Transfer Roundup, Part Two: The Embarrassingly Late Edition

by American Manc on September 27, 2013

For British Eyes Only posed these questions to me longer ago than I care to admit. But let’s trudge on in the embarrassingly late second part of this summer’s discussion:

FBEO: I talked about the late signings of Arsenal and United, but what about the other top two teams? Both Chelsea and Manchester City made plenty of noise during the window. Are there any moves that stand out for you?

AM: Let’s start with Chelsea. The most notable move for me this summer isn’t anyone they brought in, but someone they once again let go out on loan: Romelu Lukaku. Seriously, what does this man have to do to break into a floundering group of Chelsea strikers? Lukaku is Didier Drogba come again, and I genuinely thought Jose Mourinho of all managers would look to make use of Lukaku considering how well Drogba thrived as the point man in Chelsea’s attack during Mourinho’s first spell with the club. After seeing what Lukaku is capable of at West Brom, I am wholly convinced he would be successful in Mourinho’s system. Chelsea’s insistence on making this Fernando Torres experiment work has got to be infuriating for Chelsea supporters.

Chelsea’s spending on inbound talent is an interesting study. The Bale, Rooney, and Suarez sagas, even though only one of the three eventually completed a move, drove the market up. I personally think £30M for Willian was a reach, but getting Shurrle at £18 wasn’t half bad. My only question with the Shurrle move is its necessity. I think Chelsea has the attacking midfielders in place to challenge for the Championship, and I’d rather have Lukaku with his strength and size up top as a target for all that midfield talent than Shurrle – which would have provided Chelsea with a more-for-less situation, and they could have put that £18M towards something else. All that said, Chelsea really only needed to address their depth in this transfer window, which they did.

Manchester City took a summer off from the massive amount of spending the club did in overhauling its roster, but relinquishing the title back to the Red side of Manchester apparently didn’t sit well with the Blues. They had a net expenditure of over £75.5M this summer, bringing in the likes of Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo, Stevan Jovetic, and Martin Demichelis for a total in excess of £87.5M before add-ons – recouping a smidge of that by letting Carlos Tevez go to Juventus for £12M. They let a few players go out on loan as well, notably Gareth Barry and Scott Sinclair.

I think many of these deals had more to do with the change in management than anything. City had as strong of a starting lineup as any last year. Judging by the players brought in, new manager Manuel Pellegrini wants to play with a little more speed: Jesus Navas, Stevan Jovetic, and Fernandinho all have above-average pace.

For me, the standout signing in this class is Jovetic. He likes to play off the front man, in between the lead striker and the midfield. If Pellegrini gives him the freedom to drift about and play his game, I think he will prove to be the biggest get for a club who didn’t need to spend nearly as much as they did this summer.

FBEO: We haven’t touched too much on the middle of the table. Were there any moves made that you think can lift a club to challenge for a Europa League spot?

AM: This isn’t going to be much of a reach given last year’s success, but I think the biggest mid-table, transfer market winner this summer was Swansea City. Wilifried Bony, last year’s leading scorer in the Eredivisie, would have been a good get in and of itself, but I think one of the biggest upgrades they made in the window was the addition of Jonjo Shelvey. Now I’m not saying Jonjo is the second coming that’s going to lift Swansea City up into title contention, but he adds arguably the one thing that Swansea’s starting XI was missing last year: balls. He brings backbone and toughness to a bunch of small, tiki-taka, quick-passing midfielders that shy away from contact. Jonjo won’t be afraid to stick his nose into the thick of a Premier League scrum.

Honorable mention goes to Newcastle with their addition of Loic Remy. Newcastle took the league by storm in their first year back in the Top Flight two seasons ago, and then fell off big time last year. Their problem? Papiss Demba Cisse started actually missing a few of his shots. After Demba Ba left for Chelsea, he had no support up top and showed that he can’t carry an attack all on his own. Well, now he doesn’t have to. I loved this pickup for QPR in January, and I love it for Newcastle now. Loic Remy is pure class, a pure goal scorer. Newcastle wasn’t far away from contending for a trophy despite their 16th place finish in 2012-13, and Remy could prove to have the biggest impact of any one signing in the Premier League this year.

