After looking at the top three in the first part of this series, we now look at the transfer business done so far by the teams that finished in fourth, fifth and sixth last season.
Of last season’s top six, Liverpool probably had the weakest squad, and it is a testament to Jurgen Klopp that they made the top four and even teased a title run during the first half of the season.
Yet they needed strengthening in order to not only make a more sustained title challenge, but also compete in the Champions League and domestic cup competitions.
Much like Manchester City, there was wonderful attacking football contrasted to some very questionable defending last season. This will cause concern for Liverpool fans as there have not been as many changes in that problematic defence as many would have expected.
Mohamed Salah from Roma and Dominic Solanke from Chelsea will add more depth in attack, and the signing of the latter suggests that wing play will be very much the strategy this season at Anfield. However, the potential loss of Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona will hit the Reds hard at this late stage and this close to the start of the season.
However, Andrew Robertson has come in from Hull City, and that’s the only addition to their defence. To say that he’s going to turn them into a title-winning defence is wishful thinking. Yet, if they do sign Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton, then the landscape improves dramatically, and his class is not something the Saints will want to go without this season.
The Gunners have spent big (£52.7m) on Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon and have also bought in full-back Sead Kolasinac from Schalke on a free transfer.
At the time of writing, no big names have left the club, most notably contract rebels Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, which suggests that the FA Cup-winning squad has improved from last year, though Lacazette may struggle in the opening stages of the season as he takes time to adapt to the Premier League.
But have they improved enough? There are clear areas that require attention:
- A right back to challenge Hector Bellerin's place in the first team.
- A centre-half to replace Per Mertesacker’s age and lack of pace, and Gabriel’s inconsistency.
- A midfielder to fill the gaps left by the absent and injury-prone pair of Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere.
- Attackers who are more consistently reliable than Theo Walcott, less injury prone than Danny Welbeck, and of a better quality than Lucas Perez.
Last year was shambolic at times and the same old songs about them being weak in terms of leadership on the field (or off it) don’t seem to have been addressed. They have been missing that title-winning grit and determination for years now, and these qualities aren't abundant in their recruits so far.
For a lot of last season, United had a problem with scoring goals, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic having to take on far too much of the burden as his fellow attacking teammates failed to join him in double figures for goals in the Premier League. Indeed, the next highest tallies were Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney who only managed six a piece.
The Swede has now been replaced by Romelu Lukaku, though that’s about it in attack, and if the Belgian doesn’t manage to match his predecessor’s goal tally than United might be in trouble.
Elsewhere, they’ve purchased Victor Lindelof and Nemanja Matic, who will lend greater solidity to an already solid defensive unit, one that had the second best defensive record in the league last season, and the joint best record the season prior to that.
Matic in particular, whilst not spectacular himself, will play an important role in providing a strong base on which Paul Pogba can build an attack without defensive responsibility.
It seems as though that the squad has improved, though perhaps it has strengthened the strongest part of its team, whilst solving the problem of goals has been placed entirely in the hands of Romelu Lukaku.
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