Christmas is fast approaching and, just like anyone else, the Premier League clubs have compiled their wish lists for Santa. But what do they want? cricmac.com considers the needs of the top seven.
What do you get the club that has everything because it has an apparently infinite pile of money? This year, you can’t even suggest cute, intangible concepts like “respect” or “love” because now they even have those. Past iterations of City have been full of expensive footballers being quite good at football, but this version is a relentless assault on the senses; a free-flowing, fast-moving, endlessly ambitious leviathan that, if it continues, will be considered one of the great Premier League teams. But they could do with another full back. They’re already crowbarring Fabian Delph in on the left because of Benjamin Mendy’s injury. If they lost Kyle Walker, they’d find it far harder to stretch teams. Philipp Max, an assist machine from Augsburg, may be the answer.
Like competitive next-door neighbours, you can expect the Manchester clubs to be shopping in the same department, each trying to outdo the other. But City don’t necessarily need to browse at the top of the market; they did that in the summer with Mendy. United appeared to have done similar in 2014 with Luke Shaw but he’s done something, somewhere down the line, to upset Jose Mourinho and you wonder if his recent starts represent a comeback, or a shop window. United always have money to spend and it’s just possible that they’ll fancy a statement signing like Alex Sandro from Juventus.
You know how there’s always one annoying kid in school who, when asked what they want for Christmas, answers with a twee request for “peace and happiness on earth” instead of something more realistic like “a massive video games console.” Well, that kid is needed in south-west London. Chelsea have got a lot going for them. They’ve got Antonio Conte, one of the boldest, most successful managers in Europe. They’ve got an owner, who has always back them financially. They have a wonderful academy with rooms full of trophies at every level. But they never seem to tie it all together; they always seem to be on the brink of breaking up. Conte is the best boss they’ve had since you know who, but it’s hard to see him being there next season. It’s time to give peace a chance.
Virgil van Dijk. Either wrapped or straight off the shelf in his Southampton kit. Laid down under the tree or blasted out of a cannon over the main stand at Anfield, onto a trampoline. Don’t worry about the receipt; no store credit will be required. And don’t waste time trying to think of more interesting, more thoughtful gifts or something a bit zany, this is what Liverpool need and have needed for years. A big, commanding centre-back, who can head away a cannonball if it’s fired toward the six-yard box. Someone to work alongside Joel Matip. Someone to not make mistakes. Someone to lead.
Now it’s time for the cute, intangible concepts; in this instance, “direction.” It has been an odd season for Arsenal, with slow build-ups of hope punctuated by moments of heart-breaking, brutal reality. It seems clear that, if Arsene Wenger wasn’t going to leave after missing out on the top four, he’s not going to leave when he’s doing slightly better. The protests have gone quiet because there doesn’t seem to be any point anymore; no-one is listening. Arsenal continue to be almost good , in spite of everything. There have been movements in the treeline to suggest that something is up, the arrival of “head of football relations” Raul Sanllehi among others. But to what end? What’s the plan? Where are they going? Can you put “direction” in wrapping paper?
Are you serious? Some people had them as their tip for relegation, but they were in a Champions League spot last week and are still in the top six. Every day is Christmas for Burnley!
With a new stadium in construction, a gifted manager and England’s hottest striker leading the line, it’s a great time to be a Spurs fan. But they require something more if they’re going to achieve the more extravagant of their ambitions. They need an attacking midfielder and not just a talented creator of chances, but someone with a bit of fire. A sort of hybrid concoction of box-to-box midfielder, No. 10, talisman and warrior. There was a player like that knocking around last season; Dele Alli, I think was his name. Has anyone seen him recently?