By Brian Beard | 6th OCT 2020
Covid, truncated season and early start, so, should anyone be surprised at the plethora of ridiculous results and outlandish performances thus far. City, United and Liverpool all being trounced and humiliated. And the manner in which West Ham `Leicestered` Leicester and Spurs reminded fans of the Greaves, Blanchflower era with their dissection of Manchester United augurs well for the season ahead. Maybe fans should stay at home, the tea would be cheaper at least.
An out of season transfer window promised much but delivered very little of substance, if you discount Manchester United`s `panic buying` of two, sorry, three wingers. The biggest news, apart from the old news re Gareth Bale was what most of the football world expected, no Jadon Sancho for OT. He has obviously seen United and the state they are in and, what is the German for `not a chance.`
Willian, Cedric Soares, Gabriel – Lille, Dani Ceballos from Real Madrid.
Mikel Arteta`s side continued their pre-Covid-19 improvement into the new campaign, spurred on by the acquisitions of Willian and Ceballos though the arrival from Madrid needs to remove the antics from his game, petulant drops to the floor at the mere suggestion of physical contact. The Gunners seem to have more defensive resolve these days. It will be interesting to see if they can maintain that. The Gunners were the biggest spenders on Deadline Day with the signing of Ghananian strongman Thomas Party from Atletico Madrid and if his photoshopped pic in an Arsenal shirt is anything to go by he will cause a few sleepless nights for opposing players. He might be exactly what Arteta wants to turn his side into title challengers.
Emiliano Martinez, Matty Cash, Ollie Watkins, Bertrand Traore, Ross Barkley
Dean Smith pulled off a bit of a master stroke when he built on Villa`s splendid start to the season with the loan signing of Ross Barkley from Chelsea. On his day he can be one of the best midfielders in the top flight as capable of a telling pass as he is of getting a goal. Pairing him and Jack Grealish in midfield could pay dividends and Ollie Watkins is doing what he does best, scoring goals, so the future is looking bright at Villa Park, the future is claret and blue.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Adam Lallana, Joel Veltman AJAX, Lars Dendoncker
A mixed start for Graham Potters` men after a clearout that saw 19 players leaving. Highest profile arrival was Adam Lallana but the side needs more substance than Lallana can provide on his own.
Sean Dyche must have seen something in his squad that isn`t obvious to the rest of us because the Clarets` squad is looking decidedly lightweight as they set out to underline with three defeats in their opening three Premier League games. A quality midfielder and a centre back were Dyche`s priorities but with no deadline day signings he had to comfort himself with the news that James Tarkowski stayed at Turf Moor despite interest from West Ham.
Timo Wener looks a quality player while Kai Havertz has shown he knows the way to goal. Ben Chilwell is a quality acquisition and proved it with a goal and assists in his first two games. It remains to be seen if the signing of Edouard Mendy from Rennes will solve the goalkeeper problem which is only part of the defensive frailty of the squad that will prevent its forward prowess to bring in silverware.
Thiago Silva – few players over the past fifty years have got anywhere near the level of centre half play for which Franz Beckenbauer was renowned. Thiago Silva has got closer than most. But I`m not sure after the comfort zone of Ligue 1 with PSG he will be able to cope with the incessant pace of the Premier League. A striker and a centre back are Frank Lampard`s main priorites.
The signing of Eberechi Eze QPR, and Batshuayi – Chelsea loan, seemed to suggest Palace were preparing for the departure of Zaha but with a day to go in the window the enigmatic forward was still part of the furniture at Selhurst Park.
The proof of the Toffee`s pudding has been in 12 points out of 12 to see Everton top of the Premier League after four games. But the magic ingredient has not been the scintillating talent we all knew James Rodriguez
was blessed with nor the sudden burst of goals from Calvert-Lewin, nor the step up in quality from Doucoure. Yes, they were the ingredients but the Master Chef who has mixed them up and come up with a winning formula is Carlo Ancelotti. Let`s see where they are come December and I think it will still be in the top four. The addition of Ben Godfrey from Norwich is yet another good sign that CA has everything well in hand.
And while the rest of the Premier League are quaking in their boots at the `new Everton` they will be accompanied by under-fire Jordan Pickford as he mulls on the arrival of experienced Swedish goalkeeper Robin Olsen from Roma.
