With the World Cup moved from its usual summer spot to be played in Qatar this winter, it has felt like a long few weeks without Premier League football. That being said, it has meant that football fans’ gaze has been even more intently fixated upon the transfer window. With less than a handful of weeks left until Crystal Palace welcome Arsenal to Selhurst Park to kick off the new campaign, each club’s squads are beginning to take shape.
With that in mind, this post will assess how each of the first ten top flight clubs could line up, taking into account players signed and sold, as well as rumoured signings and players that could realistically join their ranks. Part two, assessing the remaining ten clubs, will be released next week.
Arsenal had their best league campaign under Mikel Arteta last season, but ultimately fell short to fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the race for Champions League football. The core of the side had a more balanced feel and some big decisions were made by the Spanish coach, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang allowed to leave and Alexandre Lacazette not offered a new contract.
Aaron Ramsdale was impressive last season, particularly in the first half of the campaign, and will retain his place in goal. The back four, on the rare occasion they are all fit at the same time, is much improved but William Saliba will be looking to shoehorn his way in following his return from his loan spell with Marseille. It is widely thought that Arteta would ideally look to play the 433 system that his mentor, Pep Guardiola, has coached to perfection. However, there are doubts over whether her trusts either Granit Xhaka or Thomas Partey enough to play the ‘Rodri’ role on their own. Fábio Vieira has joined from Sporting Lisbon to bolster the Gunners’ midfield options, but may take time to settle. Martin Ødegaard has cemented the attacking midfield spot, and is likely to be flanked by Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli.
It is the striker position that will have Arsenal fans most excited, though. Gabriel Jesus has joined from Manchester City, and the Arsenal faithful will feel they may finally have a striker who consistently delivers. Two goals in his debut in a friendly against Nürnberg, the first 90 seconds after coming on, will only add to this optimism. Eddie Nketiah also agreed to a new contract following the expiration of his previous deal and continues to show promise.
It is an exciting time at Villa Park, although last season’s 14th place finish was perhaps a little disappointing given the investment and the appointment of Steven Gerrard as manager. Diego Carlos has signed from Sevilla and will undoubtedly strengthen the back four. Philippe Coutinho made the decision to make his stay at the midlands club permanent, which is a real coup for Aston Villa. Another exciting signing comes in the form of Boubacar Kamara; with the only surprise being that more teams across Europe weren’t in for him.
It will be interesting to see how Gerrard’s midfield shapes up next season, with the Liverpool legend reportedly eyeing up further recruitment in the middle of the park. Douglas Luiz is constantly linked with a move away and it feels as though this could be the summer that a move comes into fruition. Therefore, John McGinn and youngster Jacob Ramsey are expected to compliment Kamara. Emiliano Bundía may find a berth on the right side of the attack, although it would not come as a surprise if Villa look to strengthen this area. Perhaps someone of the calibre of Watford’s Ismaila Sarr may be worth exploring in this position. With murmurs that Danny Ings has been told he can leave just a year after signing, don’t be surprised to see the club head into the new season with a new striker to provide competition to Ollie Watkins.
Bournemouth are back in the big time after two seasons out of the Premier League. The Cherries, guided by Scott Parker, secured the second automatic promotion spot in the Championship to confirm their return and the club are not expected to make wholesale changes to the squad that got them there.
Ryan Fredericks comes in at right back, while a romantic return for former player Matt Ritchie could be in the pipeline to bolster their fullback options. Jordan Zemura will also be keen to tie down the left-back spot after an impressive season from the Zimbabwean last year. The club are linked with Marcus Tavernier from Middlesborough to improve their midfield, while Ademola Lookman could be a feasible signing for the left-wing spot should Parker see fit to pursue him after Leicester City have distanced themselves from a permanent deal.
Up front, Dominic Solanke has begun to justify the £19 million fee that the club paid to bring him in from Liverpool in 2019. His 29 goals and seven assists last season were crucial to his side’s promotion and they looked a much worse side when he wasn’t in it. Parker said that no other striker in the league could do what Solanke was doing for his side, in reference to his all-round play and pressing, as well as his goals, which is testament to Solanke. More firepower is needed at Bournemouth, though, and it shouldn’t be a surprise if one or two more attackers are brought in.
Brentford were impressive in their first Premier League campaign, but it should not be ignored that prior to the edition of Christian Eriksen they were on a concerning downward spiral. Thus, reinforcements are needed. The club are very keen for Eriksen to extend his stay at the Bees, but it now looks as though a move to Manchester United is more likely. It appears that Thomas Frank’s men have turned their attention to Hull City’s Keane Lewis-Potter in their search for creativity, with a deal for the England U21 international looking imminent.
