Fabregas and Costa put Chelsea in shape for big season
As we approach the start of a new Premier League season, it's clear the top-four battle will be ferocious. Reading the summer's transfer activity thus far, here's how we would read the end-of-season positions.
1. Chelsea (3rd last season):
Jose Mourinho has taken in close to £110m in seven months selling Mata, Luiz and Lukaku. Of those, only Luiz was a regular starter. Others like Cole, Lampard, Ba and Bertrand (loan) have also left. With Courtois, Costa, Fabregas (pictured), Luis and a returning Drogba brought in and the financial scope for further additions, Chelsea look well set for a big season.
2. Arsenal (4th last season):
With that eight-year silverware famine finally over, a little pressure lifts off Arsene Wenger. Arsenal's league campaign was sabotaged last season by long-term injuries to Ozil, Ramsey, Walcott, Wilshire and Oxlade-Chamberlain. Sanchez is, potentially, a wonderful addition and with Debuchy a ready-made replacement for the departed Sagna, Wenger just needs more luck on the fitness front to mount a strong title challenge.
3. Liverpool (2nd last season):
Suarez's departure places a big asterisk beside Liverpool's title potential, but the squad has been re-seeded and strengthened with Lallana, Lovren, Markovic, Origi, Can, Lambert and, imminently, Moreno and Manquillo all arriving. The Suarez money means Brendan Rodgers has scope for a 'marquee' signing.
4. Man City (champions last season):
An uncomfortable summer thus far with Yaya Toure's reputed birthday cake tantrum and manager Manuel Pellegrini's hands seemingly tied in the transfer market because of City's previous excesses. A fully fit Jovetic will add to attacking options alongside Aguero and Dzeko, but the arrival of Caballero, Fernando and Sagna won't set pulses racing.
5. Everton (5th last season):
The permanent capture of Lukaku and Barry plus the arrival of Besic and a new contract for Barkley will add to the optimism generated by Roberto Martinez's impressive first season in charge. With a few more additions, Everton should be right in the Champions League fight again.
6. Man United (7th last season):
Short of burning David Moyes effigies, United's dressing-room soundings could not be more disdainful of their former manager. Yet it remains to be seen if Louis Van Gaal can bring an instant resurrection. The fixture list will facilitate a quick start, while Shaw and Herrera look good signings with, potentially, Vidal and Di Maria to follow. But Vidic, Evra and Ferdinand have departed. Where is the defence?
7. Tottenham (6th last season):
Daniel Levy seems the most chastened man in football after last season's ill-judged splurge with the Gareth Bale money. No big-name signings thus far, no marquee outgoings. Mauricio Pochettino's coaching might have to make the difference.