Another Premier League season is almost upon us and, as usual, the perennial contenders for the UEFA Champions League places have been busy building their squads in preparation.
The two traditional giants of English football have been the busiest of all. At the moment they are, after all, playing catch-up.
Louis van Gaal’s rebuilding job at Manchester United has continued apace, whereas Liverpool have seen a number of new faces arrive in a bid to paper over the cracks left by several high-profile departures.
Following their close call with the title in 2014, Liverpool struggled to cope with the loss of Luis Suarez last season. This summer has seen one of the club’s favourite sons – Steven Gerrard – leave Anfield and, coupled with Raheem Sterling’s controversial big-money move to Manchester City, manager Brendan Rodgers has a job on his hands to drag the club back into title contention.
Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino are the headline acts that Rodgers has brought to the club but could it be the case that a rather more prosaic signing, in the shape of James Milner, has a bigger impact on the club?
Milner is keen to take over a central midfield berth for his new team – a position where he has always been highly effective, if not a glamorous name, during his time at Manchester City. The Liverpool Echo reported that he believes that his new side can bridge the gap on their rivals:
“Two years ago Liverpool nearly won the title, so it’s not that closed,” he said.
“It’s hard for every team in the Premier League to get in the top four…and to go and win the Premier League is even harder. But everything is there for us to be successful.”
Along the East Lancs. Road, Liverpool’s major rivals Manchester United have also seen a number of comings and goings. The major disappointment last season was the lack of consistency shown by superstars Radamel Falcao and Angel di Maria.
Falcao now resides at Chelsea, with Jose Mourinho confident that he can help him rediscover the form he showed in his time at Atletico Madrid. For his part, Angel di Maria never looked like settling in Manchester and looks likely to seal a move to Paris Saint Germain.
The pulling power of Manchester United and the Premier League still exists, though. He might be moving towards the end of his glittering career, but there cannot be many fans of the EPL that are not excited to see how Bastian Schweinsteiger fares in England.
Morgan Schneiderlin, Matteo Darmian and goalkeeper Sergio Romero add to what will be another new-look United side. But are there still defensive questions? A twenty-goal striker? Perhaps a little magic missing?
In contrast to such wholesale changes Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal have all made minor adjustments to their squads – clear indication of the gap that United and Liverpool feel that they have to bridge.
It ought to make for another incredible Premier League season.