The summer window is a time when football fans nationwide are full to the brim with optimism. A new season. A clean slate. A fresh chance to cast away some of the so called deadwood from the squad, thus making room for a brand new batch of hungry footballers. Whether you are a follower of a minnow sitting in the Conference or a European superpower, the long stretch from July right up until that preposterously overdramatised night on September 1 we fondly refer to a transfer deadline day is a massively exhilarating time in the world of football. If you’re not an Arsenal fan, that is.
Although in saying that, even the famously reluctant to part with any cash, Arsene Wenger has dipped into the transfer frenzy this year, having successfully secured Chile’s World Cup hero Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona in a £35m deal.
The transfer window slammed shut late last night at 11pm with Premier League transfer records being smashed all around the country as well in excess of £800m being spent in total. Manchester United broke the British record by bringing in Argentine Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid for £59.7M. The Premier League also welcomed the likes of Eliaquim Mangala, Daley Blind and Diego Costa to these shores for the first time, with Cesc Fabregas and Mario Balotelli making sensational returns to England.
As we look back on the business done over the summer months, some of the biggest names in football departed their clubs for pastures new. And the names don’t get much bigger than Luis Suarez. Not unlike last season, having been the subject of a tongue-in-cheek £40,000,001 bid from Arsenal, it was clear that the enigmatic yet brilliant Uruguayan was once again going to be preyed on from above. At first there was talk of him becoming the final piece of Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich jigsaw, then there was a hint at Real Madrid and Manchester City, although negotiations with those two clubs may not have developed further than minor enquiries. What became increasingly certain though was that Suarez would not be a Liverpool player for much longer. Many Reds fans, a certain Mr S Gerrard among them, suggesting he had cunningly ‘engineered’ his move to the Nou Camp.
While the task to replace a player who provided 31 goals and twelve assists is simply impossible, Brendan Rodger’s has gone about investing the £65m windfall carefully and strategically. What differs from the Gareth Bale sale of 2012/13 is that unlike Tottenham, Liverpool enter the new season not having just finished outside the Champions League spots, but as genuine title contenders. Additionally, Lamela, Capoue, Chadli and Soldado, just some of Spurs’ outlay last year were unproven in the English game. Only Christian Eriksen, you could argue, has properly managed to find his feet in England in what was, to be fair, a particularly turbulent debut season at White Hart Lane, what with the comings and goings of Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood. Liverpool’s manager on the other hand has brought in top class effective new recruits with bundles of Premier League experience. Fifteen goal Rickie Lambert looks a steal at just £4m considering Shane Long, the man Southampton replaced him with cost three times that figure. Similarly, Adam Lallana looks to possess all the attributes to slot straight into the Liverpool mould and despite the slightly skeptical £20m price tag, Dejan Lovren could well turn out to be that leader at centre-half the Anfield club have been crying out for since Jamie Carragher swapped the changing room for the Monday Night Football studio.
But as is the way in the modern game, as one magnificent player leaves the Premier League, another one joins. So enter please, Radamel Falcao. With rookie defender Tyler Blackett somehow finding himself thrown onto the Manchester United teamsheet, being left fairly lightweight at the back anyway following the departures of long term centre back pairing, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, you would’ve expected Ed Woodward and co to go out and bring in a world class domineering Mats Hummels or perhaps a Mehdi Benatia. But oh no. In true outlandish, outrageous Van Gaal fashion, he instead opted to fork out on a mindboggling £20m loan fee for one of the world’s greatest strikers. As you would expect from an individual who will earn around £50,000 per day, what a player of Falcao’s calibre will guarantee the Old Trafford faithful is goals. But ‘the one who replaced the chosen one’ surely already has enough on his plate turning around the fortunes of a deflated side, who could only muster seventh position last season. Louis van Gaal has left himself in a position where he must find a way to accommodate new club captain Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Juan Mata, Angel Di Maria and now Falcao into the same starting eleven. In the wake of the shock Falcao deal, heading in the other direction, Danny Welbeck swapped sitting on United’s bench to become the main man at Arsenal; or until Olivier Giroud returns from his injury at least. This bodes well for England’s prospects as it can only be encouraging to see England’s younger generation of players on the pitch more regularly, but will the United academy graduate be able to take full advantage of the opportunity before him?
