Biggest Summer Transfer Need for Every Premier League Club
From an outsider's perspective, the summer transfer window can be a joy to behold, but for those more closely associated with the business end of football, it can prove to be a nightmarish period.
Managers and players alike can go through tumultuous times in trying to find the right fit to suit their needs, and in the money-spinning Premier League, pressure is at a constant high to find the correct formula.
Having officially opened on July 1, the summer window allows Europe's elite to now go about their spending in that pursuit, with every side in the English top flight requiring that specific something above all else.
Each outfit is different, so while one side may have a crop of promising youngsters coming through in a certain area, it may require that touch of world-class talent, whereas some are completely lacking in one department altogether.
We've gone about identifying these critical portions for every squad in the running, some needs translated into specific positions, while others require something a little more abstract.
Arsenal: Midfield Anchor
It's a well-founded theory that defensive midfielders are a diminishing commodity in the modern game, replaced by more rounded, versatile assets capable of offering more than just a stopping presence.
However, there still lies a place for those central midfielders more concerned with off-ball matters, a category which the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby (when fit) may fall closer to.
At present, Arsene Wenger has Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini to rely on as his primary "generals," but with a combined age of 62, they're far from long-term answers to the Frenchman's engine-room issues.
Arteta has only truly shifted to a sitting role since coming to Emirates Stadium, while Flamini can be something of a liability, picking up eight yellows in 27 league appearances last term.
What's more, the latter's playmaking capacity is questionable, and if Wenger is to employ a 4-3-3 formation, or even remain rooted with a 4-2-3-1, possessing a balanced midfield core is critical in either sense.
With Bacary Sagna departed for Manchester City as a free transfer, right-back may be seen as a priority in North London, as Carl Jenkinson now offers their only cover.
However, with ITV's Lee Dixon tweeting that Newcastle United's Mathieu Debuchy is now an Arsenal player, that void would appear to be taken care of.
Aston Villa: Centre-Back
It was terrible fortune for Aston Villa to see last year's summer signing, Jores Okore, suffer a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury as early as September, but as the old adage states: "Fail to prepare, prepare to fail."
And in terms of their centre-back options, prepared Paul Lambert certainly was not, with Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker sharing a majority of the workload alongside staple Ron Vlaar.
Since then, Okore has progressed well on the road to recovery and Philippe Senderos has since been brought in, but if Switzerland's World Cup campaign taught us something, it's that the ex-Arsenal and Fulham figure can still be a major worry.
Lambert's loyalty to youth development is admirable, but Vlaar needs one more experienced and solid presence alongside him. We've been taught that you certainly can win with kids, but it has to be the right mix of young talent.
One might argue that the full-back areas are in greater need of depth at present, but Villa already have a decent quantity of choices on both sides of the defence.
If Lambert were unfortunate enough to see another big injury lay-off in the heart of his back line—Villa Park will pray it's not Vlaar—the manager needs to feel comfortable in the reinforcements he's left with.
Burnley: Left Midfield/Wing
As one of the Premier League new boys, it's difficult to assess which area Burnley are in greatest need of strengthening this summer. Often times, the portion of the field one feels is most readily prepared for the top flight can prove to be the one exposed once playing on the grandest stage.
However, due to a lack of options more than anything else, the left side of midfield, or left wing depending on which of his 4-4-2/4-2-3-1 preferences Dyche most fancies this season, sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb.
Scott Arfield was and remains the manager's top choice in that role, but with Michael Kightly having been brought in as something of a high-profile expenditure, the same attention is now needed on the other flank.
Marvin Sordell has been acquired, but it would be a shame for the centre-forward to be lofted out wide when he can offer Danny Ings a potentially strong outlet through the middle.
There's no doubt that Sean Dyche must strengthen in all areas this summer, some of which have already been taken care of, but a versatile attacking midfielder, capable of being fielded across the creative line, would be worth a more significant outlay.
