With the 2019/20 season finally over (except for those teas still competing in Europe) thoughts can turn to preparing for the upcoming 2020/21 Premier League season, which is set to start 12ᵗʰ September. Unfortunately for Norwich, Bournemouth and Watford, they will be looking to regroup in the Championship, while for the other 17 teams it is time to strengthen for another year of fighting for the title/Europe or avoiding relegation.
Now this offseason is interesting, as the delayed finish following the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that many teams were already busy in the transfer market before the season was even over, most notably Chelsea, who already had a couple of big names announced before their final game.
But what is the biggest need for each team? Well I have combined with 2 of my close friends and occasional contributors who are football fans, Chris (Spurs) and Ed (Arsenal) and we have picked what we believe to be the biggest offseason need for each of the 17 teams remaining in the league. Let us know what you think of our picks!
Villa stayed up by the narrowest of margins this season and will surely be scrapping near the bottom again next season, so this summer will be key for them.
Our initial thoughts went towards a keeper after a series of blunders from Ørjan Nyland, but Tom Heaton’s return from injury will sort this for them. Instead, the need became obvious: find a way to hold onto Jack Grealish. Despite the millions of pounds Villa spent on new players this season, Grealish was by far the star, scoring more goals than any of his strikers and being a key feature of the attack. It’s just a matter of time until he leaves for a bigger club and Villa should be glad they have kept hold of him as long as they have, but with such a short offseason they have little time to find the players to sufficiently replace him, so will be hoping to get another season from their talisman.
West Ham were saved from relegation by having more goals than the team around them It looks like they were improving up front, so where they need help is in the defence. Though it may not be as old as in some recent years, there is still a dearth in experience and quality at the back that will need sorting if they want to rise up the table.
Now where West Ham go here depends very much on the money they are willing to spend. There is the potential that if they were willing to spend the money, they could bring in one of Manchester United’s out of favour defenders – Marcus Rojo, Chris Smalling or Phil Jones – which would give them that high quality defensive experience. However I can see them looking for a cheaper option, in which case they could look to raid relegated Norwich, who have a number of younger defenders fresh off a season of Premier League football who may be available at a cut price as the canaries prepare for Championship football.
Brighton & Hove Albion
It’s pretty clear where Brighton need to strengthen: up front. With just 39 goals in 38 games, they had one of the worst scoring records in the league – only 4 teams had worse, 2 of whom were relegated – and another season like that will probably prove costly. Neal Maupay finished with 10 Premier League goals, but nobody else managed more than 5 league goals, while none of the other strikers Aaron Connolly (3 in 24 games), Alireza Jahanbakhsh (2 in 10 games) and Glenn Murray (1 in 23 games). With Adam Lallana incoming, he deserves better quality getting on the end of his crosses.
The good news for Brighton is that there should be players available. Bournemouth need to offload Callum Wilson as they cannot afford to keep him in the Championship, while Norwich’s Teemu Pukki may also be available following relegation.
So the usual call here has been to say find a way to keep hold of Wilfried Zaha, but he’s coming off his lowest scoring season since 2014/15 and does not look as irreplaceable as he once did. Instead, we’ve gone for the striker, as Palace’s 31 goals was better than only Norwich. Roy Hodgson does a great job of organising a defence that is better than the sum of its parts, and if they can bring in someone to provide 10-15 goals a season then they could find themselves in the top half of the table.
While Wilson and Pukki would also be good fits at Crystal Palace, I feel that Palace may find Josh King a better fit for the squad as he is more mobile, to go with that current attacking unit, while they could also benefit from Michy Batshuayi, who scored 5 goals in 11 games for Palace while on loan a few seasons back, or trying to get Divock Origi on a season-long loan. Even Watford’s Andre Gray is worth a look, to see if a change of scenery can improve his fortunes, but that seems like another risk akin to Christian Benteke.
Newcastle are that special case where their biggest offseason need is nothing to do with the players, or even the manager: Mike Ashley needs to go!
What was once a proud club has been run down into the ground on his watch and the sooner he has gone, the sooner the team and its fans can begin to heal. It says it all that Newcastle fans were willing to get behind a Saudi-backed bid full of controversy due to human rights issues.
Dear Mike Ashley, kindly f*** off. Sincerely, Football fans
Remember when Everton were consistently one of the best teams in the league once you got past the big 6? Well Carlo Ancelotti’s men are a long way off that at the moment. While it feels like they need an upgrade at most positions, and I was very close to saying a more trustworthy keeper, what we decided was key for them is getting a striker who will contribute 20+ goals a season.
Their top scorers this season were Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who both finished with 15 goals in all competitions. However, I don’t feel that Calvert-Lewin is reliable enough to be a lead striker for a team who wants to play in Europe, while Richarlison is a winger as opposed to an out-and-out striker. With Timo Werner arriving at Stamford Bridge, Ancelotti could do much worse than checking the availability of Giroud, who will score goals if given a chance to regularly lead the line. Alternatively, they could take a risk by putting in an offer for Rangers’ star striker Alfredo Morelos and see if they can beat Lille to the Colombian’s signature.
