Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Newcastle’s striker problem, Everton’s need for more quality and most recently Frenkie de Jong

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There are still five weeks until the transfer window and there is still a lot to do

Here are seven of the biggest issues clubs are struggling with.

The post-pandemic transfer window has been as full as experts predicted, but there are still some big issues to be resolved in the remaining five weeks.

There is a very plausible school of thought that the tortuous Frenkie de Jong saga casts a bad light on Manchester United and its transfer power brokers Richard Arnold and John Murtough. So far the considerable air miles and time expended on this one deal hasn’t amounted to very much – and time is ticking by before the season begins, with De Jong said to be the engine that powers this Red Devils side in the new look drives .

But the persistence around De Jong tells a different story: that they are finally listening to the football pundits they hired.

After all, the Red Devils have other, quite achievable goals on the market. Any Premier League club wanting a midfielder to break the lines will know that Wolves have been preparing for the loss of Ruben Neves for months.

But Erik ten Hag has made it clear that De Jong must be a priority and the hierarchy has objected. I understands the deal with Barcelona was agreed on both a fee and its structure – but De Jong’s unpaid wages at the Nou Camp are part of the problem. Contrary to some reports, sources in the Netherlands say that the player is open to a move and would welcome a reunion with Ten Hag.

The smart money remains for this deal that eventually closes, regardless of the outside sounds and how long it lasts. But after a week in which Ten Hag’s early influence ensured a buoyant start to the preseason, a dose of urgency to this deal certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Did anyone see this summer of revolution coming to Manchester City?

The additions were obvious: Erling Haaland’s arrival was a real coup, Kalvin Phillips a piece of transfer market magic that menacingly increases squad depth and many believe Julian Alvarez could be the smartest move of all over the long term.

But the departure of Raheem Sterling, the sale of Gabriel Jesus and the soon-to-be rubber-stamped move of Oleksandr Zinchenko have allowed the club to turn a profit while revealing a hierarchy so confident in their own strength that they don’t mind have to improve their rivals.

It also arms them with a sizeable war chest to look for a replacement left-back that could serve as an upgrade to what they have, with Brighton’s impressive Marc Cucurella at the top of their list. He is valued at £50m by Brighton.

They are understood to have been one of several Premier League clubs that were offered Alejandro Grimaldo, Benfica left-back, as an alternative option.

Frank Lampard is making all the right noises and a summer of restructuring at the behest of Kevin Thelwell has sparked enthusiasm for on-field affairs at Goodison Park. There is a fresh feeling at the club and insiders say Lampard has overseen a surge in standards and applications this summer.

There is also genuine enthusiasm among some of the club’s younger players, with midfielder Lewis Warrington a potential pre-season promoter who could find his place in the first-team group.

But a dose of realism also needs to be injected – this is a side that was just a few games away from ignominious relegation. They need at least three new players to add to the savvy signing of James Tarkowski and the time to turn and act is near.

Maxwel Cornet wasn’t top of the list early in the summer but is doable. Morgan Gibbs-White would be a real coup if Everton could make an offer Wolves won’t resist. But they also need more targets — and given the financial constraints and competition in this space, they may need to enter the credit market.

After Farhad Moshiri intervened last week with an email to fans about the club’s ownership, a similar statement is really needed in the transfer market ahead of the start of the season.

From the richest club in the world to the reality of the situation. Newcastle have been constrained in part by spending regulation rules introduced by the Premier League, but also by their sobering circumstances. They don’t have enough draws yet to win every single one of the players they target – as pointed out by Reims forward Hugo Ekitike’s snub. With the signing of Moussa Diaby to Bayer Leverkusen, two offensive goals were missed.

So far, the new ownership group has barely missed a beat, but now they’re in for a real headache. For their lofty ambitions to become a reality they need more upfront threat but there are few options available which improve them and fall within their around £50million budget.

Of course the club has rich backers and could spend more and blow the leeway they have in terms of financial fair play. But the risk of building a high-paying squad on long-term contracts now is huge – just ask Everton how they managed to over-extend.

What is likely to happen is that they will play the credit market and look at emerging options across Europe. A connection to Red Bull Salzburg’s 19-year-old Benjamin Sesko – a Slovenian striker being dubbed the new Erling Haaland – felt about right for the profile of the player they’re looking at.

The only Premier League club yet to sign a striker will need to resolve Youri Tielemans’ situation before entering the market himself.

Thanks to FFP and the investments of previous years, Leicester have to sell in order to buy – but that’s not so easy as the club look for high prices for their own players. Brendan Rodgers will want to guard against the risk of faltering – there were times last year when grumbles of dissatisfaction could be heard despite the team finishing in 8th placeth and go deep into the Europa Conference League.

At Bournemouth, two low-key signings don’t appear to be enough to protect them from the risk of a relegation battle. Granted, they spent a lot in January to guarantee promotion, but it’s taking a lot from Scott Parker to go into the season with what he’s got. The credit market can help.

The mid-tier market for forwards is brutal, even when clubs have the resources. No club knows this better than West Ham, who have struggled to add the kind of firepower needed to take them to the next level.

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