Where should Premier League clubs strengthen?
With the transfer window set to close before the start of next season, Premier League clubs cannot afford to waste time in the market this summer. In this slideshow, we’ve identified one area where every top-flight outfit needs to strengthen before the 2018/19 campaign gets under way…
Arsenal: Winger/wide forward
New Arsenal manager Unai Emery has moved swiftly and decisively to bring in players to solve Arsenal's defensive issues since his arrival. The arrival of Sokratis from Borussia Dortmund to sure up the back line was swiftly followed by Uruguayan international Lucas Torreira to add some beef in the middle. With Swiss international Stephan Lichtsteiner and German goalkeeper Bernd Leno also coming through the door at the Emirates, Arsenal have had a very good summer transfer window so far. A wide forward to complement a quality attacking cadre would allow Emery the freedom to play a number of different systems and would allow Mesut Ozil the freedom to play exclusively through the middle.
Last season was another successful one for Bournemouth, who secured a fourth consecutive campaign of Premier League football. That was a tremendous achievement, even if it went a little under the radar.
Eddie Howe has remained loyal to several of the players who helped the Cherries reach the top tier in the first place, but the time has come to find an upgrade on 33-year-old defender Simon Francis. Nathan Ake was superb last term, and a commanding, mobile centre-back partner would help him shine even more.
Brighton’s failure to sign a striker last summer was widely considered a mistake likely to cost them their Premier League status, but Glenn Murray stepped up admirably with 12 goals.Jurgen Locadia was added to the ranks in January but started just three league games, two of which saw him deployed out wide. Romanian international Florin Andone has been brought in by Chris Hughton already this summer and while a fine player, isn't the man to solve their goalscoring issues. The Seagulls are determined to avoid second-season syndrome after their 15th-place finish in their debut campaign in the Premier League and the addition of an out-and-out goalscorer would go a long way to ensuring another season in the top flight.
This is an important summer for Burnley, who will need to significantly bolster their squad depth in all areas ahead of a European campaign while also retaining the team spirit that played such a big part in their seventh-place finish last season. That is a difficult balancing act, but Sean Dyche’s recruitment has generally been excellent since he took charge at Turf Moor in 2012.
Another centre-half would be useful, with the long-serving Kevin Long not the greatest first reserve behind Ben Mee and James Tarkowski. The Clarets’ defensive record was superb in 2017/18 but they may need greater depth at the back next term.
Neil Warnock will be desperate to disprove the notion that he isn’t cut out for life at the top table following Cardiff’s against-the-odds promotion in 2017/18.
Multiple additions will be required if the Welsh outfit are to stay up, but the area most in need of strengthening is up front. Five teams found the net more often than the Bluebirds in the Championship, with Kenneth Zohore their top-scoring striker with nine. It’s hard to see any of their forwards making the step up the top flight.
Chelsea have taken their time in dealing with the manager situation at the Bridge, with Mauricio Sarri set to be named the Blues' new boss after months of speculation that Antonio Conte was on his way out. It’s far from an ideal situation for a club who will need to strengthen if they’re to land a top-four spot.Given that Cesc Fabregas’ powers are waning, a string-pulling playmaker should be at the top of the new boss’ wish list, with the jury still out on Danny Drinkwater, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Ross Barkley –midfielders who were all bought last season. Reports suggest that Sarri will be bringing Italian international Jorginho with him who would solve the issue perfectly.
Crystal Palace: Wide forward
The signing of goalkeeper Vicente Guaita from Getafe will provide some much-needed competition for Wayne Hennessey between the sticks, so Palace should look higher up the pitch when it comes to picking out their primary targets.
Christian Benteke endured a nightmare season last time out, netting just three times in 30 appearances in all competitions, but the Belgian is worth persevering with given his proven track record of scoring goals. Rather than an out-and-out central striker, then, Roy Hodgson should seek a mobile wide forward as back-up for Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend.
Everton’s recruitment was so poor last summer that they have overhauled that department in recent weeks, with Marcel Brands replacing Steve Walsh as director of football. Marco Silva has also been appointed as Sam Allardyce’s replacement in the dugout.
Another central midfielder wouldn’t go amiss, but a new centre-back is more crucial: Phil Jagielka is now 35, Ashley Williams has been in decline for at least two years, Michael Keane struggled for much of last season and Ramiro Funes Mori has only recently returned from a serious knee injury.
Fulham were arguably the best team in the Championship in the second half of last season, but there’s plenty of work to do if they’re to avoid an immediate return to the second tier.The double signing of Ivorian midfielder Jean-Michael Seri and French centre-back Maxime Le Marchand is quite the coup for Slavisa Jokanovic - particularly Seri who has been linked with the likes of PSG, Arsenal, Chelsea and more over the last 12 months. Seri is the perfect addition to play alongside probing passer Tom Cairney. Stefan Johansen and holder Kevin McDonald both performed well in the Championship, but whether they are of the required top-flight quality remains to be seen.Another striker wouldn't go amiss at Craven Cottage, with Aleksandar Mitrovic having returned to his parent club Newcastle United following a successful loan spell in west London last season.
Huddersfield: Wide forward
Huddersfield will be hoping second-season syndrome doesn’t bite next term, but it’s hard to see anything other than another year of struggle for the Terriers.
