Are Leipzig Good Enough to Win the Bundesliga?

It’s a question that many have asked since Nagelsmann was announced as head coach back in 2018. The 32-year-old managed to turn Hoffenheim from relegation candidates into regular top 4 challengers. The number of goals he got out of the likes of Belfodil, Szalai and Uth made me wonder what he could do with genuine elite talent. We’ll be looking at Leipzig’s start to the season, to see why they are currently at the top of the table.

Leipzig’s history is short, yet full of controversy. Before the Red Bull takeover, RB Leipzig were formally known as SSV Markranstadt and playing in the 5th division of German football. The exact reasons for choosing Markranstadt isn’t certain, but I can guess it’s down to a few things. The club were stuck in the 5th division of German football, and right next to them was the city of Leipzig, with a population of nearly 600,000 people. It was an untapped market and gave them the chance to invest in a club which could become a global brand, providing a city with a football club to match its size. I can imagine RB Salzburg was in the owners’ thoughts, making, socially, a clear path from Austria into the Bundesliga. From their formation in 2009, it took them only 6 seasons to reach the Bundesliga, climbing the football pyramid with ease, thanks to a clear plan and massive investment.

It’s difficult to talk about RB Leipzig without even mentioning why nearly every fan in Germany despise them. It all begins with the name. The ‘RB’ stands for RasenBallsport, which translates to lawn ball sports. It ensured they didn’t break the league’s strict laws of no branding in club names, but through abbreviation, could keep their brand recognition. It’s things like this that really infuriate German fans, putting the importance of corporate needs over the fans, a part of the game that Germany empathise. While Red Bull’s lack of subtlety is frustrating, it’s the way they managed to work around the 50+1 rule. It was first inforced in 1998, to ensure football fans wouldn’t be treated as customers, remaining the majority voice at their respective clubs. Bundesliga clubs do possess a lot of members, with Dortmund having over 140,000 fans who pay an annual fee of €62. Once again, Red Bull found a way around this. RB Leipzig only have 17 members, all Red Bull employees, paying over €800 annually. It ensured they could legally play in the Bundesliga through bypassing all of their rules, without having the same routes as other clubs in Germany.

Football is a working-class sport, originating from hard-working men attempting to take a break from their lives through sport. It had the easy viewing for everyone to get into but had that extra level of sophistication, which made it extremely popular Germany, Austria and Hungary. Red Bull made it look so easy to abolish real fan ownership and build a club in their own image.

I sympathise with these views, but part of me finds it really hard to hate a club when they are just so good at finding talented players and managers. Their first season in the Bundesliga included some of the brightest talents in Europe. Naby Keita broke onto the season and dominated the midfield through high defensive actions and showing himself to be one of the best prospects for any Champions League club. Marcel Sabitzer was always seen as one of Austria and Red Bull’s brightest prospects, and moving to a more competitive league helped his development. Their crown jewel was young German forward Timo Werner. At only 20, he was alongside more experienced forwards like Aubameyang and Lewandowski in the race for the Golden Boot. While full of future prospects, they had players who were there during their stint outside of the Bundesliga. Emil Forsberg arrived as a promising 21-year-old and proved to be a fantastic creator. Yussuf Poulsen and Diego Demme both came in 2013. I’ve expressed my love for Poulsen, having a skill set that combines well with any goalscoring forward. Being coached by Ralph Hassenhuttl, RB Leipzig were aggressive, energetic, young and plenty of fun to watch during the 16/17 season.

