It’s the circle of life at a top-flight club. New arrivals mean casualties – and here’s how we think your team can improve in the transfer window this summer
One out: Theo Walcott
It’s time. The excuses are tired and Walcott’s value to Arsenal is declining by the season. He’s not a bad player and he never has been, but he’s become indicative of the culture of underachievement that Arsene Wenger has allowed to fester.
No matter how many times Walcott’s body fails him or how regularly he vanishes at critical moments, nothing seems to interrupt the supply of new and improved contracts awarded to him. He’s a good professional and likeable person, but he’s become a symbol of his club’s tolerance for imperfection.
One in: Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon)
Lacazette would be expensive but certainly an improvement and, if the need arises, he could theoretically play alongside Olivier Giroud as well as instead of him
Granit Xhaka has arrived to stiffen a somewhat fragile midfield, but Wenger must also add a forward before the window closes. It’s easier said than done, of course, because there aren’t many available goalscorers who would actually improve Arsenal.
Lacazette would be expensive but certainly an improvement and, if the need arises, he could theoretically play alongside Olivier Giroud as well as instead of him. Still just 25, the Frenchman would represent far better value than the often-linked Gonzalo Higuain and, again unlike the Argentine, he could still improve as a player under the circumstances.
One out: Adam Federici
He was a standout goalkeeper in the Championship when he won promotion with Reading, but he’s never looked comfortable in the Premier League
It’s probably not going to happen, because he recently signed a new contract, but Federici should really be sacrificed for someone more reliable. He was a standout goalkeeper in the Championship when he won promotion with Reading, but he’s never looked comfortable in the Premier League and seems to struggle with the demands of the game at that level. Artur Boruc is now in his late thirties and goalkeepers of that age need competent understudies.
One in: Rico Henry (Walsall)
There isn’t a more coveted teenage full-back in the country than Walsall’s Henry. Very quick, very ambitious on the ball and very modern, he is essentially the 2016 prototype for his position and though his inexperience is evidenced by the occasional hiccup (he didn’t have the best time in the League One play-off semi-final), he is heading right for the top of the game.
Almost every big club in the country has been linked but Bournemouth could lure him with the theoretical promise of first-team football sooner, and the opportunity to work with Eddie Howe. From a neutral’s perspective, everyone should want emerging English players to be coached by Howe.
One out: Dean Marney
Sean Dyche has a small squad and surely won’t be in a hurry to trim it, but Marney has limited value at Premier League level. At 32 and on the team’s periphery, it would perhaps make more sense to allow him to drop back into the Championship. Burnley will, as they did in 2014, emphasise prudence over reckless spending and Marney’s place on the wage bill is hard to justify.
One in: Idrissa Gueye (Aston Villa)
He’s exactly the sort of resilient component who would toughen up Dyche’s side and, happily, he’s rumoured to have a sub-£10m release clause in his contract
Joey Barton was a cornerstone of the side’s promotion and so, with the sweet and tender hooligan now having left the club, that area needs strengthening. Twenty-year-old Jack Leitch has joined from Motherwell, but Burnley need someone capable of making an instant contribution.
Idrissa Gueye may be tainted by Aston Villa’s limp relegation, but within different surroundings he would have proven to be an excellent signing – and he would be for Burnley. A solid performer in every aspect of the midfield game, he’s exactly the sort of resilient component who would toughen up Dyche’s side and, happily, he’s rumoured to have a sub-£10m release clause in his contract. It might be ambitious, though – reports suggest he’s already turned down Marseille.
One out: Loic Remy
Remy was once considered an excellent prospect, a tag he justified at Marseille and then Newcastle. At Chelsea, however, he serves no purpose – less so now that Michy Batshuayi has been signed. Whether it’s the size of the club, the expectation level, or the brightness of the lights, he just doesn’t have the self-belief to be a regular contributor at that level and, ultimately, he’s now wasting his career at Stamford Bridge.
One in: N’Golo Kante (Leicester)
Just one? It’s difficult because Chelsea have a range of areas to strengthen, and the appeal and resources to improve them all in the space of a single summer. Antonio Conte will likely be most troubled by the state of the midfield, though, with Nemanja Matic poor in 2015/16, Cesc Fabregas a disappointment, and Jon Obi Mikel limited.
Radja Nainggolan seemed close to a move earlier in the year, but he has drifted from Chelsea’s radar since and, given the player’s age, that might not be a bad thing. Instead, Conte would do well to toughen his soft middle with Kante – and no apologies for the lack of imagination. Everyone’s favourite French midfielder is so much more than a destroyer: skilful, capable of providing counter-attacking support and, of course, the finest defensive shield in the country last season. Kante would help to protect the back four during what is likely to be a tricky transitional period – and reports suggest the deal’s done.
