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European football review: All of Chelsea’s potential rivals

Summer window analysis, squad assessments, news, Dead Chuck’s cartoons, memes and much more!

Photo by GUENTER SCHIFFMANN/AFP/Getty Images

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With the summer transfer window firmly behind us with what has seemed like an eternity since the European Deadline Day (read madness day) of 2019, I thought it would be a fun exercise to look at what the major European heavyweights, including our Champions League group stage buddies (acquintances?) have done over the summer while we served one-half of our FIFA-imposed transfer ban.

Let’s start off in the home of football, England!


Manchester City

City’s big-name signings for the summer were Rodri from Atletico and Joao Cancelo from Juventus. Rodri was the fulcrum of Atletico’s midfield last season and with comparisons being drawn to Sergio Busquets himself, City managed to acquire a player they desperately needed especially with Fernandinho not getting any younger. On the other hand, I don’t personally rate Cancelo much, despite popular opinion being to the contrary, mostly because of his attacking prowess masking his defensive inadequacies. City also bought back a left-back (City and their love for fullbacks never ceases to amaze) who was originally from their academy, Angelino due to Ben Mendy’s non-ideal injury record and also loaned in Scott Carson as the 3rd keeper after loaning out Arijanet Muric to Nottingham Forest. As for the rest of the departures, Danilo left for Juventus in the same deal that brought Cancelo to Manchester, Delph went to Everton, legendary captain Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala went on free transfers to Anderlecht and Valencia respectively, while Tosin Adarabioyo and Philippe Sandler were loaned out to Blackburn and Anderlecht respectively.

So far, Rodri and Cancelo seem to be doing pretty well both defensively (they’re both topping City’s tables for total tackles) and offensively (good number of key passes). Angelino hasn’t gotten a proper run-in yet, but has played well in the few minutes that have come his way. A long-term injury to Aymeric Laporte along with John Stones’ and Nicolas Otamendi’s iffy forms will probably result in City buying a CB in January.


Liverpool

The reigning UCL champions have had a quiet summer relative to the rest of the competition. While there were a few areas that they could have strengthened, Jurgen Klopp instead decided to put his trust in youth, be it from their academy or elsewhere. The purchases of Sepp van den Berg and Harvey Elliott along with Yasser Larouci and Rhian Brewster being assigned important roles in the squad lends credence towards the same. While that may pay dividends in the long-term, I am pretty sure that every non-Liverpool fan will be hoping that their lack of experienced depth in some positions will lead to a cataclysmic disaster. Lack of depth in the fullback positions as well as a creative midfielder does not bode well for the PL table toppers, and might even topple their trophy-winning ambitions (against Napoli and Salzburg for instance) especially due to their exhausting style of play. Adrian from West Ham replaced Simon Mignolet; the latter is realizing his wish of being a starting goalkeeper. However, Liverpool were not done with the GK market as they had to delve deep into the free agent market post Deadline Day and buy Andy Lonergan due to Alisson being ruled out for quite some time with a long-term injury. Adrian had done okayish for a backup keeper (2 PL clean sheets) if one does look at the number of goals Liverpool have conceded under his watch, but that’s majorly down to them having the best centre-back in the world in Virgil Van Djik. Liverpool sold Danny Ings and Ryan Kent while letting Alberto Moreno, Daniel Sturridge and Adam Bogdan leave after their contracts expired. Promising youngster, Ben Woodburn left on loan, with Harry Wilson and Marko Grujic also following suit.


Tottenham Hotspurs

By Spurs’ own low standards, this has been a very successful window. Daniel Levy finally loosened the purse strings (if only by a little), and in came Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso and Ryan Sessengnon. It’s worth noting that this is the first time since January 2018 that Spurs have made any signings. Spurs also bought in and loaned out Jack Clarke from Leeds and to Leeds, while Kieran Trippier, Vincent Janssen, Georges-Kevin N’Koudou, Michel Vorm (who has since been re-signed as a free agent) and Fernando LLorente made up the departures list. Spurs were unable to secure a quality right-back, which forced them to keep Serge Aurier. Nor were they able to offload Christian Eriksen, so it’s quite understandable that Mauricio Pochettino was being fussy a few days back. Positions which may hurt Spurs’ ambitions (sic): lack of a quality right-back (already has) and to a lesser extent, no backup striker (no, Son’s not a striker).

