Football

Premier League elite fail to improve despite TV billions

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May 2015. Chelsea wrap up the title after coasting through the final few months , doing just what is required to claim Mourinho's first trophy after his return.

Professional? Certainly. Exciting? Rarely. Their exit against a ten-man PSG just a few months before left a sour taste in he mouth of all Chelsea fans, but the night held up many more questions.

12 months prior to this fixture, Chelsea huffed and puffed and ultimately eliminated their Parisian rivals thanks to a late Demba Ba goal after a titanic two-legged tussle.

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The extra year together was meant to see the Portuguese manager's side progress further and deeper into the tournament, instead it highlighted the distance that the Premier League sides had actually regressed.

Liverpool meekly eliminated at the group stage against the might of Ludogorets, Basel and Real Madrid, then bombed at the first time of asking in the Europa league by Besiktas.

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Manchester City easily ousted by eventual champions Barcelona, after struggling in the group and needing a last day victory in Rome to progress.

Arsenal, finishing their customary second in the group stages to a Borussia Dortmund side who at the time, propped up the Bundesliga table, before falling to a well drilled, but limited Monaco side.

Add to this Hull being eliminated in August, and Tottenham and Everton being dumped by Fiorentina and Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League, and change was evidently necessary.

On multiple occasions, two of the most revered and lauded pundits, Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher protested that something had to change.

That Manchester City required major surgery, that their side had grown old together and reached the end of the line. That Manchester United needed commanding centre backs and more creativity and pace at the business end of the pitch; something they oozed for almost two decades under Alex Ferguson.

That Arsenal, despite the standard scintillating run of form between February and May, needed a Claude Makelele-style destroyer, a commanding centre-half, and a striker to really cause damage in a way that Olivier Giroud only ever threatens to do.

The reputation of the Premier League had been dented, but everybody knew what was needed and with a new record TV deal to fill the coffers, this would be the summer to match all summers in the transfer window. With just two weeks remaining until the window slams shut, where do these clubs, and English football and the hopes attached to it, stand?

Shopping in Asda

City, for all their funding and protestations of grandeur, are possibly the most disappointing. Sure, other players are likely to arrive, and a few have left. But the only arrival thus far to really have a chance of first-team football, the colossally-priced Raheem Sterling.

The ever-frustrating Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas, the moody Yaya Toure, the "I don't actually know the difference" Fernando and Fernandinho , Aleksandar Kolarov, Martin Demichelis, Gael Clichy, all still remain integral first-team contenders at the Etihad.

And with almost all of the above at the twilight ends of their careers, one has to ask how they can possibly expect to conquer Europe with a team that screams 2012 at you when you read through it.

Kevin de Bruyne is continually linked, again at a monstrous fee after just one exciting season in Germany, but is he really the player to add 25% to this team that is quite obviously required?

City appear to have forgotten what their remit was just a few years ago. To dominate England and Europe, and with the greatest of respect, they are shopping in Asda when what is required is a basket full of goods from Waitrose. Just as they did last season and the season before.

Groundhog Day at Arsenal

Arsenal, read Groundhog Day. Arsene Wenger publically announces they have money to buy any player in the world. Chairman backs up these comments. Various names mentioned, continually. Manager states "I believe in the quality of this group" and weeks turn to months and the only arrival to the Emirates is the Chelsea stalwart Petr Cech.

A welcome acquisition , but once again, where is the attempt to purchase Paul Pogba, Geoffrey Kondogbia, William Carvalho for the vacancy in midfield?

Where is the eagerness to sign Mats Hummels to have adequate cover for the obligatory moment that injury strikes Laurent Koscielny or the ageing Per Mertesacker?

Where is the concrete bid for Karim Benzema, Alex Lacazette and Jackson Martinez that will guarantee Arsenal an extra goals a season that could be the difference between that frustrating 2-2 draw at Stoke on a wet Wednesday evening and a 3-2 win that bolsters belief that finally, this could be their year?

Undercooked at Old Trafford

Manchester United have lost four huge names of world football and replaced with what looks like second tier merchandise.

Yes, good players as they are, Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin, Matteo Darmian and Bastian Schweinsteiger are not really going to get United back to competing for the Champions League.

After all, just three years ago, this was expected every season, and after the United coffers swelling massively these last post-Fergie years, surely a club of this size must be aiming for exactly that again.

The continuous lauding of Pedro as a potential signing to bolster the ranks is again, an example of media hype. Pedro has never been an integral first team part of Barcelona, good player, but one they can easily dispense with.

And if Barca don't want him, and they are the benchmark to aim for as the greatest club, how can he be expected to lead United to new heights when he could never do it at the club he loves, in the land he is from, surrounded by his friends from La Masia.

Threadbare champions

This leads onto Chelsea finally. A summer where Jose stated primarily, that new players were not needed, that they won by such a distance last time that they are still almost the perfect team. Five winless preseason friendlies down, a poor showing against Swansea and a spat with a doctor that has dominated the pages all week, and the Special One is resembling the paranoid, volatile manager of 2007 in his first stint.

One has to believe that Mourinho realises that the current incumbents he has at his disposal are not good enough to realistically threaten on the Champions League stage. Qualify from the groups, should be straightforward. Last 16, providing the draw is kind, again, should be relatively simple.

Quarter-finals or further and Chelsea are into a minefield. Shorn of genuine goal threat over halfway due to the unreliable hamstrings of arch villain Costa, the enigmatic runner Willian, Radamel Falcao and the threadbare nature of the champion's squad is clear to see.

Mourinho is a clever man, he knows when things need to change. With money awash in the Premier League, simply reaching the last eight or four in the Champions League is not enough. 

When such vast sums are pumped in, and the proclamation and fanfare of the self promoting "best league in the world" is unable to attract the best players, or get close to winning the holy grail prizes, how long will it be until this hyped juggernaut is actually called into question?

To be the best, it either has to contain the best players, or produce wining teams on the grandest stage. To produce neither leaves the Premier League committee with a surplus of eggs waiting to make a huge omelette.

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Topics:
Football
Arsenal
Manchester City
Chelsea
Premier League
Manchester United

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