Tottenham Hotspurs’ Japhet Tanganga has been linked with a move to west London and could prove a shrewd addition to the club’s favoured back three. Aaron Hickey has signed from Bologna and his ability to comfortably play either left or right-wingback is a blessing. Brandon Williams does not look like he has a future at Manchester United following an underwhelming loan spell at Norwich City last season, but is another versatile fullback who could hypothetically bolster Brentford’s ranks, although there have been no links as of yet. Rico Henry may well be favoured to continue in the left-wingback position, though.
In attack, it looks likely talisman Ivan Toney will stay put this summer; although there is still plenty of time for that to change. The club have been linked with a move for Nice and former Ajax striker, Kasper Dolberg. Whilst this is a move that may seem unlikely, the strong Danish core to the squad makes this a more feasible transfer, and would bring some star quality to the club.
Brighton achieved their first ever Premier League top ten finish last season; an achievement for which Graham Potter received a huge amount of credit. They will be looking ahead to the new season with hopes of a similar outcome but, as is always the case when a team of Brighton’s size is successful, they have faced a battle to keep their best players. Yves Bissouma has already departed for Tottenham, and it looks as though Marc Cucurella could join Manchester City after a brilliant maiden campaign in England.
How Brighton spend the money they receive for their prized assets will go a long way to determining how their season pans out. Interestingly, the club made two signings last season who could go straight into the starting 11, but the pair were immediately loaned back out upon their signatures being secured last term. These are Kauro Mitoma and Deniz Undav. Mitoma is a winger who joined from Japanese side Kawasaki Frontale and was loaned to Union Saint-Gilloise last season, while Undav is a striker who was signed from Union SG in January and returned there on loan for the second half of the season. Undav scored 26 goals and registered 12 assists last season and could add some much needed firepower to the Seagulls’ front line.
The defensive trio of Adam Webster, Lewis Dunk, and Joel Veltman are expected to be favoured once more, while the club will be excited by the prospect of a fully fit Tariq Lamptey this season. Leandro Trossard will provide the creative spark once more, with a number of players competing for the central midfield spots behind him. Bissouma has left big shoes to fill, but Ecuadorian Moisés Caicedo looks to have the attributes to replace the Mali midfielder and, at just 20, should only get better.
Chelsea are entering a new era, with Todd Boehly now the man in charge of the club. Thomas Tuchel has the new owner’s backing and will be looking to put the disappointing form at the tail-end of last season behind him now that there is stability at the club once more.
With Antonio Rudiger having left for Real Madrid, there is a giant void in Chelsea’s backline. This is said to be the area that Tuchel is most determined to strengthen, and Manchester City’s Nathan Ake and Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly are heavily linked. PSG’s Presnel Kimpembe is also thought to be on the club’s radar. The midfield and wingback areas should have a familiar feel, with Ben Chilwell’s return from injury a welcome one.
In attack, Romelu Lukaku has re-joined Inter Milan on loan following a disappointing season that saw his comments burn a lot of bridges at the club. Boehly is said to be keen to make at least one real statement signing to endear him to his new supporters. It looks as though Raheem Sterling is the marquee signing he is looking for. The England winger wants to be a key player and is said to be seeking a new challenge; Chelsea can provide him with both.
Surprisingly, the Stamford Bridge club have not really been linked to any strikers following Lukaku’s departure. Currently they have Timo Werner and Kai Havertz that can play as the central striker, with Armando Broja expected to leave. Neither Werner or Havertz have been prolific in their time in England ,but there is a real shortage of available top-level strikers on the market so Chelsea may have to make do for now.
Patrick Vieira enjoyed a fine start to life as a manager in England last season, guiding Crystal Palace to a 12th placed finish and an FA Cup final; all while rebranding the style of play in the process. He will be looking to build on the impressive season he oversaw last season and will no doubt be keen to add to the squad.
Sam Johnstone has joined on a free transfer from West Bromwich Albion, and is expected to dislodge Vincente Guaita in goal. Marc Guehi and Joachim Anderson formed a strong partnership last season, but the squad is a little short in central defence if either are not available and this could mean one or two centre backs come in. Right back is another area that requires attention, although Nathaniel Clyne put himself in contention to make the position his own with a solid end of season. Chris Richards of Bayern Munich may be available for a decent price this summer and can play both right-back and as a central defender, which could make him a shrewd acquisition.
Cheick Doucouré has signed from RC Lens and should prove to be a real coup at the base of the midfield. There is a large Conor Gallagher shaped hole in the midfield, following his return to Chelsea. Wolves’ Morgan Gibbs-White is one of the names being floated for this role, although he is also heavily linked with a move to Everton. Eberechi Eze may drop a little deeper to become the creative force from midfield and allow Michael Olise, Wilfried Zaha, and Jean Mateta to continue as an attacking trio. As ever, Zaha is linked with a move away from Selhurst Park, with Jose Mourinho’s Roma said to be interested, but it would be a surprise to see the 29-year-old leave now that the club seems to be trying to match his ambitions.
