Biggest Remaining Transfer Requirement for Each Premier League Team
With three weeks to go before the beginning of the 2014-15 Premier League season, many clubs have already made significant inroads to the signings they want to shape their squad ahead of the new campaign.
Most, however, still have areas they want to improve in and at least one position on the pitch which is crying out for a significant upgrade.
Here we take a look at each top-flight club in turn and see where they can most obviously improve in the transfer market ahead of the opening day—or where they need to make sure they don't fall short before the window shuts.
Arsenal: Central Midfield Arrangement
Arsenal have done well to strengthen their attack with Alexis Sanchez, and goalkeeper David Ospina will provide serious competition too.
The biggest issue for the Gunners now is to decide who will be the main midfield pairing for the start of the season, and make sure they are in a system and shape which will protect the defence better than last season—and allow the attacking players to thrive.
Would a combination including either Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Mathieu Flamini work, or is someone from the outside needed? If the latter, is it Sami Khedira, Lars Bender or someone entirely new and unexpected?
Get this area right and Arsenal are in business. Their central midfield was a huge weak point last season.
Aston Villa: Stop Vlaar Leaving/Midfield Partner for Delph
Ron Vlaar is a big transfer target for plenty of Premier League sides, but he is absolutely critical to Aston Villa surviving another season without significant investment. The Guardian indicates how Spurs are one such side who want Vlaar, but there are others.
Other than keeping hold of him, the Villans could do with adding a central midfielder to play alongside Fabian Delph; the attack has pace and power when all are fit and if Paul Lambert persists with wing-backs, Kieran Richardson is a fine addition on a free transfer.
Another good midfield player, capable of protecting the back line and keeping possession, would be a big find for the side.
Burnley are back in the top flight, but unless they can add some real Premier League quality to their side, they'll be one of the favourites for relegation again.
Lukas Jutkiewicz is a proven scorer in the Championship, but neither he nor Marvin Sordell have proven capable of having an impact in the top flight.
Their own star striker Danny Ings scored plenty last season, but this will likewise be a big step up for him.
Chelsea: Sort out the No. 1 Goalkeeper
Petr Cech, the established, reliable and top-class goalkeeper, or Thibaut Courtois, the younger but supremely talented rival?
Chelsea have a big decision to make for the coming season about which of their top-drawer goalkeepers will be the established No. 1. Not only will it obviously affect their first team, but also perhaps impact on rivals or their own ability to spend—if they sell the other.
Surely two such marvellous talents cannot compete side by side for a whole season...but will the loser demand to leave?
Crystal Palace: A Step Up in Defensive Ability
What does Tony Pulis want from his teams, first and foremost? To be extremely difficult to beat.
The Palace boss has his team more or less set up already to be tough to break down, but none of their defenders are, with respect, all that close to being "very good," let alone any higher-rated than that.
Adrian Mariappa, Scott Dann, Damien Delaney...all have their own skills and are formidable in terms of physique and determination, but signing a genuinely impressive reader of the game and an organiser who is strong in the air and can be a threat at the opposite end of the pitch—that could step up Palace's effectiveness another level.
Everton: Big-Name Striker
Everton were an impressive offensive side last season, but a big part of that threat was on-loan forward Romelu Lukaku.
Now returned to Chelsea, and injury-hit striker Lacina Traore likewise to Monaco, the Toffees are left with just one senior striker in Arouna Kone, who missed most of last term with a knee injury.
Whether it's Lukaku's return or someone else who they sign, Everton need to add more numbers to the forward line or else rely on Steven Naismith through the middle once more.
Hull City: Better Wing-Backs
Hull City played a three-man defensive system on a number of occasions last season, and even when they reverted to a back four, the full-backs were usually inclined to push on and try to provide support in the final third.
Out of their main starters, perhaps only Ahmed Elmohamady was all that consistent last term, with Maynor Figueroa and Liam Rosenior both versatile options to plug a gap rather than considered good enough to hold down a position in their own right.
If they can improve both flanks then, along with their midfield signings, Hull will be in good shape.
Leicester City: Premier League Class Players
Matthew Upson, Leonardo Ulloa and Marc Albrighton are Leicester's signings so far since being promoted back to the Premier League—only the latter played in the top flight last season, and even he only sporadically.
The Foxes really need to add players with a proven ability in the top flight if they want to extend their stay beyond a single season.
Defence, midfield and attack would all benefit from at least one quality addition, in truth.
Liverpool have added numbers to their front line and Emre Can looks a good addition to midfield, but Dejan Lovren is the only defensive addition so far.
Centre of defence looking sorted, the Reds must absolutely turn to fixing the wide areas of their defence—by far the weakest link in the team. Neither Glen Johnson nor Jose Enrique are consistent, reliable or of the required standard and only Jon Flanagan of the younger options has proven capable of keeping pace with the demands of last year.
At least a left-sided player is required, but one for each side would certainly not go amiss—followed by departures of others.
Manchester City: Attacking Midfield Options
Manchester City have one of the more complete squads in the top flight, but there is perhaps a suspicion that—assuming the deal for centre-back Eliaquim Mangala goes through, as per BBC Sport—they could do with more options in the attacking midfield area.
