Thomas Jefferson once said that you should never spend your money before you earn it. A wise message perhaps for us ordinary folks, but in the world of Premier League football, it’s advice that falls on deaf ears. With the promise of the new Premier League TV deal starting in 2016 (a record £5.136bn) this summer has already seen a strange inversion of the usual deals that occur during the off season.
The traditional top clubs have been slow and modest in their dealings thus far. Manchester United have made two sensible if not sensational deals with PSV’s Memphis Depay arriving for £25m and Matteo Darmain set to join for around £14m from Torino. Liverpool have spent reasonably big on Roberto Firmino (Hoffenheim £29m) and Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton £12m) but otherwise have been more than happy to pick up James Milner and Danny Ings both on frees after their contracts ended at Manchester City and Burnley respectively. Arsenal have perhaps done the best business in signing Petr Cech from Chelsea for £10m but it seems unlikely that they will spend the same kind of money this year as they have done the two previous on Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.
As for the teams that came first and second, both Chelsea and Manchester City have not yet brought in a single player of note. This is surprising when you consider last year that Chelsea had their business done virtually by mid June, whereas Manchester City will be no doubt desperate for a shake up in their squad given how far away from Chelsea they were during last years campaign.
For all the promise of the Premier League’s money ready to line the pockets of it’s stars, this summer has focused more on potential departures for the top clubs. Manchester United look more and more resigned to losing David De Gea to the lure of Real Madrid while Liverpool have their own problems with Raheem Sterling the subject of interest across Europe.
Granted we are still in the infancy of the summer transfer window and the Premier League’s richest members could yet pull off some huge acquisitions, but the real surprise comes in not only the speed but in the stature of the signings from sides habitually further down the table. West Ham were able to snap up Dimitri Payet, a regular full France international, from Marseille for £10m. Xherdan Shaqiri, former Bayern Munich man and current Inter player, could be on his way to the Britannia with Stoke agreeing a £12m fee for the Swiss international. Yohan Cabaye, a man who’s excellent form in the Premier League for Newcastle United led to a move to French behemoths Paris Saint Germain is set for a reunion with Alan Pardew at Crystal Palace.
This is not just true for established mid table sides, but also for those who have just entered the league and want to be sure they remain there for the incoming TV money. Watford have wasted no time in signing two previously highly sought after French midfielders in the form of Etienne Capoue and Benjamin Stambouli, both from Tottenham, while Bournemouth have spent £8m on Ipswich’s Tyrone Mings, a left back heavily linked with Chelsea and Arsenal last season.
So what does this show us? For one it suggests that the notion of the glass ceiling may be starting to show cracks. There was much consternation about the true intentions of FFP last year. While UEFA claimed the idea was to make football fairer by limiting the amount super rich clubs could spend, many argued that it in fact protected the status quo and made it extremely difficult for new clubs to rise through the ranks and grow. These rules have of course now been relaxed and there seems to be a feeling that there has never been a more opportune time for clubs in England to take advantage.
The names of the clubs involved in the deal tell you all you need to know about the new territory many clubs are entering into. Marseille to West Ham, Inter to Stoke, PSG to Crystal Palace; these are established European superpowers involved in deals with teams not long out of the Championship. Whereas before many sides bankrupted themselves trying to throw money at progression (Leeds pursuit of Champions League football and Portsmouth’s run to the FA Cup) the current deal set to come in to effect means that spending such large amounts of money no longer constitutes a club living beyond it’s means. This is particularly true for Watford, Bournemouth and Norwich, the three promoted sides, as even the club who comes last in the 2016/17 season will earn £99m for their efforts.
It will be interesting, if all prospective deals go through, to see if this will have any real effect on the Premier League table. While it may be fanciful to imagine the likes of Stoke challenging for Champions League places next season, there is a sense that for many of these teams this window is just the beginning in a longer project to show they are much more than Premier League also-rans. As other leagues such as Serie A and Ligue 1 struggle financially, there is the real possibility that all 20 Premier League clubs can enter the list of the top 30 richest clubs. With their increased budget, especially wages, joining a traditionally unglamourous English side could provide a much more enticing offer than many bigger European teams.
