The new Premier League Season: Who needs what?

The Euros have finished, the host of new managers have had at least a couple of weeks with their new charges, seen them perform, or not, in friendlies and will be getting a clearer impressions of where they need to strengthen.

So, lets take an alphabetical team by team look at who’s got what, who needs what, and what they might actually get.

Arsenal

Arsenal Xhaka

It’s almost becoming a bad cliche… Arsenal are a team in need of leaders and a world class centre forward. Without these two, three, or four assets they will simply remain as perennial also-rans.

Well, kudos to Wenger, he would appear to have added a central midfield leader in the form of Granit Xhaka. However, based on Wenger’s previous transfer activity over the last couple of seasons, he has already completed his one addition for this transfer window. Two years ago; Sanchez, last summer; Cech, this year; Xhaka, next summer; that elusive world class centre forward…

At first sight, Xhaka appears to fit the bill in terms of leader. He was given the captain’s armband for Borussia Monchengladbach by Andre Schubert after they lost their opening 5 games of the season. Under Schubert’s influence and Xhaka’s captaincy Gladbach went on a winning run of 6 games, finishing the season in a very respectable 4th place. He also featured in their Champion’s League campaign, in the group of death with Manchester City, Juventus, and Sevilla, and he has over 40 caps for Switzerland. Not bad for a 23 year old.

For those who want to see the good, Xhaka is a young leader; combative, powerful, physical, and comfortable on the ball. Exactly what Arsenal need. Take a closer look and he’s a liability. He was dismissed on 5 occasions in just over 100 appearances in the Bundesliga. Some of the cards for petulant behaviour, not simply missed timed tackles, or last ditch professional fouls. He lacks finesse expected of Arsenal players. He will not provide a goal threat in terms of goals scored, or chances created. He certainly won’t be on penalty-taking duty. For £35 million, he’s not a game changer, unless his petulance gets him sent off at a crucial moment in a big game.

Giroud gets bad press, but if a world class striker is available then of course he’d be useful addition… but that’s what everybody wants, and nobody seems to be able to prize one away from their current club. And, perhaps Giroud isn’t that bad. He was picked in the French squad ahead of Lacazette and Gameiro.

Koscielny needs some help, Paulista could be the man, he has shown glimpses, but he and Mertesacker are a worry. A Koscielny injury would be bad news.

The addition of one leader doesn’t fix their issues. There are too many fragile players, in body and mind, potentially good footballers, but not consistent, not fit enough and not capable of playing a full season at the highest level in multiple competitions.

Bournemouth

Bournemouth transfers

It’s fair to say that Bournemouth have already had a good summer. They’ve kept hold of their main asset in Eddie Howe, and just as importantly there never appears to be any discussion of him leaving. Howe seems firmly focused on his role at Bournemouth.

Bournemouth’s achievements last season were outstanding, they were never in trouble, despite what now appears to be a rather embarrassing home defeat to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season. There comfortable league position (16th) belied their small squad and the league’s smallest wage bill. Furthermore, they suffered season-ending injuries to their two biggest signings, Max Gradel and Tyrone Mings, plus their main goal threat, Callum Wilson. So, Bournemouth have the equivalent of 3 new signings, but with the benefit of knowing their teammates.

Ibe (and potentially Smith) could be excellent signings, they’ve made sensible decisions to leave Liverpool in search of regular first team football, both could thrive. Nathan Ake looks set for a holding midfield role and although only on loan, comes with Premier League experience. When you consider the Afobe transfer in January (and forgive the pointless addition of Grabban), Bournemouth are heavily relying on youth. As Alan Hansen will tell you, there are two possible outcomes.

Where do they still need to strengthen? Boruc looks, or rather is, prone to errors. Probably 3 or more a season (and I mean big ones) and that could cost them between 3 and 9 points. For an unknown reason Federici isn’t the first choice, so a more reliable goalkeeper could be the difference between safety and relegation. There are a number of good Championship goalkeepers, even McGovern who joined Norwich would have been a safer option. If you want a left-field option, try Marwin Hitz from Augsburg (most famous for wrecking the penalty spot against Koln last season). At 28 he is vastly experienced and reliable, prime goalkeeping age and probably willing to cash in with a move to the world’s richest league.

