Transfer window talking points: Are Man City stronger than ever? What next for Cristiano Ronaldo? Do Arsenal have enough depth? – Sky Sports

Plus: Man Utd’s new-look South American core; renewed optimism at Everton; Leicester must adjust after tough window; Nottingham Forest’s record-breaking number of signings; Fulham not resting on their laurels; do Chelsea have a better squad and which players boosted their World Cup hopes?
By Sky Sports Football
Friday 2 September 2022 17:17, UK
Following a record-breaking summer transfer window, Sky Sports discusses some of the key talking points. Are Manchester City stronger than ever? What next for Cristiano Ronaldo? Do Arsenal have enough squad depth and much more…
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Man City have seen Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, Fernandinho and Oleksandr Zinchenko exit the club this summer – but thanks to some smart business they incredibly end the transfer window with a stronger squad than last season, when they racked up 93 points.
Capturing Erling Haaland for £51m looks like a real bargain, with the Norwegian feasting on the early-season chances created for him by Pep Guardiola’s group. Add in the arrival of Julian Alvarez, who has shown himself to be a sharp finisher and tenacious worker, and City’s attack has gone to a new level, despite the absence of Jesus and Sterling.
After Zinchenko admirably filled in, Sergio Gomez offers genuine left-back cover for Joao Cancelo, while Manuel Akanji adds more top-level experience and depth to the defence. In midfield, we’ve seen just one minute of Kalvin Phillips in City colours but his reputation with England and Leeds suggests the 26-year-old is an ideal alternative to Rodri in that area of the park.
There’s balance and options across the pitch for Pep, who will also be delighted Bernardo Silva stayed put amid interest from Barcelona. A triumphant window for City which will surely point towards more success on the pitch…
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Manchester United made six signings this summer. Three of those were South Americans. The club’s recruitment strategy throughout the transfer window was far from convincing – first-choice target Frenkie de Jong remains at Barcelona after all – but the players who have been brought in have undoubtedly lifted spirits at Old Trafford.
In Argentina defender Lisandro Martinez, United have a centre-back who has already won over supporters thanks to his fearless mentality and aggressive attitude. Since joining from Ajax for £56.7m, the passion and commitment he has shown on the pitch have immediately improved standards at the back.
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Much has been made of his height at 5ft 9in, but the stats suggest there has been a fuss about nothing. Against Southampton last week, the 24-year-old won five out of five aerial duels, more than any other player. He impressed again as United kept another clean sheet at Leicester on Thursday.
Martinez is a warrior and clearly the type of individual Erik ten Hag wants in his side. The Dutchman spent most of his summer budget (£212.7m) on similar characters. Casemiro (£70m) will provide extra bite in midfield, while Antony (£86m) will add more firepower and determination – and clearly some Brazilian flair – in the final third.
It remains to be seen how quickly Casemiro and Antony adapt to the Premier League, but Martinez has certainly highlighted the qualities South Americans can offer this United side. And there could be four in Ten Hag’s strongest starting line-up this season, with Fred looking to bring his flourishing international partnership with Casemiro to Manchester.
United have lacked leaders on the pitch in recent years, but that is no longer the case. Signing an Argentine and two Brazilians in one transfer window has given them a new-look core. There is still room for improvement, but Ten Hag will be happy with his summer business. And after three consecutive victories in the Premier League, there is a reason for United fans to feel excited.
Dan Sansom
Cristiano Ronaldo is still a Manchester United player.
When the news broke that the five-time Ballon d’Or winner had asked to leave it felt inevitable he would somehow force his way out of Old Trafford.
Almost immediately there were talks with Chelsea’s new owner Todd Boehly as his agent Jorge Mendes began to try to sell his biggest client to clubs across Europe.
The Champions League’s record goalscorer didn’t want to play in the Europa League. Ronaldo wanted to remain in his competition and cement his legacy.
Manchester United were consistent with their message. Ronaldo would stay and play a big part under new manager Erik ten Hag. The 37-year-old was not for sale.
There were some that felt if the right club – not a Premier League rival – arrived with an appropriate offer early enough in the window, a deal could’ve been done. But two months passed and the only concrete offer that arrived was from Saudi Arabia.
Top clubs in Europe no longer see enough value in forking out massive wages for an ageing player, who will struggle to adapt to a modern, high-pressing style of football. Ronaldo’s quality in front of goal is undoubted – his 24 goals carried a shoddy United team last season – but he’s no longer the in-demand superstar he once was.