Tanguy Ndombele hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, but that’s more down to Tottenham’s incredibly lackadaisical start to the season which has parallels to Chelsea’s horrendous 15/16 season. Over the long term, I expect Ndombele to be one of the core members of Spurs’ future (till he gets tired of not winning anything). Giovani Lo Celso on the other hand has just been restricted to making mostly substitute appearances, and rightly so, as he has looked a far cry of his Betis version. Ryan Sessegnon has made just a solitary appearance since his recovery from injury.

Tottenham’s poor start to the season has seen them languishing in 14th place due to a disinterested manger and senior players downing tools. Eriksen, Alderweireld, Danny Rose, Eric Dier and Vertonghen seem to have lost their appetite for success with Spurs, so the sooner they move on, the better for the club from North London.


Manchester United

Manchester United’s summer headlines have mostly been dominated by the #glazersout movement, but they did make a couple of quality (or atleast expensive) signings. Harry Maguire became the most expensive defender of all time and was joined by Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James on the Manchester United incoming list of 2019/20. On the outgoing side were Romelu Lukaku, Matteo Darmian, Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Ander Herrera and Alexis Sanchez. Promising young GK, Dean Henderson joined Sheffield United on loan for the season. Manchester United seem to have their own youth movement ongoing, with Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes, Axel Tuanzebe, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and most notably, Mason Greenwood all primed and hyped to lead Manchester United to glory, but with an uninspiring manager, a lackadaisical squad that lacks quality and depth and their recent set of results bar the Chelsea win, I don’t see them going very far.

Harry Maguire has been decent at best, but hasn’t really done any justification to his price tag. Aaron Wan-Bissaka has fared slightly better, but the self-proclaimed master-of-tackles will need to improve as time passes if he wants to displace Alexander-Arnold or Kieran Trippier in the England setup. Manchester United fans will however be hoping for more from Daniel James, who hasn’t scored in his last 6 matches after scoring 3 goals in his first 4 appearances (although he did provide 2 assists in his last 3 PL appearances).


Arsenal

A lot of people have claimed that Arsenal have had the best transfer window amongst the ‘big 6’. While that may or may not in true in absolute terms, with respect to the limited budget they had, they have allocated their funds in the right positions and in the right manner. Nicolas Pepe was the big name signing, and while I don’t think he’s a top-tier winger, Lille’s acceptance to take the payment spread over several years certainly played a role in his signing. Kieran Tierney, Gabriel Martinelli, Dani Ceballos and the returning pair of Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson were other members of the incoming contingent. While a lot of people have argued that David Luiz is a step backwards, Arsenal couldn’t have afforded a better centre-back due to the aforementioned reason, and he’s the best that was available (although Arsenal could have tried to circumvent ASSE’s demand to take William Saliba back on loan for the duration of the season). Alex Iwobi, Krystian Bielik, Laurent Koscielny, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Carl Jenkinson, Nacho Monreal, Aaron Ramsey, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Danny Welbeck, Eddie Nketiah and Mohamed Elneny all went out, either in a permanent deal or on loan. Other than CB, one position that may hurt Arsenal’s prospects over the course of the season is GK where they lost both Petr Cech and David Ospina without any replacements coming in.

Unlike popular opinion dictates, Nicolas Pepe has actually been playing well, while like popular opinion states, David “Judas” Luiz has sucked. Dani Ceballos’ performance has been a juxtaposition of good and bad: good in the Europa League, bad in the Prem. Gabriel Martinelli hasn’t seen much action but has been on fire in the Europa League, where he has scored thrice and assisted once. Tierney hasn’t played a lot, but has looked like one of the PL’s best left-backs whenever he has been on the pitch.

