One Transfer Each Premier League Team Can't Afford to Miss
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Going into the summer transfer window feels like the beginning a long hibernation interspersed with the odd moment of excitement or disbelief (Andy Carroll for £35 million anyone?)
The best we can do is to have fun trying to predict who will be where next season, and whether or not it’s the right decision, so on and so forth.
This is a list of every team that will be in the Premier League next year—with the exception of either Crystal Palace or Watford—and which players they should look at buying (or in some cases, keep).
All stats are courtesy of transfermarkt.co.uk, unless linked otherwise.
Arsenal: Buy a Top Class Striker
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With yet another tight battle for the Champions League qualification at an end, Arsene Wenger can take comfort from the fact that his team qualified but should be worried about the matter in which they did it.
For the third year running Arsenal have come back from a seemingly impossible position to slip into Europe—surely it would be fair on the fans to save their arteries a bit next year?
Arsenal haven’t had a really good goalkeeper since David Seaman, and their latest first-choice, Wojciech Szczesny, is error prone. However, this is not the more pressing issue.
The sale of Robin van Persie did not significantly lower Arsenal’s goal tally for this season as expected. They managed 72 in the league, just two less than last year’s tally, but with top scorer Theo Walcott only notching 14 league goals, there is no denying the need for a top-class striker.
Arsenal cannot afford to wait around as they did two years ago; it seems they have learnt this lesson by getting in early for Stevan Jovetic. If rumours are true, they will have signed a quick and fluid passer who scored 13 goals in 31 Serie A appearances in 2012-13, and at only 23, has the potential to grow.
Get the deal done, and get on with pre-season.
Aston Villa: Replace Stiliyan Petrov
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Villa went uncharacteristically close to the drop-zone in the final weeks of this season, but eventually ended up five points and two places clear. This could be attributed to the lack of experience in the squad, but Paul Lambert has shown faith in his youngsters and 2013-14 is the year to start making it pay off.
Obviously keeping Christian Benteke would be a huge step in the right direction. Borussia Dortmund are among those thought to be keeping tabs on the Belgian international after he ended his debut season in the Premier League with an impressive 19 goals.
While it seems that Darren Bent will be jumping ship, the calibre of his replacement will depend on whether Villa can hold onto their star striker Benteke.
However, the retirement of captain Stiliyan Petrov to have treatment for leukemia has prompted a need for a replacement midfield general. Mahamadou Diarra is a free agent this summer, and would provide an experienced head for the kids to look up to, while Jordi Gomez could be persuaded to leave relegated Wigan.
Regardless of Benteke’s future, an additional midfielder is the minimum requirement.
Cardiff City: Need Premier League Experience
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For newly promoted teams it's difficult to suggest one player that could have a positive effect, as usually there a four or five positions that need bolstering when stepping up a tier.
Seventy-two team goals in a 46-game season is a good showing for Cardiff, but the mistake that Reading made after winning the Championship title was thinking that made them good enough for the Premier League. A lack of a transfer activity and a relegation later, and Cardiff have the opportunity to learn from the Royals’ mistake.
With only 15 goals conceded at home all season, but the same goal difference as Watford, who finished ten points below them, it looks as though Cardiff need a prolific striker if they are to achieve survival in the top flight next season.
While not the most prolific, Dirk Kuyt does have Premier League experience which could prove valuable if the rumours are true. Failing that, a probable shot would be Arouna Kone, who faces the prospect of second-tier football with Wigan and could likely be tempted by a move back to the top flight.
Chelsea: Replace Torres
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The idea of Chelsea not securing their transfer targets is slightly alien given the money they have to throw around, even with the £50 million paid for Torres still lingering in the memory. And while Demba Ba is a capable player, he is not what Chelsea need to get where they want to be—back at the league summit.
The imminent arrival—though it could still fall through—of Jose Mourinho will definitely help when it comes to signing big names, but it was reported today that prime target Radamel Falcao has been snatched up by Manchester City from right under Abramovich’s nose.
If true, this news makes the importance of acquiring second-choice target Edinson Cavani from Napoli. Seeing as the battle for Cavani was set to be fought by Chelsea and City, with City apparently securing Falcao’s signature, Cavani is there for the taking.
Everton: Will Probably Have to Replace Fellaini
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The loss of manager David Moyes to Manchester United have set Goodison Park shaking in its foundations, but the club still has enough prestige to attract players despite a lack of funds.
A big part of the summer will be if Roberto Martinez—a manager who has proved he can operate in the top flight on a limited budget—decides to accept the position that has been touted as practically his to walk into.
Marouane Fellaini’s announcement earlier in the season that he would be leaving this summer is a massive cause for concern. If, as expected, he does leave, there would be a large hole to plug in midfield, both creatively and defensively.