One out: Lee Chung-yong
Once upon a time, Lee was deservedly considered one of the most underrated players in the division. Those Bolton days are long ago, though, and having made just five Premier League starts for Palace in 18 months, he doesn’t have a clear and obvious purpose at Selhurst Park.
At his early-20s best he was a fun player to watch, but he now seems to be little more than squad clutter. The new broadcasting contract will allow English clubs to spread their resources thinly, but that isn’t a justification for carrying players with no relevance. There are better – younger – utility options available.
One in: Will Hughes (Derby)
Diversity is needed, especially in the middle of the pitch, and Derby’s Hughes – with his sweet left foot and penetrative passing – would provide it
Palace have become one-dimensional and are frequently too reliant on their wide players to create chances. They’re predictable and relatively easy to defend against and, consequently, Scott Dann was their joint-top scorer last season.
Diversity is needed, especially in the middle of the pitch, and Derby’s Hughes – with his sweet left foot and penetrative passing – would provide it. He’s a deep-lying player with a tendency to break forward and be an influence at the top of the pitch but, most importantly, he would bring more temperament and subtlety to a rather one-paced midfield.
One out: Kevin Mirallas
He was excellent for the club that Everton were, but surely not good enough to play for the club that they now aspire to be
At his best, Mirallas can be sensational. The trouble is, that best is becoming a distant memory and, at 28, it’s time for Everton to consider his declining re-sale value.
Farhad Moshiri’s wealth may have brought a new day to Goodison Park, but that isn’t reason in itself to keep paying a fading player with a questionable attitude. Rather, it should be an opportunity to move on from the Belgian: he was excellent for the club that Everton were, but surely not good enough to play for the club that they now aspire to be.
One in: Tim Krul (Newcastle)
Axel Witsel is seemingly already of interest, so that’s one worthy target off the list. Though Everton superficially appear to be in need of defensive reinforcements, it would probably be wise to target the level below: Ronald Koeman needs a new goalkeeper. Tim Howard has returned to MLS and Joel Robles is not a top-six No.1. Meanwhile, in Newcastle, Tim Krul is probably less than enthused at the prospect of a year in the Championship and would represent a quick and easy solution to a longstanding Everton problem.
Krul is less than perfect and can be error-prone, but he’s been one of the best shot-stoppers in the country for a few years and his height and command of his box would create a stability that the Everton back four badly need. Moshiri’s money will give Koeman access to more exciting players than Krul, but improvement is improvement.
One out: Eldin Jakupovic
Jakupovic can be terrifying to watch because the memories of his previous errors are fairly vivid. He’s a perfectly serviceable Football League goalkeeper, but he shouldn’t really be tasked with backing up a 34-year-old Allan McGregor at the level above. If he has to play, it will create a problem for Steve Bruce – and that’s the kind of squad deficiency which really needs to be resolved before the season starts.
One in: Ryan Mason (Tottenham)
Ryan Mason would provide a sensible, economic solution
Despite only gaining promotion through the play-offs, Hull are arguably better equipped to survive than either Burnley or Middlesbrough. They don’t need much: their defence is settled (watch out for full-back Moses Odubajo, incidentally) and they have Premier League experience running through their spine. If there is a theoretical weakness, it’s the team’s inability to keep control of possession in the middle of the pitch and, given that it’s already been reported, Tottenham‘s Ryan Mason would provide a sensible, economic solution.
Mason may look clunky alongside cultured ball players like Christian Eriksen and Mousa Dembele at White Hart Lane, but his combative nature and competitive intangibles actually mask a fairly likeable basic skill set. He’s not flashy and signing him obviously wouldn’t constitute a ‘welcome back to the big time’ moment, but he’s a resilient professional who has the heart and the ability for the fight ahead.
One out: Gokhan Inler
This transfer didn’t work, and Inler’s inability to force his way into Claudio Ranieiri’s side ultimately cost him a place at Euro 2016 with Switzerland. Short and sweet: a parting of ways is in everyone’s interests.
One in: Mathieu Debuchy (Arsenal)
There’s really nothing which is clear and obviously wrong with Ranieri’s squad. A few smart additions have already been made which will offer variation, but there’s no definitive weakness to be remedied. At a stretch – and, yes, this sounds mean spirited – Danny Simpson could probably be improved upon.
