Back in July we published our Premier League Betting preview, and in it we ran through the key runners and riders who look set to be involved in the title race shake-up.
There has been a galaxy of transfer activity since then as the window slowly creaked shut, so has our opinion on the key contenders and pretenders changed any?
Ins: John Stones, Nolito, Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan, Claudio Bravo
Outs: Joe Hart, Wilfred Bony, Eliaquim Mangala, Samir Nasri
A curious summer of transfer activity from new Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola as he looks to stamp his authority on his side. Club stalwart Joe Hart has been farmed out to Torino and in his place has come Claudio Bravo, a goalkeeper who is comfortable in possession of the ball; a key part of Guardiola’s brave new tactical world. Gundogan, when fit, will offer legs and forward motion in midfield, while Nolito brings a cutting edge on the left hand side.
Is this Manchester City 2.0 under Pep? Perhaps, but doubts remain. In the absence of Vincent Kompany it is John Stones who has become his primary centre back; a terrifying scenario for a defender who makes so many key mistakes, while an injury to Sergio Aguero – who is hardly the Iron Man at the best of times – will leave City with just one recognised striker in Kelechi Iheanacho.
Expected Finish: 1st – but only if Aguero stays fit.
Ins: Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Eric Bailly
Outs: Paddy McNair, Tyler Blackett, Will Keane, Adnan Januzaj
The best business of the transfer window has surely come from Manchester United, who have improved exponentially under Jose Mourinho and his summer dealings. There was never really any doubt that Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has scored goals everywhere he has played, could do the business in the Premier League, while the capture of Paul Pogba – and this is without the lure of Champions League football remember – proves that Old Trafford is still an attractive proposition for the world’s best players.
Mkhitaryan will prove to be a shrewd acquisition if/when he can dislodge Juan Mata from the starting eleven, while Eric Bailly has been so impressive he has so far kept Chris Smalling, greatly improved in recent times, out of the side.
Expected Finish: 2nd – but they will fight their Mancunian neighbours hard.
Ins: David Luiz, Marcos Alonso, Michy Batshuayi, N’Golo Kante
Outs: Mohamed Salah, Papy Djilobodji, Juan Cuadrado
A commendable pat on the back must go to Antonio Conte, who like Mourinho has fashioned a squad that is much improved on that of 12 months prior.
The Blues saved much of their transfer window fireworks for the final day, when David Luiz – the most Marmite of all footballers, re-joined his former club and Marcos Alonso was welcomed to the fold with rather less fanfare.
Conte had performed his finest work earlier in the summer, capturing fine young Belgian talent Michy Batshuayi and the undoubted jewel in his crown, N’Golo Kante, for the same price that Everton paid for Yannick Bolasie. Go figure.
Expected Finish: 3rd – perhaps a year too soon to challenge for the title, but the Blues are clearly moving in the right direction.
Ins: Granit Xhaka, Shkodran Mustafi, Lucas Perez, Rob Holding
Outs: Serge Gnabry, Jack Wilshere, Isaac Hayden
On the face of it, Arsene Wenger has finally given in to the fans and pundits begging him to sign a new centre half, a defensive midfielder and a striker.
But in reality, how savvy has his business been? Mustafi was part of the Valencia side that went from Champions League to La Liga also-rans in less than a year, Holding is clearly one for tomorrow rather than today and Perez, well, he averages less than a goal every two games in the net-busting surroundings of La Liga. It’s hardly title winning material, is it?
Xhaka is a canny operator in midfield with outstanding technical ability so thumbs up for that one, but he doesn’t represent the physical midfield warlord that a Kante or a Pogba does. The Gunners are falling by the wayside year after year, and 2016/17 looks set to be no different.
Expected Finish: 4th – but with Liverpool and Spurs snapping at their heels.
There’s not much to be said elsewhere. Tottenham have brought in young striker Vincent Jansson, but so far he has been largely off the pace and worst still appears to be taking Harry Kane down with him. Victor Wanyama is a midfield destroyer of note, but with a Champions League campaign to contend with the Lilywhites are unlikely to challenge domestically.
The other potential challenger, Liverpool, have had to make do with three away games thus far as their Main Stand remains under construction. Their form – beating Arsenal, losing to Burnley, drawing with Spurs – is reassuringly inconsistent, and surely discounts the Reds from the title reckoning even if their summer dealings (Mane, Wijnaldum, Karius) have been smart.
Man City to Win the Premier League (6/4 with Paddy Power)