Connect in the back of the net

Crystal Palace

Summary

Staying in the Premier League should be Palace’s number one priority every season but it’s been disappointing at how bad they have struggled.

A team boasting Zaha, Benteke, Townsend and Cabaye should be pushing up but their defence has let them down so they were rightly in a dog fight.

Big Sam will keep you in the league and has yet again proven himself as a master at keeping teams in this league.

The form of Zaha and Benteke have been key to their success while signing Sahko was a master stroke, even if he did only play 8 league games.

 

Player of the Season – Christian Benteke

Young Player of the Season – Wilfried Zaha

One to Watch – Luka Milivojevic

 

What do they need?

A stable season; Palace had a topsy turvy season this time around but have the potential to for a top ten finish. As seen with West Brom, you don’t need to play flashy football to get there.

Palace  have won the same amount of games as West Brom and Southampton but last week, Palace were not safe while West Brom and Southampton are both in great positions to finish 8th.

Palace have drawn the fewest amount of games this season and will need to learn to grind out results.

Like with many other teams, they will need to keep their strongest players and try sort a deal with Liverpool for Sahko.

 

Where do they need to strengthen? Goalkeeper, centre back, right back, central midfielder, striker.

Wayne Hennessey is a Championship goalkeeper and for some reason, Mandanda has not broken into the team. If Palace are to push up the table, they will need a solid number one.

At right back, Joel Ward has been exposed several times at right back and with a tackle success rate of just over 50%, a new right back may be needed.

Palace are great going forward but they seem to struggle to break down teams. A lot of their play has come down the flanks with only 28% of their attacks coming through the middle.

They need a playmaker and despite Big Sam’s direct approach at times, players like Okocha, Amalfitano and Djorkaeff thrived under Big Sam so it’s not impossible for a Mata/Silva type of player can play under him.

Finally, another option up front is needed. Remy hasn’t worked out, Campbell can’t stay fit and Wickham is not up to it. A young talent breaking through or an experienced player who can’t play week in, week out would be ideal.

 

Who should they go for?

Michel Vorm (Spurs), Mamadou Sakho (Liverpool), Pablo Zabaleta (Man City) Wes Hoolahan (Norwich), Victor Anichebe (Sunderland), Iheanacho (Manchester City)

Vorm is a proven goalkeeper in the league and is being wasted at Spurs. Being in London would be an advantage in signing him.

Sakho was key to Palace staying up, being nominated for player of the year despite only playing 8 league games. They need to try and sort a deal with Liverpool to keep him.

Zabaleta still has something to offer and with Palace needing solidity, the 32 year old would certainly provide that. Whether Palace could afford his wages would be their biggest hurdle in signing him.

Hoolahan may be 36 but he is used to playing in a direct team and can still unlock defences. His eye for a pass would be crucial in breaking down defences, something which Palace have struggled at doing this season. He wouldn’t be a regular but a great option.

Finally, Anichebe showed he can still do a job in the league but not as the main man. He would be a good backup option to Benteke and would provide a similar option up front.

However, I do feel another striker would be needed and with the form shown by Jesus and the class of Aguero, Iheanacho is going to be a bench player for City. I couldn’t see City selling him but a loan deal wouldn’t be a far off possibility.

Everton

Summary

Considering the strength of the top 6, 7th place was the best Everton really could have hoped for.

Koeman has tightened up what was a leaky defence but maintained the goal scoring prowess of the side. Last season, Everton had the joint 6th worst defence in the Premier League last season along with Stoke.

This season, they have the 5th best defence but have also scored 2 more than last season’s Premier League tally, showing Koeman has brought a stable balance to the side.

 

Player of the Season – Romelu Lukaku

Young Player of the Season – Tom Davies

One to Watch – Dominic Calvert Lewin

 

What do they need?

Ronald Koeman has brought a much needed stability to the Everton side. The signings of Williams and Gueye have been pivotal to that. But having finished 7th, the only way to improve is by going up.

But can Everton break that top 6? At the moment, no but they’re far not off. Everton need to keep the strongest players like Lukaku, Gueye and Barkley but more importantly, add to it.

However, I feel what Everton need is a trophy. Everton haven’t won a trophy since Rideout’s famous winner against Man United over two decades ago and as seen with Spurs, a major trophy can be the springboard for greater things.

 

Where do they need to strengthen? Goalkeeper, centre back, winger, striker.

Stekelenburg hasn’t exactly been a revelation. He has proven he is a good keeper at Roma, Fulham and Holland but it hasn’t worked at Everton.

While the likes of Pennington and Browning have shown promise, Jagielka and Williams are aging while Funes Mori is a liability. An experienced yet youthful centre half would help strengthen the back four.

Mirallas is a brilliant yet frustrating player, consistently inconsistent. Everton need a wide player who can break quickly and deliver supply to Lukaku. Finally, another striker would be needed if Lukaku leaves. Lookman is a good backup but is he ready to lead the line for a team looking to break into the top 6?

