Summer Transfer Window 2018 -The Winners and The Losers

The transfer window for Summer 2018 slammed shut at 5PM yesterday, a day before the first game of the season; tonight’s clash between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford. The deadline was brought forward under the new Premier League guidelines voted in by clubs at the end of last season, deciding that the period in which clubs can sign new players is ended before the start of the season.

Today, I’ll be discussing how the ‘Big 6’ of the Premier League (the Manchester clubs, Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool) fared this transfer window, starting with the defending Premier League champions. I’ll also be picking my transfer window winner out of all 20 Premier League clubs.

Manchester City

In: Riyad Mahrez – £60m from Leicester, Daniel Arzani – Undisclosed fee from Melbourne City, Phillipe Sandler – Undisclosed from PEC Zwolle, Claudio Gomes – Undisclosed from PSG

Out (of note): Angus Gunn – Southampton for £13.5m, Joe Hart – Burnley for £3.5m, Pablo Maffeo – Stuttgart for an undisclosed fee.

Manchester City haven’t done a huge amount of business this summer, however they didn’t really need to strengthen the squad in many areas. They spent £60m on Leicester’s Algerian playmaker Riyad Mahrez, and made no other headline signings. They brought in Daniel Azrani from sister club Melbourne City, and a few lesser known players from the European leagues, but were otherwise happy to rest on their laurels.

Even the purchase of Riyad Mahrez could be argued as unnecessary; City already have a plethora of attacking talent, and now Pep Guardiola is faced with the unenviable task of finding how to keep all players happy about playing time, whilst being able to play a maximum of four players in his attacking roster at one time. These players include Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden, alongside any youth players he may want to bring into the squad. These are all world class talents, who would be crucial starters in most other teams on the planet, but many of them will be limited in their playing time this season.

Overall, City have spent conservatively, and have added a former PFA Player Of The Year to what was already a very impressive squad.

score: 7/10

Manchester United

In: Fred – £47m from Shakhtar Donetsk, Diogo Dalot – £19m from Porto, Lee Grant – undisclosed fee from Stoke

Out: Daley Blind – Ajax for £14m, Sam Johnstone – West Brom for £6.5m, Axel Tuanzebe – Aston Villa on loan, Timothy Fosu-Mensah – Fulham on loan, Joel Pereira – Vitoria Setubal on loan, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson – Scunthorpe on loan, Joe Riley – Bradford for an Undisclosed fee

United’s recruitment team came under large scrutiny this summer, with plenty of pressure from the media and fans for new signings, along with manager Jose Mourinho’s  open complaints in press conferences, and, although United didn’t manage to sign the centre-back that the fans were all calling for, United have still strengthened the squad.

New signing Fred will fill a gap in midfield, and provide a variety of skills. He has a good work rate, as seen in United’s game with Leicester last night, in which he made 5 recoveries, 3 interceptions, 2 clearance and 7 accurate long passes. He has many similar attributes to teammate Paul Pogba, with his long passing and creativity, however is far smaller and less physically able. He looks like he could become an excellent signing, and really improve United’s midfield.

Diogo Dalot, a 19-year-old full back from Porto, was signed as a long term replacement for veteran fan-favourite Antonio Valencia, and from the short clips I’ve seen of him playing, his crossing and attacking play looks excellent, and his positional play looks very strong too. Lee Grant, a surprise 35-year-old signing from Stoke, looks more like a tactical addition requested by Jose Mourinho, providing emergency backup to likely support Sergio Romero’s on-going knee problems, and allowing youngster Joel Pereira to go out on loan to Vitoria Setubal and gain valuable playing time. Grant will likely never make more than three or four competitive appearances for Man United, but is a clever acquisition nonetheless.

