A bumper Winners and Losers that is dominated by some high-profile casualties. Serious questions must now be asked by four of last season's top six. Which is mental...
Like the uninvited guest no one likes, the international break is here to spoil everyone's fun. It is no good to anyone, but John Nicholson may have a solution...
Tottenham: A Striker
Probably the most desperate of all desperate searches is Tottenham's cack-handed attempts to find a striker. Actually, make that 'any striker'. Barely more than a week before they face a Newcastle side brazenly showing off with two excellent forwards and a raft of also-rans (the Amoebi brothers and Xisco), Tottenham - the victims of Harry Redknapp's effective but ultimately costly short-termism - have a grand total of one senior striker. And that one senior striker does not fit easily into Tottenham's preferred 4-2-3-1 system.
Jermain Defoe played and scored as a lone striker in a friendly against Watford this week but it's nobody's version of ideal that Spurs start the Premier League season with Defoe as the default starter and untested 19-year-old Harry Kane as back-up. A summer-long pursuit of Emmanuel Adebayor has so far reaped nothing while Leandro Damiao has been 'close' to a Tottenham move for so long that we won't accept the deal is done until he's posing with a blue-and-white scarf and saying how much he's always dreamed of playing alongside Danny Rose. Things are now getting so desperate that we're half-expecting a late move for Steven Fletcher. If you're reading this AVB, it definitely wouldn't be the worst idea anyone at Spurs has ever had (see Fraizer Campbell and Ryan Nelsen).
Liverpool: A Winger
Somewhere in Brendan Rodgers' 180-page dossier, there is a commitment to the products of Liverpool's youth system. But just how easily does that marry with a commitment to being competitive in the top half of the Premier League? After a summer which has seen Maxi and Dirk Kuyt depart (with Craig Bellamy soon to follow them out of the door), only Stewart Downing remains as a first-team wide option. The return of the injury-prone (he lasted a whole 23 minutes v Gomel) Joe Cole and the first emerging steps of the raw Raheem Sterling does not make that picture look too much rosier.
Reported pursuits of Scott Sinclair and Gaston Ramirez look doomed if other potential suitors can offer Champions League football, while Rodgers' admission that he has to be 'strategic' with money suggests that there's not an awful lot of cash splashing round for the wide players they so desperately need. At this stage a front three of Downing, Fabio Borini and Luis Suarez looks like their sole option. We hope for Rodgers' sake that there are some magic words in that dossier.
Manchester City: Anybody
There's a twee saying about standing still being the same as going backwards and at the moment Manchester City are rolling back down the hill they climbed in May because they have done absolutely no incoming business. Even a successful squad needs tweaking and Roberto Mancini apparently drew up a wish-list at the end of last season that included a world-class centre-half, a defensive midfielder, a speedy winger and a new (presumably trouble-free) striker. He's got nothing but an ever-increasing ball of anxiety.
There's a new era of financial prudence at City which should be applauded, but Mancini will not be putting his hands together if he enters next season with Stefan Savic in his first-team squad and James Milner as his fourth-choice central midfielder. A reported move for Scott Sinclair this week possibly revealed more than is comfortable about Mancini's desperation to get a new face through the foor...even if that new face sits atop the body of an average Premier League footballer.
Sunderland: A Striker
At the moment Sunderland's list of strikers reads thus: Stephane Sessegnon, Fraizer Campbell, Connor Wickham and Dong-Won Ji. That larder looks relatively well-stocked in comparison with the famine at Tottenham, but that quartet produced a grand total of 11 goals in the Premier League last season and none of them looks remotely ready to fill the Emile Heskey role in a Martin O'Neill side. And yes, that is a criticism of sorts.
Sunderland's pursuit of Steven Fletcher has been relentless and their desperation will probably see the Scot's price driven up to a quite unbelievable £12m. On paper he exactly fits the bill - a strong header of the ball who thrives on wing play - but you do wonder if they've put all their eggs in one rapidly balding basket. What happens if Tottenham's desperation exceeds theirs and they make a bid? Do they still have Nicklas Bendtner's number?
West Ham: Someone Sexy
It seems odd to use the words 'Andy Carroll' and sexy' in the same sentence anywhere outside the Bigg Market, but the pursuit of the Liverpool striker not only made sense in footballing terms - reprising the Carroll-Nolan refrain from Newcastle - but also in terms of status. It would have been a big splash of a signing that screamed 'we're back' and 'we're a big club' while the signings of George McCartney and James Collins simply whisper 'we need a defence' and 'they've been here before and did okay'.
Dimitar Berbatov and Jermain Defoe have also been mentioned as possible headline-grabbing signings to boost a strikeforce that includes the relatively unknown Modibo Maiga, the relatively limited Carlton Cole and a whole raft of forwards barely tested outside the Championship. None of them has pulling power, none of them make West Ham sexy and none of them will buy Sam Allardyce time with West Ham fans already prepared to scream for his removal for crimes against their idea of football. They have a week to find a name and no, Louis Saha simply will not do.