Most fans don’t look too much into the importance of the pre-season campaign but for many youth players it is one of the most important stages of the season. It’s a chance to showcase their skills, put a marker down for a place in the Premier League squad and an opportunity to play alongside senior players in a competitive match.
However, the pre-season period can also be very important for new signings. Some of this summer’s top transfers will be hoping to settle into their new clubs and pre-season gives them the perfect opportunity to demonstrate what they can do and earn some respect from the fans.
During the summer, squads have been developed, new signings have been showcased and a number of big names have left their clubs. It’s been a summer full of managerial excitement and big-money transfers but what impact will that have on the season to come?
After last season’s unpredictable finale, which saw Leicester City lift the Premier League title, the 2016-17 campaign promises to be one of the most exciting. Here’s just a few things the pre-season period has shown us and a some things the new season promises.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic will score goals
Manchester United’s big-money signing, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, could be one of the most exciting features of the 2016-17 season and whilst Paul Pogba is likely to make the switch too, he could be United’s best signing.
The Swedish international has been a top player for years and has never been shy of scoring in Europe. He’s played at some of the best clubs in the world including Ajax, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain. The 34 year-old is arrogant, brilliant and intimidating and there’s no doubt those qualities will follow him to England.
After making his Manchester United bow against Galatasaray, he didn’t take long to fill the headlines when he scored an over-head kick within three minutes of the game kicking off. It’s moments like this which have defined his career thus far and the tall striker won’t be happy unless he lauds the attention in England too. No matter what happens this season, Ibrahimovic will be a big part of it and it’s likely his goal-scoring prowess will take Manchester United to new heights.
A lack of European football hasn’t prevented signings
The fact Manchester United have signed Ibrahimovic and will be completing the move for Paul Pogba is of real significance given their lack of Champions League football. Clearly, the new signings feel Jose Mourinho is the right man to take them back to the heights and they will be expecting to be playing in Europe again next season.
What was perhaps even more surprising was N’Golo Kante’s switch from Premier League champions, Leicester City to last season’s flops, Chelsea. The Frenchman was crucial to his side’s title-winning campaign but it seems the midfielder isn’t adamant on enjoying the achievements made by the Foxes and has stated Antonio Conte’s philosophy at Chelsea is a better long-term commitment.
The Premier League is so competitive these days that it’s hard to bet on which sides will make the Champions League and perhaps due to the inconsistency, top stars are now drawn to clubs with exciting managers, transitional philosophies and high wages. Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan and Kante or already examples of this and there’s bound to be a few more before the window draws to a close.
Chelsea still look scarred
Antonio Conte’s arrival at Stamford Bridge will certainly re-ignite some of the stability lost at Chelsea last season. However, the Blues’ pre-season performances so far suggests a few ghosts from last year are still around and Nemanja Matic’s performances in particular haven’t been too encouraging.
It’s not been all doom and gloom for the Blues though. Terry and Cahill look reasonably comfortable in defence, although it’s clear Conte is holding out for the return of Kurt Zouma at centre-back. Eden Hazard scored two goals against Real Madrid in their most recent match and Chelsea defeated Klopp’s young Liverpool side last week. However, they didn’t dominate in either game and their two defeats during the pre-season campaign have been deserved.
The midfield looks a shadow of the one under Jose Mourinho two years ago and although Michy Batshuayu, Juan Cuadrado and Hazard have all looked like a threat in attack, they’re not as free-flowing as they were before last season.
It’s clear last year’s campaign has had a damaging effect on the confidence of the squad and the senior players look to have suffered the most. Chelsea only have two weeks to rectify this but it could take a string of successful victories at the start of the Premier League to set them on their way.