Just over THREE WEEKS until “next season” becomes “this season” for EPL fans, which means we are balls deep in the summer transfer window. So what kind of Sissy Sport Spirit Guide would I be without providing you, the loyal reader/hater, with a rundown of the moves each club has done and/or what important holes remain.
So sit back, relax, and read about whichever club(s) you care about – or just skip to the end and let the world know about how chapped your ass is about soccer having made it a full 12 months on Barstool. Whichever.
EPL TRANSFER ROUND-UP
Since, after all, humanity likes nothing better than comparing who is bigger, stronger, faster, smarter, bigger-dicked in this world, wou’ll notice that I went one step further than the last transfer window blog – found here – by assigning every club AN INTERIM GRADE based on the moves they have made so far.
Please note: given the rapid and unrelenting nature of the news cycle, apologies in advance if a deal like Christian Benteke to Liverpool has been officially announced (or fallen through) in the intervening moments between when I wrote this, when it was posted, and when Big Cat ultimately clicked “publish”. Staying current on 20 clubs ain’t as easy as it sounds. Also, feel free to disagree with any of my grades. Just know you are wrong and an idiot for doing so.
Now on to the action, going from top to bottom based on where each club finished last season…
CHELSEA – Interim grade: C
Needs: washed up strikers, apparently
What do you buy for the rich kid who already has everything? The Blues come away from last season stacked, as one would expect for a newly crowned champion, with the main “need” being to get healthy (particularly Diego Costa and Loic Remy up top). So unlike a lot of clubs that need to fill holes in their starting XI, Chelsea is in a position where any transfer targets they go after will simply be for depth, with strikers and perhaps a central midfielder/defender being at the top of the list.
Jose Mourinho is apparently in love with the idea of bringing in Radamel Falcao, who is fresh off a shitty 2014-15 season with United and equally poopy Copa America with Colombia. Why? I have no idea. I’d think someone like Christian Benteke would make more sense. But you do you, Special One.
CITY – Interim grade: D
Needs: depends on who leaves, but likely midfielders
For a club only one year removed from winning the EPL, and coming off a 2nd-place finish, the Sky Blues are facing a ridiculous amount of turmoil. This, of course, has everything to do with the (seemingly) bottomless well of Middle Eastern oil money that has been flowing to what was once red-headed stepchild of Mancunian soccer, sending the club’s expectations sky high.
Everyone and their granny seemed to want Manuel Pellegrini out as coach, but he seems to be on track to make it through to next season – assuming the jaundice doesn’t get him first.
He is the least of the club’s problems though, the biggest of which being Yaya Toure. The club’s talismanic midfielder gave roughly 25% effort for 75% of last season, and has seemingly had one foot out the door for months. The real issue, as I see it anyway, is that City can’t win with Yaya (because he seems incapable of fully committing), and yet they haven’t proven they can win without him (nor do they seem to have a plan in place to replace what “Good Yaya” brings to the table). Rumors are also swirling that Edin Dzeko, Jesus Navas, Samir Nasri and Stevan Jovetic may all be headed out as well, while James Milner, who headed to Liverpool, will be missed more than assumed. None are as important as Yaya, of course, but that leaves a lot of holes to fill.
Not to pile on, but the £49 million that City agreed to pay for Raheem Sterling is just plain stupid. Here’s a very, VERY abbreviated list of players who cost less than him (even after accounting for inflation):
- Sergio Aguero (£35 million)
– Lexi Sanchez (£35 million)
– Eden Hazard (£32 million)
– Diego Costa (£32 million)
– Cesc Fabregas (£30 million)
Listen, Sterling is a fine player and won’t be a TOTAL bust, but he is not as much of an impact player as any of the players listed above. If we’re being honest, the Sky Blues should have bought Kevin De Bruyne from Wolfsburg – a slightly bigger, slightly slower version of Sterling – for a bit less and focused on either making Yaya happy (if that’s even possible at this point) or bringing in a big, physical presence to replace him. Adding De Bruyne after signing Sterling would be like buying a second Patek Philippe watch, which doesn’t strike me as money well spent. City also brought in a pair of young strikers (Enes Unal and David Faupala), but if you couldn’t tell by now I have a baddddddddd feeling about the club’s prospects for 2015-16 as it stands right now.
The one and only silver lining: there is still time left to make moves.
[UPDATE: Fabian Delph has gone back and forth on moving from Villa to City more times than I can count, but it sounds like the deal has officially gone through, which is a seriously underrated move by the Sky Blues, and immediately moves their grade up to a C-.]
