Believe it or not, the 2011/2012 Barclay's Premier League season will be underway in just a few short weeks. That means the transfer market is hot, and new faces will be getting to know their new locker room mates as they unpack their belongings in new surroundings.
In the next few days most of the teams will have convened their summer preparation programs, and training will have begun. This will be the first time new faces will have to gel with future teammates, and this period is critical to the success of any club's investment.
Already we have seen a number of transfers in a very active summer period. While there hasn't been a blockbuster deal at the time of this writing, there are a few generating a lot of press. Cesc Fabregas may be on his way out of Arsenal, along with Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy is already gone. The BPL's big spenders, Manchester City, are still hoping to land some big names, while their cross-town rivals Manchester United have already snapped up a defender, winger and goalkeeper.
Let's take a look at some of the teams this season and how their transfer moves may help define their coming season.
Manchester United - United has already been active in the transfer market, picking up defender Phil Jones from Blackburn, Ashley Young from Aston Villa and David de Gea from Atletico Madrid. Jones will do well to bolster what was, at times last season, a porous back line. De Gea will replace retiring Edwin van der Sar while Young will bring another wing option to United's preferred style of attack. Sir Alex Ferguson is still dabbling in the market, though, and rumors swirl of him bringing in another midfielder to shore up the massive gap left by Scholes.
Chelsea - While Chelsea has not had any confirmed signings this summer to date, they may be excused for taking their time after switching managers. Carlo Ancelotti left the team following the end of the season and Andre Villas-Boas was appointed to take charge. The new manager has admitted to searching for a defender with Birmingham's Scott Dann and Bolton's Gary Cahill on the radar. The other question is whether or not Chelsea will land long-time Brazilian target Neymar. Right now he looks set to stay with Santos.
Manchester City - Unlike their cross-town rivals, City, while being loud players in the transfer market, have little to show for their effort thus far. The only official moves involving the team were two players that left, Scott Kay to Macclesfield and Andrew Tutte to Rochdale. That was until they signed Gael Clichy from Arsenal. City has still been consistently rumored to be in line for some of the biggest transfers of the summer. Carlos Tevez has begun his annual, "I don't want to be here," speech, but City will be sure to get their money's worth from his departure if it happens. That distraction aside, they look close to signing Stefan Savic from Partizan Belgrade to form one of the toughest back lines in the league, and could have a few more targets in their back pocket before the season begins.
Arsenal - Arsenal's position in the summer transfer window seems to be one of panic. The team's biggest stars are enduring a barrage of offers as manager Arsene Wenger fights to keep some semblance of the team he created in tact. Samir Nasri is heavily rumored to be on his way to Manchester United. Gael Clichy is likely to land at Manchester City, and perhaps the biggest rumor of all looks inevitable as well, Cesc Fabregas could finally be on his way to Barcelona. None of this is good news to Arsenal fans, and the team may be nearly unrecognizable from last season with the loss of so many top players. Wenger has yet to officially land any targets as well.
Tottenham - Harry Redknapp's genius in the transfer market has been demonstrated time and again, transforming lower performing teams into contenders with a few cunning deals. This summer he let go of Jonathan Woodgate when his contract ended, and sold Jamie O'Hara to Wolves for £5 million. His best move so far may be the signing of Brad Friedel on a free transfer from Aston Villa. We all know how Heurelho Gomes can go cold sometimes, and Friedel will help keep him on task as he provides back up to the position.
Liverpool - The addition of Kenny Dalglish as manager turned around the disastrous season the team was enduring last term. Instead of fighting for relegation, the team climbed back up the table after his arrival. To date this summer only two moves have been made official. Nikola Saric was released and Jordan Henderson was signed from Sunderland. Henderson will be a young and fresh player for the aging Liverpool midfield. The Reds are also looking to bring in Brazilian goalie Alexander Doni, but have mainly focused on sealing the future of some of the team's most talented youngsters.
Everton - Everton have only completed one deal so far this summer, and that was the sale of James Vaughn to Norwich City for £2.5 million. While they've also completed another loan deal for Eric Dier, the young player only featured their reserves and under-18 squads on his prior spell. Everton may stay quiet until the summer wears on and prices become a little more affordable.
Fulham - Fulham have spent the summer cleaning house thus far. They've let six players go. Five were released outright and one left on a free transfer to Eskisehirspor. They will no longer have Diomansy Kamara, Eddie Johnson or John Pantsil as a result. One rumor that Fulham is wrapped up in is the chase for Mexican striker Aldo De Nigris, who scored three goals in last month's CONCACAF Gold Cup. The striker is cagily considering a Europa League side in England, meaning Fulham could be a likely destination.
Aston Villa - Villa was involved in one of the bigger transfer stories of the summer, selling Ashley Young to Manchester United. The team also let Brad Friedel leave on a free transfer to Tottenham. The side will now be looking for a winger to replace Young, and should have plenty of money to spend. Despite being linked to Matt Jarvis, Villa currently has no rumored targets, but don't count them out. Owner Randy Lerner has promised funds to bring in the necessary talent to move forward.
