'Twas the night before Transfer Deadline Day / And all through the league / Admin staff were checking / The fax machine feeds
Yes, Wednesday is the silliest day in the footballing career, a giddy festival of shouting and chaos, an orgiastic explosion of obscene wealth and the color yellow. Here is your indispensable guide to the needs of each Premier League club.
The arrival of Claudio Bravo and the exile of Joe Hart completed a busy summer for City. Pep Guardiola has transplanted a whole new spine -- Bravo, John Stones and the yet-to-make-his-debut Ilkay Gundogan -- into Manchester City's first team, added Nolito as a direct upgrade for Jesus Navas in the giddy winger role, and added a handful of exciting young players, as well. So, we can probably assume that any deadline day activity at the Etihad will involve the exit door, and Navas, Eliaquim Mangala, and Yaya Toure all look very available indeed.
There's been something of a mini-purge at Stamford Bridge this summer, as the powers that be prepared for a new managerial regime and a campaign without European football, the first for 20 years. But Chelsea have so far been frustrated in their search for a central defender. If the reports are true, then every bid for Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly have been met with a pause, some muffled giggling, and then Aurelio De Laurentiis saying "More! Give me more!"
Will they cough up? Will they decide that even they have a limit, and look for somebody cheaper, such as Fiorentina's Marcos Alonso? Or maybe they'll fail completely and leave Antonio Conte to get to January using some combination of Kurt Zouma, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic, and the 4,327-year-old revenant frame of John Terry, skin thin over ancient bones, eyes dark, kept moving only by the hot force of the rage that growls inside.
As you can probably tell from the air of smug calm radiating from Jose Mourinho, he's getting his way. At the beginning of the summer he asked for four players -- a central defender, a dominant midfielder, a quick, game-breaking attacker, and a striker -- and the arrival of Paul Pogba meant that he'd got his men by early August.
There's certainly room for improvement in defense, and the rumor mill has offered up Monaco right-back Fabinho and Southampton's Jose Fonte as possible upgrades on the unconvincing Marcos Rojo and the apparently disfavored Matteo Darmian, but any further improvements will probably have to be made on a one-in, one-out basis, and it seems a little late for that. Could well be a quiet one, with just the departure of a few fringe squad players.
Everton began the summer looking like they might lost two of their best players and are ending it having lost just the one. John Stones has gone to Manchester City, but Romelu Lukaku is staying.
Another forward remains the most necessary area of reinforcement, and since Arsenal hijacked their move for Deportivo's Lucas Perez, they have moved on to Napoli's Manolo Gabbiadini. And if that falls through? Well, an entire of day of speculative nonsense culminating in a loan move for a vaguely underwhelming forward from the Bundesliga, who will go on to make five starts, 11 substitute appearances, and score three goals, two of them in an FA Cup defeat.
How long have you got? So far this summer, Hull have improved on the squad that finished fourth in the championship by moving on three experienced First-Team squad members, signing two children, and throwing themselves headlong into an injury crisis. A bold strategy, and one that led to Steve Bruce's resignation. Working on the basis that their excellent start to the season might not hold, they need reinforcements everywhere, and so you'll be hearing the phrase "and now to the KCOM Stadium" a lot on Sky Sports News. Goalkeeper David Marshall has just joined from Cardiff, Legia Warsaw's Hungarian striker Nemanja Nikolics has announced that he is considering an offer, and the local press reckon Manchester United forward Will Keane might be on his way in. A deal for Tottenham's Ryan Mason is almost done, too.
The imminent arrival of Calum Chambers from Arsenal will likely complete Boro's acquisitions for the summer, and what an exciting and slightly bizarre collection of players they've managed to tempt to the Riverside: between Champions League winner Victor Valdes and Ajax's Viktor Fischer, it's all looking very Football Manager in the best possible way. Departures, then, seem the most likely, and Jordan Rhodes and Albert Adomah have both been linked with moves away.
Between Spurs' failed bid for Wilfried Zaha and Mauricio Pochettino's public admiration for Sadio Mane, it's clear that Tottenham are after an attacker that can a) drop straight into the first team, and b) run quickly in exciting and potentially terrifying fashion. Whether Zaha could be that player is moot, since Palace appear to have no desire to sell, but if you're the agent of a jet-heeled winger-slash-forward that enjoys charging into the opposition half and welting the ball at the net, Daniel Levy wants to speak to you. Also, this Georges-Kévin N'Koudou deal might happen, as long as Clinton N'Jie goes the other way. Apparently there's only one apostrophe at White Hart Lane.
"For f*ck's sake, Arsene! Can't you see this piece of A4 paper? Spend some f*cking mo— oh, you have. Right. Well, this is awkward." We may never know for sure if Wenger's late splurge into the transfer market was caused by the traumatic Opening Day defeat by Liverpool, or was in fact the plan all along, but forward Lucas Perez has arrived and German international defender Shkodran Mustafi should be along shortly. So, along with Granit Xhaka, this means that Arsenal have achieved necessary reinforcement in all three outfield departments, and so left themselves with nothing to do. Most unusual.
Whether the players are good enough remains to be seen, of course, and we're certain this season will still contain plenty of opportunities to shout bad words at Olivier Giroud. As for exits, it will be fascinating to see where Jack Wilshere ends up, and only marginally less gripping to watch half the Bundesliga attempt to winkle Serge Gnabry out of north London.
There's something slightly peculiar about Leicester's position in the transfer market. They have the title and Champions League football to point to, but they are surrounded by larger clubs with bigger reputations and more money to throw around, a status exemplified by N'Golo Kante's decision to drop nine places down the league to Chelsea. When Champions League quality players are happy to drop out of the Champions League, where do you go shopping?
