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Looking through the transfer window...

Tuesday 19th July 2011
...the top six

As the summer progresses through days of ever-increasing amounts rain and drizzle, I thought I'd stay indoors and actually write something about the transfer window.

I had a look at how well (who I consider to be) the top six Premier League teams are doing at the moment and what they need to do in the next few weeks of spending...

ARSENAL

'Were once invincible now unconvincing.'

So far they've brought in Gervinho and Carl Jenkinson. Putting the latter down as a hot prospect, Gervinho seems like the stereotypical Arsenal winger; quick, tricky and fluent in french. Okay, he's got a little something about him that catches the eye but it's only that he shows some initiative when running towards opponents (unlike Theo "running straight at brick walls" Walcott).

The Gunners only have one confirmed sale in Gael Clichy's £7m move to Manchester City, which isn't a great concern when they have Kieran Gibbs as cover. If the unconfirmed rumours are true then Arsenal could lose Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona. It wouldn't be the worst outcome as Jack Wilshere has proved to be a suitable replacement on more than one occasion, including when he faced Barca in the Last-16 of last season's Champions League. The real issue with that is that they're losing their 'loyal' captain.

Despite rumours about the attacking third of the pitch, Arsenal's problem area is still the defence. Without a new goalkeeper and a new central defender they are already toast in the title race. They need a young Jens Lehmann to fill the gap between the sticks; maybe Manuel Neuer or Hugo Lloris would fit the bill. Okay, so they're a bit pricey but I'm betting someone like Samir Handanovic would do better than last year's troublesome trio.* The defender needs to be a solid header of the ball who clears danger in a no-nonsense way. Too many of Arsenal's back four are indecisive (need I remind you of the Carling Cup Final Szczesny-Koscielny incident or the 2-3 turnover at home to Spurs) and need leadership. Spend big in this area of the pitch, take a risk, use up a chunk of the budget on Philippe Mexes and win the Premier League.

*NOTE - The returning Vito Mannone isn't a valid replacement. Even if he had a great loan spell last year Mr Wenger. You'll end up with a carbon copy of Wojciech Szczesny's roller-coaster début season.

CHELSEA

'A team capable of great things without further investment.'

Andre Villas-Boas has been the only new confirmed arrival of the summer for Chelsea and why not? With the likes of Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, John Terry, Alex, David Luiz, Ramires, Florent Malouda, Frank Lampard, Nicolas Anelka, Daniel Sturridge, Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres on the books already. Villas-Boas will apparently look for a "fresh approach" to football at Stamford Bridge after leaving his job at Porto where he built a treble-winning team in his first year as manager. As part of this approach he has apparently struck a deal to bring in young Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois from Belgian Champions Genk.

So far, amongst the rumours surrounding Drogba and Kalou, only fringe players Michael Mancienne, Jack Cork and Jeffrey Bruma have left the club (Bruma on loan). With a new manager comes a new chance to make the matchday squad so I don't expect much outward movement in the coming weeks.

What Chelsea need and what they will get are two different things. The current squad is filled with potential championship-winners and although Michael Essien was recently ruled out for six months after cruciate ligament surgery, he can be replaced internally without serious money being spent. Villas-Boas is a hard-working perfectionist who can turn Chelsea into world-beaters. However, with Abramovic spying a potential mutiny at Spurs the Russian could still try and land Luka Modric for a healthy fee before the start of September.

LIVERPOOL

'Full of confidence under King Kenny. They could be contenders.'

After a huge injection of cash by new owner John W. Henry it looks like Liverpool have the resources to reach the top four again. However, Dalglish will need to get rid of at least two or three players if he wants to avoid a major selection headache every Saturday from now on. Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam  have all arrived expecting to walk into a five-man-midfield that still includes Steven Gerrard, Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodriguez, Alberto Aquilani and Raul Meireles. Experienced Brazilian goalkeeper Alexander Doni is the only other signing confirmed by the club; a wise choice of backup when you consider Brad Jones' record at Anfield.

In outward transfer news, Youngsters Dean Bouzanis and Nikola Saric both left the club for free. Meanwhile, Stephen Darby has gone on loan to Rochdale and Gerardo Bruna has left his spot in the reserve team for Blackpool. Paul Konchesky (a player whose career has faltered since West Ham) was signed by Leicester City in the week where he will expect some serious playing time under ex-England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Liverpool have a top striker, half a squad ready to populate the midfield, some very experienced central defenders and a world class goalkeeper. All they need is some consistency at fullback; instead of changing Jamie Carragher from left to right every three weeks.

MANCHESTER CITY

'An out-of-control budget that could still lead to the title.'

There are so many players linked to Manchester City it would be a small project to look into all of them. The only confirmed signings so far are defenders Stefan Savic and Gael Clichy; making little sense given the fact that Micah Richards, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov still find themselves at the club.

