The summer transfer window is officially open, with many clubs having already completed some early business and the rumours and gossip starting to swirl.
Declan Rice, Moises Caicedo, Harry Kane and James Maddison are just a few of the names to watch over the coming weeks and months, but there are many other big name players who could also bolster one or more of the clubs who finished in the top eight of the Premier League last season.
Here’s one player we think each of those sides should sign to help them improve or equal last season’s performance…
MANCHESTER CITY: JOSKO GVARDIOLEmbed from Getty Images
There are few areas where Manchester City can realistically improve having won the treble last season. But the wide defensive area is one where they will likely need reinforcements. Pep Guardiola deployed an unusual three-at-the-back system towards the end of last season, often playing without a recognised left-back after Joao Cancelo joined Bayern Munich on loan following a fallout with his manager. Whether or not there is a way back for Cancelo remains to be seen, but Kyle Walker is another who could leave the club this summer with Bayern also reportedly interested in him.
Gvardiol has established himself as perhaps the most exciting young defender in the world over the past couple of seasons. He would fit perfectly into the system Guardiola played towards the end of last season and while primarily a central defender, can also play as a left-back in a back four. The 21-year-old was part of the RB Leipzig team which was thumped 7-0 by Man City in the Champions League last season but that is not an accurate reflection of the Croatian’s ability, and his defensive versatility and ability on the ball makes him a perfect signing for Guardiola.
ARSENAL: DECLAN RICEEmbed from Getty Images
Arsenal’s widely reported interest in the West Ham and England midfielder was followed by an opening bid from the Gunners earlier this week said to be worth around £80m plus add-ons, which was rejected by their London rivals. They are set to return with a second bid soon, with West Ham holding out for more than £100m for the 24-year-old. With Granit Xhaka looking set to depart for Bayer Leverkusen, Arsenal are in need of a replacement and there is no one available that would be a better option than Rice.
He won possession more often than any other player across Europe’s top five leagues last season, and his ability with it at his feet has improved considerably since he broke into the Hammers first team. From a centre-back to a defensive midfielder, Rice is now becoming the complete central midfield player and it’s easy to see how his strength at carrying the ball forward would benefit Arsenal’s plethora of attacking talent. Arsenal will have to pay big for Rice, and are also reportedly facing competition from last season’s title rivals Man City, but will have to splash out if they are serious about establishing themselves as title contenders again.
MAN UTD: DAVID RAYAEmbed from Getty Images
Much has been said about United’s need for a striker, and while that is true, they could also do with a new first-choice goalkeeper regardless of whether David de Gea opts to sign a new contract with the club or not. De Gea’s deal expires this summer but talks are ongoing over a new contract for the Spaniard. While he kept the most clean sheets in the Premier League last season, he also made several high-profile errors which cost his team, most notably in their Europa League exit to Sevilla. It’s difficult to judge a player like de Gea given his often unbelievable highs with some of the saves he makes and his catastrophic lows with a catalogue of high-profile errors. But if Erik ten Hag is serious about his goalkeepers playing out with their feet, he needs a new first-choice.
David Raya, another Spaniard, has established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League over the past two seasons with Brentford, and perhaps his biggest strength is his passing ability. He would fit the way ten Hag wants to play perfectly, and while not as good of a shot stopper as de Gea he is less error prone and is still a talented goalkeeper in the true sense of the word. Tottenham are very interested in Raya’s services, so United might need to move swiftly in order not to miss out on him.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: JAMES MADDISONEmbed from Getty Images
Eddie Howe and his Newcastle side did brilliantly to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League last season. Despite a takeover by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIF) making them one of the richest clubs in the world, few would have expected the current Newcastle squad to finish fourth. But if they are to build on last season and to compete against Europe’s elite, significant improvement is still needed .
The Magpies struggled for goals at times last season, and bringing in James Maddison from relegated Leicester City would help address that. The playmaker’s creativity from cental or wide positions and his ability to score wonder goals out of very little would help Howe’s side to become more dangerous going forward and would add another goal threat to the team.
LIVERPOOL: EBERE EZE
Liverpool have already moved swiftly to provide some much needed bolstering to their midfield with the signing of Alexis Mac Allister from Brighton. But after such a disappointing season in which the Reds missed out on Champions League football, it’s clear that more work on the team is needed – with midfield remaining the key area that needs to be added to.
Ebere Eze has thrived playing in a deeper midfield role for Crystal Palace and won his first England call-up following the end of a Premier League season in which he scored ten goals. His superb dribbling skills and pace driving forward with the ball at his feet means he could thrive as a player who links midfield to the attack, and his versatlity means he could also play as one of the wide front players too if required. He would also add goals to a midfield which did not score enough last season.
BRIGHTON: JAMES WARD-PROWSEEmbed from Getty Images
With Mac Allister having already left Brighton and Moises Caicedo also expected to depart for any one of a number of interested clubs, the Seagulls will need to strengthen in central midfield this summer as they get ready for a Europa League campaign next season. Brighton have not been known as a club that splashes out big money on players, but the higher up they go the more money they will likely need to spend to stay there. Especially if they keep losing their best players.
Despite being relegated, Southampton would require a hefty fee to part with Ward-Prowse, but Brighton will have the money to spend if they sell Caicedo. His work-rate, passing ability and set-piece delivery would add something new to Brighton’s midfield as they look to establish themselves as regulars in the top six of the table.
ASTON VILLA: HARVEY BARNESEmbed from Getty Images
Aston Villa sealed Europa Conference League qualification on the final day of last season, finishing off a fantastic season since Unai Emery’s arrival in the perfect way. The former Villarreal boss has an outstanding record in European competitions and will be hoping Villa can repeat West Ham’s heroics of this past season, and signing Harvey Barnes might just help him to do that while also ensuring the Villains enjoy another successful domestic season. Barnes scored 13 league goals in a relegated Leicester City side last season and would be another fine attacking option to add to the likes of Emi Buendia, Ollie Watkins and Jacob Ramsey.
TOTTENHAM: RUBEN NEVESEmbed from Getty Images
Tottenham’s options in the transfer market will be limited somewhat by missing out on European football completely, putting the club in a difficult spot as they look to make major strides forward following a dismal campaign. Spurs probably need four or five key signings to give new boss Ange Postecoglou a real chance of making progress, and Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves could be the type of solid and dependable signing that can help him do that. Neves has established himself as a fine Premier League player at Wolves and has hinted that he is ready for a new challenge. He would bolster a midfield which is currently lacking and provide some added tenacity, hard work and perhaps most importantly, quality.