Specifically, although they have Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas as interesting options, a competitor or challenger to David Silva would not go amiss, especially with the ongoing injury problems of their forwards.
A strong central midfield and four main strikers makes the rest of the side look very complete indeed.
Manchester United: Central Defence
Having lost three experienced defenders over the summer, two of whom play in the middle, Manchester United almost certainly need to bring in a new player in that area this summer.
Louis van Gaal might want to give the current crop a chance before signing players from elsewhere, but Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are the current options—at least one top-quality addition should be expected to augment that trio.
If one of them can show enough to suggest they can be the partner of that centre-back, it could be a breakthrough season for them.
Newcastle United: Pace in Wide Areas
Newcastle have certainly improved their side from last season so far, showing no major departures other than right-back Mathieu Debuchy and adding a clutch of senior players in key areas.
One area they could still look to find an addition for, though, is the wide midfield areas, where Hatem Ben Arfa looks no longer required, as per ESPN, so some much-needed creativity and pace would be two traits in particular a new arrival could bring.
Depending on exactly what Newcastle's aims for the season are, a new centre-back wouldn't go amiss either.
Queens Park Rangers: A No. 10
Harry Redknapp appears extremely keen to bring in a capable No. 10 to QPR, with Rafael van der Vaart seemingly near the top of his wish-list, as per his comments West London Sport (h/t Goal.com).
QPR have brought in two centre-backs already, but the attacking part of the team remains untouched from last season, where QPR scored 60 goals all season—the lowest out of the top five in the Championship.
Van der Vaart played for Redknapp at Spurs, and the current Rangers boss believes he'd hit double figures in goals this term if he joined.
Southampton: Replace All Those Missing Parts
Ronald Koeman has a huge stack of money available to him after the sales of five key players this summer.
Unfortunately, Koeman also has a rather large hole in the first team now as a result of those sales—and more could yet follow, with Press Association Sport, (h/t the Mirror) reporting Spurs are ready to sign Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez.
That's a huge, huge gap for Koeman to start filling, very quickly, with players who can cope in the Premier League, play his style of football, adapt quickly to what will be an entirely new group and who the team don't get overcharged on as a result of everybody knowing they have money to burn.
Stoke City: Attacking Midfield Options
Stoke City stepped up a level in their approach play and creativity last season under Mark Hughes, no doubt about it.
To continue that ascent, this summer they need to bring in a couple of real quality attackers who can add to what they already have. Bojan Krkic is a gamble, one which could pay off handsomely or see the forward continue his amble down the disappointing corridor of failure.
They are trying to bring in Oussama Assaidi, per Stoke Sentinel, who was on loan last season, but he or perhaps another who can play just off the front man would be welcome additions if they provide a quality touch in the final third.
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet still hopes to conclude a permanent deal for Fabio Borini, as per the Sunderland Echo (h/t ESPN), but even with him, the side needs more goals.
Jozy Altidore has not proven capable of hitting the back of the net on a regular basis, while Stephen Fletcher has likely managed as many injuries as goals since joining the Black Cats.
If they are to avoid the relegation struggles of last season, Poyet and Sunderland have to add considerably more firepower than they have managed thus far in the window, as well as attending to other areas of the team.
Swansea City: Creativity from Midfield
Even with the addition of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Swansea are really looking thin on the ground in midfield players who have the capacity to not just pass the ball nicely, but actually move it with intent to open up the opposition.
They have pace in wide areas and strong forwards who can attack in the air and on the ground, but unless Garry Monk is planning on crossing his way to Premier League safety this season, some incisive and reliable midfielders would be a major requirement.
Tottenham Hotspur: A Threat from Wide Areas of Attack
Spurs suffered for all sorts of reasons last year: underperforming players, too many arrivals at once perhaps, no clear tactical plan in midfield and not enough goals from the second line of attack.
One important remedy for that will be the addition of a goal threat from wide of the club's centre-forward, Emmanuel Adebayor.
Erik Lamela could yet turn out to be that man if Mauricio Pochettino can work wonders on his countryman, but the previously mentioned move for Jay Rodriguez is a step in that direction too.
West Bromwich Albion: A No. 9
West Brom might have broken their transfer record to sign Nigerian forward Brown Ideye, but despite being happy to run behind defences and being a compact, strong forward, he isn't a reliable goal threat.
Add to that the departure of Nicolas Anelka, the inexperience and inconsistency of Saido Berahino and Victor Anichebe never having hit more than half a dozen goals in any single league season, it is clear where West Brom's problem lies at present.
They need a focal point for the attack, even if not a guaranteed starter, who can bring others into play, dominate central defenders and chip in with goals throughout the campaign.
West Ham United: Successfully Integrate Their South American Forwards
West Ham's important summer business might be done: the fans and board wanted offensive signings and a style of play to match, and Enner Valencia and Mauro Zarate can help bring both.
The big key for West Ham and manager Sam Allardyce now is going to be how to fit them consistently into the starting XI, to get the best out of those talented forwards and still retain defensive, tactical solidity.
Zarate can open up many a defence and Valencia's running from the second line is a real threat. Who spearheads the attack in Andy Carroll's absence and how he can get the best from those two signings is the big question for the Hammers.