Manchester United's summer transfer business given grade C+ with Arsenal a B+

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

There was a busy end to the summer transfer window as Premier League clubs worked hard to bolster their squads.

With the action switching from the gossip columns to the pitch, we grade the business of LiverpoolManchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham with Chelsea not examined due to their transfer ban.


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Following another disappointing campaign in which they failed to qualify for the Champions League, Manchester United needed something of an overhaul. The key though was to sign the right kind of players that fit the profile of what they require. Quality was paramount as was youth and energy.

The biggest area of concern was at centre-back. A reliable central defensive partner for Victor Lindelof needed to be the utmost priority. It was also apparent that Ashley Young shouldn’t be challenging Diogo Dalot for the right-back slot – they needed to do better.

With Nemanja Matic aging and Fred so far proving to be a bust, midfield reinforcement was also high on the list, just above a quality right winger.

Equally important was the need to ditch high-earning fringe players and, despite his poor end to the season, they had to keep hold of David de Gea. They couldn’t afford to lose Paul Pogba either, who remained the heartbeat of an otherwise underwhelming midfield.


The first one through the door was Daniel James and he ticked a lot of boxes. He came at a reasonable price, injects plenty of pace and energy into the attack, has the right attitude and is only 21. However, he’s also very raw and doesn’t necessarily solve United’s problem on the right given that he may not be ready for regular starting berths and looks far more comfortable on the left.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka on the other hand looks set to make the right-back slot his own for years to come. The 21-year-old has shown stunning defensive ability and looks the real deal. Well worth the £50m transfer fee.

Crucially, United also recruited a top quality centre-back in Harry Maguire though could’ve done with getting that deal over the line sooner. Axel Tuanzebe’s form in pre-season meanwhile is a timely boost in that department with Eric Bailly set to miss four months injured.

The midfield is still lacking though despite the Red Devils being linked with several signings in that department over the summer. They have managed to hold on to Pogba though along with David De Gea but decided against a replacement for Romelu Lukaku.

There’s still a lot of dead weight in the squad but they can still work on that until the end of the European transfer window.


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Benjamin Mendy has impressed every time he’s taken to the field but those occurrences have been far too few. The injury-prone left-back needed a strong deputy so City aren’t notably weakened by his absence.

It also became apparent last season that Fernandinho, operating in that key defensive midfield role in Pep Guardiola’s system, was on his last legs. Efforts to sign Jorginho as a replacement for him last summer were fruitless. Getting that right this time was going to be crucial.

A centre-back would’ve been on the shopping list as well. Vincent Kompany’s departure leaves some big boots to fill and John Stones hasn’t always looked up to the task.

The plethora of attacking options at their disposal means investment in that department was unnecessary as long as they could keep Bayern Munich target Leroy Sane at the club.


The biggest signing of their window has got to be the £63m acquisition of Rodri from Atletico Madrid. The defensive midfielder should go straight into the first team, relegating Fernandinho to second-choice.

They’ve quickly addressed the issue at left-back as well, re-signing Spaniard Angelino from PSV Eindhoven while recruiting Joao Cancelo for £60m solves a number of problems in defence.

The Portuguese is strong competition for Kyle Walker at right-back but Guardiola has suggested that he could even play on the left, boosting options on that side. Meanwhile, his arrival gives City the option of using Walker as a centre-back, where he’s featured previously for England.

That could be an innovative alternative for failing to sign a Kompany replacement at centre-back despite having pursued Harry Maguire only to drop out of the running once the Foxes named their price.

They have managed to hold on to Sane so far but the German is sidelined for up to six months.


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Apart from a striker, they could’ve used reinforcements in pretty much every position. The key areas of weakness though were in defence and central midfield.

None of Arsenal’s centre-backs have looked particularly convincing while Laurent Koscielny had been angling for a move away from the Emirates Stadium.

The loss of Aaron Ramsey in midfield on a free transfer is a huge blow as well while Granit Xhaka hasn’t been up to the mark either.


In fairness to Arsenal, they’ve managed to secure the services of a promising young centre-back in William Saliba for a very reasonable amount. However, he will only join the club next season.

Their immediate concerns in defence brought David Luiz’s deadline day arrival. He’s hardly the reliable defender they crave so with Koscielny’s departure, they’re right back where they started in that area for now. However, getting Kieran Tierney in late in the window was a huge win.

The signing of Nicolas Pepe is an extraordinary one especially given the profile of other clubs interested. He will certainly give them a boost but one can’t help but wonder how much good the same investment would do in other areas of the pitch.

Meanwhile, they couldn’t have done much better than Dani Ceballos in terms of midfield recruits. Of course, it’s only a year-long loan deal but it serves the purpose for now and who knows what the Spaniard may decide by the end of the campaign.


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Harry Winks has grown in stature in Tottenham’s midfield but he didn’t have the players around him to really thrive. Moussa Sissoko has been good in parts but Victor Wanyama’s fitness concerns and Eric Dier’s lack of mobility means they lacked a dominant midfielder alongside Winks.

Christian Eriksen’s contract situation and desire for a new challenge meant they needed to lure in cover for the Dane as well.

Another option in attack would’ve been ideal too. Fernando Llorente and Vincent Janssen were both let go while Son Heung-min has increasingly featured in central areas. Despite the progress made by Lucas Moura last season, Spurs still lack genuine wide options with pace.


In signing Tanguy Ndombele, Spurs finally filled a Moussa Dembele-shaped hole in their midfield. The Frenchman transforms the dynamic at the core of their side and was a crucial recruit.

To further boost their options in that area and cover for Eriksen’s potential move abroad, they also signed Giovani Lo Celso on loan – a smart bit of business.

Jack Clarke was also signed for £10m but the winger is spending the season on loan at Leeds in the Championship. Failing to add more up front is a bit of concern, especially if Harry Kane is injured for a lengthy duration at some point.


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Liverpool’s squad proved to be among the most complete in Europe last season so new acquisitions this summer was always going to be minimal especially with the likes of Joe Gomez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain handing them a boost with their returns from injury.

On paper, the Reds only required a bit of fine tuning which would involve moving on some of the fringe players nowhere near good or fit enough to challenge for first team action. The bar was raised last season and the new standards should apply to the whole squad.

Every team requires fresh blood though to keep them sharp and a couple of areas needed reinforcements like at left-back and possibly up front. Xherdan Shaqiri offered Liverpool a different option in attack last term but doesn’t necessarily challenge the front three while Andrew Robertson requires back-up.


The Merseyside outfit have done a fine job of losing the few bits of excess fat around a strong core. Daniel Sturridge, Alberto Moreno and Adam Bogdan were all released following the conclusion of their contracts.

They managed a great bit of business by fetching £18m for Danny Ings to move to Southampton while Rafael Camacho joined Sporting Lisbon for £5m and Simon Mignolet departed for £6.4m.

That said, Robertson is now the only recognised left-back in the first team squad. Of course, James Milner is capable of being a handy stand-in but Liverpool sacrifice a big chunk of their attacking threat when the Scot isn’t bombing down the left flank.

Given their current status as European champions, Jurgen Klopp’s side may have missed a trick by not capitalising on their standing and luring a marquee name who could serve them well for years to come. Young stars like Matthijs de Ligt and Nicolas Pepe were briefly linked to the Anfield club but the Reds didn’t actively pursue those opportunities.

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