Three transfer priorities for EVERY Premier League club this summer
Keeping sight of their recruitment
Norwich’s promotion campaign merits recognition as one of the standout achievements of the last decade. Having been forced to sell their best young players to balance the books, the Canaries embarked on a period of European scouting and analysis to hunt Europe for bargains. Now the key is to continue with that same strategy, rather than being hoodwinked into thinking big names are the answer.
Holding onto the best young players
A promoted club would usually be guaranteed a stay of execution; a full season in the Premier League before the vultures started circling. But Norwich have a crop of young players who will already be on the radar of those established in the top flight. Jamal Lewis, Max Aarons, Emi Buendia and Ben Godfrey must all be kept if Norwich are to have a chance of sustaining their buoyant mood and securing consolidation.
The most astonishing aspects of Teemu Pukki’s season is just how consistent his performance and goalscoring level remained throughout. Any injury would surely have derailed their title challenge. The only other player who started as a centre-forward in the league was Jordan Rhodes, and his loan ends later this month. Norwich need to provide support and backup to Pukki. Goalscoring will be far harder next season.
Nobody wants to pour cold water on an extraordinary success story, and Sheffield United must be allowed to celebrate their promotion long into May. But the planning will already have started, and that means tough decisions. Billy Sharp and David McGoldrick have scored 38 league goals this season between them, but there must be doubts about them in the Premier League. With Gary Madine and Scott Hogan returning to parent clubs, a new striker is a must.
A central defender
Chris Wilder’s use of three central stoppers this season has been a masterstroke, but he has also been fortunate that Chris Basham, Jack O’Connell and John Egan have been almost ever-present. The trio have played 126 of a possible 138 league games. Backup will be needed to ensure the Blades can cope with an extended absence of one or more of them. Richard Stearman and Martin Cranie are not of the quality required to step in.
Keeping Dean Henderson
A revelation in the Championship at 22 years old, Henderson has has played every minute of Sheffield United’s league season on loan from Manchester United. With David de Gea and Sergio Romero ahead of him, he is unlikely to get a chance at Old Trafford – but the Blades must make sure they're in the driving seat to re-sign the goalkeeper for next season. A permanent move would be some coup.
Moving on the old guard
Ralph Hasenhuttl has done a spectacular job since taking over, but the greatest mark of his progress has been in giving academy graduates a chance to shine in the first team. That strategy has left a number of players firmly of the fringes of Southampton’s squad. It’s a group thin on experience, but Fraser Forster, Charlie Austin and Mayo Yoshida could all be sold to fund new purchases.
Shane Long’s late-season surge probably does just enough to merit keeping him, and Danny Ings may improve again after a full pre-season. But if Austin is sold, Southampton could really do with a regular goalscorer. In the last three years, no Saint has reached double figures for league goals. Which is shocking.
A central defender
If Yoshida is also sold (and thanked for his service), a towering central defender must arrive to fill the impossible void left by Virgil van Dijk’s sale. Jannik Vestergaard and Jan Bednarek both have bags of potential, but could do with someone between them to guide, monitor and lead them. Hasenhuttl may well raid the Bundesliga.
Keeping their stars
It isn’t quite as simple as ‘sign no players, reach the Champions League final’, but the book Soccernomics posed a theory that keeping players and paying them higher wages was a far more effective strategy than selling players and buying new ones. But that relies upon Tottenham keeping their best players, and there looks set to be a fight for Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld this summer. Were they not sated by the miracle of Amsterdam?
But Tottenham really must buy this summer; not because we’re constantly told it’s the done thing, but because their squad needs added depth and competition for places to solve the problems of late-season fatigue that have blighted them this season. If they don't have the vast spending power of those who will finish above and just below them (and they don’t), Mauricio Pochettino must look for under-23 players who have the hunger to keep Tottenham at the top of their game.