Well first things first, Southampton need to find a way to bottle whatever it was that saw their performances drastically improve halfway through the season. On a more serious note, the Saints need to find someone to back up Danny Ings. The former Liverpool striker finished with 22 league goals – almost half of the team’s tally – while the next nearest was Stuart Armstrong with 5 goals.
Judging by the final months, Ché Adams will be more of a factor next year, but they still need to find another striker to supply 10-15 goals a season and provide a legitimate option to lead the line should Ings be unavailable. With the quality of service he would receive, it could be just the spot for Callum Wilson to push himself back towards international contention, as could Norwich’s Teemu Pukki.
Burnley were a difficult team to decide on their biggest need. Obviously a bit more strength in midfield and defence would never go amiss, but we couldn’t help feel that they were in a strong position to keep themselves around mid-table through their chemistry and the top work of manager Sean Dyche.
Finally though, we realised that the key need wasn’t bringing someone in, but instead holding onto Nick Pope. Despite having a much cheaper defence in front of him, Pope finished 2ⁿᵈ to Ederson on clean sheets (15 compared to 16), yet he made considerably more saves, making this a much more impressive feat. If there is any justice in the world, the battle for the England starting spot would currently be between him and Dean Henderson.
With this in mind, he would be an attractive option for a number of teams who look like they may be willing to make a change between the posts. With Chelsea’s increased focus on the young English talent this season, Nick Pope would not look out of place at all in the number 1 shirt at Stamford Bridge, while he also looks more reliable than Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris and Everton’s Jordan Pickford. The other season, this wouldn’t have been the end of the world with Joe Hart and Tom Heaton also on the books, but they are long gone now and therefore they need to do everything they can to keep hold of the 28-year-old.
The darlings of the season did a fantastic job of keeping the goals conceded down, but it was the goals scored that saw them drop out of contention for Europe. While it is easy to blame the strikers here, I can’t help think as well that they would benefit from improved attacking options to supply them and chip in with goals.
And what a summer this could be for them to fill this need. Ryan Fraser is a free agent and Gerard Deulofeu may be available following Watford’s relegation. But beyond that, there may be eve better options. Ross Barkley has been announced by Chelsea as for sale, Juan Mata and Xherdan Shaqiri found their appearances limited at Manchester United and Liverpool respectively. And the there’s Gylfi Sigurðsson, who could be available following a down season at Everton. If Sheffield can get the money together to pick up one or two of these players, they will be feeling much more confident about their chances of scoring next season.
How the mighty have fallen. The Gunners can always be relied upon to score goals (though even there they struggled to match their rivals) but they are so soft at the back it costs them.
While a much-publicised move for Willian – or even Wilfried Zaha – would help up front, it is in their own half of the field that they need to strengthening with some leaders in midfield and defence. Guendouzi is a liability and while Xhaka has come through a season of ups and downs, he needs some help securing the midfield, while the centreback positions see a conveyor belt of players brought in who prove to be too skittish to cure the team’s woes at the back.
Atlético Madrid’s Thomas Partey is a known target of the Gunners, while Chelsea have also made N’Golo Kanté available -though whether they’d sell to a local rival is another matter. At the back, Cédric Soares will be almost like a new signing after spending most of the season out injured. Eric Garcia is supposedly available for £30 million from Manchester City after turning down a contract extension, but if Arsenal wanted a more experienced option, they could do much worse than to look at James Tarkowski of Burnley.
Wolves’ first first European campaign since 1980–81 took them to within minutes of extra time in the quarterfinals and they were unlucky to not make it into the Europa League again next season due to Arsenal finishing below them but winning the FA Cup.
Wolves have a great shot to keep pushing for European qualification, but they need to get more depth down the centre of the team. Their season ended with 7 players amassing 50+ appearances, and the majority of those players were along the spine of the team: centrebacks, midfielders and central striker Raúl Jiménez. That’s not something that can continue long-term, especially with a shorter offseason, and for that reason Nuno Espírito Santo needs to find some players that can come in to help take some of the weight off these players. Fabian Delph would add an experienced central midfield option to cover for Rúben Neves and João Moutinho, while Chris Smalling could provide European experience, while Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen are both available this summer and would be great acquisitions for teams hoping to regularly fight for European qualification.
So our first pick here was going to be a holding midfielder, but the signing of Pierre-Emile Højbjerg means that they will probably not be looking for further options here. Instead, we have gone in a different direction, and that is fullback.
Aurier is inconsistent and more of a cult figure than a superstar, and may not even be at the club next season. Meanwhile, Kyle Walker-Peters supposedly is set to sign for Southampton which leaves Spurs with no options at right back. Danny Rose’s loan spell at Newcastle suggests his time at Spurs is limited, leaving Ben Davies as first choice and Ryan Sessegnon as his backup. Mourinho has said he sees Sessegnon as more of a winger than a left back, leaving Spurs very short in key positions.
Right now, Tottenham have to be making an effort to sign Norwich right back Max Aarons, who was linked with Bayern Munich in recent weeks. At just 20-years old, Aarons is a great talent who will just get better over the coming years in the right environment. They are being heavily linked with Lille’s Turkish international Mehmet Zeki Çelik, who would provide a slightly more experienced option but not one with experience of the English leagues. Failing that, free agent Nathaniel Clyne would be a great addition if he could prove his fitness, or they could contact Hertha BSC about Belgium international Dedryck Boyata. Meanwhile at left back, Marcos Alonso is available this summer from Chelsea and Ben Chilwell would be an upgrade if he felt that Spurs were a better option in the long-term than Leicester
So near yet so far for the Foxes, who could not quite hold on to a top 4 spot. While Vardy’s age remains a worry for me, he continues to lay to a high level and has not appeared to lose much pace yet, while there is also more attacking support available for him now than in many previous seasons. As a result, while an extra attacking threat and a back-up striker in case Vardy was injured would never go amiss, we have instead looked at the back 4.
Ben Chilwell is a high quality left back and they need to try hard to keep hold of him or find a quality replacement like Marcos Alonso or Danny Rose, while bringing in Andreas Christensen or Kurt Zouma would help the team get deeper and younger at centreback as Jonny Evans and Wes Morgan are both the wrong side of 30. Alternatively, John Stones or Dejan Lovren could see a move to a smaller team pushing for Europe as a chance for redemption after falling out of favour at Manchester City and Liverpool respectively.
The Blues have recruited well up front to make up for the loss of Eden Hazard, while the rise of Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham – and improved trust in Olivier Giroud – have left them with plenty of attacking options. Instead I have looked at leadership in their own box.
Kepa fell out of favour and is available for transfer and Willy Caballero is a good back-up but not someone you want to rely on all season, so Chelsea will want a keeper to inspire confidence and start taking command of the defence. While it would not surprise me to see the enquire as to the availability of either David de Gea, Sergio Romero or Dean Henderson from Manchester United, I think that Nick Pope would be a great option for them, while a centreback like James Tarkowski could create a solid pairing alongside Antonio Rüdiger. Stones and Nicolás Otamendi would provide experienced options if either of them could be picked up from Manchester City, but both would probably come with price tags too high to justify given the mistakes they have made.
The second half of the Premiership season showed just how strong United’s ideal XI is, however matches like their laboured win over LASK highlighted their need to improve the overall depth of the squad. With Odion Ighalo’s loan lasting until the end of next season, they will be in a great place up front if they can seal Jadon Sancho’s signature, while if United choose to keep hold of Dean Henderson, I can imagine they will look to offload David de Gea to free up some funds. Also leaving will probably be Chris Smalling, who spent the last season out on loan and Jesse Lingard, who is nowhere near productive enough for a team pushing for top domestic titles.
In their place, United need to bring in players to build some depth through the squad. Another attacking midfielder to relieve some of the pressure on Bruno Fernandes, who has revolutionised the team since his arrival – Jack Grealish would be an ideal option for them. Another reliable centreback like free agent Jan Vertonghen would make the team much more solid at the back, while some cover at fullback, especially on the right, would help give the team options.
City’s big area of focus is one that they failed to deal with last summer: centreback. Aymeric Laporte is a fantastic player, but Vincent Kompany was never replaced and Fernandinho is wasted at that level. Nathan Aké could be a great signing for them but feels overpriced at £41 million. Beyond this, Eric García is for sale after deciding not to extend his contract beyond next season (continuing a trend of young talent leaving), while nether John Stones nor Nicolás Otamendi seem fully trusted by Guardiola.
Jan Vertonghen would be a great option for them as he is comfortable on the ball while also reliable and experienced in defence. Similarly, with money never being an issue for City, who can sign whoever they want an get away with breaking Financial Fair Play, don’t be surprised to see them look to some of the smaller teams pushing for Europe, with James Tarkowski and Çağlar Söyüncü both looking solid options that could probably be prised away from their clubs for ridiculous prices.
How do you improve the Champions? They don’t need much and for that reason, it is more a matter of keeping hold of the big names if clubs like Barca or Real Madrid come calling, while building for long-term success by replacing some of the more expensive players who don’t feature much in order to promote the youth coming through.
This has already began with Adam Lallana leaving, while Nathaniel Clyne is a free agent. Xherdan Shaqiri made only 11 appearances in all competitions, while it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see one of Dejan Lovren or Joël Matip considered surplus to requirements.