While Konē isn’t good enough and Valencia only has 3 goals in 23 appearances this season, not a great return.

 

Who should they go for?

Bernd Leno( Leverkusen), Virgil Van Dijk (Southampton), Ivan Perisic (Inter), Edin Dzeko (Roma)

Leno has been Leverkusen’s rock for some time and has proven himself in Europe; A capable replacement for the Toffees.

Van Dijk has been brilliant for the Saints and his signature is been pursued by many clubs but his relationship with Koeman could be a key factor if interest were to arise.

Perisic is a workman-like wide player who can be devastating on the counter and would fit Everton’s style of play easily and at 27, he is in the prime of his career and it would be a perfect time to make a move.

An unlikely one but if they could sign Dzeko, it would be a great replacement for Lukaku. Dzeko was usually second choice to Aguero but there’s no shame in that. Over half of his 130 appearances came from the bench but yet, he bagged 50 goals (all from play).

He also scored in crucial games for Man City (something which Lukaku has not done enough of), such as a crucial winner away to Blackburn in 2011 and the equaliser in that game against QPR.

 

Leicester City

Summary

While they were never going to reach the heights of last season, I don’t think many suspected how far they would fall.

The sacking of Ranieri, as unpopular as it was, proved to be a master stroke as Craig Shakespeare led the team to safety.

It’s a shame to see what happened to Ranieri and the way the players gave up on him but football is a cruel sport and the club have moved on.

Overall, they had a good chance at the top half, a Champions League quarter final and they kept Vardy and Mahrez but the Ranieri situation overshadowed everything so a stained success would be the best way to put it.

 

Player of the Season – Kasper Schmeichel

Young Player of the Season – Demarai Gray

One to Watch – Demarai Gray

 

What do they need?

Stability. Many clubs have reached unprecedented heights and gone downhill after.

Birmingham and Portsmouth were both relegated soon after winning major trophies so Leicester need to ensure they maintain the squad they have and hold the fort.

Craig Shakespeare has rejuvenated the team but is he the man to lead them forward? I think so.

A man who knows the club, the players and the best way to play, despite his inexperience, is worth a gamble. The club could take a risk on a new manager but they need stability and Shakespeare can provide that.

Charlton took the risk in 2006 and haven’t recovered since while Blackburn have been in freefall since sacking Big Sam.

 

Where do they need to strengthen? Right back, centre back, central midfield

Even in Leicester’s Premier League title winning campaign, Danny Simpson was a weak link. He had a tackle success rate of less than 50% last season (47%) and it has dropped again (42%) this season. He would be lucky to get into most teams and I feel if Leicester are to stabilise the side, an upgrade is needed.

At centreback, they are weak. Morgan and Huth have shown signs of last years heroics since Shakespeare stepped in but Benalouane and Wasilewski are Championship defenders. Another centre back would not go a miss.

A central midfielder who can unlock defences would be a huge plus as teams have learned how to stop Leicester and they will need someone who can do that. Drinkwater, Ndidi, King and Amartey have 3 league assists between them so a playmaker in the middle is clearly needed.

With Vardy, Slimani, Mahrez, Okazaki, Albrighton and Gray, they have more than enough to play on the counter so I don’t think a forward is necessary.

 

Who should they go for?

Ricardo Pereira (Porto), Harry Maguire (Hull), Alex Pritchard (Norwich)

Pereira has arguably been Nice’s best player this year and with his one year loan ending, Porto may see him as a replacement to Maxi Pereira but if Leicester could get their hands on him, he would be a great buy.

Maguire was one of few positives for Hull this season with some outstanding displays and would be an ample replacement for either Huth or Morgan.

Pritchard has directly contributed to 12 goals for Norwich this season and with 71% of his passes going forward, he would provide Leicester with a different dynamic to their attacking dimensions.

 

Liverpool

Summary

At the start of the season, Champions League football was the number one priority and unless there is a collapse against Middlesbrough, they have pretty much done that.

Poor showings in the cup competitions and no European football has allowed Klopp to play his strongest players week in, week out in the league without the need to rest them.

Apart from a rocky start to the new year, Liverpool have been a constant threat this season. Their potent attacking threat has covered up their leaky defence.

All in all, job well done for Klopp.

 

Player of the Season – Philippe Coutinho

Young Player of the Season – Divock Origi

One to Watch – Ben Woodburn

 

What do they need?

For years, the problem at Liverpool has been their defence.

Poor goalkeepers along with poor defenders has cost Liverpool more than Champions League football. While they have improved their defensive statistics, the same problems are still there – struggling to break down teams who park the bus and conceding from set pieces.

However, it’s up front I feel that needs work. Liverpool have scored 78 goals so far, the joint 3rd highest in the league. But they need a clinical striker who can score given one chance the way Torres, Owen and Fowler used to.

Sturridge fits that bill but he can’t seem to stay fit. He doesn’t suit the pressing game but when teams sit back and the ball drops in the box, the one person in that club you would want on the end of it is him.