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They’ve remained relatively consistent since their first season in the Bundesliga, finishing 6th in 17/18 and 3rd last season. Finishing 3rd and returning to the Champions League is a positive season, but it did feel like a transition into a new era, spearheaded by Julien Nagelsmann. The former Hoffenheim manager is one of my favourite coaches in Europe, being able to turn a weak Hoffenheim side into a fun yet effective side in Germany. However, what was holding him back was the personnel. Last season, he was stuck with Ishak Belfodil, who was basically moving clubs every season and only managed 4 goals for Werder Bremen in 17/18. Nagelsmann’s teams create a vast amount of chances that it’s difficult for any forward who starts over 20 games not to get at least 10 goals. Mark Uth might be the perfect example of Nagelsmann supercharging strikers. The German contributed to 22 goals in 17/18, earning him a move to Schalke once his contract expired. However, he only scored 2 goals in 15 games in his first season for Schalke. If Nagelsmann could get a lot of goals out poor to average players, it makes you wonder what he could do with Timo Werner and Yussuf Poulsen, who just had the best seasons of their careers.

The defence was the other area which did hold Nagelsmann back. His sides have usually played a 3-4-3 or a 3-5-2 with a very high line. To perform a system like that, you need to have genuinely elite defensive talent, something the 32-year-old just didn’t have at Hoffenheim. Last season, Hoffenheim gave away more penalties than any other side with 7 and gave away the most fouls per game with 13.9. In teams that play high-lines, you expect a lot of fouls to be made, in an attempt to recover the ball when the line is beaten, but the frequency in which they were taking down their opponents is concerning. Now at Leipzig, he has four extremely talented centre-backs. Willi Orban has been at the club before their promotion in 2016. While the club captain is an essential figure for the team, he backs that up with being a terrific defender, comfortable in possession and commanding his backline. The French trio of Dayot Upamecano, Nordi Mukiele and Ibrahima Konate are all extremely promising defenders. It’s a testament to how good Red Bull are at spotting talent. They arrived for a combined fee of £23 million, with Konate arriving on a free transfer. The club could manage to sell these players for over £70 million each, showing how they’ve remained to find value in the market, even with such a well-known brand like Red Bull behind them. All are comfortable on the ball and possess extreme athleticism to help them cover the distance needed to play in a Nagelsmann side.

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So how have Leipzig played in the first few games of the Bundesliga? While I don’t think they’ve been the best team in the league, they’ve been the most impressive. The main reason for this is because of the opposition they’ve had to face, with the Red Bull-owned club already playing Frankfurt, Monchengladbach, Schalke and Bayern Munich in their opening 6 games. I’ve watched three of these games and so far have been impressed with what I’ve seen. Nagelsmann has been extremely flexible in terms of formation and personnel. Against Frankfurt, Nagelsmann lined his side up in a 3-4-3, to match Adi Hutter’s team in terms of formation. Thanks to Leipzig having extremely athletic defenders, it allowed them to double-up on Frankfurt’s wing-backs Filip Kostic and Erik Durm, their opponent’s most prominent attacking threats. In breaking them down, Leipzig used Christopher Nkunku and, after an hour, Emil Forsberg, to run into the space that was left from Frankfurt’s marauding wing-backs. The pair completed 5 dribbles, showing how effective they were in moving the ball into the opposition half.

Their game against Borussia Monchengladbach saw some changes, with Nagelsmann switching to a 4-4-2 and bringing in Kampl and Forsberg for Mukiele and Nkunku respectively. These changes allowed them to deal with Gladbach’s weaknesses, being their lack of width and the full-backs. Rose usually lines his side up in a 4-3-1-2, with Thuram often drifting to the left. Leipzig countered this through their compact shape. It made it difficult for Rose’s players to break them down, and with the press from Leipzig’s front men giving them no time on the ball, it showed just how much work Rose has to do in turning this side into a Champions League regular. Their defenders lacked mobility and Leipzig used that to their advantage. Poulsen and Werner were consistently making diagonal runs into the box, making it very difficult to defend against Nagelsmann’s side. Werner’s hat trick was a combination of superb chance creation and elite finishing. Leipzig haven’t been topping the table in terms of shots and chance creation, but their forwards are consistently getting chances in fantastic areas. Even if Werner’s shots are of weak locations, his finishing is unrivalled in Germany, meaning he will be able to put all sorts of chances away.

