The longest club season in Premier League history is over and the final place in next season’s division went to Fulham after their playoff triumph at Wembley. For the 20 Premier League clubs, the new season is little over six weeks away. Here is a rundown of what should be each club’s top two offseason issues to resolve:
Find a Defensive Leader
Under the stewardship of Mikel Arteta, Arsenal have improved without the ball and they benefited from the switch to a back three. However, the lack of a commanding centre back remains a huge issue for Arteta’s improving team. Finding a Virgil Van Dijk or Tony Adams won’t be cheap or straightforward, but if Arsenal make just one move in the transfer market this summer it has to be for that defensive lynchpin.
Sort out Aubameyang’s Future
Another example of Arsenal’s poor transfer planning is coming to the boil with their top scorer and Cup Final hero entering the final season of his contract. Arsenal need to learn the lessons from the Sanchez, Ozil and Ramsey fiasco’s and either pin Aubameyang down with a contract extension or sell him to the highest bidder before his contract runs out. Aubameyang was outstanding during the run in, but history should tell Arsenal they cannot let him run down his current deal.
Hold on to Jack Grealish
If Villa are to kick on next season they need to hang on to their talisman. Jack Grealish contributed 9 goals and 7 assists and Villa’s attacking play goes largely through him. Rumours of interest from Manchester United have cooled in recent weeks, but the sharks will be circling and Villa must hold onto Grealish.
Change the Recruitment Strategy
Last summer Villa spent £140 million on 16 players with decidedly mixed results. Sporting director Jesus Garcia Pitarch paid for the scatter-gun recruitment with his job. Johan Lange is the new man signing off on Villa’s summer deals, he must prioritize quality rather than quantity and keep the club’s focus on a small number of players who will improve the first eleven.
Add Another Striker
Neal Maupay has done well in first Premier League season but nobody else has scored more than five goals this season for Brighton. Glenn Murray has been brilliant over the years but will be 37 when next season starts and Brighton need another forward if they are to prosper.
Give Ben White a new contract
The young defender has excelled on loan at Leeds and Brighton have so far rebuked Leeds’ interest in making the deal permanent. Leeds won’t be the only club in for White and signing him to a longer deal should be Brighton’s first order of summer business if they are to keep the promising defender in the fold.
Hold on to Sean Dyche
There have been reports of tension between Dyche and the Burnley board and interest from Aston Villa. Dyche meanwhile, may feel he’s taken Burnley as far after rebuilding the club. It’s vital to Burnley they keep they keep the man that brought them to the Premier League party.
Cast the Recruitment Net Wider
Buying the cream of the championship crop has been central to Burnley’s recruitment over the years, but the strike rate has dropped off over the last two seasons with Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Matej Vydra proving disappointments. Burnley need to look farther afield as they look to replace Jeff Hendrick and reinforce the squad.
Find a New Number One
Frank Lampard clearly doesn’t trust Kepa and a new goalkeeper has to be Chelsea’s biggest close season priority. Jan Oblak would be ideal but could prove out of reach with Nick Pope a more attainable target. Part of the problem will be finding a buyer for Kepa on whom Chelsea spent a goalkeeping record and the club are facing a huge loss on the Spain international.
Find a Settled Centre-back Pairing
Lampard’s side set the unwanted record of most goals conceded by a Chelsea team in the Roman Abramovich era. Lampard chopped and changed his defence throughout the season, not helped by injuries but a settled defensive formula proved elusive. Lampard needs to settle on a fixed pairing at centre back and move on those who aren’t part of the plan; Antonio Rudiger will surely be the first to go.
Let Zaha Go…For the Right Price
Wilfried Zaha tried to push a move to Arsenal through last summer but stayed and ultimately delivered his least productive season for Palace since 2015-16. Zaha now 27, has signed for a new agent suggesting he isn’t planning on staying put until June 2023. If Palace’s valuation of Zaha is met this could be the season to let him go, with a depressed transfer market meaning Palace could replenish their small and ageing squad. However with Manchester United to receive 25% of the profit, Palace’s valuation has to be met.
Find a Centre Forward
Christian Benteke has scored a grand total of six goals in the last three Premier League seasons. Jordan Ayew proved one of the best value signings in the league last season, but behind him and Benteke the cupbaord’s bare. A new forward, preferably with Benteke moving on would be ideal.
Find a Defensive Rock
Everton have a fine young centre-back in Mason Holgate and Michael Keane has shown some improvement, but Everton desperately need an experienced leader in defence. Carlo Ancelotti’s old PSG skipper Thiago Silva is out of contract and Everton could certainly do worse than sign the veteran defender.
Start the Clear Out
Ancelotti will reshape Everton’s squad this summer and that means players going out as well as coming in. Yannick Bolasie, Cenk Tosun, Theo Walcott, Moise Kean and possibly even Gylfi Sigurdsson are amongst those Ancelotti may usher towards to door, however this summer is likely to prove a difficult marker for sellers.
Learn from Last Time
Two years ago Fulham came up via the playoffs and employed an ‘analytics based approach’ to transfer dealings, the result was 15 arrivals, £100 million spent and relegation. Fulham (much like Villa) need to learn from that mistake and concentrate on a small number of acquisitions who can add quality to the team and not hamper the dressing room dynamic of a promotion winning team.
Keep Harrison Reed
Reed would hardly be a marque signing for Fulham, but he proved a key player after the season restarted, providing a solid defensive midfield base and Fulham’s backline benefited enormously from his presence. Signing the Southampton loanee to a permanent deal will surely be the first thing Scott Parker will ask of the club this summer.
Re-sign Ben White…or Find his Replacement
Leeds have moved quickly to retain their loan players by exercising their extension options on Helder Costa, Illan Meslier and Jack Harrison, however they don’t have an option on star defender Ben White. Brighton want to bring White back from loan into their first team and others are interested in the defender. Leeds will try for White but if they can’t get him back, they need to sign an alternative quickly, with Tottenham’s Juan Foyth consistently linked with a move to Elland Road.
Add a Striker
One hiccup in Leeds’ promotion season was striker Eddie Nketiah being recalled from his loan by Arsenal and his replacement Jean Kevin Augustin proving a bust. That leaves Patrick Bamford the only centre forward in Leeds’ squad, meaning they need to add at least one striker. Bielsa likes forwards who can play across the entire frontline and don’t be surprised to see a new club record fee set here.
Add Another Playmaker
Leicester need to add depth to their squad and a particular problem is attacking midfield. Leicester have talented wide players but are over dependant on James Maddison as a number ten. Maddison’s form dipped in the second half of the season and then injury saw him miss the run in. With European football to contend with, Leicester need another playmaker if they are to compete on multiple fronts.
Hold on to Ben Chilwell
Leicester don’t need or want to sell the England left back but the sharks are circling. Chilwell has been linked with both Chelsea and Manchester City but having been forced to let Maguire go, Brendan Rodgers needs to insure Chilwell’s head isn’t turned, which could prove easier said than done.