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Two weeks to go: where every Premier League club still needs to strengthen

Riyad Mahrez Manchester City

Arsenal (Forward)

Arsenal have so often plodded their way through past summers that criticising their activity is practically a reflex. Not so this year, though: they’ve moved swiftly and efficiently through the market, strengthening all of the areas which needed attention, and Unai Emery has been ready for the season to start for some time.

The defence is well-stocked, Lucas Torreira could be the holding player they’ve needed for the last decade, and Petr Cech will face stiff competition for his place from Bernd Leno.

But they could do with a little more up top. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are fine options, but there’s not much beyond that: Danny Welbeck, Alex Iwobi and Lucas Perez are simply not of the quality they need elsewhere.

Bournemouth (Centre-back, holding midfielder)

Left-back Diego Rico has been signed from Leganes, while talented attacking midfielder David Brooks has been prised away from Sheffield United. Bournemouth haven’t pulled up any trees, but they’ve (hopefully) addressed two deficiencies. Brooks in particular is interesting and his signing should aid Eddie Howe’s quest for a more productive midfield – although how much he’ll actually play is yet to be determined. Possession is good; possession with a purpose is better.

Still, security without the ball will likely remain an issue at Dean Court. A physical midfield ball-winner would be a welcome arrival; so too another centre-half.

Brighton (None)

Last season, many doom-mongers relegated the Seagulls before a ball had been kicked on account of their modest transfer ambition, and nobody should be in a hurry to make that mistake again. Brighton rely on cohesion, not advancement by chequebook, and Chris Hughton is owed the benefit of the doubt.

The highly-rated Yves Bissouma has arrived from Lille – one of eight arrivals – and he’ll add some technical box-to-box thrust to a midfield which could occasionally look one-paced last season. Bissouma is raw and still just 21, but he looks a marvellous player and may prove to be one of the signings of the season. In this climate, £15m looks like very smart business indeed.

Goals remain a worry. Glenn Murray managed 12 last season, but is now 34 years old. The hope would be that Jurgen Locadia begins to find his feet in England and shows the form which made him such a success in the Eredivisie, but Hughton has added some depth at the top of the pitch, signing Alireza Jahanbakhsh from AZ Alkmaar and Percy Tau of South African club Mamelodi Sundowns. (Nope, us neither.)

But wait and see; there aren’t any pressing needs here – at least not any which can be solved with the budget available.

Burnley (Variation)

Given the scale of Sean Dyche’s overachievement last year, it’s really difficult to highlight any one area which needs improving. That seems to be a fair summation, too, given that the club are one of just two Premier League sides not to have signed a single player. Quite rightly, Dyche isn’t moving with any urgency or panic.

It would be encouraging to see something happen, though, because Burnley could do with some variation – particularly in their attacking positions where their approach, although effective, has become quite predictable. No need for any revolution obviously, but evolution is key to continued progress.

Cardiff (Forward)

As with the other promoted sides on this list, it’s not really fair to pre-judge players who, in the main, have no experience of the Premier League. One trend from last season which is worth contemplating, though, was the shortage of goals: Cardiff had the joint-best defensive record in the Championship, but of all the top-six clubs only Middlesbrough scored fewer.

The signing of Bobby Reid from Bristol City should help that to an extent, and Kenneth Zohore performed well in 2017/18, but Neil Warnock is still without the kind of goalscorer needed to make survival anything less than an agonising struggle.

Chelsea (Forward)

It depends on who leaves. Jorginho has arrived – an excellent capture – but if either Eden Hazard or Thibaut Courtois are sold, as they might well be with just a year left on their respective contracts, Chelsea will find themselves desperately short of star power.

Perhaps their greatest need remains the obvious position: is Alvaro Morata really a reliable goalscorer, and can Michy Batshuayi actually provide consistent reinforcement? No, on the evidence of last season, so it would be a surprise if at least some investment wasn’t made in that area.

Crystal Palace (Attacking midfielder, full-back)

Less what they have to buy, more what they must not sell: goodness knows what this team would look like without Wilfried Zaha. He’s an exceptional footballer, but he’s also woven into so many different phases of Palace’s play that losing him would require almost a complete rebuild.

Roy Hodgson could really do with an improvement at full-back, specifically on the right side, and more creativity from central midfield (with Ruben Loftus-Cheek now back at Chelsea and Yohan Cabaye departed) would help, but this summer begins and ends with Zaha.

Everton (Centre-back)

The 2017/18 season was a catastrophe. That’s the only way to describe a year which sent a top-six aspirant crying into the arms of Sam Allardyce.

