Premier teams of the ‘League’ and their season so far
One of the most followed sports across the world, football has its own soul and impacts millions of lives on a daily basis. While the fans may be united when it comes to their national teams, there’s a clear divide as far as club favourites are concerned. The ongoing season of the Premier League has been no different. The teams bring that surprise element from day one with the retention and transfer news, while the fans hope for their team’s success at all costs. During the summer transfer window for 2019/20 season, the deadline day signings in the Premier League took spending up to £1.41b (approx. HK$ 14.1b), just short of the £1.43b (approx. HK$ 14.3b) transfer record made in the summer of 2017. Apart from the additions and omissions in the teams, here’s a season recap for the ‘Big Six’ – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham – in the 29 Game Weeks that have gone by. With 13 Premier League title wins for Manchester United, five for Chelsea, four for Manchester City and three for Arsenal, let’s see who bags the silverware this season.
Arsenal — £120m summer spending (approx. HK$ 1.20b)
Arsenal acquired the services of Brazilian striker Gabriel Martinelli for £6m (approx. HK$ 60m) from Brazilian club Ituano. William Saliba, who arrived at the club for £27m (approx. HK$ 270m), was returned on loan to French club Saint-Etienne for the remainder of the season. The club broke their transfer record as they splurged £72m (approx. HK$ 720m) to rope in Nicolas Pepe from French club LOSC Lille. The 24-year-old winger from Ivory Coast has been a regular in the team. The Gunners strengthened their defence as they added Celtic leftback Kieran Tierney for a fee of £25m (approx. HK$ 250m). But the most surprising signing of all came on the deadline day when the club bought former Brazilian centre-back David Luiz from rivals Chelsea at a bargain of £8m (approx. HK$ 80m). The Gunners also have Spanish centre-back Pablo Mari and Portuguese right-back Cedric Soares on loan from Brazilian club Flamengo and English club Southampton, respectively. Spanish midfielder Dani Ceballos is also a part of the squad as the 22-year-old joined on loan from the Spanish club Real Madrid.
Arsenal began their campaign with a well-fought victory over Newcastle (1-0) but started falling apart after their encounter with Liverpool (1-3). This was followed by nine winless games on the trot across all competitions, including a draw against Wolves (1-1) and losses against Leicester City (0-2) and Brighton and Hove Albion (1-2). After their defeat against German club Eintracht Frankfurt (1-2) in the Europa League, Unai Emery, who had been in charge of the team for the past 18 months, was sacked by the board. Former Swedish footballer Freddie Ljungberg was appointed the interim head coach until the club appointed former Arsenal player Mikel Arteta. Arteta, who was a part of the team from 2011-2016, made 150 appearances for the club. However, there was very little that the Spaniard could do with his new role. With 40 points on board, Arsenal is placed ninth after 28 matches. Unless they register back to back wins and qualify for the Europa League, it is most likely that they will end up on the seventh position.
Chelsea — £ 40m summer spending (approx. HK$ 400m)
The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) had imposed a transfer ban for one window on Chelsea as they had breached the rules while signing overseas youth players. As a result, the club had little to no business conducted in this transfer market. Fortunately for the Blues, they had anticipated the ban and had made good use of the winter transfer window in January 2019. The club signed 21-year-old Christian Pulisic from German club Borussia Dortmund for £58m (approx. HK$ 580m). Chelsea fans were happy to have his services, especially after the departure of club legend Eden Hazard. However, the American has been sidelined due to an injury. Chelsea strengthened their midfield by recruiting Mateo Kovacic for £40m (approx. HK$ 400m) from Real Madrid. Apart from these two, the club made no other significant signings and decided to promote five youth academy graduates to their first team. Under the leadership of coach Frank Lampard and assistant coach Jody Morris, the youngsters have shown promise and as of week 29, Chelsea is placed fourth with 48 points.
It wasn’t the best of the starts for Chelsea as they suffered a massive defeat against Manchester United (0-4) in the first game of the season. The team registered consecutive losses when Liverpool edged past on penalties in the UEFA Super Cup fixture. Initially, the team managed only one win out of four games but slowly started recovering as they recorded six wins on the trot. The biggest disappointment for the Blues has been their inconsistency. With nine games to go, it will be interesting to see how the young team handles the pressure. Most likely, Chelsea will secure a birth in the Champions League next season.
Liverpool — £8.5m summer spending (approx. HK$ 85m)
This may be the year the Reds have been long dreaming of. Liverpool is the only team in this list that has been consistent throughout the season so far. During the transfer window, the club did not shell out much but still managed to put together a formidable unit. With Jurgen Klopp at the wheel, Liverpool has transformed to a great extent in the last two years. With the acquisition of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Virgil van Dijk, the club had little to do. Japanese striker Takumi Minamino was bought for £7.3m (approx. HK$ 73m) from Austrian club RB Salzburg. Spanish goalkeeper Adrian was added to the roster after his tenure with West Ham United came to an end. Due to an injury to first choice goalkeeper Alisson Becker, Englishman Andy Lonergan was included in the squad as cover. Liverpool also signed Sepp van den Berg, Harvey Elliot and Joe Hardy as a part of their development squad.