Fellaini has been so versatile and integral to Everton that it would almost take two players that would be within the Toffee’s price range to replace him satisfactorily. Even a rumoured loan-deal for the brilliant Lukaku wouldn’t distract from the vacuum that would be left in the heart of the team.
Mohamed Diame has impressed with his performances for West Ham, and is attracting interest from Arsenal, but the money generated from the probable sale of Fellaini and the promise of an undisputed first-team place could work in Everton’s favour if they should make a bid.
Though, it’s difficult to ascertain who they should buy until we know who the new gaffer is.
Fulham: Tempt Scott Parker
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Martin Jol’s men ended a miserable run of only one point from 21 with a final day 3-0 victory over Swansea to put them on a positive edge going into the pre-season, but that does not paper over the cracks.
A lack of solidity in defence coupled with erratic form from the strikers left them dangerously close to the relegation zone a few weeks ago, which is unusual for a team managed by Jol.
Obviously the recent announcement that 36-year-old Giorgos Karagounis will be leaving Craven Cottage this summer is a blow to the midfield, but he was only a short-term solution anyway.
Alex Kacaniklic looks promising, but the need for an experienced head to replace Karagounis gives rise to the idea of making a bid for Scott Parker.
The return of Sandro for next season will relegate Parker to the Tottenham bench, and with QPR’s Hary Redknapp implying that he might try and tempt the 32-year-old to the Championship, why shouldn’t Fulham have a go?
He wouldn’t have to move house, and still has enough play time left in him to deliver the kind of energetic play that characterises him for another two seasons.
Hull City: Bolster the Attack
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Although he is dealing with the promotion transfer window headache, at least Steve Bruce can call upon his years of experience in the top flight, both as a manager and a player.
Like Cardiff, Hull must be sure to stock up properly during the summer so as not to find themselves dangerously short of quality in the way that Reading did this year.
By getting a number of players to sign new deals, Hull have signaled their intent, and their interest in Blackburn’s Jordan Rhodes has apparently prompted the Blackburn owners to slap a £15 million price tag on the 23-year-old.
Rhodes is an up-and-coming young striker, and would be a good addition to the Tigers’ set-up. He scored 28 league goals in 45 matches for Blackburn this season, which adds to his already impressive goal-for-game ratio in previous seasons. This kind of goal-scoring touch is what Hull needs to compensate for the off-firing Sone Aluko and Jay Simpson, who netted only 12 league goals between them in 42 combined appearances.
£15 million is a lot of money for a Championship striker, but that is what the balloon payment is for.
Liverpool: Keep Luis Suarez
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The work that Brendan Rodgers has done since his arrival last summer is commendable. Not only has the Northern Irishman turned a disjointed group of players lacking in confidence into a fluid passing machine, he has somehow squeezed the odd decent performance out of Henderson and Downing.
Unfortunately, Suarez’s penchant for headlines threw a spanner in the works, and Liverpool are in danger of losing their star player in light of his ten-match ban, which carries through to next term.
Another factor that could persuade the Uruguayan to leave is Liverpool’s failure to even qualify for the Europa League, which has been followed by reported interest from Barcelona.
Where might Liverpool find a 30-goal per season striker who would be willing to endure a season of domestic-only competition?
Probably nowhere, so their best bet is to keep playing Danny Sturridge and buy in a backup who’s more capable than Borini. With Darren Bent seemingly on his way out of Aston Villa, he is one possible option, though nowhere near good enough to replace Suarez.
However, that is the problem Liverpool will have with whoever they try and sign—they’ll just have to hope that Suarez stays loyal to his contract.
Manchester City: Falcao or Cavani
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If rumours are to be believed—which they usually should not be—then City have already secured their top target.
In Falcao they don’t have new dimension in attack, but he is certainly more prolific than the stylistically similar Carlos Tevez.
The Colombian scored 34 goals in 39 games for Atletico Madrid this season, including a hat-trick against Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup, and it is no secret that he is one of the most coveted players in world football.
Conversely, if the rumours are not to be believed, then the other option is Edinson Cavani. It seems as though City and Chelsea are battling over the two players, with the rules apparently being that whoever doesn’t get Falcao can settle for Cavani.
Manchester United: More Midfield Verve
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Despite reclaiming the Premier League title at a stroll on the back an excellent season for Robin van Persie, there are several areas that United are lacking in.
The most striking of these is the midfield.
An area once patrolled by greats such as Roy Keane and Bryan Robson, the engine room has been somewhat neglected in recent years, although Michael Carrick has done a stellar job as club metronome.
You might argue that a team who wins the title that easily can’t have all that much wrong with it—you could be right. However, it’s undeniable that while the attack has been outstanding this season, the midfield has been overrun far too often.
Despite Alex Ferguson’s assertions, Tom Cleverly is not good enough to perform at the heart of a team competing for titles. He is fine as a backup, but the real need is for a top-of-the-range, box-to-box engine.