If the youngsters come good, Bournemouth could be more than safe and be one of the surprise packages of the season. They will no doubt entertain and play attractive football, but they are missing two key signings. They need to strengthen the spine of the team and in particular provide some much needed cover in central defence. Experience should be a key factor, but identifying who would want to join Bournemouth is tricky. A signing from the eastern European bloc would seem like a logical solution. Taking inspiration from the Euros, two stand out options, include Romania’s Grigores (Al-Sailiya, Qatar) and Poland’s Pazdan (Legia Warsaw).

Lorik Cana, the Albanian captain would arrive with Premier League experience (albeit one season with Sunderland). He’s remained at a decent level since he left, and will still be on a high from his nation’s participation at Euro 2016, so could be willing to make a return to England. The warmer climes of the South Coast would probably suit him better too. At 33, he’ll be cheap.

Burnley

Burnley transfers 2016

Based on their summer signings, Burnley have to be one of the favourites for the drop. Similarly to Bournemouth their best business could have been to keep the highly regarded Sean Dyche. A lot of their team have Premier League experience too from the 2013/14 season, and that could play a crucial role in their bid for survival. Turf Moor will no doubt be the undoing of some high calibre teams. There’s not too many players, managers (or fans) that will fancy a Tuesday night trip to Burnley in the middle of November.

They’ve kept hold of Keane, Mee and Heaton. They’ve added the big name additions of Gudmondsson and Pope. Gudmondsson seemed to be the revelation at the Euros, if he can maintain that level of performance then he could be a useful addition. Pope will no doubt bring with him numerous puns.

Tarkowski was a good addition last season, and will no doubt be solid and organised at the back. They will lack creativity and an attacking threat. Gray will need to take another huge step, meanwhile Vokes, Jutkiewicz and Barnes have been there and not really done it, along with the support acts of Kightly and Boyd.

Loan signings could be the key. Due to their style of play and Dyche, they themselves are an appealing option to the big clubs looking to get game time for their youngsters.Take a pick from Iwobi, Gnabry, or Campbell from Arsenal. Traore, or Kenedy from Chelsea (or even Victor Moses, that’s right he still ‘plays’ for Chelsea). If Iheanacho falls down the pecking order, due to the new arrivals at City, he would be a fantastic signing. Januzaj, the future of English football just 3 years ago, could be tempted if Manchester United  refuse to let him leave permanently and want to keep him close to home. Markovic, or Ojo from Liverpool. Or Pritchard from Spurs.

Chelsea

Batshuayi Chelsea

The humbled champions don’t need anybody else. In Conte they have a big name manager who has sneaked under the radar because all the media attention has been placed on Guardiola and Mourinho. As he proved with an average Italian team, Conte will get the best out of the Chelsea players and as we have seen, some of their players are genuinely world class. Without any distractions, they will be fully focused on the Premier League and a major force.

In attack, expect Costa and Hazard to be on fire from the first game, ably supported by Oscar, Fabregas, Cuadrado, Willian, Pedro and the new boy Batshuayi. Defensively they’ll be almost impenetrable and Kante, Matic and Mikel will provide a formidable barrier. One thing I’d like to see would be first team game time for Loftus-Cheek and Chalobah, but as there is no European competition, I can’t see where they will fit in the smaller squad.

Oh, and they’re likely to waste £60 million on Lukaku.

Crystal Palace

Palace signing Benteke

The forward line of Connor Wickham and Frazier Campbell is more terrifying for Palace fans than it is for a League Two back line. They simply won’t score enough goals.

All the focus has been on Benteke. He may just be what they need with the likes of Cabaye, Bolasie, Mutch, Puncheon and Townsend delivery quality into the box (and Zaha wildly lashing balls over the back post, hitting the first man, or striking feeble efforts straight at the keeper). The midfield is the strongest area, even though Cabaye has lost a little zest. Palace need him to find it and if he does, Palace are a top half team. Ledley, McArthur and Jedinak provide steel to one of the league’s most gifted set of wide men.

So, it’s a centre forward they need and their is nobody more suited to their game than Benteke, other than Andy Carroll – and I think that should be a lesson to Liverpool! Or Ballotelli! Or, on a serious note, Ings. Do Liverpool need him if they have Firminio, Sturridge, Origi and Mane if they have no European football?

