With the Premier League kicking off in just two weeks time, fans alike are keen for any indication of what to expect from the forthcoming season, with the increased significance of the preseason becoming a supportive tool in this endeavour. In the past the primary concerns of preseason had been testing the development of young players and assuring fitness levels, with little attention paid to the quality of the play on show. However the influx of preseason tournaments, creating opportunities to expand into new markets and fostering an increased sense of competition, have greatly improved the quality of preseason games. This heightened spectacle has, in turn, led to more excitement in and significance of the previously unremarkable concept of the preseason.
The most noteworthy of these preseason tournaments has been the International Champions Cup. Taking place throughout the USA, it has collected some of the more famous European teams together to conduct their preseason matches within a more competitive atmosphere. Beyond the simple rivalries between the teams in question – domestic peers have included Premier League competitors Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City – the opportunity to build a fanbase within the highly lucrative and quickly expanding American market has ensured that teams are keen to showcase their most proactive and eye-catching brands of football in order to impress potential new fans.
Furthermore, the spirited approach to the matches have paid unexpected dividends for the teams in question, as the more dynamic and challenging style of play has given fringe players more opportunity to demonstrate their talent and thus put themselves back in their managers’ reckoning. For Liverpool the clever build-up play and impressive long range shooting of Spain’s Suso has put him in consideration for the first team, while the impressive form of Uruguayan centre-back Sebastian Coates has earned praise from Brendan Rodgers. Similarly, Manchester United’s players have sought to take the opportunity to impress new manager Louis van Gaal, with the likes of Ashley Young rediscovering the form that eluded them last season.
As well as the existing crop of players preseason has also given fans a chance to gain insight into new acquisitions. Cesc Fabregas has showed promise at the heart of Chelsea’s midfield and Diego Costa may answer Blues fans’ cries for a prolific striker, while newcomers Lazar Markovic and Emre Can have left the Anfield faithful hopeful that Liverpool can maintain last season’s title-chasing form. Although the big teams have spent the most money sides further down the table have been similarly active in the transfer market. The wise spending of Hull City stands out in particular, with the Tigers bringing in Jake Livermore, returning permanently following a spell on loan from Tottenham in which he formed a strong bedrock with fellow ex-Spur Tom Huddlestone at the base of the Hull midfield, as well as the quality and experience of wide-man Robert Snodgrass, formerly of Norwich. With a blend of prudence and practicality, Hull may serve as an example to Southampton, who must rebuild following the departure of many of their high-profile players. Stars Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren and captain Adam Lallana have all joined Liverpool and young full-backs Luke Shaw and Callum Chambers have left for United and Arsenal respectively, while talented striker Jay Rodriguez and France international Morgan Schneiderlin (who only this week submitted a formal transfer request) are of interest to former Saints manager Mauricio Pochettino at new club Spurs. Ronald Koeman, to his credit, has been quick to replace his outgoing stars, with striker Graziano Pelle and midfielder Dusan Tadic both arriving alongside the loan signing of Chelsea left-back Ryan Bertrand. With talk of Inter’s promising young Algerian Saphir Taïder arriving in a deal that would take wantaway striker Dani Osvaldo, who spent the latter half of last season on loan at Juventus following a training-ground incident with Jose Fonte, to the San Siro.
With impressive form and intelligent acquisitions, the preseason has offered unprecedented insight into what fans might expect from the fast-approaching Premier League season. Judging from the evidence, there is much to look forward to.
Which team has had the most productive preseason?