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The two games so far have shown Leipzig to be flexible, aggressive and clinical. Like every team in the Bundesliga, the games against Bayern Munich were going to show just how good Leipzig were when facing better opposition, and for 45 minutes, it did not look good. I haven’t spoken about it yet, but in all their games so far, Leipzig’s press is consistent. Whatever formation was deployed, they would always press in a 4-2-4, with Forsberg moving over to the left, Poulsen and Werner in the middle and Sabitzer on the right. They plan to force their opponent into the flanks. He’s tried this against Bayern before, to some success. In their 3-1 defeat to the champions in August 2018, Nagelsmann used Joelinton and Szalai to keep pressure on the central defenders and force them to play the ball to the full-back. Hoffenheim’s wing-backs and wide midfielders would then aggressively press Bayern, and for a lot of the game, it was effective. The problem was Bayern were just too much for Hoffenheim, but trying a similar tactic against them once again might work considering the players Nagelsmann now has to work with. But that game was Kovac’s first game in charge of Bayern in the league. The team have since grown in quality and showed this at the Red Bull Arena. When Leipzig did try and press Bayern from the front, Bayern’s midfield duo of Kimmich and Thiago, the best midfielders in the league, found space and exploited the room that was left from Leipzig’s pressing. Both were at their usual best in this game, Kimmich especially, who created 6 chances from midfield. It wasn’t just in midfield where Leipzig were exposed, but in attack, where Lewandowski’s goal perfectly showcased this. Whenever one of their forwards were in possession, Bayern were quick to outnumber them, usually making it a three against one, to recover possession. This is what happened for Bayern’s goal. Sabitzer had three men around him, and when dispossessed, Klostermann attempted to recover the ball, but Muller was quick to get it back. A fantastic pass from Muller and a great run from Lewandowski to show some naivety from Nagelsmann, and Bayern continued to dominate the first half. Leipzig did get back in the game through a Forsberg penalty, but the half didn’t scream optimism.

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The second half is where Nagelsmann shined in his tactical adjustments. His players were being completely outclassed in the centre of the park and needed to fix it. He did so by taking off Klostermann and bringing on Diego Demme, to add numbers and ensure they could compete with Bayern. They switched to a 4-3-3, with Mukiele moving over to right-back. This was when Leipzig started creating chances, while remained stable at the back. Yet, they still weren’t exceptional. A lot of the opportunities they created just weren’t of high quality. Mukiele had a decent chance with a shot from the right side of the 18-yard box, but it was a routine save for Neuer. Sabitzer attempted to a shot from long distance, and while it did have some spin on it, it wasn’t going to trouble Germany’s number one. While this approach might have worked against a weaker team, Bayern are more than that. Thiago and Kimmich are so difficult to simply bypass. This game felt like a lesson for Nagelsmann.

So, can RB Leipzig win the Bundesliga this year? They definitely have a chance, but Bayern look too good to beat at the moment. Leipzig still have room to improve. Amadou Haidara hasn’t played much this season, and Tyler Adams is still yet to return, a player who could seriously make a difference in the middle of the park. Nagelsmann will have to be more open to rotation his key players if he wishes to compete on all fronts. This team is very aggressive, and I worry how often they might be caught on an off day, similar to how easily Schalke beat them at the Red Bull Arena. Nagelsmann should either change the approach for specific games or use the vast number of players in the team. Ademola Lookman and Matheus Cunha have rarely featured, and definitely have a part to play this season. If Leipzig wish to win the league this season, they’ll have to hope Bayern’s form begins to plummet and Dortmund remain unlucky. On the bright side, I do expect Leipzig to improve over the next couple of years, and the team is still young enough to stay competitive. Bayern still have a massive rebuilding job on their hands, so even if Leipzig do falter, their chance will come.

