EPL: Advantage Chelsea

EPL: Advantage Chelsea
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.

With the transfer window madness over, our columnist examines who comes out on top between main title contenders Chelsea and Manchester City.

Jose Mourinho spent more money, but Manuel Pellegrini had the superior squad to begin with.

In what looks a two-horse race (sorry, Liverpool fans), here's how the two thoroughbreds shape up.

1 - Both stay cool in transfer window heat

If a prize was handed out for best business conducted during the transfer window, then this one might be shared like the Community Shield.

Mourinho and Pellegrini played the window like a past master, splashing the cash early, buying round pegs for round holes and slotting them in seamlessly.

If Chelsea edged the transfer window on paper, that's only because City had fewer gaps to fill in the first place.

Where both teams really scored was in ruthlessly taking the chainsaw to expensive deadwood, lightening the load and keeping the Financial Fair Play bean counters at bay.

Chelsea's "out" column includes 26 names, with Frank Lampard, Fernando Torres, Ashley Cole and David Luiz all being cut from the wage bill.

Mourinho also raked in a ridiculous £50 million ($104m) for David Luiz and an inflated £28m for Romelu Lukaku.

City shed just 12 players from their debt column, but the list included high earners Gareth Barry, Alvaro Negredo and Javi Garcia. Both clubs handled the transfer window with the calm, unfussy efficiency of Don Corleone, while Manchester United ran around like Mr Bean.

Result: An honourable draw

2 - Blues pinch the better buys

Picking up Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa for the price of one Angel di Maria is the kind of business that usually wins Donald Trump's The Apprentice.

In a grossly inflated market, the signings do not only represent good value for Chelsea, they also fit Mourinho's formation perfectly. After three Premier League games, Costa has four goals. Fabregas has four assists.

When it comes to plugging leaks quickly and smoothly, there is no Premier League plumber to rival Mourinho.

Alongside Nemanja Matic, Fabregas has quietly combined to form the most effective central midfield partnership in the country - a duo calibrated for Champions League success.

And the late addition of Loic Remy may be the prized asset just to deny his rivals the winning bid. Remy will get more bench time than Costa, but at least he's not scoring for Chelsea's rivals.

Eliaquim Mangala and Fernando are equally smart buys at City, but lack the magnitude. Besides, the loaning out of Negredo keeps the accountants happy, but maybe not Pellegrini when he's chasing silverware on four fronts through the winter.

Winners: Chelsea

3 - Sexy up front, but wobbly behind

Mourinho didn't particularly enjoy Chelsea's 6-3 pantomime performance against Everton that resembled a throwback to the "push and run and forget defending" days of the Fifties.

The game was enthralling, engrossing and utterly unpredictable; all the qualities that Mourinho loathes in a Chelsea victory.

Filipe Luis must be accommodated sooner rather than later to address a nagging concern in the Blues' backline.

Pace remains a precious commodity. Matic can mask a multitude of sins in front of the back four (many of which are committed by his ageing skipper), but a lack of speed is still a concern, especially in the Champions League.

The same could even be said of City. Mame Diouf Biram's goal for Stoke was magnificent, but he left crumpled, trailing defenders far too easily. High-profile signings will not entirely prevent high-scoring games.

Winners: Man City (by half a metre of pace)

4 - Champions League spectre haunts City

Pellegrini's consistent Champions League progress with lesser Spanish sides was a key reason for him in getting the City job.

The club's Middle Eastern backers crave European success to facilitate their global branding exercise. City's relative inexperience remains a psychological shackle they are struggling to shake off.

Even Mangala's European experience mostly comes from the Europa League, whereas Fabregas and Costa are Champions League veterans.

City are further hampered by a punishing group that includes Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow and Roma.

In comparison, Chelsea's opponents - Schalke, Sporting Lisbon and Maribor - are a stroll into the knockout stages for a squad that appear primed for an extended stay in the Champions League.

Winners: Chelsea

5 - Beware Manchester United

Here's a controversial statement. If United fail to finish in the top four this season, there may be no logical reason for Louis van Gaal to remain in his job.

United's disorganised, panic-stricken spending spree - which involved a couple of world-class players but no players in positions most urgently required - leaves little wriggle room. It's Champions League qualification or bust. At the risk of reducing this discussion to simple mind games, United's desperation (and that's exactly what it is) must favour Chelsea. Manchester derbies now take on a frenzied, manic edge that has been missing in recent years. There will be open, psychological warfare between the two halves of the same city.

