Gunners fans will most likely have mixed feelings about a summer which saw last season's hero Robin van Persie depart for their, ahem, title rivals Manchester United. The arrivals of established internationals Santi Cazorla (above) and Lukas Podolski as well as Ligue 1's top scorer Olivier Giroud will have softened the blow, especially seeing as Cazorla has already made a big impact on their solid start to the season. The sale of Alex Song to Barcelona was, however, a puzzling one and there is no denying that Arsenal's midfield could be left wanting in the event of an injury crisis. That being said, Abou Diaby's stellar performances in the opening three games has allayed fears about Song's departure for the time being and Mikel Arteta has began this term in the sort of dependable form that made him such a key figure last time around. The rest of the departures from the Emirates are not as likely to be missed, regardless of what Nicklas Bendtner tells you. All in all, Arsene Wenger has been much more shrewd than he was this time last year and Arsenal look good value for a top four berth as things stand.
A few furrowed brows have been spotted around Villa Park as of late, the main reason being Villa's poor start to the season. But there has been plenty of discussion surrounding new manager Paul Lambert's transfer policy too, the former Norwich manager having recruited eight new players, few of whom were instantly recognisable to Villa supporters. Ron Vlaar was probably the most established of the lot due to his inclusion in Holland's Euro 2012 squad and one or two Football League aficionados may have been acquainted with Matthew Lowton, Jordan Bowery, Joe Bennett and Ashley Westwood prior to their arrival...though it's unlikely. Christian Benteke (above) was reportedly the most costly of the new arrivals and only time will tell if the big Belgian striker can replicate his impressive form for Genk (where he averaged a goal every other game) in claret and blue. Lambert will certainly hope so as there's no doubt he's taking a massive gamble on some of his new recruits, none of which have any previous Premier League experience. That being said, this Villa team has needed freshening up for some time now and the new boys may provide the tonic needed to boost the club's fortunes.
Chelsea have been one of the busier teams this summer, adding six new faces to their squad whilst allowing up to sixteen players to depart the club on either a permanent or short-term basis. It was those that were allowed to leave Stamford Bridge for good that caused the most headlines in particular the hero of their Champions League triumph in Munich, Didier Drogba. But Roberto di Matteo's decision to let go of Raul Meireles and Michael Essien was not without controversy, especially as it could leave his side short of cover in midfield. The Blues have added impressively though, with Eden Hazard having made a quick impression with some eye-catching performances in the league. Marko Marin, Oscar and Victor Moses also add a wealth of attacking quality whilst many will hope that Cesar Azpillicueta (pictured above with Moses) can solve a long-standing problem at right back. Di Matteo will believe his first choice 18 are capable of pushing the Manchester clubs all the way in the title race but will want to avoid any costly injuries to his key performers.
Their weekend defeat to West Bromwich Albion aside, Everton have embarked on an uncharacteristically strong start to the season. Captain Phil Neville puts this down to the haste with which the club conducted their business in the transfer window this summer and he may well have a point. Traditionally, the Toffees have sold late and bought late too and this has often hindered their chances of a good start. Only two new additions (Matthew Kennedy and Bryan Oviedo) arrived on deadline day this time around though, with no key men departing Goodison Park. Kevin Mirallas (above), Steven Naismith and Steven Piennar's signatures were secured relatively early on in the summer, Mirallas's signing coming as a direct response to the sale of Jack Rodwell to Manchester City. Many will have been disappointed to see the talented midfielder leave but the offer from City was a generous one given the player's injury record and allowed the signing of Mirallas, who will add much needed options up front. David Moyes will be relieved as ever that the window is shut and will fancy his side's chances of continuing their strong start.
Arsenal and Fulham fans can sympathise with each other after a transfer window that saw their key performers from last season depart for pastures new, only to be replaced by equally exciting new acquisitions. Whilst attendees at the Emirates are likely to be slightly more enthused by their new additions there is no reason for Fulham fans to be disillusioned with Martin Jol's signings, though they have every right to be disappointed with the sales of Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey after coming so close to keeping the pair. Question marks remain about the decision to release former captain Danny Murphy too, but the signing of Dimitar Berbatov is bound to excite the Craven Cottage faithful. The mercurial Bulgarian is every bit as frustrating as he is talented but there is no doubt his signature is a real coup for the club and he will add further quality to a forward line that already contains Mladen Petric and Hugo Rodallega, both who have enjoyed lively starts for their new club. Kieran Richardson adds versatility to the team and Sascha Riether has been quick to establish himself at right back as Fulham keep the look of a side destined for mid-table.