The season started with a loss against Manchester City in the FA Community Shield but the Reds recovered soon by winning the Super Cup on penalties against their English counterparts Chelsea. Every player in the team has been tailored to perfection by coach Klopp in the past couple of years. Their work rate, creativity and work off the ball has been top-notch. So far, the Reds have lost just once in the Premier League. The gameplay exhibited by the players, regardless of the opponent’s stature, has been the most impressive element. Constant pressure, fast-flowing attacks and accurate finishes; these three simple things have aided Liverpool and their bid to finally win the Premier League title. The table toppers have a sizeable lead of 25 points after 29 games. While the odds are in favour of the club, we will have to wait and watch whether Liverpool manages to bring home the silverware.
Manchester City – £138.4m summer spending (approx. HK$ 1.38b)
Defending champions Manchester City once again shelled out millions during the transfer window. Just like Chelsea in the 2000-10s, spending has become a norm in the club. This has become the club’s recipe for success and a domestic treble last season was good enough to justify the club’s expenditure. This season, the Citizens welcomed 23-year-old Rodrigo Hernandez from Spanish club Atletico Madrid for a record signing fee of £62.6m (approx. HK$ 626m). Coach Pep Guardiola spent a hefty amount in order to get the signatures of Portuguese right-back Joao Cancelo from Juventus. As per reports, City paid a fee of £60m (approx. HK$ 600m) along with Brazilian right-back Danilo Luiz da Silva switching camps. The club also acquired the services of 22-year-old Angelino from Dutch club PSV Eindhoven for £5.35m (approx. HK$ 53.5m). City also roped in Pedro Porro, Zack Steffen, Scott Carson, and Ryotaro Meshino. However, they were immediately loaned out to other clubs for the remainder of the season.
Until now, Manchester City has been very consistent this season. They haven’t had elongated rough patches between their games unlike, Arsenal or Chelsea. Man City got off to a flying start as they won the FA Community Shield and the initial fixtures in the league. However, against Wolverhampton Wanderers, City recorded another loss, making it three out of four against the Wolves. Despite these losses, the team bounced back strongly and outplayed Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. Man City has already won one silverware this season by lifting the Carabao Cup. Goals from Sergio Aguero and Rodri helped the team beat Aston Villa (2-1). In the Premier League, City is placed second with 57 points from 28 games; while Liverpool has 82.
Manchester United – £146m summer spending (approx. HK$ 1.46b)
Manchester United fans have long been dreaming of the good old days under Sir Alex Ferguson at their Theatre of Dreams. But to their dismay, those days are nowhere near as of now. Manchester United finished the season on a very strong note when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over as caretaker. He was soon given a full-time role following United’s progression on the points table towards the end of 2018/19 season. Solskjaer started his 2019/20 campaign by signing right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka for a sum of £50m (approx. HK$ 500m) to the English club Crystal Palace. To bolster their defence, Solskjaer made a record signing for the club as he got Harry Maguire for £80m (approx. HK$ 800m) from the English club Leicester City. Midfielders Daniel James and Bruno Fernandes have been roped in for £15m (approx. HK$ 150m) from the Welsh Club Swansea City and £47m (approx. HK$ 470m) from the Portuguese club Lisbon, respectively. Nigerian forward Odion Ighalo and English goalkeeper Nathan Bishop were also added to the roster on loan from other clubs.
The club has persisted with the 4-2-3-1 formation this season with Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford leading the line upfront. However, there have been few games where they resorted to the 3-4-3 formation. The 3-4-3 formation was mastered by Antonio Conte and his Chelsea side in the 2016/17 season. Since then, many teams have tried to adopt the same, but have failed. Same is the case with United. Their most impressive win was in the first game of the season where they beat Chelsea 4-0. However, the team has not been able to secure points against teams such as West Ham United, Newcastle, Watford, and Sheffield United. Currently, they are placed fifth with 45 points on board.
Tottenham Hotspur – £95m summer spending (approx. HK$ 950m)
Tottenham Hotspur signed two players in one day during the transfer window. Their first being 19-year old Jack Clarke from English club Leeds for a fee of £11m (approx. HK$ 110m). This was closely followed by the club-record signing of Tanguy Ndombele from French club Olympique Lyon for a total £55.5m (approx. HK$ 555m). Tottenham then acquired the services of left-back Ryan Sessegnon from Fulham for £25m (HK$ 250m). 22-year-old Dutchman Steven Bergwijn was also roped in for a fee of £27m (approx. HK$ 270m) to PSV Eindhoven. The club added two midfielders in the form of Giovani Lo Celso and Gedson Fernandes on loan from Spanish club Real Betis and Portuguese club Benfica, respectively.
Just like the other teams in this list, Tottenham, too, has had a mixed season so far. The club is currently placed eighth with 41 points. With losses against Chelsea, Southampton, and Liverpool, the team is struggling to get a grip over their ambitions to make it through this season. If you closely analyse the club’s performances over the years, the pattern is somewhat identical. Barring the 2016/17 season where they finished second, the team begins their campaign with a few wins but then suffers losses in the next few games and as a result, the momentum is lost. It has been a similar trend where they finish fourth, fifth or sixth. Post the demolition of the iconic White Hart Lane, the club revealed its new stadium for the season. It was believed that the new home ground would bring in luck and some silverware to boast about. However, the way the team has performed so far, it is unlikely that they will achieve the latter. For now, a place in the top four is what they would be focussing on.
Article by: Raghbir Singh
Featured Image (L-R): Nicolas Pepe, Takumi Minamino, and Steven Bergwijn
* For ease of conversion, the equivalent of 1£ is taken as HK$ 10 instead of 10.11 at the time of writing the story