Debuchy is heavily out of favour at Arsenal, spent the second half of last season at Bordeaux, and has next-to-no chance of dislodging Hector Bellerin. He wouldn’t be a marquee signing and obviously isn’t the type of player supporters dreamt of signing after winning the league, but Leicester have to be careful not to upset the existing balance. Debuchy is a better player than Simpson and, happily, he would also offer emergency cover in central defence.
One out: Simon Mignolet
Some of Mignolet’s criticism has been far too harsh and he’s too talented a goalkeeper to have been belittled like he has. The trouble is, though, that he’s just not the right kind of player for Liverpool.
Big clubs with lofty aspirations place a premium on decision making and organisational minutiae, whereas the Belgian is really a reflex-based keeper. Each season, he makes as many spectacular saves as anybody in the league, but his error count is suspiciously high and, as a consequence, he’s a liability that Jurgen Klopp could do without.
One in: Fraser Forster (Southampton)
Given Liverpool’s penchant for Southampton players, it’s peculiar that they’ve never shown even a flickering interest in Forster. The 6ft 6in England international is the anti-Mignolet: steady, unspectacular and emotionally reliable. His command of the penalty box would allow Klopp’s new defence to grow under calmer conditions, and help to cure Liverpool’s perennial weakness.
One out: Wilfried Bony
This… has not gone well. £30m? Ouch
This… has not gone well. £30m? Ouch. Bony is an exceptional player and fabulously talented, but he just hasn’t adjusted to Manchester City and, perhaps, the stage they play on is a little too big for him.
City don’t need to sell anybody, but Sergio Aguero will be Pep Guardiola’s default first choice, Kelechi Iheanacho will presumably become his backup before much longer, and Bony will be stuck on the periphery for the best years of his career.
One in: Jose Gaya (Valencia)
City’s approach to full-back recruitment has always been curiously laissez-faire and, given how Guardiola relies on the position, that will now need to change. Aleksandar Kolarov has left the club and Valencia’s Gaya, with his impressive close control, strong delivery, and maturing defensive mind, would offer a sizeable upgrade on Gael Clichy in both halves of the pitch.
One out: Adnan Januzaj
Louis van Gaal didn’t seem to trust him and Thomas Tuchel allowed him just six games at Borussia Dortmund before terminating his loan
Januzaj’s original reputation owed much to his surroundings and to the fact that, at the time of his first-team breakthrough, he was a lone bright spot in a dark, Moyesian world. In the years since, he’s barely been seen. Louis van Gaal didn’t seem to trust him and Thomas Tuchel allowed him just six games at Borussia Dortmund before terminating his loan.
The likely truth is that he was never quite as good as the club’s supporters claimed – and, although he’ll presumably have a decent career in a top European league, Januzaj’s meagre defensive work-rate and patchy attacking output are unlikely to be tolerated by Jose Mourinho.
One in: Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)
At the time of writing a deal for Paul Pogba is up in the air but, outstanding player though the French midfielder is, perhaps Kroos would solve more of United‘s relevant problems?
Michael Carrick will turn 35 before the season begins and Mourinho is desperately short of sitting midfielders who can influence play with the ball at their feet. Kroos has the passing range and vision to do that, and also to solve the chronic temperament problems which have made the last two years so hard to watch. It’s low-percentage, as Real Madrid would be reluctant to sell, but it’s logical and, owing to United’s financial reach, possible.
One out: Nobody
That’s not an easy way out or a refusal to be cruel, just a recognition that Aitor Karanka doesn’t have the biggest squad and really shouldn’t be in a rush to make it any smaller. Newly promoted players can sometimes struggle with the quicker pace at the higher level and Boro don’t want to find themselves panic-buying in late August just for the sake of adding extra bodies. Tread slowly and carefully: there’s nothing wrong with that.
One in: Youssouf Mulumbu
The ex-Baggie’s career may have stuttered lately and something evidently went wrong for him at Carrow Road, but when fully fit he’s still a formidable ball-winner
Not a lot needs doing. Viktor Fischer has joined, Bernardo Espinosa and the £12m Marten de Roon have been signed from Sporting Gijon and Atalanta respectively, and Victor Valdes has ended his bizarre stay at Manchester United by joining. Subject to Home Office approval, Neven Subotic and Gaston Ramirez (who spent last season on loan at The Riverside) will also be added.
