Thursday, September 01, 2016

Transfer deals in the Premier League

This season's Premier League is looking to be very interesting following the summer's Euro and Olympic games, and the arrival of new managers in some major clubs, just to add to the existing rivalries. Excitement was only added to the mix with a lot of interesting news coming from the transfer window that just closed.

In particular in the big teams of Manchester United and City, under the eternal rivals of Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. At Manchester United Jose Mourinho has gotten hold of three stars for his team: Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Paris St. Germain, Hernrikh Mkhitaryan from Borussia Dortmund and most interesting of all Paul Pogba from Juventus. Ibrahimovic has already proven he will be good for goals and fight with his experience, while Mkhitaryan could be one of the type of players that could thrive under Mourinho. And the same can be said of Pogba: he is an incredible talent, but is arrogant and self-centered - just like Mourinho, who could plausibly tame the Frenchman.
In the meantime Mourinho is making his club unpopular again: the freezing out of Bastian Schweinsteigger is just the kind of thing a great player does not deserve.
That said, I am sure Mourinho will do great things with United.

At Manchester City Pep Guardiola has been more drastic that Mourinho, letting go of the English goalkeeper Joe Hart (to Torino), Edin Dzeko (to Roma), Samir Nasri (to Sevilla), Eliaquim Mangala (to Valencia) and releasing Martin Demichelies. In have come a group of players much more attuned to how Guardiola will want to play: John Stones has come in from Everton - likely to strengthen a slow back four under Demichelis. On goal Hart has been replaced by the Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, much better with his feet, and likely to venture out of the penalty area more than Hart would ever have done. A very interesting transfer is that of Gabriel Jesus from Palmeiras, one of very promising Brazilians of late, who could do great things under the style of Guardiola if he adapts quickly. Ilkay Gundogan (from Borussia Dortmund), Leroy Sane (from Schalke 04) and Nolito (from Celta Vigo) are the other interesting arrivals in Manchester City.

The defending English champions of Leicester have managed to hold on to some of their most prized players, although N'golo Kante left for Chelsea (where he will miss out on European football this season). That said, the champions have attracted some great players: the Algerian Islam Slimani has joined from Sporting Lisbon where he had an outstanding goalscoring record, and many may remember Slimani from Algeria's outstanding 2014 World Cup. The striker Ahmed Musa has joined from CSKA Moscow and the defensive midfielder Nampalys Mendy from Nice, who has often been dubbed the as the new Claude Makalele.

Much of Jurgen Klopp's work at Liverpool was to get rid of a long list of players that do not fit into Klopp's style, so Liverpool released a lot of players: Christian Benteke (who never managed to convince, went to Crystal Palace), Joe Allen (simply too slow and varying to play the tempo of Klopp, went to Stoke), Mario Balotelli (Liverpool never managed to tame the Italian, who went to Nice), Martin Skrtel (the veteran has gone to Fenerbahce), Kolo Toure (to Celtic) and Lazar Markovic (to Sporting Lisbon) have all gone.
Although arrivals at Liverpool have been less, the main one has been the Senegalese Sadio Mane, from Southampton, who became the most expensive African transfer in history. Expectations will be high, but he has already shown his class with a splendid goal in the 3-4 victory against Arsenal.

At Chelsea Juan Cuadrado has gone definitively (to Juventus), while Mohammed Salah has returned to Roma. In the meantime manager Antonio Conte has gotten hold of Michy Batshuayi from Marseille, who along N'golo Kante can give Chelsea a strong edge on midfield. But also the back has been "reinforced", with Marcos Alonso (from Fiorentina), and rather oddly, with David Luiz, who now returns to Chelsea from Paris St. Germain for 34 Mio Pounds after they sold him to the French side for 50 Mio in 2014. It was too much then, and it is too much now.
I do not know who has lost most from this deal; Chelsea or Paris St. Germain....

At Arsenal it is always difficult to figure out what Arsene Wenger is thinking. I still think he is one of the best managers in the world, but if I were an Arsenal fan, I would understand creeping frustrations. Jack Wilshere has gone to Bournemouth, a strange move for a player that has continued to contribute to the team. The exit of Joel Campbell (to Sporting Lisbon) and Tomas Rosicky (to Sparta Prague are less strange).
The arrivals in midfield seem strong: Granit Xhaka from Borussia Monchengladbach and Shkodran Mustafi from Valencia look like strong complements to midfield. The arrival of Lucas Perez from Deportivo la Coruna seems like more of a gamble: surely he has been a few of the Spanish scorers in the Spanish league dominated by foreigners, and Spanish offensive players have traditionally thrived with more space in the Premier League, but it still seems a gamble as Arsenal fans scream for a striker other than Oliver Giroud.

West Ham is one of the sides that has had most arrivals: Andrew Ayew has joined from Swansea (where he never really thrived, so hopefully he will in London), Simone Zaza from Juventus will be an interesting addition up front, while Sofiane Feghouli, coming in from Valencia, could potentially be a player to watch. Also, interestingly, Alvaro Arbeloa, has joined on a free transfer, coming from Real Madrid.

Tottenham's most interesting purchase is Moussa Sissoko, joining from Newcastle. The Frenchman was very strong in Euro 2016, and could have strong impact on Tottenham. Victor Wanyama from Southampton and Vincent Janssen are other strong additions in London.

Look forward to seeing all these players, and many more, in this fantastic new season!

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