With the title race all but over in February, many Premier League teams will be looking towards the summer with a view to potential dealings.
The battle for fourth still rages on, whilst at the foot of the table relegation candidates scrap to maintain their status as top tier clubs. So what exactly will managers (or in some cases, chairmen) look to achieve this summer?
To be perfectly honest, this is one of the most difficult sides to pick rectifiable flaws in. Sacking Arsene Wenger would be a major risk, especially if the club does not finish in the Champions League spots.
Then again, keeping him is likely to see the club stand still as it has done for the best part of a decade.
Getting rid of the deadwood is a priority, as per usual, but bringing players in is a different matter altogether. Looking up and down the first eleven, without considerable investment and the displacement of players who are both too good to be sold, but not quite good enough to break the Manchester shaped barrier at the top of the table, the side cannot be improved.
Realistically, how often do established, quality players move to clubs without the same kind of financial clout as a Chelsea, a Manchester City or a PSG?
Giroud, Cazorla and Podolski (Ligue 1 title winner, proven playmaker and a German international with over 100 caps) could all be considered successful signings in their own right, but without a £40 million lump sum to throw at the likes of Aguero, Hazard and such other superstars, how can Wenger possibly improve the side enough to make genuine progress?
A new keeper? Szczesny is still young and has shown glimpses of potential, why get rid of him now? A new right back? Sagna still has the quality despite a lapse in form this season, while Jenkinson has turned it up a good few notches this season.
Signing a new front man seems a strange move given that Giroud has only had six months to settle, while Podolski is the top assister in the league and Theo Walcott has just been handed a fancy new contract.
All in all, perhaps a midfielder to replace Alex Song, which should have come in the summer, will be Wenger’s only priority barring any major outgoing transfers.
An experienced head wouldn’t go amiss, nor would a few players with something to prove that could give the current squad something to think about. Good luck Arsene, without CL qualification you’re going to need it.
Investment. The younger lads in Paul Lambert’s squad are a year older, but they’re still relatively inexperienced in the greater scheme of things.
The first eleven desperately lack a leader at the back and in midfield, while despite the best efforts of Andreas Weimann, the Belgian Benteke cuts a rather lonesome figure up front most games.
What’s more is that they could well be without Benteke next season. If reports are to be believed, offers of around £15-20 million will be arriving through the dusty old West Midlands fax machine come summertime, leaving Randy Lerner with no choice surely but to invest, or cut his losses and sell.
£20 million is enough to keep Aston Villa afloat if more purchases like Benteke can be made, along with the arrival of a few men up for the 38 game long fight.
Just note that I said men there. Not boys. Men.
Well. This is awkward. I wrote last year about AVB being an ideal long term appointment at Chelsea, but that he may have arrived at the wrong time. Currently proving that with players willing to play the way their manager tells them to, the Portugese could, a few years down the line, be considered the one that got away by Roman Abramovich.
The managerial position is a poisoned chalice, a train wreck of a job that provides all comers with nothing but a chunky pay off and a forgettable blip on your CV.
Chances are, the owner either won’t be able to attract somebody he is truly satisfied with (see Di Matteo and Pep Guardiola for opposite ends of that spectrum) or a genuinely good appointment like AVB will go sour thanks to well established egos in the dressing room refusing to co-operate.
Anyway, a midfielder or two would be nice. Ramires is likely to be the only first choice midfielder left at the club next season, as Frank Lampard’s contract winds down and the likes of Mikel and Essien carry on chewing wages they simply do not justify.
Somebody to contrast with Ramires’ all guns blazing attitude would do nicely, a classy playmaker able to keep things ticking over with minimal fuss. Not many names spring to mind with that kind of player who is not difficult to acquire at the top level, no doubt Roman will be rewarded handsomely if anyone is able to fill the vacancy.
Losing Daivd Moyes is not an option. Very few managers have proven themselves for being able to maintain a side on a shoestring, without spending money the club simply doesn’t have.
So, don’t hire Harry Redknapp basically. If the crazy eyed Scot does leave however, another appointment capable of replicating Moyes’ heroics is required, despite the new Premier League TV deals coming into play next year.
Roberto Martinez is the only man with experience at operating in this league with no money, whether he will leave Wigan regardless of the outcome of their season however is a different matter altogether.
In terms of player transfers, a sly loan or two is always an option for a club such as Everton, as is the odd free transfer if anyone is to become available.
Perhaps the most important thing for the club is that a big offer comes in for one of their players, especially seeing as the average age of the squad is already quite high.
If a Lescott style offer were to come through, Moyes will no doubt bite the hand off any potential buyers, with the money going towards investing in young talent much like they did this summer with the impressive Kevin Mirallas.
Keeping Marouane Fellaini would undoubtedly be a positive, though again a sizeable wedge of mullah can only lead to the hairy one’s potential sale.
More of the same. Offensively, Fulham is set for another year or two yet, though a new winger to replace the ageing Damien Duff would be useful.
A fullback to replace the increasingly error prone Riise should be first on Martin Jol’s summer shopping list, along with a midfielder able to take some of the pressure off of Bryan Ruiz in the creative role.
Without the flamboyant front man, Dimitar Berbatov is often marked out of games, and a ball player in the centre of the park would go some way to fixing this issue.
Then again, a midfield shield would also be nice. I hesitate to say that the side needs an entirely new midfield, but following the sale of Moussa Dembele, Steve Sidwell suddenly became a first team player again.
That in itself is an issue that needs rectifying, possibly with the addition of an all action dynamo that former Real Madrid man Diarra has failed to be so far.
Part 2 can be found here. It covers Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United and Norwich City.