Utd topping off-season activity
Posted Saturday, August 9 2014 at 01:00
Rating transfer market activity is a strenuous process. You can only get an accurate picture of how well a team performed in the off-season market after August 16 when action gets underway. Tottenham Hotspurs’ failure to gain any traction from a 110m pound cash blitz is a lesson that numbers alone cannot deliver a team to its stated goals. So which teams have used the summer break to best use?
Man United A+
Stung by a string of forgettable results last season, the record EPL champions have delivered an A+ in the transfer market.
The board reacted to the Red Devils’ worst league position in two decades by dismissing David Moyes and recruiting respected Dutch tactician Louis van Gaal. The former Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and AZ Alkmaar tactician is the polar opposite of Moyes. Where the Scot epitomized self-doubt, Van Gaal exudes confidence.
A self-proclaimed innovator within the game, the 62-year-old has made a string of off-pitch changes that can only yield positive dividends.
The installation of surveillance cameras to monitor training, use of round tables at meal-time to improve team bonding, change of the training pitch to a half-synthetic surface, introduction of beds at the Carrington training ground to allow for double training sessions and system change to a 3-5-2 all point to a man who is on top of his game.
A five-match winning streak in the International Champions Cup in which United has beaten Inter Milan, AS Roma, Real Madrid and Liverpool has lifted spirits at Old Trafford. That Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw are the only other summer arrivals so far is a side issue. Van Gaal is the top Premiership arrival this summer.
Jose Mourinho has recruited heavily while maintaining a cash surplus. Cesc Fabregas, Felipe Luis, Didier Drogba and Diego Costa are class acts who will improve on Chelsea’s 82-point tally from last season. The double European champions’ major trump card has, however, been the decision to recall loaned stars Thibaut Courtois, Oriel Romeu and Kurt Zouma.
I am giving Chelsea an A- because they sold Romelu Lukaku and failed to replace him. Lack of goals could yet haunt the Happy One. Manchester City A
- Though the champions have only brought in Eliaquim Mangala, Willy Caballero and Fernando, their biggest coup was convincing coach Manuel Pellegrini to reject approaches from the Brazil FA to become Luis Felipe Scolari’s replacement. The Chilean has meanwhile achieved a major coup by assuring unsettled star Yaya Toure he still has a future at the Ettihad Stadium.
Arsenal B+ This could be Arsene Wenger’s season. The Frenchman has suppressed his frugal nature and is now shopping from the top drawer. Mesut Ozil’s big-money arrival from Real Madrid has been followed by Alexis Sanchez’s recruitment from Barcelona. If the eldest statesman of the league can convince Sami Khedira to swap the Bernabeu for the Emirates, Wenger will have the team to match his title rivals. Of course he will also need the luck to avoid injuries.
Liverpool B- Brendan Rodgers knows that a leaky defense that shipped in 50 goals and replacing Luis Suarez is a Herculean task. He has tried to splash the cash, with Lambert, Lallana and Lovren arriving from Southampton with recognized Premiership experience. The B- is because Rodgers allowed Divock Origi to stay at Lille on loan. Any player that can keep Lukaku out of Belgium’s starting line up has to be some player.
Southampton E- The Saints have dismantled four years of good work by letting go of a team that had become a paragon of efficiency. Losing chairman Nicola Cortese was a catalyst for an exodus that has filled the coffers but left the team short of quality. Ronald Koeman may yet prove to be a worthy successor to Mauricio Pochettino but I can’t see how they will replace Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Callum Chambers.