A central midfielder
Lucas Torreira started well but has tailed off a little, Matteo Guendouzi started well but has tailed off a little more, Granit Xhaka is the most frustrating midfielder in the Premier League bar none, and Aaron Ramsey has escaped. Oh, and we almost forgot about Mohamed Elneny – which says all you need to know there.
Arsenal won’t get anywhere until they have a reliable passing central midfielder. Adrien Rabiot might just be the answer, if they can get him.
A central defender
Arsenal fans will scream until they’re sick if they have to watch Shkodran Mustafi make any more calamitous mistakes, only to be staunchly defended by Unai Emery. The Gunners have the quantity (Mustafi, Koscielny, Sokratis, Mavropanos, Holding) but there are fitness doubts about two of them and general doubts about the rest.
Clearing out the deadwood
If Emery is really only going to have a £40m transfer budget plus any cash raised from player sales, he’s going to have to get busy rolling his fringe players in glitter. Potential candidates for a summer exit include Danny Welbeck, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Calum Chambers, Xhaka, Mustafi, Elneny and Lichtsteiner. But would they even get £60m for the lot?
Only losing one
Bournemouth can ask Southampton about the dangers of developing players only to see them depart for clubs higher up the Premier League, but it should be a sign of strength rather than weakness. One of the two keys to success is losing only one of your crown jewels each summer. If Ryan Fraser is to be sold for big money then so be it, but keep Callum Wilson and David Brooks sweet.
More Football League shopping
The other key is intelligently reinvesting part of your proceeds on scouted transfer targets who you believe have the potential to be as valuable as the star player you’ve just sold (and this is where Southampton eventually went wrong). Rather than taking cast-offs from the big clubs or looking abroad, Bournemouth should make themselves a natural stepping stone for the best Football League talent.
A central midfielder
Lewis Cook may well come back stronger after a difficult 2018/19, but 35 Premier League starts between Andrew Surman and Dan Gosling just isn’t good enough for a team with top-half ambitions. Both have been excellent servants and deputised superbly when called upon, but must be made fringe squad players next season.
Assessing the summer 2018 crop
Brighton signed 13 players on permanent deals last summer; only one of those (Martin Montoya) has started more than half of their league games. Chris Hughton’s replacement needs to separate the wheat from the chaff before bringing in more players this summer. Some must kick on in their second seasons.
Glenn Murray’s replacement
Murray has been an extraordinary success in the top flight, scoring 24 Premier League goals since the beginning of last season. But he turns 36 in September and has spent the last months of 2018/19 staggering around the final third. Neither Florin Andone nor Jurgen Locadia replicate his role, and Percy Tau is still very raw, so someone else is going to have to. And strikers aren’t easy to find.
Finding more creativity
Pascal Gross was superb in his debut season, but his form has tailed off in 2018/19. That reflects an unfair pressure upon the German to create everything in this Brighton team, with neither Anthony Knockaert nor Ali Jahanbakhsh contributing enough. Since the start of last season, Gross has created 134 chances in the Premier League. Second on the list for Brighton has 65, and that just won’t do.
Sorting the goalkeeper question
Burnley are not a club run on big budgets or with big names, so it seems a little unnecessary to have three England international goalkeepers. Joe Hart was the last in and so deserves to be first out, particularly having lost his starting spot. But Nick Pope is hardly likely to be happy as a No.2 next season, so there’s a fair chance Burnley sell two goalkeepers and buy one.
Reducing the average age
Fifteen players have started 10 or more league games for Burnley this season. This is a small squad in which keeping players fit and firing is of paramount importance. But nine of those 15 are aged between 29 and 33, and that’s clearly not tenable. When you consider the positive impact made by Dwight McNeil in 2019, it has to be worth trying to inject more youth.
“There’s a bit of a myth that you pre-suppose every European player is better than every English player,” said Dyche last week. “Our club don’t want to take a gamble, so they don’t want to sign a £15 million French player who’s never played in the Premier League, who’s 21, and then that ends up being a £4 million French player going back the other way.” Fair enough, but it’s tough to find good British players on the cheap as our youth players improve in quality. Are Dyche and Burnley going to have to search further afield?
Appealing the transfer ban
Chelsea failing to get their ban overturned by FIFA’s Appeal Committee was no surprise, but they will now head to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and lodge an appeal there. In all likelihood, that should delay their ban and thus allow them to conduct transfer business this summer. Fail to delay the ban, and they really are in trouble.
Sorting the Hazard situation
Eden Hazard has been less and less subtle with his suggestions that he quite fancies a move to Real Madrid, and you absolutely cannot blame him. He has carried Chelsea for half a decade and Madrid are crying out for a new hero. But Chelsea must dig in and extract the highest possible fee if they’re to sell, and crucially not wait until early August, thus leaving them 10 days to plan for the next two years. The transfer ban hangs over them.
Sorting the Hudson-Odoi situation
Nobody wants a young player to get injured; particularly not one with Hudson-Odoi’s potential. But his ligament problems do make a move to Bayern Munich far less likely than previously thought. If Chelsea can spend the summer sweet-talking Hudson-Odoi into signing a new contract, he can be the star of a new Chelsea. Right now, the relationship needs work.
Keeping Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Zaha didn’t hold back when admitting his ambitions to play Champions League football and, like Hazard, he can hardly be castigated. His ability merits Europe’s biggest stage, and Crystal Palace are never going to make it. The best result for them would be to sell Zaha for huge money and reinvest across their squad. That sale will allow them to rebuff all offers for Wan-Bissaka, who could genuinely be worth £70 million this time next year.
Christian Benteke has scored so infrequently over the last three years that we have to assume he is permanently broken, while Michy Batshuayi’s loan move hasn’t worked out well enough to provoke an expensive permanent move. Another answer might be Birmingham City striker Che Adams, prolific this season and available for around £15 million.
A wide player
If Zaha is indeed going to be sold, Palace desperately need some more creativity. Andros Townsend is passable but no longer enthralling, while on the left neither Jeffrey Schlupp nor Max Meyer have quite performed as Roy Hodgson might have hoped. Any new centre-forward will rely upon service. Without Zaha, that will be a huge problem – particularly at Selhurst Park when Palace cannot play as easily on the counter.
It’s incredibly unfair on Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who has done absolutely nothing wrong and fully deserves his current starting spot over Cenk Tosun and Theo Walcott. But you do suspect that Marco Silva’s vision for breaking into the top six doesn’t rely upon a 20-goal centre forward. Everton have never replaced Romelu Lukaku. Calvert-Lewin will become the fill-in option, and shouldn’t be deflated by that.
Letting the old guard leave
One of the most impressive things about Silva’s reign is that he has transformed Everton from the oldest Premier League team under Sam Allardyce into one of the youngest in the space of 12 months. Clearly Everton’s investment in the transfer market has made that possible, but that only reinforces the need to move on those who now look out of place. That means Walcott, Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka.
Making decisions on the loanees
Kurt Zouma and Andre Gomes have slotted so neatly into Everton’s first team that it’s easy to forget both will leave Goodison this summer. But it need only be a temporary loss. If Barcelona were happy to let Gomes go for an entire campaign they would presumably be open to selling him permanently, while Zouma must be delighted to have found regular football in the Premier League’s top half. As long as the asking prices aren’t silly, get it done.
ON THE NEXT PAGE… The champions, the challengers, and Manchester United