So the transfer window has shut, all deals have been done, and now managers have to play with what they’ve got. But after a summer of gossip and speculation, now what do we talk about? Well we can start by talking about the deals that have been done. So here’s my round up team-by-team of the Premiership’s transfers, in alphabetical order, starting with the first five.
Oh what a place to start! One of the busiest clubs in the last few days, perhaps brought on by the humiliation received at Old Trafford on Sunday. Many Arsenal fans claim it was a blessing in disguise, but sorry, no 8-2 thrashing is a blessing! The summer started well, business was done quickly for Jenkinson, Gervinho and then Oxlade-Chamberlain, however Arsenal were then stunted by the embarrassing Barcelona negotiations followed by Man City’s equally embarrassing drawn out negotiations for Cesc and Nasri. This hurt Arsenal as it meant they had to wait a while for the money for reinvestment, plus they have lost arguably their best 2 players. Clichy and Eboue also left the club, but given the amount of mistakes between them, Arsenal will probably be happy to have received some money for the woeful pair. Then came the panic buys. Park Ju Young from Monaco was a funny one as he was on his way to a second medical at Lille when he was ‘kidnapped’, and it remains to be seen whether the South Korea captain can produce the goods at the top level. Andre Santos seems a good buy, cost less than what Clichy was sold for, has more international experience and has CL exp too, and can play higher up the pitch. Mertesacker was the much needed signing, and at 6’6 is a giant. Questions over his pace remain, but he did keep Rooney, Defoe et al bay in Germany’s demolition of England last term. Also experienced, his partnership with Vermaelen, with the confident Szczesny behind may rid Arsenal of their set piece weakness, finally. The last two are hit and miss really. There’s no doubting Yossi Benayoun’s talent, but is he really going to be the creative player they need or will he just drift in and out of games like Arshavin and Rosicky? Arteta is an exciting signing and an absolute steal IF he can find his form of two years ago. It remains to be seen but it certainly looks more positive for Arsenal now… if only because Nicklaus Bendtner has finally left! They will certainly be in a better position now and I think CL qualification is still a realistic target, but lord knows, Arsenal need to kickstart their season.
The summer didn’t start brilliantly for Villa with the surprise announcement that Alex McLeish would cross the Birmingham border to manage the club, which was not met well by fans. Which is a fair shout, given he relegated Villa’s blue rivals twice, most recently last year, despite cup success. And considering the money at St Andrews and the players, it was a pretty impressive feat to do so. It was followed by 2 of Villa’s best players in Young and Downing leaving the club, although it must be said, given the fees, Villa definitely came out of the deals well. Then McLeish pulled off a cracking signing in Shay Given. Arguably one of the best of the summer, and the big Irishman more than showed this straight away with a cracking debut against Fulham on day one. Charles N’Zogbia was next in, and given he was half the price of Downing, for effectively the same player, it is again a great example of good business for Villa. The only other players through the welcome doors at Villa Park were seasoned underachievers Jermaine Jenas and Alan Hutton both from Spurs. I thnk the move could be good for Hutton as the right back played well under McLeish at both Rangers and for Scotland, which is what prompted interest from down south. However he has never really done it at Spurs and with Harry’s impatience, which almost saw him sell Gareth Bale a few years ago, Hutton never stood a chance, never getting consistent football. With Luke Young leaving for new riches at Loftus Road, Hutton will have the confidence of his manager, and a regular spot to try and find his form again. Jermaine Jenas joins on loan, with the chance to try and find the promise which almost lead to moves to Inter Milan and Real Madrid, apparently. Although for Jenas I think actually playing again consistently would be a good start. Could be a good move for him, but given how he spectacularly fell off the face of the earth, he will have to work hard to get back to his best. All in all, I don’t think even McLeish could get this side relegated, and a good run of form could see Villa pushing into the top half this year.
Ah the Venky’s! After a fantastically appalling advert was released featuring many of the first team, one wonders what exactly their vision of running a football club is. Sack a proven manager last year when he wasn’t doing too bad. Put a complete tool in his place, and watch as the club make bids for Ronaldinho and other high profile names, only to narrowly avoid relegation on the last day. On to the summer and they again punched above their weight, launching a bid for Spain legend Raul, which was laughed off, and then spent the summer chasing no-name players, despite the club’s ‘riches’. Phil Jones was the big name to leave, but one can hardly blame him, and he was followed by a string of squad players. I personally think Steve Kean should have followed them out the door, and the longer they keep him the worse it will be for Blackburn. He did raid Aberdeen and Dundee Utd for Anderson and Goodwillie, but that’s hardly going to set the world alight, and it also remains to be seen if Vukcevic and Petrovic can play at this level. To me it seems like Kean would be more suited to managing an SPL team, where Scottish talent and unknown players are the only option, but given the financial backing, he hasn’t realised that proven talent is probably what is needed so that another Kalinic doesn’t happen. But then came Scott Dann, easily Blackburn’s best signing, and given that they held off Arsenal to keep Chris Samba as well, they now have a solid, no-nonsense, centre back pairing. However, with Kean still in charge and given the rest of the squad, I still have Blackburn to go down or flirt with relegation for most of the year. Could change with a new manager and better signings in January, but looking ahead that far already is never a good sign.