A frustrating summer for Liverpool as Brendan Rodger's Anfield revolution stutters before it's even began. Quick to move on from the profligacy of Kenny Dalglish's reign, Rodgers sought about acquiring players that fit his very clear ideal of how the game should be played. Enter Joe Allen (above), Nuri Sahin and Fabio Borini and exit Charlie Adam, Andy Carroll, Craig Bellamy, Dirk Kuyt etc. Hypothetically, it all sounds very logical. But the reality is that Liverpool have left themselves desperately short of quality options, particularly in attack. The decision to let Carroll join West Ham United on loan without securing a replacement is especially bizarre when you recall how badly the Reds struggled to score goals last term. Allen and Sahin are excellent additions and Borini possesses the work rate required to thrive in the Premier League, but neither will provide any telling support to Luis Suarez, who has already showcased his tendency to misfire this season. I sense a very testing few months await at Anfield and I sincerely hope the club's owners show Rodgers the sort of support they were not willing to offer either of his predecessors.
At one point this summer it looked as if Roberto Mancini was going to be able to compare notes with Brendan Rodgers about his transfer window frustrations. But a late splurge by his paymasters has left the Italian with a squad that looks even stronger than last season's championship winning side. The addition of Javi Garcia (above) in particular is an excellent one, especially considering he has replaced the popular but often unreliable Nigel de Jong. Matija Nastasic is somewhat of an unknown quantity but surely can't be any worse than Stefan Savic, who has been flogged to the formers ex club Fiorentina as part of the deal that took him to the Emirates. Maicon's signing has left the Citizens with an embarrassment of riches at right back, with Pablo Zabaleta and Micah Richards already on the books and Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell provide a home-grown strength in depth. City fans will have been relieved to see Emmanuel Adebayor removed from the wage bill and Adam Johnson's departure was a necessary one given his need for first-team football. The early season form of a certain Carlos Tevez will also mean that City will pay little attention to a certain Dutchman plying his trade in red, for now at least.
Manchester United's capture of Robin van Persie (above) was by far and away the most eye-catching deal of the summer transfer window and will be paid closer attention in a future post, such is it's potential repercussions in the title race. One thing it certainly achieved on United's behalf was to make a statement of intent to their city rivals that they do not intend to give up lightly in their pursuit of the Premier League title. The addition of Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund also adds further class to a United attack that already boasts Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck, Nani, Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia...you getting the point? This United team will guarantee goals, and goals win you matches. But that rule applies to the opposition just as much as it does to the Red Devils and one thing this side do not guarantee is clean sheets, which makes Sir Alex Ferguson's decision not to add to his defence all the more peculiar. United also lack a ball-winner in the middle of the park and I sense that that may come back to haunt them in the long run. More to follow...
Newcastle didn't add extensively to their squad but you sense that supporters of the Magpies were always more concerned with personnel coming out of the Sports Direct Arena than in. A collective sigh of relief would have been heard around the area on Friday when the transfer window shut as Alan Pardew managed to keep together a squad that brought the good times back to the club last season. That's not to say, however, that replicating last season's form is going to be an easier task. Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse have demonstrated a worrying inability to play together thus far and Newcastle are lacking quality in attacking alternatives. They will no doubt benefit from a full season from Hatem Ben Arfa and Vurnon Anita (above) arrives with a good pedigree. Gael Bigirimana impressed against Aston Villa on the weekend but there is no guaranteeing that he and fellow youngster Romain Amalfitano can make a lasting impact over the course of the season. The Magpies will be a difficult prospect for any team to face but I sense they might struggle to trouble the top six again, especially with the return of European football this term.
