Who Could Improve The Top Eight?

Who could make the best teams in the Premier League better? Do Man United still need a spoiler? Who can improve City? And are Liverpool targeting the wrong man?

Last Updated: 20/07/12 at 09:54 Post Comment

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A couple of notes. All targets are based on a specific area of each team that needs improvement, and are players that could make a significant difference to each side. They are also realistic targets, otherwise we'd just stick Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in every team. Have your own suggestions? Leave them in the comments section. Thanks for listening.

It's a bit difficult to see any significant holes in the Manchester City team. They have probably the best centre-back pairing in the Premier League, a couple of excellent spoilers in midfield, a clutch of terrific strikers (although they might sell a couple of those, in which case Robin van Persie would do very nicely indeed), some fine creative talent and Yaya Toure. A back-up central defender would be grand, and their pursuit of Eden Hazard suggests they are looking for another creative outlet, probably operating from the left, but perhaps the one piece missing from their already splendid jigsaw is a deep-lying, passing midfielder.

While David Pizarro was a decent fit for half a season, but probably not quite at the standard City are looking for, it is that sort of player that could really turn them into not only a winning side, but a brilliant winning side. Sarah Winterburn rather mischievously tried to persuade me that Jack Wilshere would be a good shout (although that might be for next summer), and Andrea Pirlo would be a marvellous addition, if only for the neutral. Luka Modric would also play the role particularly well, as would Ganso (if a little raw), but it's Bastian Schweinsteiger that really fits the bill. He's also combative enough to fit in when Mancini goes defensive, and while he would obviously be extremely expensive, and it would take some persuasion by both club and player to let him go, if there's anyone with that sort of financial clout it is City.
WHO THEY SHOULD BUY: Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Sir Alex Ferguson has a few areas of his squad he could do with plugging. A new left-back to replace/succeed Patrice Evra is required, but they can arguably muddle through for another season without one of those, and a left-footed winger might be handy. However, we return to a drum we have been hammering on like a sugared-up nine-year-old who has been given a new drum kit for his birthday - someone who can tackle in midfield. The ideal would be Daniele de Rossi, but he has Roma in his heart and would simply cost too much even if he was willing. Claudio Marchisio falls into a similar category, but might be slightly easier to pry away, while Sevilla's Gary Medel or Napoli's Walter Gargano could also be options.

However, for an option that we're already familiar with, Cheick Tiote would stiffen up that midfield and then some. One suspects the Newcastle man cannot be stopped with conventional weapons, and the amount of running and tackling he does would allow any of Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick or Shinji Kagawa to wander around and do their thing, knowing their backs would be covered. He'd cost a tidy sum, but it would be worth it.

This feature is based purely on the squads at the time of writing, therefore it relies on the presumption that Robin van Persie will stay, so no further forwards will be required. Therefore, it's an old problem for Arsenal - a true defensive midfielder. We probably all know by now that Alex Song, fond of a walkabout, does not match this description, so they could really do with someone who wins the ball and, to paraphrase Brian Clough, gives it to someone who can play. The obvious candidate to do this, and who matches Arsenal's budget, is already a familiar figure.

Lassana Diarra had a curious spell at Arsenal, playing about 20 minutes before being punted off to Portsmouth back in 2007. Now, he's very much a bit-part player at Real Madrid (and will slip further down the pecking order if they buy Luka Modric), and thus might be available for the sort of price that Arsene Wenger doesn't regard as cheating. Whether he'd want to go back...that's a different matter. They could also do with another right-back, given they are faced with the mildly terrifying prospect of starting the season with Carl Jenkinson, but midfield is a more pressing need.
WHO THEY SHOULD BUY: Lassana Diarra.

The answer to this one is pretty obvious, based on their current squad (obviously if Modric is sold, a replacement will be required). Spurs need a striker (well, they need a couple, really), because at the moment they have only one of them, and Jermain Defoe seems to be a perennial 'nearly man' in these stakes. The obvious candidate is of course Emmanuel Adebayor, and with a fee apparently agreed with Manchester City, it all appears to be lined up. However, there is the question of his wages, which are anything from £175,000 to £250,000 a week, depending on who you believe. The question is whether Spurs suck it up and pay him what he wants, on the basis that an alternative would be just as, if not more expensive. The relatively small transfer fee (thought to be something like £5million) would arguably off-set the wages, especially when one considers that the likes of Fernando Llorente or Falcao would command prices at least four times that.

A compromise might be someone like Robert Lewandowski (though he would cost a few quid), or perhaps Roberto Soldado. Valencia's financial situation is nowhere near as precarious as it used to be, but they are always a club willing to talk when offers come calling. Soldado has scored goals in a roughly similar system to the one Andre Villas-Boas will deploy, and lots of them too - it was more proof of how far ahead of everyone else Spain were in the European Championship that they could afford to leave out a man who bagged 27 goals last season.
WHO THEY SHOULD BUY: Roberto Soldado.

