After becoming the first Premier League team in history to log a summer transfer window without signing a single player, Spurs has seen its plans for moving into the new stadium backlogged by construction delays, throwing the team into a period of slight uncertainty. Still, that pales in comparison to the on-field uncertainty their opponents Fulham currently face.
The Whites became the first newly promoted Premier League team to spend over $100 million in a transfer window, but the squad is still working itself out after so many changes. Top signing Jean-Michael Seri looked fantastic in last week’s season-opening loss to Crystal Palace, but defensive midfielder Andre Zambo Anguissa has yet to make his team debut after signing on Deadline Day. In addition, center-backs Tim Ream and newly acquired Alfie Mawson are both injured and yet to return, leaving Calum Chambers and Maxim Le Marchand the only ones fit to start.
The Fulham goalkeeping situation is seriously in flux as well. Last year’s starter Marcus Bettinelli saw himself third-string in the season-opener, left out of the squad completely. Many speculated he was injured, but he earned the ire of manager Slavisa Jokanovic by publicly declaring himself fit. Starter Fabri, another new acquisition from Besiktas, was miserable on his debut, and it’s possible Sevilla loanee Sergio Rico could get his chance in net.
With Spurs spending nary a penny this summer, one thing in their favor is cohesion. They are missing Erik Lamela and Harry Winks with injury, while Heung-Min Son plays internationally with South Korea, but otherwise the main men are ready to go after their season-opening win over Newcastle last weekend. The only lineup changes from that match would be tactical, with Lucas Moura likely to retain his place in Son’s absence, while Kyle Walker-Peters could get a shot at right-back after Serge Aurier‘s so-so performance.
What they’re saying
Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic on his goalkeepers: “I have three goalkeepers and I will choose only one – one of them will be in the stand, one will be on the bench and one will be in the goal. It’s the same situation, we created the competition and it’s the same situation for Bettinelli and other keepers as it is for other parts of the squad. When you ask me why Bettinelli is not in the goal, I am talking about we make some investment for another player, and this is a player who has experience in higher level and has some experience in the Champions League and Europa League. For another side, the [injury] situation with Marcus Bettinelli during the pre-season forced us to bring in another keeper too, and this other keeper is a quality keeper who has similar experience to be a Champions League keeper and has won some European trophies. This is a fantastic situation for a head coach like me, the three keepers are in the same situation and they must fight for the position and in my hands is the decision what I believe is best for my team.”
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino on stadium delay: “Three stadiums in one season would be too much, we might have to find a way to play at Wembley, if that’s the day after the NFL, maybe the pitch is not in the best condition but we have to find a way. We need to be all together. Our fans understand it’s a massive, huge project that will be forever for them and for the club and it’s not possible for different things that happen, it’s not in our hands. The most import thing is to be positive. I understand the problems with tickets and money and I feel sorry for them. I want to say sorry, but we will try to reward them by winning games.”
Fulham has a fantastic squad after an exciting summer, but with injuries and new signings not fully fit, the squad is severely weakened. In addition, the Fulham style under Jokanovic does not suit itself to a match against a pressing team such as Tottenham. This match could swing quickly towards the home side with an early goal, and a rout would be understandable in this situation despite the optimism surrounding Fulham’s overall prospects this coming season. Spurs will win 3-0, maybe even deserving of a more flattering scoreline.
Warning: We’re not positive this list is going to satisfy anyone, including fans of the No. 1 player’s team.
Tasked with naming the Top Ten additions in the Premier League this summer, we had to include a signing agreed to before last season began, and also wanted to account for the impact a signing could have on a team’s fortunes.
For example, Alisson is a very good goalkeeper, but we’re not exactly sure goalkeeper is what crushed Liverpool’s hopes last season (Sergio Ramos, more likely).
8. Yerry Mina, Everton — Powerful Colombian center back brings a lot to what was an aging Toffees back line.
7. Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Brighton and Hove Albion — The Eredivisie’s top star joins Pascal Gross and his rising Gulls.
6. Fred, Manchester United — The best teams in the PL give you a tough time getting through the middle of the park; Nemanja Matic and Fred should make it a nightmare.
5. Jean Michael Seri, Fulham — What a win for the Cottagers, who get a nice Nice player who can play a pivotal role in all parts of the pitch.
4. Riyad Mahrez, Manchester City — The Etihad Stadium is an embarrassment of riches.
3. Joao Moutinho, Wolves — Consider that this guy cost just $7 million. Even at age 31, that meager fee bumps him up the list for a club which will be hoping for better than simple survival.
2. Jorginho, Chelsea — Maurizio Sarri must laugh when he considers his ability to use Jorginho, N'Golo Kante, and Tiemoue Bakayoko to make a midfield hell for opposing attackers.
