Big soccer clubs rue lack of power in transfer market

The summer transfer window does not close until the end of August, but despite some frenetic wheeling and dealing many clubs will remain unchanged when the new English Premiership season gets under way on Saturday.

Arsenal may have lost Patrick Vieira, and Chelsea may have snapped up Shaun Wright-Phillips from Manchester City, but for the most part, it will be the tried and trusted that the big clubs rely on as they look to win the title.

For a team with a billionaire owner, champions Chelsea have been relatively frugal this summer. Okay, so Wright-Phillips cost £21-million (€30 million), but their only other buy was left-back Asier Del Horno for £8-million, while the likes of Scott Parker have moved on to Newcastle United.

Hernan Crespo has returned from a loan spell with AC Milan, but they appear to have failed in their attempts to sign Michael Essien from Lyon.
Nevertheless, manager Jose Mourinho still believes his new signings will help his side retain the title, something that Arsenal under Arsene Wenger have failed to do.

“[Wright-Phillips] is even better than I thought,” Mourinho said.

“He’s a better player that I thought, more intelligent, not just intuitive. He also thinks the game. He understands what we teach. He understands where he is. He’s improving a lot to adapt to our tactical situation. He’s ready to play. He knows where to be. He knows what to do.”

For the first time in nine years, Arsenal will go into a Premiership season without the mighty presence of Vieira, who captained the team to such great success over the last few seasons.

The Frenchman’s departure for Juventus may have given Wenger some money to spend, but it’s also left a gaping hole in his midfield. Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini will be charged with filling Vieira’s boots, but Wenger hasn’t been inactive either.

Belarussian Alexander Hleb has joined for £10-million from Stuttgart, and they are still on the lookout for another midfielder with Newcastle’s Jermaine Jenas a possible target.

Manchester United, pushed down to third last season, go into the season in a state of flux after the acquisition of the club by American tycoon Malcolm Glazer. The takeover has divided the fans, and the club have not made their traditional big summer signing this year.

Park Ji-Sung will, however, add spice to the United midfield after his arrival from PSV Eindhoven, where he ran Milan’s defence ragged in the semifinals of the Champions League.

Manager Alex Ferguson’s seemingly perennial search for a goalkeeper resulted in yet another new boy, though Edwin van der Sar, who has moved from Fulham, has the experience required to excel in the United goal.

Perhaps the biggest changes have come at Anfield, where European champions Liverpool will be hoping to close the 37-point gap between themselves and Chelsea last season.

While the likes of Igor Biscan, Vladimir Smicer and Antonio Nunez have moved on, manager Rafael Benitez has brought in a host of new players including giant Southampton striker Peter Crouch, Middlesbrough midfielder Boudewijn Zenden and Spanish goalkeeper Jose Reina.

But though talk continues over the possible return of Michael Owen—who has also been linked with United, Arsenal and Newcastle—the biggest boost to Benitez’s plans was the decision by captain Steven Gerrard to stay at Anfield, shortly after he’d announced he would be leaving.

Big signings outside the big four—with apologies to Everton who finished fourth last year—were fairly thin on the ground, but Tottenham Hotpsur did pull of a big coup by persuading Edgar Davids to join them. The Dutch midfielder will add a lot to Spurs as they chase a European place.

Newcastle have signed Scott Parker and Turkey midfielder Emre, while they continue to monitor the situation regarding Owen at Real Madrid. And Blackburn will be hoping for big things from Craig Bellamy, who should enjoy a better relationship with Mark Hughes than he did with Graeme Souness at Newcastle.

The three promoted sides—Sunderland, Wigan Athletic and West Ham—have also been busy, though they have all been subject to strict financial control, and they can expect a long, tough season. - Sapa-DPA

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