Still, Karanka could do with further reinforcing his midfield. Grant Leadbitter and Adam Clayton should both be able to adapt to the higher level, but Norwich’s Mulumbu would provide both depth and variation. The ex-Baggie’s career may have stuttered lately and something evidently went wrong for him at Carrow Road, but when fully fit he’s still a formidable ball-winner who would certainly make Boro harder to break down.
One out: Oriol Romeu
If Southampton still bore the characteristics of a recently promoted team, Romeu would be a perfectly competent squad player. The trouble is – and this is more a reflection of their growth rather than his ability – they’re not that side anymore.
A 6th-placed finish last season was not a false economy and they really should be beginning to look towards the Champions League. So is Romeu really good enough to help them on that journey? Is any part of his game or any one of his attributes strong enough to make him a difference-maker inside the Premier League’s top six? Probably not. He belongs in mid-table and Southampton don’t – whatever their selling strategy might say.
One in: Valere Germain (Nice)
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Nathan Redmond have already been signed, but Graziano Pelle’s transfer to the Chinese Super League leaves a gap which Charlie Austin alone can’t fill. Austin is certainly predatory inside the box, but he’s passive outside it and Claude Puel needs a more complete forward. He could do worse than return to his former club Nice to find one.
Germain scored 14 goals in 36 games last season (under Puel), and although that’s not a particularly impressive return, he would bring an interesting set of abilities to the south coast. He doesn’t have Pelle’s physique and isn’t as dominant in the air, but he would be a more technical pivot and suit the collective style: Southampton are an intricate side and they would complement Germain’s abilities really nicely.
He can finish, too. His first touch is intelligent and his off-the-ball movement is strong. He’s never been prolific and that’s not likely to change, but he’s the kind of forward who would facilitate overall improvement without necessarily being statistically dazzling. Austin, Shane Long, and Germain would form a very interesting ‘forward-by-committee’ situation.
One out: Charlie Adam
Adam still has a situational value and, even beyond 30, his set-piece delivery and ball-striking ability would make him a useful squad member. Twelve starts, a single goal and a solitary assist in 2015/16 tells a story, though, and Adam’s relevance at the bet365 Stadium is declining by the month. Let’s be honest, he doesn’t really fit the newly established culture.
One in: Ignacio Camacho (Malaga)
Stoke have evolved and improved beyond all recognition in recent years and, given that this Phase 2.0 is only halfway complete, it’s tempting to preach gentle evolution over dramatic change. However, if there is a weakness, it’s in central midfield. Giannelli Imbula’s arrival equipped Mark Hughes with an authentic and outstanding box-to-box player, and a rugged, more static ball-winner like Malaga’s Camacho would complement him well. Glenn Whelan’s race is sadly now run and, without meaning to diminish his career, he needs to be modernised.
One out: Will Buckley
He’s not a Premier League player, is he? And actually – and this is meant with the greatest respect – he’s a symbol of how misguided Sunderland‘s recruitment has often been. He’s by no means the worst player to have been bought during the Ellis Short era but, while serving no real financial purpose, his sale would help to declutter a muddled squad.
One in: Ryad Boudebouz (Montpellier)
He’s an entertaining player who would certainly create chances from the middle of the pitch and get supporters out of their seats
Sam Allardyce completed some smart business in January and it’s to his credit that the team doesn’t require major surgery. Sunderland’s geographical location will always make it harder for them to attract household names, but perhaps Montpellier’s Boudebouz would add some creativity to those fallow central areas?
The 26-year-old is one to approach with caution and can seem both lightweight and self-indulgent, but he’s an entertaining player who would certainly create chances from the middle of the pitch and get supporters out of their seats.
One out: Bafetimbi Gomis
Francesco Guidolin is a tactically conservative manager and he needs a reliable striker at the top of his formation. Gomis can be a good finisher and his Ligue 1 goal record wasn’t an illusion, but his hold-up play is generally quite formulaic and, also partly because of his disdain for the offside laws, he was never really equipped to replace Wilfried Bony.
The Ivorian had generic targetman qualities, but they were a masque for his light first touch and a fabulous range of lay-offs. Gomis is far blunter and even at his Lyon best he never had quite as many layers to his game. His departure seems inevitable, but it’s also necessary: Swansea will never progress with him on the field.
One in: Diafra Sakho (West Ham)
The club have a reported interest in Leonardo Ulloa but, while a capable player, signing the Argentine shouldn’t represent the beginning and end of their attacking re-fit. Swansea are extremely well run and aren’t prone to lunges in the transfer market, but emboldened by the new television contract and new American investment, they can afford to be more ambitious.
