Summer transfer window grades: How did each club do?

Leave a comment

Now that the summer transfer window is closed in the Premier League, it is time to let the dust settle and figure out, amid all the madness, who actually did the best business.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news ] 

How did each Premier League club do? Was a record summer of spending enough to strengthen teams? Or did some fail to address glaring weaknesses?

[ MORE: Top 10 buys of the summer ]

Below we give all 20 PL teams a grade and sum up their summer window.


Manchester United – A
Their business was done early and properly with Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic starting off superbly and Victor Lindelof will settle in. Smart business by Jose Mourinho with his squad now looking like a much stronger unit overall. Didn’t need a new wide player in the end because his team started the season so well.


Manchester City – A-
Pep Guardiola did plenty of business early in the window and he addressed his needs superbly with Kyle Walker, Danilo, Benjamin Mendy and Ederson improving their defense. Bernardo Silva is a luxury signing and Alexis Sanchez would have been something similar but City couldn’t get it over the line. Very solid window but one more center back would have given them an A.


Everton – B+
Like Man United and Man United the Toffees did their business early. Ronald Koeman strengthened his defense with Michael Keane and Jordan Pickford and spent the Romelu Lukaku cash wisely with Gylfi Sigurdsson, Davy Klaassen and Wayne Rooney likely to score and create plenty of goals. However, failing to sign a recognized targetman could come back to haunt Koeman. Olivier Giroud or Diego Costa would have been perfect for this system.


Tottenham Hotspur – B+
Spurs had a really strong finish to the window, adding Davinson Sanchez, Serge Aurier and Fernando Llorente. That gives them more cover in defense and an extra option off the bench with Llorente happy to back up Harry Kane. Selling on Kyle Walker for over $65 million made sense and Mauricio Pochettino will be happy with his summer window after keeping hold of Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Kane and Danny Rose.


West Brom – B+
The Baggies had a really decent window and pulled off a big shock with silky midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak arriving on loan from Paris Saint-Germain. Jay Rodriguez, Kieran Gibbs and Gareth Barry are all solid additions who will start and Tony Pulis managed to keep hold of his skipper Jonny Evans despite interest from Man City and Arsenal.


Leicester City – B+
Decent window for the Foxes as they managed to keep hold of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy and although it seems likely they lost Danny Drinkwater to Chelsea, they added some deadline day deals in Aleksandar Dragovic and potentially Adrien Silva. Early additions of Harry Maguire, Kelchi Iheanacho and Vicente Iborra seem to have strengthened the overall squad too.


Liverpool – B
Mohamed Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are both key additions in the window and sealing the deal for Naby Keita was a big one for next summer. However, not adding a top-class center back (the Virgil Van Dijk pursuit was doomed from the start) was a big letdown and there is still an issue with the goalkeeping department. Some issues not addressed but Philippe Coutinho seems all but certain to stick around, so that’s a positive.


Huddersfield Town – B
David Wagner added more new players than any other team and Huddersfield have looked the part early on. Steve Mounie is a powerful forward with an eye for goal, grabbing Aaron Mooy on a permanent deal was superb business and goalkeeper Jonas Lossl has settled in well. Unlike the other promoted teams Huddersfield did their business early and were rewarded.


Swansea City – B
They held out and got a huge sum of $57.6 million for Gylfi Sigurdsson which they then spent wisely on re-signing Wilfried Bony and adding Renato Sanches on loan in a stunning deal from Bayern Munich. They did lose Fernando Llorente too, but Tammy Abraham seems like a steal on loan and the Swans will be hopeful their young squad can surprise opponents. Decent window all things considered.


Burnley – B
They lost Michael Keane and Andre Gray but did recoup over $60 million for the duo and spent it wisely with Chris Wood, Jack Cork and Jonathan Walters coming in. Plenty of experience added by Sean Dyche and the Clarets will once again be tough to break down. Solid window.


Watford – B
Marco Silva added some decent signings from Udinese around deadline day and brought in Andre Gray and Richarlison to strengthen their attack. Nathaniel Chalobah and Will Hughes will add energy in midfield and overall an inventive window, once again, from the Hornets.


Stoke City – B
The Potters did some really good business late in the window which saved them. Jese and Choupo-Moting look lively up top and Kurt Zouma, Kevin Wimmer and Bruno Martins Indi will improve them defensively. Darren Flecther is another solid buy but another striker would have been ideal for Mark Hughes.