What they kept Gary Cahill? Score! I do have a lot of love for Owen Coyle and I think he’s had another great summer. Not just because of the Gary Cahill thing, although that is huge, for now. No doubt Bolton will be hoping he doesn’t get injured before January as that will be the only time they will get any money for him now. But Coyle also has Bolton playing good football; they walked through QPR, and put in a good show against City too. In the transfer market Bolton trimmed the deadwood from the wage bill, although may have felt a bit disappointed that they lost Johan Elmander to Galatasaray given the Swede was finally showing real promise in the top flight. A striker seemed to be top of Coyle’s wishlist, especially with Daniel Sturridge ending his successful loan spell at the end of the last campaign. And Coyle has attempted to fill the void with 3 new strikers. Tuncay has experience at this level and can still put in a shift, although one would argue he’s not going to get you bags of goals. David N’Gog could turn out to be a good signing given that he won’t have the pressure on him like he had at Liverpool and will play more consistently. Only time will tell how good a signing that will turn out to be. And Gael Kakuta from Chelsea looks like a good player and maybe Coyle can do for him what he did for Jack Wilshere a few years ago. Despite these signings I still feel Bolton are slightly weaker up top than last season. Elsewhere Coyle raided former club Burnley for Chris Eagles and Ty Mears. Eagles could be a good signing as he has been a big fish in a small pond for a while at Burnley, however one feels for Mears given that he broke his leg before the campaign even begun. Dedryck Boyata on loan from City will help to mature the player who showed a lot of promise when thrown in at the deep end last year, and Reo Coker and Darren Pratley make up Coyle’s signings. The former, like Jermaine Jenas, showed great promise early in his career and I hope he can find that form at Bolton, although I think his time has passed. As for Pratley, he was a key player at Swansea so it remains to be seen if he can make the step up, although his pace is questionable. I don’t see Bolton going anywhere near relegation this year, and back Coyle to put in another successful campaign, looking solid in mid table.
A solid first transfer window for Villas Boas, who was a great signing himself at the start of the summer. Chelsea trimmed a lot of squad players and reserves, and I was happy to see Michael Mancienne move to Hamburg to get more football, maybe because I always like to see English players play abroad, and the Bundesliga is a good place to develop. Yuri Zhirkov was the other notable departure although I don’t think he’ll be missed, and there’s no sympathy for a player going to money-rich Anzhi in Russia! On the buying front Villas Boas was very quiet to begin with, then came through with some absolute gems. Young goalkeeper Thibault Courtois seems a good buy for the future, and immediately loaning him out to replace David De Gea at Atletico Madrid is a great move to build up his experience. Oriol Romeu was next in from Barcelona and this youngster seems a bargain at just over 4m. However Barcelona, as they did with Bojan at Roma, have put a buy back clause in should Romeu turn out to be a little star – shrewd business. Then comes the big boys. Romelu Lukaku has been courted by the top clubs for years with Chelsea at the head of the crowd. And they got their man for around 18m if reports are correct. Dubbed as the next Drogba, Lukaku is very physical and will prove a real handful in years to come. Chelsea may have wanted to loan him out this year given that Torres, Anelka, Drogba, Sturridge and Kalou are all at the club, but I look forward to seeing him at some point, if not just what to see what the fuss is about! Then came one of the best buys in my opinion this summer. We all thought Juan Mata was destined for the Emirates a month ago, and seeing him make his debut, Arsenal fans may be a bit gutted the club didn’t stump up the 23m to buy the Spanish starlet. He will be great for years to come and one couldn’t help but feel Chelsea had turned their attentions away from Luka Modric when this guy came in. Great player, good price. Funny I should mention Modric, and one really should feel for the little Croatian, given that Chelsea unsettled him all summer, put him well out of favour with Tottenham, put him in a bad mental state, and then just ignored the playmaker when it mattered. He must be wondering what’s going on. Oh to be Luka today! And Chelsea seemed to dwell on the Modric talk all day yesterday, before launching successive bids for Raul Meireles until in the eleventh hour the player handed in a transfer request and the deal was done. Easy! At 12m it is very good business again, and although Liverpool fans have been bleating on about how they don’t need him, in their heart of hearts they will miss him. Meireles was the difference between Liverpool and Arsenal when he came on at the Emirates the other week, and I’m surprised Kenny let him go for that fee, especially considering what the Reds have paid on players this summer. I think Chelsea have certainly strengthened, if just in depth, and will probably relish the hype around the two Manchester clubs as they may be able to sneak in to take the title. Either way they will definitely occupy the top of the table for me.
Well that’s the first 5 teams rounded up. Stay tuned as the next lot will follow shortly…