2014-15 Premier League season review: Summer transfer needs

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All week at ProSoccerTalk we are reviewing the dramatic 2014-15 Premier League season. From dishing out awards to looking back at the highs and lows in the 380 games as 20 teams battled it out, we’ll have every angle covered.

[ ARCHIVE: Premier League season review ]

For the full archive of our review content, just hit the link above. Now, let’s take a look at the key numbers of 2014-15.

All week long here at PST, we’ve been taking a look back at the 2014-15 Premier League season — the season that was, if you will — but it’s not time to take an abbreviated look ahead to the 2015-16 season.

More specifically, the needs that must be addressed by each Premier League team in this summer’s transfer window before Aug. 8, the start of next season, arrives.

[ MORE: Top 10 goalkeepers | Defenders | MidfieldersForwards ]

Add one or two bodies to freshen things up Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Leicester City

Chelsea won the league by eight points this season, so wide, sweeping changes aren’t necessary at Stamford Bridge this summer. Instead, Jose Mourinho looks set to promote a handful of academy players to the first team, while probably adding just one or two big-money signings from elsewhere. The Blues’ No. 1 need: defensive midfield depth behind Nemanja Matic, who was a real difference maker this season, but can’t be relied upon to play upward of 35 games a season.

source: AP
Schweinsteiger — what the Arsenal midfield’s been missing?

Likewise, Arsenal are set up very nicely to carry over a strong second half of the season into 2015-16. Francis Coquelin may be the answer at the base of midfield, but he also might not be. A safer bet would be to sign Bastian Schweinsteiger, who seems to be on his way out at Bayern Munich, and really shore up the side’s biggest weakness the last few years.

Depending on who you ask, Man United will either challenge for the title next season, or they’ll finish around 10th and Louis van Gaal will be gone by December. Personally, I thought Van Gaal’s first season at Old Trafford was a huge success. When he’s recruiting players this summer, he’ll be doing so with the added promise of Champions League football. The quality of players his squad so desperately cries out for — someone to partner Michael Carrick and/or Ander Herrera deep in midfield — will be swayed by that. Paul Pogba? Arturo Vidal?

Tottenham finished fifth this season. You wouldn’t know it if you listened to their fans all season long, but they’re actually set up quite nicely to improve upon this season’s 64-point haul. Mauricio Pochettino was reunited with Paul Mitchell, his “head of recruitment” at Southampton, which should spell much-improved transfer dealings, compared to the debacle of two summers ago. For the first time in forever, a Spurs side isn’t crying out for a new starting center forward, thanks to Harry Kane.

Whoever takes over at West Ham will inherit a deep, talented squad. Winston Reid decided to stick around for the move to the Olympic Stadium — a development that will mean increased revenue and transfer budget — while last summer’s signings of Diafra Sahko, Enner Valencia and Aaron Cresswell worked out quite nicely. The big question: can they sign Alex Song permanently from Barcelona?

[ MORE: Top 10 newcomers to the Premier League | The best (and worst) transfers ]

In good shape, minor tweaks only — Southampton, Swansea City, Stoke City, Crystal Palace, Everton and West Bromwich Albion

source: Getty Images
Schneiderlin — will he stay or will her go?

Southampton were “supposed” to be relegated this season. Instead, first-year boss Ronald Koeman saw Saints to a seventh-place finish and has the South Coast club dreaming of another challenge for European qualification next season. Unless another mass exodus ensues this summer — Morgan Schneiderlin and Nathaniel Clyne are constantly linked with moves away from St Mary’s — Southampton really only need reinforcements — depth signings — in the center of defense and an improvement upon Graziano Pelle’s feast-or-famine form of 2014-15.

There may not be a more stable, well-run club in all of England than Swansea. 9th, 12th and 9th: the Swans’ finishing positions at the end of the last three Premier League seasons. For a club of their history and respective standing in the game, that’s beyond a fantastic achievement. Out of respect to the wise folks running that club, I’m not going to even attempt to tell them what their squad needs, because I’m sure they’re already well aware themselves.

Mark Hughes’ second city at Stoke resulted in the club’s best-ever season (9th place, 54 points). Bojan Krkic proved to be an inspired signing last summer, while Mame Biram Diouf’s 11 goals (free transfer) turned out to be one of the best pieces of business done by anytime the last 12 months. This summer, the Potters could do well to re-work a somewhat aging defense, and add a bit of midfield depth to push Steven N’Zonzi, Charlie Adam and Glenn Whelan in the center of midfield.

Likewise, Alan Pardew has a great thing going at Palace, where the players so obviously believe in his vision. Now that he’ll have an actual transfer budget to work with, look for Pardiola to push Palace onward and upward, toward another top-half finish next season.

