EPL TALK: Deal or no deal? Transfers shaping teams' fortunes

·8 min read
New Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku scores their side's first goal against Arsenal.
New Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku scores their side's first goal against Arsenal. (PHOTO: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — How have your favourite English Premier League (EPL) teams performed over the past week? Yahoo News Singapore looks at the key talking points surrounding the league in this weekly review:

Lukaku adds new dimension to potent Chelsea frontline

WHAT HAPPENED: While EPL fans are all wondering how strong Manchester City would be if they sign Tottenham star striker Harry Kane, Chelsea have quietly gone about and done a similar deal that has rival fans shaking their heads and moaning about unfairness in financial power.

Romelu Lukaku, whom the Blues actually signed for £10 million (S$18.6 million) as a raw 18-year-old from Belgian club Anderlecht back in 2011, returns for a second stint at Stamford Bridge - this time for an eye-watering transfer price of £97.5 million. 

He is now an established elite striker, following successful stints at Everton, Manchester United and Inter Milan after being let go by Chelsea in 2014. And he immediately started paying off dividends, scoring the opener in the Blues' 2-0 win over Arsenal on Sunday (22 August). 

You can see why rival fans are feeling such a sense of unfairness. Chelsea, who are still bankrolled by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, have added a new attacking dimension to a squad that already boast top-tier talents such as Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount. Most clubs could barely afford one or two of those players.

Let's not forget, they are the current European champions, and with manager Thomas Tuchel gleefully saying that Lukaku "adds another dimension" to his formidable squad, Chelsea have to be considered as top challengers to Man City's EPL reign.

Indeed, Lukaku alone will trouble rival defences with his powerful physique and unerring eye for goals. But once he integrates with his new teammates, the Belgian could be become the willing runner to receive and convert all the through balls that playmakers like Havertz, Pulisic and Mount would be happy to provide. Werner, who operates more as a finisher, seems to be the only one who has to make major adjustments to accommodate Lukaku.

Inevitably, questions will be soon asked as to whether the financial powers of Chelsea and Man City are good for the competitiveness of the league. Ironically, at the moment it seems that there are more genuine challengers to the EPL title than the past few years, with Chelsea and Manchester United well-equipped to join Man City and Liverpool in contention. 

It does seem rosy for the Blues as they begin the new season with two wins out of two. The first big test will come very soon, but at the moment, they seem set for a concerted title push for the first time since they last won the title in 2017.

WHAT'S NEXT: That first big test comes this Saturday, as Chelsea travel to Anfield to face Liverpool. Both sides have won twice, scored five goals and conceded none so far; while Liverpool will have their considerable home-ground advantage, Chelsea will visit with the swagger of being European champions. A mouth-watering clash.

Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur applauds the supporters following their match against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur applauds the supporters following their match against Wolverhampton Wanderers. (PHOTO: Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

Harry Kane should question why City won't pay up for his transfer 

WHAT HAPPENED: In the next episode of the seemingly never-ending transfer saga between Harry Kane and Man City, the Spurs hitman made his first appearance of the season as a second-half substitute in their 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday.

He did not score - Dele Alli's first-half penalty sealed the London side's second straight 1-0 league victory - but he was nonetheless applauded by the Tottenham fans, a gestured he reciprocated after the final whistle. All's well and rosy when Spurs are winning.

But with a week still to go to the 31 August transfer deadline, the transfer rumours will only intensify, given that Kane stated publicly wants to leave Spurs and join a side where he would stand a much better chance at winning trophies. At this moment, the most likely destination he could go is to Man City.

On the surface, it seems a reasonable sentiment. Kane has been a sensational scorer in his eight seasons with the Tottenham senior team, yet Spurs have yet to build a team around him good enough to win the trophies he craves. 

At age 28, he would be the focal point of any title contending team for at least the next three years before he goes past his peak. At this moment, it is hard to see Tottenham - under new manager Nuno Espirito Santo - anywhere near a title-contending team despite their good start to the new EPL season.