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Ten Hag insists Ronaldo is happy to stay and part of his plans this season. But after five games, Ronaldo has started just once and been named on the bench four times. Thursday’s win at Leicester was the first time since 2005 that the Portugal captain had been a substitute three games in a row.
For now, Ronaldo appears to be dealing with his new-found role well. He’s been seen celebrating his team-mates’ goals and there’s been no obvious signs of frustration on the bench.
Ronaldo’s patience may be rewarded too. Ten Hag has spoken on multiple occasions about rotating his forward line to cope with the rigours of his system. Even with the £85m arrival of Brazil forward Antony from Ajax, United look short on attacking options, especially in the No 9 position.
Anthony Martial is the preferred option, but injuries already appear to be hampering his season. While Marcus Rashford has failed to convince as a lone striker in matches when United dominate possession. It’s time for Ronaldo to adapt, but he’ll still be key for United in what is surely his final season at Old Trafford.
Zinny Boswell
Mikel Arteta claimed that his Arsenal team would still be the “best in the world” in his eyes, even if they didn’t sign anyone on Deadline Day. There’s reason to back that up slightly as well, with the Gunners top of the Premier League with a 100 per cent record after five matches.
But the last week or so has hinted that Arsenal may be rather thin – as they go on a monster run of 18 matches in 70 days before the World Cup. That’s just over an average of a game every three and a half days.
It is far from an easy run either. With Manchester United, Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester City on the agenda in the next six weeks, with trips to Chelsea, Leeds and Brentford alongside their Europa League travels to the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland, Arsenal’s squad will be stretched, but do they have the depth needed?
Injuries to Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny meant Arsenal went into Deadline Day needing a midfielder but it didn’t come – despite their best attempts to sign Aston Villa’s Douglas Luiz, while Leicester’s Youri Tielemans went untouched.
Now Arsenal only have Albert Sambi Lokonga as their only recognised and desired player at the bottom of their three-man midfield pivot. While Oleksandr Zinchenko, Granit Xhaka and Ben White can feature there, it is far from an ideal shortlist.
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The other area of concern is at right wing with Nicolas Pepe let go and no back-up to Bukayo Saka brought in. The England international has played in Arsenal’s last 47 Premier League matches – the second highest total of consecutive appearances from an outfield player currently playing in the top-flight – and looked physically exhausted at the end of last season.
Now Saka will likely have to hold the right-wing spot on his own with Reiss Nelson injured and Fabio Vieira the only other player who could feature in the 21-year-old’s position.
Arsenal have largely done some good business with the likes of Gabriel Jesus, William Saliba and Zinchenko making immediate impacts as new faces. But injuries without having adequate cover let them down last season. Will the same problem derail this positive start this time?
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The cold reality of Leicester’s transfer window dawned as they were comfortably beaten by Manchester United while Deadline Day ticked past in the background.
Chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha addressed the club’s lack of spending in his programme notes, explaining measures had to be taken “to ensure we manage our compliance with the game’s sustainability regulations”.
He pointed out how for five consecutive windows before 2021, Leicester had invested into the squad “without a significant sale” but this summer “we couldn’t risk unbalancing that equation further” so a different approach was taken, making space in the squad before new additions.
Wesley Fofana’s £75m move to Chelsea dominated the Foxes’ summer and will help balance the books after goalkeeper and captain Kasper Schmeichel ended his 11-year stay by signing for Nice.
The club did at least confirm the signing of £15m Reims centre-back Wout Faes on Deadline Day having only previously added goalkeeper Alex Smithies on a free from Cardiff.
Leicester have also lost Ademola Lookman, who was on loan from RB Leipzig last season and has signed for Atalanta. It could have been worse, though. Youri Tielemans remains at the King Power after another window of heavy links away while bids for James Maddison from Newcastle were rejected.
But after finishing fifth, fifth and eighth in three full seasons under Brendan Rodgers, including FA Cup and Community Shield success, the sights must now be adjusted following the Premier League’s record-breaking window.
Rodgers said it was clear to see the Leicester squad is weaker than this time last year, but he’s up for the challenge even if it means fighting at the bottom rather than the top.
David Richardson
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Shahid Khan only has four Premier League seasons to show for his nine years of ownership at Fulham.
His multiple other enterprises include being owner of NFL team Jacksonville Jaguars and All Elite Wrestling. It has been claimed that more energy has been invested recently in these ventures, but Fulham’s need for reinforcements has not been neglected.
Redevelopment of the Riverside Stand is costing at least £100m while the same amount was spent in the summer of 2018 only to record four Premier League victories in a disastrous season spanning three managers.
