The next three days will do more to define the 2011-12 season than almost anything else that will happen over the following ten months. With the transfer window about to shut, all teams will have to show their hands, stump up the cash and stock up on players for the first part of the season.
Clubs that didn't, in particular UEFA contenders Tottenham and the Champions League chasing Arsenal have suffered shocking starts. Tottenham suffered a 3-0 loss to Man United followed by a 1-5 hammering at home to Man City. Arsenal, meanwhile, lost for the first time in over a decade to Liverpool at home (0-2) and then followed that up with an embarrassing belting at the hands of Man United over the weekend, 8-2.
Both clubs have suffered from speculation of other clubs on their players over the summer, particularly Arsenal, who having lost their lynchpin in Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona, also lost key creative midfielder Samir Nasri to Man City. Both deals netted a lot of profit for the club but the owner's reluctance to spend any of that incoming cash on replacements has exposed a team unready for title challenging in the Premier League. Without some hefty spending, they could well be stuck out in the cold and out of the Champions League places by the end of the season.
Tottenham have also had a quiet off season with the key need for a new striker to join the 3 that scored just 18 Premier League goals between them last season not coming to fruition. Croatian midfielder Luka Modric has become the centre of affections for Chelsea and as a result "does not have his head in the right place" according to Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp. Opening the season with two losses and eight goals against would suggest most of the team have left theirs on holiday as well.
Both these teams need to spend in the next three days if they are going to compete for honours this season. Failure to do so will mean they will fall too far behind in coming weeks to be within striking distance of the leaders.
Usually it would be too early to define the season but early evidence would suggest the leading clubs (in particular the Manchester duo) have enormous and talented squads that are likely to dominate the smaller teams on the ladder, leaving little room for error at the top of the table.
Liverpool and Chelsea could struggle more if they were to lose one or two key players but they will still be ahead of Arsenal and Tottenham if these clubs do not spend.
The next three days could be as crucial for Liverpool in the English Premier League race as anything in the rest of the season.