However, many United fans say they needed more if they are to challenge for the title this season. Their central defence looks shaky, and could certainly do with some new recruits to support Eric Bailly, with Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones all looking insecure last season. Attempts to sign Leicester’s Harry Maguire were consistently quashed as United were priced out by the 2015/16 champion’s valuation of the England defender, and a late push for Athletico Madrid’s Diego Godin turned out to be just an incentive for Athleti to improve his new contract.

It was possible that United also needed a new winger and backup striker, neither of which were acquired. Attempts to sign Gareth Bale were also ended, likely due to Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Juventus meaning that Bale now had a better opportunity to get regular first team football at Los Blancos. However, I think that, should United have signed a new winger, a back up striking option would not be necessary, as players like Marcus Rashford, Alexis Sanchez and Anthony Martial can all play up front too, so would have provided ample backup for Romelu Lukaku.

Overall, United made some good acquisitions, but are still lacking in some areas of the pitch, and should probably have strengthened in those areas if they want to win the Premier League this season.

Score: 5/10


In: Xherdan Shaqiri – £13.5m from Stoke, Fabinho – £39m from Monaco, Allison – undisclosed fee from Roma (likely around £66m), Naby Keita – £48m from RB Leipzig

Out: Emre Can – Juventus for free, Danny Ings – Southampton on loan (permanent move next season), Ben Woodburn – Sheffield United on loan, Jon Flanagan – Rangers for free, Danny Ward – Leicester £12.5m, Harry Wilson – Derby on loan

Tipped by many to be Man City’s biggest challengers this season, Liverpool have spent around £170m this summer on new signings to strengthen their title bid for this season.

Liverpool’s main weakness was in their goalkeepers. Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius have both come under intense scrutiny recently, especially for Karius’ performance in the Champions League final last season, giving away two goals which were very easily avoidable. Medical scientists have claimed Karius suffered from concussion from a head collision earlier in the match, however this has been ridiculed by many non-Liverpool fans across the globe. Liverpool have added Roma Goalkeeper Allison to their ranks for what was a world record fee for a goalkeeper at the time. Allison is an excellent keeper who will likely do very well at Liverpool this season, notching 22 clean sheets in all competitions for Roma last season.

They have also strengthened their midfield, replacing the out-of-contract midfielder Emre Can with new signings Fabinho and Naby Keita from Monaco and RB Leipzig respectively. Fabinho, a long term target for rivals Man United, will be a more like-for-like replacement for Can, being more defensively minded and more willing to bed in, whereas Naby Keita will be a more box-to-box player, with that vital creative spark that will help feed their lethal front three of Salah, Firmino and Mane.

They also brought in Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri from the now championship side Stoke for a fee of £13.5m, to provide backup for Salah and Mane. The winger scored a bicycle kick on his debut in a preseason game against Man United, so has already affirmed his place as a fan favourite. However, Shaqiri is a risky character in terms of discipline to have on your team. He is often accused of a lack of effort and work rate, as well as consistency in terms of how he plays. Yet, this was the same risk that Liverpool took on Sadio Mane a couple of seasons ago, and that risk payed off excellently.

Liverpool did, however, need some strengthening in defence, which they haven’t done. Centre backs like Ragnor Klavan and Dejan Lovren (even if he is, by his own claim, “one of the world’s best defenders”) are clearly below par. Full backs could also be improved, with Alberto Moreno another player who could be improved upon. A player like Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane would have been perfect, although it is clear than Real would be reluctant to sell.

Overall, Liverpool have really improved their squad in their weak areas, and a new goalkeeper and midfield could certainly be the thing that could propel them into a serious title challenge. However, they could have done with some new defensive talent to secure their back line and improve their bid for silverware.