Undaunted, Leicester are attempting to reinforce for Europe by picking up Sporting's captain Adrien Silva, a midfielder, and his clubmate Islam Slimani, who scored over 30 goals last season. Silva even announced his departure a couple of days ago, but since then, Sporting have announced that they've got no intention of letting him leave and suggested that his agent is misleading him. So, that should all be cleared up nice and quick.
West Bromwich Albion
Shortly after the signing of Matt Phillips, back in dim and distant July, Tony Pulis told Sky that he wanted "five players in that will make a difference," and he repeated the sentiment following Sunday's nil-nil draw against Middlesbrough. As it stands, West Brom have added just one other permanent signing, Nacer Chadli from Tottenham, plus Brendan Galloway on loan from Everton. So, we can probably expect some attempts to bolster a squad that looks like it could use another striker -- even if Saido Berahino does stay -- more quality in midfield, and maybe a central defender, as well. Pulis expects "an interesting few days," which is an interesting definition of interesting, to say the least.
With Liverpool having rather unsportingly tied up all their major business before the end of July, and with the JAMES RODRIGUEZ TO ANFIELD rumors appearing to be nothing more than one of those weird self-generating confections that keep the rumor mill a-spinning, perhaps the only real point of interest here is to see where Mamadou Sakho ends up. He's reportedly been told to go out on loan to regain fitness and prove his professionalism, and has already rejected loan moves to West Brom and Stoke.
West Ham United
Working purely on the basis that football squads have some kind of upper size limit and West Ham have already brought in 10 players this summer, we'd like to predict that there will be nobody else moving to the London Stadium. Particularly since they failed to make it through to the group stage of the Europa League, so trimming their fixture list. But then West Ham have already got the weirdest squad in the Premier League -- seriously, go and look at it, it's great -- so we're ruling nothing out. Wilfried Bony? Jack Wilshere? A corner flag stuck through a football boot? Sure, why not?
Sean Dyche doesn't seem a man built for coyness, but he's suggested that Burnley, who broke their transfer record to bring in Steven Defour from Anderlecht, might have to do so again before the window closes. Of course, by the overheated of the standards of the Premier League, that £8 million fee ($10.5 million U.S.) counts as loose change, so maybe we shouldn't be expecting too much. And since Patrick Bamford's arrived on loan, maybe we shouldn't be expecting anything at all. Oh, Sean, you tease.
Swansea's summer has been all about the replacements. Out went club captain and defensive leader Ashley Williams. In, barring an unexpected collapse, is coming Barnsley youngster Alfie Mawson, whose new club rate him highly and who certainly has a solid footballing name going for him. If he doesn't have a Brylcreemed side-part and a pencil mustache we'll be devastated. And out went every single forward at the club, so in came Fernando Llorente and Borja Baston. Jobs done, nothing much else to see here.
Like Swansea, Southampton were out to replace the departed and appear to have done so. Goodbye Sadio Mane, hello Nathan Redmond and Sofiane Boufal (signed, so we're told, for the delightfully weird-sounding "club record undisclosed fee"). Goodbye Victor Wanyama, hello Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (well, sort of). And goodbye Graziano Pelle, hello Charlie Austin (signed last January, fine) and Jay Rodriguez (back from injury, finally, so like a new signing). What we're getting at, here, is that Southampton probably aren't going to buy anyone.
Whereas Sunderland probably are, or at least they're going to try, but nobody has any real idea who or whether there's any chance of success. Much more like it. They'd like a goalkeeper, but Joe Hart's decided that he prefers Torino. They'd like a couple of midfielders, but Sevilla have apparently changed their mind about selling Vicente Iborra and Ryan Mason has decided that he preferred Hull, who don't even have a real manager at the moment. And they wouldn't mind a striker, either, but have been told that Danny Ings is not leaving Liverpool.
Somebody give David Moyes a hug, please. He sounds bleak enough at the best of times.
The general consensus seems to be that Palace's really quite decent summer business has concluded with the arrival of Loic Remy on loan from Chelsea. As such, transfer deadline day will be spent rejecting increasingly complex bids from Tottenham for Wilfried Zaha. "Okay, so just to check, that's five million up front, another three million spread over 104 bi-weekly installments, 17 books of first-class stamps, 10 minutes cuddle-time with Ledley King, a copy of Ordnance Survey Landranger No. 177, barely used, and Tom Carroll. Can you hold please? Alan? Alan? Oh, he's gone."
Actually, Watford's squad might be even weirder than West Ham's, if not quite so bloated. The club's place within the Pozzo axis of international player shuffling doesn't help here, of course, as you never know which club the loan player could be hiding under. But with nine players having come in so far this summer, including Roberto Pereyra from Juventus and Stefano Okaka from Anderlecht, the squad looks pretty full, and it would be a surprise if there was much more business to come.
Another club who got most of their business done early, the Bournemouth rumor mill has been suspiciously quiet since they signed Marc Wilson from Stoke City. Is Eddie Howe up to something? Or is it just that Bournemouth stories don't gain much traction when hunting for those sweet, sweet clicks? One of life's mysteries.
An (apparently rejected) approach for Mamadou Sakho on loan suggests that Mark Hughes is looking for a central defender. But then, Mark Hughes just has the face of a man who is, at all times, looking for a central defender. Whether he's in the supermarket, or in the bath, or in a hot air balloon soaring high above the majestic Nazca lines, he's thinking about potential partners for Ryan Shawcross. There's probably space for a striker in that squad, too, so don't rule out a last minute lunge at Saido Berahino.