West Ham have spent all summer bidding for forwards, with the implication that Sakho is now surplus to requirements – and he’d be an sly addition for someone else. Superb in wide areas and underrated as both a pure finisher and aerial threat, he would likely combine extremely well with Gylfi Sigurdsson and help to make Guidolin’s side harder to defend against.
One out: Ryan Mason
Mason is an admirable professional who has fought back from a succession of injuries to have a Premier League career. Football is a results-based business, though, and over the last 18 months his club has probably outgrown him.
His attitude is consistently excellent and he would doubtless continue to accept his backup role with good grace, but the technical distance between him and the players he supports is just a bit too wide now.
One in: Hakim Ziyech (Twente)
He’s a raw player, but his talent is blindingly obvious
Tottenham have done well this summer, recruiting Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen to solve two problem areas. Their remaining task is to add depth to the band of attacking midfielders who operate behind the lone forward and, in Twente’s Hakim Ziyech, there exists a creative, exciting solution.
Predominantly left-footed but competent on either, the Morocco international can theoretically play from any attacking area and, at 23, he’s still impressionable enough to be moulded by Mauricio Pochettino. He’s a raw player, but his talent is blindingly obvious. The Eredivisie isn’t always a reliable barometer of a player’s ability, but after a few months in the Spurs weights room and a season or two under Pochettino, Ziyech could really be something interesting.
One out: Nordin Amrabat
The addition of Isaac Success, who will presumably be used in wide areas rather than as an outright forward, will limit his opportunities even further
Amrabat has had a very transient career: at 29, he has only played 50 league games or more for one of his eight clubs – and he doesn’t seem likely to improve that statistic at Vicarage Road. It’s not that he’s a poor player – he’s not – he just doesn’t appear to have the attributes that are valued in England and the addition of Isaac Success, who will presumably be used in wide areas rather than as an outright forward, will limit his opportunities even further.
He doesn’t deserve to be sold and he’s done nothing wrong, it’s more that the case for keeping him isn’t particularly strong.
One in: Nobody
Watford have moved quickly and decisively to give Walter Mazzarri the best opportunity to develop some continuity. They may be the club who keep defying assumed logic and ridiculing the perceived value of stability, but too much turnover will eventually cost them.
Success has arrived from Granada and he’s someone to be excited about, highly rated Christian Kabasele has moved from the Jupiler League to add depth at centre-back, and young forward Jerome Sinclair has signed from Liverpool on a free. Done, done, and done: let the gelling process begin.
One out: Saido Berahino
After last season’s fiasco, surely it’s time to cut the cord? Berahino eventually returned to the fold and seemed genuinely remorseful for his actions, but he has now reportedly rejected the offer of a new contract and, with each passing month, his value falls.
He’s a good player who will have a bright career somewhere, but he’s someone from whom Tony Pulis, Jeremy Peace and West Brom must now move on.
One in: Anybody with some flair
Seriously, just anybody who has an entertaining set of characteristics. Surviving in the Premier League is all well and good, but eventually those supporters have to be rewarded with more than just living death.
Jonathan Leko is a spectacularly gifted forward with a range of skills that belong in a computer game, but Pulis’s army of dour monoliths desperately needs another flourish. From a tactical point of view, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to inject this side with something a little less predictable. Sign a player – any player – just so long as he can do a roulette, a flip-flap and a Cruyff turn.
One out: Enner Valencia
It’s not difficult to see why West Ham spent what they did on him. However, eight league goals in two seasons is a miserly contribution
Punch his lifebelt. Valencia has produced some exquisite moments over the last two years and it’s not difficult to see why West Ham spent what they did on him. However, eight league goals in two seasons is a miserly contribution and, though mitigated by injury, it’s the kind of form which makes him easy to replace.
Like a few other clubs on this list, West Ham’s world is changing and they are no longer in a position which forces them to tolerate underperforming players. He has three years left on his current contract, so now is the time to recoup some of that original fee.
One in: Wilfried Bony (Man City)
Remember his partnership with Gylfi Sigurdsson at Swansea? Well, replace Sigurdsson with Dimitri Payet and consider what that combination might be capable of. Bony may have been tainted by his time at Manchester City, but he remains a very complete forward and a more logical addition than any of the players with whom the club have been flirting.
Slaven Bilic needs someone who scores goals, of course, but he also requires a proper pivot: one who can help accentuate the impact of the supporting layer of attacking-midfield talent (Payet, Lanzini, Feghouli). Bony may have fallen out of fashion, but he would still meet that criteria and, at the time of writing, City are reportedly willing to sell.