Naby Keita, Liverpool — So much complete than anything Liverpool had in its center midfield last season. If he was able to arrive in 2017-18, the Reds might’ve won the UCL and finished second to City. Huge addition.
We know about the superstars. We know about the big-money transfers. We know about the young wonderkids.
But who are the players that have yet to reach the highest heights that could see a breakout performance? Harry Kane went from Spurs youth product to household name with 21 blasts in 2014/15. N'Golo Kante rocketed to stardom by leading Leicester City to a stunning Premier League title. Kevin De Bruyne made Chelsea sorry with 21 assists for Man City in 2016/17, cementing him as one of the best attacking mids in England. Jordan Pickford went from Premier League bottomfeeder to World Cup starter thanks to his performance last year with Everton.
So who makes the leap this coming season? We detail a few of the possible choices, will full knowledge that the true breakout star emerge come from a place nobody saw coming.
Liverpool’s outstanding young star was a true unknown midway through last season. The 19-year-old earned a starting spot in February and never gave it up, garnering respect from pundits and fans alike. At his tender young age, TAA started a Champions League final at right-back, tasked with marking the immortal Cristiano Ronaldo. He performed spectacularly. If that moment isn’t too big for the youngster, then what is? It’s not a question of if Trent will become a star, it’s when.
A relatively run-of-the-mill center-back at Leicester City before this summer, Maguire earned himself global notoriety at the World Cup, displaying aerial prowess and superior marking ability. Now, it’s up to the 25-year-old to back up that one month performance as more than a flash in the pan, whether he begins the season at King Power Stadium or at Old Trafford. Maguire set himself up perfectly with a summer to remember, but he needs a longer boost at the club level to become a true global household name.
At 17 years old last season, young Ryan Sessegnon became the first Championship player to ever be named to the PFA Young Player of the Year shortlist. Beginning his career at left-back, it became clear that Sessegnon’s true value was higher up the pitch, and Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic obliged. With the freedom to maraud forward, Sessegnon couldn’t stop scoring. He bagged 20 goals and nine assists last season in Championship play, but his young legs tired as the season came to a close. If he has rested up and fires goals in the Premier League like he did last season a level below, he will be worth a fortune in a year’s time.
New Arsenal defensive midfielder Lucas Torreira is just what the doctor ordered for the Gunners. Last season Arsenal maintained plenty of possession but struggled to cover the counter when they gave the ball away. With Unai Emery now in charge at The Emirates, the 22-year-old simply needs to beat out Granit Xhaka for minutes in the middle of the pitch. If he can earn his place in the lineup, Torreira showed in Serie A last season what he can bring to the Gunners, ranked the #10 overall player in the league last season by Squawka Statistics’ player metrics. He proved at the 2018 World Cup that his season was not a fluke, and now he’s ready to do big things in London.
Arsene Wenger may be gone from Arsenal, but that isn’t stopping the Gunners from plucking up premiere French young talent. Guendouzi is just 19, yet was a standout performer in Arsenal’s preseason run-up to the league campaign, and his David Luiz curls give him the edge needed to be a recognizable figure off the pitch. Costing just $10 million, his transfer from French club Lorient was utterly unnoticed, and that could make him one of the steals of the summer if he can earn regular playing time behind Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The Danish center-back was a critical figure last season at Chelsea, earning significant playing time. However, he dipped in form through the final third of the season, and wasn’t that spectacular at the World Cup. 2018-19 appears to be a critical season for the 22-year-old, but if Christensen can recapture the form that earned him a starting role under Antonio Conte, he can develop into one of the best center-backs in the Premier League.
Spending much of his young career either out on loan or a bit-part player at Chelsea, the Blues youth product has been on these lists and has yet to make the jump into a significant role. However, England manager Gareth Southgate saw enough ability to use him in a repeated substitute role at the World Cup this summer, and that might be the signal flare Maurizio Sarri needed. Working against Loftus-Cheek is a crowded Chelsea midfield, competing for time with Cesc Fabregas, Mateo Kovacic, Danny Drinkwater, N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, and Ross Barkley, but if he can come up with the goods this year, he will have pedigree to back up his hype.
With one Fulham player already on this list in Sessegnon, a new White makes the cut in new Ivory Coast international Jean-Michael Seri. The 27-year-old midfielder was a passing wizard in his three seasons at French club Nice, and he reportedly picked the Cottagers over Champions League clubs in England, Italy, and Germany. In Ligue 1 play, he was seventh in the league in completed through balls, and third if you don’t count absurdly dominant PSG. He was third overall in the league in key passes from open play. His xGBuildup, a stat that compiles the xG of every possession the player touches the ball not including shots and key passes, was better than Paul Pogba last season. Seri could be critical in Fulham’s attempt to play a Manchester City style in the top flight, and if he excels, he could be a valuable asset to not just survival but even greater accomplishments.
