Saturday 24 February 2018 / 05:02 AM


In the midst of the European Championship, it’s easy to forget that three of the traditional ‘Big Four’ Premier League clubs have got new managers: Mourinho at United, Guardiola at Man City and Conte at Chelsea.

It’s not an overstatement to say that the heavyweights all endured – by their standards – pretty wretched seasons last year, and one thing is for certain: the hierarchies at those clubs will not tolerate another year in the wilderness.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what the three managers need to do in their first transfer window to give their clubs the best chance of success:

Antonio Conte and Chelsea 

Conte’s pre-season is hampered somewhat by the trifling matter of his involvement with Italy. Until the tournament is over, he will not be able to devote 100 percent of his time to the Chelsea cause, and whether that will prove costly remains to be seen. To me, it has echoes of World Cup 2014, when Louis Van Gaal joined United after the tournament, giving himself precious little time to get deals done.

A lot depends on how many players the Italian chooses to part company with. He could look at it two ways: either last season was the anomaly, and the players he’s got at Stamford Bridge will be able to raise their games again; or the players are not fit for purpose and need to be moved on.

With Diego Costa rumoured to be on his way out, one position that Conte will definitely need to fill is up front. The suggestion is that he’ll move for ex-Chelsea man Romelu Lukaku, although it’ll be with a hefty price tag if he does. There also appears to be a need for more steel in midfield, and Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan looks pretty close to a done deal.

Pep Guardiola and Manchester City 

Guardiola’s got a lot of work to do. City have got a pretty old squad, with a lot of players coming down off their peak. This means two things.

Number one, if he’s serious about competing in the Premier League and in Europe, he’s going to need to move a load of those players on and bring in fresh blood.

Number two, he’s not going to be able to get serious money for them, meaning that he’ll need to delve significantly into the City bank.

The Spaniard will definitely need a new striker to take the pressure of Sergio Aguero, whilst Guardiola has already brought in midfielder Ilkay Gundongan, but the biggest area with room for improvement is the centre of defence, with (loud) whispers about Aymeric Laporte and John Stones.

Jose Mourinho and Manchester United

So, United now have their world-class manager. Shame about the players. Seriously, replacing Louis Van Gaal with Jose Mourinho has not solved all of United’s problems, whose squad require a major overhaul if they’re serious about a title challenge.

Mourinho has always believed in a strong spine running through the team, so his first task will be to persuade David De Gea not to leave. Once he’s accomplished that, he’ll probably be looking to bring in a top-shelf central defender to tick his ‘John Terry’ box (but it won’t be the Chelsea skipper, who’s signed an extension). His ‘battling midfielder’ box will almost certainly be filled by captain Wayne Rooney, who played well in that role for England on Saturday, but the question is: are the striking solutions available to the Portuguese enough?

What we know about Mourinho suggests not, with the ‘Special One’ more partial to a big bruiser up front than the diminutive talents of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford. With that in mind, a move for Zlatan Ibrahimovic would make sense, but given the Swede’s age, that wouldn’t be the most sustainable of transfers.

Whatever Mourinho does, we can be certain that he’ll be given carte blanche to spend what he needs to in order to get the Red Devils back to the top of the league; after all, that’s what he’s been brought in to do.

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Seb Greenwood

CBS’s longest-serving contributor, Englishman Seb is our leading football correspondent, pulling no punches with his opinions on the Premier League and the international scene.

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