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Player Analysis

Premier League Summer Transfer Primer

by Neal Thurman
Updated On: May 28, 2019, 8:56 am ET

The Premier League season is over and, minus a couple of high profile finals and the final promoted team being identified, it is time to move on to the wonderful world of summer transfers. While there are a few moves that have been locked in (bye bye Aaron Ramsey), mostly we're in the realm of speculation that ranges from the likely (Eden Hazard to Real Madrid) to the fanciful (Kylian Mbappe to Manchester United) with stops everywhere in-between. To get everyone ready for the summer window, here are some thoughts on what I'd like to see happen (within reason based on the clubs and players involved) to maximize the entertainment value of the Premier League next season and to ensure we see as many talented players get as much playing time as possible.

Arsenal - The Gunners playbook is pretty well-known at this point and, at the same time, pretty dependent on the outcome of next week's Europa League final against Chelsea. Either way they need at least one new starting-caliber center back, preferably one on the upside of his career rather than on the downside. Beyond a center back the needs are at left back, wide attacker, and attacking midfielder. If they do win in Baku then they may have the funds necessary to take a hit on shipping out Henrikh Mkhitaryan and/or Mesut Ozil and buying a replacement rather than just buying a modest Ramsey replacement. With the Champions League revenue boost combined with some serious wages coming off the books a fantastic off-season would see the likes of William Saliba from St. Etienne, Kieran Tierney from Celtic, Hakim Ziyech of Ajax, and one of Pepe/Fraser/Carrasco/Zaha arriving along with a left back. Of people I haven't seen linked strongly with Arsenal, I'd personally love to see Youri Tielemans brought in to replace Ramsey. His half-season at Leicester City raised his value pretty significantly and he may have gone from not established enough for the Gunners to out of their range given his apparent talent at a very young age.

Bournemouth - For the Cherries, it should be about trying like crazy to keep hold of their current attacking players. Callum Wilson, Joshua King, Ryan Fraser, and David Brooks is the core of as good an attack as there is outside the big six. The real job to be done is to add to the defense and the holding midfield while not losing one of the attackers or Nathan Ake. Brighton - With the promise of a more attacking style under new manager Graham Potter, the next step will be finding some attacking talent to go with the style. Picking Championship players who are ready to make the leap to the Premier League can be a challenge but finding someone like James Maddison from last season to key the attack and maybe someone like Ademola Lookman who could be surplus to requirements at Goodison Park would be a nice start. Burnley - The hard thing about figuring out a transfer strategy for Burnley is that the entire squad is made up of average-to-just-slightly-better-than-average players who punch above their weight due to the will of the manager and their strict adherence to his preferred style of play. It only took a very slight divergence at the beginning of the season for everything to go horribly wrong. As such, predicting who might be willing to buy in to such a system and thrive isn't as easy as picking options for some other sides. I'm sure there are a couple of former Manchester United youth defenders kicking around the Championship that would make sense but I'll be damned if i can give you a name.

Chelsea - Well, this certainly depends on whether or not they're able to buy anyone over the summer, doesn't it? The Blues could certainly use a center forward or two even after resigning Olivier Giroud for one more season. Michy Batshuyi and Álvaro Morata will both be back but neither have made the grade in the past. Callum Wilson was mentioned when Bournemouth were off to their scorching start to the season but he doesn't seem like quite enough for a title run. If you're looking overall then the shopping list looks like reserve goalkeeper, right back to supplement/eventually replace César Azpilicueta, a center back or two, and another wide attacker in the event that Callum Hudson-Odoi takes longer than expected to recover and/or Christian Pulisic isn't an immediate hit. If Maurizio Sarri leaves then you might see the Blues looking for an alternative to Jorginho who was a big favorite of the Italian manager but didn't seem to have too many fans beyond that. Kurt Zouma, returning from a solid loan spell at Everton, could certainly take one of the center back roles but probably isn't a sure enough thing to be thrown into a starting role on a Champions League side. If whomever manages next season isn't a big fan of playing wingbacks with three CBs then Marcos Alonso's time may be short along with Jorginho's.