Arsenal were also involved in the Granit Xhaka controversy, when the ex-Arsenal captain gestured inappropriately towards the fans after getting abused once he came off (this abuse was not an isolated incident). Since then, he has been stripped of his captaincy with Emery admitting that the midfielder is unlikely to play for the Gunners again. There have been links to AC Milan and Newcastle United, so a January move will happen in all likelihood. Emery has also seemingly lost the dressing room, but the board have come out in support of the Spaniard, much to the ire of the fans.


Real Madrid

Real Madrid were in complete Galacticos mode this season after years of minimal activity. Eden Hazard’s capture was supplemented with the signings of Luka Jovic, Ferland Mendy, Eder Militao, Rodrygo Goes, Alphonse Areola, Takefusa Kubo and a returning James Rodriguez. However, Real’s poor form from last season has carried over to the fresh editions of the La Liga and the Champions League, and as it happens every season in the white side of Madrid, the blame games have started. There are various reasons for this decline, from injuries to Hazard’s utter negligence of person health, from Courtois’ getting cursed to Zidane finally getting found out post the Cristiano Ronaldo era. On paper, Real’s squad definitely looks like one of the best in the world, if not the best but we will never fully find the extent of their quality till a manager who is tactically astute comes in (hopefully someone who asks Hazard to eat less burgers). Real Madrid are currently second in La Liga, level on points with Barcelona, but that’s only due to Barcelona and Atletico Madrid’s poor forms as well.

Funnily enough, the less glamorous signings of Mendy and Militao have impressed since the advent of the season while Hazard and Rodrygo have only started asserting their influence since a few weeks back. Rodrygo has scored twice in La Liga in addition to a brilliant hat-trick in the UCL. Jovic hasn’t even seen sufficient minutes to make a judgement upon.

As for departures, Mateo Kovacic, Marcos Llorente, Raul de Tomas, Theo Hernandez, Keylor Navas all left permanently to balance the books, while Jesus Vallejo, Martin Odegaard, Dani Ceballos, Borja Mayoral, Sergio Reguilon, Javi Sanchez & Andriy Lunin all left on loan deals. The only issue I find out Real Madrid is Zidane’s favoritism amongst players apart from his tactical ineptness, and unless a manager comes in who can utilize the Los Blancos squad to their full potential, they will continue to struggle in the big games.


Barcelona

Barcelona’s whole summer was dominated by just one player: Neymar. While the prodigal son ultimately didn’t make his way back to Catalonia, the kind of deals that a cash-strapped Barca were willing to put forward was hilarious, weird and incomprehensible. I am pretty sure that at one point, they offered Rakitic + Semedo + Dembele + Todibo + Eric Abidal + Naming rights of Camp Nou + The chef at La Masia in addition to 100 million euros payable over 50 years just to get Neymar back. But Barcelona did make a host of other signings though, most notably Antoine Griezmann (A year after making that cringey video) and Frenkie De Jong, the latter being confirmed as a Barca player as early as January itself. Junior Firpo also came in to serve as Jordi Alba’s deputy and Neto replaced Jasper Cillessen. Emerson, a right-back from Atletico Mineiro was purchased and subsequently sold to Real Betis along with an option of some sorts to purchase him back in the future. Malcom, Paco Alcacer, Andre Gomes, Denis Suarez, Thomas Vermaelen left on permanent deals while Philippe Coutinho, Rafinha, Juan Miranda and Oriol Busquets left on loan. It’s hard to find a position of worry for Barcelona, with maybe Suarez, Messi, Alba, Busquets and Pique’s age being trivial sources of concern. Ansu Fati has proved that he is good enough at this level while Carles Perez will serve as the fourth/fifth winger.

Despite a significant portion of the Barca fanbase speaking negatively about Griezmann’s signing, the Frenchman is slowly getting into the groove and the MSG partnership has looked lethal at times. De Jong had started impressing since the advent of the season itself, and is on his way to world-class stardom. Junior Firpo has struggled so far however.

