Home > Football, Premiership, Soccer, Sport, Transfers > The State of Play: 01/07/07

The State of Play: 01/07/07

    The original FA Premier League logo, used until 2007

 It’s July people. The players are filtering back into training. The transfer window has been flung open for all to buy and sell (except Blackburn who don’t seem to want to change a thing about their team). Shock moves have already happened: Thierry Henry’s move to Barcelona may not have been that big a shock, but the fact that Spurs rate Darren Bent as being worth more than the mercurial Frenchman came as quite a surprise to us here. Bent’s good, he really is, a solid striker: not too spectacular, but clinical enough to have forced his way into the England setup from an unfashionable club like Charlton. Still, can’t help feeling that Charlton will be laughing their way to the bank with 16.5 million squids in their back pocket. There’s possibly a few Spurs directors in there as well.

Man Utd have certainly strengthened the most in terms of buying top notch prospects; we rate Hargreaves as a prospect because anyone whose claim to fame is having won medals with the biggest team in Germany and had a good World Cup in an underperforming team, still has to convince us of his merits. Especially at just shy of 20million pounds. There’s no doubt Utd fans and players will be excited at the prospect of Nani and Anderson arriving. Two entertaining players to join what is an exciting team already smacks of Ferguson wanting to emulate Wenger a little. Ok just hear me out alright? Ferguson is on the cusp of bringing back a great team after a few years in the doldrums; however, Wenger emulates him every year as Arsenal consistently play the best football in the Premiership. Ferguson knows that he has a greater chance of winning silverware next year than his rival, but Ferguson should also realise that last years league title offers Man Utd the springboard to approach the league campaign with more swagger. Although they played some great stuff last year, they also ground out some boring wins over mediocre opposition while Arsenal regularly slipped up but when they won they tended to do so in style. Nani, Ronaldo, Rooney, Anderson, Scholes and Giggs can entertain the crowds more next year than any team Ferguson has ever built at Old Trafford. The question is, will any change of style result in further success or will he, like Wenger, be gaining plaudits rather than medals?

Chelsea have bought wisely, in that they haven’t bought at all. Sidwell, Ben Haim and Pizzaro are all solid free-transfer signings, all hard workers who will fit into the Mourinho mentality of a strong work ethis and discipline on and off the pitch. While Mourinho doesn’t always behave like a gent, he certainly demands it of his players and those who fall out of line, regularly fall straight back in after a period of exile, as John Obi Mikel found out last year when he didn’t prioritise his training and was shut out of the first team, coming back bigger and better for the experience. Mourinho is not quick to compliment those who don’t deserve it but he saves his biggest compliments for those who genuinely do, and the hardest workers, Essien, Carvalho, Drogba, are never short of praise from their manager and deservedly so.  Chelsea will recruit one or two and sell one or two, those signings will prove crucial, and come kick-off next month, expect nothing less than 100% from Mourinho’s men.

As far as relegation contenders go, it will be hard to tell the three likeliest candidates as there are more than enough teams who could find themselves in trouble. While Birmingham and Sunderland may both be involved (regardless of Keane or the millions he has to spend, it seems he’s having trouble convincing top names to come to the north-east), it’s Derby fans who will be more concerned. Birmingham and Sunderland fans will remember their recent Premiership campaigns while Derby haven’t graced the top league for five years, spending the time in between languishing near the Championship relegation area. Experience counts for something, although try telling that to Reading who took the league by storm last year. Reading may struggle this year, one of their best players has left in Sidwell and others are being linked with exits while incoming players seem scarce. Regardless, they should stay up, as should Middlesbrough, but stranger things have happened.

The likes of Wigan, Bolton and Fulham are all potential relegation candidates. Althoughnew Wigan boss Chris Hutchings has brought in some good players, he’s also brought in Titus Bramble. While not as bad a player as often reported, his concentration remains 50-50 and mistakes will be punished especially when he has to learn to play with new teammates and without Shay Given behind him to protect him. Bolton boss Sammy Lee also seems to be struggling to bring in new faces, faces he desperately needs because his current squad is not strong enough to push for the kind of positions they achieved under Sam Allardyce. Fulham are also normally there or thereabouts and although they seem to be attracting some decent players, Diomansy Kamara has suffered relegation before and won’t be a big enough player to save the team single-handedly. Fulham do have some very good players though, and should stay up by the skin of their teeth.

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