Crystal Palace - Like Bournemouth, the biggest job at Palace will be trying to keep hold of some big names. Adding would just be a bonus if they can achieve the first goal. It seems likely that the two biggest pieces moving on will be Wilfried Zaha and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. If both leave then the Eagles will have a big chunk of money to spend but will have to hit on their replacements at a pretty high rate to remain comfortably mid-table next season. Zaha is the sort of attacking player who rarely stays mid-table for long and replacing his combination of speed, dribbling, and goal-scoring might take two players rather than one. If it were me, I'd be looking to see if Ryan Sessegnon's star has faded enough for him to agree to be Zaha's heir apparent rather than moving straight to a club like Spurs or Manchester United. If Wan-Bissaka goes, the Palace goal should be to use the funds to find both a replacement right back as well as an upgrade at center back. If Everton are intent on going younger at right back as has been rumored then maybe someone like Seamus Colemen would be a strong immediate option as they look for a younger replacement. At center back, getting Mamadou Sakho will be a nice start but pairing him with a relegated stalwart like Sean Morrison of Cardiff City might be plausible pushing Scott Dann and James Tomkins into the reserve roles that are probably about right for them. If all of that ended up being a push in terms of money coming in and out then buying center forward to replace departing loanee Michy Batshuyi would make sense. If they can afford Batshuyi then that would make sense but Chelsea seems to be holding out for more than Crystal Palace might be able to afford. Going in a different direction, Aleksandar Mitrovic would make a ton of sense (although this would be the case for most clubs outside of the top six).

Everton - Everton are a tough club to figure heading into the transfer window. They certainly need a center back with Kurt Zouma (presumably) heading back to Chelsea. Elsewhere, rumors are swirling about potential departures with Idrissa Gueye and Richarlison both mentioned as targets for bigger clubs while André Gomes' loan move comes to an end after a successful season. If they lose all four of those players (Zouma, Gueye, Gomes, and Richarlison) then they'll be doing a full overhaul around Pickford, Digne, Sigurdsson, and, to a lesser extent, Calvert-Lewin. If they can keep upwards of three of those players then they might be looking at a couple minor additions. The other thing to be considered here is the smoke that has surrounded right back rumors for the past couple of months. Seamus Coleman wasn't quite up to his pre-injury standard this past season but a little more distance from a serious injury could have him back or the staff may have made up its mind that he's a fading force and decided to move on. Since we've already discussed half of the spots in the Everton squad as possibly moving on for one reason or another you can see why it is hard to figure exactly how the Toffees should be approaching this window.

Leicester City - Tell me if you've heard this one before. The biggest job the Foxes will have is convincing one established star - Harry Maguire - to stay and one loan success - Youri Tielemans - to join up permanently. If they can achieve both of those while keeping the rest of the crew around then there's not much to dislike about the Foxes going into next season and you'd want to focus any transfer dealings on finding inexpensive young players to replace older ones in a season or two. The biggest problem will be if they can't get Tielemans to return because they wouldn't actually get anything in return for that and would have to find another really talented central midfielder that they could afford and would want to come to Leicester. Maguire leaving wouldn't be quite so problematic as they'd at least get a ton of money from City/United/whomever to replace him.

Liverpool - What do you get the team that has everything (except a Premier League title)? I'd argue that they are actually in better shape, squad-wise, than Manchester City given where their players are on the aging curve. They are young, talented, and pretty deep and they even have a player or two - looking at you Keita and Fabinho - who have established records of performance and could reasonably be expected to have upside in Klopp's system with a little more time to adapt as we saw from guys like Bernardo Silva in Pep's system or Lucas Moura in Pochettino's system. What we're really talking about is engineering at the margins for the Reds. A better reserve center forward behind Roberto Firmino would be a nice get with someone like Callum Wilson, if he's willing to take a reserve role to move up the table, would make a great deal of sense. It would also not be surprising to see the Reds sell off a few of their older reserves like Sturridge and Lallana who may be tired of playing limited roles. If Lallana and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remains a health question mark then one more wide midfielder would probably make a lot of sense.