[ MORE: 2014-15 Premier League season by the numbers ]

Complete overhauls needed — Manchester City, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Newcastle United and Sunderland

Manuel Pellegrini may not be going anywhere — maybe, but who knows? — but it seems as though half of Man City’s current squad will be moving on this summer. Yaya Toure, Edin Dzeko, Jesus Navas, Samir Nasri and Stevan Jovetic have long been rumored to be leaving the club this summer, setting the stage for a hugely important transfer window in the City Football Group’s plans for world domination. Pogba seems like the obvious answer, though it’ll take a lot more than the brilliant French midfielder and the $100 million price tag he’ll carry.

source: Getty Images
Markovic — in for a better second season, or a speedy Anfield exit?

Liverpool, oh Liverpool. You did a Tottenham, you know that, right? The combination of Champions League and Luis Suarez money spent last summer ($180 million) was…how can I put this nicely?…a complete disaster. The Reds spent a combined $110 million on Dejan Lovren, Lazar Markovic, Mario Balotelli, Alberto Moreno and Rickie Lambert. They can either ride out the storm and hope more than just Emre Can and Adam Lallana ($54 million combined) come good, or scrap last summer’s missteps and rebuild, again, this time without the allure of Champions League football.

As for Villa, Newcastle and Sunderland, the 2014-15 season nearly spelled relegation, and all three sides changed managers mid-season, while the latter two are expected to endure further managerial turnover this summer as well. God bless Tim Sherwood as he attempts to build his first team; best wishes to John Carver or whoever replaces him at Newcastle, working on a shoestring budget; and good luck to whoever fills the vacancy at Sunderland, getting a completely apathetic, disinterested group of players to suddenly care.

USMNT Player Ratings from win over Ecuador

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Gregg Berhalter’s United States men’s national team extended its clean sheet run to 180 minutes under the new coach with a 1-0 defeat of Ecuador in Orlando on Thursday.

[ RECAP: USMNT 1-0 Ecuador ]

The longtime Columbus Crew coach handed notable chances to several MLS mainstays who stood out in January camp, but also re-introduced Christian Pulisic to the fold.

The results were mixed, but the win was deserved as the U.S. did not allow much danger to reach Sean Johnson’s cage.

LINEUPS

Sean Johnson — 6.5 — Had to catch, what, one ball? Still, nice for him to get a clean sheet.

Tim Ream — 7 — A couple of dicey moments, sure, but the man with the captain’s band stood out at left back not just for his assist but his aggression in pressing high up the left flank.

John Brooks — 6.5 — Not much to do, but effective when needed with a win-saving stop. Here’s hope the thigh injury isn’t a notable one. Intelligent and accurate in his passing out of the back.

Aaron Long — 6 — His passing was a bit off early, and that will need to be better at the back of Berhalter’s defense, but overall he was composed and well-drilled.

Tyler Adams — 7.5 — Given he was playing an unusual position with immense responsibility (right), Adams deserves a lot of credit for keeping his motor high over 90 minutes. He only attempted two dribbles, staying in his shoes and venturing wide and forward on occasion. A very promising sign for an ambitious move by Berhalter. That’s a lot of green over there, and green is good —>

Wil Trapp (Off 59′) — 5.5 — He’s not supposed to be the guy who stands out in a game, and should be known for doing the little things, but he’s still not standing out from the pack as someone who should keep Michael Bradley or Tyler Adams from the center of the park.

Weston McKennie (Off 68′) — 5 — Potentially scary injury aside, he will have much better days for the U.S. than this and certainly didn’t show chemistry with Trapp. Second guessing is easy, but flipping McKennie and Adams might’ve been the play.

Paul Arriola (Off 77′) — 6 — An energetic, productive night on the wing takes a hit due to his inability to finish the match’s best scoring chance (even if the save was legit).

Christian Pulisic (Off 62′) — 7 — Not at his sharpest, but still quite lively in producing many American attacks. Had an memorable moment working over Antonio Valencia near the end line.

Jordan Morris (Off 68′) — 6 — Still learning how to be a winger, but a decent and industrious effort for the Seattle Sounders man.

Gyasi Zardes — 7 — It was the goal that did the trick for him over 90 minutes, and it was good to see the Columbus Crew man score a USMNT for the first time since 2016.

Subs

Michael Bradley (On 59′) — 6.5 — Quick decisions and possession-aiding passes with precious few mistakes (See Opta chalkboard from MLSSocccer.com at right).

Sebastian Lletget (On 62′) — 6 — Has to be a bit more careful in his own half, but we’d like to see him get a start against Chile.

Cristian Roldan (On 66′) — 5 — Sloppy with the ball in a short stint.

DeAndre Yedlin (On 66′) — 6 — Busy and ready to produce chances from the right side.

Jonathan Lewis (On 77′) — N/A —

Zardes goal pushes controlling USMNT past Ecuador

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
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  • Yanks have not allowed goal in 3 matches under Berhalter
  • Pulisic returns to USMNT set-up
  • MORE: McKennie stretched off
  • Zardes scores deflected winner off Ream feed
  • American control ball, but struggle in final third

Gyasi Zardes scored his seventh international goal and first since the Copa America Centenario as the USMNT handed Ecuador a 1-0 defeat at Orlando City Stadium on Thursday.’s

The win marks the third clean sheet victory in three tries for USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter, who leads the Yanks against Chile on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Player ratings ]

The U.S. came out of the gates flying, connecting passes with their wings and fullbacks sitting very wide to stretch the surface.

