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One smart signing for each of the traditional top six | Premier League 2019-20

  • Which players could the Premier League's traditional top six make moves for in the summer?
  • The following six players would all benefit the Premier League's top clubs.
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
Modified 23 Mar 2020, 19:09 IST

Jack Grealish would be a smart signing for Manchester United
Jack Grealish would be a smart signing for Manchester United

With the football world on hold due to the current coronavirus pandemic, one thing that may be up in the air is the upcoming transfer window. Assuming the 2019-20 campaign doesn’t restart until far into the summer, nobody is really sure what might happen to the transfer window – if it goes ahead at all.

Assuming it does, though, it should be one of the most interesting transfer windows in recent memory – particularly as the Premier League’s traditional top six haven’t been firing on all cylinders in the current campaign and at least three of them look likely to miss out on the Champions League spots.

With that in mind, how should those sides look to strengthen? Here is one signing that would make sense for each traditional top six clubs.


#1 Liverpool – Timo Werner

Timo Werner would provide competition for Liverpool
Timo Werner would provide competition for Liverpool's current front trio

Liverpool were running away with the Premier League prior to the suspension of the season, and Jurgen Klopp’s men looked like certainties to win their first league title since the 1989-90 season. So assuming 2019-20 has an endpoint and the Reds do lift the title, do they really need to strengthen in the summer? To be honest, not desperately.

They’ve already got some of the best players in the world in their positions – Alisson Becker, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mohamed Salah and so on – and while their midfield doesn’t look great on paper, the likes of Jordan Henderson and Georginio Wijnaldum fit perfectly into Klopp’s system.

That means that if Klopp is to dip his toes into the transfer market, it’ll probably be to look for backups for his current stars. The January signing of Takumi Minamino fit this bill perfectly, so Reds fans can probably forget about the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Philippe Coutinho coming to Anfield and instead expect another smarter, potentially cheaper signing instead.

Of the available players, RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner would definitely fit the bill. Liverpool have a tremendous front trio of Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, but their only true backup right now is Divock Origi, as it seems like youngster Rhian Brewster would probably benefit from another loan spell away from the club.

Werner on the other hand – after scoring 27 goals in 36 games this season – would not only provide a backup for the Reds’ current front trio, but he’d also challenge them for a spot in the team’s starting XI. And given he has a relatively cheap release clause - £50m – he’s the kind of signing that makes perfect sense for Liverpool right now.

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#2 Manchester City – Kalidou Koulibaly

Kalidou Koulibaly could help to strengthen Manchester City
Kalidou Koulibaly could help to strengthen Manchester City's defence

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City don’t have many weaknesses, as you’d expect given the insane amount of money they’ve thrown around over the past few seasons. Sure, midfielder David Silva is set to depart the Etihad this summer, but the club already have a perfect replacement for him in the form of youngster Phil Foden. However, one glaring hole in their arsenal is there for everyone to see – City’s central defence is very much lacking right now.

That wasn’t the case a season ago, but the departure of inspirational captain Vincent Kompany and a couple of serious injuries to Aymeric Laporte have left Guardiola having to rely on the inconsistent John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi, as well as midfielder Fernandinho, and the results have been striking.

2018-19 saw City lose just four games, conceding 23 goals in the process; in the current campaign they’ve already lost seven games and have conceded 31 goals, and there are still 10 games remaining for them. That means that if Guardiola wants his side to get back to their imperious best, he must strengthen their defence in the summer.

With that in mind, one signing that would make sense for City would be Napoli’s 28-year old Senegalese international Kalidou Koulibaly. The centre-back was linked with a move to Manchester United last season, but that never materialised and instead, he’s remained at the Stadio San Paolo, where he’s had a somewhat injury-hit campaign, appearing in just 15 of Napoli’s league games.

Despite that, his statistics still mark him out as a tremendous defender; he averages more tackles, more blocks and more interceptions per game than both Stones and Otamendi, while his passing statistics – a success rate of 89% and an average of 64.7 per game – mean he’d fit into Guardiola’s style of play, too.

Koulibaly would probably cost a lot of money to bring to the Etihad, but assuming City don’t have to tighten their purse strings due to their issues with Financial Fair Play rules, the Senegalese defender would be the perfect signing for them.


#3 Tottenham Hotspur – Max Aarons

Max Aarons could become Tottenham
Max Aarons could become Tottenham's new first-choice right-back

Tottenham Hotspur have suffered more than most of their ‘big six’ rivals this season; a terrible start to the campaign left them lagging behind in the race for the Champions League spots and resulted in Mauricio Pochettino losing his job, but while replacement Jose Mourinho has done slightly better, the side still haven’t quite been firing on all cylinders.

The truth is that Spurs have gaps in their squad all over the place right now due to their injury problems, but if all of their players are fit, they’re actually pretty strong in most areas. One area they’re not so strong though is at right-back.

The London side sold Kieran Trippier to Atletico Madrid in the summer and never replaced him, with the plan supposedly being to use Juan Foyth in the spot, but due to the Argentine’s injuries – and Pochettino’s sacking – that’s never come to pass.

Instead, Spurs have deployed the inconsistent Serge Aurier as their first-choice right-back, and while he’s capable of brilliance at times – especially going forward – he’s also made some horrendous mistakes too, conceding more than one penalty and being caught out of position on numerous occasions leading to goals conceded.

Due to their financial situation, it’s clear that Spurs aren’t about to go out and sign a proven world-class right-back, so who could they move for instead? One option would be Max Aarons of Norwich City. The 20-year old looks set to be relegated with the Canaries and will probably look to jump ship at the end of the season, meaning he’d be the perfect candidate for a move to Spurs – and likely wouldn’t cost the earth either.

