Believe it or not, we’re two thirds of the way through the Premier League summer. The season ends in approximately mid-May and restarts in mid-August meaning there’s only one more month before matches count again. To kick off the official one month countdown, our partner Yahoo is launching their redesigned Premier League fantasy game to give managers time to get used to the new rules, flows and visuals. Before you head in that direction though, here’s a quick summary of what’s happened thus far over the summer. (NOTE: “quick” what was I thinking, of course it won’t be quick but hopefully it will be informative and entertaining)
The summer started with the highest profile set of managerial changes in the Premier League era if not ever. When Jose Mourinho coming back to the Premier League is the second biggest managerial news of the summer, you know it’s been something incredible and that’s what we got with the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson from Manchester United. The top spot at each of the top three finishers in the league last season changed hands. Here are a few words about each of the managerial changes in the league:
David Moyes: He’s definitely a high risk candidate with few examples available of mid-table managers who have “made the leap” to successfully guide big clubs in England. Can he get as much out of players perceived to be less that great at many positions? Can he recruit top tier talent? Can he keep the types of exceptional egos that go with the top teams in the world in check? Unlike Chelsea and Manchester City where budgets seem unlimited, he’ll need to get more right than he does wrong.
Manuel Pellegrini: He has perhaps the least pressure of the three new managers at the top given how bad things had gotten by the time Roberto Mancini was shown the door at the Etihad. Throw in crazy amounts of money to spend, some early success in recruiting and the chaos on the other side of Manchester and things are looking up for City.
Jose Mourinho: It’s hard to know what to make of Mourinho coming back to Chelsea. His time at Real Madrid didn’t go particularly well – at least not by his lofty standards. Chelsea don’t stand unopposed in paying top dollar for talent as they did the first time Mourinho was around either now that City, PSG, Monaco and others are splashing cash that would make Roman Abramovich blush (well, maybe a little bit at least). Mourinho is a very good manager and there is certainly talent on hand to work with but success – again, measured by the standards of Mourinho’s last stint in charge at Stamford Bridge – is hardly guaranteed.
Elsewhere, after deciding that they couldn’t stand Tony Pulis’ goonish tactics any longer, Stoke decided to bring in, um, Mark Hughes to employ only slightly less goonish tactics. Finally, Everton replaced David Moyes with Roberto Martinez. Martinez and Moyes are similar in that they’ve both been credited with clubs that punched above their weight – Moyes’ Everton by hanging around on the verge of the top four most seasons despite modest budgets and Martinez by keeping Wigan in the Premier League at all despite even more modest budgets. Like Moyes, the question will be how Martinez copes with a bigger budget and higher expectations.
Comings and Goings
There is a lot more to be written between now and when the transfer window slams shut again at the end of August but there have already been some important signings and departures in the Premier League (but mostly signings so far). Let’s recap:
Fernandinho: Another box-to-box midfielder to pair with Yaya Toure and while Toure brings size and power, the Brazilian brings speed and a rocket of a shot. We won’t know until we see him against better competition but he seems likely to be an improvement on Gareth Barry in midfield.
Jesus Navas: City hasn’t had much luck with wide midfielders and attackers since they started spending money like drunken sailors. Scott Sinclair barely sniffed the pitch. James Milner is a nice utility player but he shouldn’t be starting. Samir Nasri teases with his talent from time-to-time but then disappears for long stretches. Adam Johnson was already shown the door after not making the most of his talent. On this backdrop arrives former Seville man Navas who has churned out assists by the truckload in Spain for the past 6 seasons.
Andre Schurrle: I don’t think anyone doubts Schurrle’s talent. The big question is why Chelsea chose to spend so much money on a position where they already have some exceptional young talent in Eden Hazard and Juan Mata. They also have Victor Moses, Kevin De Bruyne and Marco Marin who are young and not getting much playing time. Even if Schurrle is the third wing/forward in the rotation you have to wonder how much time he’ll get to make an impact this season.
Paulinho: Tottenham started off the summer with the worry that Gareth Bale and AVB might be on their way out of North London. So far that fate has been successfully avoided while Spurs have managed to attract a very solid player to one of their weakest spots on the pitch last season – holding midfielder. In Paulinho, Spurs have a midfielder who can stop an attack and get things moving in the other direction very effectively. If they can keep Bale around then Paulinho could be the missing piece separating them from a Champions League spot – especially if they can find a forward between now and the start of the season.
Wilfried Bony: Swansea have been a high volume purchaser this season as they look to consolidate their position as a strong Premier League team. Much of their activity has been either young (mostly Spanish) players with developmental upside or quality squad players. The one top level signing that could make a dramatic impact on their season is Wilfried Bony. If he can bring even 75% of his goalscoring form from Holland to Wales then Swansea will have another goal scoring answer when Michu goes cold.
Dejan Lovern and Victor Wanyama: The Saints have made some solid moves to shore up their defense so far this summer. Southampton was one of only 4 teams that managed to allow 60 goals or more last season while still staying up. The additions of Lovern from Lyon and Wanyama should provide a boost to the defense that could see the south coast team end up the season in the top half.
Nicholas Anelka: Hard to know what he has left in the tank after very little productivity in China last season but it will be fun finding out.
Ricky van Wolfswinkle: Norwich have had an impressive summer so far but how can a name like this one not be the headliner?
Carlos Tevez: Talented. Enigmatic. Exciting. He was a headline writer’s dream over his entire career in England. In what was likely a good move for City he has now moved on to another country where he can complain about the distance to Argentina. City will be less interesting, but likely better for his absence.
Paul Scholes: The Ginger Prince has finally called it quits. What a career he had. He wasn't a cross-over sensation like Beckham. He wasn't flashy like Giggs. He honestly didn't have a great deal of obvious personality at all but he was very effective for a very long time. He will be missed even by those who really dislike Manchester United.
Other Notable Departures: Rory Delap from Stoke...so emblematic of the Pulis years; David Bentley from Spurs...oops; Andrei Arshavin from Arsenal...where did it all go wrong?; Florent Malouda from Chelsea and Roque Santa Cruz from City...were they really still on the books?; Phil Neville from Everton...he went on far longer and more effectively than anyone expected possible; and finally Jamie Carragher from Liverpool...a local boy made very good;
At the minimum, you should expect to see a lot of forwards moving to the bigger clubs in the Premier League with Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Spurs all hot on the trail of big name forwards. You should also expect a few established names like Marouane Fellaini, Leighton Baines, Luis Suarez, and Darren Bent to be on the move. What you should not expect is to see Wayne Rooney going anywhere this summer or Cristiano Ronaldo arriving.
RotoWorld Premier League Coverage
Finally, as you have no doubt noticed, the other important development here in NBC Sports/RotoWorld.com land is that we are covering the Premier League for the first time. We are looking forward to the kickoff of our first season and hope you follow our team – Galin, Jeremy, Nik, and me (Neal) – throughout as we bring you news and features that will help you manage your fantasy team and enjoy watching the games.