Scoring goals was a problem last time out – no top-tier team found the net less often – and David Wagner will be keen to bolster his attacking options, particularly in wide areas. Town lacked a cutting edge in the final third and will hope for more spark and creativity either side of lone striker Steve Mounie or Laurent Depoitre.
Wes Morgan has been a key part of the greatest period in Leicester’s history, but the 34-year-old is now past his best and can no longer be relied upon as a regular starter. With Robert Huth having already departed the King Power Stadium, a new centre-back partner for Harry Maguire was snapped up before the window even opened - and a very good deal it appears to be, too. Jonny Evans has joined a Foxes defence that shipped 60 goals in 38 league matches last term, and will bring experience and leadership. Claude Puel's issues now lie at the other end of the pitch, and specifically how best to spend the £60m brought in from the sale of Riyad Mahrez to Manchester City. A creative wide player is a must.
The signings of Naby Keita and Fabinho will strengthen Liverpool’s midfield next time out, while the attempted acquisition of Nabil Fekir shows Jurgen Klopp is keen to bolster his attacking ranks.
Perhaps, though, his next move should be at the other end of the field; the mid-season arrival of Virgil van Dijk led to a dramatic upturn in Liverpool’s defensive solidity in 2017/18, and another top-class centre-back could turn a top-four battle into a title challenge next season. Dejan Lovren, while better than many give him credit for, remains prone to occasional error-strewn displays and will be fortunate to begin 2018/19 as first choice.
Manchester City: Holding midfielder
Having set a new Premier League record by amassing 100 points, it’s hard to see how Manchester City can improve next season.
Pep Guardiola seems keen to land another wide forward, though, and signing a younger version of Fernandinho would also be sensible. As brilliant as the Brazilian was in 2017/18, his 33-year-old legs may struggle with another 48-game season after the World Cup. Napoli’s midfield metronome Jorginho appears to be Guardiola’s first choice in that role.
Manchester United: Left-back
Another cash-splashing summer is to be expected at Old Trafford following Manchester United’s failure to mount a sustained title tilt last term, with Fred and Diogo Dalat having already signed up.
Dalat has been earmarked as the long-term successor to Antonio Valencia at right-back, but United also need an upgrade on the other side of the defensive line. With Daley Blind out of favour, Luke Shaw still unfancied by Jose Mourinho and Ashley Young a short-term fix at best, left-back is the position United should set about strengthening next.
Dwight Gayle, Joselu, Islam Slimani and Aleksandar Mitrovic all led the line for Newcastle at times last season, but a combined Premier League haul of 11 goals shows why Rafael Benitez will be keen to source an upgrade at the top of the pitch.
Ayoze Perez was the Magpies’ top scorer with eight but the Spaniard does his best work in a withdrawn role, making a new out-and-out centre-forward desirable. Benitez will hope Mike Ashley is willing to supply the funds needed to land a quality practitioner.
In hindsight, Southampton probably wished they had sold Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool last summer rather than letting an unhappy player hang around until January. That uncertainty contributed to Saints’ poor start, and it took until the final week of the season for the south-coast side to secure their Premier League status.
Wesley Hoedt was inconsistent in 2017/18, Jack Stephens is still young and Maya Yoshida remains unconvincing, so Mark Hughes will probably look to add another central defender to the ranks in the coming weeks.
With Toby Alderweireld's contract talks at a standstill and reports of a release clause well below his market value, it seems like a new centre-half will be a priority for Mauricio Pochettino in the coming weeks.
Colombian youngster Davinson Sanchez was excellent in his debut campaign in the Premier League and Jan Vertonghen is the best player in his position in the division, but another option is necessary if Spurs are to successfully balance domestic and European competition.
Troy Deeney remains hugely popular with Watford supporters, but he wasn’t as effective last season compared to previous years.
Andre Gray, signed in summer 2017 from Burnley, scored just five goals in 32 appearances in all competitions, while Stefano Okaka could return to Italy before the start of next term. A new striker is therefore a must for the Hornets, who will be keen to reverse a trend which has seen them start strongly before fading away in each season since their return to the Premier League.
West Ham: Striker
Manuel Pellegrini revealed that he was looking to sign “four or five players” following his appointment as West Ham manager, and the Premier League winning boss has wasted little time in overhauling the squad at the London Stadium.The Hammers lacked creativity from deep under both Slaven Bilic and David Moyes last term, something that has been addressed with the free transfer signing of Jack Wilshere following his departure from Arsenal. With Andriy Yarmolenko arriving from Borussia Dortmund and the reported signing of Felipe Anderson from Lazio close, West Ham will be particularly disappointed that Andy Carroll has had to have surgery on an ankle injury and will miss the first three months of the season. Winston Reid will miss a similar amount of time but with the wide players at their disposal, signing a finisher is most pressing for the Hammers.
Wolves: Right wing-back
A 99-point Championship haul and free access to Jorge Mendes’ clientele is a combination which suggests Wolves will have little trouble avoiding the drop next season – the bookmakers believe 11 teams are more likely to be relegated.
Nuno’s three-man defence worked well in the second tier and he’s likely to keep faith with the system in the top flight, but a new right wing-back would be welcome despite Matt Doherty’s commendable showings in 2017/18.
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