Barcelona’s early season struggles in some matches proved that Messi is still paramount to this team, and unless this over-reliance can be minimized, the club will continue to be held back.


Atletico Madrid

Los Rojiblancos had a window that epitomizes the word ‘change’. After losing Antoine Griezmann, Lucas Hernandez, Rodri, Gelson Martins, Luciano Vietto, Nikola Kalinic, Diego Godin, Filipe Luis and Juanfran, ATM went into full rebuild mode as they spent their gargantuan cash reserves on Joao Felix, Marcos Llorente, Mario Hermoso, Kieran Trippier, Felipe, Renan Lodi, Ivan Saponjic and Hector Herrera. Atletico don’t have a particularly deep squad, but it’s filled with quality, albeit a bit inexperienced. This might prove to be a detrimental factor in defense as none of their new acquisitions in defense other than Keiran Trippier has played at a level in similitude to Atletico, and replacing the experience of Godin, Juanfran and Filipe Luis in one go wouldn’t be an easy task. Joao Felix though is an incredibly talented prospect, arguably one of the top 3 in his age group and he should step into Griezmann’s shoes sooner rather than later.

Kieran Trippier looks like a man reborn after his switch to Spain and the risk seems to be paying dividends as Gareth Southgate selected him for both of England’s matches during the last international break. Felipe has been solid, but Renan Lodi has found it difficult to acclimatize to the difference in playing levels after his move from Brazil. Hermoso has struggled has well while Llorente and Herrera haven’t seen much game-time.


Valencia

One of our CL group stage mates, Valencia have already delivered the first blow to us at Stamford Bridge. The highlight of their window would have to be being able to hold on to Rodrigo Moreno while also adding Maxi Gomez to the ranks in what now looks like a lethal attack. Jasper Cillessen’s acquisition also upgraded the GK position which was previously held by Neto. The other signings are above average at best, from Eliaquim Mangala to Jaume Costa, Denis Cheryshev, Manu Vallejo and Jason (subsequently loaned to Kenedy’s Getafe). Valencia also spent a considerable amount on Thierry Correia from Sporting CP considering that the player only had 7 senior team appearances before his move, so Valencia will be hoping that their risk pays off. As for departures, Simone Zaza, Neto, Ruben Vezo, Aymen Abdennour, Santi Mina, Nacho Gil and Alvaro Medran all left the club while Jeison Murillo, Jorge Saenz, Uros Racic, Toni Lato all went out on loan.

Cillessen and Jaume Costa have been impressive, while Maxi Gomez has done his bits, but still not recaptured his Celta Vigo form. Cheryshev has been poor while the other new signings haven’t really played much.

Valencia’s decision to sack popular manger, Marcelinho (as well as general manager Mateu Alemany) hasn’t gone down well with the fans or the players. Marcelinho was upset at owner’s Peter Lim’s decisions in the transfer market, one of which was the much-talked about move for Barcelona’s Rafinha, which never materialized due to Lim pulling a plug on the move. With fans calling for Lim’s resignation, the situation at Mestalla will be one to follow over the course of the season as the club attempt to steer themselves to a top 4 position.


Bayern Munich

The Bavarian club does not usually indulge in spending exorbitant fees on players, but they made an exception this season in order to remain competitive. This does not come as a surprise however, as their hierarchy has hinted in the past about changing transfer modus operandi. They spent over 100 million euros on Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard and capped it off with the loan signings of Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Perisic. Michaël Cuisance and Fiete Arp also joined the team, but I find it difficult to picture them getting meaningful minutes. As for outgoings, Mats Hummels continued his cycle of alternating between Bayern and BVB, while Renato Sanches, Franck Ribery and Rafina as well. The one-and-only Arjen Robben called time on his career and hung up his boots.