Fortunately, many of the issues have been corrected. Marco Silva has arrived, raiding his former club Watford for Richarlison, and Ademola Lookman has returned from his loan at RB Leipzig. Finally, Everton will have some thrust from wide positions.

Further back, though, things look less encouraging. Michael Keane remains unconvincing as a starting stopper, while Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka have both seen better days. Mason Holgate is still really a work in progress and there’s no certainty that he’ll ever be able to reach the levels that Everton ultimately want him to.

That part of the side needs an immediate and comprehensive re-fit, otherwise Jordan Pickford is going to spend another season looking horribly exposed. Alfie Mawson, anybody?

Fulham (Forward)

Quietly, Slavisa Jokanovic has had an excellent off-season. The out-of-contract Ryan Fredericks has moved to West Ham and he will need replacing at full-back (Young Boys’ Kevin Mbabu is apparently a target), but Jean Michael Seri might just prove the coup of the window and should upgrade the midfield into another category entirely.

Goals might be a problem, though, so it seems essential that Aleksandar Mitrovic’s protracted move from Newcastle is finally completed. Mitrovic was really the catalyst behind last season’s promotion, and failure to strike a deal with Mike Ashley over his sale would leave Fulham looking underpowered at the top of the pitch. Loan signing Andre Schurrle will help in that regard, but Mitrovic is still a must.

Huddersfield (None)

They’re set. A series of loan moves have been made permanent: Jonas Lossl, Terence Kongolo and Florent Hadergjonaj have all joined on a full-time basis.

Ramadan Sobhi has also been plundered from relegated Stoke, while David Wagner – as he did last season – has supplemented his squad with lesser-known players. Adama Diakhaby, a £10m buy from Monaco, is a potentially fascinating addition, while Juninho Bacuna should provide an injection of technique to the midfield.

This has been smart from Huddersfield. They didn’t survive last season because of individual quality, but through what they were as a whole – and Wagner is absolutely right to resist the major signings that could potentially have disturbed that chemistry. For this kind of team, volume and options are probably more important than stars.

Leicester (Forward)

In time, it might be shown that Leicester have actually had a brilliant window. Problems have been solved all over the pitch: Ricardo Pereira has joined to take Danny Simpson’s place and Jonny Evans has been signed to replace the departed Robert Huth.

Further upfield, the Foxes moved quickly (and smartly) to snag James Maddison from Norwich City; a thrilling playmaker who should make the top-flight transition look deceptively easy.

However, what remains is the trickiest task of all: how do they replace Riyad Mahrez? Repurposing Demarai Gray is one option, but most likely the club will have to put Manchester City’s £60m to quick use. Maddison will help from a creative standpoint, but he really doesn’t bear comparison with Mahrez or occupy many of the same positions. More likely, Puel will be trying to rebuild a team that isn’t so reliant on one man’s brilliance.  

Liverpool (Centre-back)

Sorry Dejan Lovren, but Liverpool still need another centre-half. Virgil van Dijk arrived to tremendous effect last January and Alisson is a substantial improvement in the goalkeeping department, but – with Joel Matip injured in pre-season and Joe Gomez too fragile to rely upon – whatever remains of the budget should be focused on curing that one remaining weakness.

Liverpool have had a tremendous summer, clearly, but it’s too obvious a weakness for it not to be addressed.

Manchester City (Central midfielder)

‘Need’ is a strange concept for Manchester City, because they have it all already – a glut of dynamic, impactful playmakers, a pile of influential wingers, and two of the very best forwards in Europe. With Benjamin Mendy fit again, they also possess the best full-back tandem in the country (with Kyle Walker) and are well-stocked at centre-back too.

Still, Pep Guardiola obviously targeted Napoli’s Jorginho for a reason and, with the Italian having chosen Chelsea instead, perhaps central midfield is ripe for reinforcement before the season begins. Fabian Delph provides a certain level of cover, but as things stand, an injury to Fernandinho would potentially be catastrophic.

Manchester United (Centre-back)

If you take Jose Mourinho too literally, you could be forgiven for thinking that he needs another 11 players.

Beyond his habitual fatalism and ceaseless demands for more money, United actually haven’t done enough so far. Both of the players signed this summer (Fred and Diogo Dalot) will begin the season injured and, as yet, no improvement has been made to a fragile defence.

A deal for Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld seems a possibility, but only if United are willing to pay through the nose for a player who Daniel Levy seems intent on squeezing every last penny from. Alderweireld or otherwise, they need something in that area.

