5 Players Who Could FIX Manchester United’s Defence

United are on a real resurgence at the moment. Oli Gunnar Solskjaer has just broken an English record for the first manager to win his first 5 games with a +2 goal advantage in each game. A strange record broken but it is still impressive nevertheless. United are currently attacking better, moving the ball faster and overall look happier. It wasn’t going to take a master tactician to improve United. They just needed a coach who was going to make the players happy, and not alienate half the squad with pointless masculinity tests. Ever since Solskjaer has arrived, Pogba has gone into supernova, and putting in some of the best performances of his career, Rashford is looking like the striker I never thought he could be, and even Matic is looking competent again. But one area that needs changing no matter what happens in the next 5 months is the defence. United’s pool of defenders just isn’t good enough. Even looking at last season, United might have kept the most clean sheets, but that wasn’t down to the defenders and the way United sat back. It was down to David De Gea having the best season a goalkeeper had ever had. Now that De Gea has came back to earth, it has exposed United’s defence to being average at best. It’s time for this back-line to get reshuffled, whether it’s now or in the summer. Let’s look at the players currently at the club, and go on to see where they need to improve.

Victor Lindelof

A player who didn’t exactly start his United career off in the best of ways, making an awful mistake to gift Huddersfield with a huge win over the Red Devils. After the occasional start last season, he has truly shown why United spent so much money on a relatively unknown player. You just have to look at his man of the match display against Newcastle. He was so calm on the ball, which is a massive boost for United, having a defender who doesn’t look so nervy whenever the ball is near his feet. He has shades of Alderweireld in the way he distributes the ball. He created 2 chances against Newcastle. That is crazy considering he is a centre back! He suits exactly what you United thrive to be. The biggest issue is his aerial ability. It’s a problem that just cannot be avoided. While he can read the game relatively well, he just struggles when balls are played in the air. This can be seen from his aerial with percentage. While elite defenders like Van Dijk and Sergio Ramos win 71% and 70% respectively, Lindelof wins 57%. It’s a clear weakness to a player with a very good skill set. Not only is he staying, but he has to start.

Conclusion – Starts Every Game!

Eric Bailly

While Lindelof started poorly and came into his own, Bailly has almost went into reverse. He was signed almost out of no where, only being at Villarreal for less than 2 years, before making a big £30m move to United back in 2016. I had no idea what to expect, but in his first 2 months, I was incredibly impressed. His composure, speed, aggression and intelligence made him stand out among a group of defenders with zero ability on the ball. However injuries arrived. From memory I remember one during United’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace, which kept him out for a couple of weeks, and in his second season he missed most of the winter period again, coming back to rescue United against Liverpool. While his recklessness can let him down, as seen against Bournemouth. He barely gets dribbled past, wins a majority of his tackles, and is great when needing to make a recovery tackle. He’s still only 24. I would definitely keep him around, and hope he can regain the form that looked so promising when he arrived.

Conclusion – Keep as a squad player

Chris Smalling

An ever present under every manager since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, Smalling has been able to keep his place in the side, based on bring the best out of a bad bunch. He excelled under Louis Van Gaal, with the Dutchman’s style and set up massively protecting Smalling. Soon as he was given as much protection under Mourinho, he was massively exposed for his inability to deal with small agile players, like Hazard and Sterling, who can run circles around him. He is great at dealing with aerial threats, but that’s it. He can’t distribute effectively and is getting too old to be able to learn more. While he could be a decent squad player, it’s time for this club to finally grow a pair, and not settle for average. I wouldn’t be surprised if a team in the lower half of the table would be interested.

Conclusion – Sell

Phil Jones

Injuries, clumsiness, slow, dangerous. Just some of the words to describe Phil Jones. I would go into detail but by now it’s so obvious she should be sold.

Conclusion – SELL IMMEDIATELY

Marcos Rojo

Another who was plagued by injuries. He was a player I wanted gone from United after his first season. He was just a defensive nightmare throughout his time under LVG. It included the worst left back I’ve ever seen. After Shaw’s leg break, Rojo filled in at left back for a majority of the season, and was just awful. Truly, truly awful. He did have a very good debut season under Mourinho, including an incredible performance at home against Spurs. But I just think he’s a liability in the squad. His injuries and mistakes mean he cannot remain in Manchester. I would sell him January for anyone who would be slightly interested.