Everton

Everton should have signed Milik

Another Premier League team with loads of money, but not the competition to offer the highest calibre of players. And so, since Koeman’s appointment, Everton had, until this week, only managed to add Stekelenberg. Ashley Williams is a crucial signing. The departure of John Stones has left a hole in central defence, made all the bit bigger when you consider Jagielka’s legs looked to have gone last season. Funes Mori is likely to do the unpredictable – sometimes good, sometimes bad. Unsurprisingly, the papers think that Koeman could return to his former club with a bid for Jose Fonte. Prior to Williams’ arrival, Fonte would have been an excellent addition, in fact he still would be, to provide a hugely experienced central pairing. Koeman could also be tempted to dip back into the Eredivisie with Dutch and Ajax central defender Joel Veltman, or 22 year-old Terence Kongolo, to whom Koeman gave his professional debut when he was at Feyenoord.

Even with Koeman, even with Walsh, even with loads of money, they won’t break into the top six. Therefore they will remain a selling club. Stones has gone, Lukaku is desperately trying to manufacture a move to Chelsea. After another mid-table finish mean Barkley, Coleman, Deulofeu and McCarthy will be next to leave, and Koeman will feel like he’s back at Southampton.

Returning to their needs – they need a goalkeeper. Robles doesn’t cut it in the Premier League. If Bournemouth don’t go for Hitz then Everton should. Or, if they want to go bold, why not aim for Bernd Leno, the 24 year-old German stopper at Bayer Leverkusen.

A three man midfield will consist of a rotation of Barkley, Barry, Besic, Cleverley and McCarthy, which should be stable enough without setting the league alight, unless Barkley fulfils his Gascoigne-esque potential.

Their three man attack is unlikely to feature Lukaku, so they need a front man, supported by Miralles (who may be rejuvenated under Koeman), Lennon and Deulofeu. They’ve also got to get rid of some tat, in the shape of Kone and Niasse. One more wide man is needed and the Pole Grosicki could fit the bill. Not the most exciting signing, or the most skillful player, but fit, determined, disciplined and a tireless runner. He’d be a safer option than Lennon and Deulofeu in the away games against the bigger teams.

And staying with Poland, Everton missed a trick with Arkadiusz Milik. At 22 he wasn’t ready for a move to one of Europe’s elite (he’s joined Napoli), but the Toffees would have been an excellent step up. His signature would have been a signal of intent from the Everton hierarchy that they were going to identify, sign and develop Europe’s next batch of talented players. He would have fitted perfectly with Barkley and Deulofeu. But, they didn’t even try and will end up with the financially motivated Berahino at best, or an over-rated player from Ligue 1 (they also missed out on Ben Yedder), so perhaps Moukandjo… I think there’s a line from a milk advert to be inserted here… “Exactly!”

Hull City

Hull Tiger City Roar Football Club need a new owner, new chairman and a new manager. Then, and only then, can they think about pulling off a miracle. It’s difficult to see why any player good enough for the Premier League would want to go to Hull.

Zero signings and the season just days away.

Leicester City

Schweinsteiger to Leicester City

Keeping Vardy and Mahrez (so far) is a big, big bonus. Vardy didn’t fit the Arsenal style, so it was a wise move to remain. Mahrez looks likely to stay, but maybe willing to give it until January. By that point he will be cup-tied in the Champions’ League, which is likely to put off the big suitors.

Hernandez at the back will provide cover and competition to Morgan and Huth. Mendy has Kante’s boots to fill, but I think Drinkwater’s role in last season’s triumph is still underestimated. Inler possesses the quality to be a top midfielder in the Premier League, but seems to have lost all confidence. Ranieri could keep faith with him, but if not another central midfielder is needed to help with the extra workload. Schweinsteiger would be a formidable addition; Champions League experience, desperate to prove a point and United might even be willing to pay some of his wages.

Musa could go either way. More often than not expensive ‘talents’ with the ability to score goals in Russia do not translate to goals in the big European leagues. Just ask Everton about ‘what do you call him’. Or West Brom about Rondon. Spurs about Pavlyuchenko. Roma about Doumbia.

