Aug 15, 2008

Transfer review part 2: The transfers that did happen

Now that we’ve skated past the deals that didn’t happen, let’s take a look at the ones that did.

The big four

Chelsea signed three Portuguese internationals, Deco, Jose Boswinga and, of course, Big Phil Scolari. Boswinga was terrific in Euro 2008 and looks like adding the pace and attacking verve to the right back slot that Chelsea already have at left back. Chelsea scored 65 goals in the league last season, compared to Manchester United’s 80 and Arsenal’s 74. Paulo Ferreira is a fine right back, but he does lack something going forward. That’s how good Chelsea are – they buy fullbacks to improve their goal-scoring prowess.

Deco is one of the classiest players in world football. It’ll be interesting to see if his smallish stature and languid playing style translate to the English game. But there’s not many players in the modern age who’ve won two Champions League, and for good reason. If he fits right in, he could win the Premiership almost single-handedly, so influential is he to a team.

But that could be asking a lot. Until the arrival of a certain Mr Torres of Liverpool, foreign players, especially those from Latin countries, tended to take at least one season to acclimate to the hurly-burly world of English football. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if Deco starts well and slowly fades as the season goes on.

And what of Scolari? Well, who knows? This is a man who’s never coached at the European club level. He’s an unknown in this arena, and while deserves respect for his international record, to argue right now that his presence guarantees Chelsea the title is a little extreme. (Though that could prove to be the case.)

As for the second division of the Big Four category, both teams made one big buy. Arsenal signed the latest player to be labeled as The Next Zidane, and while it’s too early to say that, he does look lick-smackingly good.

One does wonder, though, how on earth Arsenal snapped up such a promising player for so cheap.

But will Nasri compensate for the loss of Flamini and Hleb? Even if he does, that won’t be enough—don’t let the final table fool you. Despite finishing four points behind Man Utd, Arsenal were a distant third last season. And even if Nasri flourishes in his first year in England (doubtful—see above), Arsenal will still have to rely on youngsters such as Denilson, Aaron Ramsey, Carlos Vela and Theo Walcott—all of whom are under 21 (Nasri himself turned 21 in June)—to carry them to the title. The betting here is that Chelsea and Man Utd will be too strong this season, but watch out for Wenger’s team in the 2009-2010 season.

And so we come to Liverpool. When they signed Robbie Keane, one could plausibly make the argument that here was as signing that could propel the Reds to their first title in nearly 20 years. Oh, how times change. And if you’re a Liverpool fan, look away now, because you won't like this. With the Gareth Barry’s move in tatters and Rafa seemingly on the brink, it’s hard to see how the club gets it act together this year. (Though credit should go to them for the Keane signing—he and Torres could be the most potent partnership in Europe this year.)

The rest

A consensus view seems to be forming that the best team outside the top four will be either Tottenham Hostpurs or Portsmouth. Everton, last year’s 5th team, have had a terrible summer, with no signings and the sale Andy Johnson. Meanwhile, though Aston Villa did actually signing a player who’s not a middling Premiership performer, Martin O’Neill’s signings do leave a lot to be desired (Luke Young, please stand up). The club has steadily progressed under O’Neill, but at some point he’s going to have to take the shackles off and sign a player with real flair.

That’s not a problem for Spurs, who could become the neutral’s favorite team to watch this season. They’ve added to a promising core—Woodgate, Bale, Hutton, Jenas, Lennon, Huddlestone—with some very exciting players in Luca Modric, Giovanni dos Santos and, of course, David Bentley. They should prove too strong for a Portsmouth team whose main signing this summer was Peter Crouch—a good player to be sure, but hardly talented enough to take the team that finished 8th up a level.

The rest of the rest

Blackburn Rovers and West Ham seem to have gone backwards this summer, with the former replacing Brad Friedel with Paul Robinson in goal and Mark Hughes with Paul Ince in the dugout. West Ham’s summer has been even less exciting and productive, with Bobby Zamora out and some fullback coming in. The most exciting YouTube clip of a Newcastle player in the off-season was not anything that happened at Euro 2008, but Joey Barton on a night out, while the excitement of Manchester City’s GBP19m purchase of Brazilian striker Jo and hiring of Mark Hughes, considered to be among the best young managers in England, is now firmly a thing of the past.

Finally, a word for Roy Keane at Sunderland. Having bought lots and lots of fair-to-poor players last summer in a panicky (though ultimately successful) effort to make sure they survived their first year in the Premiership, he’s been more considered this year, adopting what you might call an Uber-O’Neill strategy—solid Premiership players, but exciting, inspired players. Two of the new recruits, Steed Malbranque and El Hadji Diouf are arguably the most talented players to ever play for Sunderland. Bravo, sir.

Smoods is a proper Brit and sometime contributor to the Soccer Source. He can be reached at


  1. oi, Smoods, do you think Spurs can break into the top four this season?

  2. i can see that manchester united lack of offensive option will drag them down of the league.and tottenham under juande ramos is really awesome. they maybe can become better than the big four..but not chelsea. under phil, and the signing of deco, they will be a major treat for another club this season,

  3. Simon Spurs - I doubt it very much (and I'm not just saying that because of what happened today!). I think Spurs are the team most likely to eventually break into the top 4, but this is a season too soon for them.

    What do you think?

  4. to be honest, after today I'll be glad if we avoid relegation mate!