Chris Hughton (above, with Sebastian Bassong) was sparked into life by Norwich's opening day horror show at Fulham, signing up to five players in response to his team's heavy five goal defeat. Mark Bunn and Harry Kane are unlikely to see much first team football at Carrow Road, whilst little is known about midfield recruit Alexander Tettey. Javier Garrido and Sebastian Bassong, however, are well acquainted with England's top flight and Hughton will hope they can add the sort of quality required to stave off a relegation scrap. Doubts will remain about the Canaries ability to do that, especially seeing as Bassong has already been relegated three times from the top flight, including last season when he was part of the dismal Wolves side that sunk without a trace in the second half of the campaign. Hughton is a strong motivator though and he will aim to rejuvenate his more established recruitments as well as motivate the lesser known of his acquisitions as he attempts to steer Norwich up the table after their slow start.
QUEEN'S PARK RANGERS
Mark Hughes clearly isn't a fast learner. After his January splurge failed to galvanise his QPR side you'd be forgiven for thinking that the former Manchester United forward might have proceeded with a little more caution this summer. Clearly caution isn't a buzz-word around Loftus Road these days as chairman Tony Fernandes sanctioned another reckless shopping spree in which the R's acquired a series of big-name players in the hope that they will miraculously haul the team up the table. What's ironic about Ranger's signings though is that none of them address the areas that need improving. Rob Green was maligned for his performance in the opening day drubbing to Swansea, but he received next to no protection from the defence in front of him. Hughes answer? To sign another goalkeeper (Julio Cesar, above). One that's more expensive than Green at that. The Brazilian has already admitted that financial reasons were his motivation for moving to London and you suspect one or two of his new teammates might share that view. Sparky will hope that the wiser of his purchases (Esteban Granero, Park Ji-Sung, Junior Hoilett) will provide enough class to keep his team safe again this season. Kudos to him for getting rid of one Joey Barton, though...
Despite the reported resources of new owner Anton Zingarevich, Reading resisted the urge to go on a QPR-esque splurge and instead put their faith in the sort of players that have come to embody Brian McDermott's reign. Chris Gunter, Adrian Mariappa and Garath McCleary step up from the Championship keen to make an impression on the top flight and all three will be expected to work hard for the shirt, such is the emphasis placed on teamwork by their new manager. Stuart Taylor provides experienced cover in goal and one suspects that he may finally get some game time if Adam Federici's poor start to the season continues. Nicky Shorey returns to the club after a long and largely unhappy spell away and Danny Guthrie has also joined in the hope that he can finally establish himself in the Premier League. Pavel Pogrebnyak (above) was the club's high profile signing and Royals supporters will hope he can fire on a regular basis as the club try to ensure their stay in the top division is not a short lived one.
Southampton have already won plenty of plaudits this season despite them being pointless and at the foot of the table. Nigel Adkin's side have continued their commitment to attacking football and the signing of Gaston Ramirez (above) from Bologna means that that policy is unlikely to change in the coming months. The acquisition of the Uruguay international is seen by many as somewhat of a coup for the club but is indicative of a club that has shown plenty of ambition in getting back to the Premier League after a considerable absence. Other new recruits Steven Davis and Nathaniel Clyne have already established themselves in the starting eleven and £7 million striker Jay Rodriguez will be aiming to follow in their footsteps, especially seeing as fellow reserve Billy Sharp has left the club on loan. Concerns remain about the Saints defensive capabilities and Adkins may regret not pursuing a new defender but his side should have enough about them to keep their heads above water until the winter.
Stoke's signing of Charlie Adam (above) is tinted with a degree of irony, given that he was once the creative lynch pin in a Blackpool team that entertained fans up and down the country. But the Potters and their manager Tony Pulis are much more pragmatic than Ian Holloway's band of merry men and Adam will be utilised in a very different way at the Britannia. The Scots penchant for long, diagonal passes should come in useful to a side that often looks to utilise the height of Peter Crouch or the width offered by Matthew Etherington, Jermaine Pennant and new boy Michael Kightly. Maurice Edu and Steven N'Zonzi have also joined the ranks in midfield, meaning Glenn Whelan and Wilson Palacios may struggle for game time. Geoff Cameron has made a strong start to life at his new club and Stoke will feel confident that they can kick on after a disappointing league campaign last term.
