The phrase ‘like a new signing’ has been thrown around a lot this summer, with many potentially key players either returning from long-term injuries or having had sufficient time to acclimatise following a January transfer. In an era of constantly inflating transfer fees, having players able to either return to the team or to raise their game can be a real fillip for managers and accountants alike.
For Tottenham, having players who are like a new signing is particularly useful considering the club haven’t made any actual new signings. Spurs have key players who fall into both categories: Erik Lamela is looking to put a torrid time with injuries behind him, while Lucas Moura will be hoping to finally show his best after a January transfer. Lamela has only featured in 31 league matches for Spurs across the past two seasons, and has stated his desire to make up for lost time in this campaign. Lucas was considered to be a coup for Spurs in January, the kind of player that could propel them into a title race. The Brazilian attacker rarely featured and looked below par when he did. An impressive pre-season has Spurs fans salivating at the prospect of Lucas adding his devastating dribbling skills to a side with an already formidable front-line.
Another player who appeared to be an astute January signing but never showed their best is Alexis Sanchez at Manchester United. Sanchez’s frequently insipid performances at Arsenal in the first half of last season were interpreted to be a result of his desire to get away from Arsene Wenger. As it turned out, those performances were just because Sanchez seemingly forgot how to play football, with the Chilean largely anonymous at Old Trafford. Like Lucas, Sanchez looked reinvigorated in pre-season. His time at Arsenal proved that he can be one of the most feared attackers in the league, and with the uncertainty surrounding Jose Mourinho’s management Manchester United would greatly benefit from being able to depend on Sanchez to dominate games and score crucial goals.
Having Sanchez firing on all cylinders alongside Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba could be the difference between challenging for fourth and challenging for the title. Those are three world-class players at their peak. Having that trio of stars is largely why Manchester United are third favourites in the Premier League odds for 2018-19, with the Red Devils at a price of £19 with the Betfair Exchange to win the title. If Sanchez can start firing, that price will surely shorten quickly.
There is currently a chasm between their price and that of their city rivals, with Pep Guardiola’s side still the team to beat. Manchester City may not have significantly strengthened, with Riyad Mahrez not an upgrade on existing talent but rather a supplementary addition. The most important new arrival to the City side will be Benjamin Mendy; the swashbuckling left-back looked hugely impressive at the start of the last campaign before being struck by an injury that kept him out for the bulk of the season.
Mendy will be in high spirits having been involved in City’s title season and France’s World Cup win, but he will be motivated to seek more success having rarely made it onto the pitch in either triumph. Mendy adapted to Guardiola’s inverted full-back role seamlessly in the victory over Arsenal, while his enterprise and pace earned the left-back two assists. While Fabian Delph impressed with his versatility last year, it is not a disservice to Delph to state that Mendy is a massive upgrade and like a new signing for this season.