Score: 8/10


In: Kepa Arrizabalaga – £71m from Athletico Bilbao, Jorginho – Undisclosed fee from Napoli, Robert Green – free from Huddersfield, Mateo Kovacic – on loan from Real Madrid

Out (of note): Thibaut Courtois – Real Madrid for an undisclosed fee (reported around £40m), Michy Batshuayi – Borussia Dortmund on loan, Kenedy – Newcastle on loan

Chelsea’s Summer transfers came mostly in a late flurry, with first choice ‘keeper Thibaut Courtois joining Real Madrid, with midfielder Mateo Kovacic joining on loan as part of the deal, and Kepa Arrizabalaga coming in to replace Courtois from Athletico Bilbao. They also made a similar deal to Manchetser United’s signing of Lee Grant, with the recruitment of Rob Green on a free from Huddersfield, backing up Kepa Arrizabalaga and Willy Caballero.

Their main signing, besides that, was the transfer of Jorginho from Napoli for an undisclosed fee. Small, agile, and with an endless work rate, Jorginho is very similar to N’Golo Kante, and, alongside Chelsea’s already strong midfield, could really help out Chelsea’s bid for a top three finish.

Chelsea’s main achievement during the transfer window was keeping hold of their current players. Eden Hazard and Willian both stayed, despite links of a move away, and, even though they did lose Courtois, they kept their strength in the goalkeeping position.

Overall, Chelsea had a fairly quiet summer, and strengthened their squad, whilst keeping the strength they already had.

Score: 7/10

Tottenham Hotspur

In: none.

Out: Keanan Bennetts – Borussia Monchengladbach for an undisclosed fee, Anton Walkes – Portsmouth for an undisclosed fee

Tottenham had more than a quiet transfer window, they had a silent one. They signed absolutely nobody, and their only departures were two youth team players joining teams in different leagues.

Spurs already had a very strong squad, with pretty much all positions filled with quality players, but they could have done with some squad depth. Spurs have only two out and out strikers in Harry Kane and Fernando Llorente, and, even if Kaneis the best in the league, he is not enough, and if he gets injured then they will be forced to play Llorente up front, who, although a good striker, is only good enough to be a back up at a team the size of Spurs. They could also have added another backup central defender, however they have held onto Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, two quality centre backs, as well as Davinson Sanchez.

Overall, Spurs signed nobody, however there weren’t really any glaring positions which needed improving, so the squad could still be a threat in the coming season.

Score: 4/10


In: Bernd Leno – £19.3m from Bayer Leverkusen, Stephan Lichtsteiner – free from Juventus, Sokratis – Undisclosed fee from Borussia Dortmund, Matteo Guendouzi – Undisclosed fee from Lorient

Out: Callum Chambers – Fulham on loan, Jack Wilshire – West Ham for free, Chuba Akpom – POAK Salonika for an undisclosed fee, Lucas Perez – West Ham for an Undisclosed fee.

Arsenal have finally brought in a long term goalkeeper to provide the ageing Petr Cech with some respite and a replacement for when he retires. Leno is an excellent ‘keeper and shot stopper, and at just 26 he still has plenty of time left at the top.

The signing of Sokratis Papastathopoulos means that their insecure backline will be solidified, and Stephan Lichsteiner’s arrival from Juventus mean that they will have another good full back in their ranks.

The arrival of Unai Emery will also give new hope to the Gunners, ending Arsene Wenger’s 22 year stay in North London.

Overall, the revamped Arsenal side will be likely to pose more of a chance of acheiving a top four finish this season, and could be a dark horse should their squad gel properly.

Score: 6/10

My Premier League Transfer Window Winner

Out of all 20 Premier League clubs, here I will be choosing which team I think has done the best this window, in terms of acquiring new players, and holding onto those that they already have.

And the winner is….

Wolverhampton Wanderers

 In: Adama Traore – £18m from Middlesborough, Joao Moutinho – £5m from Monaco, Benik Afobe – £10m from Bournemouth, Willy Boly – £10m from porto, Leander Dendonker – on loan from Anderlecht, Rui Patricio – free from Sporting Lisbon, Johnny Castro Otto – loan from Athletico Madrid

Out: Ben Marshall – Norwich for an undisclosed fee, Benik Afobe – Stoke (loan until January, when they will pay £12m to permaently buy him), Barry Douglas – Leeds for an undisclosed fee, Carl Ikeme – retired.