UEFA Champions League 18/19 Preview – Group C

While I’d argue that Group B is the group of death, Group C is seriously not far from it. With last year’s finalists, Ligue 1 champions, Europe’s hipster team, and the team with the craziest fans, it’s going to be every interesting.

Red Star Belgrade

Talking about the way Red Star play or their threatening players is difficult because I do not know much about them at all. All I can take is how they performed against Arsenal last season in the Europa League, where they defended well and caused Arsenal the occasional problem. They only just about reached the competition, by beating Red Bull Salzburg on away goals. They have won every game so far this season, with their most recent win being a Vojvodina 4-1. They go into the competition in good form. However what they are most known for is their crazy supporters, to a point where they have been banned from the away games. They will create an atmosphere that will trouble all the teams that will go there, and could even cause an upset with their crazy supporters behind them. But the quality of the other teams is too high, so a bottom finish for them, but they will surely be entertaining.

Napoli

Napoli were absolutely sensational last season. They played some of the best football in Europe, with a team so balanced and full of players that have turned into real world beaters. However unfortunately for them they were against Allegri’s winning machine, and couldn’t beat them over the line, but they did come so close, and kept Serie A entertaining. However the summer wasn’t great. While Ancelotti is a solid appointment, Sarri built that team in his image, and it’ll be difficult to change it. Losing Jorginho was predicted, but still difficult. He is one of the best controllers of the game in Europe. He is one of the reasons Sarri ball worked so effectively. Fabian Ruiz is a fine addition to the side, and Diawara and Zielinski are both talented enough to fill that void effectively. Napoli have been slightly inconsistent to start the season, however they have had a difficult start to say the least. Playing Milan, Lazio, and Sampdoria to start the season is a tough way to introduce a new manager. Their 3-0 defeat to Sampdoria was difficult to watch, with Napoli just being so poor on the day, especially in attack. I do think they are going to struggle in this group. They play 2 sides that are so good at counter attacking and can hit so hard on the pace that it’ll be difficult for Napoli to compete. While they are a very good side, they just had the wrong end of the draw. Europa League again for the Italian side.

Liverpool

Liverpool go into this group as my favourites. Their team is now at a stage where it can win a major trophy, whether it’s a league title or this competition. They fixed some of their bigger areas, being their midfield and goalkeeper. Allison already looks like twice the player that Karius was, being so composed and confident in goal. The additions of Naby Keita and Fabinho give some great depth in an area I have criticised Liverpool for not addressing for a while now. Keita is one of the most complete midfielders around and Fabinho is excellent in the air and gives good defensive support to the centre halves. Speaking of centre halves, the difference Virgil Van Dijk has made to that side is just outstanding. Having a defender that confident, strong and intelligent, just makes the rest of the team so much more confident. He is by far Liverpool’s most important player, and has transformed himself into one of the best defenders in the world. However it’s their attack that always catches the headlines. Salah, Mane and Firmino is easily the best front three in Europe. While it can be argued that Barcelona and PSG have better individual players in those as areas, they just work so well as a unit. Mane is incredibly flexible, and can create and score. Firmino gives so much for team, with his tackling and movement, and Salah is just a goal machine. They have the ability to beat anyone, and I think they will top this group.

Paris Saint-Germain

The Ligue 1 champions look extremely deadly going into this tournament. They finally have a coach that can match their ambition of winning a champions league. Tuchel’s coaching ability cannot be underestimated. He kept Dortmund competitive and will now make Paris better than they’ve ever been. They have improved on areas in their squad I have had issues with. Mainly their goalkeeper and left back. I never liked Kurzawa. His off the field antics kept him from being a top level defender. Bringing in Juan Bernat, a player with a great dribbling ability and contributes well in the final third, is a great move. Gianluigi Buffon is a great signing. He is the best goalkeeper of all time in my opinion, no matter how old he is, he will add something to any team. Their attack is still incredibly deadly. Mbappe is coming off a historic world cup, Cavani is an elite forward, and Neymar is an excellent player, and continues to fight for that Balon d’Or. However he is part of the problem with this team. He seems to be a problem for the team. His clear ambition to move to Madrid will hold Paris back in the long term. Rabiot is another who as emerged as a real problem. The Frenchman acted incredibly immaturely when not selected for the France squad before Russia. Marco Veratti is another who seems to not be on good terms with Tuchel, with the manager making the midfielder lose weight because he doesn’t deem him fit enough to play. Tuchel has a lot of work settling this squad. But they are still so talented and will get out of this group based on manager and player quality.