Southampton – B-
They kept hold of Virgil van Dijk which was the main aim and added Mario Lemina in midfield and center backs Jan Bednarek and Wesley Hoedt. Saints really could have done with freshening up their attack but it didn’t seem like they were close to key forward additions.


Chelsea – B-
A really weird window for Chelsea who kept seeing players turn them down. From Romleu Lukaku to Oxlade-Chamberlain and Llorente to Ross Barkley, Antonio Conte couldn’t get deals over the line and Chelsea’s squad isn’t looking as strong as it did at the end of last season. Selling Nemanja Matic to Manchester United was a bad decision and the situation surrounding Diego Costa’s future was handed poorly. Alvaro Morata will be a star and both Bakayoko and Rudiger are also good additions, but not a great window at all for the Blues.


Bournemouth – C+
Adding experience was the main aim and Bournemouth did that early with Asmir Begovic and Jermain Defoe coming in. Nathan Ake should be a solid buy too but Eddie Howe‘s attack is looking a little lackluster after the opening weeks of the season.


West Ham United – D
It looked like decent business on paper but three of their four buys in the window look like they could be ill-advised. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez will score goals for fun but Pablo Zabaleta and Joe Hart look low on confidence and Marko Arnautovic already has a red card and some poor displays against his name. Not a great window for the Hammers.


Crystal Palace – D-
Yes, they may well add Mamadou Sakho, but apart from that it has been a disastrous start to life in the Premier League for Frank De Boer. With three defeats he needed to add another two defenders and another striker to help ease the load on Christian Benteke. Palace have some big squad issues with a new playing style not suiting many of their players.


Brighton – F
Numbers have arrived but real quality hasn’t for the Seagulls. It is early days but you have to think more firepower was necessary for them to have any chance of staving off relegation. Davy Propper could be a good buy and so too could Jose Izquierdo but apart from that an underwhelming window. If they manage to add Vincent Janssen it would improve their grade, but not by much.


Arsenal – F
My goodness. What happened? From still having Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil around, to losing out on Thomas Lemar on the final day and selling Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsene Wenger has a nightmare. They added Alexandre Lacazette but did they really need another striker? Yet another window has come and gone without Wenger addressing the glaring problems in central midfield and defense. They way this situation has been handled from the top of the club is shambolic.


Newcastle United – F
Rafael Benitez and his owner Mike Ashley have been airing their dirty laundry in the media and Benitez has not got the deals he wanted. Joselu could score some goals but overall it was a really poor window for Newcastle, a team who should be challenging for a top four finish considering their stadium and fanbase. This window suggests they will be battling relegation.

Sunday league in New York rallies around assaulted referee

@BN_Soccer
Leave a comment

I had to share a nice, feel-good moment from my neck of the soccer woods on this fine Sunday in July.

It starts with something heinous, though.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Let’s begin here: The Buffalo District Soccer League (BDSL) is an 81-team men’s league in Western New York. It also conducts the Tehel Cup, the oldest amateur cup tournament in the United States.

Unfortunately, this post is about neither of the positives associated with those facts, as last weekend saw a player lose control after receiving a red card. The player in question hit referee Mike Crane, leaving the official with a head injury.

It’s not the first time we’ve written about referee assault; Unfortunately, typing the phrase “referee dies” in the PST search tool brings up multiple entries.

Yet the incident understandably caused a stir in the Buffalo soccer community, as the BDSL rallied around Crane and its officials.

Clubs assembled before their matches to take photos with the referee units, tagging each on Twitter with the hashtag #UnitedForCrane.

Let’s hope this post serves as a reminder to all weekend warriors and professional players alike: It’s still just a game.

 

What’s next for growing American would-be pro soccer clubs like Detroit City?

@DetroitCityFC
Leave a comment

As our attention switches from international football back to the club game, a new article coming out of Michigan recalls where American soccer was when the American soccer world hit pause for the World Cup in June.

That’s when the United States Soccer Federation rejected billionaire businessman Rocco Commisso’s plea for a 10-year runway to bring the North American Soccer League to Division 1 league status by virtue of a $500 million investment proposal.

As if on cue, a John Niyo article in The Detroit News drags the so-called “closed system” back to the forefront, and his writing on National Premier Soccer League side Detroit City FC makes an interesting case.

