Arsenal's Search for a Striker and Issues Each Premier League Club Must Address
We're already looking ahead to the summer transfer window and the next Premier League season. Unless your team is fighting for the title or fearing relegation, you probably are, too.
What, then, should your club's first task be this summer when the football comes to a close? We've drawn up an assignment sheet for every Premier League club, starting with Arsenal's need to pursue a striker of genuine, all-round quality.
For those teams in the relegation mix, we've operated under the assumption they stay up. Three, obviously, will not.
Arsenal: Source a New Striker
Arsenal were destroyed by two things this season: injuries and a lack of top-quality strikers.
You can't control the former—though the Gunners seem to suffer far more ailments and setbacks than most other teams combined—but you can act in the transfer market to secure a new forward.
There are plenty of options on the market this summer, providing Arsene Wenger is willing to stump up some cash; Mario Mandzukic, Mario Balotelli, Diego Costa, Romelu Lukaku and Michy Batshuayi are all attainable.
Aston Villa: Find a No. 10
Aston Villa have been haunted by a real lack of a creative playmaker for two seasons now, with Charles N'Zogbia underwhelming in the role last year and missing the entire current campaign with a torn achilles.
Paul Lambert tried, per the Birmingham Mail, to lure Wes Hoolahan to Villa in January, but Norwich blocked the sale; last summer he tried for Hiroshi Kiyotake, but Nurnberg priced him out of a move.
The club's poor home form is not a coincidence, and there's a relatively simple solution on paper.
Cardiff City: Settle
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was brought in by Vincent Tan to play more attractive, free-flowing football at the Cardiff City Stadium.
He's certainly tried to fulfill those wishes by bringing in ball-playing signings such as Mats Daehli and Wilfried Zaha, and the priority—should the Bluebirds survive—will be to convert a slapdash collection of players into a real team unit.
There are key pieces in place and this can quickly become a very successful side—all it needs is a stable environment to gel in.
Chelsea: Buy a Striker (or Three)
Had Chelsea recruited a top-tier striker last summer, it's reasonable to believe they'd have run away with the Premier League title by now.
The Blues' blend of stubborn defensive play, an ability to grind out results and free-scoring wingers has put them in a strong position, but Samuel Eto’o, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba have all underwhelmed.
Jose Mourinho will be looking at the same set of strikers Arsene Wenger will while simultaneously deciding what to do with Romelu Lukaku.
Crystal Palace: Progress as Planned
Crystal Palace will have the same strategy whether they stay up or go down: continue their Pulisification.*
By that, we mean carry on transforming themselves into a classic Tony Pulis team, pulling in strong, hard-working players who commit to a compact, direct yet brutally effective game plan.
There are a number of areas to improve with new signings, but the first thing the club should do is give Joel Ward a new contract and a pay rise.
*May not be a word.
Everton: Sign Gareth Barry Permanently
Everton’s broader plans hinge on whether or not they achieve Champions League football for next season, but there's one task they should look to complete as soon as the season is done.
Gareth Barry has been an extremely impressive loan signing for the Toffees and will become a free agent this summer.
At 33, he'll be coming down to a more reasonable wage than the near-￡100,000 per week he's on at Manchester City, and he's a great fit under Roberto Martinez at Goodison Park.
It should be a formality.
Fulham: Jettison the Deadwood
If by some small miracle Felix Magath keeps Fulham up, the first thing he will do is present his chairman with a list of players he does not want any longer.
There's zero chance Darren Bent will be retained on a permanent deal and a host of other players, too—all who have not shown enough hard running in training will be jettisoned.
Magath would rather press forward with 18 teenagers who can run a mile a minute than a lazy, established player.
Hull City: Be Patient, See What Comes Up
There really is no pressing need for Hull City to spend big money this summer, with the only potential opening in the first XI coming up being the spot on-loan midfielder Jake Livermore will leave.
Perhaps the wise money is spent luring him back on a permanent deal, and the chances are he'd readily agree to it, given his connection with former Tottenham midfielder Tom Huddlestone in the centre.
Ultimately, with Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long recruited in January, they can sit tight, wait and see what deals fall to them.
Liverpool: Shore Up the Back Line
Liverpool are not in danger of losing any of their star players, as they finally seem set to secure Champions League football again—heck, they could even win the Premier League!
If they do pip Manchester City and Chelsea to the post, they will have done so by outscoring literally everyone in the league; although their defensive showings have improved of late, Brendan Rodgers will know he has to improve the roster this summer.
A centre-back or two, two left-backs and a right-back will do nicely.
Manchester City: Find Vincent Kompany a Partner
If Manchester City fail to win the league, everyone will look back on that gaping hole alongside Vincent Kompany in defence and shake their heads knowingly.
