With the title race all but over in February, many Premier League teams will be looking towards the summer with a view to potential dealings.
The battle for fourth still rages on, whilst at the foot of the table relegation candidates scrap to maintain their status as top tier clubs. So what exactly will managers (or in some cases, chairmen) look to achieve this summer?
Letting Danny Graham leave this January in his transfer to Sunderland was a risk at best. Swansea look a tad light at the front, the rather inadequate Itay Schechter and his 14 appearances so far showing that another striker would be ideal, even if summer signing Michu can maintain his excellent form. Leo Baptistao, another Rayo Vallecano man, would be a wise investment.
Neil Taylor should hopefully return from injury next season, and another central defender could come in. Kyle Bartley and Garry Monk haven’t quite lived up to the outstanding performances of the injured Chico Flores, so expect to see at least o e defensive reinforcement arrive at the Liberty Stadium this summer.
Although they have managed with only 3 convincing options in central midfield for the most part of this season, one finds it difficult to believe that Michael Laudrup will be happy going into next season light in the most important area of his team.
It would be very easy to name names that could do a job for the Swans, but finding players able to slip straight into the system is another matter altogether.
Chances are that the difficulty in finding such players is the reason only Leon Britton, Ki Sung-Yueng and Jonathan de Guzman could be seen as genuine options for the first team.
Laudrup will be trusted with funds necessary to strengthen his squad, ideally with the aim of pushing for a top seven spot. Huw Jenkins, however, is a boring man by his own admission.
It’s unlikely that we will see any hefty fees paid for one single player, more bargains along the lines of former Celtic man Ki, or Spaniard Pablo Hernandez seem much more likely.
This could potentially be a very exciting summer for Tottenham fans. The first eleven already looks very strong indeed, and the addition of a striker capable of fluid movement across the front-line could launch this team into contention for a top two spot.
The interchange currently occurring between Lewis Holtby, Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Emmanuel Adebayor looks very impressive indeed; it can only improve as Bale adjusts to his new found freedom.
Then again, looking at the entire squad, it seems a tad foolish to suggest that one player could make all the difference. On paper, the likes of Scott Parker and Clint Dempsey are good players in their own right.
The former enjoyed one of his best seasons last year, as did the latter as the main man at Fulham. Under the current regime however, Parker slows down play alongside Moussa Dembele to the point where he has Tottenham fans howling in pain at his trademark 17 point turn.
Dempsey lacks the pace required to play as a genuine wide-man like Aaron Lennon, or the vision to play in the centre of the park. I won’t even mention Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Ideally, 3 signings should be made this summer by AVB and Daniel Levy. A striker who can move across the front-line, a backup winger able to stretch defenses, and a fullback to provide Kyle Walker with a much needed kick up the backside.
If they are to move on any of Huddlestone, Sigurdsson or potentially Jake Livermore on loan, another midfielder able to maintain the pace should come in.
With their current rota, its difficult to say that another midfielder should come in for various reasons. Younger players such as Sigurdsson and Livermore need time to prove themselves, and despite Scott Parker’s deficiencies, he adds some much needed experience to a relatively young side.
Without being rid of a face or two, unless a player with Champions League experience comes up for sale, its doubtful that any moves will be made.
This is all conjecture anyhow. Daniel Levy will probably only crawl out of his hibernation pod at 9 o’ clock on deadline day, so anything other than a good bargain that doesn’t quite fit the system is out of the question.
West Bromwich Albion
Next year is unlikely to be an exciting year for West Brom. Steve Clarke is a big fan of ‘organisation’ and ‘work ethic’, which is code for sustained mid table obscurity. Then again, when the club gets a nickname like Boing Boing, just staying where you are is perhaps the best for all involved.
Anyway, a new striker will arrive as Romelu Lukaku returns to Chelsea and Peter Odemwingie is cast into the fiery depths of Wolverhampton.
Maybe a young centre back or right back could arrive, possibly a new attacker to reinvigorate a strike force likely to lose 2 key men before the start of next season.
The early season success at the Hawthorns however was built upon a midfield crux of the impressive duo Claudio Yacob and Youssuf Mulumbu. The latter has been linked with a move away from the West Midlands in years gone by, but keeping hold of the pair whilst adding some backup should be a must for Steve Clarke.
The Scot could do worse than watching out for any potential exits from Tottenham – Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore would both fit straight in.
West Ham United
For all his detractors, Sam Allardyce will keep you alive in the Premier League.
The manager builds his sides on a tried and tested formula, one that has achieves its goals with minimum fuss – say what you will about how pretty it is to watch, West Ham needed a quick return to the top flight and to stay out of a relegation scrap as best they could. Allardyce has achieved/is achieving this.
Unfortunately, the question of whether Big Sam can take them any further is one that I suspect Davids Gold and Sullivan already know the answer to. The style of football currently being played at the Boleyn Ground is one that rarely succeeds in modern day football.
Indeed it rarely guarantees any kind of domestic success in this day and age. It’s not quite on the level of Stoke City, but in no way could it be described as Tika-Taka.
So, where do we go from here? Does Karen Brady whisper a seductive groan of gratitude in Sam’s ear, only to see him off with a P.45 and a mild erection?
Or do the chairmen continue to back Sam, to the eventual behest of the fans, only to realise that a shift in style (much like at Stoke actually) has become very difficult to achieve without a considerable turnover in personnel?
We’ll have to wait a while for an answer to that one unfortunately.
Anyway, a right back is what they need, along with a left winger and a striker. Guy Demel and Carlton Cole just don’t do it for me I’m afraid.
Summer signings Matt Jarvis and Modibo Maiga have failed to really impress, though maybe if they can get their hands on Andy Carroll for keeps, one of the aforementioned problems could well be fixed. Keeping hold of Mohamed Diame will be important regardless of who is at the helm come next season also.
Hmmm. Who knows really. If they are to pull off yet another miracle, Roberto Martinez should really be granted the freedom of Wigan and a key to the city. If not, then a few cast offs with something to prove who won’t inflate the wage bill beyond English Championship proportions will be signed.
But let’s look at the positives, shall we? Arouna Kone has been a successful signing, the midfield duo of McCarthy and McArthur have come on some, and Jean Beausejour always seems to ping in a few decent balls from the left. Unfortunately, four of their best players show off three of their biggest problems.
Kone has been good enough playing off the right in a front three, unfortunately he has Franco Di Santo alongside him. When you’re top scorer has six goals despite leaving for a chunk of the season to play for his national team, scoring goals is obviously an issue.
The two James’ are pretty good players in their own right, combining well and knocking it around rather well at times. Without Mohamed Diame to balance out the style with some rugged, ball clenching substance however, the team has found it very difficult indeed this season to defend against counter attacking sides. As if they could get much worse at defending.
Then of course we have Beausejour. Averaging the highest key passes per game at 1.8, the Chilean, whilst still doing a job defensively, both he and Emerson Boyce are asked to operate up and down the entirety of their respective flanks.
It takes one hell of an athlete to do such an intense job, unfortunately neither are quite quick enough to regularly push down to the byline. As a result, one or more of the front three tend to drop deep to create, leaving his strike partners a tad isolated at times.
The current 3-4-3 formation may have served Wigan well when they had the likes of Victor Moses and Diame in their ranks adding a direct element to their game, as for now though it flatters to deceive.
So, really, what Wigan need this summer is a change in tactics. Add some muscle to that midfield too and they might just get by without spending 90% of the season in the relegation zone.