[ MORE: Atlanta 1-1 Seattle ]

DISCLAIMER: Before we go any further, it’s important to note I operate a club in the same league as Detroit City, and very much admire how they’ve built what they’ve built there. That said, my opinions may be buttressed by that fact but are not birthed by bias.

The would-be Cliffs Notes go something like this: Detroit City FC wants to move from the short-season, semi-pro National Premier Soccer League to a fully professional league with a longer season. The rub is that DCFC currently only has one path and it’s one neither they nor the lion’s share of their supporters would support at the given time.

That’s largely because the U.S. Soccer Federation has only sanctioned two options above the NPSL: The United Soccer League and Major League Soccer. If DCFC doesn’t want to play a part in either of those organizations, it has no other current option. And while Detroit City has continued to bring huge crowds to its restored Keyworth Stadium whether NPSL matches or friendlies against the likes of FC St. Pauli, Necaxa, or Venezia, its next step is currently stuck in a holding pattern despite the club’s achievements.

And — and this is where Commisso’s offer comes back into play — the USSF has no reason to sanction any league that doesn’t go by its current divisional guidelines, which demand a very wealthy owner and specific stadium requirements amongst other things. Infrastructure and fan support can be built, but asking these clubs to hand themselves over to someone with deeper pockets simply to meet a standard is real 2×4 to the gut.

“What you’re doing is awesome, but imagine if instead of you owning all of your success, you found a wealthier person to help you meet our standards?”

As we saw when MLS had its Detroit press conference without DCFC, there is no longer the ability to pretend soccer wasn’t already in town. DCFC may seem like an outlier, and may well be one, having had massive success with big crowds in a stadium they renovated themselves. Yet there’s little doubt there are myriad markets in this giant country that wouldn’t mind trying their hands with something new.

Put plainly, there are 172 clubs in the NPSL and Premier Development League alone, few of whom are in markets with MLS teams. Even eliminating the PDL teams with close relationships to MLS and the USL (The USL owns the PDL), and there are still well over 100 teams in play. Sure, some of those may not have the ambition to grow higher, but they are also currently also shackled by having to compete against the former NASL teams who had no alternative outside of the USL once their Division 2 league shut down last winter.

So Niyo’s article asks a question many have posited in the realms of social media: Why not go outside the structure of FIFA?

From The Detroit News:

Building a league outside the constraints of U.S. Soccer’s “Professional League Standards” could be one option for remaining NASL owners — New York, Miami and Jacksonville — and NPSL teams that are looking to grow pro. Detroit City FC was one of at least a half-dozen NPSL teams — clubs from Boston, Phoenix, Virginia Beach and Boca Raton, Fla. among them — poised to join the NASL with letters of intent last fall. But whatever path a new league pursues, it’ll require strength in numbers — at least 10 or 12 teams — and a geography that makes sense.

It’s a major risk, one that certainly is lined with the hopes that the influencers and money people behind the USSF might blink at significant competition.

But it still requires significant salesmanship: Getting top-notch players to commit to a league which several hampers their international aspirations is a hard sell (The NASL had capped players from 27 caps heading into the 2016 season).

[ MORE: LAFC 0-0 Portland ]

So, too, is convincing deep-pocketed investors that they are capable of slaying, or at least denting, a big machine which has grown in a dramatic way in the last two decades. If a guy like Commisso, who has since went deep into discussions for a takeover of AC-freaking-Milan, sees the value and necessity of USSF sanctioning, lawsuits or not, certainly most would have the same questions.

Are there enough of the renegade rich to self-sustain a league outside of the MLS-USL set-up, and even get to sanctioning? Probably, as evidenced by Commisso’s belief that he’d be able to go from multi-club ownership of a D-1 NASL to 10 owners within a decade.

And there’s no denying the allure of safety for new markets. NISA founder Peter Wilt left his nascent D-3 league to helm USL soccer in Madison, and it’s easy to envision his safer new venture an almost automatic success.

So would that same group of risk takers be willing to do it outside of USSF sanctioning, without name players?

That’s where DCFC’s status as an outlier might really come into play. For everyone tooting the proverbial horn of MLS’ rapid and impressive evolution in quality — academies and foreign recruitment alike have made the league very entertaining — there’s no doubt that players with the name quality of Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, or Carlos Vela still put butts in seats.