Whether this happens or not is all purely speculation. If football tells us anything it’s that it can actually tell us very little. The money may seem impossible to mismanage but owners of Premier League sides will no doubt do their best. We are perhaps now facing the biggest crossroads in English Football since the invention of the Premier League in 1992, what the final destination will be for it’s clubs depends on how smoothly they are able to make the journey.[separator type=”thin”]
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Crystal Palace’s Premier League run-in could see them beat the drop
The Eagles are in the relegation zone with eight matches to play.
On the surface, Crystal Palace has little to cheer at the moment. Their last win came exactly two months ago, and although Roy Hodgson brought an initial uptick in results to Selhurst Park, the Eagles currently occupy 18th position.
Furthermore, Palace are coming off a brutal stretch of three straight losses to top-five clubs, all of which they excruciatingly lost by the solitary goal. Injuries have destroyed their first-team squad to the extent that an entire starting 11 can be compiled with players on the treatment table.
Yet, although this picture may appear bleak, a favourable run-in combined with the anticipated return of crucial players means Crystal Palace will be confident of retaining their Premier League status for a fifth straight season.
After a grueling stretch of matches versus Tottenham, Manchester United, and Chelsea, the remaining eight matches present a plethora of winnable fixtures against teams in the bottom half of the table. Palace will play Huddersfield, Bournemouth, Brighton, Watford, Leicester, Stoke, and West Brom; a run-in of dreams.
The only match where the Eagles would not be expected to pick up all three points is the March 31st encounter with Liverpool. But Palace have shown remarkable fighting spirit and drive in their matches against the top sides in the division.
Crystal Palace near toppled Manchester City back in December, they raced out to a 2-0 lead against Manchester United, came within minutes of a draw against Spurs, and deserved a draw against Chelsea but were denied by a questionable disallowed goal.
The vital return of integral players in the coming weeks is also a massive boost for Palace’s survival hopes. On Monday, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Wilfried Zaha, Yohan Cabaye, and Mamadou Sakho all returned to training.
Welcoming these experienced professionals back into the first team set-up will be priceless, as all four returning players played enormous roles in the early revival under Hodgson.
Add in a run-in brimming with winnable fixtures, and the Eagles should just about have enough to avoid relegation come May.
Crystal Palace 2-3 Manchester United: Three talking points from Selhurst Park
The Red Devils mounted an incredible comeback at Selhurst Park.
Nemanja Matic scored a dramatic stoppage-time winner as Manchester United overturned a two-goal deficit to inflict more pain on struggling Crystal Palace. Matic fired home from 25 yards to complete a memorable comeback from United, whose victory helped them regain second spot in the Premier League. Palace, meanwhile, remain in the relegation zone after slipping to their third successive defeat.
Selhurst Park was rocking when Andros Townsend put the hosts ahead via a huge deflection, before Patrick van Aanholt doubled their lead shortly after the break. However, Chris Smalling gave United hope 10 minutes later and the visitors then restored parity through Romelu Lukaku. With time ebbing away the draw looked inevitable, only for Matic to break Palace’s hearts with his first goal for the club. Here are three talking points…
Palace’s survival hopes suffer a hammer blow
A week earlier, the Eagles thought they had earned a vital point against Spurs in their battle to avoid the drop. That was until Harry Kane popped up to snatch victory with practically the last touch of the game. A sense of deja-vu was palpable when, after another encouraging performance against one of the top-flight’s heavyweights, Matic ensured Palace went home empty-handed. It was a monumental body blow.
Roy Hodgson’s side had belied their lowly league position and taken the attack to United, deservedly assuming complete control. Had the score remained at 2-0, Palace would have been as high as 13th in the table. But United’s comeback, which left Hodgon and his players visibly deflated, means they are 18th, one point adrift of safety with an inferior goal difference. Although the performance was a positive one, the result leaves the South London club deep in the mire.
Mourinho buoyed as United show resilience
For all the talk about how this has been a disappointing campaign for United, they leapfrogged Liverpool into second place as a result of this stunning victory. Jose Mourinho’s men exhibited substantial amounts of steel in doing so. They faced a real test of character, having fallen behind against a team fighting for their lives. It looked like a mountainous task, but United fought their way back into the game before snatching all three points at the death.