Bayern’s efforts to get Leroy Sane on board dominated the headlines and although they were unsuccessful to get him on board this summer (which might or might not have had something to do with his injury), it would be logical to assume that they will try again next summer (bye, bye Perisic!). Philippe Coutinho has been on a different level since he moved to Germany from Spain, and there are even murmurs that Bayern will break their transfer record to sign him permanently. Perisic and Pavard haven’t looked bad either, but Lucas’ iffy form has meant that the Bavarian giants keep conceding silly goals. Bayern’s squad look pretty good, maybe a little too good in midfield but the lack of a deputy to Robert Lewandowski (even though the big man is in unreal form; scoring in every CL and Bundesliga game this season) may hurt them as it has so many times before. Ex-manager Niko Kovac was sacked after the 5-1 mauling at the hands of Frankfurt. Hans-Dieter Flick was appointed as the interim manager till the November international break, but the 4-0 win over fierce rivals, Borussia Dortmund means that Flick will stay on for the foreseeable future.


Borussia Dortmund

BVB started the window with a bang, acquiring Thorgan Hazard, Julian Brandt and Nico Schulz as soon as the window opened with the money they received for Christian Pulisic (thank you Chelsea!). Mats Hummels continued his habit of moving around between Dortmund and Bayern while Paco Alcacer’s permanent move from Barcelona was also formalized. Hummels’ move meant that one of their CBs had to leave, and Abdou Diallo was the casualty. A number of their offensive players left, thereby helping them to debloat their bloated attack. Maximilian Philipp, Alexander Isak, Shinji Kagawa, Marius Wolf, Andre Schurrle, Sergio Gomez all either left for good or temporarily along with the likes of Sebastian Rode, Jeremy Toljan, Omer Toprak, Felix Passlack.

All of Dortmund’s signings have been impressive (which is also impressive!) bar maybe Brandt, but he did put one of his finest performances in the big game against Inter where he scored a goal.

BVB’s struggles in games are similar to what we have experienced, with Favre’s midfielders failing to screen the defense at times because of the system at place, even though Witsel and Delaney put in a gargantuan effort every time. Favre has started involving Weigl in games this season, so that’s a move on the right path. Other than that, a lack of an established backup centre-forward will likely hurt Dortmund’s chances of finally lifting the Bundesliga again.

Dead Chuck

RB Leipzig

The 19/20 season marked the advent of the Julian Nagelsmann era at RB Leipzig. Nagelsmann is widely renowned as a youth-friendly coach, therefore Chelsea’s very own Ethan Ampadu’s lack of minutes in Germany came as a shock and is slowly becoming a cause for concern. While the major factors behind Ampadu’s exclusion from the playing 11 are due to Nagelsmann still trying to implement his style of play as well as the quality players in Ampadu’s position, Chelsea will be hoping that the situation somehow improves or he will need to be recalled and sent on a less arduous loan destination.

Other than Amapdu, Leipzig also finally secured the signing of Ademola Lookman who they have been chasing for more than a year, along with Christopher Nkunku, Hannes Wolf, Luan Candido and Patrik Schick on loan. Bruma left the club to join PSV Eindhoven while Jean-Kevin Augustin joined AS Monaco on loan.

Nkunku has been impressive, while the others haven’t played much (surprisingly for Lookman, but his situation does seem similar to Ampadu’s). RB Leipzig have an immensely deep squad, with seemingly no weaknesses, and their position on the Bundesliga table where they are second reflects just that.


Bayer Leverkusen

Leverkusen lost their crown jewel in Julian Brandt, who traversed over to North Rhine-Westphalia to don the yellow colors of Borussia Dortmund. However, Karem Demirbay, who enjoyed a stellar 2018-19 season was brought in to fill the void, along with Moussa Diaby from PSG, Nadiem Amiri from Hoffenheim and Daley Sinkgraven from Ajax. Along with Brandt, Dominik Kohr departed the club to join Eintracht Frankfurt and Tin Jedvaj joined Augsburg on loan.

Surprisingly, none of Leverkusen’s new acquisitions have really fired, with Amiri and Demirbay having one assist each in the Bundesliga, while Moussa Diaby has looked incredibly bad.