Mourinho's men proved against both Manchester City and Liverpool last season that they aren't fazed by either the opposition or the occasion and Costa and Fabregas have both prevailed in intense contests against Real Madrid.

But the Manchester Derby now becomes something else entirely. With the whole world literally watching, van Gaal's United cannot escape censure in derby defeat. Victory is paramount.

Whatever the circumstances, the Red Devils must rouse themselves against the champions. Civic pride is the most powerful sporting elixir.

The closest Chelsea has to such an intense neighbourly contest will come against Tottenham, which really isn't the same thing at all. United will not win the title, but they could determine its final destination.

If the silverware isn't theirs, they don't want it coming anywhere near their city.

Winners: Chelsea

6 - The Cheeky One prevails

The way Chelsea swooped to sign Remy sums up Mourinho. The French striker wasn't a major target, didn't top any Chelsea shopping lists and the Blues could've coped with Costa, Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres (who wouldn't have left if Remy hadn't been recruited.)

But Mourinho saw an opportunity to deny Arsenal, upset the balance of power once more and antagonise his rivals.

He never resists an opportunity to lose friends and irritate people as long as he can influence matches.

With a handful of clinical signings, Mourinho has fulfilled his pre-season criterion of two players in every position who are so dependable they are practically interchangeable (with the possible exception of central defence). The last time he pulled off this trick in English football, Chelsea won the title.

Winners: Chelsea (who have just moved ahead of City in the two-horse race)

The ins and outs on deadline day

ARSENAL

IN: Danny Welbeck (from Man United, £16m)

OUT: Ryo Miyaichi (to Twente, loan), Ignasi Miquel (to Norwich, undisclosed)

ASTON VILLA

OUT: Karim El Ahmadi (to Feyenoord, undisclosed)

BURNLEY

IN: George Boyd (from Hull, £3m), Michael Keane (from Man United, loan)

CHELSEA

OUT: Fernando Torres (to AC Milan, loan), Marco van Ginkel (to AC Milan, loan)

CRYSTAL PALACE

IN: James McArthur (from Wigan Athletic, £7m), Zeki Fryers (from Tottenham, undisclosed)

OUT: Glenn Murray (to Reading, loan)

HULL CITY

IN: Hatem Ben Arfa (from Newcastle, loan), Gaston Ramirez (from Southampton, loan), Mohamed Diame (from West Ham, undisclosed), Abel Hernandez (from Palermo, £10m) LEICESTER

IN: Tom Lawrence (from Man United, undisclosed), Nick Powell (from Man United, loan),

LIVERPOOL

OUT: Krisztian Adorjan (to Novara Calcio, undisclosed), Oussama Assaidi (to Stoke, loan), Sebastian Coates (to Sunderland, loan)

MAN UNITED

IN: Radamel Falcao (from Monaco, loan), Daley Blind (from Ajax, £13.8m)

OUT: Danny Welbeck (to Arsenal, £16m), Tom Lawrence (to Leicester, undisclosed), Nick Powell (to Leicester, loan), Michael Keane (to Burnley, loan), Javier Hernandez (to Real Madrid, loan)

MAN CITY

OUT: Alvaro Negredo (to Valencia, loan), Emyr Huws (to Wigan, undisclosed), Micah Richards (to Fiorentina, loan)

NEWCASTLE

OUT: Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (to Roma, loan), Hatem Ben Arfa (to Hull, loan, above)

SOUTHAMPTON

IN: Sadio Mane (from Salzburg, £10m), Toby Alderweireld (from Atletico Madrid, loan)

OUT: Gaston Ramirez (to Hull, loan)

STOKE CITY

IN: Oussama Assaidi (from Liverpool, loan),

SUNDERLAND

IN: Ricardo Alvarez (from Inter Milan, loan), Sebastian Coates (from Liverpool, loan)

TOTTENHAM

IN: Benjamin Stambouli (from Montpellier, undisclosed)

OUT: Sandro (to QPR, £6m), Lewis Holtby (to Hamburg, loan), Zeki Fryers (to Crystal Palace, undisclosed)

WEST HAM

IN: Morgan Amalfitano (from Marseille, undisclosed)

OUT: Mohamed Diame (to Hull, undisclosed)

QPR

IN: Niko Kranjcar (from Dynamo Kiev, loan), Sandro (from Tottenham, £6m)


This article was first published on September 03, 2014.
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