The Premier League returns this Saturday, but sadly it will again be without fans for the time being. The transfer window is still open and will remain so until October 5th, but as it stands, here is a quick review of the state of the clubs and where they might finish:
Positivity has finally returned to the Emirates Stadium, as Arsenal’s surprise FA Cup win and strong end of season run was a testament to the impact of Mikel Arteta. Arsenal have addressed their biggest deficiency in signing central defender Gabriel from Lille, while Willian will add another option to their impressive forward line. It’s not all good news, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has yet to sign a new contract and Mesut Ozil is still on Arsenal’s books. However, the Community Shield win provided further proof that Arsenal are finally heading in the right direction.
Ins: Pablo Mari (£8m Flamengo), Cedric Soares (Free, Southampton), Willian (Free, Chelsea), Gabriel Magalhaes (£23.1m, Lille), Dani Ceballos (Loan, Real Madrid)
Outs: Konstantinos Mavropanos (Loan, Stuttgart), Henrikh Mkhitaryan (free, Roma)
Key Player- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Arteta looks the real deal, but he now prove he can keep Arsenal’s ship on course for a full season as he tries to plot a course back to the Champions League.
Last summer saw big changes to the newly promoted Villa squad for what remains a relatively new administration at the club. On the pitch Villa survived, but the problems were self evident; a defence that looked brittle while Dean Smith struggled to settle on a best formation last season. Villa have moved to ease their defensive concerns by signing Matty Cash, who excelled at right-back in the Championship last term. They also contain another star of last season’s Championship in striker Ollie Watkins. Elsewhere, the return from injury of Tom Heaton in goal and Wesley in attack provides a timely boost. Most importantly, Jack Grealish is still around and resisting offers for their talisman is critical to Villa’s hopes for the season.
Ins: Matty Cash (£14.2m, Notts Forest), Ollie Watkins (£28m, Brentford)
Outs: James Chester (Free, Stoke City), Pepe Reina (Returned Loan, AC Milan), Danny Drinkwater (Returned Loan, Chelsea), Callum O Hare (Free, Coventry), Matija Sarkic (Free, Wolves), Borja Boston (Free, Leganes), Andre Green (released)
Key Player- Jack Grealish
Assuming they can hang on to Grealish, Villa will be looking for a more consistent look this season after the revolving door and injury nightmares of last season. Cash is a solid signing and Watkins should add at least 10 more goals upfront. This season should be better than last, but Villa still look like finishing in the bottom quarter of the table.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Graham Potter added greater creativity to the solid foundations laid by Chris Hughton, as Brighton enjoyed a better than expected season last term. The addition of Adam Lallana should provide some extra guile and craft while Ben White’s return from a successful loan at Leeds should bolster a sturdy defence. On the negative side, Brighton remain over-dependent on Neal Maupay for goals, with nobody else registering more than five last term.
Ins: Ben White (Returned Loan, Leeds), Adam Lallana (Free, Liverpool), Zak Emmerson (£270k, Oldham), Joel Veltman (£800k, Ajax), Jensen Weir (£500k, Wigan)
Outs: Anthony Knockaert (£10.5m, Fulham), Marton Montoya (Free, Real Betis), Aaron Mooy (£4m, Shanghai SIPG), Glenn Murray (Loan, Watford), Shane Duffy (Loan, Celtic)
Key Player- Lewis Dunk
Brighton have moved forward this summer without spending big, but Potter needs to be wary of loosening his solid defence while trying to progress his team’s attacking play. Brighton should be fine, but their lack of goals is a concern.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and Burnley’s top half finish last season illustrated they’re far from broken. Sean Dyche has comfortably kept Burnley in the top flight for four consecutive seasons and the improved infrastructure of the club saw their academy upgraded to category one status this summer. In the first team, Burnley’s key players have all stayed and the club’s biggest worry appears to be whether can they keep Dyche if a more lucrative club tries to poach him.
Outs: Joe Hart (Free, Tottenham), Jeff Hendrick (Free, Newcastle), Aaron Lennon (Free, Kayserispors, Adam Legzdins (released), Ben Gibson (Loan, Norwich)
Key player- Nick Pope
This looks like being another solid season for Burnley with Pope hoping to become England’s number one and the promising Dwight McNeil looking to take a big step forward on the wing.
With their transfer ban lifted and the Eden Hazard windfall in their pocket, Chelsea were always likely to spend big this summer. However, most have been surprised how big they have gone in the transfer market. Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner are proven Champions League level players who should contribute immediately to an already-impressive attack. New record signing Kai Havertz may take a little longer to settle, aged just 21. Havertz is a superstar in the making, but his best position remains unclear. The club’s problems were at the other end of the pitch last season, and although Thiago Silva will help with their set piece problems, it seems optimistic to think a 36-year-old is ideally suited to playing a high defensive line.
Ins: Hakim Ziyech (£36m, Ajax), Timo Werner (£47.7m, RB Leipzig), Xavier Mbuyumba (Free, Barcelona), Ben Chilwell (£45m, Leicester), Malang Sarr (Free, Nice), Thiago Silva (Free, PSG), Kai Havertz (£72m, Bayer Leverkusen)
Outs: Nathan (£2.7m, Atletico MG), Josh Grant (Free, Bristol City), Willian (Free, Arsenal), Pedro (Free, AS Roma), Trevor Chalobah (Loan, Lorient), Ethan Ampadu (Loan, Sheff Utd), Mario Pasalic (£13.5m, Atalanta)
Key Player- Christian Pulisic
Chelsea should be great to watch this season, but Thiago Silva is a sticking plaster solution to a soft-centered defence. A big investment comes with raised expectations from Roman Abramovich, as Lampard must deliver a genuine title challenge if he is to avoid the fate of many of the men he played under.