Martin O'Neill will have no doubt feared at one point this summer that he was going to be left frustrated at the end of the transfer window, given the sluggish pace with which Sunderland conducted their business. The Ulsterman has a knack of getting what he wants though (as Aston Villa fans will attest) and the Black Cats now look strong contenders for a top ten birth. Many scoffed at the £12-14 million fee paid to Wolves for Steven Fletcher (above) but as a fan of his former club I can assure any naysayers that the striker is more than capable of scoring on a regular basis in the top flight. Adam Johnson is another excellent acquisition for a club that relied too heavily on Stephane Sessegnon and James McLean for creativity last term. Danny Rose offers an alternative at left back and Louis Saha is also a strong option to have from the bench. None of the departures from the Stadium of Light are likely to be missed, with many fans likely to be glad of Asamoah Gyan's exit in particular.
Pre-season talk of Swansea's demise looks fanciful at best now after Michael Laudrup's fantastic start to life in the Liberty Stadium dugout. Whilst it remains early days, the Dane has managed to continue the Swans tradition of free-flowing football whilst also adding an attacking edge that was often missing last term. The addition of Michu (above) has been partly responsible for this, with the Spaniard netting 4 goals in his first 3 games for his new club. Pablo Hernandez is a fine replacement for Scott Sinclair, the former Valencia man coming with plenty of pedigree after several years in Spain's top flight. Ki-Sung Yeung arrives with the reputation of being one of Scotland's more able imports and he is likely to be given the task of filling in for the departed Joe Allen. Laudrup will rue the timing of Neil Taylor's injury however as it leaves him short of options at the back, whilst Chico's early performances for the club suggest that Swansea may be vulnerable in defence at times this season. Still, the added attacking edge to the club's tiki-taka style should ensure a comfortable campaign for them.
Andre Villas-Boas' transfer policy at Chelsea was not always easy to understand and he does not seem to have altered his methods upon his arrival at Tottenham. The Portugese tactician appears to have a knack for attempting to fix something that is not broken and his dealings at Spurs threaten to disrupt a team that were unlucky not to qualify for the Champions League last term. The purchase of France keeper Hugo Lloris is both impressive and baffling, given that Brad Friedel enjoyed a fine campaign for the Lilywhites last season. In acquiring an international goalkeeper, Villas-Boas has given himself an unnecessary selection headache and also a potential threat to team morale. Moussa Dembele is, however, a fantastic signing and the sort that Spurs need now that Luka Modric has departed to Real Madrid. Clint Dempsey's move has the air of a panic buy after the club missed out on several other targets but as far as panic buys go the American is about as good as they get. Emmanuel Adebayor's permanent move to White Hart Lane was welcome news as it takes some of the onus off Jermain Defoe to score goals but AVB may rue the decision to allow Rafael van der Vaart to return to Hamburg. Spurs on paper look more than capable of challenging the top four but so much depends on the ability of their manager to establish his methods on a team that had grown used to Harry Redknapp's methods. I intend to look at this situation in more depth in a later post so Spurs fans, keep your eyes peeled...
WEST BROMWICH ALBION
West Bromwich Albion continue to defy their doubters by plucking obscure talents both on and off the field. The appointment of Steve Clarke now looks like a masterstroke by chairman Jeremy Peace (admittedly on the back of just four games in charge), whilst the club have also been shrewd in the transfer window. Argentine midfielder Claudio Yacob (above) has already struck up a rapport with The Hawthorns faithful and on a free transfer looks like one of the bargains of the summer. Romelu Lukaku's loan move was a real coup for the club and the big Belgian striker is finally getting the opportunity to demonstrate his undoubted potential. Swedish international Markus Rosenberg joins the Chelsea loanee in providing Albion with an embarrassment of riches up front, whilst Ben Foster's permanent move after a successful loan spell has served to make Albion even tighter in defence. Yassine El Ghanassy impressed during pre-season and is likely to play a more pivotal role as the season progresses. I tipped Albion to struggle in my pre-season predictions and I am now happy to contradict myself in saying that the Baggies look more than capable of a comfortable finish this season.
