cobwebs away from the short lived David Moyes era and the painfully ill-fated LVG years, Manchester United have blown the bank open on fee’s and wages to deliver everyone’s favourite pantomime villain, José Mourinho, a team that will be as Mourinho in character as possible.

With Manchester United lacking a top, top draw centre forward, the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimović on an initial one year deal makes a lot of sense. Whilst it reeks of chronic short-termism and potentially at the expense of developing Anthony Martial’s talents, Manchester United need that goal scoring figurehead and it won’t be a bad thing to have a striker of Zlatan’s abilities and arrogance around the training ground for the likes of Martial and of course Marcus Rashford.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan will provide goals and assists, plus Mourinho’s much required work ethic. Reminds of Willian at Chelsea but with the Armenian being a much more accomplished finisher as seen by his record at Borussia Dortmund last season. Eric Bailly commanded a hell of a fee but by all accounts and after, admittedly fleetingly, seeing him play for Villarreal looks a centre back who is very comfortable on the ball.

Then we come to Paul Pogba. Undoubtedly, a great addition it’s a god send for Manchester United that Pogba doesn’t seem ruffled by what is frankly one of the must ludicrous fee’s seen in football. In the world of inflated prices, Pogba’s £89m move from Juventus sits quite happily at the top of the pile of fee’s that are just unfathomable in day-to-day life.

All four signings make this Manchester United side the best in recent years and you will see Manchester United win the league I am sure in the next two or three years because it’s Mourinho. The biggest question mark for me at least, is how much damage will Mourinho do to United to win the Premier League? Mourinho always want’s that legacy, a dynasty that he can point too but his style is too abrasive, his want to win breeds such an aggressive short-termism that such ambitions are incompatible. Mourinho will certainly win the league but you have to wonder at what cost for United’s academy, the image of the club globally and perhaps more worryingly, what kind of mess Mourinho will leave behind closed doors.

Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog

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