Have Manchester United and Liverpool done better than the rest of the 'big four' this summer?
For anyone new to the game, the “traditional top four” consists of English heavyweights Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United. Although three of these failed finish in the top four positions in the final league table last term, these teams are generally considered the consistent heavyweights of English and European football.
From 2003 to 2013, they consistently made Champions League and challenged for the Premier League crown, building up this acclaim which will take a few more years yet before there is any hope of others moving in to grab their long-standing status.
All four clubs have been linked with a multitude of signings over the summer. Three of the four teams have managers that will be experiencing their first full season with their respective clubs, while the minimum requirement of all concerned is to secure a Champions League berth this season. With other potential threats like Manchester City, Spurs, and West Ham looking to also capture a European spot, it certainly makes for a mouth-watering contest this season.
First to be touched on is the only team out of this group that finished in the top four last time out. Arsenal have had a relatively quiet transfer window in terms of signings and departures, despite being linked with a whole host of names during the window – an all too similar feeling for supporters of The Gunners.
They have brought in composed Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka, promising Bolton defender Rob Holding, and relatively unknown Japanese striker Takuma Asano. Thus far, their only departure has been youngster Isaac Hayden being sold to Newcastle United. Anyone who follows Arsenal, however, knows that the club is in sore need of a striker, and with Per Mertesacker being out for possibly five months, a defensive signing of some sort is clearly needed.
Despite there being rumours of Arsenal looking at the likes of French striker Alexandre Lacazette and German centre-back Shokdran Mustafi, there is no concrete evidence of a deal being in place for either of them. However, should they sign either player, then they can consider this a pretty solid summer in terms of transfer business conducted, even if the fans may well think otherwise.
Next to be recapped is the team that had arguably the worst season out of the four. So far, Chelsea have strengthened in two areas, the centre of midfield and in the striker position with the signings of N’Golo Kante and Michy Batshuayi. They spent more than £60 million on the duo, sending a clear warning of intent to the others that they are not afraid to spend excess amounts on players they feel suit their style of play.
With just a centre back needed for this to be considered a pretty successful transfer window for Antonio Conte, things are looking pretty bright for Chelsea. Kalidou Koulibaly has been linked for several successive weeks with nothing coming from it, while last summer’s target John Stones seems more likely to turn up at Manchester City. It is interesting to see who Conte will choose to fill this position in the remaining few weeks of the transfer window.
Third on the list is Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool, who have had a relatively busy summer. The former Dortmund coach has brought in Loris Karius, Sadie Mane, Giorginio Wijnaldum, Joel Matip, Ragnar Klavan, Marko Grujic, and veteran goalkeeper Alex Manninger, whilst letting go of Martin Škertel and Jordon Ibe.
Liverpool fans will really be interested in how well the new signings bed in over the season. Overall, Liverpool have gone about their business in pretty snappy fashion, impressing so far, and having one of the better transfer windows. There could still be a fair number of deals yet to be done, although these are more likely to be in the outward direction, with Lucas’ time at Anfield potentially drawing to a close, and the somewhat shorter and less successful Merseyside stints of Balotelli and Benteke coming to an end.
Finally, we have Manchester United, a team that has had a very frustrating three years under the management of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal respectively. However, with the appointment of José Mourinho, things are looking to take a turn for the better.
Having completed the signing of Eric Bailly, he has strengthened their defence significantly. With the acquisition of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, they have added some firepower to the attack, which should surely put to bed their issues in the final third that have plagued them since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Should the Paul Pogba deal go through, United would have had a very good summer in terms of strengthening areas of concern, and like their rivals Liverpool, departures are the next objective on Mourinho’s wish-list. Seeing the back of the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Daley Blind may be concerning given the vast amount of experience that they will be taking with them, but do not expect a veteran campaigner like Jose Mourinho to leave United short-staffed for the new season.
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