Premier League Transfers: One crucial position each of the Big Six failed to strengthen this summer

Jadon Sancho in action for Borussia Dortmund

In a summer transfer window not quite like any other, the Premier League’s six biggest clubs shelled out a combined £652.7m on new recruits.

With the deadline now passed, most will be happy with the business they got over the line - but no member of the top flight’s upper-most elite managed to tick every box on their transfer hitlist this summer.

GMS takes a look at one key position each big six club failed to strengthen during the transfer window, considering to what extent it could impact them this season and naming three available players who could’ve addressed the issue…

Tottenham - Centre-back

Joe Rodon in action for Swansea

Spurs found some good value in the transfer market this summer and with six signings overall, four of which boast a wealth of Premier League experience, as their business struck the right equilibrium between quality and quantity - not to mention wowing supporters with the forever fabled return of Gareth Bale.

But having shipped 62 goals in 43 games under Jose Mourinho and parted with Jan Vertonghen over the summer, it’s surprising that Spurs only strengthened the flanks of their defence without addressing its core.

Eric Dier at centre-half is still very much an experiment throwing up inconsistent results, Toby Alderweireld isn’t displaying the dominance of his early Spurs career and Davinson Sanchez is now into his fourth season in north London, without making 30 Premier League starts in any of the previous three.

There were options worth considering throughout the window though: Everton snapped up Nowich’s Ben Godfrey on Deadline Day, while Man City swooped for Nathan Ake earlier in the summer and Leeds pulled off a real coup with their move for Spain international Diego Llorente. 

However, Spurs may have a solution on their hands, with reports claiming they could still seal the services of Swansea City's Joe Rodon - the Football League transfer window is still open. 

Liverpool - Striker

Timo Werner celebrates scoring for Chelsea

In fairness to Liverpool, it’s difficult to strengthen a side that has achieved European and domestic glory in consecutive seasons, and tellingly all of their business this summer was aimed at providing Jurgen Klopp with more options rather than improving the quality of his starting XI with the likes of Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota arriving.

But if there’s one area that still feels a little lacking at Anfield, it’s the centre of the attack. While he’s often seen as the unsung hero who makes Liverpool tick, Roberto Firmino has scored just six goals in his last 36 Premier League games and whether he’s slowing down at the age of 29 or simply in need of a rocket up the backside, the Reds would surely have benefitted from landing a more goal-centric striker who could put real pressure on the Brazilian.

Yes, there’s Divock Origi, but he’s started just eleven Premier League games over the last two seasons and is so clearly behind Firmino in the pecking order that his presence is pretty meaningless in that respect, while youngster Rhian Brewster was allowed to join Sheffield United in a permanent deal.

Centre-forward is perhaps the trickiest position to recruit for but it was certainly surprising that Liverpool let Chelsea snap up Timo Werner, while they could have taken a punt on someone like Ollie Watkins or Callum Wilson, or even sought to bring Danny Ings back to Anfield.

Man United - Wing

Jadon Sancho is subbed off for England

Manchester United may have announced a Deadline Day deal for Amad Diallo but the Serie A prodigy won’t actually arrive at Old Trafford until January, and in any case the Atalanta winger is just 18 years old with only three senior appearances under his belt to date - so how much of an impact is he likely to make in the second half of the season?

Indeed, the Red Devils’ attack is still desperately crying out for a proven option on the right of the attack, and in truth this has been a real gap in the starting XI for a number of seasons, arguably harking back to the days of Antonio Valencia bombing down the wing.

United do have Mason Greenwood occupying the position currently but he’s yet to pick up where he left off last season with no goals or assists as yet in the Premier League, and he’s clearly a centre-forward in the making rather than a natural wide attacker.

Of course, United’s big failing here was failing to meet Borussia Dortmund’s demands for Jadon Sancho at the start of the window, which gave their summer-long pursuit of him a constant aura of futility.