Leverkusen’s major problems going forward into the season would be the lack of a genuine world class defensive midfielder as well as sufficient defensive cover. So far this season though, their defensive record hasn’t been entirely poor, shipping 15 goals, just like their decent offensive number of 17 goals scored against other teams, which is why the club from North Rhine-Westphalia are three points off the top 4. As it was last season, Leverkusen will rely on star-boy Kai Havertz to deliver the bulk of goals and assists as well as be at the hub of their creative plays.


PSG

With UEFA bringing down the heat on PSG over financial irregularities over the permanent signings of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in 2017 and 2018 respectively, PSG were compelled to redefine their business M.O. and signings could only happen if PSG could raise money by selling players and adhering to the limits set by FFP. They still managed to improve their squad, and quite ingeniously too. Inter’s unwanted maverick, Mauro Icardi and Spain’s fallen GK, Sergio Rico arrived on loan, while the likes of Abdou Diallo, Idrissa Gana Gueye joined permanently along with the frugal signings of Pablo Sarabia, Keylor Navas, Ander Herrera and Marcin Bulka. A good many players departed as well as aforementioned, with Giovani Lo Celso, Moussa Diaby, Christopher Nkunku, Stanley Nsoki, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Arthur Zagre, Timothy Weah, Kevin Trapp, Alphonse Areola, Remy Descamps, Gianluigi Buffon, Dani Alves, Adrien Rabiot and Jese Rodriguez all leaving either temporarily or permanently.

Mauro Icardi has been on fire, scoring 9 goals already while the likes of Navas (9 CSs and 5 goals conceded in 12 games!), Diallo and Herrera have been solid. However, PSG’s best signing has been Gueye, who has shown them what they have been missing all these years. He may yet turn out to be the difference-maker for them in finally winning an UCL. Sarabia has provided 2 assists in Ligue 1 in addition to a goal, but I haven’t been too impressed with him.

As always, PSG are atop the Ligue 1 table at this point, but due to having to be fiscally responsible, some positions in the squad weren’t strengthened, which could (would?) be a cause of concern as the season progresses, especially in the Champions League. The most notable of these are both the fullback positions, with Juan Bernat and Layvin Kurzawa not really the type of players you want playing for a UCL contender. On the opposite flank, Colin Dagba’s rise has come at the most opportune time, just as Thomas Meunier’s fall in Thomas Tuchel’s eyes. PSG don’t have a world class DM or DLP either (Gueye being more of a box-to-box interceptor and Paredes being deemed not up to the level required), so Tuchel has been forced time and time again to play Marquinhos at base midfield. Their attack is still one of the world’s most lethal though, and even more so this season after the acquisitions of Icardi and Sarabia.


Olympique Lyon

Like every season, Lyon sold a couple of their star players to the big clubs while buying young players with potential. Lyon’s scouting department has been top-notch for years which has helped them tap up future stars for peanuts. Lyon sold Tanguy Ndombele to Spurs, Ferland Mendy to Real Madrid, and in the biggest surprise of the summer, Nabil Fekir to Real Betis (!) for close to 20 million euros (!). They used those sales to fund the signings of Joachim Andersen, Jeff Reine-Adélaïde, Thiago Mendes, Youssouf Kone, Ciprian Tatarusanu and Jean Lucas. Lyon seem to have a pretty decent squad, although more depth at centre-forward and central midfield would have turned Lyon into title contenders. However, that is all moot at this point, as coach Sylvinho who replaced Bruno Genesio in the summer has been replaced with experienced manager Rudi Garcia due to Lyon’s poor run of form. Lyon are a whopping 14 points behind PSG already, and Garcia’s realistic ambition right now would be to get Lyon into the Champions League next season somehow.


