With Euro 2008 nearly over and pre-season training just around the corner, the transfer river will be in full flow over the next 2 months. Lets take a look at where each team needs to reinforce by August 31st so that their EPL dreams can come true in 2008-2009:
Manchester United: Ronaldo is the word for United this summer, and much of their transfer activity will depend on what the Portuguese winger decides to do with his career. If he stays, then transfer activity should be pretty quiet.
A right-back and a target man should ensure that United are the squad to beat in 2008-2009. Should Ronaldo move on, Fergie's coffers will be overflowing, and a couple of big name attackers would help fill the gap.
Chelsea: A new manager, a whole new team? Virtually every Chelsea player has been linked with a move away this summer, and much of their transfer activity will depend on who does move on.
Bosingwa has already been signed to solve the right back problem that has proved more difficult to solve than a Rubik's cube on acid. Expect big names and big money, but can Big Phil transform the style and staff of a team, and win the title at the first attempt? Or is Roman only interested in the Champions League?
Arsenal: If you believe the press then Arsenal are facing a summer exodus. In reality, it looks like Flamini and Hleb will be the only major departures. Not disastrous, but it does leave a pretty big hole in last season's impressive midfield.
Nasri has already been signed to replace the probably Barca' bound Hleb, while Arsene might leave it to Diaby and Song to replace Flamini. Alternatively, he could move for a more experienced holding player. Elsewhere, a commanding centre-half is surely a must if Arsenal are not to endure another trophyless season.
Liverpool: Dossena and Degen are already signed to reinforce the wide-defensive positions, and Barry looks likely to replace Alonso in midfield. These moves should ensure that Liverpool will keep the defensive stability that has been a regular of Rafa's reign, but everyone knows that Liverpool need more spark in the attacking third.
Rafa confidante Guillem Balague has hinted at a deal aready done for an attacking player who will excite Liverpool fans, we will just have to wait and see who it is.
Everton: Little action so far for Everton, with money, or lack of it, dominating the transfer gossip. David Moyes knows he must spend or risk standing still, but how much will he have at his disposal?
With Carsley and Gravesen moved on, a new holding midfield player must be a priority. A genuine winger would help add to their attacking armoury, while Tony Hibbert doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the right back position. If Everton are to challenge the top four, then top class players only need apply for the roles.
Aston Villa: Fed up with a bigger club circling for your best player? At least Villa fans can console themselves with the fact that even Manchester United are going through the same fraught Summer. It seems inevitable that Barry will move on, with Sidwell heavily linked as his replacement. That will help fill the void, but such is Barry's influence on Villa's play that more will be needed if the Villains are to bother the top 6 again.
Mellberg has moved on so a quality right back is essential, as is a permanent goalkeeper as the Villa defence was far from secure last term. The way Villa play, with Carew up top on his own, more goals from central midfield are needed, and Petrov needs to step up to the plate or be moved on.
Blackburn: Another team more concerned with departures than signings at the moment. Bentley's exit looks a formality, but Blackburn should be able to keep Santa Cruz around for another season at least. With Tugay ageing, a quality central playmaker is needed, and obviously Bentley will need replacing in the wide right position.
Some competition on the left side for the complacent Pedersen would not go amiss, as well as some pace in a slow defence. A young goalkeeper to learn from Brad Friedel would also be good signing.
Portsmouth: Glen Little has been a surprise arrival at Fratton Park already, and former Reading team-mate Nicky Shorey could follow if West Ham do not make his dream come true. Shorey would certainly add some quality to the troublesome left side, and a younger centre-half to challenge the ageing limbs of Campbell and Distin is surely a must.
A new partner for Defoe would ensure the goals flow, with Crouch a possibility to challenge Kanu for the target man role. A genuine pacy winger as an alternative to Krancjar's roaming would also give them more depth (Little has been signed with this in mind, but another wouldn't hurt). Still, the squad looks pretty strong and they should do well again.