They’ve also added Kapustka, the Polish wonderkid, but based on his uninspiring substitute appearances at the Euros he is still a couple of seasons away from producing in the Premier League on a regular basis.

Based on the unlikeliest of unlikely title triumphs last season, it’s difficult to know what else, or who else, Leicester need. They’ve been careful not to do a Tottenham or Liverpool and buy a bunch of over-priced squad players. Throwing big money at one player could spoil the dynamics of the group. Careful additions seem to be the best way forward. It’s a strange situation, but not many title holders would be happy with a safe season away from the relegation dogfight, but I suspect Leicester may take that.

Liverpool

Liverpool's new signings

Karius, Matip, Mane, Klavan and Wijnaldum all seem like good, solid sensible additions to a first team Klopp is clearly trying to mould to his own needs. Grujic is one for the future and Manninger, a bench warmer, although a useful aide in developing Karius and helping him settle to life in the UK. One final addition that Klopp seems keen on is Mahmoud Dahoud. He’s a hugely talented German Under 21 international, but is highly sort after. Therefore he is more likely to leave Borussia Monchengladbach in search of Champions League football, although if anyone can persuade him, then compatriot Klopp could be the man.

But, they’ve still got the Rodgers squad makeweights. Sell, sell, sell and sell some more seems to be the focus.

They’ve not managed to find a replacement for Moreno, he is likely to stay, unless one final deadline day bid for Hector is attempted. Ilori still occupies a squad number, so there’s a couple of million to be cashed in. Lucas looks likely to leave for £4 million. Markovic has to do something, or go (at least a loan move). And then Benteke and Balotelli. Even the Chinese Super League wouldn’t touch Balotelli and Crystal Palace seem to be waiting for Liverpool to buckle rather than match the £32.5 million valuation. Ings is surely unrequired, especially now Origi is starting to fulfil some of his potential.

It’s no surprise that the players that have already departed (Allen and Skrtel), were the two best of the unwanteds.

Manchester City

Stones to Manchester City

A mix of expensive ‘ones for the future’ and expensive instant impact transfers, makes it the usual type of summer at City.

The addition of Stones proves that Mangala is unrequited – and he’s clearly not at the level for City. Kompany’s fragility means that central defence is still a potential issue, although Guardiola has shown a penchant for playing defensive midfielders at centre back. He was the mastermind behind Mascherano’s metamorphosis (which caught the eye of Roy Hodgson) and he’s already earmarked Fernandinho for that role.

Manchester United

Mkkhitaryan to Manchester United

The new galacticos. Pay big money for big name players and hope that they gel under a big name manager. That formula has tried and didn’t really work at Real Madrid… but, with Woodward in charge, anything is possible.

Everything good about Manchester United, their youth system, the club’s culture, the long-serving manager, it’s all been made a mockery of since Woodward’s appointment. His diabolical transfer attempts in his first two transfer windows. The relatively rapid axe-wielding on Moyes, even though he was equally, if not more so responsible. The fiasco surrounding Van Gaal’s departure. The Fellaini deadline day signing for more than his buyout clause. The Herrara transfer fiasco (that word keeps cropping up), not entirely his making, but made possible by previous incidents. Depay, Schweinsteiger, Schneirderlin,Darmian, Rojo – all big money, all bit part players, all brought in by Woodward. the treatment of Ryan Giggs. The treatment of Valdes by Van Gaal. The treatment of Schweinsteiger by Mourinho (admittedly Sir Alex had his fallings out with players, but they tended to have a reason). The pushing out of talented youth, Fosu-Mensah, McNair, Januzaj, Keane, Borthwick-Jackson, Wilson and Blackett.

The brightest moment of Moyes’ tenure was the rise to prominence of Adnan Januzaj. He was hailed as another gem unveiled from the MUFC academy conveyor belt. Before Van Gaal introduce the world to Rashford, he gave us Fosu-Mensah, Borthwick-Jackson and Blackett. Mourinho isn’t likely to offer youngsters the same opportunities. If he sees a weakness in his squad expect him to insist Woodward buys a big name replacement.

