After a terrible transfer window and an embarrassing Europa League elimination at the first hurdle, PSV are gearing up for another difficult season.
The Eindhoven side may have started the domestic campaign with three wins from three, keeping pace with reigning champions Feyenoord, but there are severe doubts that their thin squad can last the distance.
The departures of four key players in Davy Propper, Hector Moreno, Andres Guardado and Jetro Willems means they have lost valuable sources of goals, creativity and defensive stability, but the summer could have been worse as other key players came invariably close to leaving.
They needed to sign well to replace those and further strengthen a team that finished 16 points behind Feyenoord last season, exited the Champions League group stage without a win and crashed out of the KNVB Beker at the second round. Making only two signings alongside the return of Marco van Ginkel on loan, though, there are not many reasons to be optimistic.
The saving grace for Phillip Cocu’s side, however, has been in one of those two signings. While Derrick Luckassen, bought from AZ, walks straight into the centre of defence as a reliable defender, it is their Mexican import, Hirving Lozano, who has caused a big stir.
It took a lot of hassle and an initial €8 million with around a further €4m in bonuses for PSV to sign the 22-year-old winger touted as a future leader for his country from Mexican side Pachuca.
Manchester United and Ajax had been credited with an interest last season, but it was Man City who looked most likely to sign him this summer, with a view to loaning him out. PSV appealed to him and the success of Mexico team-mates Guardado and Moreno in Eindhoven helped him opt in favour of the Dutch side and sign a six-year contract.
Excitement in Eindhoven grew around the winger, and he has lived up to it with ease, scoring in an impressive Eredivisie debut and then becoming the first PSV player to score in each of his first three league appearances.
“He could have been immortal in Eindhoven,” was Cocu’s reaction to his first game - a 3-2 win over AZ. The left winger passed up some good chances, but laughed them off and to get on the scoresheet before long.
As PSV took possession in their half, a simple roll down the left side from Jorrit Hendrix was all that was needed to send Lozano through against Ron Vlaar. He cut past the Netherlands international as if he wasn’t there and slotted in.
“You can see what specific qualities he has,” the coach added. “But he can only get better. He has to get used to the tempo here quickly and that isn’t so easy.”
Lozano is devastatingly fast and direct and is already taking over as the most active player PSV have in attack. He shoots a lot – perhaps too freely from distance, crosses, dribbles and drifts into dangerous spaces in the box.
He is only at the start of his European adventure, but he has convinced plenty that he is the real deal.
“He has an extraordinary present and future,” national team coach Juan Carlos Oriol said of him in March 2016. “If he stays like this, who knows what his potential will be.”
Nicknamed “Chucky" by team-mates because of his penchant for jumping out from under beds to frighten them, the moniker is apt in another aspect too as the sight of his ever-present menacing grin charging at full speed must be equally terrifying for defenders.
Lozano is used to making a big splash and crucially he can maintain the hype. After scoring in his first league game for Pachuca, he quickly rose from a promising youngster to a star and made his Mexico debut two years later.
He got off to an incredible start with El Tri, putting in a perfect cross to Rodolfo Pizarro for an assist on his debut. He was typically tenacious and lively on the right in the next game against Canada and got on the scoresheet, nipping in to steal the ball in the middle of the pitch to combine with Javier Hernandez, carry it past the defender and beat the goalkeeper at his near post.
Lozano has become a regular for Mexico and is showing that he is only going to become more important to their immediate and long-term future. Two minutes after coming on in the World Cup qualifier against Panama on Saturday, he was found in the box by Jesus Corona. Lozano snuck in between two defenders and was perfectly placed to head in the goal that secured their place in Russia next year.
Although still a developing talent, Mexico will be hoping he progresses well over the next year before they take to the world stage. Before then, PSV will be hoping he can bring that excitement back to Eindhoven.