Conclusion – Sell immediately

Axel Tuanzebe

Who a small majority of you are asking? Well Tuanzebe is a current prospect who is on loan at Aston Villa. Many Villa fans have been heaping praise on the young defender, for his calmness on the ball and his maturity at such a young age. I can completely understand where they are coming from. Every time I’ve seen him play I notice just how cool and relaxed he looks. He can read the game well and is a very good distributor of the ball. He is completing the most passes for Aston Villa with 49. However he has a similar problem as Lindelof, he just isn’t great in the air. He is playing in a league where a majority of the times do play it high, which is going to make it more difficult for him. He is still only making 2.1 tackles and interceptions per 90, which seeing as he ranks high in his defensive actions, is more of a sign of the team he’s playing for. He is definitely not going out on loan next season, and with Bailly being consistent with injuries, he could be useful to come in during the busy winter period. I’m unsure if he would want that role though.

Conclusion – Keep as a back up

After going through the current crop of players, it’s c lear that with the average age of the remaining players being 23, it’s clear some experience is definitely needed. While having such young talent is useful, some of these players still need guidance and a leader beside them, to bring the best out of them. Another quality that is definitely needed is some aerial dominance. As mentioned, Lindelof and Tuanzebe both aren’t great in the air, and need a player who can deal with that threat. They also need to have some ability on the ball, as seen with my criticism of Smalling and Jones. These are a lot of criteria’s to fill here. Not all will fill them, but a couple definitely will. Let’s go through them, from best fit, to some good options.

Kalidou Koulibaly

When Liverpool signed Virgil Van Dijk last year, it was seen as a genius bit of business. Van Dijk was the definition of a defender at his peak. He has everything to succeed at the top level, having an amazing range of passing, superiority in the air, able to read the game well and is even very useful at set pieces. While I would love to argue that Liverpool have been pretty lucky this season to even be at the top of the table, Van Dijk has still been a massive improvement at Merseyside. I bring this up because I thnk Kalidou Koulibaly would have a very similar impact.

The Senegalese international’s rise to the top as been a great story. He began his career playing in the second division of French football, playing for Metz. He was only 18 at the time, but he went on to start 16 games, and then 21 in the following season. He only stayed for 2 seasons, signing for Genk in 2012 for £1.1m. He then went on to further establish himself in Belgium, putting in some very good performances in the Europa League. He made 7 appearances in the 2013/14 season, and put in some great performances in their run to the round of 32, after losing to FC Anzhi Makhachkala. Koulibaly put in 5.3 tackles and interceptions, made 4.3 clearances and 2.4 aerial duels. He was only 21 at the time. They were great signs of a player with plenty of potential.

His time at Napoli can only be seen as an absolute success. His first season was under Rafa Benitez, a season where he performed very well. Even though he was playing for a better side, he still managed to have better defensive numbers, was barely getting dribbled past and his pass numbers truly started to blossom. He finally started to show why Napoli seemed to think he was ready for the big stage. After Benitez departed for Madrid, Maurizio Sarri arrived. This was the start of all the praise the defender began to receive. He fitted a difficult and demanding system perfectly. He was fast and strong enough to be able to deal with the constant counter attacks Napoli would face, due to their players being so high up the pitch. It also helped that he is an excellent distributor. This season, the defender has been averaging 4.9 long balls per game, with only Raul Albiol beating that. It shows how good is range of passing is, helping his side keep hold of the ball, and allow their midfielders to receive the ball at higher areas of the pitch. It’s an essential quality to have in a defender in the modern game, giving more flexibility in how to approach different games.

He adds that high level in defence to a United side in desperate need of it. His presence and ability will not only improve the team, but improve the players around him. Those incredibly close games, like that game against Tottenham, would have been so close. United face way too many shots. With the likes of Huddersfield, Crystal Palace and Wolves all facing less shots than the Red Devils. They are allowing their opponents to create chances in good areas. Having better players does help to fix this. It will allow the manager to approach games with less fear, because they have defenders who aren’t going to be caught out and allow the opposition players to take advantage of it. Koulibaly is at an elite stage and is in his prime years. While £95 million is a lot for any player, if they can get him, they should.

Toby Alderweireld

While this may seem boring, it just has to be done. United’s long chase for the Belgian has became tiring at this point, and while discussing him might be a bit safe, it’s easy to forget why the Red Devils wanted Alderweireld so badly.