With Ashley Cole now sampling as much ciabatta loaf and pinot grigio as his heart desires since completing a free transfer to Roma, left-back becomes the top task at Stamford Bridge.
A reliable striking presence would have previously been viewed as Jose Mourinho's most desperate requirement, but the signing of Diego Costa has gone a long way in curing that ailment.
What's more, Ryan Bertrand is now the most natural talent on the left side of defence, and while Cesar Azpilicueta showed that he's no shrinking violet in the position, playing a wrong-footed player in such a key area can create vulnerabilities.
According to the Daily Mail's Sami Mokbel, a £20 million deal for Atletico Madrid's Filipe Luis is close, but until fans see that blue scarf waving above the Brazilian's head, not a single chicken should be counted.
Chelsea are fortunate to be taken care of in just about every other part of their roster, from goalkeeper through central midfield, up to their thriving creative midfield options and now the front line, too.
Crystal Palace: Centre-Forward
The main improvements implemented by Tony Pulis following his appointment at Selhurst Park was a recognisable defensive structure, squeezing the best out of fairly limited resources at the back.
It's for that reason that a more elite forward presence is needed up front, with Marouane Chamakh and Cameron Jerome reaching the end of their Crystal Palace loans, while Aaron Wilbraham was released as a free.
With Dwight Gayle showing some remarkably improved form toward the end of the 2013-14 campaign and Glenn Murray providing a potentially promising backup, there is the means for a dangerous combination to be crafted, but top-flight experience is lacking.
It was no surprise to hear back in June that Pulis was interested in linking up with former Stoke City charge Peter Crouch, per the Stoke Sentinel. Crouch would by no means be a superstar acquisition, but one knows what they get with the 33-year-old, and he fits the profile of the presence Palace require.
Even with the departure of Kagisho Dikgacoi to Cardiff City, there's a list of creative assets in the Eagles' midfield, but they require a reliable target to aim for, and someone who can provide Gayle with some worthwhile mentoring.
In all honesty, it doesn't matter if it's a poacher, a target man or otherwise—Everton need a striker(s).
At present, Arouna Kone—who played all of 168 minutes last Premier League season—is the Toffees' most senior figure up front, with the next-best options seemingly pulling either Kevin Mirallas or Steven Naismith in from out wide.
That's an issue in need of solving.
Romelu Lukaku did a fine job of occupying Roberto Martinez's central striking role last term, but the Chelsea youngster looks to be out of Everton's price range this summer.
A similar, powerful presence would be the preferred option, and Kone is admittedly of a similar style, it's just that he's not quite of the same quality.
Martinez's tactical nuance mean that his defence, midfield and the transition between the two are running as smoothly as ever, but for all the chances created thanks to this fluid and flowing system, more quality is needed to finish them off.
Hull City: Attacking Midfielder
After making their way to an FA Cup final at Wembley and managing to secure their Premier League status early last season, Steve Bruce's prerogative this summer will be upgrading across the board, replacing mediocre assets with a higher class.
The Hull City boss has given his team an identity and the task ahead lies in taking to the next rung of their ladder, which involves accruing some depth and versatility in Bruce's options.
Mastering one specific formation is all well and good, but the Tigers have no standout option in attacking midfield, should they choose to break their regular shackles and deploy one.
Tom Huddlestone, the newly purchased Jake Livermore, David Meyler and Stephen Quinn each offer a quite similar brand of playmaking and box-to-box midfield roles, but there are few assets capable of bridging the gap between them and the attack.
It's not necessarily the strategy that Bruce uses most often, but with Robert Koren now departed from the KC Stadium, a central figure capable of enhancing the abilities of Tom Ince, Robert Snodgrass, Robbie Brady and others sits as a priority.
Leicester City: Central Midfield
Despite coming out on top of the Championship pile last season, Leicester city are under as intense a pressure to improve this summer as any other club.
Winning in England's second tier by no means offers the Foxes a stronger chance of attaining Premier League survival, and it's at the team's very core that some seniority is needed.