One of those players will be a right-back, because Serge Aurier is unreliable and Kieran Trippier has declined so very badly. Aaron Wan-Bissaka would be the perfect choice, but Max Aarons of Norwich is another option. We’re assuming that Pochettino just doesn’t like Kyle Walker-Peters by now.
Selling players (at the right price)
Watford have enjoyed a magnificent season, but they know that success only brings interest from bigger and richer clubs. That’s fine: part of the key to running a non-elite Premier League club is knowing the right time to sell for the best price. So if Paris Saint-Germain really do want Abdoulaye Doucoure, for example, getting a great fee for him and reinvesting the proceeds makes sense. Don't be afraid to let players leave if you believe it can be part of the bigger journey.
Troy Deeney clearly has his uses when not using his elbows, but Andre Gray and Isaac Success really haven’t worked out for the money spent and there is a suspicion that Gerard Deulofeu may angle after a move abroad this summer. Watford’s top scorer this season has nine in the league, and Javi Gracia will want that to change next season.
A new Jose Holebas
Holebas has been a wonderful signing for Watford; probably the best entertainment value of any Premier League player, as proven by his 19 league goals/assists and 33 yellow cards in three seasons. But he turns 35 this summer, and can’t continue to stream back and forward on the left flank forever. Replacing his energy and enthusiasm won’t be easy, but Watford might have to try.
Moving out the laboured
Fun fact! West Ham have used 10 outfield players this season aged 30 and above. West Ham have to lower the average age. Aaron Cresswell and Andriy Yarmolenko will also turn 30 this year.
Another fun fact! That isn’t sustainable. That list includes Andy Carroll, Javier Hernandez, Lucas Perez, Carlos Sanchez and Pablo Zabaleta. If all left the club this summer, it would be no cause for regret.
With Carroll, Perez and Hernandez departing (and the first two look more likely than the latter), West Ham suddenly have space to rebuild their attack and give Felipe Anderson, Yarmolenko and Antonio someone to create for. Do you know who the last West Ham player was to score more than 16 goals in a top-flight league season? Tony Cottee in 1986/87, that’s who. Madness.
A centre midfielder
West Ham have a pretty wonderful crop of attacking midfielders: Anderson, Yarmolenko, Antonio, Manuel Lanzini, Samir Nasri, Robert Snodgrass. They need no more options there. But even if they persuade Declan Rice to stay for one more season, Jack Wilshere is perma-crocked and Mark Noble has just turned 32. One more would be nice.
Keeping the stars
Wolves are a highly ambitious club that retain serious hope of breaking into the Premier League’s top six. Those ambitions will hardly have been dented by the floundering of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United at various points of this season. But with success comes a potential problem. Is Jorge Mendes’s influence enough to keep Ruben Neves, Rui Patricio and Diogo Jota at the club? And will Premier League clubs be sniffing around Matt Doherty and Conor Coady this summer?
Nuno Espirito Santo’s change from a 3-4-2-1 to a more regulation 3-5-2 gave Wolves’s season a boost at the best possible time, bringing Jota centrally and immediately improving his output. But playing with two strikers logically dictates that Wolves need effective backup options in case Raul Jimenez or Jota are unavailable, and there is likely a Europa League campaign to come. They have the numbers (Leo Bonatini, Ivan Cavaleiro, Adama Traore), but the quality?
A central defender
Wolves’s three-man central defence has been extremely successful in both gaining promotion and keeping them in the top flight, but Nuno has been fortunate that all have been available for almost every game (perhaps fortune might not be the word; Wolves have suffered fewer long-term injuries than any other club in England over the last two years). Romain Saiss or Leander Dendoncker could probably fill in, but Wolves could do with a fourth specialist to deal with the added workload.
While you're here, why not take advantage of our brilliant new subscribers' offer? Get 5 copies of the world's greatest football magazine for just £5 – the game's greatest stories and finest journalism direct to your door for less than the cost of a London pint. Cheers!