ARSENAL – Interim grade: B-
Needs: holding CM; striker
For a moment there it looked like Arsene Wenger was going to sign Arturo Vidal and instantly turn Arsenal into a title contender buttttt… NOPE! Instead, Vidal is probably headed to Bayern Munich and the Gunners are still left with a gaping hole in the middle of the field. Oh sure, their midfield is awash with quick little creative players.
But they continue to lack the type of gritty, edgy player who wins balls and never shies away from a crunching tackle. The kind of guy that will sow a little doubt in the minds of opponents about whether they will finish the game with all their cruciates intact (ie, a faster, stronger, less idiotic Jonny Evans + soccer skills). On the other hand, signing GK Peter Cech away from Chelsea was a very prudent move. The club has some serious holes still to fill though, and could start by adding Bayer Leverkusen’s Lars Bender (assuming it misses out on Vidal), and will also be on the lookout for another goal scorer. As always, I wish you the worst of luck.
UNITED – Interim grade: B
Needs: strikers; strikers; strikers (and possibly a GK… and strikers)
The Red Devils are close to being a legit contender next season, and bringing in Memphis Depay, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin to further boost what already was a damn good midfield is like Keira Knightley suddenly sprouting DDs. Here’s the kicker though: despite how great everything else looks, when you look up top it’s hard to ignore the snaggletooth. And that’s what’s also ludicrous about “genius” Louis Van Gaal’s team-building strategy so far. Has anybody ever won the EPL title WITH ZERO STRIKERS? Well, now that Falcao is gone and the broken down corpse of Robin van Persie has been sold — its time to find out!
If/when LVG comes to his senses and look to buy a goal-scorer, Real Madrid’s Karin Benzema and Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain would make sense (since United only buys expensive things), though the Red Devils have already spent their balls off so maybe they’ll look a little down-market for once. (Probably not.) And then there is the David De Gea issue. If he heads to Real Madrid, as rumors are suggesting, it will set off a chain of events that (I hate to say) may lead to United buying Hugo Lloris from Spurs. What’s more, somewhere in the DDG-to-Real discussions, there has emerged the possibility that Sergio Ramos may go the other way. Ramos can be frustrating to watch, but his love for diving will fit right in at Old Trafford… not to mention he is still a world class defender (who scores the odd goal).
SPURS – Interim grade: B
Needs: to keep Harry Kane and Hugo Lloris; to shoot Roberto Soldado like a metaphorical horse; striker
Acquiring defenders Kieran Trippier from wee Burnley [R.I.P.] and Kevin Wimmer from Cologne were sneaky good moves, and center back Toby Alderweireld from Atletico Madrid was a huge move. Aside from holding on to Kane though the club is still woefully short up top, which is something Daniel Levy absolutely must do something about ASAP.
LIVERPOOL – Interim grade: A-
Needs: striker; new hammy for Daniel Sturridge; new system for evaluating transfer targets
Tottenham did a shitty job of spending the Gareth Bale windfall. Everybody knows this. Amazingly though, Liverpool did an even shittier job of spending the Luis Suarez windfall. Considering Mario Balotelli – who did absolutely nothing productive all season – wasn’t even the worst signing, you know you fucked up. Brendan Rodgers caught a lot of heat for the failure of new acquisitions Balotelli Lazar Markovic, Alberto Moreno, Rickie Lambert and – especially – Dejan “someone should be fired for buying me” Lovren, though people seem to forget (or don’t know) that transfer business at Liverpool is done by a committee that includes Rodgers and several others. In their defense, Emre Can and to a certain extent Adam Lallana didn’t suck nearly as much (and I think Moreno could be okay as well). There’s no understating how big a failure last season’s transfer effort was though.
But that was last summer. This summer the Reds have been doing some damn good business, adding one of the better wing backs available in Nathaniel Clyne from Southampton, a solid attacking mid in Roberto Firmino from Hoffenheim and the underrated Milner. The main issue though – as it was as soon as Luis Suarez left last summer – is that none of them are going to score the goals that the Reds so desperately need. Daniel Sturridge getting healthy is most important, but one of either Danny Ings (brought in from wee Burnley [RIP]) or off-loan Divock Origi from Lille will need to step up. There is also talk that Liverpool will pony up for Villa’s Christian Benteke, who is a good player but not sure it’d be worth the price tag.