I like to think of Alderweireld as the worst mistake made by Atletico Madrid and in maybe Southampton to an extent. Back in 2014, fresh after winning La Liga and reaching a Champions League final, Alderweireld was sent out on loan to Southampton. It’s easy to see why however, with the Belgian only starting 10 games in the league that season. Atletico had the best defence in Europe that season, with Godin and Miranda forming an aggressive and tough defence, one that Alderweireld just couldn’t fit into. In hindsight, leaving the club was definitely the best idea. He isn’t a player who is fantastic in the air, or never put in massive tackle and interception numbers. He didn’t fit the Simeone system, and it was time to move to a club that fitted his style.

His arrival in the South of England was one of many smart deals done by Southampton that year. The sales of Lovren, Lallana, Shaw, Lambert and Chambers gave them plenty of cash to splash in the market, and replaced them very adequately, and in some cases, improved them. Sadio Mané and Dusan Tadic were brought to add some creativity and flair to a side that just lost its best attacker in Lallana. Bertrand arrived from Chelsea to fill in at left back, and became a very good player in the process, and Pelle and Long arrived to fight for a place upfront. They took players from all over the continent, in a bid to outsmart some of the clubs at the higher end of the table. By Christmas, Southampton were 2nd in the table, and their smart business practices seemed to have paid off.

Alderweireld was one of the highlights here. His distribution and reading of the game made for a perfect partner to the more aggressive Jose Fonte. At the time, many saw Fonte as the superior player. His numbers show that, making 5.3 tackles and interceptions and making 5.5 clearances. But now thanks to hindsight, it’s clear to see that Alderweireld was given his teammate the freedom to be doing all of the destroyer work. Alderweireld might have been putting in less defensive work (Fonte also had the advantage of playing more games. 37 to to his teammates 26), he was completing more long balls and was giving away less fouls. There are usually two types of defenders. The more aggressive type, like a Chiellini or Ramos. These are players who will rush out and put pressure on the attackers. The sweepers have to fill in for the space that the destroyers leave behind. David Luiz, Gerard Pique and of course, Toby Alderweireld all fill this quota. They are the more intelligent players usually, and are key to a defence functioning. It puts less pressure on their partners, knowing that if they fail to make the challenge, someone will be there to make the recovery tackle. It was no surprise that after Alderweireld left the club to return to Atletico Madrid, Fonte was never able to recapture this career high.

His first season at Tottenham was simply outstanding. He played all 38 games, registering 4 goals and 2 assists. The curious question is how did a central defender get 2 assists? Well this leads into Alderweireld’s best quality, his passing. The 30 year old has arguably the best passing ability out of any centre back in Europe. Both of his assists that season came from balls right over the top to Dele Alli, landing straight to his feet, gifting him a chance at goal. This exact move happened twice, and it shows why he became so valuable. Before his arrival in the 2015, Spurs’s defence was seen as a massive weakness. During the 2014/15 season, Tottenham conceded the 5th most goals in the league with 58, more than the likes of Sunderland and Burnley, who were relegated that season. After Alderweireld arrived, they conceded the joint least amount of goals with 35. This could be down to Pochettino just improving his team and improving in all departments, but Alderweireld still deserves plenty of credit. His calmness and great reason of the game gave Vertonghen, Rose and Walker more freedom in a way. Rose and Walker didn’t have to worry as much in a defensive sense, giving them a licence to attack without having to worry about being caught out by opposing winger. While the England pair did get plenty of benefits with Alderweireld’s arrival, it was Vertonghen who gained the biggest boost. This wasn’t the first time they have played together. Both play for Belgium and they also played for Ajax in their younger days. Their time in North London together created one of the best defensive partnerships in recent memory. This isn’t to discredit Vertonghen in any way. He is one of a very small group to win player of the month as a defender. He was finally given a competent partner in defence, who would allow him to not worry when he steps put to intercept the ball. One player was able to bring the best out of an entire defence, and Alderweireld deserves all the credit for that.

I bring all of this up because they all back up exactly what he would offer to United. Whether it’s Solsjkaer or Pochettino managing the club next season, they need a leader and a great distributor. Alderweireld ticks all of these boxes very effectively. He will give not only his defensive partner (most likely Lindelof) a calmer and experienced head beside him, but will give the full backs the reassurance to bomb forward, and finally get to good positions to support the forwards. There is a problem here however. The first being his age. Alderweireld is now 30, putting him in a position where improving is unlikely, and declining is very unlikely. You don’t know how some players adapt as they age. Will they stay consistent in some cases improve, like Chiellini and Xavi, or decline at a rapid pace, like Ferdinand or Iniesta. Spending money on an older player is always a risk, but this actually brings into the next positive. The Belgian will be available for only £25 million. Even if there is a chance he will decline, you hope by then the younger players will be ready to step up. Alderweireld might not be my first choice, but I would have no issue with him playing at Old Trafford, but there are definitely better options now.

