While some of the rival club’s below them have spent the summer to date scrambling to sell players and recruit new ones, Manchester City and Liverpool have so far radiated an air of calm when it has come to their transfer market dealings.
If anything, the upcoming Premier League season looks like it may well chart a path similar to the season just gone. Once again Manchester City and Liverpool look to be the main challengers, while the chasing pack below them do exactly that – chase.
While both Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola are deep into their ‘project’s’ at their respective clubs, team’s such as Manchester United and Chelsea are having to hit the restart button, and a season of rebuilding awaits them. This gives the impression that we are in for a two-horse race yet again this season.
This has been reflected so far in the way both City and Liverpool have approached the current transfer window. Both Guardiola and Klopp have only minor tweaking to do when it comes to player recruitment, as both their squads are much stronger than the teams below them and will remain to be for the foreseeable future.
The heavy lifting has been done in the last few seasons when it comes to putting together a squad strong enough to not alone just challenge for the Premier League, but to challenge on all fronts – especially in Europe. That has given them room to breathe this summer, as they are not desperately trying to fill essential positions on the pitch.
In the case of Manchester City, Guardiola has never been one to do his business late in the window and usually has his preferred targets through the door nice and early. Yes, City have a huge advantage over most clubs when it comes to spending power, but they do their due diligence when it comes to recruitment and that puts them even further ahead of their rivals.
This summer their main priority was to find a successor to Fernandinho at the base of the midfield. Last season, Guardiola had identified Jorghino as the man to fill the gap, but eventually lost out after the Italian international chose to link up with his old boss Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea.
The target this summer was Rodri of Atletico Madrid, and he joined up at the beginning of July for a sizeable £62 million fee. The only other notable signing so far for the Champions was a resigning of left-back Angelino from PSV Eindhoven.
Kevin De Bruyne, who missed a large chunk of last season through injury will also be like something of a new signing to them, and if he had played more last season, the title may have not gone down to the last day. We should also see more of Phil Foden in the first team after he performed well when called upon towards the tail end of last year’s record-breaking campaign.
The situation is the same down the road on Merseyside, as Jurgen Klopp is only looking to add a couple of new faces to his European cup winning team. Losing out on the League by a single point and winning a Champions League trophy means Klopp doesn’t have to do any serious rebuilding as his squad is in a healthy state when it comes to strength and depth.
Priorities are cover for Andy Robertson at left-back and possibly another forward to take some of the weight off Roberto Firmino. Nicolas Pepe is the name that keeps appearing in the gossip pages, but there has been no solid info from either Liverpool or the strikers current club Lille.
Klopp looks set to turn to Rhian Brewster, who finally looks set to make an impression on the first team, as Firmino’s main back up. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be as good as a new signing also, as he missed all but a handful of games last season due to injury.
You get the sense from both City and Liverpool this summer that they realise they’re streets ahead of the rest when it comes to how strong a team they have. Last season finished with a whopping 25 point gap between second-place Liverpool and third-place Chelsea, and it looks a real possibility that the top two will continue to widen the gap between them and their rivals, as all have problems that will take time to sort out.
Manchester United need to move on some players in order to continue with rebuilding their team, and selling Paul Pogba seems to be key to this.
For Chelsea, they have to adapt to a new manager and probably a whole new style of playing with ‘Sarri-ball’ kicked to the curb, all on top of dealing with their transfer ban.
Across London, Arsenal are struggling financially after a couple of seasons without Champions League prize money. If their derisory bid for Wilf Zaha is anything to go by, then they could be in for another season of staring up at those precious top four places.
Tottenham, on the other hand, look to be once again the team most likely to come closest to making it a three-horse race, but a lot will depend upon whether they can keep star midfielder, Christian Eriksen.
When you contrast Liverpool’s and Manchester City’s summers so far with that of their closest rivals, you can’t help but feel they are more than just a few steps ahead, and the advantage of a more or less settled and already superior squad in pre-season will only help strengthen the gap between them and the chasing pack.