Manuel Pellegrini clearly rates Martin Demichelis despite his many, many errors, but the real killer here was Matija Nastasic’s mysterious knee injury.
Atletico Madrid sold Demichelis to City and used the money to buy Toby Alderweireld from Ajax, sealing a three-deep centre-back corps bursting with quality. They're still in the Champions League and look favourites to progress to the semi-finals behind Barcelona; City are out.
Plug that hole, Manuel!
Manchester United: Sign a World-Class Player
That Sir Alex Ferguson won the Premier League with this Manchester United side is a crime, and fans are slowly realising David Moyes needs a capable squad if he is to succeed as manager.
The first priority this summer should be to identify a high-profile target and actually sign him, successfully, and present him as a Manchester United player.
There were so many false dawns last summer that fans quickly became incredulous, and the failure to secure the signatures of top players has left the club an uphill task to get back into the Champions League.
Newcastle United: Replace/Sign Loic Remy
Loic Remy’s loan will terminate at the end of the season, and Newcastle United would be crazy not to try and land him permanently—whether or not Queens Park Rangers achieve promotion.
It's become clear over the course of the campaign that they are reliant on him for goals, and that has only gotten truer since the departure of Yohan Cabaye.
They need to re-stock the forward line with a few options, and Remy already feels at home.
Norwich City: Change Manager
It's a pale, unfortunate reality to write about, but the situation at Norwich is fast becoming untenable.
Chris Hughton has lost the support of his own fanbase and the club rely almost exclusively on Carrow Road for points; more than ￡20 million was spent on quality signings in the summer and, if anything, the club appear to have gone backward.
Much like Alex Mcleish with Aston Villa in 2011, this one likely won't drag out.
Southampton: Tie Down Mauricio Pochettino
Southampton are stacked with quality in every area bar centre-forward, and if they can replace Rickie Lambert more successfully this summer, that'll be one of the first things done.
But first the club need to secure several employees' futures, with Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and manager Mauricio Pochettino chief among them.
If Pochettino leaves, they need to re-assess everything, but if he stays, they can begin to add quality and extend key players’ contracts.
Stoke City: Carry On, Sir
Stoke City are ticking along rather nicely under Mark Hughes, currently sitting on a three-game win streak with very little chance of dropping down.
The prerogative will be to continue changing the style of the Potters’ play by adding quality, ball-playing signings around building blocks Marko Arnautovic and Stephen Ireland.
Perhaps the only worry they have is if Asmir Begovic has a stellar World Cup and attracts yet more attention.
Sunderland: Keep the Philosophy, Replace the Players
Gus Poyet has come in and tried to install a passing template at Sunderland, but the players aren't really suited to it. Marcos Alonso and Liam Bridcutt, recruited in January, are strong fits for the system, but many who pre-date Poyet's appointment are not.
Should the Black Cats stay up, Poyet knows he needs to overhaul the club. Paolo Di Canio went crazy and signed 13 players last summer, but very few look like they have a future at the Stadium of Light.
Swansea City: Decide on Garry Monk
The first decision for Swansea City this summer is a clear one: Does Garry Monk stay or go?
Should they go down (unlikely), it might be best to keep him on board as a low-budget option, but if they do stay up, you'd guess they'll pursue a higher-profile man.
At the very least, the Swans will stay true to their passing roots by keeping him on board.
Tottenham Hotspur: Find the Right Man for the Job
There is zero chance Tim Sherwood will continue as Tottenham Hotspur manager after the current season, so the first step for Daniel Levy this summer is obvious: Hire the right man to take the club forward.
They're not going to achieve Champions League football, and as a result, some players will consider their future with the club.
A high-profile manager such as Louis van Gaal, who has been linked to the club by the Independent among others, could be enough to steady the ship and keep key players at the lane.
They're a talented bunch, they just need a proven manager to guide them.
West Bromwich Albion: Settle Under Pepe Mel
Appointing Pepe Mel, whose style is radically different to that of Steve Clarke, midseason was a huge risk by the West Bromwich Albion board.
The players have struggled to adapt and several have complained about the Spaniard’s tactics and methods, per the Daily Mail. This summer he has a chance to mould his squad to his liking and give them a full preseason to get used to the template he wants.
Just calming everything down a little would be ideal.
West Ham: Sort out Ravel Morrison's Future
The West Ham chiefs have a big decision to make this summer as the club reloads for another Premier League season: Keep steady Sam Allardyce and rest assured you won't get relegated, or risk a change of guard and freshen up the football?
Whoever leads the club into the 2014-15 season will first have to sort out the future of Ravel Morrison, who is a supremely talented midfielder shrouded in contractual mystery.
There have been suggestions he's fallen out with Allardyce for not taking on the same agent as him, and he's currently out on an emergency loan with queens park rangers.
Sign him to an extension or sell him for profit, then plan the rest of your transfer moves accordingly.