The team who took the championship by storm last season are looking to do the same to the Premier League this season, improving massively on their already excellent squad.

Adama Traore from Middlesborough is an excellent dribbler of the ball and is lightening quick, so will be an excellent recruitment, as will the signings of Joao Moutinho and Rui Patricio, providing brilliant experience and class to the squad at a low price. Willy Boly is a rock solid centre back who can really seal up any gaps in the back line, adn Leandro Dendonker is a very highly rated young midfielder, best known for his excellent headed goal against Man United in the Europa League two seasons ago.

Wolves also held onto their quality players like Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota. However, goalkeeper Carl Ikeme has retired from football due to his battle with leukaemia, although he is in full remission, which is excellent news.

Wolves have added plenty of talent to their already excellent squad, and could certainly push for a top 10 finish this season, and that’s why they’re my Transfer Window Winners.

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Why Do Barcelona and Real Madrid Dominate So Much?

Real Madrid and Barcelona are, without debate, two of the most successful sides the world has ever seen, winning a combined 57 La Liga titles, 48 Copas del Rey, and 17 European Cups and Champions League titles. Barcelona has had such legendary players as  Johan Cruijff, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Ronaldinho, Maradona and the Brazillian Ronaldo. Madrid has also hosted players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas, the Brazillian Ronaldo, David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane, Kaka and Roberto Carlos. But what makes these two sides so successful?

Well, Money is probably the main factor. Each side easily has enough money to spend hundreds of millions of euros year-on-year, and it’s no coincidence that the three best players in the world all play for the two. However, surprisingly, both clubs are fan-owned, unlike more recently successful sides such as Manchester City and Chelsea, who have both had huge investments from mega-rich foreign investors.

Los Blancos and Los Blaugrana, despite their world-famous vicious rivalry, are very similar in many ways, especially in terms of how they line up on the pitch. They both tend to stick to a traditional 4-3-3 formation, with solid centre-backs, athletic full-backs, super-fast-super-skillful wingers, a quick, but deadly, striker, and a midfield trio of one defensive, one box-to-bow and one attacking.

Barcelona tend to have their front three made up of Messi as a right-winger and Neymar on the left-wing with Suarez central. What spices it up, is that Neymar is right-footed and Messi is left-footed, but each are confident on either side, meaning that they are perfectly equipt to cut inside and attack the gaps in a back four in a pincer movement. Real Madrid do the same thing, with right-footed Ronaldo on the left and left-footed Bale on the right, This tactic makes defending successfully almost impossible.

MSN.PNGBut defending with three at the back is just suicide. Leaving your defenders one-on-one against three of the worlds best players is bound to lead to them getting in behind the defence, and this is where the midfield comes into play. The attacking midfielder, usually Rakitic, Isco or Marco Asensio, will run at the defence and press them back, whilst the forwards run off the shoulder and get slipped through by either the attacking midfielder or the passing, box-to-box midfielder, usually Iniesta or Kroos.

That leaves the defensive midfielder, Casemiro or Busquets, to sit just ahead of the defensive line and drop back to add another defender, but they can also move forward and provide extra support in the midfield if needed.

It’s a near-perfect tactic, but there is a way to beat it, as shown by Juventus and PSG in The Champions League last season. PSG came close to knocking out Barca, winning the first leg of their tie 3-0, but, after their valiant, and referee assisted, come-back from a 4-0 first leg defeat, Barca, somehow, pulled it back and won 6-1 in leg two, putting them through 6-5 on aggregate. Juve won their first leg 3-0, by locking up at the back, and doing taking the unthinkable risk; not marking the front three. And it worked! MSN break the offside trap by drawing out a defender and create a gap and then slide through one of the wingers to go one-on-one. Juve just wouldn’t be drawn out. They used their experienced back line, with Bonnucci and Chiellini keeping everything in order, and then using quick full backs Dani Alves and Alex Sandro to catch up if they do make a slip-up.