But after several loss-making campaigns as result of extravagant spending and relegation apologies, it appears the American auto-industry billionaire is finally getting it right.
Alongside his son Tony, Khan’s commitment remains as strong as ever.
The club missed out on Blackburn striker Ben Brereton Diaz while Neal Maupay joined Everton but manager Marco Silva has moved onto other targets, and key issues have been addressed. Issa Diop and Bernd Leno are upgrades on problem areas.
There is a more focused approach this time around, and in signing Willian, Layvin Kurzawa, Dan James and Carlos Vinicius on short-term deals, Fulham are maintaining momentum following a fine return of eight points from their opening five games.
On the 14 previous occasions a newly-promoted side has collected eight points or more from the first 15 available, relegation has been avoided.
Adding the Champions League pedigree of Willian and Kurzawa to his ranks will give Silva plenty of belief that record will be extended this season.
Ben Grounds
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There are two arguments to this point. They’re calling it the ‘Newcastle Tax’. They’ve smashed their transfer record so they have got money to spend. It’s something that previous managers have not had. We’ve heard the likes of Rafa Benitez and Steve Bruce complaining in the past about not having money to spend, so they do have that.
But on the flipside of things, you’ve then got clubs and agents trying to make life difficult. Newcastle have made four new significant signings this window having been linked with more than 300 players it feels. That is the nature of things at Newcastle United right now since the takeover.
Speaking to Eddie Howe on Friday, he said: “Let’s just say, there was nobody willing to do us a favour.”
He’s alluding to wanting to sort out a couple of loan deals yesterday which didn’t happen. Howe will have walked away from a number of deals because clubs and agents were asking for too much money.
Domestic clubs and clubs in Europe are hard to deal with as they know they have this money. Top six clubs will now see Newcastle as a threat. They won’t want to just be handing players out on loan and they will be adding a bit of money when it comes to negotiating.
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Players want to come here and agents want their players to move to Newcastle. That is something that Howe and the club are going to have to get used to.
What they have done is smashed their transfer record, they’ve brought in Alexander Isak for £58m rising to £63m from Real Sociedad. It’s a deal which a few weeks ago they may have felt they would not be able to do, so they’ll be pleased with that.
Sven Botman was also a target in January which they brought in for £35m during the middle of this window and they’ve also strengthened the defence further with the additions of Nick Pope and Matt Targett.
On Thursday, they were active. Eddie Howe said he was trying to get one or two deals done. The club were trying to bring in Harrison Ashby, the young full-back from West Ham, who would’ve come into the first-team squad, but they weren’t able to get that deal sorted because West Ham didn’t want to lose the player in the dying embers of the window.
I was also told the club were trying to sort one loan deal and the name mentioned to me was Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, but that didn’t materialise. They decided by 7pm on Thursday night that their business was done and they were happy to have brought in the four players they did sign to the tune of £115m.
They’ve spent a fair whack this summer with the only money coming in being for Martin Dubravka, who has gone to Manchester United on loan for £2m.
Keith Downie
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Frank Lampard made his feelings known – on more than one occasion – about the transfer window still being open five games into the new Premier League season.
There was a displeasure in having Anthony Gordon, one of his key players, heavily linked with a move to Chelsea but the Everton boss will be satisfied this morning with speculation at an end and with the business the club have done.
Idrissa Gueye returned to Goodison Park three years after he left in a £30m deal to Paris Saint-Germain, with the Senegal international costing just £2m.
It had initially been reported the player would cost £8m, but the favourable outcome caps a fine summer of negotiating from the club’s new director of football Kevin Thelwell, Lampard himself and chairman Bill Kenwright.
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Shifting the dead wood and strengthening the mentality has been a priority in the close season. Andre Gomes followed Dele Alli out the door, joining Lille on loan, and Lampard has recruited no fewer than eight new players to add a freshness to his first full term in charge.
James Garner bolsters the leadership group being built, with the £15m arrival from Manchester United having captained every youth team at Old Trafford and England up until senior level.
Conor Coady and James Tarkowski have already left a strong impression on supporters and their new manager, who described the pair as “huge” personalities on and off the pitch.
Keeping Gordon, however, was seen as non-negotiable. Scoring goals will remain the fear among fans following the £60m sale of Richarlison, but Neal Maupay’s arrival has softened those lingering doubts and Gordon appears to have fed off the notion of being a £60m player.
Lampard insisted no second bid from Chelsea was on the table, but Everton’s tough stance on retaining the forward was just as impressive as his application in matches throughout the speculation.
A Goodison derby followed by a trip to early pacesetters Arsenal provides a tough start to September, but there is renewed optimism on the blue half of Merseyside.