Manchester City - For the two-time defending champs who fought off a historically good second place side, there are a surprising number of items on the summer shopping list. A new center back to replace outgoing Vincent Company (and likely outgoing CB Nicolás Otamendi). A holding midfielder to replace rapidly aging Fabinho and possibly departing Ilkay Gundogan. A left back because Benjamin Mendy seems to be a poor character fit beyond his injury issues. Another forward will likely have to be brought in either this window or next as Sergio Agüero is aging and Gabriel Jesus certainly hasn't established himself as a sure-fire replacement. It is surprising that City haven't been more strongly linked with Matthijs de Ligt of Ajax to pair with Laporte at the back but maybe they know he's already signed, sealed, and delivered for Barca. Maguire seems to be the more frequent target mentioned for City and he'd certainly be a strong addition. A number of young, talented holding midfielders have been rumored and City will certainly land one of them with Rodri heading the list in recent days. Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been linked to City although he's a right back rather than a Mendy replacement. City hasn't been linked with too many attackers and, with FFP concerns looming, it might be that they have to push that need to the winter or next summer in favor of more immediate concerns. The one outgoing concern for Pep Guardiola is that Leroy Sané seems to want out with Bayern Munich his rumored destination. Hard to blame him given how many talented wide attackers there are at City for only a limited number of minutes. All of the above is, of course, dependent on what comes of the FFP investigation that UEFA is apparently launching that is causing Pep to be so testy in press conferences. Unlike Chelsea, who have already been banned from two transfer windows and are appealing, it feels unlikely that City will be sanctioned quickly enough to make an impact on this transfer window.

Manchester United - It could be quite a crazy summer at Old Trafford or it could be much ado about nothing. If, as rumored, big ticket players like David De Gea, Paul Pogba, and Romelu Lukaku are moved on in addition to fringe players like Chris Smalling, Antonio Valencia, Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, Alexis Sánchez, and the like then it could be all transactions all the time with United looking to turn over more than half of their squad. For those keeping track, that's goalkeeper, right back, one center back spot (at least), holding midfielder, box-to-box midfielder, wide attacking midfielder, and center forward (or reserve center forward assuming Rashford takes the full-time starting spot) are all in play as well as some depth pieces. There are too many potential inbound players to list with Matthijs de Ligt and Kylian Mbappe the headliners who might be a little out of United's league without Champions League to offer and a lot of squad building to go before it seems likely to be on offer again. Suffice it to say that it is going to be a wild summer at Old Trafford as we see how players value money and reputation over recent achievement and near-term prospects when choosing between the biggest clubs in the world.

Newcastle United - Given all of the concern over transfer funds in recent years, Newcastle are surprisingly well-positioned entering the summer. The right first step would be to lock down Salomon Rondon from West Brom before someone like Wolves beat them to the punch which has been rumored this week. Adding another attacker somewhere across the midfield would make a lot of sense once Rondon is secured as Almiron hasn't exactly established himself as a difference-maker and the attacking group is pretty thin beyond the starters. The next priority would be upgrading the wide defensive positions where Paul Dummett, Javier Manquillo, and DeAndre Yedlin form a pretty average group. Has Kieran Trippier fallen far enough from grace at Spurs to be available to a side like Newcastle? Probably not but that should be the sort of move that the club should be contemplating if it wants to move forward.

Southampton – The Saints were a nice redemption story after the sacking of Mark Hughes and the appointment of Ralph Hasenhuttl. The new manager took a side assembled by the previous management that was headed for relegation and turned it into a solid mid-table side. Optimism will abound with Hasenhuttl actually given a transfer window to bring in the types of players he prefers. What isn’t as clear is exactly who is at risk and who is likely to continue to feature. Nathan Redmond seems highly likely to be the focal point of the remaining players while adding a center forward as a complement seems like it should be the priority. A center back and a central midfielder would appear to be priorities two and three in either order. The Saints are unlikely to break the bank with any of their acquisitions and seem likely to be shopping in Germany where Hasenhuttl probably knows of some lesser known players who fit his style in the same way Unai Emery knew about Matteo Guendouzi when coming directly to Arsenal from Ligue Un. Yet another team that probably should be in the market for Mitrovic or Rondon but, in this case, they haven’t been linked.