Final Table

1. Liverpool

2. PSG

3. Napoli

4. Red Star Belgrade

5 Premier League Teams to Watch Next Season

With the season arriving in less than a month, let’s look at 5 teams that you should just keep your eye on next season.

Chelsea

For the first time since Ancelotti, Chelsea have an attacking manager. This isn’t to take away from Mourinho and Conte, who both had good spells in charge. But they were always so pragmatic with how they set up their teams. Efficient is easily the best compliment that can be given to both of their title winning teams. But now they finally have brought in a manager who is famed for his attacking style. Sarri is one of my favourite managers in Europe. The team he built in Napoli was just so fun to watch. He was able to bring the best out of the players at his disposal. He turns Dries Mertens into a very good false 9, Insigne into one of the best wingers in Europe, and turned Reina from not good enough for Liverpool, to a very solid goalkeeper. He reminds me of Pep, in his ability to bring the best out of what he has. Speaking of Napoli, the signing of Jorginho was just what they needed. The Italian is a very good game controller, which is an area they have been missing since Fabregas began his decline. Sarri teams like to keep hold of the ball, so bringing in a guy who completes nearly 100 passes per game, is just ideal. However there still many issues for the Blues. The futures of Eden Hazard of Thibaut Courtois are all in doubt, with both heavily linked to a move to the Spanish capital. Both are key players and need to be tied down for the future. Hazard is a player who could finally shine, now with a manager who will not limit him. Courtois has also just came back from a golden glove winning world cup, meaning keeping him should be key. Chelsea are also heavily linked to Russian midfielder Oleksandr Golovin, and if they pull that move off, Chelsea’s midfield should be fixed. While they are not currently in the best place, Chelsea are finally in a place of unknown, which makes it so exciting to see where they go from here.

Arsenal

I think the end of Wenger’s reign couldn’t have ended more horribly. Missing out on champions league football for a second time and having an absolutely terrible away record. There were also huge issues with the team, lacking a good centre half, a defensively minded central midfielder, a competent goalkeeper, and a wide player. The appointment of Unai Emery, while not as high profile as everyone wanted, is still a safe and solid choice. He is known to be a great motivator and trains his players very hard. In fact after their last pre season game, his players went straight back to training, showing how much work needs to be done to have them ready for the new season (or maybe the lack of work Wenger was doing). The signings made have also been mostly fine. While both Leno and Papadopoulos aren’t great players, bringing both in for less than £20m is good business, and are improvements on what they already have. While Lichsteiner is the definition of a short term solution, he will give competition to a very inconsistent Bellerin, and offers good delivery in the final third. The best signing however is easily Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira. He had a breakout season for Sampdoria, giving them a real Kante role. He was a player who was excellent at recovering the ball, and also a fine distributer. He will give some real steel to a midfield that lacks a defensive workhorse. It is the first time in so long that Arsenal will finally be different, which is why it’ll be interesting to see how they perform next season.