Andy King, Danny Drinkwater, Dean Hammond and Matty James each bring a mixture of experience and potential to the table, and with an average age of 25.5 between those four, it's a valuable array to have.
However, Premier League stalwarts they are not, and it may be that a couple of loan deals or perhaps one standout signing in this area goes a long way.
Nigel Pearson will also be hoping to persevere with his striker recruitment after a deal for Cardiff City's Fraizer Campbell fell through, per Terry Phillips of Wales Online, but the engine room should be seen as first priority tight now.
Liverpool: Right Wing
Friday brought with it the news that Luis Suarez's proposed £75 million move to Barcelona has been agreed, per BBC Sport, giving Liverpool a new sense of security in their drive to reinvest those funds.
The £25 million purchase of Adam Lallana means that Brendan Rodgers has some much-needed reinforcement out wide, as well as one who can play more centrally. Not to mention that new arrivals Rickie Lambert and Emre Can offer options up front and in the middle of the park, respectively.
Can also has the added advantage of being able to play at left-back, meaning Jose Enrique's potential exit doesn't pose quite the same danger, with Glen Johnson and Jon Flanagan also offering cover.
Entrusting Raheem Sterling with senior wing duties on the right flank, however, isn't as appealing an idea, and no matter how prodigious the England international may seem, the Reds run the risk of lumping their starlet with too much too fast.
According to Mike Walley of ESPN FC, Benfica's Lazar Markovic may be the answer to that issue after going through his Anfield medical before sealing a £20 million move. But, as was the case with the aforementioned Debuchy, nothing is certain just yet.
Strikers like Suarez only come around once in a blue moon, and if Daniel Sturridge is to have any hope of picking up some of the workload, Liverpool's ammunition from out wide just became all the more critical.
Manchester City: Centre-Back
Finding faults in Manchester City's squad is like asking which is the worst Ferrari at the dealership—they all look pretty darned appetising.
But in a roster comprising options upon options in every facet of their make-up, it's the centre of defence that draws one's attention.
Vincent Kompany is regularly spoken of in the debate concerning the world's best central defender, but it's a pretty steep drop-off after that, with Martin Demichelis and Matija Nastasic at different ends of their careers and no terrific mid-point available.
Javi Garcia offered some shoddy support in the position at times last season, bailed out of trouble on more than one occasion by the thriving mass of talent surrounding him, while many Citizens may not even notice Joleon Lescott's contract expiring.
It was only thanks to a Nastasic knee injury that Demichelis was ever brought to the Etihad Stadium as a quick fix, but now that Manuel Pellegrini has time on his hands, it's time to source another epic figure.
Manchester United: Midfield General
There is certainly an argument to say that not since Roy Keane have Manchester United boasted the kind of engine-room presence that a club of their stature deserves.
Since the mid-2000s, other stellar areas of the Red Devils' roster might have made up for such inadequacies, with the centre-back partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic certainly helping to compensate.
And with those two now moved on to greener pastures, one might say strengthening the centre of defence should be Louis van Gaal's first order at Old Trafford, but the fact is Jonny Evans, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Michael Keane lay a decent base.
That's not to say it shouldn't be improved at all—it most certainly should—but there's an even greater necessity lacking among Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, a worrying Darren Fletcher and Anderson: leadership.
The capture of Ander Herrera might bring some versatility and a keen playmaking presence to the club, but a senior head, someone willing to put every ounce of their being into the cause, not to mention offering talent in surplus, remains absent.
It need not necessarily be the biggest of names, as we know all too well that money doesn't always buy you love. However, character and substance should rank highest in this scenario, a figure one can envision leading United into a new dawn.
Newcastle United: Striker
It was a sad day in Newcastle United diaries when BBC Sport announced that Shola Ameobi's 14-year stay at St. James' Park had reached its end, putting a stop to what seemed would be an eternal cycle.
His deal expiring and Loic Remy's loan from Queens Park Rangers coming full circle means that Papiss Demba Cisse, Sammy Ameobi and Yoan Gouffran are now the veteran attackers for the Magpies.
