The Premier League season ahead

The actions of Premier League clubs during the close season is usually regarded as a declaration of intent for the season ahead. This time around we have seen the full spectrum unfold, from the extensive recruitment of newcomers Huddersfield, eight new signings and counting, to the basic inactivity of Tottenham Hotspur.

Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford, Manchester United

As with all top flight outfits the Top Six will be looking to build on last season`s achievements and have approached that ethos with varying results. Just a gnats whisker outside that leading six were Everton and many a neutral observer will join the Goodison faithful in applauding the wise spending of Ronald Koeman and frugal reinvestment of the Lukaku £75 million. All Everton need now is to seal the signing of Gylfi Sigurdsson because the Icelander may well be the catalyst that turns Everton into genuine title contenders. He is an intelligent and creative midfielder who scores goals, in open play and from set-pieces, and is arguably, pound for pound, a more valuable commodity than strikers who generally command the highest fees. Value and worth were the twin obstacles keeping Everton and Swansea apart.

The player is not worth £50 million but in today`s market place where there is such disproportion between worth and value with West Ham`s fee for Arnautovic as a prime example – he would bring more to Everton than Lukaku. PS to Mr Koeman, `if you really want GS pay the £50 million. It`s not like Everton are reliant on the money they got from Manchester United`.

Most eyes, beyond the other Premier League clubs, will be on the Manchester clubs and, sadly, that will predominantly be to see which of the two coaches comes out on top. United have paid top dollar for Romelu Lukaku (how Anthony Martial feels about that is bound to come to the fore before the clocks go back) but Jose has let Wayne Rooney go. But who will be looking down on who come May and how significant an acquisition/loss Wayne will prove.

Yes, United won a couple of trophies but without the Europa League success, Champions` league qualification, or lack of, there would have been second season ramifications. Never a good situation for the Old Trafford `hot seat` occupant. AND would Lukaku have snubbed Chelsea for a club not participating in the elite club competition?

United were unflattering as they flattered to deceive for most of last season. City on the other hand, on their day, and thankfully there were more of those than the other kind, were a joy to behold. Pep has jettisoned some of the squad`s dead wood although discarding Joe Hart could come back to bite him on the butt. To counter that the City coach has recruited Kyle Walker, England`s Number 1 right back, who saw a better opportunity to win the Premier League and Champions League by moving to the Etihad rather than exercise continued time and patience for the day when Spurs become Premier League champions.

Spurs are on the verge, as are Liverpool. Both have exceptional coaches though the Anfield hierarchy will have to give serious consideration to the imbalance whereby their coach is far better than the team he coaches though Andrew Robertson is a Klopp declaration of intent. Daniel Sturridge, sadly, underlined last campaign that he is a spent force. Mane and Coutinho, on the other hand, emphasised how irreplaceable they are. All Liverpool need now is a world class goalkeeper, despite Herr Klopp`s public endorsement of his current pair of custodians. Also needed is a Matts Hummels world class centre half and a striker in the mould of Robbie Fowler to convert possession stats and chances created into points on the board.  

For Arsenal, a first season without Champions` League football for so long could prove to be the most crucial in the club`s Premier League history. Even more so for Arsene Wenger whose body language and new two-year contract does not hide the fact that it is almost certain he will not be Arsenal manager in 2019. His personal and professional target will be to get his beloved Gunners back into next season`s Champions` League though winning it may be a bridge too far. Never the less a good showing in the UCL, which demonstrates potential may be enough before he steps upstairs at the Emirates.  

Chelsea lost out on Lukaku but Morata, in the eyes of many a purist, will turn out to be a better prospect. Yes, Lukaku is a goal machine but the Spanish international brings far more to the party in terms of setting up play, assists and general all-round application and football intelligence. The added bonus for the defending PL champions is that they have kept their coach despite all the negative rumblings that emanated from the Bridge during the summer. But an improved deal was only financial not extended, suggesting that Conte will see out his contract, if allowed. If he wins next season`s UCL that departure may be sooner rather than later, increased salary or not.

Spurs are the team on the verge of realising the potential that over the past two years has seen them edge ever closer to silverware. They have retained their coach, a major plus, held on to the best striker in the league, another big plus and repelled overtures to tempt Eric Dier away. But how close are Tottenham to the big breakthrough?

They are probably one goal scorer away from joining the big boys. Kane is fine, exceptional even, but Spurs need another striker, a minimum of 15 goals per year man, and/or more than the odd goal or several from other departments of the team. As for Ross Barkley, he is not the answer and can anyone really see him and Alli in the same midfield.

It is very difficult to look beyond those magnificent seven for potential Premier League Champions. If one were to wager a five bob or play one would put it on Chelsea to edge City. Spurs are the outside bet because they have earned the right to be serious contenders by bouncing back from set backs in a way that two years ago would not have happened.

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