2019/20 Premier League preview
Background photo: Paul Hudson, CC by 2.0
If you’re the type to draw conclusions from singular events, then the Community Shield bodes well for a repeat of last season’s down-to-the-wire title race between Manchester City and Liverpool. Raheem Sterling’s early opener on Sunday was cancelled by Joel Matip’s late equaliser and the overpriced cheese tray’s ownership was settled on penalties.
Happily, though, the Premier League isn’t La Liga. It isn’t a one or two-team race. Other interested parties are showing their intent.
Arsenal was actually winning the transfer window, speaking of overpriced cheese trays, when they agreed to purchase Nicolas Pepe from Lille LOSC for £72 million. Added to the William Saliba [£27 million, St Etienne]and Gabriel Martinelli [£6 million, Ituano of Brazil] deals, the blockbuster made them the only Premier League side to have invested more than £100 million. [A late push that brought in Kieran Tierney and David Luiz at the expense of Alex Iwobi put them in the mix, but as in the hunt for a Premier League title, not quite over the line.]
The blame goes to two clubs. Aston Villa decided to buy an entirely new squad and Manchester United absolutely had to have Leicester’s Harry Maguire. The England international’s £78.3 million tacked onto Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s [Crystal Palace] £49.5 million and Daniel James’ [Swansea] £15 million gives the Red Devils the dubious honour of ‘most prolific spenders’ over the Villans who signed everyone but me [really just a dozen players, but a dirty dozen] for roughly £133 million. The move would have seemed like a guaranteed way to stay up until Fulham spent into nine digits last season and quickly established themselves as Premier League whipping boys. After investing 30% more will Villa prove to be 30% worse?
Chelsea got into the act in a minor way by making Mateo Kovacic’s loan from Real Madrid permanent for £40.5 million. As part of an existing deal, activating the buyout clause didn’t violate their two-window ban. Despite that ban, Frank Lampard let Danny Drinkwater and David Luiz's experience to follow Eden Hazard and Gary Cahill out the door
Following a closed season in which they brought radio silence to an entire Premier League summer window for the first time, Tottenham spent £54 million on Lyon midfielder Tanguy Ndombele. They also signed Leeds winger Jack Clarke for £9.9 million then loaned him right back to the Championship side which was more like it from Spurs. If that seemed like panic in the North London streets, deadline deals for Ryan Sessegnon and Giovanni Lo Celso set off air raid sirens.
City can’t be left out. After making Atletico Madrid’s Rodri their record signing at £63 million, they made two minor purchases before making a successful run at Juventus full-back Joao Cancelo.
Only Liverpool stood pat in this window. The £1.7 million invested in PEC Zwolle teenager Sepp van den Berg represents less than one per cent of their spending from last summer. A Premier League tribunal is deliberating the fee LFC must pay to Fulham for their other teenage purchase, Harvey Elliott. Can you imagine the irony of a Champions League rematch next June in which free-spending Spurs emerge victorious over the parsimonious Reds?
Just outside the top six, Wolves tried to consolidate their hold on seventh place by spending £87 million to make Raul Jimenez [Benfica] and Leander Dendoncker’s [Anderlecht] loans permanent and then raid Serie A for three players, Milan’s Patrick Cutrone and Lazio duo, Pedro Neto and Bruno Jordao.
Transfer business also had an effect on four different club’s ability to score goals.
For all their signings, Villa lost top scorer Tammy Abraham who returned to Chelsea when his loan expired. The Blues gained a top scorer after losing one but Abraham for Eden Hazard is hardly an equitable exchange.
Marko Arnautovic left West Ham for Shanghai SIPG. Eintracht Frankfurt’s Sebastien Haller promises to be a much more suitable replacement for the Hammers, however.
Newcastle lost their two leading snipers, Ayoze Perez to Leicester and Salomon Rondon to Dalian Yifang in China with Hoffenheim’s Joelinton and prodigal son Andy Carroll the replacements.
On the management front, Rafa Benitez promptly accepted an offer from Dalian Yifang when the Toon announced they couldn’t find common ground on a contract extension for the Champions League-winning manager. He was on holiday in Mallorca when he heard the news secondhand but found it simple enough to connect with Salomon Rondon to invite him to the Far East. Geordie-born Steve Bruce takes over at St James’ Park.
Chris Wilder [Sheffield United], Daniel Farke [Norwich City] and Dean Smith [Aston Villa] all arrive from the Championship with their clubs as new Premier League managers. Frank Lampard joins them after returning to Stamford Bridge from Derby County to replace Maurizio Sarri. So too does Graham Potter who made the switch from Swansea to Brighton.
Brendan Rodgers, Ralph Hasenhuttl and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer embark on their first full seasons with Leicester, Southampton and Manchester United. Only the Austrian lacks previous Premier League experience. Rodgers enjoyed success at both Swansea and Liverpool whatever certain Kopites might say on the matter. Solskjaer couldn’t make lemonade from the lemons he was dealt in his short stint at Cardiff. It’s up to him to prove that was down to owner Vincent Tan now that United have backed him in the market, addressing three specific needs and winning the overpriced cheese tray while keeping Paul Pogba in a red kit. You can’t ask for more than that even though the #GlazersOut crowd think you can.
Here’s a quick overview of each Premier League team now that the transfer window is closed.