Oh dear! Fulham fans could be forgiven, as they look up from the bottom of the Premier League, if they look at the signings brought in to Craven Cottage and sigh , WHO?
Antonee Robinson, from Wigan, Harrison Reed and Mario Lemina, Southampton, Kenny Tate, Lyon, Ola Aina from Torino and the only name known on these shores, former Everton player Ademola Lookman, on loan from RB Leipzig. It is a sobering thought that already he looks too good for a relegation fight. However Fulham fans will not be overly optimistic that the winger`s goals will keep them in the top flight, six goals in his 58 first team games since he netted 10 in 45 for Charlton, is no cause for optimism.
Several quality players required as the Cottagers face a long winter. Will Ruben Loftus-Cheek, on loan from Chelsea, be the answer? Don`t think so.
Rodrigo Moreno looks a good buy for Leeds and Helder Costa has always been a quality player. Under Bielsa those two, supported by Illan Meslier – Lorient and Jack Harrison, loan from Man City, have already shown they will be a plus for Leeds who have been a breath of fresh air to the Premier League since they frightened the bejabbers out of Liverpool on Day 1.
Tim Castagne Atalanta, Cengiz Under Roma LOAN
City hit the buffers against West Ham but overall kept up the pace of their fine start to the season, despite selling Ben Chilwell but Brendan Rogers knows he cannot rely on the seemingly ageless Jamie Vardy, City`s only real goal threat, and the ever improving Harvey Barnes to stay with the leaders. James Maddison, already established at the King Power, will be the key. He needs support on midfield if he is to steer Leicester to success this season.
It has been business as usual for the Champions, on the field, but, not as we know it, from activity in the transfer market. Yet Jurgen Klopp has sold Rhian Brewster to Sheffield United who, in my opinion, would have been better for Liverpool than Minamino who has proved too lightweight since his arrival at Anfield. We haven`t seen enough of Thiago Alcantara to judge how he will do though the early signs were promising.
Konstantinos Tsimikas appears a work in progress while Diogo Jota has hit the turf running. Klopp`s relative transfer inactivity would seem to centre of the faith he has in the youngsters he did want to keep who made the break through last season but the acid test will be how Klopp maintains the balance between youth and experience as Liverpool defend their crown. It will also be interesting to see how they bounce back from their mauling at Villa Park.
This could well be the most important season in City`s history and might well be Pep Giardiola`s last at the Etihad, if former glory is not restored this season. Ruben Dias, from Benfica, looks like he could be the part-answer to defensive deficiencies but further forward City`s erratic start to the campaign underlined what everyone knew, NO Aguero, NO goals.
Also being without Jesus showed that Sterling for all the improvement in his goal getting is, how shall I put it, he`s NO Aguero. Nathan Ake, overpriced, should be a decent plus for Guardiola but John Stones, should be the long-term central defensive answer though I doubt he will be given the opportunity.
Nathan Ake – has always looked like Ruud Gullit now Pep has given him the stage on which he can prosper. Still only 25 he has been a top-flight player since he made his Chelsea debut at 17. As comfortable in midfield as he is at centre back, where most people see his future, he already has 15 caps for the Netherlands.
Pablo Moreno, from Juventus, and Ferran Torres, Valencia, were top flight arrivals and it will be interesting to see how Pep integrates them into his psyche.
Ighalo – among all the talented players in the United squad Ighalo is the one, true, predator when it comes to scoring goals. His first couple of goals had pundits yelling `fluke` but careful examination showed anything but. He has the mark of Gary Lineker, Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler about him, and they were none too shabby in the goals department were they.
Donny van de Beek seems to have settled well, despite not going straight into the first choice X1, and may be one for the future but as we all know, long-term and patience are not factors that sit well in the `we want it yesterday` mantra that is Old Trafford. Jadon Sancho has been lauded as the answer but such a pantomime to get him in begs the question, `is it worth it.` And what can you say about a club that desperately needs defenders but goes and buys yet another veteran striker, Edson Cavani? Not a lot according to the fans watching Spurs demolish their spiritless boys in red v Tottenham.
Interesting transfer policy on deadline day; buying two wingers, Amad Diallo and Alex Telles when the team is crying out for proper defenders and midfielders. Maybe Ole is going to convert them and defend from deep?
And let`s not forget Edinson Cavani who joins the likes of Henrik Larsson and Zlat in a huge payday at the tail end of their careers. Maybe Ole`s plan is to outscore the opposition, if that`s the case – and I thought that was the whole purpose of football- so let`s prepare ourselves for a plethora of goal feasts, 6-5, 8-7, bring it on.
Oh, nearly forgot, United`s THIRD new winger, Facunda Pellistri – what is the collective noun for a bunch of wingers? Manchester United?
Jeff Hendrick was a steal and will provide a steadier steel to the Magpies than is forthcoming from Jonjo Shelvey.
Callum Wilson- a goal-scorer is what Newcastle have been needing for many a long year and with Ryan Fraser as a potential supply line there is much cause for optimism at SJP. Ryan Fraser and Jamal Lewis have the potential to improve and Steve Bruce, despite the threat of takeovers and the sack hanging over him like a black and white striped sword of Damocles, has made a kind of two-fingered salute to those threats with the best start to a top-flight season since the days of black and white football.
Rhian Brewster. I think Liverpool will regret letting him go though I suspect Klopp was thinking more about the lad himself than Liverpool FC.
Aaron Ramsdale looks a good signing and Ethan Ampadu might just start to justify the potential he has always had while Oliver Burke could be a revelation.
The Blades` biggest problem for the current campaign is `second-season syndrome` and they have already had a sample of that even after just a couple of months. What United probably need to supplement the squad they already have is a modicum of Premier League nouse. I`m not sure Ethan Ampadu and Oliver Burke come into that category, fine, young players though they are although Burke has the potential to be a game changer as a darting right-winger.
Kyle Walker-Peters and Salisu are unlikely to be the answer to Saints` prayers and I can only see yet another long battle to retain top-flight status.
Although Theo Walcott`s season long loan will be a boost. Let`s hope for the sake of the fans Southampton can hold on to Danny Ings.
Most pundits will be keeping a watchful eye on Tottenham this year as London will be vying with Manchester and Liverpool for headlines as well as silverware. The metropolis will have three contenders with title aspirations; Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea.
Frank Lampard has the right ingredients but will he come up with the right mix. Mourinho knows what he wants and has, it seems, recruited wisely in Bale, Hart and Doherty but will his players be on the same page. And will Arsenal maintain their Arteta improvement with a much wiser recruitment policy than has been evident since Wenger`s day.
Hojberg is a nicer nasty version of the liability that is Lamela. Joe Hart might be better served to ring Jurgen Klopp and offer his service as back up to Allison. Matt Doherty and Sergio Reguilon look good signings and then of course there is THE Welshman.
Gareth Bale…..apart from the obvious wealth of talent and ability Bale should bring about a greater level of self-belief to the Tottenham squad. He also spoke about a winning mentality and if anyone of the squad doubts that all the Welshman has to do is drop any one of his FOUR UCL winners` medals on the table
Got to say, in Harry Kane Spurs have got THE MOST INTELLIGENT centre forward on the planet. His passing and awareness is better than any other English midfielder. I wonder if he has Belgian blood.
West Bromwich Albion
Matt Pereira, Grady Diangana, David Button, Callum Robinson, Branislav Ivanovic
Some decent signings by Slaven Bilic but the Baggies are still struggling to get going in the Premier League. It`s going to be a long old season Albion fans.
West Ham United
Tomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal could be the best signings David Moyes – get well soon David- has ever made. Anyone who watched the Hammers hammer Leicester, indeed doing a Leicester on Leicester, and the contribution made by those two in particular will be well chuffed and optimistic for the season ahead. Especially as, Harry Kane not withstanding, they have the best centre forward in the Premier League, Mikel Antonio. He is destined for a really big club, you read it first here on MFF.
Matja Sarkic, Fabio Silva, Fernando Marcal, Nelson Semedo BARCA *
Four arrivals at the Molineux but Wolves still not got going three games in.
Nuno Espirito Santo might need a bit more Anglo-Saxon steel now that Matt Doherty has gone leaving the heavy home burden on one of the best skippers and defenders in the top flight, Conor Coady. Latin flair needs the counter of British hubris.
By Brian Beard, Associate Historian to the Football Association.