It may seem premature, especially with roughly 10 games remaining, but with the title wrapped up bar a PSG like collapse and the relegation battle ending sooner rather than later as teams like Palace and Leicester begin to pull away I thought I’d take an early look at the three best ways to improve the current 20 teams in England’s premier football decision. I will break it down into 20 separate articles as a series of sorts in order to keep it shorter and more manageable to read so keep an eye out!
Sign another goalscorer – It has been a fantastic year for Burnley under Sean Dyche, particularly at home where they have been invincible but I have set myself a thankless task to find improvements! Looking at their team, no-one in their squad has reached double figures in the scoring charts with Andre Gray – the team’s designated penalty taker – leading the line with 8 Premier League goals. If they wish to truly consolidate their top flight status – or even push on – they need to find him a complementary strike partner who can share the load. They aren’t a team that concedes many and so you’d have to think with an increased firepower they could push on for a top half finish. A player I quite like as a fit for the Lancashire side is Tammy Abraham. The 19-year old loanee has scored 21 league goals on loan at the relegation threatened Bristol City showing the ability to thrive in a physically tough league at a poor team. At 6’2, once he fills out a bit more so the physical element of his game can match his goal-scoring prowess he could be special.
However, Chelsea aren’t well known for being the best at handling talented young players in part down to the pressure of winning now placed by their merciless Russian owner. Isaiah Brown, Lewis Baker, Nathaniel Chalobah, Charly Musonda and Nathan Ake are just a few of the hugely talented young players that Chelsea have either out on loan (Vitesse being the likely location) or buried in the ranks of their hugely deep squad. Whilst Costa is likely to return to the yearly will-he/won’t-he leave for Atletico/China, Chelsea still have Michy Batshuayi on their books and are increasingly being linked to both Romelu Lukaku and Alvaro Morata – who has even said he’d probably move there himself. As a result, Abraham may find first team opportunities hard to come by when he returns to his parent club and so as a non-rival club, a mid-table team like Burnley may well find themselves in a good position to take him on a long term loan if nothing else.
Sign a defensive partner/replacement for Keane – In all likeliness Michael Keane is probably as good as gone this summer. Manchester United are in desperate need of a centre half to pair with the promising Bailly and it would be good for their PR team to have another academy graduate at the team and certainly from what I’ve seen of him for Burnley and England he looks the real deal. Also, with Keane being a fanatical United fan from childhood I can see him leaning towards a return in a similar fashion albeit much less dramatic than Paul Pogba.
So, as much as Burnley would love to pair Keane with another stud at centre half, I shall proceed with the assumption (and being a United fan, lots of hope) that Michael Keane won’t be in the claret part of Lancashire.
If I’m Sean Dyche, I’m picking over the carcass of soon to be relegated Middlesborough and taking Ben Gibson from them before anyone else can swoop in. He’s the same age as Michael Keane and, mostly down to the performance of his club, has gone under the radar a lot more than his England-U21 teammate. His side are in the relegation zone but that’s in large part due to the fact they are relying on goals from Rudy Gestede these days. Their defence with Bibson at the heart, has kept 10 clean sheets and only conceded an impressive 37 goals which is tied as 6th best with Tony Pulis’ West Brom. With a 71% tackle sucess [as per official league statistics] and 50 interceptions he’d certainly be a more than adequate replacement for Keane at a relatively cheap premium this summer.
Similarly, if Hull City do also fall into the drop I’d be begging the Chairman to write a cheque for whatever it took to snap up Harry Maguire – another ball playing 24 year old centre half – who’s growing into a strong defensive choice. However, if Marco Silva’s magic works and Maguire is a move that fails to materialise, Dyche could very likely purchase the rejuvenated Mamadou Sakho at a cut price rate due to his infamous fall out with Jurgen Klopp. He can be erratic at times and is certainly a personality to manage but working under a defensively sound mind like Dyche and paired with a stable player like Gibson I think he’d be a bargain if Burnley could get him.
Increase their squad depth – Burnley started the season with some impressive results such as the Tom Heaton inspired draw at Old Trafford and when they defeated the in form Liverpool side (hot off an impressive away win at Arsenal on opening day) at Turf Moor. However, since the turn of the year they have experienced a bit of a slide that whilst not yet alarming it is potentially cause for concern for next year. They were made short work of by Tottenham a few weeks ago and mailed in a goalless draw against the soon to be doomed Middlesborough.
All promoted teams tend to experience a weaker second half of the season as teams become accustomed to their styles/tactics and their players become fatigued playing in the world’s toughest league. Burnley have had a great season but its important to not become complacent and so some smart signings to improve competition for places and allow the manager to rotate without causing huge weaknesses would set up for some longevity in the top flight.