Kostas Manolas

Onto a player who has only recently became a possible option, Manolas has became a very good defender during his time in the Italian capital. While he wouldn’t be my first choice, I would have zero complaints if he was brought in. His time at Roma has largely been a success. He arrived in Rome with a lot of pressure, with Manolas arriving to replace outgoing defender Medhi Benatia. Benatia was one of the best players in Italy that season, and losing him was problematic. He was signed for £10 million from Olympiacos. Looking back now it can be seen as a real bargain. He was also heavily linked to Arsenal before moving to Serie A, showing how he had impressed more than his current club. It was his displays the 2014 World Cup that got the attention of some big clubs in Europe. Greece weren’t exactly impressive in that tournament, but he was still able to make a very good impression. His very traditional, physical style of defending is one reason why many clubs were so interested. He arrived that just after the World Cup, playing under Rudi Garcia for 2 years. Roma were runners up in both of those seasons, and Manolas was a key figure during those very good finishes. His great interception numbers showed why he is considered such a good player. It’s by far the best part of the game. He was making 2.5 interceptions per 90, with only the late Davide Astori making more. Manolas also made 30 appearances that season, more than any other defender. He quickly showed himself to be the most reliable defender in this side.

This form continued under their next manager Luciano Spaletti. The current Inter manager highly favoured Manolas, to the extent of trying to sign when he became the new Inter manager back in 2017. He said:

“I want Manolas to stay at AS Roma, I’ve told him already. He is physically and mentally very strong. He arrives everywhere on the pitch, sometimes he exaggerates with sliding tackles.”

Roma were one of the most fun sides in Europe in that final season under Spaletti. Many players in that side, like Nainggolan, Salah and Dzeko went supernova. While Manolas wasn’t nearly as good as his attacking teammates, it was still arguably one of his better seasons. It did help that his defensive partner this season, Federico Fazio was having the best season of his career. Roma were also very flexible this season, playing 3-4-2-1, 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1. It shows that Manolas is very adaptable. Koulibaly has predominantly played a 4-3-3 during his time in Napoli. When you have a player who has had a history of playing in different systems, it helps with whatever the manager wants to do going into individual games. If it was Pochettino coming in, he would like to have someone like Manolas. The current Tottenham manager who has previously fiddled with different systems and formations, makes players who can quickly learn these systems, would be massively beneficial.

While my first preference for a central defender would be Kalidou Koulibaly, I would have no problem with the Greek international coming in. It does seem like he does want to leave the club, with Manolas being increasingly close to leaving back in 2017, with Zenit coming very close. He doesn’t have long left on his contract, which explains why his release clause is only £32 million. The problem is that this release clause doesn’t actually activate until the summer. His agent is also Mino Riola. The man has had an involvement in many recent Manchester United deals, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba. Dealing with him is a problem, and he famously will rinse your club for all he can. I just look at that pricetag and think it’s too hard to pass up on. Transfermarkt value him at £40.50 million and they usually value players in their twenties quite accurately (Potential isn’t usually considered and instead only look at what they’ve done). He would definitely improve Manchester United.

Milan Škriniar

With the 3 more experiences players done, let’s at younger options. If the club do not want to invest heavily in players who do not have a high resell value (even if this model can be frustrating at times). Lets start with Milan Skriniar. The Slovakian originated from Sampdoria’s young talent machine, which includes Patrick Schick, Lucas Torreira and Mustafi all being some high profile sales. With the last 3 players, there were clear reasons for why these players were signed. Koulibaly, Alderweireld and Manolas all showed their talent at their previous clubs, but Skriniar is different. He was apart of a very average Sampdoria side, and the Slovakian defender wasn’t exactly stand out in his final season. He is was only putting in 2.2 tackles and interceptions per 90, and putting in 1.4 aerial duels. These aren’t stand out in the slightest, but the problem is defenders are very difficult to judge from numbers. Midfielders are simpler because you can see what kind of midfielders they are just by seeing what their numbers show. Defenders can be in different systems so tackle and interceptions are useful, but don’t tell the whole story. There were still other parts of his game that were very impressive. He was an excellent distributor. He had the highest pass accuracy out of any of his teammates with 91%, and was fourth for his side in passes completed. He was great when bringing the ball out from the back (the theme of all the players on this list). He wasn’t spectacular, but showed enough promise to earn a move to Inter Milan the following summer.

