With the new Premier League season kicking off in less than two weeks time, David Newman takes a look at how the top flight’s best performing teams from last term have fared in the summer transfer window so far.
2016/17 Finishing Position: 5th
Most Recent Signing: Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon)
Arsenal have missed out on Champions League football for the first time under manager Arsene Wenger. Yet, where many predicted the failure to secure a top-four finish would signal the end of his reign, it still was not enough to topple the Frenchman.
However, despite falling short of Champions League qualification, this summer window has been a largely positive one for the Gunners.
Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette joined the club at the beginning of July on a five-year deal worth a club-record £46.5 million.
He scored 28 goals last season in Ligue 1, a tally bettered only by PSG’s Edinson Cavani. Arsenal have been in desperate need of a striker who scores on a consistent basis for a number of years now. Forwards such as Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck, albeit very effective converters on their day, have fallen short in terms of what Arsenal need to be real contenders both domestically and in Europe. Lacazette could turn out to be an extremely effective signing.
The downside to this window for the London side has been the looming shadow of the Alexis Sanchez saga.
According to reports, it looks like the Chilean playmaker wants to leave, with Manchester City being his preferred destination.
Wenger will certainly not want to part ways with Sanchez, who has arguably been Arsenal’s best and most reliable performer since his £31 million move from Barcelona in 2014. But with his contract due to expire in 2018, the Arsenal board may have to accept the reality that it may be best to cash in on the player now, rather than watching him stroll off for nothing next year.
Potential Next Signing: Thomas Lemar (Monaco)
2016/17 Finishing Position: 1st
Most Recent Signing: Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid)
The Premier League champions have been anything but static following from their title victory last season. Manager Antonio Conte spoke recently of the upcoming campaign, stating that he does not want the club to experience a “Mourinho season”, referring to the previous manager’s dismal title-defending efforts following on from their victorious 2014/15 campaign.
It would appear that Conte means that in every sense, including the club’s transfer business. Mourinho, aside from bringing Pedro in from Barcelona, made very little additions to his first team in the summer after Chelsea’s title win and, as such, there was no progression, no reinvigoration and consequently no desire.
Chelsea so far have signed five players, three of which – Tiemoue Bakayoko, Antonio Rudiger and Alvaro Morata – Conte will likely be slotting directly into the starting XI.
Missing out on primary target Romelu Lukaku to a late swoop for the Belgian by Manchester United won’t have pleased Conte, but he will be hoping it is a blessing in disguise, as they now have former Real Madrid and Juventus forward Morata in their ranks. He wasn’t getting the playing time under Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid that he wanted, and this could turn out to be a great move for both Chelsea and the Spanish striker.
It has been very good business so far from the champions, but it was all a little touch-and-go earlier in the season. It was no secret that Conte was growing increasingly frustrated with how the club had initially made a very slow start in the transfer market.
The delay in signing Bakayoko from Monaco was reported to have made the energetic Italian especially uneasy.
But on July 18, Conte signed an improved two-year deal, and everything appears stable again.
Potential Next Signing: Renato Sanchez (Bayern Munich)
2016/17 Finishing Position: 4th
Most Significant Signing: Mohamed Salah (Roma)
This season will be Jurgen Klopp’s first taste of Champions League football at Liverpool. Fans will be excited to see how far the eccentric German can take the club, as he has previous form in the competition. He took Borussia Dortmund to the final at Wembley in 2013, only to lose to a late Arjen Robben goal.
But there has been very little activity in regards to Liverpool’s acquisitions. Mohamed Salah coming in from Roma will certainly add extra flair and pace to the side going forward. They have also made an addition to their defence with Andrew Robertson coming in from Hull for £10 million.
What could be holding the club up now is the possibility that Philippe Coutinho may leave to join Barcelona, who are reportedly very keen on the Brazilian. If he does choose to leave, there are reports that suggest Dortmund winger Christian Pulisic would be Klopp’s favoured replacement.
Having had no European football last season, Liverpool were free to run riot in the first half of the campaign. But come the new year, they hit a wall and performances significantly dropped off. This time around, Klopp, who likes his side to play on the front foot and with bags of energy, will need to make deepening the squad his main priority, because with European commitments, smart and effective rotation is of huge importance.
Potential Next Signing: Christian Pulisic (should Coutinho go)
2016/17 Finishing Position: 3rd
Most Recent Signing: Danilo (Real Madrid)
With most of City’s full-backs parting ways with the club shortly after last season came to an end, it was clear what Pep Guardiola’s main objective for the summer would be recruitment.
For a time Dani Alves was being linked with a reunion with his former coach, but the Brazilian eventually ended up at PSG. Luckily, this did not turn out to be too regrettable an outcome.
Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo have all joined the ranks at City, the former two having been among the best performing full-backs last season in their respective leagues.
Bernardo Silva was Guardiola’s first signing, and with the tricky and highly-talented Portuguese winger joining the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and, possibly, in the near future, Alexis Sanchez in City’s attack, it is difficult at present to look past them as title favourites.
If Guardiola were to sign a solid centre back – which he has recently admitted could be his next move – then Man City will be a terrifying force come next season.
Potential Next Signing: Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)
2016/17 Finishing Position: 6th
Most Recent Signing: Nemanja Matic (Chelsea)
With Nemanja Matic re-joining his former coach Jose Mourinho in a £40 million move from Chelsea on Monday, it so far has been a largely positive window for United.
Victor Lindelof was signed from Benfica and could well partner Eric Bailly in central defence, which was a position last season that rarely saw the same pairing play multiple games in succession.
Romelu Lukaku was signed from Everton for £75 million, which remains the highest fee paid by any Premier League team so far this summer. There is no doubting the Belgian’s ability, and he is a terribly prolific goalscorer, however his tendency to disappear in games last season for the Toffees could be a worry.
Lukaku had been stating in quite a forthright manner for some time that his desire is to play in the Champions League. This is his chance now to prove he can back it up with his performances.
Potential Next Signing: Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan)
2016/17 Finishing Position: 2nd
Most Recent Signing: N/A
What Mauricio Pochettino and Daniel Levy may be starting to consider is that Spurs, given how well they did last season, will be perfectly capable of challenging for the title again this campaign with effectively the same side.
Although, what must be noted is the fact that all the teams around Tottenham will be much stronger this time around, most considerably the two Manchester clubs, who both fell short of their domestic targets.
With no whispers of any replacements being lined up for the departed Kyle Walker, it looks likely that Pochettino is planning on slotting Kieran Trippier into the position left vacant by the England international.
The only genuine prospective transfer that Spurs have been linked with during the summer is Everton’s out-of-favour attacking midfielder Ross Barkley. However, such a move may never transpire due to both his high wage demands (and the capped wage system in place at Spurs) and the fact that it is hard to see how Barkley could be slotted into their first XI. Surely the 23-year-old won’t want to be a bench player wherever he ends up.
The overriding theme of this transfer window has been the transfer market itself and its rapid inflation. Levy recently questioned the enormous fees being splashed out by Premier League clubs, wondering if it was at all “sustainable”.
If Pochettino feels like his squad is good enough to go again, and push once more for the title, then it is difficult to argue.
Potential Next Signing: No players being strongly linked.
David Newman, Pundit Arena