After a record-breaking transfer window in which more money was spent by Premier League clubs than at any point in history, the stage is set for what should be one of the most exciting league battles in recent memory. Notably, very few of the most hyped-up moves came to fruition, with Rooney staying at Man U, Suarez staying at Liverpool, and Cabaye staying at Newcastle. However, there were a few big ones that did, most notably Arsenal’s stunning capture of German playmaker Mesut Ozil, and of course the eye-watering fee paid by Real Madrid for Tottenham’s Gareth Bale. So who were the real winners and losers in this summer’s transfer merry-go-round? Here, we take a look at how each of the main contenders for a Champions League berth went about their business this time round.
Wenger may have left it late, but the signing of Ozil is exactly the kind of big name capture that fans have been begging for. In Ozil, Arsenal have signed one of the very best players in the world, at an age where he still has a few years to reach his peak. But while he will undoubtedly go straight into the team, it is unclear how this is going to address Arsenal’s most glaring problem – the lack of a quality striker. While Walcott, Giroud, and Podolski are all undoubtedly pretty good, none of them are particularly consistent in front of goal, hence the high-profile pursuits of Higuain, Benzema, Rooney and Suarez. Arsenal already have a very good playmaker in Santi Cazorla – arguably their best player last season, and it’s hard to see how both will be accommodated into the team. While Ozil’s skill and creativity should create more chances, and he will of course chip in with a few goals himself, Arsenal are once again going into the season without a proven centre-forward in the Van Persie mould. Given the increased competition, they might find it harder to make the top four this time round, although as history has proven, you can never rule them out.
Having started off the season with a bang, Brendan Rodgers’ men have momentum on their side, and a clutch of new signings to boot. Crucially, they’ve managed to hang on to star striker Luis Suarez, although the recent form of Daniel Sturridge raises the question of where and when to play last season’s top scorer. This time round, Rodgers has concentrated on bolstering his defence with a clutch of highly-rated young defenders from the continent including Tiago Ilori, Mamadou Sakho, and the loan signing of Aly Cissokho. His attacking options have also been strengthened by the loan of Victor Moses and the purchase of Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas. It remains to be seen whether the £9m spent on Simon Mignolet and the subsequent loaning out of Pepe Reina represents good business or not, but overall, Liverpool are looking very strong going into the new season and could well be in contention for a Champions League berth come June.
Much was made of Tottenham’s apparently shrewd business dealings over the summer, with a host of top internationals being brought in to make up for the loss of the talismanic Gareth Bale. In particular, the wing wizardry of Erik Lamela, the ruthlessness of Roberto Soldado, and the creativity of Christian Eriksen are all qualities that Tottenham will need in the post-Bale era, and at first glance it seems as though AVB has bought well. But while there is undoubtedly a lot more quality across the squad now, they need the new arrivals to gel quickly if they are to have any hope of making a sustained run at the top four. Once the new boys click into gear, Tottenham could be a force to be reckoned with, although on the evidence of Sunday’s game against Arsenal, this may be a long way off.
After Saturday’s humiliating defeat to Liverpool, David Moyes would have been hoping that a rabbit or two pulled out of the hat on deadline day would stop the (possibly premature) chattering about his future. However, this transfer window can only be viewed as a missed opportunity for Moyes, especially after missing out on two of his defensive targets, Leighton Baines and Fabio Coentrao, and paying over the odds for his fourth-choice midfield target, Marouanne Fellaini. After failing with bids for Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas earlier in the window, United also failed with a deadline-day bid for Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera. On the plus side, they did manage to keep Wayne Rooney out of Chelsea’s clutches – for a few months at least – and they have kept last season’s title-winning squad largely intact. But overall, Moyes hasn’t covered himself in glory this transfer window, and if the team doesn’t rediscover their old mojo soon, the knives will be out for him.
While Chelsea’s star signing this summer has undoubtedly been their inspirational former manager Jose Mourinho, they have been pretty busy on the player-buying front as well. Snatching Willian from under Tottenham’s noses represents something of a coup, and Andre Schurrle also comes with a big reputation, but it hard to see why so much emphasis was placed on swelling their already well-staffed attacking midfield positions. Like Arsenal, Chelsea were in need of a striker this summer, but unless 32-year-old free transfer Samuel Eto’o can work some of the old magic, Mourinho will be hoping that Torres and Ba can rediscover their shooting boots in a hurry, especially now that promising young striker Romelu Lukaku will be playing for Everton this season. If Chelsea had landed top striking target Wayne Rooney this summer, they would have been a shoo-in for the title, but as it stands, they look to be missing a vital piece of the jigsaw, as we saw against Man U last week when they played without a recognised striker in their ranks.
Having spend big early on in the window, Manchester City never looked likely to grab the headlines on transfer deadline day, and thus it transpired, with the £4m capture of defender Martin Demichelis over the weekend being their last piece of significant business. Pellegrini has been charged with making a ruthlessly effective team play more like Barcelona, which is a tricky old task even if you have unlimited cash at your disposal, as AVB found out at Chelsea. Certainly, the pace and vision of new midfielder Fernandinho should help smooth the transition to a new playing style, but he’s going to have to hit the ground running if he is to justify his £30m fee – a lot of money for a 28-year-old. New signings Jovetic and Negredo should provide a bit of firepower and added creativity going forward, and should cause less dressing-room strife than Tevez and Balotelli – although whether they represent an improvement in real terms is debatable. Without the injured Vincent Kompany, City have looked dodgy at the back, and will be hoping that the experience of Martin Demichelis can restore some lost confidence to their defensive unit. That being said, though, they still have one of the strongest squads in the league, and with the likes of David Silva and Sergio Aguero in their ranks, only a fool would write them off for the title at this stage.