 

Where do they need to strengthen? Goalkeeper, centre back, left back, striker

Mignolet has done well since he’s come back into the team after Karius’ struggles but if Liverpool are to progress, they need a top class keeper. However, with the amount of defences lapses from set pieces that occur, the likes of De Gea and Neuer would struggle to keep clean sheets.

Matip is their best option at centre back but even he hasn’t covered himself in glory this season. An organiser at the back is desperately needed if Liverpool are to push on and make an impact in Europe.

On the far side, Milner has done a great job filling in at left back but he is not the solution moving forward.

Finally, a goalscorer to back up Mane will be needed. Liverpool will have a lot more games next season and will need to rest Mane at times and being unable to depend on Sturridge, another striker is needed.

 

Who should they go for?

Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid), Virgil Van Dijk (Southampton), Rafael Toloi (Atalanta), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Mauro Icardi (Inter Milan)

Oblak has been a fantastic keeper for Atletico and his commanding style in the box is exactly what Liverpool need.

Van Dijk has been mentioned earlier as a potential target for Everton but he would fit the bill here too. He commands one of the most consistent defences in the league and has done so for some time. He has Champions League experience with Celtic and is a full international which are only strengthens his cause.

Toloi has gone under the radar this season despite Atalanta having a fantastic season in Serie A. Atalanta have the 4th best defence in the league just behind Juventus, Roma and Napoli. Toloi averages 3 interceptions, 3 tackles and 2 blocks per game while Matip averages the same figures every two games (1.5 tackles per game, etc).

Bertrand, like Van Dijk, has been an excellent defender for Southampton. He is a natural left back and has been a regular in the Southampton defence which, as stated earlier, has been one of the most consistent in recent years.

Finally, Icardi has been a controversial figure and one not a popular one with the Inter Milan fans. Yet, he has been one of the most clinical strikers in Europe for the past two seasons.

In the 15/16 season, he had the 3rd highest conversion rate in Europe with 29.4% while although this years figure has dropped to 21.9% (26 goals), it’s still higher than Harry Kane, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Icardi is quick and clinical but would he suit Liverpool’s high-pressing game?

Manchester City

Summary

A 3rd place finish in the Premier League and no trophies for Pep is not what he is used to.

Chelsea ran away with the title and it would have taken something special to catch them but the manner of City’s Premier League challenge was poor and error ridden. After such a promising start that saw them win 6 from 6, they had an eight point lead over Chelsea.

31 games and a 21 point turnaround and City are going into the last game of the season still without securing a top 4 spot, although it was only mathematically.

 

Player of the Season – Kevin De Bruyne

Young Player of the Season – Gabriel Jesus

One to Watch – Leroy Sane

 

What do they need?

Consistency. Having won their opening ten games of the season (in all competitions) they went on to win only 4 of the next 15 matches.

The Etihad has always been a daunting place to go to but this season, eight Premier League teams left the Etihad without losing. Only Liverpool and Crystal Palace left Stamford Bridge with points this season.

But consistent results will only come from consistent performances and with players such as Stones, Bravo and Otamendi, you won’t get that.

 

Where do they need to strengthen? Goalkeeper, centre back, right back, left back, winger

A new goalkeeper is desperately needed at the Etihad. Caballero is a good backup but Bravo has been a disaster for City.

I can’t remember a team winning the Premier League without having a strong back line and a goalkeeper is key to that. His shots to saves ratio must be one of the worst I’ve seen in quite some time.

Across the back line, a revamp job is needed. Zabaleta is moving on, Sagna and Clichy are not the same players they were and Kolarov is back up at best.

Stones has been unconvincing, Otamendi inconsistent and Kompany injured. They have Mangala and Denayer coming back from loan but hardly anything to get excited about.

Finally, a winger that can deliver. Navas has been a passenger for some time and Sterling’s final product is not up to scratch. He has the potential to be devastating but until he delivers the final ball regularly, he won’t live up to the £50,000,000 price tag.

 

Who should they go for?

Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Mario (Villareal), Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid), Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City).

Muslera has been a consistent goalkeeper for a long time with Galatasaray and has impressed when played in Europe. Whether his ball skills would be enough for Pep would be a question but I think City need a goalkeeper who can save shots which Bravo has shown he can be inept at doing.

Mario has had an impressive season with The Yellow Submarine. His defensive strength would be a massive boost to City who’s leaky defence needs to be tightened.

Rodriguez has been on many team’s radars for some time. The Swiss international provides a strong balance between attack and defence and his deliveries are pin point. He would be an upgrade on Kolarov who seems to be past his best.

Godin has been immense for Atletico Madrid and has been one of the best centre halves in the world for the past few years. While youth may not be on his side, his reading of the game makes up for whatever pace he may lack.

Finally, Mahrez has shown what he can do in the Premier League. His trickery and pace provides a different outlet for City as he can provide the final ball and can score goals.

 

Written by Andrew Kavanagh

Like O-Posts on Facebook

You can also follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts