It’s transfer season and there’s speculatin’ to be done.
For the sake of attention spans, relevance and financial limitations, the list has been limited to the top six finishers of last season. These are the sides capable of splashing the cash and luring the talent. The likes of Southampton and West Ham will have money to spend too, but they’re far more likely to buy some bloke you’ve never heard of from Serbia or Holland or Ghana and then turn him into a great player than they are to be outbidding Juventus or Barcelona for the Next Big Thing. Also out of personal Wildcard belief, market values and price tags will be mostly ignored, since dollars and euros are not a valid way of judging a player. Goals and assists work much better. Contracts are worth money, players are worth what they offer on the pitch. Anyway, at least three of these teams have close to unlimited bankrolls, so it hardly matters.
Done Deals: Nothing major, just a couple of kids.
Biggest Needs: A backup keeper and a backup striker.
Deadwood: Unfortunately John Terry has shown no signs that he’s past his use-by date, so he’ll have to stay and be obnoxious for a little longer. Mourinho may wanna move on from a couple of his squad midfielders though, Victor Moses certainly ain’t long for the Bridge.
Inside Man: With a couple of teams worth of players out on loan last season, there are plenty of candidates for unlikely breakout players. The unlikeliness is more about playing time than anything. Patrick Bamford drew some attention at Middlesbrough recently, Ruben Loftus-Cheek is another and so are Christian Atsu, Nathaniel Chalobah and Bertrand Traore. Except they’ll all probably be loaned out again. Juan Cuadrado is a recent signing but he should be miles better in his first full season in England.
Best Case Scenario: Asmir Begovic is happy to play second fiddle to Thibault Courtois and he joins for a small fee. Then Jose goes and fixes all that ails Radamel Falcao, who gives him goals and energy off the bench. Best case probably also involves a marquee name arriving, Raphael Varane from Real Madrid would be enormous. If that happens it’s hard to see anyone keeping up with the defending champs. With the added depth, you can expect a Champions League run too.
Worst Case Scenario: The Blues rest on their laurels and everyone else catches up. Diego Costa gets injured or suspended, their English defenders look creaky, their midfield is exposed beyond Matic and Fabregas and Falcao keeps playing like the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz. Plus Murphy’s Law says that as soon as Courtois’ safety net of Petr Cech leaves, then he’ll get injured himself.
Done Deals: City have been ominously quiet so far, like the calm before a storm…
Biggest Needs: Defence, beyond measure.
Deadwood: There are a few. Jesus Navas and Gael Clichy spring to mind, though it’s the striking pair of Stevan Jovetic and Edin Dzecko that need to get out of Manchester sooner rather than later or risk getting caught in the talent grind. Alvaro Negredo has a head start on them in that regard.
Inside Man: The City academy isn’t often talked about in the same regards as some of their rivals, but there are some very promising names in there that could get a shot with a few newly-occupied places in the squad. Jose Angel Pozo is the best of them, supposing he isn’t loaned out.
Best Case Scenario: Paul Pogba and Raheem Sterling arrive in sky blues scarves to a rapturous reception. So does Kevin De Bruyne, meaning the club can offload a few stale players. But the clincher is the signing of Nicolas Otamendi to anchor the defence beside the oft-injured Vincent Kompany. They need a few more home grown players, so throw in Fulham wonder kid Patrick Roberts and Villa’s Fabian Delph too, maybe Ross Barkley of Everton as well.
Worst Case Scenario: There’s no chance that City let a full window go by without making some ten-figure deals – especially as it looks like a shake-up might be on the cards. But there’s a very real problem that they go hard at the wrong blokes. Overpaying for average English talent, international names that don’t gel and a fixation on attackers over defenders. The same old mistakes. It’s a pivotal transfer period for all of these teams but none will react to failure with the body count that the City owners will leave behind.
Done Deals: Naught to speak of yet, but Petr Cech is imminent by all accounts.
Biggest Needs: Petr Cech and a defensive midfielder who can also pass.
Deadwood: Lukas Podolski’s time at Arsenal is surely over and they’ll be happy to flip him off on loan again someplace if they can’t find a permanent suitor. Mikel Arteta too could be on the outer, though he’ll probably stick around in a lesser role.
Inside Man: For years people have said Joel Campbell but that seems less and less likely with every sad loan spell. Theo Walcott’s FA Cup final heroics might have given him a new lease on things up the top of the formation and there’s always more to come from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – who can basically play any position in the midfield or up front.
Best Case Scenario: Cech is brilliant for them, the defence can all stay fit and healthy, Theo Walcott’s reinvention as a striker (re-reinvention?) saves them having to buy any cover there and so the Gunners can pool all of their cash into a massive bid for Arturo Vidal to link up with his Chilean buddy Alexis Sanchez. There isn’t too much else they need to do, to be honest.
