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