Lille

Another one in our UCL group, Lille lost a significant part of their spine when Nicolas Pepe, Rafael Leao, Thiago Mendes, Youssouf Kone and Anwar El Ghazi. However, just like when he made that spine, Lille’s Director of Football showed why he is one of the best in the world by scouting and buying the next hottest talent in Victor Osimhen, Timothy Weah, Domagoj Bradaric, Tiago Djalo, and mixed it up with slightly more experienced players like Renato Sanches, Yusuf Yazici, Benjamin Andre, Leo Jardim and Reinildo Mandava.

Lille’s midfielders haven’t really performed well this season despite the arrival of Renato Sanches. Yusuf Yazici’s poor form has also been a cause for concern for a team that seemed to even challenge PSG in Ligue 1 at times last season. However, Victor Osimhen’s electric form (are you watching him, Chelsea?) has ensured that Lille are firmly placed at 6th on the table. Benjamin Andre with his 4.5 tackles per 90 minutes and 2.3 interceptions per 90 minutes has also been magnificent.


Juventus

The club that are the masters of signing free agents, continued the trend this season by capturing the signings of Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot along with Gianluigi Buffon who will serve as the deputy behind the sticks. However the highlight of Il Bianconero’s summer window was the arrival of Matthijs de Ligt (the Mino Raiola connection) after months of speculation that the young Dutch centre-back would choose Barcelona. Other incoming signings include the likes of Danilo from Manchester City, Cristian Romero from Genoa (and loaned back for the season), Luca Pellegrini from Roma (and loaned to Cagliari Calcio) and Merih Demiral from Sassuolo. On the outgoing side, Joao Cancelo, Leonardo Spinazzola and Moise Kean all left the club along with a number of players who were part of Juve’s loan army in recent seasons.

Maurizio Sarri, who left Chelsea for the Old Lady’s bench has ensured that Juventus are top of the league table after the Derby d’Italia which took place just before the October international break after being behind Inter Milan for some weeks. Juventus have a really deep squad, and they are serious contenders for the elusive Champions League. A lack of backups at left-back (welcome Emerson?) and centre-forward (Mario Mandzukic has been ostracized ousted) might hurt them going forward, but so far their results seem to indicate otherwise.

Aaron Ramsey has been solid if not spectacular, and even has a Serie A goal to his name. Rabiot has been decent as well, so Juve fans are rightly asking Sarri to swap him for a declining Matuidi in the matchday lineup. However, the biggest cause of concern is De Ligt’s form, which has been astoundingly bad unlike his ex-Ajax brother over at Barcelona. Gonzalo Higuaín has revived his career at Turin under Sarri, and it looks like him and Chelsea old-boy Juan Cuadrado might even get new deals.

Rohaan Bhuyan

Inter Milan

The club that is just behind Juventus in Serie A, Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan are bringing back the swag not seen since the Jose Mourinho days. However, breaking Juve’s monopoly in Italy was never going to be easy, and Inter, whose FFP sanctions have been lifted by UEFA, made sure to supplement a world-class incoming manager with world-class signings like Romelu Lukaku, Valentino Lazaro, Nicolo Barella, Diego Godin, while an on-loan Alexis Sanchez has epitomized what Inter are trying to do with his resurgent rise to prominence. However, the wildcard of the window has to be Stefano Sensi, who has proved with his quality and versatility time and time again as to why he is such a vital cog in this well-oiled machine. Cristian Biraghi and Dalbert were involved in a loan swap deal between Inter and Fiorentina.

The major departures were trouble-makers Ivan Perisic, Mauro Icardi and Radja Nainggolan on loan, while Zinho Vanheusden, George Puscas, Andre Adorante, Marco Sala, Yann Karamoh, Joao Miranda and a host of other fringe players also departed. Long-serving icon, Miranda also left the club. It’s hard to find too many problems with this Inter squad, but the general feeling is that some players like Andrea Ranocchia, Matias Vecino, Borja Valero, Antonio Candreva and Matteo Politano can be improved upon.

Along with Sensi, the likes of Lukaku and Godin have been unbelievably excellent, and Barella has been ever-solid. Valentino Lazaro’s return from injury has added a further dimension to this Conte team. Biraghi started the season on the right note, but has been poor in recent matches.