Manchester City: Mark Hughes could prove to be City's best signing of the summer, and his appointment should mean that they hold onto the likes of Dunne, Richards and Hart. Jo looks set to join which should add goals and flair to the excellent hold up play of Benjani, and the return of Bojinov will be like a new signing anyway.
This is another team that could do with genuine width on the right side, and Bentley is surely an option here unless he moves to a Champions League team. Garrido and Ball did not convince at left-back last season so that could also be a Hughes priority. Ronaldinho looks like a step too far, and Hughes is likely to spend sensibly rather than ostentatiously.
West Ham United: Mid-table, mid-table, mid-table, just what can Alan Curbishley do to get higher than mid-table in the Premier League? West Ham have more potential than Charlton ever did, but there are signs that the early funds of the new owners have dried up as they are unconvinced by their managers spending up to now.
A fit squad will have a big impact, but its hard to see West Ham troubling the top six without serious defensive reinforcements, with a partner for the consistent Upson a big priority. Bellamy and Ashton should form a good front duo, with Zamora and the exciting Sears looking good as back ups. With Solano gone, Dyer permanently injured, and Ljungberg well past his best, wide players are needed to provide the service, as well as a goalscoring central midfielder.
Tottenham Hotspur: Did Spurs really finish as low as 11th last season? I'm afraid so. Juande Ramos steadied the ship and had a trophy win to boot, but everyone knows the defence needs serious work if Spurs are to challenge the top six again. Gomes looks set to end Robinson's Spurs career, and he is a good commanding signing, if a little eccentric.
Modric and Dos Santos will provide the thrills, and Berbatov looks likely to stay and resume his deadly partnership with Keane. Bale should excite if he can stay fit, and Woodgate and King should provide a solid base, but will the back-up be good enough when they are injured?
A dominant holding player will help the leaky defence, and if Spurs can find one then, with the help of the new goalkeeper, they could have a very good season. The trouble is, how many times have we heard that before?
Newcastle United: What a strange season it was for Newcastle, from indifference, to desperation, to thrilling and back again. Nothing in the summer market so far has suggested that next year will be any different. Shifting at the boardroom level suggests all is not well at St James' Park, and the team need serious investment if they are to avoid another bottom half finish.
Virtually a whole new defence is needed, or at least two parts to go with Taylor and Beye, and some better back-ups. A midfielder to control their play, and more thrills in the wide positions would help keep the fans onside. Martins and Owen will provide goals, but a younger target man would ensure that the inconsistent Viduka is not so badly missed when injured or out of form.
Middlesbrough: Afonso Alves whet the teesiders appetite last season, and they will be expecting lots of goals and lots of thrills now he is fit and more settled into the English game. Tuncay and Alliadiere are able deputees in terms of pace and skill, but a target man to give 'Boro a change of play would ensure that goals are more frequent than last term. Mido is still around, and supposedly more fit, but that remains to be seen.
In midfield, a dominant central player is needed to replace Boateng, and more help in the wide positions for the overburdened Downing, assuming he stays , should be priorities. Defensively, a experienced goalkeeper looks essential after the departure of Schwartzer, while a pacy partner for the improving Wheater could make 'Boro into a top half side.
Wigan Athletic: Steve Bruce did a good steady job last term in ensuring Wigan's survival, and he also made them more exciting to watch with Palacios and Valencia providing some real South American flair. Kirkland and Scharner give them a great base to work from, but some subtlety up front to go with the power of King and Heskey would give them more firepower.
A better holding player than the ugly Michael Brown would also help, but Wigan have the basis of a decent little squad. Keeping it together with a couple of additions should be enough to steer clear of the drop again, and maybe even look towards mid-table.
Sunderland: They huffed and puffed last season, and eventually they had enough to blow the spectre of relegation down. Roy Keane did not look like a happy man though, and knows that serious reinforcements of quality are needed to keep the Mackems out of the bottom six next term. The defence needs some major work as none of the back four are worthy of playing in front of the impressive Gordon in the long-term.