This was the first time since 2013 that the Red Devils had clawed back a two-goal deficit to win a Premier League match. Of all their victories this season, perhaps this one will please Mourinho the most. Any divisions are quickly exposed when teams find themselves in trouble. But the way United stuck to their task was a big statement at a key stage of the season. It should give Mourinho belief that his side can see off the likes of Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur in the battle to finish runners-up.
Hodgson desperate for Wilfried Zaha’s return
Hodgson has previously tried to dismiss its significance, but Palace’s inability to win without Wilfried Zaha cannot be passed off as an anomaly. The Eagles have lost every single one of the nine Premier League games in which the 25-year-old has not featured this season, scoring only one goal in the process. For a while it looked as though that alarming record would be consigned to the history books, until United mounted an inspired comeback.
Zaha is clearly a talented individual whose absence would affect any team’s potency, but Palace’s over-reliance on him must be very concerning. The Ivory Coast international is currently sidelined through a knee injury and although he is back in light training, Hodgson has put no timeframe on his return to the fold. It’s no exaggeration to argue the Eagles’ survival aspirations depend on him.
Crystal Palace 0-1 Tottenham: Harry Kane proves his class with late winner
Tottenham managed to get a late winner against Crystal Palace to move into the Champions League places. They were the dominant force and had the better chances, but their final product wasn’t as reliable as usual. It looked as if an injury-hit Palace would earn a valuable point, but Harry Kane scored late on to win the game.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men are hitting form at the right time and look a good bet to finish in the top four for the third successive season. Meanwhile, Roy Hodgson was visibly frustrated at the end of the game and he will be aware of his team’s position.
They are only outside of the relegation zone on goal difference and have a number of key players unavailable with matches against Manchester United and Chelsea on the horizon. Here are three talking points to come out of the game at Selhurst Park:
Harry Kane proved why he is world class
The England international will be the first to admit it wasn’t his best performance. He had six shots during the match and missed a couple of really good chances before he finally did find the back of the net.
However, he remained confident and continued to take attempts on goal. It was a good header and earned the side a crucial two points.
Although Kane can miss a lot of chances and he did during this match, he doesn’t allow himself to get affected by his misses. Alvaro Morata is a high-profile striker that appears to lose confidence in himself after a big miss and that is a worrying trait to have as a goal-scorer.
The Tottenham number ten doesn’t have that and a miss only motivates him more. That was evident on Sunday. That shows an elite level mentality and one of the reasons why Harry Kane is one of the best strikers in the world. Despite playing poorly against Crystal Palace, he worked hard and got the crucial goal. That is all that matters.
Crystal Palace’s injury crisis could cost them their Premier League status
With ten matches to go, Crystal Palace will be confident that they can stay up as they have a more talented squad than the majority of clubs down there.
However, a lot of their best players are out injured right now and they were hindered by that on Sunday. They had only 24% possession and offered little attacking threat.
They were missing Wilfried Zaha, Scott Dann, Yohan Cabaye, Jason Puncheon, Joel Ward, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and a number of other first-team players. Their woes were compounded on Sunday as James Tomkins was forced off with an injury.
Palace’s next two matches are against Manchester United and Chelsea, two teams competing for a Champions League place. On one hand, these are tough matches that they would be outsiders in with a fit squad, therefore it is beneficial these are being played now.
That said, they are slipping closer to the relegation zone and building negative momentum at a bad time. Supporters will be more worried than they were at the beginning of the month.
Eric Dier impressed at centre-back
The 24-year-old is a great squad player to have and he showed his versatility on Sunday as he filled in at centre-back in the absence of Jan Vertonghen.
Toby Alderweireld suffered a setback and it was important that Tottenham fielded a player with experience there. Dier has benefitted from focusing on the midfield role in terms of development, but he remains able of filling in at the back.
During the match, he won four aerial duels and completed four ball recoveries. The time spent playing midfield has helped him develop on the ball and his distribution was very good on Sunday, as he completed 90% of his passes.
Tottenham will be hopeful of getting both Alderweireld and Vertonghen back together at the heart of their defence for the run-in, but the fact that they kept a clean sheet without both is encouraging. They have built a strong squad under Pochettino with plenty of options in every posiion and Dier’s centre-back display underlines that.
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