With August right around the corner and the English Premiership beginning in exactly two weeks and half a day, it’s time to check out how have the challengers kept themselves busy – Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and the team that will probably join the big four or replace one of it’s members, Manchester City.

Michael OwenImage: Source

Manchester United – The 2008 European Champions and league champions of the last three years were of course involved with the biggest deal ever in world soccer. Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the best player in the world the last two seasons was sold to Real Madrid for a record fee of 80 million pounds. Ferguson admitted that Ronaldo’s departure will force him to tweak his tactics a little. United have also offloaded youngster Frazier Campbell to Sunderland for 3.5 million pounds, after spending most of his time since rising through the youth squad on loans at other clubs. The other big United departure was Carlos Tevez crossing the street and joining Manchester City, leaving Alex Ferguson very angry with his remarks after signing with City . United have signed Antonio Valencia from Wigan for 16 million pounds, Gabriel Obertan from Bordeaux and the big question mark – Michael Owen being signed for free after injury plagued years up north at Newcastle. On paper, it looks like United have gotten weaker, but don’t count on them giving up the title. Owen, if healthy, is worth 10-15 goals or more in a season. And don’t forget about a couple of guys called Rooney and Berbatov. Nani will also try and show his stuff now that Ronaldo is gone. It’s been rumored that they are still chasing Frank Ribery.

Glen JohnsonImage: Source

Liverpool – Not busy as United, but it seems things aren’t quite over at Anfield regarding the summer transfers. Glen Johnson was signed for 18 million pounds from Portsmouth, a move heavily criticized by many and heavily defended by Rafa Benitez. They have offloaded Arvalo Arbeloa to Real Madrid and it seems Andrea Dossena is on his way to Napoli. Although Benitez says he wants to add more players to the squad, he’s struggling keeping key players at Anfield. Xabi Alonso is on the verge of moving to Real Madrid for around 30 million pounds according to some reports, and Javier Mascherano has been courted by Barcelona the whole summer, although Guardiola announced that he’s probably done with signings for this season. If Liverpool can keep Alonso and Javier and have Torres and Gerrard healthy for a whole season, they’ll be making a strong challenge for the title. More players? who knows.

Carlo AncelottiImage: Source

Chelsea – Pretty quiet so far at Stamford Bridge, but maybe that’s a good thing. The biggest signing was actually the Italian manager, Carlo Ancelotti, brought from AC Milan. Chelsea have signed Yuri Zhirkov from CSKA Moscow for 18 million pounds,Daniel Sturridge from Manchester City and goalkeeper Russ Turnbull from Middlesbrough. They haven’t offloaded anyone yet, and have also gotten Claudio Pizzaro and Andrei Schevchenko back from loans. Pizzaro will probably be transferred somewhere. Right now Chelsea look better than anyone according to the friendly matches played, and it looks like they’re through with any transfer market action for this summer.

Thomas VermaelenImage: Source

Arsenal – The last member of the “big four” and right now, looks like the weakest one. Is it Wenger’s belief in his youngsters or a financial crisis tying his hands? Whatever it is, it seems there are more departures, and major ones, than arrivals this summer for Arsenal. Arsenal have only signed Belgian center back Thomas Vermaelen for 10 million pounds, while Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure have moved to Manchester City. Will the money be used on new players? Bordeaux’s Marouane Chamakh is currently the biggest name linked with the club. Is Wenger on top of things or is his 13 year body of work slowly heading for rebuilding time?

Emmanuel AdebayorImage: Source

Manchester City – The new giant(???) rising across the street from Manchester United. After a disappointing 10th place finish this year, it seems Mark Hughes has been given an open cheque book to bring on Premiership stars. They haven’t been able to sign John Terry or Kaka, but they’ve been busy – Roque Santa Cruz (Blackburn, 17.5 million pounds), Gareth Barry (Aston Villa, 12), Emmanuel Adebayor (Arsenal, 25), Kolo Toure (Arsenal, 16) and Carlos Tevez. Elano, who didn’t get along with Mark Hughes was sold to Turkish club Galatasaray. Daniel Sturridge and Gelson Fernandes have also been sold. Right now, it looks like City will be a new name to challenge for trophies this season. It looks like Arsenal won’t.

Peter Crouch Aby ClancyImage: Source

Other Transfers – Stewart Downing joining Aston Villa from relegated Middlesbrough for 12 million pounds, but won’t play for Villa until December probably, moving to Martin Oneill’s club injured. Peter Crouch has been signed by Tottenham from Portsmouth for around 9 million pounds.