As the curtain comes up on the Premiership at White Hart Lane tonight, newcomers Watford are busy trying to persuade some experienced hands to come and join them at the outset of their Premiership adventure. We thought we’d take a look at what our clubs already in the promised land have been doing with their transfer funds over the summer and, perhaps more importantly, identify where they still might be a bit short. Off we go, then, in the order they finished last season.
Sure, they’ve swapped around first team attackers, acquiring Michael Ballack to get in Frank Lampard's way and Andriy Shevchenko to get in Didier Drogba's way, but given Jose's apparenly pathological distrust of Glen Johnson and Mr Abramovich's limitless funds shouldn’t they have matched their stoic pursuit of a left back with an equally indefatigable attempt to acquire a right back in case of a broken Paulo Ferreira? We know the man in question has only been at Valencia for one season, but while the Blues were hastily offloading Asier del Horno on the Costa del Azahar did they not think to enquire in passing as to whether 26 year-old Portuguese international attacking right back Luis Miguel might be available? Apparently not.
Suggesting Arsene Wenger needs to buy any particular new outfield player seems pathetically foolish given his ability last season to fashion a defence that came within minutes of the biggest prize in Europe from assorted wide midfielders, untried youngsters and leftover cereal packets. But what’s the story with Big Jens still largely unchallenged between the sticks? When he arrived in the summer of 2003 to take over from “Safe Hands” Seaman the words “stop gap” were not far from anybody’s lips, but an unbeaten title and a run to the Champions League final later and that gap is gradually eroding into a valley. We thought Arsene might finally have lost his faith after Jens only lasted 18 minutes of the Gunners’ biggest game ever, but Lehmann, 36, went on to a good world cup and all is quiet with no young pretender in sight. Meanwhile, 27 year old Damien Gregorini kept fourteen clean sheets in a fine fourth French league season at mid table Nice. You can get bored of lying on the beach after training, you know.
Picture of the Premiership trophy via ofey's Flickr stream.
Cunningly tackling Chelsea’s problem by buying a left back and switching Lee Young-Pyo across the field, manager Martin Jol fights his way to his desk each morning through a mountain of cash bursting out of sacks delivered through his chimney by a jolly, red and white clad chap from up North. Scrambling the bundles aside he espies in the distance the training ground with new target man Dimitar Berbatov going through some envisioning exercises, hurling himself into the air at imaginary crosses. Suddenly realising he’s watching a practice match in progress, Martin fumbles around desperately for his mobile and rings his chief scout whose voice is difficult to hear amidst the din of rustling bank notes. “What did you say? Well, I don’t want him if he’s not quick enough! Ropey? What am I paying you for, man! Sorry? Jobi? Slacking off? Oh, McAnuff. Well, why didn’t you say so! Is he a young international? Good. Does he play in the Championship? Excellent. Wants to be on the left when he was on the right most of last season? Better and better! And already playing in London at Crystal Palace! But Peter Taylor has him under lock and key in a safe house? Ok. Thanks.” He breaks into a grin and calls to his secretary. “Get me a Securicor van, please! I’m off to South London to have a chat about parachute payments…”
For cup finalists in Europe, West Ham have had a relatively quiet summer. Given their possession of one of the most potent young strike forces in the Premiership taking Carlton Cole off Chelsea’s hands looked a bit odd until Dean Ashton’s fateful clash with Shaun Wright-Phillips, while Robert Green, who Londonist first encountered saving a Martin Keown penalty in the Highbury legend’s own testimonial, should be a shrewd addition once he recovers from a nasty leg injury. Alan Pardew, in fact, seems to have re-inforced sensibly in most areas echoing Tottenham’s strategy of bringing in promising young talent. The Hammers were highly efficient in front of goal last term, but actually conjured surprisingly few clear scoring opportunities. Maybe what’s needed to move them up a level is a versatile midfielder who can get forward and provide an effective link with the front men. Ideally he should be in the top 12 providers of Premiership assists last season and it would help if he’d played for Leeds at some point. Alan, me old mate, our note said “Milner”, not “Bowyer”…
The Cottagers have largely retained a promising squad and added exciting winger Jimmy Bullard, attacking left back and Scrabble favourite Franck Queudrue, promising Leyton Orient stopper Gabriel Zakuani and well-travelled young Swedish striker Bjorn Runstrom. Sadly, though, the man who provided a lot of Fulham’s attacking verve these last few years, especially at home, is the metaphorical elephant in the middle of the dressing room that everyone’s trying to pretend isn’t there, including Steed Malbranque himself. When he almost inevitably does go (and West Ham apparently wouldn’t be averse). Fulham are rarely huge spenders these days and probably couldn’t compete with the £8.5m Portsmouth are apparently ready to pay for Ghana’s Sulley Ali Muntari, but we thought Dwight Yorke looked pretty handy as a deep lying schemer both at Loftus Road in the spring and Germany in the summer. Terry Butcher insists the 34 year old is staying at Sydney FC. We wonder how much money says he isn’t, especially considering how he’d probably hate being in London and all.
Ever since his in-no-way dramatic move from Palace to Charlton over the summer, manager Iain Dowie has set about trying to buy enough new players to avoid fielding anybody who owes allegiance to Alan Curbishley, Charlton’s boss since the dawn of the paleolithic era while at the same time hiding England international right back Luke Young from the searching eye of Jose burning out across the plains of the capital. Dowie has so far assembled a new fellowship of nine in his quest for the near-mythical top half finish and, assuming he passes on the opportunity of acquiring Chester’s Sean Hessey to add a bit of bite at the vital moment, he might be thinking he hasn’t yet brought in a new right winger. Iain was certainly a busy man on TV during the world cup and his astute managerial eye will not have failed to spot that Italy were the winners. One of their heroes is about to start the campaign in the Italian second division and he’s not happy about it. Right sided midfielder by the name of Mauro Camoranesi. Used to have a pony-tail. We’re sure Juventus wouldn’t mind Charlton borrowing him for a season while he grows it back.