Chelsea - excuses removed and pressure ramped up
Jose Mourinho said this would be the season he should be judged and this would be the season the title is their target. Whilst the second part was a little fib the first part remains true. Having added the Jose type forward Diego Costa (we covered in the last post and will again in our season previews once the dust settles a little on the World Cup) he has now picked up midfield playmaker and ex Arsenal star Cesc Fabregas.
A little surprised the see Cesc end up at a second London club rather than coming home to to his father figure Mr Wenger. Truth is, Arsenal, like men dumped by the pretty girl have moved on and found new midfield love in Ozil, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Santi Cazorla etc etc. Chelsea however have plenty of engine room middies but a lack of passing imagination. In Oscar they have a extremely talented but hot and cold playmaker. Playing the toughest league in the world in the depths of winter is tough and Oscar isn't ready at this stage in his development to carry that forward. Cesc's best role in the number 10 playing off the forward but during the games Oscar is flying he will be a very good central midfield option. He offers Chelsea positional options, experience, goal's and a better passing range than the current members.
This is Cesc's final big contract and he must feel he has a point to prove. No trophies at Arsenal and he left just as Wenger was building a squad around him. A move to his beloved Barcelona produced trophies but I wonder what satisfaction. The talk was he would take Xavi's midfield role after spending a couple seasons under the all time greats influence. So it must be a kick in the teeth when just as Xavi leaves Barcelona, Cesc at 27 has not developed into a player the club are confident in the role. Truthfully he was never going to be as good as the best midfield player of his generation but he wasn't expected to be so you wonder why are Barca happy to let him go. There is talk of his ego, talk of him being the first with an opinion and the opinion being too waited towards what Cesc wants rather than the teams requirements. One thing is for sure nobody questions Jose and wins (see Eden Hazards attempt last season). Oh and when your captain is JT you better follow the lead rather than question it.
Ultimately this like Costa is a signing that strengthens Chelsea's already powerful squad further.
Chelsea start this season as pretty warm if not strong favourites and the spending may not have stopped yet. Morning paper talk is of a £60M bid for Paul Pogba. Be afraid contenders.
Liverpool - squad building and dealing with the devil
Last summer the club took a calculated gamble not to sell Luis Suarez. It almost worked out perfectly. Pool missed the title by a whisper with Mr Suarez the inspiration in the challenge and secured them a spot back in the Champions League money pile. His latest act may see him finally leave to Barca and if a deal can be concluded quickly the funds from it reinvested in a young constant improving squad. Rickie Lambert will do a job but he is no match winner in the Suarez mold. Should pool secure Alexis Sanchez as part of the Suarez deal with money to spend elsewhere they can feel last summers call was a correct play.
Liverpool meanwhile are finishing off picking the remaining bones of a fantastic Southampton 2013/14 side. This week should see Adam Lallana moving with club mate Rickie Lambert to become a red next season. A price of around 27m is being mentioned and that is the going rate for an England international. Lallana is consistently good and I believe a better player than we realise. His movement and thought processes marries more of a foreign footballing mind than the english blood his has. Brendan Rodgers style seems perfectly suited Lallana and if he can handle the pressure and expectation of playing for a great club perhaps he will earn Roy Hodgsons faith for the Euro qualifiers starting places.
Learning lessons and moving on
Manchester United made a right mess of their transfer window last summer. After promising so much and delivering just Fellaini Edward Woodward was under the spotlight. So far he has secured three signings already.
Louis Van Gaal has already shown his tactical ability during the World Cup and replaces David Moyes who probably was never ready for a job of this size. In terms of players the United squad has plenty of rebuilding to do. The two most obvious areas needing addressing immediately are the shocking options in central midfield and the complete rebuilding of his defence.
Ander Herrera has joined from Bilbao. In a midfield containing Carrick, Cleverley and Fellaini he should start and with the typical technical strengths of a modern day spanish midfield player Utd may keep the ball better for it. At this stage we have no clue on LVG formations choice however Herrera was part of the spanish under 21 winner squad with Juan Mata and David De Gea so should settled in the squad well. I'm expecting Fellaini to play better under LVG (go on laugh) but a second high quality midfield player will be needed to feel confident of a challenge.
At left back Utd have spent a World record fee for a teenager. Luke Shaw arrives with a huge belief he is one of those players that is so good he stands out even from an early level. So far as his performances in the league have shown he is one with potential. I'm hoping to see steady progress under the management of LVG but not expecting the awesome game dominating left back the hype suggests for at least a couple of seasons. I also expect he may rotate with Evra a little more than we like during his first season.
Smart manager makes smart buys
Steve Bruce came up with a Hull City squad that looked for all the world like relegation fodder. He proved many people wrong early in the season, then in January added Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic to add the goals to fire them to safety. Those two are proven Premiership goal getters and work very well as a pair. Now Bruce has added more proven premiership quality in buying Robert Snodgrass from freshly relegated Norwich City. "snoddy" is rarely injured, provides assists, set piece goals and is a great signing for the club looking to solidify their status. Now if only our "new " Yahoo game can list him as a middie we are in business.
Noisy neighbours look to European requirements
Manchester City take no notice of the FFP rules and carry on regardless with the squad strengthening process. First up for them is the purchase of Fernando from Porto. A defensive midfield player you would think he is signed looking at the Champions League. Whilst their flowing attacking football has been great in the domestic competitions it hasn't been the answer playing the CL. Fernando then can sit alongside the other City destroyer Fernandinho allowing Yaya Toure to play in support of Sergio Aguero. Now they just need a more straightforward league stage draw.
Ronald plays the ultimate Champ manager challenge.
Are you all familiar with the addiction that is Championship Manager/Football Manager on the PC?. Well for those of you who are doesn't this sound like one of the games challenges.
- Take over from the best manager the club has had in Premier League History.
- Sell all but one of you star players and the remaining star player is out until the autumn.
- Now rebuild the first team and secure a similar final league position as last season - 8th
That would be a challenge for any of the worlds greatest managers but that is what faces new Saints manager Ronald Koeman. The board need to back their man with the monies they have picked up selling Shaw, Lallana and Lambert. They need to put a block on any more selling and they could do with adding signings quickly to try and get them gelling prior to the kickoff.
It looks like it is going to be a hard season. Koeman has never played in the league and I get the impression his buys will lack the same experience. They have perhaps the best academy in the league but it is a lot to ask them to break 3 or 4 players from the academy straight into the match day squad. Koeman though is a very experienced man. His name attracts players and demands respect. The early weeks could be tough and facing the old boys of Lallana and Lambert on matchday one has hands over your eyes look to it.
What do you think of the early signings? Has your club been linked to someone who excites you? Will Wenger leave it until August like normal?