LONDON • Chelsea showed the way in the last English Premier League (EPL) season that buying players early can go a long way to achieving success.
And now the rest of the EPL are also splashing the cash early, with the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Everton all signing new recruits well ahead of the Aug 8 opening day.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho's early acquisition of Cesc Fabregas and striker Diego Costa, both from Spain, long before the pre-season started paid dividends. They had plenty of time to practise and gel with their new team-mates and played crucial roles as the west London club won the title by a comfortable margin.
Following that principle, United made an early foray into the market, securing PSV winger Memphis Depay for around £25 million (S$52.6 million) in May.
Like Chelsea, United had analysed what they had lacked.
Revealed assistant manager Ryan Giggs: "One thing we probably have lacked since Cristiano (Ronaldo) - and Becks (David Beckham) before him - is free kicks. And it looks like Depay has a great track record from free kicks as well... hopefully he'll score 10 free kicks every year."
Manager Louis van Gaal has also learnt from last season when he made just three signings at the end of the summer. Radamel Falcao was a complete flop, Angel di Maria started well but faded significantly and Daley Blind was useful enough but took a little while to settle in.
One thing we probably have lacked since Cristiano (Ronaldo) –and Becks (David Beckham) before him– is free kicks. And it looks like Depay has a great track record from free kicks as well.
RYAN GIGGS, Manchester United assistant manager, on new boy Memphis Depay
Arsenal have beefed up their defence by signing experienced goalkeeper Petr Cech, while Everton completed a £4.2 million move for their former loanee Gerard Deulofeu from Barcelona. Also pitching up at Goodison Park is midfielder Tom Cleverley from United.
Liverpool effected six new permanent transfers - Roberto Firmino, Danny Ings, James Milner, Joe Gomez, Adam Bogdan and Nathaniel Clyne - before the end of June.
They clearly did not want to make the same mistake twice. They signed Mario Balotelli a week before the summer transfer deadline before the start of the last season.
The Italian striker was expected to replace, in body if not in effect, Uruguayan Luis Suarez, who scored 82 goals in 133 appearances but had been announced as a Barcelona player 45 days previously.
Obviously, the intervening month and a half was one of desperation, as Brendan Rodgers and his board scrambled around Europe and missed targets before landing on a player whose style appeared the antithesis of the club's carefully-designed approach. It will go down as a strategic meltdown as Balotelli created headaches both on and off the pitch for the Reds.
By July 1 last year, only Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana had been rubber-stamped by Liverpool.
Six further signings brought only four victories from the first 12 games in the league.
This time, the six Rodgers has signed look more like the ones he wanted - a set of malleable talents like Firmino, Ings and Gomez being joined by that most dependable of sure things, Milner.
While the manager knows that early recruitment is not a guarantee of success - signings such as Dejan Lovren, Iago Aspas, Luis Alberto and Fabio Borini eventually proved less than stellar - allowing new players a significant settling-in period allows them, it seems, to do better than desperate deadline-day attempts to address problem areas.
THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON