Football is back! The Premier League kicked off this weekend with a number of big results. Defending champions Chelsea lost at home to Burnley, finishing with just 9 men on the pitch. Newly-promoted Huddersfield gave their fans the perfect start to life in the top tier with a 3-0 win at Crystal Palace and Manchester United gave evidence that they could be back to their best with an impressive 4-0 win against West Ham.
I wasn’t able to watch any of the matches live this weekend, but just from watching Match of the Day I was able to notice a few things:
I was surprised to see how few of the big squads appeared so far off a completed squad this weekend. While the big money and the recognition will generally go to the attacking players, there is a big need to have a complete squad. New star strikers Alvaro Morata, Romelu Lukaku and Alexandre Lacazette all opened their accounts in the league in their first match, while Wayne Rooney also marked his return to Everton with a goal. However while many of these teams looked good in attack, the defences often seemed questionable at best. Both Arsenal and Liverpool proved this weekend that they have strength in depth going forward, but both also conceded 3 goals, which proved costly for Liverpool. Chelsea also appeared to struggle at the back, though this may have been in part due to losing Gary Cahill to an early (and correct) red card.
A look at the matchday squads for each of the big 6 will make grim reading for a number of fans. United and, to a lesser degree City, probably had the strongest balanced benches, while Arsenal had a strong bench in terms of attacking quality but less so in terms of defensive solidity. Chelsea’s bench especially looked remarkably weak, with Morata the only outfield player that you could imagine being a regular starter. With the league, 2 domestic cups and Europe all on offer, a deep squad will be vital and I expect many of these squads to be adding players before the transfer deadline.
I think that Liverpool need to sign a 20+ goals-a-season striker like Arsenal have with Lacazette, especially considering Philippe Coutinho seems set for a move to Barcelona, but I think that both should look to get reliable defenders in order to take the pressure off the attackers. Spurs need to find a striker that can be relied upon to ease the pressure on Harry Kane, while Chelsea look like they need options in pretty much every position. Keep an eye on those transfer rumours…
On their way
It’s not just transfers in that clubs will be looking at over the next few weeks, as there are a number of clubs trying to hang onto star players. Coutinho, Diego Costa, Danny Rose, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Ross Barkley, Alexis Sanchez and Virgil van Dijk are all key players for their squads but were all missing from this weekend’s matches. Many of these players were cited as having injuries, however it seems convenient timing considering some are likely unsure as to whether they want to play for the club, and some have actively requested a move away.
In my view it is the right decision to not select a player who does not want to be at the club. People who read my article a few months ago regarding the transfer saga between Carl Fearns and Gloucester Rugby will already know that I would always rather have a group of players on the pitch who want to play for the shirt and will put in 100% effort. I understand that football is a business and clubs want to get a decent fee for star players, but surely it is better to get £20m for a £30m player and get his wages off the books, as this is money that can be used to get a player/players to strengthen the squad. Come September, it will be interesting to see how many of these players are still at their current clubs…