SOUTHAMPTON – Interim grade: B
Ronald Koeman and the rest of the brain-trust at Southampton had one hell of a 2014-15. Can they keep it up? TBD, but finishing 7th after losing a million players AND their coach was the most impressive performance of any EPL club last season. The Saints got off to a good start this month by signing attacking mid “Juanmi” from Malaga in Spain. I dislike non-Brazilian players that try to go by one name, but since his nickname is a conjunction of Juan and Miguel (one of his middle names), I guess we can let it slide. Also, signing midfielder Jordy Clasie (Feyenoord), defenders Cedric Soares (Sporting Lisbon) and Cuco Martina (FC Twente) and a loan move for Fulham keeper Maarten Stekelenburg all look like shrewd moves.
On the other hand, Southampton lost Nathaniel Clyne, who had a quietly fantastic season and is likely to be a bigger loss than Morgan Schneiderlin. The one area in which the club will struggle mightily at the moment is scoring goals, so bringing in someone to pair with the inconsistent Graziano Pelle is critical. I won’t even try to guess who they are going to bring in though because it’ll probably be some unknown 21-year old from Denmark who ends up being Nicklas Bendtner+skills.
SWANSEA – Interim grade: B
Needs: striker; depth elsewhere
Coming off yet another solid season from Wales’ only participant in the EPL, the club’s only significant hole is replacing the loss of Wilfried Bony up top, who headed off to City in January. Sporting Braga’s Eder could be a good fit alongside Bafetimbi Gomis, and attacker Andre Ayew from Marseille is a sneaky great move. There were some rumors the club is eyeing up NY Red Bulls’ Matt Miazga, which would be a nice move for both the player and club.
STOKE – Interim grade: A
Needs: to get healthy; defense
Mark Hughes signings’ of Bojan Krkic and Mame Biram Diouf both turned out to be great moves, though the club’s resilience after Krkic’s season-ending knee injury shows they at least have a solid core of which to build. The club lost goalkeeper Asmir Begovic to Chelsea but signed 6’6” Danish giant Jakob Haugaard as a potential replacement (plus the baddest widow’s peak east of the Mississippi in Villa’s Shay Given). They also brought in forward Joselu from Hannover 96 and young winger Moha El Ouriachi from Barça. On defense though, bringing Philipp Wollscheid back from a loan spell at Bayer Leverkusen was a good start but the club needs to add some more new blood in the back, and I’m not sure Glen Johnson is going to be the answer. Most importantly England’s gangly answer to Chris Brown (his dancing, not his lady-slapping):
[Note: Stoke was on the verge of earning an A+ but the deal for Inter Milan’s Xherdan Shaqiri – otherwise known as the world’s angriest bowling ball – fell through at the last minute. Apparently the player nixed the deal, which seems strange since who wouldn’t want to play soccer on rainy 40-degree nights in the west Midlands??]
CRYSTAL PALACE – Interim grade: B-
Needs: no major holes, but could use a CM and/or striker
Like Stoke, Palace secured a solid mid-table finish that could serve as either a springboard to a slightly higher mid-table finish (cause lezzzzbe honest, anything higher than that is basically unthinkable) or simply a new high water mark that will be followed by an Aston Villa-like descent back to Relegationville. The Eagles have made one big signing in PSG’s Yohan Cabaye, who apparently has an Alan Pardew fetish, and have been linked with a couple interesting names, the most entertaining of which being Swansea’s borderline schizophreniac Jonjo Shelvey (CM). Coincidentally, Palace and Swansea are also supposedly among the high bidders (along with several French clubs) for Sampdoria striker Stefano Okaka.
[Raise your hand if you thought you would ever see an SAT analogy on Barstool…]
EVERTON – Interim grade: B
Needs: a do-over for 2014-15; to keep young talent
If last season was being played on Xbox, Roberto Martinez defffffffffinitely would have pulled the plug in November or so. Silver lining: missing out on Europa is probably the best thing that could have happened to the club. They have a decent starting line-up but struggle – particularly when injuries and mid-week trips to Bulgaria hit – because of a lack of depth, which is predicated on the club’s inability to spend as much as the top six (or as intelligently as Southampton and Swansea, apparently).
The good news is Everton has a wealth of good young players in Romelu Lukaku, Ross Barkley, Muhamed Besic, James McCarthy and John Stones. Keeping them together for another season (or more) would be a big step forward for the club. In fact, much of the club’s grade comes from its ability – thus far – to have hanging on to the talent it has, including recently rejecting Chelsea’s reported £20 million offer for Stones). As far as who to add, bringing in someone – anyone from Barcelona is usually a good move, so winger Gerard Deulofeu seems like good business. Tom Cleverley is coming off a solid season with Villa but is unlikely to be a real impact player. There are also reports that Martinez is interested in other United castoffs like Adnan Januzaj, which has some potential to flourish, though any team that pays real actual money for Jonny Evans should be immediately relegated.
