Chelsea’s smart signings point to a very difficult title defense for Manchester United

Where Manchester United splashed the cash and chased Owen Hargreaves for over an year, Chelsea moved in quietly and picked up Steve Sidwell on a free.

And when Manchester United completed the anticipated signing of Nani and coupled that with the surprise signing of Anderson, Chelsea responded with another surprise, this time with Claudio Pizarro.

Here at Soccerlens (and over at Red Rants) we’ve discussed the impact of Nani and Anderson at Manchester United at length – and the general consensus is that these two are long-term buys, and in that sense fantastic acquisitions for the club.

In contrast, Chelsea are buying to plug small gaps in an already awesome machine. Pizarro gives them options on the bench as well as cover during the ANC. I think Ben Sahar will play more next season (if he’s not sent out on loan) and he’s looked good in the one game I saw him play in. Up front, they are covered, something that wasn’t the case this season.

In midfield, Sidwell helps cover for Mikel and Essien when they leave for the ANC, and gives Mourinho a replacement for Makelele in the squad (in terms of numbers if not in terms of quality). It’s important to have that sort of cover, although some might argue that Sidwell is just a squad player and could go the same route as Scott Parker.

Chelsea are also said to bring Alex to Stamford Bridge, giving them strength at the back. I don’t think KB should be shot – he hasn’t been given a long enough run in the side – but Alex will surely be ahead of him. That leaves the right-back position, but given Chelsea’s movements so far I think they’ll go for a smart, cheap signing once again.

Where does that leave Manchester United (the club that finished its transfer business on 31st May)? Effectively, Manchester United have quality players coming back from loans and they’ve bought quality as well, but it will take all of them time to settle in and play together and it’s that harmony and seamless change that Ferguson will have to mastermind – it’s not going to be easy transitioning Scholes and Giggs out of the squad (with Neville it’s easier and Ole is already a distant backup).

Both Chelsea and Manchester United have brought in quality to their benches – United with Nani and Anderson and Chelsea with Pizarro – and it will be very interesting to see how the title race pans out next season.

Apologies to Liverpool and Arsenal fans, but without any serious signings, you can’t expect me to include you in title discussions, do you? With current squads, both Liverpool and Arsenal won’t win the Premiership next season. And no, Newcastle and Tottenham won’t either.

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