Even though the signings have now been made we are still left with many questions. Will Liverpool cope without Suarez?, has Van Gaal spent his £150M wisely and are Arsenal fans satisfied with Wenger’s dealings? Either way here are our observations on one of the craziest windows in years.
Which team do you think has done the best business?
RH: I think Liverpool have done really well considering they have managed to bring in nine top quality players at just £30m expense when you take into account the Suarez money. Brendan Rodgers must also be commended for holding out for £65m for a player with a trail of baggage that goes on for mile after mile. Fabregas and Diego Costa could be Chelsea’s ticket to the title though. I was worried for Southampton having lost the entire spine of the side from last season in Lambert, Lovren, Lallana and Shaw but early season indications suggest that they will be fine. Questions must be asked of splashing £12m on Shane Long for me though when you think Balotelli went for £4m more. Another side who overspent is Manchester United. Ander Herrera simply hasn’t shown displays yet at the highest level that would warrant the handing over of the best part of £30m for his services.
NH: I think it probably has to be Chelsea, considering that the additions they’ve made have made them most people’s title favourites. It was no secret that the absence of a top class striker cost Chelsea the title last season and in Diego Costa, they have one of the very best in world football at the moment. However, midifield maestro Cesc Fabregas looks to be an inspired signing as he is effectively a combination of two players Chelsea have let go of recently, Frank Lampard and Juan Mata. In fact, his arrival could be hugely significant in deciding where the Premier League title ends up in May – he has the potential to be that one key player who swings it in Chelsea’s favour. Thibaut Courtois will also feel like a new signing to Chelsea fans, having spent three years away from the club and of course, let’s not forget about the return of Didier Drogba who will undoubtedly weigh in with a few vital goals.
They have also done good business with the players they’ve sold. £50 million for David Luiz? That has to be the most ridiculous over-the-odds transfer fee ever paid. Romelu Lukaku, a striker who was clearly not Mourinho’s cup of tea, was sold on for a profit and for nearly as much money as what Chelsea paid for Costa.
LV: Looking away from the top teams I feel Hull City have done some very good business.Before deadline day they had already secured the services of the promising Tom Ince and Robert Snodgrass and then did some great business by making £12M due to the sale of Shane Long. The departure of Long then gave Bruce the opportunity to bring in Uruguay international Abel Hernandez and Mohamed Diame from West Ham. Hull also made two very good loan signings in the shape of Gaston Ramirez and Hatem Ben Arfa. I tipped Hull to go down when making my pre-season predictions but if their new signings manage to gel they should have no problems with surviving this season.
Who do you think was the best signing this summer?
RH: It has to be Diego Costa. He is quite simply the perfect Mourinho striker. He’s boisterous and can muscle defenders of the ball yet still possesses that vital yard of pace that will set him apart from what any other side in the league has to offer. To say he’s hit the ground running would be an understatement. Four goals in three games so far since his £32m switch from La Liga champions Atletico Madrid and you would bet your house on there being plenty more to come. A special mention goes to a former Chelsea man though, Romelu Lukaku. Its easy to forget that the colossal Belgian international is still only 21 years of age, but already he has proved he can rip up the Premier League notching 17 and 15 goals on loan at West Bromwich Albion and Everton respectively in the past two seasons. The potential of this particular player is truly frightening and I believe £28m could in time prove to be the bargain of the century.
NH: This really boils down to who will make the biggest difference to the team they’ve signed for. For me, as mentioned above, that would have to be Cesc Fabregas. Other than him though, I’d say that Dejan Lovren was an important, if not particularly exciting, signing for Liverpool as their defence ultimately let them down in their title challenge last season. In the blue half of the city, Everton’s permanent deal for Lukaku was equally crucial to their hopes of threatening the top four again.
LV: I think the best acquisition made this summer is Chelsea’s capture of Cesc Fabregas. All the attention has been on Chelsea’s need of a striker which has been addressed through Diego Costa, but the loss of Frank Lampard meant Chelsea needed a bit more creativity in the centre of midfield and Fabregas fits the bill perfectly. Arsenal fans may not be happy but Fabregas is a perfect fit for Chelsea especially his ability to execute those eye of the needle passes.His brilliant side foot assist to Schurrle during the opening day victory at Burnley is testament to this and he may yet proof crucial in Mourinhio’s pursuit of silverware this season especially now they have a striker to put away the chances Fabregas, and the rest of the blues midfield is bound to create.