A quick look at the new signings, Mkhitaryan is probably the best of those – and that includes Pogba, the introduction of so many egos has the potential to be a recipe for disaster. Martial, last season’s top scorer, has already had his nose pushed out of joint.

Middlesbrough

Negredo to Middlesbrough

Like the other new boys Middlesbrough will find life difficult. They’ve got a solid defence, the best in the Championship last season, but even with the additions of Guzan and Negredo, they do not have the level of Premier League experience they require. I for one am excited to see if Jordan Rhodes gets the opportunity his previous goalscoring seasons have justified.

What do they need? Better players, especially in the creative zones. Ramirez has the ability to open up opposition defences, but not likely to turn it on week-in, week-out. They need a Juninho, but that’s easier said than done. Sometimes you need to be brave. Based on Mourinho’s apparent disregard for Mata, perhaps a cheeky £20 million offer, guaranteed first team football, instant adulation from the supporters, a Spanish manager and an escape from the Portuguese ‘bully’. It could, just possibly, be the signing of the summer.

Southampton

Raffael to Southampton

Every summer is a huge challenge for all involved in recruitment at Southampton. Yet, each year they achieve wonders.

Starting at the top, Puel fits the mould of a Southampton manager.

On the positives, their back-line remains in tact, unless Fonte is prised away. Clasie has had a season to settle to the pace of the Premier League and will need to step up to fill Wanyama’s boots. But with Pelle and Mane’s departure they’ve been slow to add firepower. And there still doesn’t appear to be any idea where the replacements will come from. Rodriguez had 12 games last season, but no goals. With a full pre-season behind him, it could be his season, in fact, it needs to be his season.

Southampton also owe Liverpool a bit of money back. They could make a move for Benteke. Alternatively two West Ham United players constantly linked with a move away from the Taxpayers’ Stadium, Sakho and Enner Valencia, would both add some power and dynamism. However, if either could score enough goals to warrant their valuation remains to be seen.

Back to the Bundesliga… Raffael  (again from Borussia Monchengladbach) has a solid record in Germany, with 39 goals in 96 games. At 31 he’s not young, but experience would be useful, plus he’s fast, direct and unselfish, the perfect replacement for Mane. Bony from Manchester City would give them the sheer athleticism Pelle offered, but with a better goal return.

Stoke City

Berahino to Stoke City

Mark Hughes has become the new Allardyce, or at least the Allardyce of Bolton. He’s developing a strong, talented squad, built on the foundations laid by Tony Pulis. Now he’s adding sprinkles of talent (reminiscent of Djorkaeff and Okocha) with Arnautovic, Bojan, Afellay, Adam and Shaqiri, along with this summer’s addition Sobhi, a skillful young Egyptian.

Allen joins to presumably nudge the tireless, but ‘not the best’, Whelan out of the team. Imbula knows he needs to step up and justify his hefty price tag. In fairness to him, it can’t be easy moving from Portugal to the Midlands in the middle of winter. Time to get to know his teammates and adjust to life in the UK will surely help him make more of an impact.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Stoke City need a striker. The same names appear time and time again (Valencia, Sakho, Benteke, Ings, Bony), but for some reason Hughes wants the disruptive ‘qualities’ of Berahino.

Sunderland

Djilobodji to Sunderland

A lot of talk, but not much action. Big Sam’s departure has thrown Sunderland’s summer. After the Premier league survival, everybody expected Sunderland to push on, but since Moyes arrived they’ve managed to bag Djilobodji from Chelsea. Kone looks adamant on leaving, so they needed cover for Kaboul and O’Shea, but Djilobodji is an expensive £8 million reserve. He is good business from Chelsea, doubling their money in 12 months.

Fellaini is out of their reach… things do not look good for the North East’s number one club. Expect a well drilled, but relegation threatened season, with a host of last ditch signings and January additions.

Oh, and of course more Manchester United rejects.

Swansea City

Swansea's new signing Llorente

The Swans needed strikers and they landed two Spaniards. Baston, an up-and-coming forward with limited pedigree, scoring a goal in every other game in Liga 2, for one whole season, before replicating the feat in the Primera Liga. Can he adjust quickly to life in the Premier League and can he prove a real threat? At £15 million, the Swansea fans had better hope so!

