As another footballing season comes to a close, the top-4 looks to strengthen their squad ahead of the new season.
The Premier League season ended last Sunday, with Manchester City winning the season in emphatic style. The Blues ended the league with 100 points and 106 goals. Pep Guardiola-led club finished at the top 19 points ahead of second-placed derby rivals Manchester United.
As the club-football season goes to business end with domestic cup finals and Europeans finals ahead, teams prepare themselves for the upcoming transfer window. Premier League clubs would prefer to wrap their major deals before the FIFA World Cup begins. The English transfer window, for the first time ever, will end before the start of the season. Many clubs have reportedly already made a shortlist of players they will pursue this summer.
But where do the Premier League top-4 really need to strengthen their squads? Who should they really go for? theSportsRush looks at the possible options which they may consider, in a bid to pose title challenge next season.
Finding faults in Manchester City’s squad this season is almost like observing a Picasso masterpiece with a microscopic lens. Still, there were a few times where the Blues faltered in England and Europe this season.
Yaya Toure’s void will be a huge one to fill. Even when the Ivory Coast legend was not a regular first-team player in his final season, Man City will attempt to find replacements.
City is already monitoring Jorginho as a back-up option. The Italian defensive midfielder has played a key role in Napoli’s Serie A campaign this season, which sees the club sitting at 2nd place. Jorginho still has two years remaining in the contract, but a huge bid would free him from his Napoli contract.
Pep Guardiola revolutionized City’s style of play, which led to Yaya Toure spending most of his time on the bench. Hence, the signing of Jorginho would be more contextual in terms of partnering Fernandinho, than replacing the Ivory Coast midfielder.
If Aguero leaves..
There have also been reports of Sergio Aguero going back to his former club Atletico Madrid. The sources are unconfirmed, but if the deal does take place, Manchester City will look to Bayern Munich’s star forward Robert Lewandowski.
Lewandowski has played under Pep Guardiola in the past and understands his playing philosophy. Even though the forward is reluctant in the pressing game, his height would help as City likes to play their game on the widths.
The Red Devils finished the season with highest number of points since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013. Even after finishing second, there are several shortcomings which Jose Mourinho would need to address. The defence has been shaky, and lack of consistent midfield pairing led to United dropping points against teams outside the top-6 in the league.
United’s defence had always been a cause of worry for the Old Trafford faithful. Eric Bailly was a strong signing, but his lack of playing time due to injuries added to the defensive woes for the club. Inconsistent performances from Chris Smalling and Phil Jones saw United conceding silly goals. Victor Lindelof impressed the fans in the last game of the season, but he hardly featured in Starting XI throughout the season.
Jose Maria Gimenez was linked to Manchester United in the previous transfer window and is worth an attempt again. Lazio’s Stefan de Vrij has been a rock for the Italian club this season, and the player’s contract expires at the end of this season.
In England, Harry Maguire impressed football pundits with his unEnglish features in the game. The hard-tackling defenders loves to charge towards the midfield at times and pick out an attacking player. Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld has been linked with Manchester United this year and can be a great buy. The defender’s contract ends at the end of summer. After spending three impressive seasons with Spurs, Alderweireld is on radar for Chelsea as well.
At the left-back position, Ashley Young has been equally inconsistent. Even when he delivered a few terrific performances, like the one against Liverpool towards the end of the season, the Englishman isn’t reliable.
Luke Shaw produced decent performances whenever he stepped on the field but doesn’t seem to have the manager’s trust. Manchester United may look to sign Alex Sandro from Juventus.
In the midfield, the issues regarding formation and Paul Pogba’s uneasiness in playing in a two-man midfield continued to pose problems. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic can prove to be a phenomenal signing for Manchester United. The midfielder’s height (6ft4) can be beneficial going forward. He is lethal on attack, but the Serbian has shown his abilities playing as a defensive midfielder for Lazio as well.
The North-London club might have an attractive style of play, but they have, once again, failed to lift any silverware this season. With Pochettino planning a major summer overhaul this season, things are bound to change at Tottenham. The Spurs boss has asked Daniel Levy to sanction 150m squad overhaul.
The £150m conundrum
Mauricio Pochettino values physicality, and hence can consider Wilfried Zaha. The English winger has impressed in his time at Crystal Palace, and is ready to challenge for a position in a Top-4 club. With Toby Alderweireld likely to leave in the summer, Harry Maguire can prove to be a decent replacement.
With a purse of £150m, Pochettino can battle with the Manchester clubs and the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool in the transfer market. Apart from Zaha, Fulham star Ryan Sessegnon and Manchester United’s Anthony Martial can also prove to be decent buys for Tottenham. Martial’s technical abilities are immense, but his inconsistency and uneasiness with Jose’s style of play led to some poor performances for United.
The Merseyside club is having a dream Champions League season. They are in the final of the competition, where they face Real Madrid on May 26. Even though the club lost its star player in Philippe Coutinho, his departure seemed to have little impact on their attack. The forward trio of Salah, Mane and Firmino ran riot towards the Premier League defences. Mohamed Salah ended as top-scorer of the Premier League, and collected major individual awards at the end of the season.
Defence and Midfield
Like their rivals Manchester United, Liverpool needs to improve on their defensive woes and the run-of-play from the centre. The Merseyside club is already linked with Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti. During the window, they can battle for top defenders like Matthijs de Ligt, Toby Alderweireld and Harry Maguire.
Nabil Fekir is one of the most-discussed players among the Liverpool circles. The club has reportedly prepared a 60m bid to land the French attacking midfielder.
But it’s the lack of a quality defensive midfielder which has lost Liverpool points in the Premier League this season. The other clubs which finished in the Top-4 boasted of effective DMs, like Fernandinho (City), Matic (United) and Wanyama/Dembele (Tottenham). Liverpool can pursue Napoli’s Jorginho, who has been pivotal in Napoli’s league campaign this season.
Liverpool also had issues with their goalkeepers throughout the season. Mignolet performed poorly in the first half of the season, and his replacement Loris Karius has had his fair share of lapses in his game.
Jan Oblak could be the perfect signing for Liverpool. The Atletico goalkeeper won the Zamora trophy on two occasions since he signed for the club in 2014. Another option can be Alisson Becker, who is also linked to Liverpool.