Transfer window post-mortem: The race for the top four

Julian Finney

The window's closed, so what does the race for the Champions League look like?

Tottenham fans the world over have spent Deadline Day wringing their hands praying for a last minute Daniel Levy special. But instead of getting an out-of-the-blue coup, the Spurs faithful had to watch their crosstown rivals bring in the mesmerizingly talented Mesut Ozil, who instantly becomes one of the top players in the league. But while Arsenal bagged themselves quite the prize, the transfer front was a lot quieter for the rest of the Sky Six. How will it all shake out?

1. Manchester City look a work in progress, but they fixed exactly what needed fixing. They've got depth and they've got talent. Negredo, Navas, Jovetic and Fernandinho are all excellent players and go a long way towards replacing their departures and plugging their existing holes.

Once City manages to put it together on the pitch, they're favorites for the title. But if it takes their new manager a while to make his vision work, they could be dragged into a very tight race.

2. Chelsea have a great squad and a great manager. But did they strengthen particularly well? Willian, De Bruyne, and Schurrle will improve their depth, and they're all great players, but are they so good that it warrants marginalizing Juan Mata, one of the best creative players in England?

Meanwhile the Rooney saga derailed their striker search and they've ended  up forcing out Romelu Lukaku, the best striker on their books, to bring in an aging Samuel Eto'o. Did a side who finished third by some distance last year do enough to make the leap to the top of the table?

3. Spurs lost their best player, but have done phenomenally well to strengthen the whole squad. There's going to be a lot of growing pains before the team gels together, but once it gets sorted they should be a real force. It's a matter of when, but if it's at all soon, it's a strong squad that definitely has the talent to take them into the top four.

Christian Eriksen and Roberto Soldado represent clear upgrades on the men they're replacing and they've added plenty of depth across the board. A lot will hinge on how well Erik Lamela can realize his potential and replace the touch of magic the team lost with Gareth Bale.

4. With their deadline grab of Ozil, Arsenal just brought in possibly the best player in the EPL. But they still have a serious depth problem. They got a backup goalkeeper and Mathieu Flamini, but they aren't the top four quality Arsenal needed. They're already suffering a bit of an injury crisis and a few more injuries could have them playing catch up later in the season by the time everyone's back fit. Arsenal beat Spurs and signing Ozil makes a huge statement, but this is still a team with problems.

5. Manchester United still have a title-winning squad, but without Alex Ferguson in the dugout how good is that squad really? Fergie's indomitable brilliance papered over a lot of cracks last season. They whiffed on target after target all summer long, but a last minute grab for Marouane Fellaini goes a long way towards fixing their broken midfield.

But Wilfried Zaha, Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, and Nani, coupled with the mystifying freeze-out of Shinji Kagawa leave a lot to be desired further up the pitch. RVP will have to carry them again in front of goal, barring vast improvement from guys like Danny Welbeck and a recommitted Wayne Rooney. So far David Moyes has it all to prove that he's a worthy heir to the throne.

6. Liverpool have legitimately strengthened all across the pitch and they could make a serious run for a Champions League place. But like Spurs, their massive overhaul means they have a lot of problems with new players bedding in as well. And unlike Spurs, they're starting with a squad that finished seventh last year. Guys like Iago Aspas and Victor Moses are definite upgrades, but they aren't really top four signings. Meanwhile an aging Steven Gerrard and injury-prone Lucas Leiva are their only real options in midfield. A lack of depth there could hurt them.

7. Everton managed to hang on to Leighton Baines, and despite the loss of Marouane Fellaini, last minute signings of Romelu Lukaku and James McCarthy more than ease the pains from his loss. And if on-loan wonderkind Gerard Deulofeu gets the chance to fulfill his promise, they could surprise a lot of teams. Everton have looked good to start the season, but three draws from three matches leaves them playing catch up. They could be dark horse challengers for a top four spot, but those early dropped points could end up biting them towards the end of the season.

All in all, it's an incredibly tight race across the board. A lot hinges on injuries, managerial performance, and squad cohesion. Whatever happens, the top of the table is going to be incredibly interesting. Hopefully Daniel Levy's impressive reinvestment of the Bale money has been enough to propel the club to a seat in the top four when the music stops at the end of the season.

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