It's a little difficult to put your finger on exactly what sort of player Newcastle will buy, because they don't tend to go for the obvious targets. They clearly will require a new right-back if Danny Simpson goes, but Mathieu Debuchy looks like the obvious candidate there. They could also do with a right winger, given that Gabriel Obertan frankly isn't good enough, Jonas Gutierrez probably is more comfortable on the left and nobody is really sure if Sylvain Marveaux is a) any good and b) can stand up and run around and stuff. Junior Hoilett would've been a good option for that spot, but by the time you read this he may well have signed for QPR.

However, one area they could really do with strengthening is at centre-back. Fabricio Coloccini is obviously excellent, but Steven Taylor is a little too injury prone (he's played 28 games over the past two seasons) to be truly relied upon. FC Twente's Douglas has obviously been mentioned, but if they wanted to invest in youth then Middlesbrough's excellent Aussie Rhys Williams would be a terrific addition. He is comfortable in central defence, at right-back or even in midfield, and watching him in the Championship is like watching a man who knows better things are ahead. He would fit with their 'buy them young' ethos, wouldn't cost a great deal and could be a star in the future. His versatility would also be advantageous, given that they still have a relatively limited budget, so would provide excellent value.

Roberto di Matteo (or whoever the hell is buying players at Chelsea) is building an attacking line to brown the pants of defences all over the land, and it seems they're not done yet. There's talk of them adding a centre-forward, but they have a much more pressing need at right-back. C├ęsar Azpilicueta from Marseille has been mentioned, but the Spaniard is at best raw, and more learned judges of French football than I have gone so far as to call him 'sh*te'. Gregory van der Wiel is constantly linked with Chelsea, while there is also talk that Dani Alves might be on his way from Barcelona, and if it's possible to make a 'statement' by buying a right-back, Alves is that man.

However, a probably slightly more affordable option (although transfer value doesn't seem to be much of a concern for them this summer) is one half of the Polish right-sided battering ram that has helped Borussia Dortmund to a couple of Bundesliga titles. Lukasz Piszczek is quick, approaching the peak of his career (he's just 27) and arguably ready to 'step up' (Dortmund are a terrific side, but success in Europe is more likely with Chelsea), and would add the defensive fortitude combined with attacking potential that Chelsea need.
WHO THEY SHOULD BUY: Lukasz Piszczek.

While earlier I did say this piece is not necessarily about replacing players currently at a club, that is more to do with players who may or may not be sold. In Everton's case, they could do with replacing a man who is already there, on the basis that he frankly isn't much good anymore. Tim Cahill is perhaps a unique player in that he was an excellent midfielder who did little other than score goals, and I use the past tense there deliberately. The problem is that when you stop scoring goals, your usefulness is at best diluted, and since he scored just twice last season, a new attacking midfielder/support forward is needed at Goodison Park.

So who? A number of names have been mentioned as we discussed this quandary, many of them dismissed on the basis of Everton's limited budget. 'Stephen Ireland if he was any good' was one, James McCarthy of Wigan, even someone like Andy King of Leicester. We talked it over for a while. However, one name stood out, which slightly surprised us - Yossi Benayoun. Think about it - he could play in any of the three attacking positions behind Nikica Jelavic, can score the odd goal, wouldn't stop running and although his wages would be reasonably high, would not command much of a transfer fee as Chelsea try to make locker space for their new, shinier baubles. Think about it - not quite as silly as it initially seems.
WHO THEY SHOULD BUY: Yossi Benayoun.

There are specific areas of the Liverpool side that require attention. Another midfielder, for example, or a rapid winger, which obviously explains the apparent interest in Scott Sinclair and Theo Walcott. However, the thing about Liverpool, in their current state, both in terms of football and finances, is that they could do with some adaptable players. Men who cannot just 'do a job' in a number of positions, but excel in them. This explains the interest in Clint Dempsey, who can play on either wing, in 'the hole' and at a push up front.

However, I maintain Rodgers has the wrong Fulham man. In his two years at Fulham, Moussa Dembele has shown that he can do well either in a traditional 'withdrawn' midfield role, as a 'number ten' and even a genuine forward. He would seem ideal to slot into Rodgers favoured system as the more advanced midfielder, in front of probably Lucas and Steven Gerrard, given that he has a combination of a lightness of touch and a range of passing that one doesn't find very often. He is younger and more technical than Dempsey, and the one concern would be that he doesn't (or at least not yet) score enough goals to be quite as effective as Gylfi Sigurdsson might have been.
WHO THEY SHOULD BUY: Moussa Dembele.

Nick Miller - enjoy him on Twitter. You really should

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m pretty sure van Gaal has created his own dialect.

LVG: Herrera better at No.10


hy do ye insist on making out Spurs are a bigger club than Everton? Blatant London bias here

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