It’s not every year that you see pretty much all of the Premier League’s big-hitters, as it were, make such swift moves in the summer transfer window.
One or two is normal, but all of last season’s top four – plus seventh-placed Manchester United, who many expect to return swiftly to the mix under Louis van Gaal – have wasted little time in recruiting significant additions and replacing outgoing talent.
What makes it more interesting is that they’ve all gone about it in slightly different manners, too.
Champions Manchester City, for instance, have had their summer moves restricted by UEFA Financial Fair Play and as a result cannot exceed a certain net spend. And yet, I feel that it would have been in their best interests not to mass-recruit even if they could.
What they have is very much a championship squad. There’s a lot to gain from enabling that squad to gel even further, with small boosts in key areas. That they have done by snapping up Bacary Sagna on a free from Arsenal and signing midfield enforcer Fernando. Eliaquim Mangala is about to follow them into Manchester which I think will be the biggest of their deals after how much criticism Martin Demichelis received last season.
Runners-up Liverpool’s main issue has not been financial punishments but instead dealing with the departure of star player Luis Suarez to Barcelona. Brendan Rodgers has, as expected, continued to recruit younger players as per his philosophy, but though I have warned against them spending like Tottenham did last summer after Gareth Bale left, expect at least a couple more defenders to follow Dejan Lovren into Anfield.
It doesn’t have to be done for top dollar, either. I don’t see Brendan as a manager to rotate much, but there’s a strong chance that smart, reasonably-priced additions to his back line options may get the most out of the likes of Glen Johnson, who some fear can be a weak link too often. Competition for places is never a bad thing.
Arsenal have surprised the most with their prompt summer business. We’ve come to expect the opposite from Arsene Wenger after all the years of hearing how building the new stadium would affect their ability to spend big. But while that appeared to end with the arrival of Mesut Ozil last summer, there’s something more convincing about the signing of Alexis Sanchez.
The Sanchez deal has been wrapped up much faster than the Ozil signing, which carried on to deadline day and provided more drama than it did astute preparation. The Gunners have constantly fallen away from the title race at the business end of each season but their early signings of Sanchez, Mathieu Debuchy and David Ospina with more set to come shortly could be what finally fixes this glaring issue.
Manchester United are the side of the big names who had to sign big and spend big. Luke Shaw at £30m for a teenager is a gamble, but the ambition of the move speaks volumes. Ander Herrera I think will be a great addition in a weak area for United, and will benefit greatly from the full pre-season with his new boss and team-mates.
From here, it looks like more will follow. Stefan de Vrij has apparently picked Lazio instead of United, but the likes of Arturo Vidal, Angel Di Maria, Kevin Strootman and more look like solid candidates to sign. If Louis van Gaal can wrap up two or three of these marquee signings ASAP, and add a couple more defenders to boot, I cannot see their exile from the top four lasting a second season.
For me, however, one side’s summer business model has been the best. And that’s the one used by Jose Mourinho at Chelsea.
This isn’t necessarily to say that Chelsea are my pick to win the 2014/15 Premier League – I’ll stick my neck out on that topic just before the season kicks off. But nobody has been more efficient in the window so far.
Cast your mind back to the end of last season. Mourinho, before the 38th game had even concluded, was declaring his squad as ‘not good enough’ to win the title. He predicted a return to the glory days of the mid-2000s when he was first in charge in his second season back. He also pointed out the areas he wished to strengthen.
The main one was of course up front, where Fernando Torres continues to struggle and the likes of Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba could only provide bit-part contributions. In comes Diego Costa, front man of Atletico Madrid’s super season last time out.
When Mourinho indicated a desire to add to his midfield options, many were flabbergasted because Chelsea have tons of midfielders, especially of the attacking variety. Nonetheless, he moved for Cesc Fabregas who somehow was deemed surplus to requirements by Barcelona. With Frank Lampard gone, that was a great move to replace the club legend. Ashley Cole was also part of the Stamford Bridge furniture but another Atletico star, Filipe Luis, is more than qualified at left-back.
With all that done, Mourinho promptly declared Chelsea’s transfer window as ‘over’ last week.
Given his (and other Chelsea bosses) previous struggles with Roman Abramovich, who pretty clearly demanded the arrival of certain players from time to time, the efficiency and authority of their transfer business is an ominous sign, in my opinion.
Most of these five sides will add more players between now and the start of September, no doubt. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Chelsea were the only one of them not to add further big recruits to their ranks by then.
However, until things are a little more clear, the early front-runners will surely be the Blues as they now gear up for the new season with a strengthened-yet-cohesive squad and a manager who has done it all there before.
Jan Molby blogs for Eurosport.com every Monday and Thursday.
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