These are worrying times at Selhurst Park, with Palace ending last season by picking up just one point from their last eight games. With a small and ageing squad, this appeared to be the summer they’d let Wilfried Zaha go at a premium and spend the money reinvigorating the team. Palace have made a positive move by signing live-wire winger Eberechi Eze, but much more needs to be done to revitalise Palace.
Ins: Nathan Ferguson (Free, West Brom), Eberechi Eze (£16m, QPR)
Outs: Jason Lokilo (Free Doncaster), Stephen Henderson, Ryan Inniss (both released)
Key Player- Vicente Guaita
In Zaha, Eze and Jordan Ayew Palace have a potentially exciting front line. However, Palace need more young talent to reinvigorate a veteran side as the fans are starting to lose faith in Roy Hodgson.
It took awhile, but Carlo Ancelotti finally bagged the signings he needed to transform Everton’s lightweight midfield. In come Napoli workhorse Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and football’s forgotten superstar James Rodriguez. Last season, Ancelotti found a fine forward pair in Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison, but Everton remained maddeningly inconsistent with Jordan Pickford’s erratic form providing a microcosm for the whole team.
Ins: Jonjoe Kenny (Returned Loan, Schalke), Sandro Ramirez (Returned Loan, Real Valladolid), Niels Nkounkou (£250k, Marseille), Allan (£21m, Napoli), James Rodrigues (£22.5m, Real Madrid), Abdoualaye Doucoure (£20m, Watford)
Outs: Leighton Baines (Retired), Morgan Schneiderlin (£2m Nice), Fraser Hornby (£1.8m, Reims), Maarten Stekelenburg (Free, Ajax), Kieran Dowell (£1.8m, Norwich), Morgan Feeney (Free, Sunderland), Oumar Niasse, Luke Garbutt, Cuco Martina (all released)
Key Player- Richarlison
Ancelotti made his reputation by getting the best out of superstar talents, and now Everton have one in Rodriguez. Everton were never going to be rebuilt in a summer, but this season should see improvement. The improvement will depend on getting consistency out of a defence that could and should do better.
Fulham made it back to the Premier League at the first time of asking, under the improving management of Scott Parker. Their recruitment has, unlike last time around, been sensible; bringing back loanee Harrison Reed, who excelled in their playoff run. Parker’s version of Fulham doesn’t play with the style of Slavisa Jokanovic’s vintage, with Parker struggling to get the best out of creative talents in Tom Cairney and Anthony Knockeart. However, they are more defensively resilient and carry a goal threat in Alexsander Mitrovic.
Ins: Anthony Knockeart (£10.5m, Brighton), Antonee Robinson (£1.9m, Wigan), Harrison Reed (£8.1m, Southampton), Jean Michael Seri (Returned Loan, Galatasary), Andre Zambo Anguissa (Returned Loan, Villarreal), Fabri (Returned Loan, Mallorca)
Outs: Luca De La Torre (Free, Heracles), Magnus Norman (Free, Carlisle), Cody Drameh (£400k, Leeds), Alfie Mawson & Steve Sessegnon (Both Loans, Bristol City),
Key Player- Alexsander Mitrovic
Parker is a rising star in management, but the Premier League can be unforgiving on inexperienced coaches. Fulham have learned from their 2018 disastrous spending spree, but there is more spirit to this team. However, staying up would be a remarkable achievement.
No previous promotion in the Premier League era has been met with the fanfare that has greeted Leeds’ return. It’s partly due to their huge fanbase and proud history; inevitably reviving a series of great rivalries. Then there’s the Bielsa factor, with the iconic manager making his first foray in the Premier League. Leeds have gone big in the transfer window, keeping three key loanees from last season and adding quality in record signing Rodrigo and promising defender Robin Koch.
Ins: Helder Costa (£16m, Wolves), Illan Meslier (£5.85m, Lorient), Jack Harrison (Loan, Manchester City), Joe Gelhardt (900k, Wigan), Cody Drameh (£400k, Fulham), Rodrigo (£27m, Valencia), Robin Koch (£13m, SC Freiburg)
Outs: Ben White (Returned Loan, Brighton), Laurens De Bock (Loan, Zulte Waragem), Ryan Edmondson (Loan, Aberdeen)
Key Player- Kalvin Phillips
How Bielsa’s high pressing style works at a higher level will be fascinating to watch this season, and Leeds seem to have struck a balance between ambitious signings and keeping their promotion winners together. Their squad isn’t the biggest and their promising goalkeeper is relatively untested, but they should stay clear of trouble.
After their late season collapse, Leicester finished a relatively disappointing fifth place finish and still were unable to prevent a key player having his head turned. However, Leicester have made a good move replacing Ben Chilwell with Atalanta’s Timothy Castagne at left-back, even though Belgian spent last season playing on the right for Atalanta. Leicester do still boast a fine first eleven and in attack they do have plenty options; headlined by the ageless Jamie Vardy. They are overdependent on play-maker James Maddison, and it was noticeable how things unraveled when he was injured.
Ins: Timothy Castagne (£18.9m, Atalanta)
Outs: Ben Chilwell (£45m, Chelsea), George Thomas (Free, QPR), Bartosz Kapustka (Free, Legia Warsaw), Calvin Bassey (Free, Rangers), Andy King (released), Ryan Bennett (Returned Loan, Wolves), Ryan Loft (Free, Scunthorpe), Viktor Johansson (Free, Rotherham)
Key Player- Jamie Vardy
The poor end to last season was highlighted by Leicester’s twin problems of a small squad and inability to beat the big boys. Leicester haven’t done enough to date in this window and with European football and a compressed season, the first of those issues is likely to get worse unless they invest.