Continuing with my analysis of Arsenal’s Premier League opponents and their transfer activity, I now move to the two teams that start with the letter ‘L’: recent champions, Leicester City
and the Champions League finalists, Liverpool.
The Foxes have done their best to hang onto their star players, since winning the title two years ago, but it has proved difficult. Riyad Mahrez’s departure was always a dot on the cards and the only surprise was how long it has taken (and the fact that he didn’t move to Arsenal, given the amount of publicity that potential move got). You have to credit Leicester for making a huge profit on the Algerian, who cost them a lot less than the £60m sum that Man City have paid for his services.
Another title-winner who could leave Leicester is Kasper Schmeichel, but the Foxes are denying that there is any truth in the rumour that he could move to Chelsea. Even if the keeper does leave, at least Liverpool’s Danny Ward has been snapped up for an undisclosed fee (thought to be £12.5m) as a potential replacement. Personally, I’ve always rated Schmeichel, but strangely he’s one of the few players not to be linked with Arsenal very often in the transfer rumours columns!
Other signings that will excite Leicester fans include: the £24m-signing of James Maddison from Norwich, who will add a creative spark; and the defensive additions of WBA’s Jonny Evans for just £3.5m (value for money, if ever I heard it, so why didn’t Arsenal try to buy him?) and Porto’s Ricardo Pereira for a whopping £17.5m. The good news for the Foxes is they still have more of the Mahrez money to spend should they want to strengthen further.
While Leicester have made a profit on their transfer business to date, the same can’t be said of Liverpool, who must be considered serious contenders for every prize next season, judging by the ambition shown by the club at board level.
Perhaps the most significant signing is that of Alisson, which addresses the Reds’ need for a truly reliable goalkeeper. The Brazilian is highly-rated and should be worth every penny of the £65m spent on him.
Elsewhere, the Liverpool midfield has been strengthened by the additions of the £53m Naby Keita from Leipzig, the £40m Fabinho from Monaco and the shock signing of Xherdan Shaquiri from Stoke. The £13m-acquisition has been a thorn in the side of many Premier League opponents while turning out for the relatively lowly Potters, so it’s going to be interesting to see how he fits into to a top-tier team. The 26-year-old Switzerland international chalked up over 50 league appearances for Bayern Munich and hit double figures with Inter Milan, so should know what it takes to succeed at a club the size of Liverpool. Stoke’s loss is likely to be the Reds’ gain.
Liverpool are going to be even more formidable this season, so Arsenal are going to have to be at their best to take points from the Reds.