Its back. The summer transfer window has once again opened, ushering in a plethora of clichés, fully reinstating the rumour mill and filling the back pages with endless stories and statements. So here’s another one. What do the biggest clubs really need, and who should they target so that they can come back stronger next season.
As for Chelsea, they were given their own in-depth piece on what they need, available right here. That’s what winning the League Cup and simply dominating the Premier League gets you nowadays.
Moving swiftly on then; Arsenal
For a long time the Gunners have lacked a top quality striker capable of delivering the goals needed to fuel a drive to the league title, which must be the clubs aim for next season. At the other end of the pitch, Wenger seems to have settled on Ospina over Szczęsny, but neither has the quality needed for a title challenge. In the middle of these two problem areas is another; a defensive midfielder.
The deposed champions were something of a damp squib this year, failing once again to mount a serious title defence. Oddly, there seem to be no particular areas needed for improvement, but a more general problem of an ageing squad came to the fore. An injection of youth might be what’s needed at the Etihad this summer. One area that this issue is very visible is at left back, where both first team options, Clichy and Kolarov, are 29 years of age. Whilst they are still capable of playing at the highest level, their powers are certainly declining. To avoid stagnating and withering away, City must bring in young talents to freshen up the squad.
Sticking in Manchester, but moving to the red side, Manchester United have had another season without silverware. One of the brightest lights of their newest managerial era has been the continued development of David de Gea into a world class goalkeeper, who has saved his side on several occasions. However his emergence onto the world stage, at the same time as the decline of fellow Spaniard Iker Casillas of Real Madrid, has turned the heads of the La Liga giants, with persistent rumours that de Gea will make the move to Madrid this summer. Obviously then, a new keeper will be needed at Old Trafford. Also at the back, Manchester United have looked shaky, to say the least, at centre back, with Carrick even being called upon to occupy that role. Surprisingly, Manchester United were also limp at the other end of the field at times, as Van Persie saw his season cut down with injury, while on loan Falcao flopped and Rooney was pushed back into a midfield role.
Well. Where to start with Liverpool’s problems? They’ve been dubbed the “new Spurs” after selling their star player to the eventual Champions League winners from Spain and spending big on a large number of players, performing badly in Europe, before being lumbered with Europa league action next season. Suárez is the man that they’ve failed to properly replace, with Balotelli, Borini and Lambert being entirely ineffective in front of goal and Sturridge spending the season on the treatment table while Suárez was off winning the treble at Barcelona. Another transfer flop, arguably the biggest, has been Lovren, who looked completely lost at Anfield. Premier League legend Steven Gerrard has also departed the club, joining the likes of Villa and Lampard in the MLS. It will be impossible to fill the holes in the hearts of the Kop faithful that Gerrard’s departure has left, but Liverpool must attempt to replace him on the pitch.
The question is then, who should these clubs look to in order solve their various problems?
For those who need a few more goals, Alexandre Lacazette has been the top scorer in Europe’s top 5 leagues, apart from a certain diminutive Argentinian and a towering Portuguese forward. Surprisingly, Falcao has been linked with moves to another top Premier League side, despite his barren stay at Old Trafford this season, with Chelsea rumoured to be the front runners in the race for his signature. Porto, famed for buying players on the cheap, then selling them on for huge sums, seem to have done it again with Jackson Martinez, although it seems he will move to AC Milan rather than grace the squad of a Premier League side.
If your side needs a midfielder, there’s one player that seems to be on everybody’s radar. Paul Pogba, released by Manchester United only to be snapped up by Juventus, where he has thrived, has been linked with pretty much every club going at some point over the past year. All that competition, as well as him being just 22, has meant he commands a huge price tag, rumoured to be up to £80 million. If that seems a bit much, or your club isn’t owned by billionaire sheiks or Russians, then Arturo Vidal, Pogba’s midfield companion at Juventus could be what you’re looking for. Staying in Serie A, young playmaker Mateo Kovačić has been strongly linked with a move to Liverpool.
At the back, Nicolás Otamendi has impressed in his first, and quite possibly only, season at Valencia, helping to steer the club to Champions League football for next season. The 27 year old centre back has apparently reached a “verbal agreement” to move to Manchester United this summer, where his talents are badly needed. Young Englishman John Stones is another potential target for the clubs looking to strengthen at the back. Also able to be deployed at right back, he has been one of the few bright lights in what was otherwise a season to forget for Everton. However, he is a young, talented, English player, meaning that he probably will be sold for a ridiculously high fee. Perhaps a cheaper option would be Schalke captain Benedikt Höwedes, who played a significant role in Germany’s World Cup triumph last year, going from strength to strength at club level. But it seems as if the versatile 27 year old is set to stay, reportedly rejecting two offers already from other clubs.
Between the sticks, there seem to be relatively few options. The one name that springs to mind is Petr Čech, who has been relegated to a place on the bench at Chelsea this season after Courtois returned from a successful loan spell at Atlético Madrid. He is still very capable though, despite seeing far less action than he would have liked to this season. His reputation as a top quality keeper has remained intact and he is thought to be the subject of some intense interest from Arsenal, where he would be the first choice keeper once again.
There’s a long summer ahead, and we can only expect the usual share of last minute deals, shock moves, frankly daft rumours, protracted sagas, sky news polls, Jim White and all the rest of it.