I hope you all had a great summer, even if the European Championships were underwhelming to say the least. Swansea reject Eder scoring Portugal’s winner in the final is a sentance I never thought i’d see!
This blog will be shorter than others, but will contain my predictions for the season ahead, including players and teams to watch out for, both in the UK and in Europe.
After watching the first month of the new season pass, a couple of things have caught my attention which I wanted to write about.
Conte, Mourinho and Pep have done brilliantly to settle so quickly.
With Chelsea and both Manchester clubs recording 3 wins out of 3 so far, it has surprised me how all 3 managers have managed to get their teams to settle so quick. People may argue that they have had relatively easy games, but as Hull have proved so far, anyone can beat anyone in the Premier League. All 3 managers will probably agree that their preferred “philosophies” have not been fully implemented yet, but with so many players going away on international duty over the summer, it may take a while; possibly looking in to October, before we see the best of these teams.
This summer has seen transfer fees rise to a level that can’t be competed with anywhere in the world.
Paul Pogba. Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Moussa Sissoko. David Luiz. Sadio Mane. Granit Xhaka. Shkodran Mustafi. N’golo Kante. Michy Batshuayi. Christian Benteke. Yannick Bolasie. Islam Slimani. John Stones. Leroy Sane. Eric Bailly.
All of the players above have moved to a club in the Premier League for a fee believed to be £25m or higher. Paul Pogba in particular broke the world record transfer fee by moving to Manchester United for what is believed to be £93.5m, on wages of over £250,000 per week.
£100,000 per week contracts are now the norm. When English clubs go abroad to sign players, the selling club know that they can double, treble or even quadruple the asking price, because they know of the now infamous TV deal and the money that brings. Everyone wants a slice of the very expensive cake. When will we see the first £200m, £250m, even £1bn player? Probably sooner than we all think.
A strange summer in Spain.
FC Barcelona have had an exceptional summer transfer window. They have bought exactly what they needed to freshen up the squad in the areas which have been looking weak for a while now. Samuel Umtiti has joined from Lyon to provide a solid defensive base with Pique, Andre Gomes has joined from Valencia to offer fresh legs in a midfield which is now showing it’s age with Iniesta, as brilliant as he is, starting to slow down and Paco Alcacer, Valencia’s talented center forward, offering proper competition to the best front 3 ever seen in world football. Other signings such as Lucas Digne and Denis Suarez also offer great competition to a squad which needed a freshening up.
It has been a very different story for Real Madrid, however. After exercising their buy back clause for Alvaro Morata from Juventus, the European Champions failed to add to their squad. Rumors started to come out of the club that Zidane and Perez disagreed on signings, including a defensive midfielder (Zidane wanted Matic; Perez did not). As talented as their squad is, I struggle to see them maintaining a strong front in both the League and Champions League this season.
Atletico, determined to bounce back from the crushing disappointment of losing the European Cup final to Real on penalties, have had a strong summer. Goalscoring machine Kevin Gameiro has moved from Sevilla to the Calderon, whilst winger Nico Gaitan from Benfica and Croatian right-back Sime Vrsaljko joins from Sassuolo to add to the exceptionally hard working and resolute squad that Diego Simeone has put together. I would not be surprised at all if they finish above their cross-city rivals this year.
Oh and one more quick thing – make sure you watch Sampaoli’s Sevilla team when possible. It’s going to be a lot of fun (they won 6-4 against Espanyol in their first league game). Goals goals goals.
Juventus have replaced Pogba very well.
Any team who loses a player of Pogba’s calibre is expected to struggle to replace him. Especially with everything he brings – the gold hair and Dabbing included. However, by signing Bosnian magician Miralem Pjanic, Juventus have signed one of the best replacements possible (not forgetting they’ve weakened one of their strongest league rivals in the process).
At 26 years old, Pjanic is entering the prime of his career. Known for his unbelievable free kicks and technical ability, he cost a third of the price of Pogba (£26m) and will arguably have the same, if not more, impact than the Frenchman. Pjanic shone in a Roma team who were the 3rd or 4th best team in Italy at the very most. I am very excited to see how he handles the pressure of being Pogba’s replacement in Turin.
Borussia Dortmund really could give Bayern a proper challenge in the Bundesliga this season.
When Pep Guardiola announced he was leaving Bayern Munich towards the middle of last season and Carlo Ancelotti would be replacing him, I immediately thought one thing; Dortmund have a real chance of winning the Bundesliga if they keep Aubameyang, Reus and Hummels.
Well, 2 out of 3 wasn’t bad.
Borussia Dortmund are in the Barcelona bracket of teams who have had an excellent summer in regards to transfers. Yes, their captain Mats Hummels left the club to join the Bundesliga champions and Ilkay Gundogan has left to join Pep’s Manchester City, but the replacements and additions have been very impressive.
Marc Bartra has joined from Barcelona and looks to have settled straight away, forming a strong partnership with Greek center half Sokratis, while Sebastien Rode and Mario Gotze and could prove to be 2 excellent signings in Tuchel’s grand plan to topple Bayern and replace Gundogan who will be sorely missed with his metronome passing in Midifeld. With Osumane Dembele and Andre Schurrle also joining the club, BVB now have a squad to last the season. This is the best chance in the last 4 years they have to go all the way.
My predictions for the season ahead
Feel free to comment on this blog with your suggestions as to who you think will win what this season, or tweet me with them! @eastterrace00 is my Twitter handle.
Runners up: Manchester City
Relegation: Crystal Palace, Watford, Hull
FA Cup winners: Manchester United
Runners up: Atletico Madrid
Relegation: Leganes, Osasuna, Eibar
Copa del Rey winners: Atletico Madrid
Winners: Bayern Munich
Runners up: Borussia Dortmund
Relegation: Darmstadt, Freiburg, Augsburg
DFB Pokal winners: Borussia Dortmund
Runners up: Inter Milan
Relegation: Bologna, Pescara, Chievo
Coppa Italia winners: Juventus
Champions League Winners: FC Barcelona
Europa League winners: Schalke
(interesting that no bookmaker has offered odds larger than 1,500/1 for any team to win the Premier League last season after Leicester took them to the cleaners at 5,000/1 – still doesn’t seem real they won it)
Thank you for reading this blog. I am always interested to hear what any readers think and warmly encourage feedback as to how I can improve.