The gulf between the Premier League’s top six and the rest of the division seemed more obvious than ever last season, but Everton and West Ham seem determined to close the gap.
Manchester United were deemed to have had a disappointing Premier League campaign last term but still rounded off the top six quite comfortably, finishing eight points ahead of Everton, with ninth-placed Southampton a gigantic 23 points behind.
Under Farhad Moshiri, Everton have spent big money on overhauling their squad and, despite the loss of Romelu Lukaku, expectations are growing at Goodison Park that they can once again challenge the big boys.
West Ham, meanwhile, finished 11th last season with 45 points, 24 behind the Red Devils, but they too have added some established names which appear to address some obvious weaknesses in their starting XI.
Because of the money available to Premier League clubs these days, there are no longer really any ‘have nots’ left in the league, only ‘haves’. But have Everton or West Ham done enough to seriously challenge for the top six?
Here’s who they’ve signed so far…
Jordan Pickford: Relegated with Sunderland last season, but the most highly-rated young English goalkeeper for a reason.
Yes, £30million is a lot of money, but it’s not a stretch to say that in a couple of years the top six clubs will be looking at the stopper quite enviously.
Michael Keane: Linked with Manchester United and Chelsea over the past 12 months, in Keane, Everton have signed an England international who still has plenty of room for improvement and should for an impressive partnership with Ashley Williams.
We spoke to the defender about how he bounced back from being sold by Manchester United.
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Sandro Ramirez: Replacing Romelu Lukaku will be Everton’s main problem next season, but the Toffees have pulled off a coup in winning the race to sign Sandro.
The striker scored 16 goals for Malaga last season, is 22 years old, and cost only £5.2million. Premier League transfers like that don’t really happen any more.
It’s fair to say supporters are already excited about him.
Not over reacting or anything here but Sandro’s gonna score 50 goals an we’re winning the World Cup
— Joe (@_Joe1878) July 22, 2017
Davy Klaassen: “He is hardworking, likes to press and, of course, will give us more creativity and goals,” Ronald Koeman said of his compatriot, who joined Everton in a £24million deal from Ajax.
If Koeman grew frustrated by Ross Barkley’s lack of defensive involvement and end product, he appears to have found an impressive replacement in Klaassen, who bagged 14 goals and nine assists while captain of Ajax last term.
Wayne Rooney: Ah, yes, you might have heard about this one. ‘Once a Blue, always a Blue’ and all that, but Rooney has a point to prove after being increasingly written off at Manchester United.
This is after all, Manchester United and England’s greatest goalscorer. The only question is where he fits in.
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Pablo Zabaleta: West Ham have struggled at right-back in recent seasons, and in Zabaleta have signed a player with 58 caps for Argentina and two Premier League winner’s medals.
The 32-year-old became a hero at Manchester City for being as good value off the pitch as he was on it, and je could become a real asset for the Hammers – even if he prefers Status Quo to Oasis.
Joe Hart: If you need a goalkeeper, you could do worse than signing England’s No.1. Like Rooney at Everton, Hart has something to prove.
He talks the talk and can walk the walk, he just needs to do more of the latter than the former.
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Marko Arnautovic: One of Stoke City’s best players over the past couple of seasons, West Ham broke their transfer record to sign Arnautovic, and the Austrian will be tasked of bringing the creative spark the Hammers have desperately lacked since the departure of Dimitri Payet.
AC Milan and PSG were previously linked with the winger, which speaks volumes about his ability.
Javier Hernandez: “I think he is potentially the best player who has ever come to the club,” West Ham owner David Sullivan told talkSPORT this week.
That’s quite a lot of pressure to arrive at a new club with, but Hernandez has the pedigree to solve the Hammers’ striker woes. £16million could prove a bargain.
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