Liverpool

While it does hurt to admit, Liverpool have easily made the best business of the window. They have fixed all of their key issues and look ready to challenge Manchester City for the title. While their defense was never a huge issue for them in my opinion (mainly because the way they play result in them looking very leaky), they have improved that with the signing of Allison. While they might have overpaid for him, he was easily the best available option for them in this current market. The Brazilian was brilliant for Roma last season, with only De Gea beating him in stopping expected goals. Allison is a great signing, but it’s their improvement in midfield that is most impressive. My issue with Liverpool’s midfield has always been the lack of flexibility. When playing against teams, like Manchester City, they excel because all of their players are great at pressing and do not need the ball. When they play against teams who would rather sit back, they do not have a central midfielder who is able to carry the ball out effectively and dribble through a midfield. They have brought in one of the best box to box midfielders in Naby Keita, and one of the most well rounded defensive midfielders in Fabinho. Keita is just great at everything. He is able to do the defensive work, is an incredible dribbler and is able to score and create. He will add a player who is able to fill in plenty of roles and who will help the reds keep possession more effectively. Fabinho gives them a real defensive midfielder. While Henderson has performed relatively well, he was never a true DM. Fabinho is one of the best defensive midfielders around, putting in over 4 tackles and interceptions per 90, while also helping in moving the ball, with a very solid 1.1 key passes per 90. He also wins 2.9 aerial rules. Which could mean the centre backs do not have to go towards the ball as much as they do, now with a player who is able to win it further up the pitch. This is a huge season for Jürgen Klopp’s side. Progress will need to be seen, and so far it is definitely there.

West Ham

I have always been so critical in how West Ham have signed players over the last year. They were signing the wrong players and their owners were always making these ridiculous promises. However this window has actually seen some real improvement. Gold and Sullivan decided to bring in Manuel Pellegrini to replace David Moyes. The obvious step up aside, it is a real coup for the hammers. They have finally found a manager who will be able to match the owner’s crazy ambition. What has been even better is the signings. Some smart signings were made very early on, like bringing in Ryan Fredericks on a free, and Fabinaski for less than £10m. They have matched these safe signings with some real ambitious ones, like highly rated youngster Issa Diop from Toulouse, finally giving them another option besides the usual James Collins and Winston Reid. While other signings like Yarmolenko and Wilshere are also pretty good, it’s their signing of Lazio winger Felipe Anderson that has really blown me away. The Brazilian was excellent in Serie A last season. In only 9 starts, he scored 4 and assisted 7. His stats also make for a great read, averaging 1.8 key passes and making 3.7 successful dribbles per 90. One thing that has been great to see in the Premier League is every club having a player good enough for the top 6, now West Ham have their man. They still have some key areas to strengthen, mainly in midfield. While Wilshere is a fine enough addition, that midfield is still missing quality. 3 managers have now fielded a Koyate and Noble midfield, and everytime have shown why it doesn’t work. They will hope that Wilshere can stay fit, and that Obiang has a real breakout season, otherwise they could well struggle to protect the defense. It is still a much improved summer for the Irons.

Fulham

As mentioned, I like seeing all teams have a top 6 quality player. It can be debated on whether Sessegnon is at that level. He isn’t at the moment, but he definitely will if he continues on this path. He just needs to improve in the box, mainly with the amount of shots he takes. Fulham did pull off one of the signings of the season in bringing in Jean Michael Seri from Nice for £27m. This is the same player who has been constantly linked with moves to Arsenal and Chelsea, and has ended up in Fulham. I do actually think this is the best for the player. Seri didn’t have a place in one of those sides because they already had good creators. Both of those teams needed something else (which they did get with in Torreira and Jorginho respectively). But Seri does fit right in for Fulham. One huge issue that some teams have when making that step from the Championship to the Premier League is making the right improvements in the side, while also keeping to what worked. Fulham prefer a possession style, favouring short passes. Seri fits that bill, being a player who’s speciality is his ability on the ball. He averages 86 passes with a 90% accuracy, which shows how he is able to help keep possession effectively. He also averages a very good 2.1 key passes, better than captain Tom Cairney’s 1.9. It is clear they have found that extra bit of quality in their team, to help them stay up. At the time of writing, they are also close to signing Andre Schurrle from Dortmund. If they pull that off, then the rest of the league should keep an eye on them.

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.