WEST HAM UNITED
It would seem Bredan Rodgers is already ruing his decision to allow Andy Carrol (above) to join West Ham on loan, but that won't trouble Sam Allardyce. The Hammers gaffer knew exactly what he was getting when he agreed a deal for the former Newcastle striker and we got a glimpse of Big Sam's new look side on Saturday when they smashed three past Fulham. It's been a busy summer at Upton Park and Allardyce has not shied away from the type of player that he has come to know and trust. Matt Jarvis was bought for big money from Wolves but he is the sort of quick, direct winger that a striker like Carroll will thrive from. Mohammed Diame and Alou Diarra add steel to a midfield that already contains proven Premier League performers such as Kevin Nolan. James Collins didn't cover himself in glory in the three goal defeat to Swansea, nor did new keeper Jussi Jasskelainen but both are more than capable of performing in the Premier League. Striker Modibo Maiga is less familiar to English audiences but showed glimpses of real quality on his debut against Aston Villa. The Hammers were another side I tipped to struggle but the signing of Carroll really changes the complexion of their side and I'm now pretty sure they'll be safe and sound come the end of the season.
Wigan Athletic are never expected to be big spenders in the transfer window and they didn't break that trend this summer, but that didn't stop Roberto Martinez from making some very smart additions to his squad. Ivan Ramis is a central defender with a solid reputation in Spain and has recovered well from a poor debut against Chelsea, whilst Arouna Kone (above) is a striker with real pedigree that arrives on the back of a great season last year with Levante. Kone has settled well up front with last season's top scorer Franco di Santo and they look like a potentially formidable combination. Fraser Fyvie is a highly rated prospect and Ryo Miachi will hope to have a more enjoyable time on loan at the DW Stadium than he did at relegated Bolton last season. Wigan have lost key players in Mohamed Diame, Victor Moses and Hugo Rodallega but they will hope to avoid another relegation battle nonetheless. Their modest resources is likely to hinder any real progress but I still feel the Latics will enjoy a more comfortable campaign this time around.
TOP 10 SUMMER TRANSFERS
1. Andy Carroll (Liverpool to West Ham, loan). Not quite as glamorous as the RVP move but Carroll could well be the difference between a top ten finish and a season of struggle for West Ham.
2. Robin van Persie (Arsenal to Manchester United). One of the most audacious transfers of recent times, United have bought themselves a world-class goalscorer who could well fire them to the title.
3. Eden Hazard (Lille to Chelsea). The Blues beat a host of other clubs to the Belgian's signings and whilst it's unlikely he'll help them topple the Manchester clubs yet, he's changed the dynamics of their side within weeks of his arrival.
4. Santi Cazorla (Malaga to Arsenal). Has helped allay the fears of Arsenal fans with some fantastic early displays and will ensure new strikers Podolski and Giroud get plenty of chances.
5. Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United to Fulham). The Cottagers have landed a £30 million centre forward for less than £5 million. An incredible coup for Martin Jol.
6. Michu (Rayo Vallecano to Swansea). Scored for fun in Spain last year and early signs suggest he'll do the same in the Premier League. A steal at £2 million.
7. Javi Garcia (Benfica to Manchester City). An expensive transfer for Roberto Mancini but the Spaniard will add further class to City's midfield and should ensure they do better in Europe this season.
8. Moussa Dembele (Fulham to Tottenham Hotspur). A very classy act in the middle of the field, Dembele should ensure that Spurs can kick on in Modric's absence.
9. Gaston Ramirez (Bologna to Southampton). Has the air of a potential flop just as much as it does a coup, but Ramirez comes with a big reputation and will add excitement to an already vibrant Saints team.
10. Arouna Kone (Levante to Wigan). Not as glamorous as any of the above deals but the Latics have done really well to snap up a striker that fired his former team to Europe least season. Could be a real difference maker for them.
A good transfer window for...Arsenal. Lifted the shadow of van Persie and replaced it with three players of real quality. Doubts remain over whether Giroud can repeat his feats at Montpellier last term but his physicality will mean the Gunners can create chances as a result of him, rather than for him. Arsene Wenger is consistently criticised for his (lack of) spending but few managers care about their employers as passionately as he does.
A bad transfer window for...Liverpool. Brendan Rodgers has been severely undermined by FSG within weeks of his tenure and with a behind-the-scenes documentary set to be screened this month, further ridicule could be around the corner. The decision to let Carroll go without replacing him was ludicrous and the months leading to January could be a real struggle.
Manager under the most pressure...Rodgers aside, look no further than Mark Hughes. Sam Allardyce has allayed doubts over his future at West Ham by spending wisely, but Hughes has only heaped more pressure on himself by undergoing another bizarre splurge. The coming months will be a real test of his relationship with chairman Tony Fernandes.