Aarons is not the finished article yet, but already he has some favourable statistics to Aurier – he’s got a better pass success rate and completes more blocks per game while letting fewer dribbles past him – and that comes despite him playing in a far worse team than the Ivorian.

Moving for Aarons would allow Spurs to drop Aurier should he begin to show his bad side, and it’d also mean that Mourinho would have a young prospect ready to be moulded into the kind of player that the Portuguese could rely on for years to come. This transfer is a no-brainer for Spurs and they’d be best to move for him quickly.


#4 Chelsea – Dean Henderson

Could Chelsea steal Dean Henderson away from Manchester United?
Could Chelsea steal Dean Henderson away from Manchester United?

Chelsea’s first season under new boss Frank Lampard has gone well, albeit not perfectly. The Blues currently sit in fourth place in the Premier League table and have an excellent chance of capturing a Champions League spot for 2020-21, and Lampard’s use of academy products – from Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount to Reece James and Billy Gilmour – has proven to be a masterstroke, with all of the youngsters performing excellently.

However, one player who has been very much under par this season is goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga. The Spaniard – who was signed from Athletic Bilbao for a world-record fee for a goalkeeper of £71.6m in the summer of 2018 – performed decently in his debut campaign despite questions being asked of his attitude following his refusal to be substituted in the EFL Cup final, but the current campaign hasn’t gone well for him.

Kepa’s save percentage was, at the end of 2019, the worst in the Premier League, and so Lampard was forced to drop him in favour of backup keeper Willy Caballero. The Spaniard has since been restored as the Blues’ #1, but rumours still abound that Chelsea will look to replace him in the summer, with some reports linking them to Burnley keeper Nick Pope.

Perhaps a smarter move though would be for Dean Henderson. The England U-21 keeper has been on loan at Sheffield United from Manchester United and has performed phenomenally this season, helping the Blades to put together the second-best defensive record in the Premier League behind leaders Liverpool.

Under normal circumstances, he’d be expected to return to his parent club to become their #1, but United, of course, have David De Gea under a long – and expensive – contract and will probably loathe to drop him. That means that Henderson, should he return to Old Trafford, would probably be relegated to the bench, something that seems unthinkable given his form in 2019-20.

That’s why Chelsea should make a move for him; the Blues would probably have to spend a lot of money to prise him away from Old Trafford, maybe even breaking the record fee they paid for Kepa, but judging by Henderson’s form this season he’d be worth it. With the 23-year old between the sticks, Lampard’s Chelsea would definitely be considered title contenders next season.


#5 Manchester United – Jack Grealish

Jack Grealish would add another attacking dimension to Manchester United
Jack Grealish would add another attacking dimension to Manchester United

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has come under plenty of criticism since becoming Manchester United’s full-time boss, but in hindsight, the Norwegian has done a pretty solid job. Deadwood players like Ashley Young, Romelu Lukaku, Chris Smalling and Matteo Darmian have been moved on, while his signings – the likes of Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Bruno Fernandes – have undoubtedly strengthened the Red Devils’ first XI.

United are still a work in progress though and appear to be some way off challenging for the title – so where do they still need to strengthen? Their defence looks stronger than it’s been in some time, while their forward line – featuring Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Daniel James and Mason Greenwood – is extremely dangerous. However, they still only have one midfielder – Fernandes – truly capable of unlocking a tight defence.

That’s why their much-discussed move for Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish would make sense. One of the Premier League’s most outstanding attackers during the current campaign despite his team’s struggles, Grealish has unparalleled dribbling abilities – averaging 2.2 per game – and is capable of retaining the ball in tight areas and ghosting past even the best defenders.

He also draws fouls at a phenomenal rate – nobody has been fouled as many times as his 127 times this season – and is also a danger in front of goal, with seven goals and six assists to his name. Basically, if the Red Devils could slot him into their team, they’d immediately become a far more dangerous attacking unit.

If Villa are able to keep their Premier League status, it might be very hard for United to prise their best asset away from them. The Midlanders have plenty of financial muscle and Grealish only signed a new deal there in 2018. But should they be relegated, this move would be the most obvious that United could make in the summer.


#6 Arsenal – Lewis Dunk

Lewis Dunk could help to shore up Arsenal
Lewis Dunk could help to shore up Arsenal's defence

Arsenal have undoubtedly improved markedly since the arrival of new boss Mikel Arteta in December. Under the Spaniard, the Gunners now have one of the most exciting teams to watch in the Premier League, with young guns like Bukayo Saka, Eddie Nketiah and Dani Ceballos coming to the forefront in recent games.

However, their defence still looks extremely shaky, probably due to the presence of the gaffe-prone duo of David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi at the centre of things.

Arsenal do have some good defenders on their books – Sokratis and Rob Holding both come to mind – but they could do with an experienced head to lead their back-line and one who isn’t so prone to making errors. That’s why a move for Brighton’s Lewis Dunk would make plenty of sense.

Dunk – who has been capped by England – is in the prime of his career at the age of 28, and despite playing for a struggling team, has never really suffered a dip in form throughout his time in the Premier League. More to the point, his statistics show him to be a far superior defender to both Luiz and Mustafi, as he averages more tackles per game and interceptions per game and also has a better pass success rate (87.1%).

And while defensive solidity is what Arsenal should be looking for right now, Dunk also offers a threat in front of goal; his two goals and three assists are a better return than any of the Gunners’ current centre-backs.

Brighton seem likely to survive in the Premier League for another season, but it’d be understandable if Dunk were to look for a step up now; at the age of 28 it’ll probably be his last chance to do so and he could well cement himself in the England set-up by playing at a higher side. Arteta should look to make a bid for him this summer, and with Dunk aboard, Arsenal’s defence would look a lot stronger.

Published 23 Mar 2020, 19:09 IST
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