During his time at Inter Milan, he shown himself to be one of the best defenders in Serie A. His signing made so much sense at the time. Miranda wasn’t getting any younger, and he needed a partner who was younger and more athletic. Miranda’s defensive numbers dropped massively during Skriniar’s first season, going from 4.9 to 2.7. This is because Skriniar seemed be given the more aggressive role, with the Slovakian committing more fouls and winning more tackles than he was at Sampdoria. Miranda had a more reserved role, to help allow Skriniar to play with more confidence, to not have to worry about making mistakes, when he has one of the best defenders of the last 10 years beside him.

It does open up a very good question. Is he ready to be the leader of a title challenging team? A reason why he has excelled is because he has had an experienced head like Miranda next to him. United do not have that luxury. The club have 2 young defenders, who both would excel if they had a top level defender beside them. Skriniar is younger than Bailly and Lindelof, so is he ready to be the main man? I would say he is. Skriniar has the most starts out of any outfield player for the Nerazzurri (only Handanovic has made more). His numbers have stayed relatively similar to his breakout season, and he looks like he just keeps improving. He is already the defender who is trusted the most, so how couldn’t he excel in Manchester?

Nikola Milenkovic 

Last but not least, let’s look at by far the youngest option. I mentioned with Skriniar that Manchester United in the past have looked at the resell value of players, as seen by the club’s refusal to sign Alderweireld because of his age. He’s a player I have spoke about before near the beginning of the season. I highlighted how good he is on the ball and in the air. Now months later, has anything changed? Well not exactly. That isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. I wasn’t expecting him to keep up his early form, considering it was his first time starting consistently for Fiorentina.

Let’s go over by far his biggest strength, being his aerial ability. Milenkovic is 6.4ft. The man is a giant. and it shows from his aerial duels. He attempts 4.8 aerial duels per game, and wins 60% of them. In the Fiorentina squad, only his defensive partner, Germán Pezzella has won more aerial duels than the Serbian. He is also putting in a very solid 3.3 tackles and interceptions for his side. He also rarely ever gets dribbled past, only 0.3 times a game. The defender has all the qualities to become a complete defender. He is tall, strong, fast, confidence while also having a humbleness about him, and he has a great ability on the ball.

One of his stand out moments of his short career was his performances in the most recent world cup. Serbia had a lot to be excited about in Russia. Key players like Mitrovic, Matic and Milenkovic-Savic all came into the tournament in great form, and with other solid players like Tadic, Kolorov and Ivanovic making it a strong side all over the pitch. Even with these well known players, it was Milenkovic who stood out among his teammates. He was one of only 5 players to play every minute at the world cup for Serbia, and it’s easy to understand why. It’s important to remember that before the world cup, Milenovic wasn’t a starter for Fiorentina, so this was the first time we could all see how good the young defender was. He had the highest pass accuracy out of any player to play more than 90 minutes for his country, made the most clearances and won the second most aerial duels. This was his break out tournament and showed why there was so much promise surrounding Milenkovic.

So where does he fit in at Manchester United? Well firstly he will add that aerial prowess that the team desperately needs. Lindelof is a great reader of the game and excellent distributor, but he struggles against teams who play a more physical and direct style of play. Milenkovic is not only tall and strong, but he is also very fast. One problem I’ve realised this season regarding the defender is he has actually spent a majority of the season playing as a right back. While he isn’t as good as he is playing as a centre back, he was actually still very impressive. At a young age, Nikola Milenkovic actually used to be a sprinter, which explains why he is still adept at playing at full back. It’s a demanding role in modern football that needs players which have great athleticism. Milenkovic is surprisingly fast considering his size, and he’s done a fine job in a position he is not accustomed to. I bring this up because it would help if Solskjaer was still the manager. The team will always be defensively vulnerable because of how high up the pitch they play. Having Bailly, Lindelof and Milenkovic, three defenders with pace to burn, makes it easy to deal with any dangerous counter attacks. While I did mention previously mention that having a more experienced defender would definitely make more sense (and is still think it’s the right decision), I highly doubt Manchester United would sell Rojo, Jones and Smalling all in the same window. The club seem to have a problem with selling players, because of their contracts. They have given all these players big money contracts because of how long they’ve been at the club. It’ll be so hard to sell them because no one is going to want to pay for players over 27 with limited ability, and pay their huge wages. The club have put themselves in a difficult position. Signing someone like Milenkovic would ensure that players would be able to make those recovery tackles. He will also give us a real aerial threat at set pieces. While we are second in the league for set piece goals with 11 (it is including free kicks), we still seem very lacklustre at moments where the team should be taking advantage of a great chance to score. He takes 0.8 shots a game. It isn’t massive in the slightest, but it’s nearly double of Chris Smalling’s 0.5, which is the highest out of United’s defenders. It’ll give the club an extra advantage in an area they need to improve at. Liverpool are at the top of the Premier League and have scored the most goals from set pieces. They are a must for a team that wants to compete for a league title. Milenkovic would apparently cost €45 million. It’s a figure that United can definitely pay. While it would be a risk considering he’s only 21, but it could be a genius move on the long term.

