Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has grumbled about the champions’ failure to meet his transfer expectations, Tottenham have yet to make a single signing and Liverpool are in a tense stand-off with Philippe Coutinho after Barcelona’s attempt to land the Reds star.
Despite spending £130 million on Alvaro Morata, Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko since masterminding Chelsea’s title triumph, Conte remains miffed Manchester United chief Jose Mourinho won the race for Romelu Lukaku, while Leonardo Bonucci and Alex Sandro also eluded him. Those miscues, combined with the departures of Nemanja Matic, John Terry and Nathan Ake, have left Chelsea short of quality understudies. Conte, who has also cast striker Diego Costa into exile, heads into Sunday’s clash at Tottenham without Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas following their dismissals in last weekend’s shock defeat against Burnley.
A quick glance at the scoreline from Tottenham’s 2-0 victory at Newcastle last Sunday suggested all is well with Mauricio Pochettino’s side. But the costly redevelopment of White Hart Lane has forced Tottenham to be cautious with their spending. And after Tottenham left-back Danny Rose criticized his club’s failure to sign enough marquee names, Pochettino added to concerns over the transfer impasse when he admitted he needs fresh faces to maintain the momentum from last season’s second place finish. Tottenham start their temporary stay at Wembley with a visit from Chelsea, who beat them there in last season’s FA Cup semifinals.
Liverpool have found an already demanding start to the season marred by a tug-of-war with Barcelona over Coutinho. Ignoring Coutinho’s transfer request, Liverpool’s American owners have dug their heels in, insisting the Brazil forward isn’t for sale at any price. With Coutinho sidelined by a back injury, Liverpool have had a glimpse of life without their prize asset and the early returns have been mixed. A victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday would be a timely boost to Liverpool’s belief in their principled stance.
Fortified by the British record £75 million fee received from United for Lukaku, Everton manager Ronald Koeman has embarked on the kind of spending spree never before seen at Goodison Park. By the time Koeman shattered his club’s transfer record with the £45 million capture of Swansea playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson on Wednesday, the Dutchman had splashed out £140 million in a bid to make Everton top four contenders. Yet some cynics have noted Koeman’s signings, also including Wayne Rooney and Davey Klaassen, lack the one thing they really need after Lukaku’s exit — a top-class striker in his prime.
When Mourinho laid out his plans for a twin assault on the Premier League and Champions League, he handed United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward a list of four positions he believed must be strengthened. Lukaku, Victor Lindelof and Nemanja Matic have arrived for a combined cost of £140 million, but Mourinho’s wish for a penetrating winger may have to wait until January. With Woodward unable to prise Ivan Perisic from Inter Milan and Gareth Bale still committed to Real Madrid, Mourinho has reportedly opted to keep his powder dry. Lukaku’s debut brace in a 4-0 demolition of West Ham was encouraging for Mourinho, who takes his team to Swansea on Saturday.
Fixtures (1400 GMT unless stated):
Bournemouth v Watford, Burnley v West Brom, Leicester v Brighton, Liverpool v Crystal Palace, Southampton v West Ham, Stoke v Arsenal (1630), Swansea v Manchester United (1130)
Huddersfield v Newcastle (1230), Tottenham v Chelsea (1500)
Manchester City v Everton (1900)