LONDON — One man was missing, again, on Saturday as Gareth Bale wasn’t in Tottenham’s squad for their final preseason friendly against Espanyol on Saturday afternoon.
In fact, Bale wasn’t anywhere to be seen at White Hart Lane.
The 23-year-old Welshman is having his head turned by Real Madrid and rumors of a $120 million transfer fee continues to swirl around Bale and Tottenham.
But Bale’s future aside, the preparations are done. Preseason is all but over.
The final warmups are completed and in seven days the 2013-14 Premier League season will begin. And after today’s friendlies we have a much better idea of how some of the big teams will line up come August 17.
On Saturday some high-profile friendlies took place as the Premier League’s finest had one final tuneup before the curtain raiser next weekend.
Tottenham faced Spanish side Espanyol at White Hart Lane, while Arsenal and Manchester City squared off against each other in Helsinki.
Arsenal defeated Man City 3-1 in Finland, with goals from Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott cancelling out Alvaro Negredo’s strike.
While Spurs looked impressive at White Hart Lane, barely giving Espanyol a sniff in the first half. New $40 million signing from Valencia, Roberto Soldado, scored from the penalty spot on his home debut to open the scoring and as the game played out, Tottenham looked composed.
The old adage that flies around during preseason is true. “Results don’t matter.” “It’s all about fitness,” blah, blah, blah…
But it’s true. Nobody is worried about the scorelines. The performances matter and most importantly, who is out there playing.
Here are the starters for Arsenal, Spurs and Manchester City one week from the start of the season. And when Manchester United play Wigan in the Community Shield on Sunday, David Moyes’ first-choice lineup should be revealed. Wayne Rooney aside. While elsewhere, Liverpool and Chelsea have a pretty settle look to their squads.
Anyway, have a look at these. Which team looks the strongest right now?
Tottenham’s Starting XI: Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Fryers, Rose; Dembele, Chadli, Paulinho; Lennon, Soldado, Sigurdsson
Arsenal’s Starting XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott, Podolski
Manchester City Starting XI: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Fernandinho, Toure, Silva, Milner, Dzeko, Negredo
Arsenal have hardly changed. Is that a good or a bad thing? Well, they only really need to add maybe one more holding midfielder and a top quality striker. After an incredible finish to last season, the Gunners haven’t lost anyone and look strong.
Man City are a work in progress but Negredo continues to score and City may start with two strikers with Edin Dzeko once again getting the nod. Their back four remains the same and Fernandinho has replaced Gareth Barry in the holding midfield role.
While Tottenham were exciting and dynamic going forward, with Soldado supported by Aaron Lennon, Nacer Chadli, Sigurdsson and brief forays forward from Paulinho and Dembele. But some work is needed defensively with Jan Vertonghen out injured.
You can never read too much into friendlies but these lineups give a great insight into what managers think their strongest XI is going forward.
Seven days to go. Will these starting lineups be the same for the opening day of the Premier League?