What Do Each of the Top 6 Clubs need in the transfer window?

Manchester City

Manchester City are in a spot of comfort right now. They do not need many additions this summer. All of the additions needed are for depth purposes, not for first team strengthening. They have enough depth at centre half, right wing, right back, goalkeeper, and upfront. What they need is depth on the left wing. Pep had made it very obvious that he likes to rotate his squad when given the chance to. His long pursuit for Alexis Sanchez showed that he still thinks that there is a gap to plugged in that left side. Sane has been absolutely incredible this season, but having another option wouldn’t hurt. As for this left winger, I am unsure. Leon Bailey makes a lot of sense. He’s been brilliant for Leverkusen this season and with the German club in the Europa league this season, Bailey might think it might be a good time to move club.

Another clear area they might need to resolve is depth in defensive midfield. Fernandinho, like the rest of the team, has been brilliant. He’s given Silva and De Bruyne a licence to roam, because they know that the Brazilian will be there to ensure that the danger is dealt with, if by any chance there is any at all. One such player who has been linked heavily is Napoli’s pass master Jorginho. He’s been averaging 90 passes, with a pass accuracy of 90%. He’s shown he is able to dominate a game and keep possession very effectively. Pep likes players in this mould, like Sergio Busquets and Thiago before him. If a player like Jorginho is signed, then their midfield will have plenty of reinforcements.

Manchester United

Where do I even begin here? Even though many United fans will say that second place and a cup final is progress, it isn’t. With a lack of balance in midfield, very poor fullbacks, and centre backs who have no idea how to control a ball. The red devils need to plenty of reinforcements this summer.

The first key area to resolve are the full backs. Many can criticise Man City for spending over £100m on fullbacks, but the method has clearly worked. United currently have 2 ex wingers over the age of 32 starting every game, and 2 others who are clearly out of favour. They will never challenge for a league title next season if Valencia and Young are the starting full backs. Alex Sandro is the obvious choice for the left back slot. While I would like us to consider Philipp Max, with his insane amount of crosses per game, Sandro would still be a perfect addition. The right back that could help United next season would also be from Italy, being Elseid Hysaj. The Albanian is part of a Napoli team that play football in such a delightful way. Hysaj has been excellent for Napoli for the last 2 seasons, and at only 24, he could be a long time right back for United.

As mentioned. United lack a centre back who is able to control the ball and put some balls through the opposition midfield. Every time an opponent marks Matic, it leaves the back four to pass between each other in this frustrating line until an option opens. Having a defender who is able to pass the ball effectively could be very beneficial. Toby Alderweireld is the player constantly linked. With contract troubles at Spurs, a move seems very likely for the Belgian.

Another key area would definitely be central midfield. With Carrick retired, and Fellaini and Herrera both potentially leaving the club, it is an area that needs reinforcements. Two players that have been heavily linked are Fred, and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. Both are brilliant players and would be a welcome addition to the squad, but with the Serbian costing a potential £80m, only one would be financially available. While I think Milinkovic-Savic is a wonderful, with his brilliant ability in the air and his dribbling ability. My problem with signing him is we wouldn’t be able to get the best out of him. We already have a world class midfielder we struggle to use correctly, so why by another who wouldn’t be fulfilling his potential? Fred would be my personal choice. He has Moussa Dembelle levels of successful dribbles, and wins the ball back more than the Lazio midfielder. Fred is still only 25. He can fill in multiple positions and even if Pogba is injured the same way he was earlier in the season, Fred could easily fill that role. He has such a brilliant ability of transitioning play, and would help us function without our star midfielder. A player with his talent is needed in a squad filled with imbalance, to give us another edge in catching up to our blue rivals.

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs have a real issue. They have hit a ceiling that they seem unable to break. Their two biggest games of the season, Juventus in the champions league and Man United in the FA Cup, both ended in defeat. They were arguably the better side in both games, yet failed to seal the wins. They need to begin to sell some of the current crop of players, and find improvements. The problem is buying these improvements. Spurs have an owner who only sells to buy. The problem that arises from this is buying improvements for this squad.