Newcastle (Midfielder, forward)

Another summer of Ashleyism on Tyneside. As was the case last season, Rafael Benitez desperately needs a goalscorer at the top of his formation and, a derisory offer for Salomon Rondon aside, Newcastle have so far made little attempt to give him one.

A new stopper would be welcome too, as would another midfielder (in addition to free agent pick up Ki Sung-yueng), but they can’t – can’t – begin another year without someone who can provide at least 10 goals a season. According to reports on Thursday, a deal has been agreed to sign Mainz's Yoshinori Muto – a striker who never managed more than eight goals in a Bundesliga season. 

Worryingly, Benitez has apparently again been told that he’ll need to sell before buying. Where does the money go at Newcastle?

Southampton (Forward)

It’s been a good summer on the south coast. Monolith centre-half Jannik Vestergaard has arrived, so too intriguing winger Mohamed Elyounoussi and promising goalkeeper Angus Gunn. All were necessary additions and each one should make Southampton stronger.

The principle issue last season, though – one which very nearly caused relegation – was a lack of goals. Dusan Tadic (six) has now been sold, top scorer Charlie Austin (seven) started just 10 games in 2017/18 and Manolo Gabbiadini’s future is tenuous. A centre-forward is a must before the window shuts.

Tottenham (Forward, attacking midfielder)

Nothing has changed – literally. No one in, no one out. Spurs haven’t quite sat on their hands, but they look like they’ve been astonishingly complacent so far. Toby Alderweireld is still at the club and outgoing deals for Danny Rose and Mousa Dembele are yet to be concluded.

More troublingly, rumoured targets have been and gone. Daniel Levy’s delaying tactics look to have cost the club Jack Grealish, at a reasonable price at least, and nothing has really come of reported interest in Wilfried Zaha or Anthony Martial either.

On the positive side, while this squad did need to improve, its actual issues are few and far between. A second forward to back up Harry Kane remains important, so too a credible alternative to Christian Eriksen. Failure to add either will almost certainly prove costly at some point.

Mauricio Pochettino has, in recent press conferences, promised that there will be additions, but at this late stage they’re likely to be very hit and miss. Pochettino wanted the business done early. It wasn’t. Eventually, this has to change.

Watford (Forward)

It’s been an understated summer by recent standards. Ben Foster has returned to Vicarage Road, while Gerard Deulofeu’s loan move from Barcelona has been made permanent. To less fanfare, full-backs Marc Navarro and Adam Masina have joined from Espanyol and Bologna respectively and, as usual, a whole host of players have returned from loan. There’s also the possibility of Javi Gracia finding a use for the likes of Adalberto Penaranda and Isaac Success.

The bigger question, though, is whether Gracia will keep faith with Andre Gray. His price tag mandated a certain amount of faith last season, but he buckled under the weight of expectation and still doesn’t look entirely comfortable in the Premier League. The top scorer last season was Abdoulaye Doucoure – from central midfield – so that makes a compelling case for attacking reinforcements.

West Ham (None)

Yep, they’re done. West Ham have thrown the kitchen sink at the transfer market, acquired all sorts of flashy names and should, in theory, be one of the sides to watch this season.

As ever though, there’s a caveat: how do all these pieces fit together? Andriy Yarmolenko and Felipe Anderson will both want to play from the right side of midfield and, when fit, Michail Antonio will presumably have designs on that role too. Elsewhere, Jack Wilshere will have to be accommodated – possibly at the expense of Mark Noble – and you’d presume that it will take Manuel Pellegrini a couple of months to settle on a properly balanced side.

They’ve certainly addressed all of their concerns – Fulham right-back Ryan Fredericks should also prove a good addition – but everything always looks good in pre-season.

Wolves (Centre-back)

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One of the advantages of the old transfer deadline was that it allowed newly-promoted managers to have a quick taste of Premier League life before, if necessary, dashing back into the market. Not so this year.

But maybe that’s not such a problem for Wolves. Arguably, they arrived back at this level as Premier League-ready as any promoted side in history, and the first mistake would be to underestimate just how good they often were last season.

Add into that team Rui Patricio, who has been Portugal first-choice goalkeeper for some time, and Joao Moutinho, whose class we’re all familiar with, and they’re almost good to go.

Depth was always a priority for the new campaign, though, and Wolves needed bolstering beyond their strong starting XI. Nuno’s system requires three centre-backs, and they could do better than what’s beyond Willy Boly, Conor Coady and Ryan Bennett – and perhaps even better than at least one of that trio.

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