Ben Grounds
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Ever since Roman Abramovich’s takeover in 2003, Chelsea have regularly been among Europe’s biggest spenders in the transfer window and, despite Todd Boehly’s consortium now running the show at Stamford Bridge, the Blues were again in the thick of things this summer.
One of the ways that Chelsea have funded their spending habits is by recouping healthy fees for players that were surplus to requirements, or selling young talent for a profit.
It was a strategy that undoubtedly worked. According to Transfermarkt, the west London side both spent and received the most money among all European clubs in the transfer market during Abramovich’s tenure – all while trophies continued to be collected.
But this was the summer that the strategy changed. With cash to burn and a number of unhappy or out-of-contract players to replace, Boehly sanctioned £278.4m of spending – the most in Europe – while bringing in just £40m through sales.
The extent to which Chelsea were willing – or forced – to cut their losses was stark. Timo Werner returned to RB Leipzig for a £20m loss, Emerson was sold to West Ham for nearly £10m less than he was signed for, while Antonio Rudiger, Danny Drinkwater, Ross Barkley and Marcos Alonso – brought in for a cumulative fee of £108m – all departed for nothing.
That’s before we get to Romelu Lukaku, the club-record £97.5m arrival from Inter Milan who spent less than 12 unhappy months at the club before being sent back to the Italian club on loan in June.
The exit of Billy Gilmour was also uncharacteristic. The promising midfielder shone in glimpses under Frank Lampard but was never able to convince Thomas Tuchel, and was ultimately allowed to leave for Brighton for just £9m on Deadline Day.
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In contrast, Chelsea paid £36.6m for Carney Chukwuemeka and Cesare Casadei – two exciting but unproven young midfielders – earlier this summer.
While the likes of Chukwuemeka and Casadei may develop into elite talents, many of the players signed by Chelsea this summer are unlikely to generate profit when they come to leave the club.
Kalidou Koulibaly and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – signed for a combined £44.3m – are 31 and 33 respectively, while Wesley Fofana (£75m) and Marc Cucurella (£63m) arrived for top-of-the-market fees.
The arrival of Boehly, as well as the exits of influential figures such as Marina Granovskaia, Petr Cech and Bruce Buck, was always going to signal a change of direction for Chelsea. But that change has been drastic and, given the spending was largely to replace departing players rather than upgrade on existing ones, it’s hard to make the case that it has left Tuchel with a more talented or balanced squad.
Joe Shread
Premier League clubs splashed a record-breaking £2.14bn on signing new players during the summer transfer window – that represents a 44-per-cent increase on the previous record of £1.49bn set in 2017.
Tottenham shelled out £60m on Richarlison, who is yet to start for Spurs in the Premier League and must now dislodge a front-line comprising Heung-Min Son, Harry Kane and Dejan Kulusevski.
Some of the early deals now appear to be bargains: Gabriel Jesus (£45m) weighs in cheaper than West Ham signing Lucas Paqueta (£51m), for example. Meanwhile, the bargain of the window appears to be Erling Haaland – but his £51m fee was governed by an exit clause.
Eyebrows were raised when Chelsea snapped up Brighton full-back Marc Cucerella for £63m and that deal appeared to inflate fees further, with Nottingham Forest coughing up £42.5m for Wolves forward Morgan Gibbs-White days later – a player who spent the majority of last season plying his trade in the Championship, albeit impressively.
Then, Everton forward Anthony Gordon became a £60m target for Chelsea – a player of extreme talent but still developing. The Blues’ £75m deal for Wesley Fofana – an established player but, arguably, yet to prove sustained form and fitness – helped smash the all-time record for money spent by a club in a transfer window – eventually taking their total expenditure beyond £278m.
Players drafted from the Eredivisie have blown hot and cold over the years, but that track record failed to deter Manchester United and Dutch manager Erik ten Hag – spending £157.4m on Ajax duo Antony and Lisandro Martinez, and Feyenoord full-back Tyrell Malacia.
Wolves signed midfielder Matheus Nunes from Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon for £42.2m – a considerable fee for a player who arrives without the attacking premium compatriot Bruno Fernandes offered when he joined Manchester United from the same club for £67.7m – a fee widely deemed as expensive at the time – in January 2020.
The window appears to have set a new barometer for valuations and has inflated squad values at English clubs, but foreign teams have also commanded premium fees for their prized assets as the Premier League continues to flex and build its financial muscle – increasing the gulf between overseas leagues.
