Spurs Blow PSG Away, But Are Signings Needed?
James: A convincing pre-season win will give Spurs fans and players real confidence going into the new season. They’ve been the ‘nearly’ team for two years now so the expectations are high. Whilst Spurs players will undoubtedly take confidence from Pochettino’s faith in them, will it be enough to mount a serious title challenge? Spurs have reportedly chased Pereira and Lemar over the summer but are yet to complete any signings of note, and to add salt to the wounds, Walker’s move to Man City may still suggest that Spurs are some way off being a club viewed in the way they want to be. However, there’s a lot of the transfer window to go and Tottenham are very close to being the real deal. One or two signings would make them real title contenders – at the moment, I fear there’s slightly too much reliance on a young and experienced core of players.
Sam: You can’t really tell too much when it comes to pre-season results, mainly because the big sides use a lot of youngsters, and also play in tough conditions. But what is happening at Spurs is a big issue. They were brilliant last season, and their young side was very fluid and consistent, but now there’s a huge upheaval at Spurs with a new stadium to play in, and they need players that will not only improve the side, but also not have the mental block of last season’s poor results at Wembley. They still need more depth in the side, as you can’t rely on the youth team as back-up players if you want to fight on all fronts, so if they carry on the way they’re going, then they’ll have to choose between finishing in the top 4, having a good run in the Champions League, or winning a cup to create a trophy winning atmosphere in the club. However, if they don’t add anyone soon, then they’ll be only able to match one of those targets, at most.
Arsenal 0-3 Chelsea, Should We Read Much Into This?
James: Personally, no. I think it shows that pre-season very much is the start of the season for Conte, but it’s no reflection on Arsene Wenger or the Arsenal players. The frenchman had to field a back 5 without regulars Gabriel, Koscielny, Mustafi, Holding, Bellerin and Chambers, with Kolasinac feeling ill just three days before as well. Chelsea will build on every preseason win and find the form they need to hit the ground running. With Bakayoko, Morata, Hazard and Rudiger all missing from the starting line up, you can only see this side getting stronger. Though Arsenal fans shouldn’t hit the panic button just yet.
Sam: I think that while it creates a psychological boost for Antonio Conte and his side, Arsenal were very short in defence, and gave a lot of the youngsters a test against Premier League opposition, to see how they could potentially cope in Europe’s top division. You hopefully won’t see Ainsley Maitland-Niles or Cohen Bramall starting on the opening day of the season for Arsenal, so fans shouldn’t be using this game as gospel. The Community Shield tie between the two sides will be a better indication of how well-prepared these teams are ahead of the new campaign, but a concern for Arsenal will be how much sharper Chelsea were than the Gunners, despite Arsene Wenger’s men starting their pre-season a week before the Blues.
Lukaku, Lacazette, Morata – Who’s The Better Signing?
James: In all honesty, Chelsea, Man Utd and Arsenal have all ended up with the players that suit their style best. Mourinho has always liked a strong forward, able to get in behind in the Didier Drogba mould, whilst Morata has a better touch and control to blend with the likes of Hazard and Pedro. Lacazette fits Arsenal’s style perfectly, with bags of skill and pace, but an awareness to link up with the midfielders and drop into wide positions if needed. Lacazette for £52m after a 37 goal season suggests that perhaps Arsenal have got the best value for money, though Lukaku and Morata are probably more proven and reliable options.
Sam: It’s a funny old game isn’t it? In June, Lacazette was set to join Athletico Madrid and the rumours suggested that Morata was heading to Old Trafford, and Lukaku was set for a return at Stamford Bridge. Now, a transfer ban for Atleti meant that Lacazette moved to North London instead, Lukaku is now reunited with the manager who put him behind Samuel Eto’o, Demba Ba and Fernando Torres at Chelsea, and Morata has teamed up with Conte at Chelsea. Lacazette and Morata will need to get off to quick goalscoring starts to justify their club record transfer fees, and while Lukaku is Premier League proven, United’s problems last season were deeper than just not scoring enough goals. A team with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in their side should never blame not having a natural goalscorer in their team, Mourinho’s men had a creativity problem, and didn’t give players like Zlatan, Rashford or Rooney enough options to score, so if Lukaku can create his own chances out of nothing, then United have a good signing on their hands.
After City’s Signings, Is It Acceptable To Not Win The League?
James: I mean it’s a bit of a stupid question to ask myself as the competition is going to be tougher than ever with all of City’s rivals strengthening as well. However, I can’t forgive Guardiola for any excuses next year if he can’t get his team playing the way he wants. Its very much his team now, and he’s managed to get his signings in early, so I’m expecting a very strong Man City this year. Mendy and Walker have the pace and quality to exploit the wings, but they’re also robust and aggressive options that Guardiola didn’t have last season, and that could give City the edge and security at the back they’ve missed for a few years now.
Sam: City have now spent over £300 million on their defence since 2014. Just let that sink in. Yet the Citizens’ issues last campaign weren’t solely down to having a poor defence. Yes, it was disastrous at times, but it was Guardiola’s own philosophy that let him down last year, as teams didn’t give City as much respect as teams in La Liga or the Bundesliga gave Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively. It almost looked like complacency at times from the City manager, so Pep will need to address that first, no matter who he signs before 31st August. I also question why City have invested heavily in two expensive right backs who will be looking for first team football, almost immediately. Unless Danilo can operate at centre-back, or Walker was signed simply to comply with UEFA’s home grown requirements for the Champions League, it looks like some strange pieces of business from the blue side of Manchester.