Tottenham – So many unknowns still with Spurs. We know they’ll be in the Champions League next season for sure and, heck, they may be the defending champions of that competition to boost their profile. If they fail to win next weekend then their profile doesn’t look fantastic. Aging defensive core. A creative midfielder who hasn’t signed an extended deal. A manager who gets a ton of credit for the club’s success who is nearly always in the rumor mill. A wage structure that is unlikely to see a star player paid on par with their peers elsewhere among Europe’s elite. Uncertainty about club finances in the wake of two successive windows without an inbound transfer. If they win in Madrid then a lot of that goes out the window and you can see the good feelings carrying a transformative summer. Spurs will need a right back if the rumors of Trippier leaving prove true. They will almost certainly need at least one center back. A goalkeeper would be a wise purchase as well given Hugo Lloris’ uneven form this season. If Eriksen leaves, that will be a massive gap to be filled and there is, of course, the eternal search for a qualified understudy for Harry Kane. Oh, and maybe a box-to-box midfielder to belatedly replace Mousa Dembélé. That’s a pretty massive list so it’s a good thing Spurs have been saving their money for the past 18 months. Given the volume of activity that seems likely, Spurs have been heavily overshadowed in the rumor mill by all of the Manchester United rumors (OK, who hasn’t). Wilfried Zaha, Ryan Sessegnon, David Brooks, Callum Wilson, and Giovani lo Celso have all been linked more than once with none seeming too outlandish. It wouldn’t be shocking to see someone like Abdoulaye Doucouré making the jump to Spurs after a couple consecutive strong seasons at Vicarage Road.

Watford – What do you get for the side that seemingly has at least a little bit of everything? Well, a star to bring it all together would be nice. Perhaps a strong consolation prize in the event that a star is not forthcoming would be keeping the current band together while starting to inject some youth into the side to get ready for some of the older players fading. The nice thing that the Hornets have going for them is that they are solid all over the pitch. There isn’t a glaring hole at any level of the squad. If prioritizing, getting younger and more talented at the back would probably be the first priority after keeping hold of Abdoulaye Doucouré. The next priority would be finding another target man to bring in as an eventual replacement for Troy Deeney. Given the extensive network of scouts across the Pozzo football empire, it seems likely that options will come from far and wide rather than being purchased from within the Premier League.

West Ham United – Things are never easy at West Ham. Things go well with an acquisition like Marko Arnautovic and then, suddenly, he wants out and undermines approximately half the season between his transfer pleas and the bad feelings that they generated. He ended the season strong but whether the Hammers’ best goal threat is going to be back next season remains to be seen. The other potential high profile outbound player is Declan Rice. The holding midfielder was a revelation but perhaps too much so as he has quickly been linked with the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City. If Arnautovic and Rice are both gone then the Hammers will have a challenging summer of trying to replace them. If they stay then the priorities will be upgrades to the outside backs and a replacement for Mark Noble who has been a great servant to the club but is probably best suited as a reserve or a coach at this point. Like just about every other mid-table club, Mitrovic has been linked. Hard to say if that is just lazy journalism or if there’s something there. It definitely feels like a solid fit between player’s temperament and club if it were to happen.

Wolverhampton Wanderers – I’m sure there have been clubs that had as few issues with injuries and losses of form leading to rotation in the history of first division football in England but I can’t say I remember one. Other than the odd minor injury and the mid-season shift from three forwards to two, Wolves just kept running back the same players week after week. With Europa League football on the horizon, it seems likely that the club will need to build some depth if they are serious about that competition. Assuming that they can keep their core of Jimenez, Jota, Neves, Moutinho, Doherty, Jonny, and Patricio then bringing in competition/depth at center back and the attacking spots will be the priority. One suspects that Jorge Mendes will have a few names typically out of reach for a club like Wolves waiting to make the move and that the job will be easier with Europa League football on offer.

Neal Thurman
Neal Thurman manages the Rotoworld's Premier League coverage and contributes to Never Manage Alone which he co-founded. He is also a diehard Arsenal supporter. You can find him on Twitter @NealJThurman.