Soccer

Premier League: What Each Club Should Prioritize in the Summer

Manchester United v Swansea City - Premier League

The dust has barely settled on the 2012-13 (English) Premier League season — hell, Manchester City and Chelsea are cashing in with two friendlies in the United States, including a game Thursday night on ESPN — and its already time to start thinking ahead before the summer ‘silly season’ descends upon us in full force.

Let’s take a quick look at how the surviving 17 clubs, in order of finish, ought to prioritize their summers.

Manchester United: Sir Alex is out, David Moyes is in. We all know this. Before the club can move into the new era, sort out once and for all if Wayne Rooney wants to be there. With Robin van Persie, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck, striker is a position of strength for United. If Rooney — down to only 16 goals this year after 34 the previous campaign — doesn’t want to be there and the Red Devils can spin the now 27-year-old to somebody like PSG (or even Chelsea) and parlay that for a central midfield linchpin with Champions League experience, it’s probably the right move. A pouting, petulant  unhappy Rooney at Old Trafford does United no good going into the Moyes-era.

Manchester City: Nobody in the Premier League figures to look more differently come August than City with Manuel Pellegrini taking over for Roberto Mancini and numerous fringe players (remember when City signed Maicon? Wait, huh?) on their way out. Before all the changes begin, the City management team needs to determine if the dips in form from Vincent Kompany and David Silva — fulcrums for the club’s league title in 2012 — were one-year aberrations, or something more long term.

Chelsea: It doesn’t matter what’s written here or anywhere about the Blues. Roman Abramovich will welcome back former manager Jose Mourinho with open arms, handing him a blank check in the process. At least Chelsea won’t get Falcão, assuming his long-rumored move to Monaco goes through.

Arsenal: It sounds simple, but Gunners’ fans around the world should trust in Arsene Wenger. He juuuuust might know what he’s doing. Finalizing the oft-rumored move for Stevan Jovetic from Fiorentina looks like a nice way to start the summer. Arsenal should have money to spend this summer. Trust Wenger, he’s right more often than not.

Tottenham: Spurs chairman Daniel Levy needs to make a huge call: keep or sell Gareth Bale. The Welshman completed about as fine an individual season one player could put together this season and yet it still amounted to a fifth-place finish for Spurs. His monetary value will never be higher, but at the same time even if you re-invest those funds into a couple new signings, they won’t equal what Bale and his 21-league goals meant. If Tottenham can sell him to a team outside of England, it might have to do it. Whichever direction Spurs want to go, make it early and stick to it. Don’t protract the move, or stretch it over multiple windows like the club did with Luka Modric.

Everton: First things, first: find the right man to replace Moyes. Have fun with that, Bill Kenwright. Wigan’s Roberto Martinez seems almost too good to be true. A club in Everton’s continually perilous financial situation can’t afford to screw this up. Phil Neville, only just retired, would be a risk but could reap long term benefits.

Liverpool: The Reds got a jumpstart in 2013 with a nice January transfer window when they added Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge. One area Liverpool needed help was senior defensive cover. Bringing in Kolo Toure from City, as rumored, would be a step in that direction.

West Bromwich Albion v Manchester United - Premier LeagueWest Brom: Pretty simple here, West Brom management needs to get down on its hands and knees and pray Mourinho, when he lands at Chelsea, doesn’t see a future for Romelu Lukaku at Stamford Bridge and loans out the 20-year-old Belgian force of nature for another season on-loan at the Hawthorns.

Swansea City: The Swans seem to, pardon the phrasing, have most of their ducks in a row after Michael Laudrup’s excellent haul of players, led by Michu, last summer. Figuring out if defender Ashley Williams wants to stay is the team’s first move and everything should fall around that.

West Ham United: Manager Sam Allardyce appears to have locked down a permanent deal for Andy Carroll, so the Irons are already ahead of the game.

Norwich City: The Canaries have survived in the top flight two straight years, now comes the tricky year three where they run into the league’s glass ceiling. Norwich has wisely consolidated its core around lower league players (i.e. Robert Snodgrass), so expect that trend to continue instead of a massive outlay on big name internationals. Dutch striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel, who agreed to terms from Sporting during the year, is a long name, but not exactly a “big” name.

Fulham: Martin Jol said he wanted to lower Fulham’s average age last year, yet this season the Cottagers trotted out more 30 year olds than a Soul Asylum concert. Paring away some of the veterans, even if it means 40-year-old Mark Schwarzer, a stalwart in goal at Craven Cottage has to go, so be it. Not that he had a huge impact on Stoke City, aside from posting the butchered pig’s head, but Brek Shea was the signing from America who gave Fulham some cheap, fresh legs to run out there in previous seasons.

Stoke City: Tony Pulis kept Stoke in the Premier League five seasons running, finishing between 11th-14th, but finally parted ways with the club on Tuesday. Stoke’s transfer spending in the last two seasons has been among the highest in England, so whomever the club hires will have to cut before he can spend. Who wouldn’t relish the chance to coach Charlie Adam? Could be fun. (Or not.)

Southampton: Despite a mostly anonymous cast of characters, the Saints survived relegation without worrying too much in the final few weeks. Southampton made its big move during the season, hiring manager Mauricio Pochettino. It would be wise for him to use his experience from coaching Espanyol in Spain to poach some unheralded players from La Liga in the vein of Swansea. Either that or offer a little extra money and the enticement of Premier League soccer to some wantaway players in either France or Italy.

Aston Villa: If, somehow, Villa manager Paul Lambert can keep Christian Bentenke and his 19 league goals from handing in a transfer request this summer he ought to be offered a lifetime contract by the club’s American owner Randy Lerner.

Newcastle United: Find a way to sign Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema and any other potential French internationals who aren’t already at St. James Park. Alan Pardew might as well go all in on the Francophone lineup, right?

Sunderland: Expect manager Paolo Di Canio to lay down the law and pare the clubs “lazy” English players. That being said, since this is Sunderland book them to make one very, very dumb big-money signing before the window closes.

Enjoy the summer rumor mill.

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