FBEO: With Fellaini on the books, did you have a dream signing (or multiple) that you hoped United would make?

AM: Rub it in why don’t you. I’ve been dreaming of a Mesut Ozil signing since he spurned United for Real Madrid in 2010. Luckily I didn’t even know Madrid were legitimately making him available until very late in the window – essentially after he was all but signed by Arsenal – so I didn’t have as much time to yearn for him in quite the same manner as before.

That said, I think United took care of their most important piece of summer business: holding on to Wayne Rooney. I basically buried my head in the sand on this saga, admittedly. I couldn’t bear to even hear the whispers, and I hate it as much as any United fan that he supposedly wanted to leave. Maybe those reports were exaggerated, maybe he never asked for a transfer like Sir Alex said, but it was pretty clear at the end of last year that he wasn’t happy. Moyes told him that if he in fact wanted a transfer he would have to hand in an official request, which he never did, so it appears he’s appeased him for the time being at least. Hopefully they can build a relationship that will secure Wayne’s future at Old Trafford for life.

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We’re Baaack…Champion’s League Redux

wayne rooney celebration

by The Casual Observer on September 19, 2013

This time it is the Red Devils that are back.. in Europe at least.

If the Champions League match on Tuesday was any indication, the Red Devils are going to be fine this year under David Moyes (if we don’t acknowledge three goal derby losses, did they really happen?). Of course they have been maddeningly inconsistent so far, but against Bayer Leverkusen they looked like they found their stride. Leverkusen cannot be mistaken for Munich, but they are a quality club having won 4 of their first 5…and United took them apart like a chef boning a white fish.

And they did it from the opening kick. United immediately started putting pressure on the Leverkusen goal and it paid off with Rooney opening the scoring in the 22nd minute. Rooney, who came into the match with 198 goals scored for Manchester United, set up right in front of the goal, took a cross from Evra and hit it right into the ground forcing it over the keepers head and into the goal. [CONTINUE READING…]

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And We’re Baaaack…

manchester united

by The Casual Observer on September 17, 2013

Mea culpa. Mea culpa.  Mea culpa.

Due to a number of unforeseen circumstances I have been VERY lax in reporting what is going on in the Manchester United world. Not to make excuses, but part of the problem was that I was just getting over the shock of how the last season ended. Not the championship of course, that was determined in early May…but the retirement of the greatest manager in English football history caught me by surprise in a big way. We went from having a manager going in for surgery to no manager, to a new manager in about two days. It was a whirlwind couple of days for those of us in red.

Then of course there was the “Rooney Saga”. Most all of the daytime soap operas, or as my mother would call them, the “stories”, have been cancelled, but after all the drama in the off season, it appears that the stories have been resurrected using the Premier League as a background. First Rooney asked for a transfer. Then he didn’t. Then he was going to PSG. Then he wasn’t. Then he was going to Arsenal, but who really ever believed that? Then he was definitely going to PSG, no wait I mean Chelsea. And all the while United kept saying he’s wasn’t going anywhere, which turned out to be what happened.

So, without going into excruciating detail here’s where we are so far:

Week 1:

I’m starting with a rant here. I know that the BPL schedule is supposedly generated by computer randomly, but I really don’t think it would upset tradition too much to allow the previous year’s champion to open the next year at home.. allow them to raise their banner and get the new campaign kicked off in front of the home fans. This is hardly a new idea, many sports leagues around the world do it this way. Let’s throw this tradition in along with the new goal line technology that finally moves the EPL into the 20th century (better late than never I guess). [CONTINUE READING…]

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Transfer Roundup, Part One: Ask a Gooner

mesut ozil arsenal

by For British Eyes Only on September 4, 2013

I sat down to catch up with For British Eyes Only, a noted Gooner here at indirectkicks.com, to get his take on the happenings from this summer’s transfer window:

American Manc: So, it took until deadline day, but United and Arsenal finally made their moves. Who do you think filled more of a need, United with Fellaini or Arsenal with Ozil?