Adam Smith
Not many clubs can legitimately field a starting XI of entirely new recruits, nor would they want to. Nottingham Forest’s player overhaul this summer has been quite extraordinary. A “unique window”, according to Steve Cooper, has yielded a total of 21 new faces – a British transfer record.
So, is that cause for concern, or shrewd business? Are alarm bells ringing or has Forest’s stockpile been strategically necessary – pragmatic even?
A short journey back in time, circa 2018/19, when Fulham wildly overspent to the detriment of their top-flight status will tell you that splashing the cash does not guarantee results. And they aren’t the only club to have fallen foul of the Premier League’s allure, neither will they be the last.
Change at Forest is unsurprising – particularly given their sharp ascent from when Cooper took the reins in September 2021 with the club rock bottom of the Championship – but change can also be disruptive. Sometimes even divisive.
It remains to be seen if Cooper can glue together the sum of all his new parts in time to avoid dropping immediately out of the division it took 23-years to re-enter. Although subjectively, Forest have simply spent approximately what it costs to build a capable Premier League team – they’ve just done it in a shorter space of time than most. Their total expenditure, roughly £150m, is less than both Aston Villa and Leeds United have spent retaining their Premier League standing, albeit Forest have condensed their outlay into one exorbitant window.
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The mercilessness of Premier League competition leaves no room for sentimentality, besides five of Forest’s regular starters last term were loanees. All of those players returned to their parent clubs following a triumphant play-off final in May. Replacements were mandatory and appear to have been selected with some degree of comprehension.
Players with international pedigree, the likes of Jesse Lingard, Orel Mangala and Remo Freuler have been supplemented by the potential of Morgan Gibbs-White (who has played under Cooper previously) and Neco Williams.
“I think they will be scaring clubs who have been floating around the Premier League for two or three years,” Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher concluded.
The level of flux will make for a period of instability – Forest have amassed four points from their first five games – but with the window now shut, Cooper has the makings of a promising squad despite missing out on a couple of deadline day targets. As if 21 additions wasn’t enough?
The high turnover was somewhat inevitable, now it’s time to see if those entrusted with Forest’s hopeful fortunes can do the business.
Laura Hunter
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With the World Cup taking place in winter for the first time, here’s a selection of players moving either to, from or within the Premier League that have used the transfer window to put themselves in the best position possible ahead of the tournament in Qatar.
Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City to Arsenal)
Jesus hasn’t started any of Brazil’s last seven matches after finding regular starts hard to come by during his final season at Manchester City. But the forward has notched three goals and three assists in his first five games since joining Arsenal, which will surely give manager Tite plenty to think about when he comes to decide who will be Brazil’s number nine at the World Cup.
Timo Werner (Chelsea to RB Leipzig)
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Germany boss Hansi Flick remained loyal to Werner despite the forward’s underwhelming performances at Chelsea. But competition for places in their attack is hotting up, with Borussia Dortmund hotshot Karim Adeyemi, Werner’s old Chelsea team-mate Kai Havertz, plus the Bayern Munich quartet of Thomas Muller, Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane and Jamal Musiala all in the mix. Werner couldn’t risk losing his place by continuing to sit on the bench at Chelsea, and the four goals and two assists he has recorded in just three games since returning to RB Leipzig suggest he made the correct decision.
Dean Henderson (Manchester United to Nottingham Forest) and Nick Pope (Burnley to Newcastle)
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While Jordan Pickford has barely put a foot – or glove – wrong for England, the goalkeeper has struggled to consistently reproduce that form at Everton. So far, Gareth Southgate has remained loyal to his number one, but Dean Henderson and Nick Pope have done their chances of usurping Pickford in Qatar the world of good. Henderson has already saved two penalties this season after swapping a place on Manchester United’s bench for regular game-time at Nottingham Forest, while Pope has left a relegated Burnley side that leaked goals for Eddie Howe’s upwardly-mobile Newcastle.
Marc Cucurella (Brighton to Chelsea)
Cucurella had the rare honour of captaining his country on his international debut. The only problem was that the debut only lasted 45 minutes, and it came in a match where Spain were forced to field only U21 players after a Covid case ruled out their entire senior squad. Either way, Cucurella has boosted his chances of adding to his solitary cap in Qatar with his move from Brighton to Chelsea, where he has quickly won the left-back berth from Ben Chilwell. With the ageing Jordi Alba and Marcos Alonso – who was allowed to leave Chelsea following Cucurella’s signing – currently picked as Spain’s left-backs, don’t rule out Cucurella moving up the pecking order to claim a place in Luis Enrique’s squad.
Joe Shread
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