Sunderland - After selling Jordan Henderson to Liverpool, Sunderland went crazy on purchases. They picked up goalkeeper Keiren Westwood and winger Sebastian Larsson for free and then worked on deals to bring in Craig Gardner from Birmingham, and an emerging talent at striker in Connor Wickham. These moves should give Sunderland a whole new face. The additions will put the spotlight on manager Steve Bruce. If the team is transformed into a success he will be hailed as a hero, but he also runs the risk of falling flat and being one of the first managers to be released. The team has placed a lot of trust in Bruce, and his job will depend on these players' success.
West Bromwich Albion - West Brom have sold goalkeepers Scott Carson and Ryan Allsop while bringing in defenders Gareth McAuley and Billy Jones. The team is certainly focused on their defensive frailties. They are also likely to bring back Zoltan Gera to midfield and perhaps even snag Nigel Reo-Cocker as well, which shows an effort to build the team around its weaknesses from last season.
Newcastle - Unlike West Brom, Newcastle have mainly focused on bolstering their forward forces. The club captured Yohan Cabaye and Sylvain Marveaux from Ligue 1 teams, plus another Frenchman at forward Demba Ba, who was with West Ham last season. Alan Pardew must have excellent French scouts, and he is clearly focused on moving the attack forward. The team Pardew has put tog ether looks respectable on paper, but the task must be done on the field.
Stoke City - Aside from letting Abdoulaye Faye leave to West Ham on a free transfer, Stoke have been relatively quiet. As of this, writing they are in the mix for defender Scott Dann, but with both Arsenal and Chelsea gunning for the Birmingham man, Stoke may be his least likely destination.
Bolton - Bolton have sold goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi to Wigan for an undisclosed fee, and brought in Darren Pratley to join the midfield ranks. This team was in the thick of last season's relegation battle and will need to shore up some weaknesses if they want to survive another season. The funds from Al Habsi's sale will go further for the club since Pratley was a free transfer. The team has also secured the services of Ricardo Gardner after the versatile winger turned down a move to West Ham in favor of remaining at the Reebok.
Blackburn - Offloading a goalkeeper and scooping up some funds by selling Phil Jones to Manchester United will allow Blackburn to make some moves to return to the form they've become accustomed to. The team is expected to make some signings, and they will be targeting both defense and attack in an effort to improve their team. The chairman has said that they would be considering both experience and potential in their coming signings, but haven't been heavily linked with anyone as of yet.
Wigan - Confirmed talks between Wigan and Manchester City to bring in Shaun Wright Phillips may be the team's biggest signing of the summer. The deal would most likely be a loan option, but the added creativeness and speed on the Wigan flanks should serve the team well as they look to avoid last season's relegation struggle. They've also signed Ali Al Habsi from Bolton, and are working hard to retain their star players while still adding some fresh faces to the mix. Manager Roberto Martinez has a solid squad at his disposal, and with a few key additions, this team could move quickly up the order.
Wolverhampton - Dorus de Vries and Jamie O'Hara are Wolves' two captures thus far this summer. The team will most likely use de Vries as back up to a very well established goalkeeping squad. O'Hara, on the other hand, has been a fixture in Wolves' midfield for the past three years, but now has made the permanent move from Tottenham. Wolves have a lot of work to do if they want to play in the Premier League again next season, and these two signings, and no other rumors in the hopper may make that a very difficult prospect.
Norwich City - Norwich have been active as they build their ranks for a Premier League campaign. They've brought in no less than five players so far, and are likely to have a few more in the hopper. Ritchie de Laet from Manchester United will be a key loan signing for the defense, while Bradley Johnson will help round out a largely solidified midfield. The team has plenty of strikers, and even signed James Vaughn from Everton for some extra emphasis, along with Steve Morison. There will be plenty of competition at forward, and it remains to be seen who will be favored.
Swansea - Usually, when a Championship team enters the Premier League, some marginal players are sold to make room for big signings. At Swansea, most of their players sold have been going to other Premier League teams! Dorus de Vries went to Wolverhampton and Darren Pratley left for Bolton on a free transfer. While neither player will be the next Petr Cech or Robin van Persie, the Swans are still a little short in the addition column. Steven Caulker, a talented 19-year-old defender, was plucked from Tottenham, while Danny Graham will help offer further options at forward after arriving from Watford. Scanning the Swans' roster will show a depth issue at goal, and a lack of attacking midfielders. Look for some further additions in those two positions.
Queens Park Rangers - Much of Queens Park Rangers transfers were done last season in a bid to not only enter the Premier League, but also compete in it. Paddy Kenny is in goal with Prem experience, while a littering of other players throughout the roster have similar pedigrees. The team is not lacking for cash to spend with a conglomerate of Formula 1 millionaires on the business side. Neil Warnock knows how to get things done in the Premier League, and he should be feeling somewhat confident, but will be carefully considering some acquisitions as well.