Overall, Real Madrid and Barcelona are mega-rich and can buy the perfect players to fit their tactics. Their tactics and formations are both modern, and classic at the same time, but they are always developing and changing, because being successful is the easy bit, maintaining it? No so much.

You can still join my fantasy football league if you would like. Just click the link, sign in, select your team and you’re good to go!

Please do feel free to add to the discussion in the comments, I’d love to hear your opinion on the matter.

If you enjoyed this article please do leave a like, and add any questions, comments or queries in the comments section below. If you want to see more from The Dugout you can follow the site, using your Email or WordPress account, it’s totally free. There will be a new post out during the week, so stay tuned!


Do Preseason Games Actually Matter?

As Man United and Real Madrid played out their shambolic penalty shootout on Sunday night, where only 3 penalties were successfully converted after five attempts apiece, I thought to myself “what’s the point? What do you get from playing this game?”. Well, let’s have a look.

Strictly speaking, United’s game vs Real on Sunday wasn’t a friendly, it was an International Champions Cup matchup, and United did gain three points for their win, however, contrary to the important-sounding name, the International Champions Cup doesn’t really mean much. In fact, winning the ICC affects your season’s overview far less than even the Charity Shield, so Madrid won’t be too fussed over the loss.

However, the preseason tour does give a valuable opportunity to warm up the squad and keep the momentum. It can also be used as a chance to test some tactics you wouldn’t normally use in an important game on an opponent that won’t give you an easy ride. For example, Real Madrid switched their squad almost entirely at half-time and brought on an eleven made up of mostly reserves and youngsters, and Man United tried playing with a 4-3-3, with a lightning-fast front three of Martial, Rashford and Lingard at the start. The two sides will also play in the UEFA Super Cup on August 8th in Macedonia, so an opportunity to suss out the opposition could prove vital for both sides.

So, there’s no significant reward for doing well in preseason, but clubs do benefit from their tours massively. The big clubs often agree to play each other in places like the US, and the middle-east, so that they can spread their brand to a new place and grow their foreign industry. By charging tickets at over £100 each and playing a few relaxed games under a sponsor-run brand they gain more fans and having more fans mean more merchandise sales, and more merchandise sales mean more money, so it’s a win win.

Overall, on preseason, clubs get to expose their brand, gain money, give youth a chance and test out next formations and tactics, so there really isn’t anything to lose. And, although staying up until 5-AM to see your club’s second side play Real Madrid in Washington or Dubai might seem like a good idea, I promise you will regret it the next morning!

Also, on another note, if you are into your fantasy football then please do join my league, “the dugout cup”. Here’s the link:

Just click it, select your squad and you can take me and everybody else on!

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The Interview: Steve Settle, West Didsbury and Chorlton

Capture.PNGA few weeks ago, in the Lacazette to Arsenal post, I talked about how I had something special in the pipeline, and followers of the twitter page (@_InTheDugout_) will know that that I was doing that today.

Those of you who have been followers for a while will know that I often go and watch my local side, West Didsbury and Chorlton FC. Well, today I had the opportunity to interview their manager, Steve Settle. Here’s how it went:

Me: Hi Steve, nice to meet you

SS: Good to meet you.

Me: So, let’s get started. Who do you think was the most influential player in the squad last season?

SS: For us, there was a couple, it’s hard to single just one person out. Had you asked me at the start of the year I would have said our forward Ash Woods, because he scored a load of goals, and was a real platform for us, but as the season progressed he obviously got spotted by a club at a higher level and left us, so I can’t really say him. So, over the course of the season, I would say Matty Kay, or Mark Rogers, two of our more experienced players. If you look at them, they’ve probably had the most influence on the season overall.

