By Mihail Vladimirov.
As Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool all spent over £50 million this summer, the record for the total amount spent on Premier League transfers was broken. During the calendar year 2008, when Sheik Mansour took control at Eastlands, the league saw £675m spent on new players. In 2011, the league has seen an increase of 33% on the previous year – that’s £710m spent, £225m in the winter and £485m in the summer transfer windows. Now, while some of that figure is the same money recycled amongst the same teams (around £100m includes the Torres-Carroll-Suarez dealings in January), it is still a sizable outlay on playing staff.
For me, the season actually begins when the summer transfer window closes; thus, 1st September is the de facto start of the campaign. The reason is simple – during August one club can drastically change its team, and in turn its expectations and aims. Pre-season preparations, partly because of international commitments, partly because of the amount of business done in late August, are not what they used to be. The first three or four games of the season, then, are where squads settle, their fitness is brought up to standard and they learn to play with each other. Very few teams are at 100% before the kids go back to school.
Once you can no longer make transfers, the real season gets going. There are four months before any significant changes can be made, so everything relies upon the coaching and playing staff to improve a team’s fortunes. Four months is a long time in football; while one club might get a small advantage over the others in those August fixtures (worth nine points out of a possible 114), over the course of the season these are unlikely to prove as decisive as the hard work put in over the autumn months.
The gaps between the sides are not huge this season. As I have said, the “big five” (if it is appropriate to call them that) have spent over £50m each, and each has their own strengths and weaknesses which will show at various points over the year. This is something we have not seen in a long while. Chelsea and Manchester United have regularly been contenders; but now we have a Liverpool emerging from their crisis period, a free spending Manchester City, and an Arsenal side who, whilst seemingly permanently in “transition”, are nowhere near as weak as some commentators would lead you to believe.
Each of the five, then, is looking not only to get into the top four but to see how close to winning the title they can get.
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