Ilkay Gundogan is one name who springs to mind, while another is Marouane Fellaini. The two players differ in style, but both would work in United’s midfield considering the players that they would be joining.
Between the two of them, I would say that due to a lack of solidity rather than imagination in the United midfield, Fellaini is the more vital purchase. His physicality and ability to hold up the ball would provide a boost in both defence and attack, while the presence of David Moyes will make the transition easier for both parties. The Belgian is believed to be open to the move.
Newcastle United: Loic Remy
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The way that the Toon Army’s season got dragged so far off course by injuries points to the worrying lack of squad depth.
After reaching fifth last season, a placing that harked back to the Bobby Robson era, Newcastle have managed to put in the worst drop in league placing out of every team in the top flight, finishing this term in 16th.
Granted, having key players, such as Hatem Ben Arfa, out injured for long periods contributed to such a downturn in fortune as well as the sale of Demba Ba to Chelsea in January, but for a club that considers themselves among the top six in England, improvements must be made.
The loss of Ba suggests that a striker is what’s needed as Cisse tends to score in bursts. Going by Alan Pardew’s liking for French players, perhaps Loic Remy would fit in alongside Cisse.
With QPR relegated and looking to trim their wage bill, the Tyneside club could easily tempt Remy should he not receive too many offers from top clubs.
However, while he would be good signing, it might be more sensible to line up a second choice just in case the rape allegations turn out to be true.
Norwich City: Chris Brunt
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Norwich yo-yoed a bit in the final weeks, at one point looking like they were entering the relegation scrap with a rather barren patch that saw them win only one in 10 games leading up to their 0-0 blank against Fulham in February.
Luckily, Chris Hughton dug them out of the trenches with four wins and three draws in their next 12 matches, and they finished a respectable 11th.
Norwich have started the summer well in securing defender Javier Garrido on a permanent deal, and with them sat just outside the top half of the table, there doesn’t seem to be an emergency as far as signings are concerned.
The lack of action from West Brom concerning Chris Brunt’s contract should alert the Canaries to a possible steal. A player with Brunt’s leadership and experience is almost too good to go on a free transfer, but Norwich have the opportunity and should take it.
Southampton: Defensive Issues to Be Resolved
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Whatever you think about the manner in which Nigel Adkins was disposed with, the fact remains that Mauricio Pochettino has had an instant impact.
The difference was obvious in Pochettino’s first game against Manchester United at Old Trafford, when Southampton managed to keep their opponents penned in their own half for most of the second 45. The Saints should count themselves lucky that their new manager has agreed to stay at the club after a couple of uncertain weeks concerning the future of chairman Nicola Cortese.
Stars Ricky Lambert and Adam Lallana have both attracted attention for their performances this season, with Lambert placing as the highest-scoring English player in the Premier League with 15 goals.
Southampton’s goals conceded is a cause for concern—60 in the league.
Danny Simpson is out of contract at Newcastle, and considering Southampton’s relatively high placing, he might be open to a move there.
It seems that Pochettino is already addressing the issue, with a report that he is interested in signing Jesus Gamez from Malaga. However, it will take more than just one defender to shore things up, but with a reported £30 million at his disposal, it looks as though Pochettino will make the necessary purchases.
Stoke City: New Striker
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There are many who would suggest that Stoke do away with their entire squad and sign some footballers, but the Potters are not entering their sixth season in the top flight since being promoted in 2008 for nothing.
The brand of football does not please everyone, but it gets the job done.
However, every big team needs a little runner, and with Michael Owen’s recent retirement, Stoke will need to find a new one. Naturally, the uncertainty over Kenwyne Jones’ future could change things, but we’ll have to work around that.
Proper fees will no doubt be kept for bolstering the midfield with the usual giants, as Stoke did not actually fork out any money when they took Owen on, but there are a few strikers available as free agents.
While not exactly suiting the “little runner” role mentioned earlier, Carlton Cole is an accomplished Premier League goal scorer, while Mladen Petric has been released by Fulham.
Sunderland: Charlie Austin
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Paolo Di Canio has been talking about a big clear out over the past 24 hours and is confident that the chairman will give him the necessary fees to do so. From what the Italian says, things are not exactly rosy at the Riverside.
It looks as though Phil Bardsley, Matthew Kilgallon and other “pathetic” miscreants will be on their way out, leaving plenty of holes to be plugged in the Sunderland setup.
One worrying aspect of the Black Cats this season has been the complete lack of spark in the midfield, at least until Di Canio arrived, while Steven Fletcher cannot carry the team on his own. It has to be said that although Martin O’Neill is a good manager, his style of play bores to death.
Thankfully there seems to a bit of a revival, though for how long is uncertain.
