10) Burnley need some back-ups
Only one club used fewer players than Burnley in the Premier League last season. While the World Cup hardly decimated Sean Dyche’s squad for preseason, starting competitive football in July might. Of the 23 players used last season in the league, 14 are aged 28 or over.
If Burnley progress to the group stage of the Europa League, they will play at least 31 first-team matches before Christmas, and that’s assuming they exit at the first stage of the EFL Cup. They only played 41 matches in the whole of last season. That’s a whole lot of extra minutes for ageing legs.
So far, Burnley have not made a first-team signing. Dyche is all about continuity to harness morale, but surely he needs additions if Burnley are not be half-knackered by November?
9) Southampton need a centre forward
Southampton scored 37 league goals last season, more than only three clubs who survived relegation. So far this summer, they have sold player who scored 22% of those goals and are yet to buy a striker.
Charlie Austin will try hard and Shane Long and Manolo Gabbiadini will do the same, but between them they scored 14 times in 3,682 Premier League minutes last season. Given that Long is now 31 and Austin 29, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that Mark Hughes badly needs a striker.
Danny Ings would make the most sense. Liverpool want £20m, but Ings was excellent before his injuries and spent time in Southampton’s academy as a schoolboy. But if that deal does look hard to pull off, Hughes needs alternatives. Mohamed Elyounoussi and Stuart Armstrong are creators, not finishers.
8) Everton need another goalscorer
Last season, Everton had a glut of No. 10s and very few strikers. Now Wayne Rooney and Davy Klaassen have gone, and Everton have a glut of wide forwards and very few strikers. Ademola Lookman, Theo Walcott, Richarlison, Yannick Bolasie; those four players cost the club £100m over the last two years.
Cenk Tosun can reasonably be expected to hit the ground running after a full preseason, but there are questions about his ability to lead the line for a club pushing for the top six. Arsenal are the current sixth favourites, and just look at their centre forward options.
Behind Tosun in the queue are Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Nikola Vlasic and Oumar Niasse, the Teflon Senegalese striker who has somehow been at Goodison for two-and-a-half years. None are fit for purpose if Tosun gets injured. Marco Silva should be after another marquee signing.
7) Leicester need to keep Maguire
Leicester are not a club that can hope to keep hold of every star player forever, but those clubs beneath the financial elite must manage their sales: Buy low, sell high and don’t let them all go at once. Having sold Riyad Mahrez for £60m, Claude Puel made peace with that blow because the player was desperate to leave and Leicester had time to reinvest.
But Harry Maguire is different. The argument for selling a player at his absolute maximum can be persuasive, but not when Leicester would have very little time to source a replacement and would be uncomfortable buyers in a seller’s market.
Selling your best player need not be a disaster, but selling your best two – or at least most valuable assets – might be. Leicester must stay strong and listen to their manager. Early August is not the time for weakening your team.
6) Crystal Palace need squad depth
Yohan Cabaye – 31 league appearances; Ruben Loftus-Cheek – 24 league appearances; Timothy Fosu-Mensah – 21 league appearances; Bakary Sako – 16 league appearances; Lee Chung-Yong – seven league appearances; Damien Delaney – two league appearances. They may not all have been first-team staples, but all have left Selhurst Park this summer. Crystal Palace’s squad was already thin.
As it stands, Palace have 16 outfielders who started more than one league game last season at the club. And that includes Scott Dann, likely to miss the start of the season through injury, and Jason Puncheon, just returning after eight months out. Suddenly there’s no margin for more absentees to fill a matchday squad.
Roy Hodgson has spoken at length about the limitations on his transfer budgets, with loans and bargains likely to be the order of the day if Wilfried Zaha does indeed stay. Everyone just needs two or or three new faces to provide a lift.
5) Newcastle need two strikers
On May 10, 2017, Mike Ashley issued a statement published on the club’s official website. “I’ve confirmed to Rafa and Lee that they can have every last penny that the club generates through promotion, player sales and other means in order to build for next season,” Ashley said.