Wolves obliterated the Championship last season from start to finish, and a big reason why was the 21-year-old Portuguese winger. His pace was blistering, and with it he racked up 17 goals and drawing comparisons to Eden Hazard. Of the 16 games Jota scored in last season, Wolves won 12 and lost just one. He’s critical to the newly promoted side, and if he continues his form from last year, he could earn himself a look not just for Premier League Young Player of the Year, but also in the Portuguese national team, where he’s played significantly at the youth level but has yet to crack the senior squad.
With so many Liverpool stars around him, it would be easy for Naby Keita to enter the Reds starting lineup in his first season and fly under the radar. Don’t expect that to happen. The 23-year-old enters into a logjammed midfield with Fabinho making his way from Monaco, Jordan Henderson coming off a spectacular World Cup, Girginio Wijnaldum having a great preseason, Adam Lallana healthy and James Milner continuing to grind games out. He has plenty of talent around him, and with any luck can be a more well-rounded N’Golo Kante, even if those are massive shoes to fill.
Bonus +1! Kepa Arrizabalaga
What would this list be without the new Chelsea goalkeeper? A relative unknown until recent weeks, the 23-year-old has suddenly become the world’s most expensive goalkeeper. He will have a massive weight upon his shoulders to replace Thibaut Courtois, and if he performs, would help Chelsea fans forget the Belgian’s departure altogether. Kepa is relatively untested with just two full top flight seasons under his belt. Yet so was Courtois when Chelsea brought him in and loaned him to Atletico Madrid where he helped bring the Spanish side to the Champions League final. His first Premier League season could go a long way to defining his future.
Fulham, Wolverhampton, and Cardiff City have spent a combined $180 million this summer.
Manchester United, Manchester City, and Tottenham have spent a combined $185 million this summer.
The gap is closing. The influx of money from top to bottom across the Premier League table is having an effect, and lower-table teams are able to join the whirlwind at an unprecedented level. The three newly promoted teams in the Premier League have spent this summer at previously unimaginable levels.
So will this have an effect on the bottom of the table? Absolutely, positively it will.
Overhauling a squad following a successful season is always a major risk, but teams are more and more willing to take on that risk when it comes to ensuring Premier League safety, and ensuring the yearly checks continue to flow. Fulham alone has spent $89.5 million this summer, and could end up changing a whopping six members of their EFL Playoff Final starting lineup.
But money isn’t good money unless it’s smart money, and these teams are closing the gap there too. Fulham pulled off a coup when they nabbed passing wizard Jean-Michael Seri from OGC Nice, a player coveted by Champions League teams in England, Italy, and Germany. They paid a pretty penny too, costing them $34.7 million, a Fulham transfer record. Wolves looks to have pulled off a steal by snagging 21-year-old Diogo Jota from Atletico Madrid, with the $16 million looking well worth the damage after leading the team with 18 goals last season in the Championship. They’re set to add to that total with the impending capture of Adama Traore for a reported $23 million, breaking Wolves’ transfer record as well. Cardiff bolstered its mediocre attack by spending $26 million on a pair of English wingers in their prime.
Both Fulham and Wolves also kept their top talent, no easy feat with sharks in the waters. Ryan Sessegnon stayed on at Craven Cottage despite becoming the first lower-division player to be nominated for PFA Young Player of the Year, and 21-year-old Ruben Neves signed a new six-year contract at Wolves this summer after carving the Championship to pieces last campaign. Both players had bigger clubs circling, waiting to strike.
Even smaller clubs in the Premier League not yet considered established are ponying up the cash. Brighton has shelled out $60 million this summer, $53 million of which came on three players. Huddersfield Town, a club that had never sniffed the top division in English soccer before promotion last year, has found $53 million to spend.
With the new standard being wildly shifted, where does that leave clubs like Burnley, Newcastle, and Watford, who have barely spent a dime? Each of these requires a different answer at the more microscopic level, but it all boils down to one result – they will be left behind. With smaller clubs able to splash the cash, the margin for error is getting thinner by the year. It’s harder and harder to find three teams worse than [insert financially strapped club here]. Burnley, for example, has a Europa League campaign to navigate plus a follow-up to their 7th place finish last season, but they have purchased just one player this summer, with manager Sean Dyche vocally protesting increasing player prices.
What about Tottenham, an established upper-tier club that literally hasn’t spent a dime this window? Will they be punished for not improving this summer at all?
That’s more complicated of an answer. The short version is no. Spurs has such a deep team with so few true holes, they can afford to take a summer off. If it becomes a more long-term strategy? Sure, they’ll fall back. But we all know that’s not the case.
Yet for the clubs in peril every waking moment of their Premier League existence, the writing is on the wall is clear: spend or wilt. The newly promoted clubs know long-term investments require short-term movement, and the time is now to keep up with the boat, or sink into the perilous waters below.