To improve on players like Dembele and Alderweireld, a lot will need to be spent, even if both are sold for a lot of money. One suggestion is Milan Skriniar. The Inter Milan defender has been absolutely fabulous this season. He’s been apart of a very solid Inter team. They have conceded the same amount as title challengers Napoli. So why is he a good fit for Spurs? Well he averages around the same amount of passes as the current three defenders, but the difference is his pass accuracy is higher. Skriniar averages a brilliant 91% pass accuracy, while Vertonghen, Alderweireld and Sanchez all averages around 86-88%. While it isn’t exactly a massive improvement, it does show he can compete with them on his passing ability. The only issue is Skriniar averages 2.6 long balls per game. While it is still a very good number, it doesn’t come near Vertonghen’s 4.6 or even touches Alderweireld’s 7.9. Skriniar is more of a destroyer type defender, similar to Vertonghen. With Sanchez seemingly playing the more sweeper role, having someone similar to Vertonghen, while the Belgian is starting to show his age, could be great. Skriniar could cost up to £40m, but like the signing of Davidson Sanchez, it could definitely be worth it.

The other key area to improve on would be central midfield. It is seemingly clear that one of Dembele or Wanyama are leaving the club this summer. With Dier already having a similar role to the Kenyan, Dembele is the player that is needed to be replaced. The problem is finding a player who can fill his role. Geoffrey Kondogbia would be a good addition. He has been an absolute monster in midfield. He’s been averaging 5 tackles and interceptions per game. Which is much more than any spurs player. This may be because Valencia play in a two, which gives him more of a workload, but those are still brilliant numbers that show he knows how to do his job. He averages 2.1 dribbles per game from a defensive position. This is lower than Dembele, who has 2.6 dribbles per game. But they still have the exact same success rate, being 85.7%. He would be a fine replacement for the Belgian.

Liverpool

Many mainstream pundits are seeing Liverpool as the challengers to Man City next season, and for good reason. While they actually did worse in the league, they also progressed into a champions league final (albeit an easy run in compared to their opponent). They have clearly progressed from last season. With Van Dijk, Oxlade-Chamberlein and Mohammed Salah all being successes, the only way is up for the reds.

The most obvious area to improve in is midfield. I think that midfield is easily their biggest weakness. I believe the whole perception of Liverpool having a really poor defence is out of the window by now. With Van Dijk there, Liverpool have much more solid and most importantly, more confident. Due to Van Dijk arriving, Even the goalkeeper has looked so much more confident in himself. Many say that a confident goalkeeper helps a defence, but it also happens in reverse. Seeing a defender so composed must fill them with confidence. But there is still a gap in that squad. While Lovren has improved, he is 28, and he isn’t a long term solution. Klavan is no where near good enough, and Matip seems to have clear injury problems. I’ve identified one player. A central defender who is showing similar traits to the current Liverpool players, being aerial duels, and that is Dayot Upamecano. The young Frenchman has really had his breakout season,starting 25 games for Leipzig this season. What makes him perfect for Liverpool is his aerial duels. He specialises in this area, winning 3.3 per 90. While it is lower than Lovren and Van Dijk, who complete 3.5 and 5.2 respectively. It is still a high number, considering he’s still only 19. The issue with their defenders is they’re all in their prime. It isn’t an issue in the short term, but when you want to create a dynasty, bringing in someone who has the potential to succeed is perfect for the team.

Even with Nabi Keita arriving, there is still a clear issue in that midfield. Liverpool have players who are brilliant at following a game plan and do not need the ball. The problem with this is in some against teams who play a similar way, you need a player who is able to not only do that, but is also able to show some ability on the ball and not to rely on the forwards so heavily. Keita can definitely do that, but he also specialises in his defensive work. Having someone else who can also do this would be perfect. Napoli players seem to be a key theme in suggested players, but there’s a reason for it. Sarri has Napoli playing in an energetic, and quick way. One player for them who has excelled in recent years is Allan. The Brazilian has had yet another stella campaign. He’s 27 and is at an age where he will be ready to do what is asked, and help the reds challenge city closely next season. What he is brilliant at is regaining possession and using it in an effective manner. He averages 2.8 tackles per game, which is something players in a pressing system usually average. He averages 3.2 dribbles per 90, having a 65% success rate. While not as high as someone like Dembele, it is still a good number that shows he is able to drive the ball forward, and would help in a game that Liverpool would be dominating. It would keep Liverpool playing at full speed, and that is what they need.

