As the new season rapidly approaches, last season's top performers are scrambling to keep an edge
Champions Manchester City will be gunning for a fourth Premier League title under manager Pep Guardiola after another sublime campaign for the Spaniard. To do so they will need to outgun their city rivals, who have already made two earth-shattering signings, in all likelihood a resurgent Liverpool and a Chelsea squad which beat them to the Champions League last season and may get even stronger in the weeks to come. Let's take a look at some of the confirmed deals made by last season's top six clubs so far and the impact they can be expected to make - not the self appointed "big six" of the doomed European Super League, but the clubs who finished in the top six places in the league table at the end of May.
There's not a lot interesting going on at the Etihad so far. They are of course linked with every world class player on the planet every day and stories about £160m moves for Harry Kane and similar plans for Erling Haaland are all over Twitter. Jack Grealish is also a popular choice for this type of report but as of yet there seems to be no concrete evidence of such deals. The club may very well sign one of these players or perhaps all three but based on City's usual behaviour - their record signing is still Kevin De Bruyne for £68m - it isn't obvious that they will splash three times that amount on one player. They tend to spend obscene amounts of money on many, many players. That's why they have such squad depth. As of yet, it's all speculation.
Many loanees have returned who will likely be loaned out again or released. Angeliño has returned to RB Leipzig on a permanent deal for £16m, Jack Harrison has also made his stay with Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds permanent for £11m. Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero have both moved to Barcelona for free, where they currently remain unregistered as the Catalan club frantically attempts to trim its wage budget to enable their official registration. City already have a wonderful squad full of talent and could easily win the league again without buying anyone. They have a ingenious coach who can win titles without even fielding a recognised striker and seems to get joy from doing so. If they do spend big on the likes of Kane or Haaland, they will be very difficult to catch.
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer is a very divisive figure but it's tough to deny that The Red Devils have made progress under the Norwegian. They are steadily creeping closer to that elusive top spot and with the work they've done in the transfer market so far this summer, fans will rightly be dreaming big going into the next season. Jadon Sancho arrives from Borussia Dortmund for £76m and Raphael Varane is on the brink of joining from Real Madrid after a fee of £34m was agreed between the two clubs. They could possibly stand to sign a top class central midfielder to play alongside Scott McTominay but besides that they are good to go.
With Varane slotting in next to Harry Maguire - a player who can be sublime when playing alongside the right partner or utterly chaotic when not - and Sancho bringing his quality up front, they are almost the full package. They might want to sell Paul Pogba and replace him with a more industrious, box-to-box midfielder and that could be the final piece of the puzzle. In terms of outgoings, Sergio Romero has been released and replaced with Tom Heaton who comes in on a free from Aston Villa, and Tadith Chong has gone out on loan to Birmingham City. No matter what happens during the remainder of the window, expect United to push City to the limit next season.
Jurgen Klopp's side had a disastrous campaign in 2020/21 by their own dizzying standards. They could have reacted better to the injury crisis they suffered at centre back but it's not easy to cope with such an unprecedented situation. To lose Virgil Van Dijk, arguably the best centre back in the world, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez at the same time would send many teams into freefall and it did. They managed to paper over the cracks with the loan signing of Ozan Kabak from Schalke and the recalling of Nat Phillips from Stuttgart in January, who both equipped themselves commendably as a late surge saw the previous season's champions climb into the top four against all odds.
They are planning ahead this term. They've brought in the outstanding Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig for £36m who is expected to start alongside Van Dijk. With the Dutchman, Matip and Gomez all expected to play a part in pre-season - that's four elite defenders Klopp now has at his disposal should chaos befall them again. They may need to do a bit more business in terms of replacing Gigi Wijnaldum who has joined PSG on a free transfer. That leaves a hole in the engine room, depth-wise if nothing else. They've also sold Harry Wilson to Fulham for £12m but besides that there's nothing to report in terms of significant outgoings. If they can keep hold of the rest of their fabulous squad and add one or two more they have to be considered one of the favourites for the title.
The West London club spent big last summer and things didn't quite work out for then manager Frank Lampard. German coach Thomas Tuchel came in and utterly transformed them into an almost unbeatable machine, taking them on a long unbeaten streak, delivering a fourth place finish, an FA Cup final and beating Pep Guardiola's Manchester City to the Champions League. With the squad depth they have, they don't really need anyone but are of course heavily linked with Haaland - if they sign the Norwegian star, God help us all.
So far some loanees have returned, and they've sold Fikayo Tomori to AC Milan for £26 after his successful loan there last season. They've also sold Olivier Giroud to Milan for just under £1m and Victor Moses departs for Spartak Moscow for £4.5m. Marko Van Ginkel is finally free from his eight years of limbo, in which he made only two league appearances for Chelsea and was loaned to three different clubs for eight seasons. He's been on loan in the Eredivisie at PSV for five seasons straight and finally joins them permanently now on a free transfer. Billy Gilmour moves to Norwich on loan for the season. They haven't lost too many significant players but a couple of additions could ensure they have the depth needed to go again even stronger next season. With Tuchel at the helm from the start this time, they will surely be up there challenging from start to finish.
The Foxes came agonisingly close to finishing fourth and securing Champions League football for the second season in a row, only to be pipped by Chelsea on the final day. It seems that the club are ready to do whatever it takes to make that final step. They've had an impressive window so far and clearly mean business. Patson Daka joins from Red Bull Salzburg for £27m, Boubakary Soumare from Lille for £18m and Ryan Bertrand arrives on a free from Southampton. All three are likely to play a role in Brendan Rodgers' first team and will likely bolster the squad in a noticeable way.
Daka seems to be the real deal up front. He may take some time to adjust to a new league with more difficult opposition but fans are rightly excited about him. Soumare played a key role in helping Lille shock the world by beating PSG to the French league title last season. Bertrand is a seasoned vet with bags of experience and still has a good few years left in him - at the very least he will add critical strength in depth and competition at full back. If they can hold on to the likes of James Maddison and Youri Tielemans they will stand a chance of finally breaking into those top four places again.
West Ham United
It's difficult to know if last season was a fluke for David Moyes. He was once a very well sought after coach who achieved great things at Everton but since joining Manchester United his career seemed to be taking a nosedive, as is often the case with coaches and players who move to Old Trafford in recent years. He guided West Ham to a sixth place finish in 2020/21 which effectively makes him a club legend. They will be playing European football this season and nobody can take that away from him.
Can they push on and look up the table or at the very least consolidate their position? With Spurs and Arsenal likely to strengthen in a big way, it's unlikely. To do so the club will need to invest heavily in the squad. As of yet, that isn't happening. They made Craig Dawson's move from Watford permanent for £2m and they've sold Felipe Anderson to Lazio for just under £3m and Fabian Balbuena joins Dynamo Moscow on a free. Several key incomings will be needed if West Ham want to build on the momentum from last season.
It's all up for grabs as we start a new season. The title race looks like it could actually be exciting this time. The race for the top four will be fascinating. Even the race for the Europa League spots could involve any number of teams. Things will become clearer after the transfer window has closed and a few gameweeks have passed but one thing is for sure - this season is set to be a cracker.
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