This is especially desperate when one considers the latter two have been more closely termed as wingers than strikers of late.
The first 18 months of Cisse's Newcastle career went swimmingly, but the Senegal international experienced dire form for periods of the 2013-14 campaign and is hardly in the state needed to lead a Premier League outfit single-handedly.
Queens Park Rangers: Centre-Back
The last of our promoted parties up for discussion is QPR, who return to the Premier League after a season in the Championship, re-emerging as playoff champions.
They managed to do so relying largely on a centre-back pairing of Clint Hill and Richard Dunne, 35 and 34, respectively, and a pairing that Harry Redknapp can't expect to last a campaign of 40 games-plus at the top level.
David Kent of the Daily Mail reports that Rio Ferdinand is closing in on a switch to Loftus Road, but even then there wouldn't be a great sense of vitality in the centre of defence.
Financial fair play may not be QPR's main concern, considering European football isn't even close to being on their horizon, but reducing the salary count wouldn't be helped by Ferdinand's arrival, either.
Nedum Onuoha is the only other clear centre-back alternative with top-flight experience under his belt, and Redknapp's recruitment pledge should begin with a look at more long-term solutions in this position.
Jay Rodriguez cuts a lonely figure at St. Mary's Stadium these days, with fellow England internationals Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana having both jumped ship for Anfield.
That, teamed with the presumption that Dani Osvaldo could soon leave the club after spending the second half of last season on loan at Juventus, would see the forward ranks dwindling at present.
In a way, Rodriguez may be upbeat about the change, as it may undoubtedly give him more of an opportunity to patrol the more central, prominent role in Ronald Koeman's line-up.
However, irrespective of what system the Dutch helmsmen is looking to promote on the south coast, back-up will be needed if the Saints are to maintain their stride as top-half contenders.
Stoke City: Box-to-Box Midfielder
By bringing Mame Biram Diouf to the Britannia Stadium from Hannover, Stoke City have moved swiftly to cure one of their major ails from last season, which was finishing chances.
The club also have a thriving contingent of attacking midfielders and a healthy selection of defensive anchors, but there's a big gap missing between those two areas.
Charlie Adam or Steven N'Zonzi are perhaps the most rounded central figures in Mark Hughes' side, which is saying a lot when one considers just how limited each of those players is.
In a way, Hughes suffers from the same shortcomings as Manchester United, missing a man who can do the breaking up of enemy probes but is also capable of consistently shaping attack himself, parading from the team's core in the most balanced sense of the term.
Stoke insisted on playing a 4-2-3-1 for the vast majority of their 2013-14 campaign, and the truth is that there is a deep reserve of creative talent in the line-up.
However, N'Zonzi and Glenn Whelan, the club's most regular central partnership, don't exactly spell out "adventurous" between them, while the likes of Adam and Stephen Ireland can't always be relied upon to get the dirty work done in a clean manner.
Gus Poyet deserves credit for the January loan of Fiorentina's Marcos Alonso as the former Bolton Wanderers misfit proved to be a highly valuable signing during his time at the Stadium of Light.
The Spaniard shared left-back duties with Jack Colback for much of the season, with an often calamitous Andrea Dossena, also on loan, making the odd cameo.
The problem is that none of those three remain at the club, with Colback having traded allegiances to Newcastle United as a free transfer while the other two have returned to their parent clubs.
What's more, Phil Bardsley, who could often fill in on his less natural side, has joined up with Stoke City, leaving the full-back slots somewhat unaccounted for.
Much of the Black Cats' fortunes last term came from their strength on the wings, the likes of Fabio Borini and Adam Johnson sometimes delighting on the left and right, respectively, but a lot of that firepower was helped on by the surging defenders.
In the interest of shoring up the back line, a more permanent solution is now what's needed at left-back, with the out-of-position Colback and temporary recruits having plugged that particular role for too long now.
Swansea City: Midfield Anchor
Swansea City's 2013-14 Premier League campaign saw them rack up a final goal difference of zero, scoring 54 and conceding 54 in their 38 outings.