Me: So, what are your ambitions for the coming season?

SS: So, we obviously want to keep progressing. Last year we managed to get more points than we ever have before, so to improve on that would indicate progress. There are about 5 or 6 teams in our league who have really big budgets and will have ambitions of winning the league so it will be a very very tough season. But yeah, we want to make progress on last year and see where that takes us.

Me: You had a few problems last year holding onto two or three goal leads. How do you think you could improve in that area?

SS: Haha, yeah, that’s on me, that one. We’ve done a lot of work, we’ve had a look at our shape and how we shape up. We’ve also made changes in goal, now, that’s not to say our goalkeeper was at fault but there seemed to be a time in the year when the ‘keeper was just having a bad run of form, and Deano is a really good goalkeeper actually, it just didn’t seem to run for him, and it was little, individual mistakes that were costing us. So, we’ve had a look during preseason at how we shape up and how to make ourselves tougher to break down when we’re not in possession, and, fingers crossed, we’re going to take that into next season. I was disappointed with the goal we conceded today*, but for 60 minutes I thought we were really solid, and it’s performances like that that we want to take into the new season.

*West had just beaten Stockport Town 3-1 away.

Me: Obviously in Manchester football is a very big thing, and it’s dominated by United and City, who aren’t exactly struggling on the financial front. Do you think that be working with a club like West you are helping to promote, especially to kids, a form of football that is more pure and original?

SS: Yeah, absolutely. At West Didsbury, it’s slightly different to what it’s like at other non-league clubs I’ve been at. We are trying to be at the centre of our community, and that means we can provide a certain facility or service to the people in our immediate vicinity that they can access, whether that be youth football, or people coming down on a Saturday to support the first team, playing in the pyramid or anything in between. We have a whole host of volunteers that come and give their time and money to the side, as they see the benefit of having a really nice community football club and know what it can do for the local community, so we feel very strongly about that. It’s something that we put a lot of time and effort into, into making sure that we are seen as being a really enjoyable afternoon on a Saturday, or a Tuesday night depending on when we play, so it’s a social occasion as well as being an opportunity and a club to get involved in if you want to get into youth football or women’s football now or, you know, if football is your passion and you live close by we want you to think of us first and foremost, instead of spending £40-50 on going to see City or United.

Me: I agree. You touched on women’s football, and that’s obviously growing quite rapidly at the moment. City obviously have a very successful women’s side. What do you think of Man United not having a senior Women’s side?

SS: Well, I’m probably strangely qualified to comment on this because we have a partnership arrangement with Man United Foundation, which means that they operate from our Eccles centre, where I’m the curricular manager of sport. So, yeah, I think that there’s probably movements for United to review their position. I would never speak on their behalf, but I think as the women’s game grows and the participation rates grow it will advance. You know, we really pushed our college, which has a women’s side, and to try and make sure that the girls have a chance to go on into open age female teams is something that’s at the forefront of our mind’s, and I’m sure that it won’t be long before they review their position. But I can tell you this for sure, the people behind the foundation running their girls’ regional talent programme from a young age, up to U18s, they’re a brilliant coaching network, their services are obviously very very good, so I’m sure that there would be appetite from them, but it’s a decision that has to be made by the board, but I’m sure it’s not far in the offing. 

Me: Sound. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions.

SS: No, no, no, my pleasure.

So, Steve does seem like a very dominative and scary figure on the field, but he was really nice to meet and clearly very enthusiastic about the club. If you ever have that chance to go and watch them, make sure you head down to Brookburn Road in Chorlton to see them.

If you enjoyed the article please leave a like, I’ll leave a link to the West Didsbury and Chorlton FC website below, so make sure you check them out, and any local side near you for that matter.

Please do add to the discussion in the comment section below, and if you want to see more from the dugout and be alerted when I post new content then please do follow the site, it’s free and you can use either your Email or your WordPress account. There will be a new post out during the week so stay tuned.