Worst Case Scenario: Wenger buys some stupid project players and cashes in on some established ones. City keep making noises about Jack Wilshere (who’s such a Gunner that even his blood cells are red and white) and there would definitely be buyers for others. There’s always a risk that an injury at the back leaves them skint. What they also don’t wanna do is spend way over the top for Raheem Sterling when they already have Sanchez, Ozil, Welbeck, The Ox, Theo, Ramsey, etc.
Done Deals: Memphis Depay (PSV Eindhoven).
Biggest Needs: Midfield cover, a right back and maybe a striker. A starting keeper too if De Gea leaves.
Deadwood: Between injuries and weak performances in 2014/15, it looks like Robin Van Persie’s time at the top of Premier League goal charts may be over. He’ll have no shortage of Champions League teams that’ll humour him if he’s willing to take a pay cut. An Italian side, perhaps?
Inside Man: Andreas Pereira has a lot to like about him, his goal in the U20 World Cup final is proof enough of that. He could certainly fit a role much like Juan Mata’s or Ander Herrera’s for LVG. Alternatively, there’s gotta be more to come from Angel Di Maria if he’s still around come next season.
Best Case Scenario: David De Gea is held on to for the last year of his contact and decides to sign a new one after all the love and support he receives. Morgan Schneiderlin arrives with enthusiasm, maybe even Bastian Schweinsteiger too. Plus a top class striker from somewhere.
Worst Case Scenario: Liverpool’s new midfielders are better than United’s, Robin Van Persie and Javier Hernandez don’t score 10 goals between them but the club can’t find an elite centre forward worth buying so they stick with them and Wayne Rooney gets hurt. De Gea leaves but Spurs play hardball with Hugo Lloris and Victor Valdes isn’t up to the pace any more in DDG’s place, which makes the defence in front of him a shambles (with or without an overpriced Sergio Ramos). Radamel Falcao scores the winning goal against them at Stamford Bridge.
Done Deals: Kevin Wimmer (FC Koln) & Kieran Trippier (Burnley).
Biggest Needs: Players who can play the way that Pochettino demands. And cut the wage bills of those who can’t.
Deadwood: Oohwee, where do we start? Moussa Dembele needs to go, so do Paulinho, Aaron Lennon and Roberto Soldado. Plus Emmanuel Adebayor still plays for Spurs, didja realise?
Inside Man: Keep an eye out for 22 year old Alex Pritchard, who was great on loan at Brentford last campaign and did fine things for the England U21s at the current European Champs until injury ended his tournament. Pochettino is a manager who doesn’t hesitate to promote the young’uns. Just as Ryan Mason, Nabil Bentaleb and that Kane fella.
Best Case Scenario: Toby Alderweireld would be a wonderful fit after his quality at Southampton last season. Getting Gareth Bale back is a step too far but another striker and another creative midfielder would go down well. Let’s say… Saido Berahino and Fredy Guarin. Then it’s more of a matter of who they keep. Hugo Lloris and Harry Kane being the majors.
Worst Case Scenario: Lloris goes and his replacement is crap. They leak goals through a sloppy defence. Harry Kane puts money before honour and chases in on a huge year to go sit on the bench in the Champions League group stages with his goals never replaced. Too many average midfielders and only the worst of them are willing to work hard. They still don’t figure out the balance of playing in the Europa League and miss Europe altogether the next time. They end up selling half the Bale Bounty players for much less than they paid and expect Victor Moses and Kevin Miralles to make them good again.
Done Deals: James Milner (Manchester City), Danny Ings (Burnley), Adam Bogdan (Bolton), Joe Gomez (Charlton) & Roberto Firmino (Hoffenheim).
Biggest Needs: Central defence, central midfield and reliable goals - in whatever form they present themselves.
Deadwood: Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho are not the makings of a Champions League defence. Dejan Lovren should be given the chance to bounce back and Martin Skrtel is very solid. Otherwise they’re looking at an overhaul at the back.
Inside Man: Could Divock Origi be the next Luis Suarez? Reports from France suggest… no. But let’s see what the lad can do before he’s written off. If not him, then Jordon Ibe may make a substantial Inside Man, especially if he’s asked to replace Raheem Sterling.
Best Case Scenario: Someone stumps up enough money to take Mario Balotelli of their hands, Raheem Sterling has a dramatic change of heart and stays, Danny Ings makes the step up, Coutinho puts a full season in and James Milner makes you forget Stevie G ever left. Nathaniel Clyne’s deal is finished in the next few days (maybe it’s already done?) and they bring in a quality forward like Christian Benteke or Edin Dzecko. And another creative midfielder to play with Firmino. Asier Illarramendi, perhaps? Oh, they’ll likely need a left back too. There’s work to be done, but they’re willing to do it.
Worst Case Scenario: Something like last season, where they spent over £100 million for players that all ended up as bench options. You strengthen your squad by bringing in better players, not similar players. There’s also a chance with the loss of Captain Gerrard and the Sterling Saga that the heart of the team is lost as Brendan Rodgers struggles to mould the clay into something resembling a piece of art. Although that’d pretty much mean Jurgen Klopp in as manager by November, which might be a good thing in the long run?