Start with a quiz question. What links Crystal Palace, Newcastle and Manchester City? And before you start wondering if Alan Pardew is lined up to replace Manuel Pellegrini, the answer is more simple – they are the only three Barclays Premier League clubs who have yet to sign a player this summer.
In the case of Newcastle it’s not so surprising. We’ve long got used to the Mike Ashley business rationale of spending little and raking in as much profit as possible.
At Selhurst Park it’s perhaps a bit more of a disappointment to fans expecting to see their manager build on a highly successful second half of last season.
But it’s the gaping bit of white space under the word “in” under the Manchester City heading on the page of the Premier League’s website where summer transfer dealings are listed that comes as the biggest shock. This is the week when all the players are returning to pre-season training, yet the competition’s wealthiest owners have yet to write a cheque for a new player.
There are plenty of links about who might be coming. The word over the weekend has been that City have won the race for Paul Pogba, agreeing a £70million deal with Juventus for the French midfielder who has also been a target for Barcelona, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.
There’s gossip that Fabian Delph is lined up for a bargain £8million under a release clause in his Aston Villa contract. Meanwhile the Raheem Sterling saga is rumbling on, with Liverpool trying to force the fee up to the region of £60million. City are [1.13] to be the England winger’s next club in Betfair’s Specials markets.
But in a summer when The Etihad Stadium bosses have squared their position with UEFA over Financial Fair Play, and been given the green light to start spending again, the lack of any early action must be a huge concern.
City are second favourites at [3.9] to be this season’s Premier League winners but to catch Chelsea they have got to be stronger. Instead their squad has so far been weakened by James Milner‘s move to Liverpool.
If anything the arrival of Petr Cech at Arsenal and the fact that Louis van Gaal will have a proper pre-season with Manchester United for the first time will bring threats to their odds-on status for a top two finish.
The ambitions at The Etihad Stadium are very clear. It is two years since chief executive Ferran Soriano prepared for Pellegrini’s appointment by announcing the club’s target of winning five trophies in as many seasons.
Pellegrini is still on track for that after the League title and Capital One Cup in his first year, even if it was followed by a big fat zero last season.
But another barren campaign like the last one would start to get some alarm bells ringing. That’s why City need some deals to be done, signatures on paper in the office rather than just talk in the gossip pages of the papers.