The Premier League's midfield landscape is changing
The Premier League is the richest in the world, with the values of television as well as sponsorship deals going through the roof. With this much money, teams invest big in transfers. Last season, we saw an influx of strikers into the Top 6 sides. Every team has at least one top quality goal threat now. This summer,, everyone wants to strengthen in the middle.
Pep Guardiola's Manchester City dominated the middle with Fernandinho, David Silva, and Kevin De Bruyne in 2017/18, inspiring the rush. As it was a World Cup year, the grand tournament affected, too. Croatia reached the final because of their strength in the centre. Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and N'golo Kante ran the show fro France. Additionally, every big six side had a deficiency in midfield that needed fixing.
Manchester United played in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3. Paul Pogba didn't feel home in a two. Nemanja Matic could always be trusted to do a job, but the Serb is limited going forwards. Ander Herrera fouls too often. Scott Mctominay is a work in progress while Marouane Fellaini is best used as an impact sub.
United lacked balance. There was too much defensive pressure on Nemanja Matic and especially on Pogba. Enter Fred. The Brazilian is a typical box-to-box midfielder who can play the killer pass or make the clutch tackle. Fred could be the missing piece of the jigsaw in Mourinho's Manchester United.
Speaking of the World Cup, Lucas Torreira impressed everyone with his transfer to Arsenal looming. Arsenal has finally signed a defensive midfielder and he's not another Mohammed Elneny. Torreira is a ball winner in midfield, a personality the Gunners have lacked for quite some time now. Arsene Wenger used Granit Xhaka as the holding midfielder last season, a role which clearly didn't suit. The Swiss star is a deep-lying playmaker, but not someone to tackle, intercept or block. Torreira will take the defensive work off Xhaka, allow him to dictate play while freeing Aaron Ramsey to make the runs into the box that the Welshman loves. Torreira will offer protection to the often exposed centre-backs as well as help Xhaka build play.
Liverpool lacked quality in midfield. None from Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Georginio Wijnaldum, Adam Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are world class. Emre Can joined Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus but he wasn't an exception. Reinforcements were needed. Fabinho and Naby Keita are two excellent buys. Fabinho will take over from Henderson to sit at the base of midfield. The Brazilian is a destroyer and covers a lot of space out wide, especially when the full backs push high. His arrival will allow Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson to push even higher. He is a brute who looks made for the Premier League. Naby Keita is a baller in plain terms. The Guinean, like Fred, is an energetic box-to-box midfielder who can do everything except win an aerial battle. Liverpool will have a near-perfect midfield immediately if they sign Nabil Fekir. At the worst, they'll wait for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to return.
Jorginho is the latest midfielder to join the Premier League. The Italian followed former Napoli manager, Maurizio Sarri, to London. He is a pure regista. He looks to drop in between the centre-backs and dictate play, often playing out long balls to the wide men. The 26-year old had a fantastic season in 17/18. He should thrive with the Blues, possibly as Cesc Fabregas' replacement. Chelsea already possess N'golo Kante, Fabregas, Tiémoué Bakayoko and Rueben Loftus-Cheek in midfield and are still linked to Russian starlet Aleksandr Golovin. Sarri's midfield has everything: legs, technical ability, a blend of experience, youth and world-class talent.
Further down the table, Fulham may have managed the coup of the summer by securing Jean Michael Seri. The Ivorian midfielder was targeted by clubs like Barcelona, Arsenal and Chelsea. He is a strong, creative midfielder known for his sublime passing range. Wolves also have a talented midfielder in Ruben Neves. The Portuguese is a complete defensive midfielder who can pass, score and tackle. He has a big future.
Tottenham and Manchester City need to bolster their midfield. The Citizens need a backup for Fernandinho. City were in for Fred in January but could not get the deal over the line. The Sky Blues were also in for Jorginho, but the player decided to join forces with his manager at Chelsea. It is not very often in modern football that you see City missing out on two deals. Pep Guardiola wouldn't be happy but the players were concerned about regular minutes.
Meanwhile, Spurs are desperately need a complete midfielder in a deep role. Mousa Dembele, Victor Wanyama and Moussa Sissoko are defensive options. None create. Harry Winks is one for the future but has injury concerns at the moment. The North London club have not made a signing so far. They may be left behind the other top six clubs.
The Premier League is enjoying a drastic increase in quality. Even the mid-table teams are completing deals beyond their reach. Could English clubs finally catch up to their Spanish counterparts? It will be a treat to watch them try.