Everton almost fell victim to the unthinkable last season, narrowly avoiding suffering their first relegation from the English top flight in over 70 years. Many thought that after their escape act they would not allow themselves to get in the same position again. However, it may not be that simple. Lack of funds appear to be problematic for the club in their bid to improve their squad and the club have sold their best player, Richarlison, to Tottenham.
Currently, their squad is now weaker than the one that struggled so much last season. Without Richarlison last term the Toffees would undoubtedly have suffered relegation. James Tarkowski has joined on a free, while the ageing Seamus Coleman must now give way to young fullback Nathan Patterson. The emergence of Anthony Gordon was one bright spark in a very bleak season on the blue half of Merseyside and the England U21 international should stay in the team. Emmanuel Dennis would be a decent addition in the attacking areas and was perhaps the only Watford player worthy of a Premier League move on last season’s evidence.
Dele Alli’s move to the club was seen as a last chance saloon to get his career back on track. Thus far, it hasn’t worked out for the man capped 37 times by England. Frank Lampard will hope that, with a pre-season under his belt, Alli can show glimpses of his dazzling form from years gone by. If he doesn’t, Alli has no one to blame for his demise but himself. Lampard will also be enthused by the prospect of a fully fit Dominic Calvert-Lewin up front, but it still feels like a team very short on firepower currently.
Fulham were dominant in the Championship under Marco Silva last season, winning the league with 90 points and scoring 106 goals in the process. One man whose influence was greater than any other was striker Aleksandar Mitrovic. The broad Serbian scored a record-equalling 43 goals, as well as assisting seven, in 44 Championship games last season. He clearly knows where the goal is but it feels like he is yet to be really trusted in the Premier League. Surely after last season’s heroics, it will be different this time.
Fulham have to learn from their previous two unsuccessful bids to stay in the Premier League. In preparation for the 2018/19 season, the Cottagers spent big and completely overhauled the squad who had got them promoted in the first place. They were relegated instantly back to the Championship, but bounced back at the first time of asking. In their 2020/21 top flight campaign they failed to address key areas in the squad and the outcome was the same. They must find a happy median on this occasion.
In goal, Germany international Bernd Leno is expected to join from Arsenal and seems a very sensible signing. Wolfsburg’s Kevin Mbabu and West Ham United’s Issa Diop have both been linked to improve Silva’s options in defence. Last time Fulham were in the Premier League their squad didn’t possess enough quality to hurt opposing teams. They have looked to address this with the signings of Portugal international Palhinha and Brazil’s Andreas Pereira sure to add plenty of creativity, especially now that Fabio Carvalho has left for Liverpool. In the wide areas the club have been strongly linked with Shakhtar Donetsk’s Manor Solomon, while Burnley’s Maxwel Cornet’s £15 million release clause is something the Craven Cottage side would be wise to consider.
Leeds United looked in real danger of facing the drop last season and, consequently, saw fit to relieve beloved manager Marcelo Bielsa from his duties in late February. The Argentine coach, who had overseen a complete cultural overhaul at the club, had lost four consecutive games, conceding 17 goals in the process, and it looked like Leeds were a sinking ship. In came American coach Jesse Marsch. Marsch made tactical tweaks and went from the all-action, man-marking approach to a more zonal defensive structure.
Marsch, who found success at RB Salzburg, tended to favour a 4231 formation in his successful bid to keep Leeds in the top flight. Local lad and fan favourite Kalvin Phillips has joined Manchester City, while it looks as though Barcelona have won the battle for Raphinha’s signature, despite their financial woes. These are two incredibly significant departures. However, they have given Leeds and Marsch the funds to revamp the squad.
Danish defender Rasmus Kristensen has joined from RB Salzburg and may replace Luke Ayling at right-back; although Ayling is another firm fan favourite. On the other side of the back four, Leeds could raid relegated Burnley for Charlie Taylor, who is likely to be keen to remain a Premier League player and would be a significant upgrade on Junior Firpo who has also sustained an injury in pre-season that is expected to see him miss a sizeable portion of the start of the season. Phillips played as a lone pivot for the majority of his time under Bielsa, but his departure has allowed the club to bring in Marc Roca from Bayern Munich and Tyler Adams from RB Leipzig who are likely to act as a double-pivot in March’s preferred shape.
In what has been a raid of the Red Bull empire, Brenden Aaronson has also joined from their Salzburg club and is an exciting American attacking midfield player. Colombian winger Luis Sinisterra joins from Feyenoord and will be given the unenviable task of replacing Raphinha’s attacking output, his 12 goals and seven assists in the Eredivisie last season an indicator that this is possible. The club are heavily linked with PSG striker Arnaud Kalimuendo to lead the line, with the lack of alternatives to Patrick Bamford all too evident in his absence for the bulk of the last campaign.