WEST HAM – B+
Needs: defense; striker
New manager Steven Bilic has been a busy boy already, signing midfielder Pedro Obiang from Sampdoria and striker Dimitri Payet from Marseille. More importantly the Hammers have made some moves to shore up the defense, including making making a loan deal for Carl Jenkinson from Arsenal permanent and buying Juve’s Angelo Ogbonna. The club could use another player or two on both ends of the field but the moves so far suggest they are on the right track.
[Note: just like I mentioned having a badddddd feeling about City’s squad for next season, at the moment I have a rather optimistic outlook on West Ham’s prospects for 2015-16. Bilic should bring some excitement and stability and the moves so far make sense. Long ways to go, but so far so good.]
WEST BROM – Interim grade: D
Needs: keep Saido Berahino (or at least spend his fee wisely)
Manager Tony Pulis wasted no time in putting his stamp on the club as he dropped three players (Youssouf Mulumbu, Chris Baird and Jason Davidson) and solid another (Graham Dorrans) to Norwich within moments of the season’s final whistle. Since then, however, things have gone silent. In a sense that is a good thing since keeping English-striker-du-jour Saido Berahino would be a coup considering all the clubs that have been kicking his tires, but if they do end up having to sell him the key will immediately become finding a replacement goal-scorer post-haste. United’s James Wilson could fit the bill, as could Wolverhampton’s Bakary Sako.
LESTER – Interim grade: C
Needs: to stop being racist while videotaping yourself banging Asian hookers
Manager Nigel Pearson achieved a Houdini-like escape with Lester this season, which he followed up with an even better trick by disappearing (on the orders of the club’s management). No real word on why but it was probably something juicier than a “difference of opinion” as went the public explanation.
The new manager, Claudio Ranieri, strikes me as an uncreative, uninspiring appointment. He has coached at a TON of huge clubs, but seems to have run out of ideas (for a lack of better description) over the last five years. Needless to say, I’m not sold. Regardless, any good will the club earned in avoiding relegation was immediately flushed down the shitter when some young players slapped some Thai hookers with dicks and racial epithets – on camera. Whoops. I have a sinking feeling that those few days between securing safety in the EPL and the emergence of the video might be looked back on as the happiest in the club’s history. Lester has signed striker Shinji Okazaki from Mainz, which is a good move. However – and notice the trend going forward – I’m NOT a fan of counting on aging central defenders, thus the decision to make Robert Huth’s deal permanent makes me nervous. Instead, the Foxes desperately need to bring in some more creative midfielders if they are going to another miraculous escape next season.
NEWCASTLE – Interim grade: D+
Seriously, for the sake of brevity it’s not even worth going over all that is wrong with the club and what their “biggest” needs are. My suggestion would have been to accept relegation last season, go down to the championship, blow everything up (starting with new owner and management) and start from scratch. Unfortunately they chose not to, which means another season of paper mâché-ing over systemic deficiencies. That said, the club has recently been showing some signs of life, including signing winger Georginio Wijnaldum from PSV and emerging as the odds-on favorite (according to the bookies) to enlist the services of ex-QPR striker Charlie Austin. Doing so would raise the club’s grade from a D+ to C-… both players would be solid additions but there are WAY too many holes left to fill at this point for the club to earn a passing grade.
SUNDERLAND – Interim grade: C-
Needs: everything but a GK
The Black Cats are caught in a never-ending cycle of relegation avoidance year after year, and while the club again managed to stave off the drop it is hard to imagine things miraculously turning around anytime soon – unless the owner actually follows through on opening the purse strings. I’ll believe that when I see it. Coach Dick Advocaat changed his mind about hopping off the sinking ship at the end of the season, meaning step 1 (finding a new coach) is taken care of. Hooray! Step 2 is finding some defenders, a few midfielders and at least one striker. Signing midfielder Jeremain Lens from Dynamo Kiev was a nice signing, and Sebastian Coates is an okay get but Tottenham’s Younes Kaboul [aging central defender alert!] is way over the hill way. The good news is GK Costel Pantilimon is a stud, which is nice… until the agile beanstalk gets sold anyway.
VILLA – Interim grade: C-
Needs: midfield (now that Fabian Delph bounced) and striker (assuming Christian Benteke does likewise)
Bringing in Tim Sherwood would have been one of the better managerial acquisitions of any season, though it just so happened that Alan Pardew’s brilliant decision to step off the Titanic/Newcastle and into a Palace squad on the rise means it was only the second-best one of last season. Here’s the problem: the Villans sc