When Ecuador did collect the ball, the Yanks pressed very hard and won it back.

Industry and speed was the story of the USMNT game, with Christian Pulisic and Jordan Morris leading the way in forcing the match on Ecuador.

Weston McKennie did some heavy lifting in nice combo play with Pulisic and Gyasi Zardes for a chance that was just missing the finishing touch from Paul Arriola (and got a nice save).

Pulisic was felled by a hard foul just inside the Ecuador half in the 55th minute, but carried on and Paul Arriola took a yellow for fouling Jefferson Orejuela in response.

Michael Bradley entered the match for Trapp in the 59th minute, and Pulisic exited for Sebastian Lletget three minutes later.

McKennie then suffered a painful ankle injury and eventually accepted stretcher help to get to the bench.

Zardes put the U.S. ahead when his powerful strike from atop the 18 took a huge deflection off the calf of Robert Arboleda and looped over the head of a flailing Alexander Dominguez.

The play began when Sebastian Lletget’s pressing pushed a poor Ecuadorian clearance to USMNT left back Tim Ream, who spotted Zardes in the middle of the Ecuador half.

USMNT, Schalke mid McKennie stretchered off with ankle injury

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Schalke and USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie limped off the pitch during the second half of a friendly against Ecuador on Thursday in Florida.

McKennie appeared to twist his ankle shortly after being called for a foul in the match, which stood 0-0 at the time.

[ MORE: Hazard, Real, and the back-up plan ]

He left the match with trainer help, and was eventually carted to the bench while seated on a stretcher.

A key piece of the program’s future, the 20-year-old midfielder has been a utility knife in the Bundesliga, playing everywhere from right back to left mid.

Only six players have played more league minutes for Schalke than McKennie, who earned his eighth cap on Thursday.

Making the case: Raheem Sterling as PL Player of the Year

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Even a year ago, I wouldn’t have imagined someone making this case in a rational manner any time soon.

I especially didn’t think it would be me.

But as the Premier League takes a deep breath ahead of the stretch run, I’m going to have to say it.

[ MORE: JPW ranks the candidates ]

Raheem Sterling has been the best attacking player in the Premier League this season, and quite possibly the best player period.

Whether he earns the nod over defender Virgil Van Dijk is another story altogether, as it will probably comes down to wins and losses and one or two titles, but consider how deadly, consistent, and deadly consistent Sterling has been since the start of the season.

Of the four Premier League players who’ve accounted for some combination of 24 goals and assists, Sterling gets the least amount of positive publicity. Eden Hazard has largely been the Chelsea attack, Sergio Aguero has tied the PL hat trick record, and Mohamed Salah is riding his 2017-18 season through a remarkable cold snap of form.

But there’s Sterling, with 15 goals and nine assists in the second-fewest minutes of the bunch (Aguero).

How about these numbers — via WhoScored.com — in 2,149 league minutes?

Sterling is also averaging a tackle and .6 interceptions per match, the best of the bunch, while committed the fewest bad touches per game (most remarkable considering his second touch haunted him for several seasons).

A concession: For what it’s worth given the above stats, Hazard is easily in second of the bunch if not competing directly with Sterling. But Sterling hasn’t been a part of underachieving teams for three different managers, so we’ll abide.

There are two things going against Sterling, neither of which are his fault. The first is that Man City’s dominance of last season and run back into a title right this season has people imagining that the feast of talent at the Etihad Stadium makes numbers an afterthought; That is to say that Sterling, Aguero, and the Silvas (not to mention Leroy Sane) aren’t producing much more than their theoretical replacements.

And maybe there’s something to that, but here’s how important Sterling’s production has been to City.

In Premier League matches in which Sterling neither scored, assisted, nor drew a penalty, City has four wins, two draws, and four losses. When he has, that mark is 17-0 (He sat out wins over Huddersfield Town, Burnley, and Watford to complete Man City’s 24W-2D-4L record).

Aguero, for his part, racked up nine of his goals in three matches. I’m not here to hat trick shame, but Sterling feels a less replaceable part of Pep’s team.

The second thing going against Sterling is a bit more nefarious, linked to articles and conceptions about his gun tattoo or hairstyles. This part, hopefully, doesn’t require us to refute it.

Van Dijk has been phenomenal, and as a longtime defender admirer — those who can’t do it, love those who do it well — I’d be thrilled to see him join N'Golo Kante in non-scorers to claim such an honor.

But VVD was also on the scene for a moment that encapsulates what Sterling has become to City’s attack. He’s arguably been this season’s Leroy Sane, and coincidentally cues up the German with this incisive pass from well outside his office for the January winner against Liverpool.