Thursday, June 29, 2023

Silly Season

Silly season is that time of year when rumors fly and fanciful dreams sometimes, but not always, come true for Premier League supporters. Last season’s momentous move of Erling Haaland to Manchester City led to a historic Treble.

The last two transfer windows saw a strange spending spree by a new ownership group at Chelsea which delivered quantity but seemingly not the quality to which Blues supporters had been accustomed. This summer’s transfer window is seeing Chelsea rushing to undo past damage in an unprecedented fire sale. Outgoing rumors at Chelsea thus play a feature role in this summer’s window.

A number of departures feature Saudi Arabia as an unusual and lucrative destination for several departing players. The N’Golo Kante and Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy transfers to Saudi Arabian clubs are complete. An expected move to the Saudi League for Hakim Ziyech is imminent. The Chelsea players will join stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema in the big spending Saudi Arabian league which is populating its squads with European stars in the manner of the Chinese league some years back.

Staying in England will be Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic who joins Manchester City, bolstering the Premier League champion’s midfield which has said goodbye to captain Ilkay Gundogan. The German international has departed for Barcelona.

Arsenal, meanwhile, have acquired Gunodgan’s countryman and Chelsea’s leading scorer last season, Kai Havertz. Former Bayer Leverkusen star Havertz had a star-crossed time at Chelsea. His goal in 2021 delivered a Champions League title for Chelsea and then manager Thomas Tuchel. Much of his time with the club, however, will be remembered for missed chances as he became the face of Chelsea’s problems in putting the ball in the net. Havertz, whose success in the Bundesliga was as an attacking midfielder, was often asked to lead the line at Chelsea with poor results. A career revival could be in store for the 24-year-old should he slide into a more comfortable role in the Gunners midfield.

That Arsenal midfield could be further improved by the addition of West Ham’s Declan Rice. Arsenal have submitted multiple bids for Rice and reportedly now have the inside track with Manchester City supposedly withdrawing from the bidding war for the England defensive midfielder. Rice would be a perfect fit to guard the Arsenal back line. Rumored to be departing Arsenal, particularly if the Rice deal closes, are current Gunner midfielders Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka. Arsenal’s negotiations for Rice have been protracted with multiple bids being exchanged.

A similar scenario has played out in Manchester United’s attempted signing of Mason Mount from Chelsea. Chelsea have been surprisingly stubborn on the transfer fees for Mount, even as they conduct their roster clear out. The talented Mount is a Chelsea academy graduate and has seen action in the England squad which makes the 24-year-old’s departure tougher for Chelsea supporters to accept. Mount and Chelsea can’t agree on an extension to his current contract, however, and he thus would walk for free after next season if not sold.

Harry Kane is in a comparable contract situation at Tottenham Hotspur, but the club has so far rebuffed interest from other clubs in the England striker. Bayern Munich is reported to have submitted a bid for Kane this week. Meanwhile, Spurs have acquired midfielder James Maddison from relegated Leicester. Reported interest in Maddison by other clubs was surprisingly muted for a player who had 19 goal involvements in the Premier League last season.

The silliest midfielder pursuit this window has been, unsurprisingly, Chelsea’s interest in Brighton’s Moises Caicedo. Brighton wants Declan Rice type money for the Ecuadorian who has just one season of Premier League experience. Caicedo is good but not that good. What Brighton is demanding is essentially double what the club received from Liverpool for World Cup winning midfielder Alexis Mac Allister. Mac Allister had a reasonable release clause written within his contract. Caicedo does not and the club can thus demand whatever it wants. Chelsea remains in desperate need of a striker which makes a large expenditure for midfielder Caicedo even more questionable.

The London club is still trying to balance the books with additional potential departures in various stages of rumors and process for players such as Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Christian Pulisic. Loftus-Cheek was reported enroute Thursday for his medical physical in Italy to complete a transfer to AC Milan. The Italian club has funds to reinvest after the sale of Sandro Tonali to Newcastle. The Magpies paid a steep price for the Italian midfielder who normally plays the same holding defensive midfielder position as current Newcastle star Bruno Guimaraes. It will be interesting to see how Newcastle Manager Eddie Howe sets up his team next season with many expecting Guimaraes to be given more freedom to attack as a box-to-box midfielder after the addition of Tonali. AC Milan, meanwhile, continues to shop with its newfound funds and has been connected with Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic. Pulisic’s wages, however, are making it difficult for Chelsea to market the American.  

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