Have The Top Six Met Their Targets?

Date published: Tuesday 27th January 2015 8:20

Have The Top Six Met Their Targets?

What we said they needed in June: At least two players, but no more than four. It’s not an overhaul Arsenal require, simply reinforcements. In yet another Groundhog Day-themed transfer window, a holding midfielder and a world-class striker are needed, only this time you can add a first-choice goalkeeper to the list and possibly another centre-back. The latter depends more on the progress of Gabriel, but the other three must be priorities. Francis Coquelin has been a welcome surprise but can be improved upon, David Ospina is not good enough for a title challenge and Olivier Giroud needs support if not competition. Theo Walcott’s contract wants sorting, too.
How that’s gone so far: We did mention the words ‘Groundhog’ and ‘Day’. Predictably, Arsenal only did two of the above (new goalkeeper, Theo’s contract) and Arsene Wenger has talked rather more about ‘cohesion’ than buying fripperies like new defensive midfielders and strikers. Gabriel’s performance against Liverpool suggests we were right to make centre-half a low priority but we stand by our original diagnosis: They need two more players for a title challenge.

What we said they needed in June
: Not much, to be honest. Their starting XI ought to remain untouched, with just squad improvements necessary. Petr Cech will almost certainly leave along with Didier Drogba, so Jose Mourinho will look to ensure both are replaced adequately. Add in the emergence of youth players such as Dominic Solanke, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Patrick Bamford, and they might not need to dip into the market. It’s all looking pretty rosy at Stamford Bridge.
How that’s gone so far: Hmmm. If I hadn’t been on holiday when that piece was written, I would have strongly suggested a slight re-write: Chelsea did not require major surgery but they definitely needed more squad depth, having left themselves in a position where Victor Moses, Ramires and John Obi Mikel were the next midfielders off the rank after the first XI. As I wrote in July, that was a massive gamble on 11/12 players remaining fit, in form and motivated for another season. To that end, Pedro was swiftly bought after a stuttering start to the season while John Stones and Paul Pogba remain £100m-worth of pretty ambitious targets.

What we said they needed in June:
Quite. A. Lot. Depending on whether Simon Mignolet is now deemed good enough for their aspirations, it could be argued that every position needs strengthening. In fairness, deficiencies in certain areas could be cured by simply playing players in their correct positions, such as Emre Can in central midfield and Raheem Sterling (if he remains at the club) on the wing or behind a striker. A new right-back will be needed, as will central defensive competition, while Steven Gerrard leaves a hole in midfield. The biggest problem, of course, comes in the striking department.
How that’s gone so far: Well, Monday’s 0-0 draw with Arsenal saw Liverpool start with five new signings – three cast-iron upgrades (Nathaniel Clyne, James Milner and Christian Benteke), a very promising youngster (Joe Gomez) and a player that leaks (he doesn’t quite ooze) potential to fill the Raheem Sterling gap (Roberto Firmino). It’s gone pretty well. Right now, changes in coaching personnel have apparently solved the central defensive problem without need for further outlay; Dejan Lovren could yet be one of two successes from the disastrous summer of 2014.

What we said they needed in June:
More homegrown players, in a nutshell. Six players fit said criteria as of the end of the season, but take Frank Lampard out of the equation and it becomes five. James Milner also seems almost certain to depart the Etihad to make it just four homegrown players. That doesn’t come close to meeting the quota, and Dedryck Boyata has already left. If they can fulfil said obligations with a couple of full-backs, a midfielder and a couple of strikers, it’d be killing many birds with fewer stones.
How that’s gone so far: They needed homegrown and they bought homegrown: Raheem Sterling, Fabian Delph and Patrick Roberts. That was predictable but what has surprised is a) that they spent big money once again on a centre-half in Nicolas Otamendi and b) that they allowed both Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic to leave without bringing in another out-and-out striker; that’s a big gamble on Wilfried Bony as the only real back-up to the oft-hamstrung Sergio Aguero. Is the promotion of Kelechi Iheanacho the first step towards solving long-term homegrown issues through the much-vaunted youth system? We hope so. Oh and it turns out their currently excellent full-backs were secretly just taking a season off. Kevin de Bruyne? What a lovely, lovely bonus.

What we said they needed in June:
Having already signed Memphis Depay, United’s next priorities are likely to be a starting centre-half, right-back and forward. Louis van Gaal has also made it clear he wants another holding midfielder to compete with Michael Carrick, while a new goalkeeper may well be needed to replace David de Gea. Plenty to do, then.
How that’s gone so far: Plenty to do and plenty was done quite early in the window – not one but two holding midfielders, a right-back and a goalkeeper were all on board by the end of July. And then it all went very, very quiet. And now here we are, days from the end of the transfer window, and Manchester United have just one senior (and stuttering) striker. They also have left-back/central midfielder Daley Blind at centre-half. Is Louis van Gaal’s insistence that he does not need a striker just an elaborate bluff to keep prices down or is this really, really it? Is Marouane Fellaini really Wayne Rooney’s back-up? Really? Forget fanciful Neymar talk, right now any striker would do…

What we said they needed in June:
A new spine and a bit of ambition. Pochettino has already added Kevin Wimmer but another proven centre-half is required, on top of a central midfielder and a striker. Spurs will be wary of beginning another revolution, but the reality is that there is much fat to trim from the squad. Most of it was bought in the last three years.
How that’s gone so far: Oh dear. There’s been a whole load of fat-trimming (hurrah) but not a great deal of spine-building (boo). The proven centre-half was bought but Tottenham have bizarrely failed to strengthen in central midfield – starting the season with Eric Dier and Nabil Bentaleb screaming the opposite of ambition there. Their inactivity has been just plain odd. Harry Kane is already fatigued and his potential back-up is a young striker with one season of Ligue 1 football (seven goals) to his name. Ever-increasing bids for Saido Berahino have been made them look exactly as desperate as they should on August 26.
Sarah Winterburn

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