For British Eyes Only: This is a difficult question to answer. I feel that United filled more of a need on the pitch, but Arsenal filled a need in terms of their stature as a “big club.” We’ve heard too much over the last few years that Arsene Wenger is ready to splash the cash, but those were empty promises until Ozil signed his name on the dotted line. There were some big names being passed around in the rumor mill for both clubs – Modric, Suarez, Higuain, Falcao, Mata, Ozil, Bale (just off the top of my head), but most football fans would have guessed that Arsenal would not have pulled the trigger on anything substantial. It felt eerily similar to past transfer windows.

Both teams still missed the boat in my opinion. They each had clear needs and left things very late. Arsenal are clearly thin at striker – I’m a Giroud supporter and have been since he’s come to London, but the Gunners are one injury or suspension away from having a real deficiency in their ability to finish. It couldn’t hurt to shore up the defense as well, but they can squeak by if Vermaelen can come back and contribute.

With all that being said, Arsenal purchased a superstar (for a superstar price). Mesut Ozil is a player that real football fans know well. He’s not too flashy, but his style and skill near the ball is what makes him the type of player that could thrive in a system under Arsene Wenger. His creativity and passing ability will add to a piece of Arsenal’s attack that was already a strength. Ozil will make all of Arsenal’s attackers that much better – I keep imagining Theo Walcott running onto perfectly weighted through balls (as if Arteta, Wilshere, and Cazorla weren’t providing enough already).

United is in a different pickle. Winning the title in 2012-13 and losing arguably the best manager of all time puts their expectations on another level. While Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, and Liverpool all brought in upgrades to their squad rather early, United waited until the last day to purchase a player that most had expected to sign much earlier and for a lower price. Fellaini is a very good player, but does he make United a much better team than they were last season? Pairing him with more of a playmaker was the real wish of the United supporters. Things could have really been bad if the window closed and Fellaini did not join, but United should still be in the thick of the title race throughout the season. It will require players like Cleverly or Fellaini to step up and take control of the midfield, and they’ve shown that they have the talent to do so.

AM: After all the talk around the three big transfer sagas this summer (Rooney, Suarez, and Bale), only Bale ended up completing a move. How did you think the three would play out this summer and are you surprised by any of the outcomes? [CONTINUE READING…]

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Welcome back to the Premier League: Crystal Palace

August 23, 2013
crystal palace

Crystal Palace, a founding member of the Premier League in 1992, returns to top flight football for the first time since the 1997/98 campaign. They’re an easily forgettable squad. They rarely stick around the Premiership longer than a season, which they have little hope of this year as well. They won’t bring a lot of goals or panache to the league, […]

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Welcome back to the Premier League: Hull City

August 19, 2013
hull city tigers

If you are a Hull City football fan, there is good news and there is bad news. Hull City Tigers, previously known as Hull City AFC, was rebranded this month because owner Assem Allamis has a great disdain for the word City. “Hull City is irrelevant. My dislike for the word ‘City’ is because it is […]

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Welcome to the Premier League: Cardiff City

August 17, 2013
cardiff city

Welsh football fans have never had it this good. For the first time in history, both of Wales’ largest football clubs are playing in the top flight of English Football. Last season Cardiff City won the Championship in comfortable fashion and look to have the foundation for a long stay in the Premier League. If […]

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The Final Leg of the Journey

May 23, 2013
sir alex retirement

After a short break, we need to get caught up with what has been going on in Manchester. It really hasn’t been all that news worthy.. well, maybe a little newsworthy. May 5th: Manchester United vs. Chelsea at Old Trafford Chelsea took a big stride in their Champions League efforts with a hard fought, 1-0 win. United had some line-up […]

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