Only seven teams conceded more goals than the Swans, but then only seven teams (the top seven) managed to outscore Garry Monk's men, too.
So, where should the manager's priorities lie? Why, somewhere in the middle, of course.
It's a nickname they've lost contact with, but not long ago was it that the side were known as "Swansealona" under the Martinez and Brendan Rodgers administrations. And even though the tag has somewhat vanished, the players who helped promote it largely remain.
Leon Britton, Jonjo Shelvey, Ki Sung-Yueng and to a lesser extent Alejandro Pozuelo, who prefers playing higher up the pitch, are all capable of passing mastery at times, each with varying interpretations of what that means to them.
Last summer's signing of Jose Canas from Real Betis hasn't really gone to plan, and without doing the Spaniard a major disservice, the club still require what they perhaps hoped he would turn out to be.
And that is a more defensively inclined playmaker, who will shield Ashley Williams and Chico Flores from potential threats, giving the puppeteers within the squad a cushion they can lean on.
Tottenham Hotspur: Centre Midfield
Another transfer window, another intriguing debate of just what it is Tottenham need to push them into that upper echelon of Premier League giants, and this summer the focus should shift to central midfield.
It's a byproduct of last year's mass overhaul at White Hart Lane that there currently isn't a position in Mauricio Pochettino's squad lacking in coverage.
The issue at hand is that a lot of that coverage has proven to be inferior to the standard Spurs are aiming for, and central midfield suffers from the fault, too.
The core in Tottenham's squad is crucial, as they're equipped to play in any multitude of formations, whether it be a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 along with variations in between, but each require the midfield to be its strong suit.
Sandro, Paulinho and Moussa Dembele have each shown a capacity to be up to scratch, and a versatile bunch they are, too, but the jury is still out on Lewis Holtby and Etienne Capoue. Meanwhile, Nabil Bentaleb and Tom Carroll are still diamonds in the rough, perhaps too raw to be thrust into any starting XI just yet.
If Pochettino is to invest heavily this summer, it may require some sales first, and if he were able to turn one or two of his existing central midfielders into a figure of higher standing, it would be a worthwhile sacrifice.
West Brom: Left-Back
Alan Irvine will take charge of his first-ever Premier League transfer window this summer, and one imagines that the pressure on his shoulders is substantial at present.
It's therefore essential that the former Preston and Sheffield Wednesday boss cover the bases before aiming for extravagance, and after losing their first two choices at left-back, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that's where attention is needed.
Goran Popov has returned to Dynamo Kiev, while Liam Ridgewell has moved on a free to Portland Timbers and Billy Jones, able to cover in that role to some extent, has taken to the north-east with Sunderland.
It's also an impacting factor that the loan spells of Scott Sinclair and Matej Vydra, who each took their turns on the Baggies' left wing last term, have returned to their parent clubs, placing an even greater need for security at left-back.
West Ham United: Natural Wide Men
As has become widespread among Premier League clubs in recent years, the 4-2-3-1 has been the formation of choice at Upton Park of late, with Sam Allardyce attempting to find the tools necessary to make it work.
West Ham are showing some initiative in their recruitment pledge this summer after signing Cheikhou Kouyate from Anderlecht, Mauro Zarate from Velez Sarsfield, Diego Poyet from Charlton Athletic and Aaron Cresswell from Ipswich Town.
However, Matt Jarvis and Stewart Downing are yet to receive reinforcements, or even better, superior competition for their places in the starting XI, while Joe Cole has exited to leave the wide areas one man shorter.
Ricardo Vaz Te and Modibo Maiga, strikers in their own rights, were continuously fielded as wingers or inside forwards last season, and it's a tactic that simply didn't work whenever those attackers were available.
For Big Sam's stratagem to come off and Andy Carroll to receive the kind of crossing quality he needs to make full use of his talents, a better standard is needed out wide, although value for money might be appreciated by the Hammers faithful, too.