But they also either elected against signing or missed out on Bale, who joined Spurs instead, while late window talk of a loan move for Ousmane Dembele ultimately came to nothing.

Arsenal - Central attacking midfield

James Rodriguez celebrates a brace for Everton

Arsenal managed to secure Dani Ceballos for another season while they also landed perhaps the most impressive Deadline Day deal with a swoop for Thomas Partey, but if there’s one thing their engine room lacks its someone who can provide goals and assists from midfield.

Ceballos averaged 1.2 key passes per match last season but when you take away set pieces his actual return from open play was just 19 chances made in 24 appearances, and although free signing Willian can operate as a No.10 if necessary, moving him there would take a lot of quality and experience away from the forward line, essentially forcing Mikel Arteta to trust big-money flop Nicolas Pepe on the right-hand side.

Perhaps it’s not an immediate concern for the Gunners who clearly prioritised other aspects of the team, especially if they continue using a 3-4-3 system which doesn’t require an out-and-out playmaker behind the striker.

But it would be good to have that option in the squad and barring a shock reprieve for Mesut Ozil, that’s where Arsenal are currently a little short. Reported target Houssem Aouar, a forward-thinking box-to-box midfielder, could have done the trick, while Everton managed to snap up James Rodriguez in what appears to be a real coup - the Colombian has already notched up three goals and two assists in the Premier League this season.

Man City - Left-Back

David Alaba passes the ball

Man City bolstered their defensive ranks this summer with deals for two centre-backs in Ruben Diaz and Nathan Ake, the latter of which can also fill in at left-back if necessary. But the Dutchman is by no means in the mould of flying full-back Pep Guardiola’s system needs to thrive and the No.3 berth particularly is one that’s caused constant problems for the Spaniard throughout his tenure.

Benjamin Mendy has a terrible knack of either being injured or defensively oblivious and has so far this season conjured a rating of just 5.89 on Whoscored, while although Oleksandr Zinchenko has proved a useful stop-gap, he still very much plays like a No.10 who has been converted into a No.3.

They reportedly wanted to bring in either Bayern Munich’s David Alaba or Ajax’s Nicolas Tagliafico, but without Zinchenko moving on City weren’t able to sign either, and ultimately the former champions have entered the new season with the same issues in a position that’s often key to how Guardiola wants his side to play.

A number of City’s big six rivals were able to land new left-backs this summer, however: Manchester United signed Alex Telles on Deadline Day, while Spurs sealed the services of Sergio Reguilon and Chelsea spent big on Ben Chilwell. Options were clearly there for City, but nothing materialised.

Chelsea - Powerful holding midfielder

Declan Rice challenges for the ball against Leicester

Chelsea finished the transfer window as the Premier League’s biggest spenders with Frank Lampard making a whole raft of changes to the squad that finished fourth last season. It’s hard to dispute most of their business, the result being a well-rounded squad with some fantastic depth, but the Blues did miss out on one of their targets in Declan Rice, and it’s clear to see why Lampard wanted to bring that kind of player to the club.

Chelsea’s engine room lacks pure height and physicality and if we categorise N’Golo Kante more as a natural box-to-box than a sitting playbreaker, the Blues don’t actually have anybody who can anchor the midfield with a powerful, imposing presence - Jorginho is a deep-lying playmaker lacking defensive instinct and Mateo Kovacic likes to try and move the ball forward.

How much that will hold Chelsea back this season remains to be seen - Lampard is surely very happy with the majority of the club’s business this summer and has a fantastic squad at his disposal. But the impact of missing out on Rice might well be felt in the big games, where that kind of player tends to come to the fore.

The Blues didn’t seem to have many alternatives to Rice lined up, despite West Ham reportedly wanting £80m for him. But Leicester’s Wilfried Ndidi was surely deserving of being in the frame as well - he’s well established as one of the Premier League’s best ball-winners - while Allan looks a pretty shrewd signing for Everton, having already shown his ability to break up play and build attacks with minimal fuss.

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