Even Spurs fans are quietly resigned to seeing their iconic player go, but here's where the snag lies: he still has three years left in his contract, meaning there is no pressure on Spurs to sell him before his transfer value drops with impending free agency. And chairman Daniel Levy, a notoriously hard negotiator, will not budge on Kane's current valuation, which is rumoured at a whopping £150 million.

Which means the ball is now on Man City's court: would they cough up the hard cash to enable the transfer? So far, they have baulked at the huge transfer price, even with their seemingly-limitless riches.

Yet, for a club which identified before the end of last season that finding a replacement for the departing striker Sergio Aguero, City have instead gone ahead with another big transfer deal in signing midfielder Jack Grealish for £100 million, leaving them reluctant to splash out another mega-million deal for Kane.

This has earned criticism from pundits such as Sky Sports' Jamie Carragher, with the former Liverpool defender writing in his weekly column with The Telegraph that Kane should be questioning City's reluctance to match his market value. 

"Privately, (Kane) might even be wondering how far City are really prepared to go to get him. As the supposed number one summer target, he should already have been paraded in his City shirt," Carragher wrote.

Things may all change should City match that eye-watering £150 million valuation within the next seven days. But as it stands, it may be better for Kane to start preparing for another season with Spurs.

WHAT'S NEXT: A home clash with newly-promoted Watford on Sunday could provide Kane with the ideal chance to open his scoring account for the season, and for Tottenham to maintain their perfect start to the season. Whether Kane will still be around after the international break remains to be seen.

Harvey Elliott of Liverpool during their Premier League match against Burnley.
Harvey Elliott of Liverpool during their Premier League match against Burnley. (PHOTO: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

No big signing, no problem so far for Liverpool

WHAT HAPPENED: Of all the key challengers to the EPL title this season, Liverpool are the only side yet to make a big-money star signing. 

Man City have signed Grealish for £100 million, Chelsea have signed Lukaku for £97.5 million, and Man United have signed Jadon Sancho for £73 million. All are "statement" deals that show their ambition to pay what it takes to land the coveted title.

Liverpool, however, have only signed promising defender Ibrahim Konate for a relatively modest £36 million - hardly a signing to send the pulses racing among their die-hard fans. In fact, supporters are questioning why the Reds have yet to sign a replacement for key midfielder Gini Wijnaldum, who left on free transfer for Paris Saint Germain at the end of last season.

While their long-time forward trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have remained lethal, signing a top striker could also liven up their attack, which had sputtered amid their dreadful run of form in the middle of last season.

Yet manager Jurgen Klopp has so far resisted on making major purchases; instead he insisted that the return of players dogged by injuries last season - Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - coupled with the emergence of youngsters like Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott will automatically bolster the squad. 

So far this season, Liverpool's financial prudence has been vindicated. They have opened the new season with two wins, five goals scored and none conceded. In their 2-0 win against Burnley on Saturday, they were rarely troubled and looked imperious enough to be seen as genuine title challengers.

Klopp also justified his reasoning for not needing to find a replacement for Wijnaldum as he brought in Keita and Elliott, the 18-year-old making his first-team debut for the Reds. Both shone against Burnley: Keita was an industrious presence in midfield - much like Wijnaldum was - while Elliott showed glimpses of the creative force that he is tipped to become.

So far so good, but these are still early days in the season. The worry among Reds fans is that they remain vulnerable to another injury crisis in the scale of what hit them last season, as well as the prospect of a prolonged slump by their forward trio.

Nonetheless, they are proving the "statement" signings are unnecessary if they had planned ahead well enough in terms of player personnel. 

WHAT'S NEXT: After the clash with Chelsea on Saturday, Liverpool will return from the international break with three ties against mid-table teams: Leeds, Crystal Palace and Brentford. Then they will welcome Man City to Anfield before the October international break; if the Reds are still unbeaten after that, then their transfer policy can be viewed as a masterstroke again.

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