Carlos Tevez has his mind set on leaving and City finally accepted an offer from Corinthians for the striker today. Emmanuel Adebayor is waiting for Real Madrid to rescue him after Roberto Mancini told the Togo striker he'll have to spend the next year with the City reserves if he stays at Eastlands. A transfer that looks certain to go through soon is Shay Given to Aston Villa. The Irish keeper can't stand being Joe Hart's backup for another year and sees Villa as a suitable place to restart his career. Patrick Vieira retired recently, which was a huge loss for the world of football. Vieira will be best remembered for his time at Arsenal from 1996-2005. The reserve transfers that went through were those you would expect at this point in time; youngsters Donal McDermott, Scott Kay and Andrew Tutte leaving in search of first-team football in the lower leagues. David Gonzalez was the only youngster to leave on loan; he'll play with Aberdeen next season.

The only problem facing City now is where to put a stop to their transfer budget. With all their money they need some sort of team structure and a limit on their spending during July and August. It's every FIFA 11-player's dream to own half of the footballing world but as an application in the real world it is impossible to maintain for more than a single year. You simply cannot keep a squad of 30 superstars happy every week when there are only ever 18 spaces in the dressing room. Even on a rotation system the players would have to swap out every weekend for someone different. My point is; as fantastic as £150,000 per-week wages are, they're not enough to stop someone having the desire to play football in the Premier League.

MANCHESTER UNITED

'Building a bright future from the top.'

The first club to truly put their hands in their pockets during June and their three recent signings have been a breath of fresh air. David De Gea, Phil Jones and Ashley Young actually look like they'll fit into Sir Alex's squad next season. Admittedly, De Gea getting the number one jersey would probably force Tomasz Kuszczak out of the club but he's not someone United would particularly miss (especially after the mistakes he made last year). Jones will most likely spend a lot of time on the sidelines but may get some experience alongside Chris Smalling in the FA or Carling Cup tournaments. Young can take his place on the wing where he belongs but either Nani or Valencia will have to step aside. So far, with Valencia skipping United's tour of America it looks like he'll be the one to miss out.

There have been so many people leaving United in recent months. Edwin Van Der Sar and Paul Scholes retired after a total of 652 appearances over a combined 26 years with the Red Devils. John O'Shea and Wes Brown also left the club hoping to make a mark at Sunderland next season. Youngster Conor Devlin and injury-prone Owen Hargreaves were released unsurprisingly. In terms of loans; Ryan Tunnicliffe went to Peterborough United, Ritchie De Laet to Norwich and out-of-favour Bebe to Besiktas. Reserves Joe Dudgeon and Nick Ajose were sold to Hull and Peterborough Utd respectively.

What Manchester United need is a goalkeeper to replace Van Der Sar and in De Gea they may have found one. Although just 20-years-old, De Gea has a lot of experience at the top level of football in La Liga as well as winning trophies with the under-17's and under-20's of Spain. They are current Premier League Champions and already look like they'll be really hard to beat next year.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

'Punching above their weight'

Tottenham have taken this season's transfer window as an opportunity to get rid of some players that have no future at White Hart Lane. Injury-stricken Jonathan Woodgate recently signed for Stoke City after being released in June.  Jamie O'Hara had spent some of last season on loan to Wolves and they made his contract permanent at Molineux for £5m. From the reserves, Steven Caulker left the club to spend a year on loan with Premier League newbies Swansea.

Spurs are always looking for talent, regardless of what Harry Redknapp says. Brad Friedel was singed for free last month and he'll bring new-found confidence to the back four. Gomes makes far too many mistakes and Carlo Cudicini is seen as backup these days so something had to change between the sticks.

What Tottenham really want to find is the common sense to play Peter Crouch up front. Throughout the last few years he's been left on the side by Liverpool, England and now Spurs but that has to change. Crouch has huge ability (literally) and combined with Jermaine Defoe can produce goals. Forget trying Roman Pavlyuchenko in every high-pressure game, it's not working Harry, get a grip of the front line and the midfield won't have to work so hard. On a different but very important note; the back four needs some solidarity. If Ledley King isn't fit then stop paying his wages and give a youngster, who's willing to work his socks off for the team, a chance. Also, if you want a new player then go after one but don't tell the world you're not interested (the world's not stupid).

That's all so far...

I'm sure that's not the most comprehensive (or accurate) (or readable) guide to the top six but I just wanted to look at the transfer window myself. The way I see it, Man Utd and Chelsea could be the only serious title challengers once again but Man City's constant fountain of cash could be the boost they need to catch up. Liverpool and Arsenal are looking reasonably strong with Tottenham bringing up the rear at the moment but given a few weeks that could all change.

Chris Deacon.
Chris Deacon

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