One affordable name that springs to mind is Burnley striker Charlie Austin, who scored 27 goals in 40 games for 2012-13. Though there appears to be number of other clubs interested in securing his signature, including Aston Villa.
Swansea City: Romelu Lukaku
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Swansea not only have to prepare for their third Premier League season with top-10 hopes in mind, but also with thought given to progress in the Europa League.
Michael Laudrup has already demonstrated his ability to keep up performances in parallel competitions with the League Cup triumph this season, but going into Europe’s secondary club tournament will take quite a lot more.
The Swans are one of several teams rumoured to be after Romelu Lukaku, but, like all the other potential suitors, they will have to put a good case forward as well as the wages.
This is where Swansea can trump their rivals in the race for the Belgian international, and with Chelsea looking at bringing in another top signing, Lukaku would have to be a fool to sit on the Stamford Bridge bench—he is easily good enough to be a first-choice Premier League striker.
Fortunately, the 20-year-old will reportedly ask his parent club to send him out on loan again, with assertions made that he desires European football—though not specifying in what tournament—which could put Swansea in the frame.
Obviously this is not a long-term solution, but building up a football club is about year-on-year progression; if Swansea can use Lukaku for a year to get somewhere in Europe or possibly higher up the domestic table, it will no doubt attract better players to the club in the future.
Tottenham Hotspur: Keep Gareth Bale
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The obvious target for Andre Villas-Boas this summer is to keep Gareth Bale, though with Spurs missing out on the Champions League after Arsenal’s victory at Newcastle yesterday, that could prove rather difficult.
Without Bale, Spurs would be nowhere near the fifth place they ended up with.
Time and time again they have been drawing, more often than not, at home, with two minutes to go when Bale picks the ball up deep on the right before cutting in and firing the ball into the left-hand corner of the net, saving the points.
And, until we know whether Bale will stay or not, it’s nigh on impossible to suggest any new signings as Spurs may have to sign two top players to just to cover for the loss of the unstoppable Welshman.
One player that should be on his way out is Adebayor, whose performances and effort all around have been way below par, barring one game against Chelsea.
West Bromwich Albion: A New Striker
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The Baggies ticked over nicely enough for most of the season, other than a few disappointing slumps. A 5-5 thriller against Manchester United was a fitting end to a season in which they have enjoyed good and endured bad runs of form throughout.
Of course, the star man has been Romelu Lukaku, who will more than likely not be coming back next year despite not being guaranteed a first-team place at Chelsea. If he does go anywhere next term, it will most likely be to Swansea and the Europa League.
Andrey Arshavin will be a free agent this summer, though his wage demands and possibly a desire to play elsewhere might get in the way, but his experience would certainly benefit Steve Clarke’s team. Carlton Cole is also an option, though neither player would come anywhere near to matching Lukaku’s tally for the season.
As for Chris Brunt and the midfield, perhaps keeping hold of him is not such a bad idea.
West Ham United: Andy Carroll
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The Hammers have made a storming comeback into the top flight, placing 10th after just one season away.
Judging by the style of play that Sam Allardyce employs, and a recent report on the matter, it seems that Andy Carroll and West Ham are the perfect fit, as far as that goes.
It is highly improbable that Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool will want the 24-year-old English international as a full-time player—he does not fit their style at all—or that they will be able to sell for anything other than a substantial loss on the £35 million that Kenny Dalglish paid in January 2011.
This plays nicely into West Ham’s hands, but a player they should be more concerned about holding onto is Mohamed Diame, who has been garnering plaudits for his performances this season, as well as interest from both Arsenal and Tottenham.
But, while no one is saying that Carroll is a top player by any stretch, he does seem to fit in with the team philosophy enough that the manager wants to build the team around him.
Go get him then, Sam.
Watford or Crystal Palace: Too Much to List
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Whoever comes out on top in the Championship playoff final on May 27th will certainly have a lot to do.
Whereas Watford have the difficult task of finding replacements for all those loan players who will head back to their respective clubs over the summer, as well as improving for a step up into the top tier, Palace have an even bigger issue.
With Wilfried Zaha due in Manchester once the playoff final is over, not only do Palace have to bolster their squad, but they also have to come to terms with the loss of their most productive player. That, and it is debatable how much longer the evergreen Kevin Phillips’ legs will hold up.
For Watford, a transfer embargo that will be in place until the end of August will cramp their style, though Charlie Austin is an option. However, they will need to make numerous other signings to ensure that they don’t crash straight back down next season.
Palace, on the other hand, need a top forward/wide man to replace Zaha. Unfortunately, top wingers cost money, and Palace don’t have a lot of it. So perhaps raiding the free-agent list would turn up some better options, as in, saving money on transfer fees that could then be spent on players with higher wage demands—like Andrey Arshavin, for example.
In this situation, it almost seems better to be that team doesn’t win at Wembley.