Chelsea

The blues have went from Champions to fifth. It is such a drop considering everyone thought this team was unbeatable. I think Conte should get a lot of blame for it. Him selling Costa when he didn’t have a replacement available, and not playing David Luiz. Both were key for Chelsea last season. Costa was at his best, showing his strength and power in the air, and winning games for Chelsea. Conte’s biggest problem is rotation. He seems to not trust his team in the slightest. Whether he changes the formation to play a front two of Hazard and Morata, or changing the midfield to put Bakayoko or Drinkwater in there. He needs players with consistensy. Chelsea have made so many bad decisions in the market. It is time to go through how they can resolve it.

A young wide player should be one of the first priorities. With Hazard turning 28 soon, and both Willian and Pedro over the age of 30, it is time we rejuvenate that forward line with someone much younger. One player should attempt to go for is Ousmane Dembele. While he has struggled with injuries this season, Barca have looked great with him in the side. The only reason why is because of the Antoine Griezmann rumours. If the Catalan giants are to sign Griezmann, it could mean the end for the young Frenchman. When a moment like this arises, it is a chance to capitalise. Dembele is an excellent dribbler and also a brilliant creator. At Dortmund, he was second to only Muller in assists, and was not far behind Messi in dribbles per game. It is clear that there is a world class player there. Even though signing him could prove difficult, he would still be a brilliant addition.

Central midfield is the other key area that needs improvement. With Matic leaving, it left Chelsea with a real problem. They have no central midfielder who is able to connect midfield to attack. It also has put more pressure on Kante to create, when he should have never had that obligation. They need a player who is able connect the attack and defence, with Kante already being able to do the defensive work. My suggestion might be an odd one, but it could work. Aaron Ramsey might just be what Chelsea need. He would be the perfect partner to Kante. Because of Ramsey’s solid attacking prowess and Kante’s superior defensive numbers. The problem with having Bakayoko is it means Kante has to contribute going forward. It’s something he should never be doing. Ramsey is already averaging 3.1 tackles and interceptions per game, and taking 2.7 shots per game. His key passes are just over 1. This could definitely be higher, if he had a better midfield partner than Xhaka. If he had Kante, he would be able to add so much more, and with his contract running out next year, he would be achievable at a very low price.

Arsenal

Easily the hardest one, since they have so many positions to resolve. This season exposed so many weaknesses in their squad. They have very low widthz because of the system they play. They seem to be short on quality centre halves. All of their goalkeepers are not good enough to be starting for a champions league fighting team, and their midfield is almost as bad as Liverpool’s. I’ll be sticking to their two weakest positions, being midfield and goalkeeper.

Last season, Cech dropped like an anchor. He began conceding more than he was saving, and his distribution was only getting worse. People are saying to spend a lot on a goalkeeper, when all they need is a very good stopper, not a world class one. I say this because any average goalkeeper is an improvement over Cech. The replacement I have chosen is Timo Horn. Currently relegated with Koln, it is a chance to snap up a very good goalkeeper for a very low price. He is averaging 3.9 saves per season, more than Nick Pope and Jordan Pickford. I compare to the two Englishman because they play for teams that also face a lot of shots. Koln were very good last season, and he still performed exceptionally. His relegation clause is only £3m. If Arsenal can persuade him to leave his club, it’ll be one of the bargains of the season.

Arsenal are also at a point where attracting talent might be difficult. With Arteta seemingly being the main target as Wenger’s replacement, it’s important to stop buying big, and start buying smart. One such player would be Zambo Anguissa from Marseille. Arsenal have one key issue right now, and that is lacking a good box to box midfielder. Their midfield options are just too weak. Jack Wilshere cannot be relied on, Xhaka needs too much time on the ball to be effective, and Ramsey seems to need a certain player near him to be at his best. Anguissa this season has been part of a Marseille team that have performed very well under Garcia. The Cameroonian is only 22, and yet is already showing qualities of a top level player. Discounting his mistake in the final, Zambo was very good. He was brilliant in moving the ball forward, while still doing his defensive work. He averages 3.7 tackles and interceptions per game, while having a very solid 87% pass accuracy. He is very good at taking the ball from an opponent, and giving it to a more talented player. In Marseille’s case it’s Payet or Thauvin. He would be effective in this Arsenal team because they don’t have anyone like him. They don’t have anyone who isn’t afraid of doing all the dirty work to help the team. If Xhaka is going to continue playing for Gunners, they will need to sign a player like Zambo, if they wish to go back to champions league football.