In the 14 months since that statement, Newcastle have made a profit of £12m on player sales, including Aleksandar Mitrovic leaving for Fulham. Forget the “promotion” and “other means”, Benitez hasn’t even been able to use the “player sales” money.
Things will soon come to a head. If Yoshinori Muto can compete with Ayoze Perez for the second striker role and Jacob Murphy, Christian Atsu, Kenedy and Matt Ritchie push for two places on the wings, Newcastle desperately need strikers. So far, the only options are Dwight Gayle and Joselu. This is an embarrassment.
Salomon Rondon is one likely candidate, but even then his finishing last season was woeful and he was relegated to the Championship. Is Ashley really prepared to take such a risk with the club’s Premier League status and manager’s morale? Of course he bloody is.
4) Tottenham need a central midfielder
Harry Winks spent much of last season battling injury, Victor Wanyama missed the last four months of the season with a crocked knee and has suffered the same injury and Mousa Dembele eyed a move away from the Premier League because he is unable to cope with the rigours of a full season. For all the talk of Jack Grealish arriving, that leaves Eric Dier as the only fully-fit holding midfielder.
Pochettino wants reinforcements across the pitch, but another leader in the centre of midfield should be the biggest priority. Lucas Moura can be the extra forward, Erik Lamela the extra attacking midfielder and Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld staying put eases any defensive headaches. But Tottenham’s manager must stress to Daniel Levy what might happen if a midfield controller is not signed. A successful season might depend on it, if Wanyama’s injury is as bad as feared.
3) Liverpool need to trim the fat
It’s as easy as this: pick an 18-man Liverpool squad for the first league game of the season. Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Robertson, Lovren, Van Dijk, Henderson, Fabinho, Keita, Mane, Salah, Firmino, Mignolet, Klavan, Gomez, Milner, Wijnaldum, Shaqiri, Sturridge.
And then list the players who fail to make that squad: Karius, Matip, Moreno, Randall, Chirivella, Grujic, Markovic, Ojo, Ings, Origi, Solanke. That’s 11, plus a clutch of kids including Curtis Jones, Ben Woodburn and Rhian Brewster.
Klopp knows that he needs squad depth in order to compete on four fronts, but he is also aware of the dangers of a bloated squad. Liverpool need to shift at least five on permanent or loan deals before the start of the season. The club may have to swallow pride on some of their asking prices.
2) Chelsea need attacking players
Maurizio Sarri has still only signed one player as Chelsea manager, for all the rumours. But while he is incredibly well-stocked in defence and central midfield, and will not sell Thibaut Courtois until a replacement is lined up, he really could do with adding some sparkle to his attack.
Right now Chelsea look one-dimensional, an attack that relies upon Eden Hazard to create the magic and even then is regularly let down by the conversion rates of the strikers. Given that Hazard himself clearly fancies getting out of Dodge, that’s a little bleak for a club that must break back into the top four.
With Willian reportedly wanted by Real Madrid and Barcelona and Pedro now 31, selling the Brazilian would give Sarri the chance to spend big and freshen up Chelsea’s final third to reduce the onus on Hazard to do it all himself. But even if Willian stays, Chelsea need at least one attacking midfielder and a striker if Sarri doesn’t fancy Alvaro Morata. And there’s only ten days left.
1) Manchester United need to get their manager onside
You can see Ed Woodward’s point, if reports that he doesn’t intend to sign any more big-money players until Jose Mourinho can move some on are to be believed. A club stockpiling unwanted players is the quickest way to go stale. If a new central defender arrives, Manchester United will have six players for two central defensive roles. It was Mourinho himself who said the best squad only has two options for each position.
The problem for Woodward is that by giving Mourinho the bumper new contract, he handed the manager greater power. There’s little point kowtowing to Mourinho’s demands in one area and then suddenly getting stubborn in another. That only results in an unhappy manager, and if there’s a manager less prepared to cover up his disillusionment and play the PR game then we haven’t met him yet.
Fail to appease Mourinho over the next ten days, and this story has a predictable ending. Mourinho will continue to lambast all those around him until the team’s performances are seriously affected by his mood. Woodward and Manchester United must now hold peace talks to stave off a civil war.