There is some quality and fight in the midfield, particularly from Whitehead and Richardson. Kenwynne Jones is a good target man but needs more help. Keane signed alot of partners for him last season, and while Chopra chipped in with a few goals, none of the others looked the part. Although Swede Prica deserves more time. There is talk of £50m to spend, which is all well and good, but Keane needs to spend it more wisely if Sunderland are to avoid another struggle.
Bolton Wanderers: Nobody gave Gary Megson much of a chance last season (including me) but to be fair he did a steady job and kept them going to the last when it looked like relegation was inevitable. Now he has to prove he can build a team of his own, and the building has already begun with Elmander and Muamba, big money buys. Muamba will add some midfield steel, and Elmander some creativity, but more goals are needed badly in this team.
A better left-back than J-lloyd Samuel should be a priority, as Ricardo Gardner is injury prone and defensively weak, despite his attacking flair. Jaaskelainen still provides a good starting point, and Al-Habsi a good back up, but it's attackers that Bolton badly need, and they must find a regular goal-scorer to avoid another scrappy season.
Fulham: The great escapists of last term will be eager to avoid the same histrionics this time round. Roy Hodgson has already been busy, with two new goalkeepers (Schwarzer and Stockdale) and Gera and Teymourian added to bring some real class to an already strong looking midfield. Gera, Davies, Bullard, Murphy and Teymourian will provide plenty of bullets for the strikers, but with Brian McBride back home in the USA they need better guns to do the shooting.
The midfield also looks attack heavy, and a solid defensive player or two should be a priority. A pacy partner for Hangeland would ensure fewer goals conceded, and Fulham need to be less open next season if they are to improve on 17th place.
West Bromwich Albion: Back in the big-time the Baggies need some defensive reinforcements if they are to avoid yet another relegation scrap. Dean Kiely is an able goalkeeper, but will his age catch up with him? They conceded too many goals last season even in winning the Championship title, and need to be stronger this time round. The left-side looks particularly weak with Paul Robinson whole-hearted, but something of a liability and prone to too many rash tackles.
Gera is a loss from the midfield, but Greening, Koren, Brunt, Morrison and Teixeira have enough to create plenty of chances for Phillips, Miller, Bednar, Moore, and Beattie who give them real options in attack. A strong defensive midfield player would help the defence, but Tony Mowbray is an attack minded manager, and I expect them to provide some real thrills next season. Will the gung-ho style pay-off?
Stoke City: Stoke are in a strange position. Promoted on the back of a set piece game reminiscent of Watford, and we all know what happened to them in the Premier League; its just not enough. They will be looking to the Bolton model instead for inspiration, as they have come too far to completely change their style now. Bolton succeeded by signing players of real quality to fit into their old-fashioned way of playing, and it worked big-time.
Stoke need to follow suit to survive, and if they can find some glamour signings to replicate the likes of Okocha, Campo and Djorkaeff, then Stoke could surprise a few. A big squad of mediocre players will not be enough in the Premier League, and Tony Pulis is surely experienced enough to know that, but will he have the freedom to pay big wages?
Hull City: Phil Brown will know all about Bolton, he was their assistant manager in the glory (or should that be gory?) years under Sam Allardyce. His Hull team have displayed a little more style than Bolton ever did though, and they have some real flair in Marney and Hughes. With Frazier Campbell back at Manchester United for the moment though, its hard to think anything other than major re- enforcements being needed to avoid embarrassment.
If they can re-sign Campbell that will be a big plus as the kid is clearly a big threat, and he and Folan formed a nice partnership that would worry most Premier League defences. Myhill is a good goalkeeper, and Dawson a good full-back, but they need more pace at the back and better protection from the midfield. To say they need a new team would be harsh, but they need at least six quality signings to make a positive impact on the division.
So there you have it, do you agree with my assessments? Where do you think your team needs to improve next season? Who are the liabilities that are unsettling your chances? Who would you realistically want to see signed by August 31st?
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