Napoli

Napoli did not make too many changes to their main team. There were some big-name signings though in the form of Hirving ‘Chucky’ Lozano, Kostantinos Manolas, Eljif Elmas, Fernando Llorente and Giovanni di Lorenzo. Their trio of GKs, Alex Meret, David Ospina and Orestis Karnezis also signed permanent deals after being on loan at Naples through the 18-19 season. There were quite a number of departures though; with Raul Albiol, Amadou Diawara, Carlos Vincius, Simone Verdi, Adam Ounas, Roberto Inglese, Vlad Chiriches and Marko Rog all leaving the club.

Napoli are 7th on the table, 13 points behind Juventus. They actually started the season well, but their recent form of 0 wins in their last 5 matches (4 in Serie A) has led the Il Partenopei to fall far behind. Things got so bad that Don Aurelio ordered the players to enter into a training retreat which started a major controversy.

Napoli’s defence could do with some improvements, with Manolas still adapting to a new environment and Ghoulam struggling in the early part of the season (and also losing his place to Mario Rui). Fernando Llorente has 2 goals and 1 assist in 2 starts and 8 substitute league appearances. Lozano and Elmas have looked unconvincing.


Atalanta

The high-flying team from Serie A that are a neutral’s favorite due to their quick and explosive style of play, had a relatively quiet transfer window. Luis Muriel and Ruslan Malinovskyi were the big permanent signings along with the lesser known Marco Varnier who joined them permanently after being on loan last season. Chelsea’s very own Marco Pasalic joined La Dea on loan for a second consecutive season. Guilherme Arana and Simon Kjaer were the other loan additions. There weren’t too many departures to talk about, with Gianluca Mancini, Arkadiusz Reca, and Matteo Pesina all leaving on loan, while the buying options on Franck Kessie, Bryan Cristante and Andrea Petagna’s loan deals were triggered this summer.

Atalanta have a small squad, with just 22 first team players, and it wouldn’t be illogical to assume that they will prioritize the Serie A over the Champions League. They are currently fifth in Serie A, with Duvan Zapata and Papu Gomez being in terrific form and the others chipping in with valuable contributions as well. Their 30 goals scored in the Serie A is the highest in the league so far, even better than the mighty Juventus’ 20 goals and Inter’s 26. New signings Muriel (8 goals in Serie A), Pasalic (1 goal and 2 assists in Serie A) and Malinovskyi (1.9 key passes/game in Serie A) have been in stellar form which proves the age-old adage that the quality of signings matters more than the quantity. However, their UCL form tells a different story where they are in the last position in their group, with 1 point in 4 games.


Ajax

The last member of our UCL group stage, and arguably the strongest one, Ajax are in the first place in both the Eredivisie (no losses in the league yet) and the Champions League group H. What makes Ajax’s results so impressive is that they are still so dominant despite losing some of their biggest stars in Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong and Kasper Dolberg along with the lesser spoken names of Maximilian Wöber, Rasmus Kristensen, Daley Sinkgraven, Dani de Wit, Lasse Schöne and Lisandro Magallán. They did utilize the money well though, by bringing in Quincy Promes, Edson Alvarez, Razvan Marin, Lisandro Martinez, Kik Pierie and Kjell Scherpen. They also integrated some promising youngsters as always, most notably Sergino Dest who seems to have ousted Noussair Mazraoui from the playing XI (on most days atleast).

Lisandro Martinez has been a rock at defensive midfield, and has been responsible for Ajax conceding just 9 goals in 13 league matches. Quincy Promes too has been on extraordinary form, with 8 goals and 3 assists so far in the Eredivisie as well as 3 goals in the Champions League. After the departure of FdJ, Ajax’s midfield looks a little weak, bar the presence of Donny van de Beek, Hakim Ziyech and the aforementioned Lisandro Martinez, so that is a cause of concern. Nicolas Tagliafico also doesn’t have a deputy after the departure of Sinkgraven to Leverkusen, so that may hurt them as well.

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