Top ten Premier League problems to solve

Date published: Tuesday 28th June 2016 8:07

10) West Brom: Younger players
Of the 18 players to start five or more league games for West Brom last season, only Saido Berahino is aged 25 or under. He is the player most likely to leave the Hawthorns this summer. In April, Tony Pulis started a teenager in a league game for the first time since being appointed by Stoke in 2006. We know Pulis has a slight footballing OAP obsession, but this is getting a bit silly.

What West Brom need is to rid the club of the stagnation that clung to it like a bad smell during much of last season. Ideally that would be achieved by persuading Pulis not to play with seven central defenders, but let’s be realistic. Injecting a bit of youth into the squad is a more likely strategy.

Possible options: Jordon Ibe, Jordan Graham, Robbie Brady.


9) Everton: A new goalkeeper
Ronald Koeman has plenty on his Everton to-do list, much of which involves desperately trying to bolt the door to stop the club’s best players leaving. Koeman would quite like a winger, but the presence of Kevin Mirallas, Gerard Deulofeu and Aaron Lennon make the goalkeeping need far greater. Tim Howard was booed last season and has left for Colorado Rapids, leaving Joel Robles as the only first-team goalkeeper. That simply will not do.

Possible options: Fraser Forster, Tim Krul, Salvatore Sirigu.


8) West Ham: A reliable goalscorer
Slaven Bilic’s team were a breath of fresh East London air last season, but the most promising aspect of their campaign is that, with a reliable goalscorer, it could actually have been much better. No West Ham player reached double figures in the league, with Dimitri Payet, Michail Antonio and the balsa wood legs of Andy Carroll the three top scorers.

If Bilic chooses to sell one or both of Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia, pockets will be packed full of transfer budget cash. Bids for Alexandre Lacazette and Michy Batshuayi have already been rejected, and West Ham should be wary of paying silly money for either when both may see the club as a stepping stone.

Possible options: Sofiane Boufal, Vincent Jansson, Arkadiusz Milik.


7) Southampton: Replacements
Our transfer guide on Southampton three weeks ago read as follows: ‘Saints will be keen to build on their existing squad as opposed to selling their most important individuals. Keep four or more of Koeman, Fraser Forster, Virgil van Dijk, Victor Wanyama and Sadio Mane, and the foundations of a successful summer will be laid at St Mary’s.’

Ah. Sorry about that. Three of those five have already left, and now Claude Puel (probably) will have to rebuild a squad now missing two of their most important players last season, including their joint-top league goalscorer. They have Nathan Redmond, but that must only be the start. Can they repeat the trick yet again?

Possible options: Christian Benteke, Maxime Gonalons, Wissam Ben Yedder.


6) Chelsea: Central midfielder
There is no great secret to writing Chelsea transfer rumours this summer. Simply pick a player in the current Italian squad that Antonio Conte picked, and then write that Conte rates Player X and believes he could be useful at Stamford Bridge.

In all seriousness, given that Chelsea need a midfielder more than anything else Conte will probably look outside his Italy squad. The departure of Ramires left a gap, and Nemanja Matic has been angling for a move ever since the season ended. Chelsea need at least one all-action player, and potentially another defensive midfielder.

Possible options: Radja Nainggolan, N’Golo Kante, Jorginho.


5) Manchester United: A ‘wow’ central defender?
It seems quite an odd thing to write when Manchester United have already paid their fifth highest ever transfer fee for a central defender in this window, but the suspicion is that Jose Mourinho would like a central defender on whom he can hang his hat. Eric Bailly is surely one for the future and none of Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo or Phil Jones are reliable starters in that position for a myriad of reasons.

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the way, there is actually very urgent surgery needed on United’s squad, but a central defender to afford Bailly time to settle and Chris Smalling some much-needed support/competition would be greatly welcomed. It might even allow Blind to join the collection of central midfielders fighting for two positions.

Possible options: John Stones, Raphael Varane, Leonardo Bonucci.


4) Liverpool: A new centre-back
A player with pace who is comfortable playing out wide was probably Jurgen Klopp’s June priority, and the arrival of Sadio Mane solves that issue at an admittedly expensive price. However, with the confirmed departure of Kolo Toure and probable sale of Martin Skrtel, Liverpool are without 36 league appearances from last season. Joel Matip has already arrived, but with uncertainty over Mamadou Sakho’s ban still hanging over the club, another central defender will be needed.

Possible options: Neven Subotic, Virgil van Dijk, Nicolas Lombaerts.


3) Arsenal: A striker
There are two real options: Either Arsene Wenger has never fully been convinced by Olivier Giroud, or his is no longer fully convinced by Giroud. His comments during the European Championship about the difficulty of playing with slow strikers rings oh so true.

Even if the answer in fact lies somewhere in between those two options, the conclusion is the same: If Arsenal are going to harbour title hopes and atone for the missed opportunity of last season, Wenger needs a better centre forward. The question is whether he goes for make-do option (Jamie Vardy-type) or splashes out (Romelu Lukaku, Gonzalo Higuain). We fear the first option.

Possible options: Romelu Lukaku, Gonzalo Higuain, Alexandre Lacazette.


2) Tottenham: A back-up striker
Of the top 20 players with the most minutes in the Premier League last season, only two were strikers. Troy Deeney played 3,293 minutes, and Harry Kane played 3,370. The difference between the two is that Kane played another 658 minutes in other competitions, almost 700 minutes for his country and then went off the European Championship. Kane has performed poorly in France, but the poor sod must be shattered.

Tottenham’s need for a back-up striker is greater than almost any club’s top priority. Heung Son Min is not a central forward, and Clinton N’Jie will require time to settle after a serious knee injury. Make it happen, Daniel Levy.

Possible options: Saido Berahino, Michy Batshuayi, Vincent Jansson.


1) Manchester City: Full-backs
There is an awful lot of work for Pep Guardiola to do to get this Manchester City squad ready to be success and home and abroad rather than either/or. The signing of Ilkay Gundogan helps to solve the central midfield problem, and the suspicion is that Leroy Sane will be the long-term replacement for Jesus ‘sprint, dribble, bad cross’ Navas.

However, it’s at full-back that City look most desperate. Pablo Zabaleta’s form has dropped off a cliff in the last 18 months, while neither of Aleksandar Kolarov or Gael Clichy have ever screamed elite and Bacary Sagna is 33. Having brought through David Alaba and Juan Bernat at Bayern, you can’t quite see him sticking with his current options.

Possible options: Juan Bernat, Ricardo Rodriguez, Joshua Kimmich.
Daniel Storey

More Related Articles