Consider this: For all its growth, MLS’ top performing players remain almost overwhelmingly foreign-developed. Using an advanced rating site like WhoScored, the Top 20 finds only two players with any sort of U.S. or Canadian development in their lockers (and that’s being gracious with Kei Kamara, who came to U.S. for college at the age of 20).

You get to No. 23 before another U.S. developed player, Sean Davis, hits the list. It only gets to seven by No. 40 if you allow foreign-born players who largely grew their games in college soccer (including Mark-Anthony Kaye from TFC’s Academy and York University in Ontario).

Suffice it to say, there’s plenty of quality American and foreign talent which would benefit from more jobs.

As DCFC CEO Sean Mann says in The Detroit News piece: “It was frustrating: Why are there so many obstacles? We’re not zealots. We’re not crusaders to reform American soccer. We just want to play at a higher level. We want to naturally grow. And U.S. soccer doesn’t allow that.”

This nation is gigantic, and there are few fans out there who genuinely believe MLS will stop expanding any time soon. In fact, it’s a safe bet that the long play is to one day announce a knockoff of promotion and relegation within the confines of the Major League Soccer umbrella.

The question isn’t who’s right and who’s wrong. Let’s face it: the answers seem likely to fall along the lines of one’s political alliances. Those who fear the risks of the new and unusual will worry about short-circuiting the current path, while the other side will beg to give ideals and theories a chance at practice in the name of something better.

But something does have to change. Soon, more and more major success stories are going to be held short of their goals because of the current structure. Whether that’s Detroit City or Chattanooga seeking a next level and not finding it, or the Sacramento Republic not getting its shot at MLS, or a fan base and market like Columbus getting waylaid by a slimy contract and inaction from on high, they will keep coming into your news feed.

chattanoogafc.com

And if we keep making the mistake of letting these conversations regress to simple “pro-rel” banter, then we’re all going to lose. And it’s going to take a bunch of risk takers who put aside their egos to find common ground.

Here’s a quick way to put the American soccer landscape in perspective: Look at a map. As this sport continues to grow, and the country’s young players are coached and encouraged by generations of fans who were coached and encouraged by fans themselves, the markets for summer sporting entertainment will continue to explode in the United States (with only baseball to compete with them thanks to the given calendar implemented by the USSF).

Are there more than 26 markets fit to host a top-tier side? Yep. Are there more than the 60-plus when tossing in USL (but subtracting MLS reserve sides)? Yep.

And if Commisso’s offer tells us anything, anything at all, it’s that there are figures out there who love the game and have an appetite for something not currently satisfied by the current structure. So either MLS or the USSF is going to announce its plan for a much bigger league with more than a couple dozen markets, or someone is going to challenge from the outside (Of course, both could happen and that would be very intriguing).

Either way, let’s hope it happens before the next guys who want to take up Detroit City’s example decide they’d rather not rattle their skulls against an unnecessary ceiling.

What’s the solution given the current power and success of the USSF? Your takes are welcome.

Nothing to separate Portland and 10-man LAFC

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
Leave a comment

There was entertainment value in Los Angeles FC’s potential playoff preview with the Portland Timbers on Sunday in the City of Angels, but all that arrived was a scoreless draw.

[ MORE: Atlanta 1-1 Seattle ]

Both Giovani Savarese’s Timbers and Bob Bradley‘s nickname-free expansion club remain in the West’s Top Four. PLAFC remains unbeaten at home during their maiden voyage through Major League Soccer.

Adama Diomande came close for the hosts, who finished with 10-men when Lee Nguyen went studs-up on Sebastian Blanco‘s thigh for a pretty easy red card (though it took some time for Silviu Petrescu to produce the red).

VIDEO: France stars projected onto Arc de Triomphe

@telefoot_TF1
Leave a comment

If France’s players had any doubt about the level of import their World Cup title had back home, it was erased when their photos were projected onto one of the most celebrated monuments in the world.

The photos of Hugo Lloris, Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, and company made their way onto the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday, hours after France defeated Croatia 4-2 in the World Cup Final.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The Arc de Triomphe honors those who died in the French Revolution and early 19th century wars, and sits above France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

How humbling must it be for those players to grace such a heavy monument (both in weight and substance).