Llorente brings the experience, and two Spaniards may help each other settle. Llorente will not bring the goals. Even at 31 his best years are behind him, as was made evident by his record of 4 goals in 23 appearances for Sevilla last season.

What else do they need? Another centre forward. And it would probably make sense to sign one that can score goals.

In Sigurdsson, they have a talent that should be plying his trade in the Champions League. Montero showed glimpses of quality, but needs to improve his levels of consistency. That is as good as it gets.

Williams and Ayew’s departure leaves huge problems. Their form all last season suggested they needed to strengthen over the summer, but surprisingly seemed unwilling to pay £13 million on Allen. The lackadaisical attitude to the transfer market could be their undoing and puts them in the mix for relegation. A bad start could see players unwilling to join in January too.

Tottenham Hotspur

Janssen to Tottenham Hotspurs

Spurs have done their business early and kept it all relatively low-key.

Janssen arrives with a golden goalscoring record in the Dutch league, but that means nothing. He could be the next Van Nistlerooy, or he could be the next ‘that Brazilian guy who Middlesbrough spent a fortune on when they were last in the Premier League’. He could be Suarez, or Samaras.

Wanyama adds depth to the squad, but not an improvement on the starting eleven.

Their biggest need is to keep Vertonghen and Alderweireld fit, along with their creative spark Eriksen and goalscorer Kane. That’s a tough task for a team hoping to compete on multiple fronts.

Watford

Paul Warhurst - great striker

Mazzarri has got to work the same level of miracles that Flores produced, in particular at the start of last season. They’ve added two full backs, a centre back and a centre forward, none of whom provide Premier League experience, or for that matter an impressive record elsewhere. In fact, you know it’s bad when the most famous contribution of your top summer signings is the fact one of them injured Neymar.

Ighalo was last season’s top scorer for Watford, but the majority of his goals came in the first half of last season. His form was reminiscent of Michu. Everything he hit went in. Strikers, even Paul Warhurst, have those spells. As a chairman you need to know when to sell. Swansea missed the chance to sell Michu, and similarly, last January could have seen Watford recoup upwards of £20 million. This January they’ll be lucky to get half.

They need creativity in the team, most Premier League defences have figured out how to deal with Deeney and Ighalo. That was their problem towards the end of last season, and rather than backing their manager with the right signings, the owners brought in another new face and a group of unnecessaries.

West Bromwich Albion

West Brom's new injured signing

If Evans leaves, then West Brom will be weak in every position, except goalkeeper, as long as they accept Foster will make a couple of errors each season.

Weak at the back, although they will be well organised, which will help them keep clean sheets in relegation six-pointers. Lack of creativity and ability in midfield, but again, well organised as a defensive screen.

Upfront they have to be the worst in the Premier League and that’s with the over-rated, over-hyped, over-priced, over-paid, inflated-egoed Berahino. So once he leaves, (to the glamorous Stoke, a club he must have dreamt of playing for as a boy), then West Brom are left with the blundering Rondon and Lambert. The problem is, which striker would want to play for West Brom? Under Pulis? You’ve got to be 6ft plus, strong and willing to defend corners… Andy Carroll.

West Ham United

Andre Ayew to West Ham

West Ham have had a great summer. Not only have they kept the inspirational playmaker Payet, but there haven’t been any suggestions that Bilic is going to leave. A team of solid performers, with the one superstar, the taxpayers’ stadium and the subsequent pot full of TV cash means West Ham are one of the best placed teams to push on for further European football. Depending on Bilic’s desire they could push for Europa League glory this season.

Nordtveit, Feghouli and Tore are three very good additions who’ve arrived under the radar. Masuaku has limited experience and played at a low level in Greece, but has youth on his side, and will fit into a well established back-line. As I’m writing, they’ve just spent £20.5 million on Ayew. He’s a really good player, who at a stronger team could score between 15 and 20 goals, which they need, as last season’s two top goalscorers were midfielders.

I think West Ham have done some good business and the fans couldn’t ask for much more – except £15 million for the fragile Sakho.

Well, that’s my thoughts. It will be interesting to see what happens in the final few weeks and how many predictions come true. If you’ve any suggestions on who your club should be signing then please leave a comment.

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