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.

Norwich City shock struggling Leicester at Carrow Road

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Leicester City clearly missed the injured Jamie Vardy, pummeling the Canaries time and again with shots but none had the killer instinct of the absent striker. That was critical as the Foxes had no response once Jamal Lewis put Norwich City in front as the Canaries worked a crucial 1-0 victory at Carrow Road.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The game was goalless until the 71st minute when Lewis received a cross from Max Aarons that skittered through the area to the opposite side where the left-back ripped an absolute rocket that tucked inside the right post.

Vardy and his 17 goals were missing through a calf problem that may have cost the Foxes points on the road. With Leicester City looking to push Manchester City for second in the Premier League table, this loss saw them slog seven points back of the Citizens. Norwich City, meanwhile, will relish the victory as they draw just three back of the other two relegation-threatened sides.

The closest Leicester City came to a goal was a cancelled strike from Kelechi Iheanacho – Vardy’s replacement – who has a goal cancelled by VAR on a dicey handball call. It was a spotty performance at best for the Foxes who created few solid chances and


Three things we learned

1. How is Norwich City bottom of the table?

Seriously, how? Watching the first half, this Canaries squad is capable of dangerous forward play and solid defending that can only be undone by quality attacking moves. It’s true that as the first half waned on, they conceded heavy possession to the Foxes, but the hosts still threatened Leicester City multiple times and looked up for the match at Carrow Road. They are clearly missing a consistency indicative of an established Premier League side, but they look far from the worst team in the top flight. In fact, even when the game was goalless, Kasper Schmeichel was the busier of the two goalkeepers, with Tim Krul not truly threatened.

The goal was Norwich City’s first goal from open play in nearly 11 hours, an unbelievable total if you only watched this 90 minutes. If the Canaries are going to climb the mountain and stay up, they will need to channel this performance through the rest of the season.

2. Kelechi Iheanachi is no Jamie Vardy

Leicester City ripped off 12 shots in the first half, but only managed three on target. Once halftime had come and gone, Leicester City had just four more shots in the tank, with 16 total but just four on target and none with a mark of over 0.21 xG.

Vardy’s exquisite finishing ability was sorely missed as the Foxes created plenty of chances but couldn’t finish many dangerously. The 23-year-old Nigerian was hardly involved in the game, seeing a goal ruled out but also contributing little else. With Vardy at 33 years of age, the Foxes clearly need a Plan B should he end up missing any more time in the near future or down the road, because they had nothing to aim at with the talisman sidelined.

3. Leicester City is in a rut

Iheanacho was not the only on who struggled against the Premier League’s bottom side. James Maddison had very few touches in the attacking third, creating four chances but two of them came off corners and two were miles from the net. Dennis Praet and Ricardo Pereira were probably the Foxes’ most creative player but even they popped up few and far between, producing just 1.44 xG on a whopping 19 shots. Jonny Evans was constantly screaming at his fellow defenders for their loss of shape. The Foxes challenged for Man City’s second position lasted a few weeks, but they have fallen off the table and now just hope to solidify third before they fall any further in what could be a precarious home stretch.

Man of the Match: Ben Godfrey


The two teams were both bright in an entertaining start with Norwich threatening down the right on the overlap and Leicester City pressing hard. Teemu Pukki had an opportunity from the right edge on 22 minutes but Caglar Soyuncu made an acrobatic last-gasp block. That started a lengthy spell of pressure from the Canaries, but the hosts couldn’t cash in.

Leicester City’s best chance of the first half-hour came on 25 minutes as Dennis Praet found himself in a dangerous area, but he could only clip Ricardo Pereira’s delivery off the outside of the right post. Ayoze Perez also put a shot into a precarious position moments later which cannoned dangerously off the leg of Norwich City defender Grant Hanley, but went wide instead of into the gaping net.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

The Foxes began to assert their dominance past the half-hour mark and Perez found Kelechi Iheanacho right in front of net, but he disappointingly fired over.

Minutes into the second half Iheanacho found the ball in the back of the net but saw it ruled out by VAR thanks to a handball on the buildup. That was Leicester City’s biggest moment as they were toothless up front otherwise. Norwich City capitalized with 19 minutes to go as Lewis pounced on a Max Aarons delivery clean across the box and delivered a cannon blast into the back of the net. Norwich nearly had a second a few minutes from full time but Kasper Schmeichel came up to save a quality effort from substitute Josip Drmic.

Eintracht Frankfurt dumps RB Salzburg from Europa League

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Andre Silva struck twice as Eintracht Frankfurt played to a 2-2 draw at Red Bull Salzburg to become the final team with a berth in the Europa League quarterfinals on a 6-3 aggregate scoreline.

The match had been originally scheduled for yesterday alongside the rest of the Europa League Round of 16 slate but storms in the area forced its postponement.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks ]

Goals for Salzburg’s Andreas Ulmer and Jerome Onguene were not enough to offset the 4-1 first-leg loss plus another two conceded at home. Silva’s second goal was the pick of the lot, finding the top corner from outside the top of the box with a brilliant looping effort.

Frankfurt’s advancement will be a boost for them domestically where they have lost two straight in Bundesliga play but recently dumped RB Leipzig from DFB-Pokal play. USMNT veteran Timmy Chandler came off the bench for the final two minutes.

On the flip side, the match came at a bad time for RB Salzburg, who has only won one of its last five league games in Austria, seeing LASK take over the top spot in the table. That poor form worked its way to European play as well, unable to give themselves a chance at the already improbable comeback. They can take positives from the goals scored up front as Ulmer’s was an absolute rocket from just inside the top of the box and Onguene bagged a header off a corner.

Watch Live: Norwich v. Leicester

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Norwich City host Leicester City on Friday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Canaries and Foxes in very different positions heading into this clash at Carrow Road.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

Daniel Farke’s Norwich are scrapping for their lives and although they’ve played some wonderful attacking soccer this season with Teemu Pukki, Emiliano Buendia and Todd Cantwell all starring, they sit bottom of the Premier League table with 11 games to go. The Canaries badly need a win against Leicester if they’re going to avoid relegation back to the Championship at the first attempt. They currently sit seven points from safety.

As for Leicester, their poor form in 2020 has continued but they remain in third place in the Premier League and Brendan Rodgers‘ side are nine points ahead of fifth place. Jamie Vardy‘s goals have dried up as he hasn’t scored in his last nine appearances and only once in his last 12, which has meant a big downturn in results.

Norwich v Leicester should be a real treat on a windy Friday evening in Norfolk as both teams have plenty to play for and both managers urge their teams to play fluid, attacking soccer.

In team news Norwich bring in Buendia for Rupp as the Argentine playmaker is key in their battle against relegation.

Leicester are without Jamie Vardy who isn’t in the squad due to injury as Kelechi Iheanacho replaces him.


LINEUPS

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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Here are the latest Prince-Wright‘s Premier League picks ahead of Matchweek 28 in the Premier League, with eight games on the slate due to the League Cup final between Aston Villa and Man City on Sunday.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun with these Premier League games.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

DOWNLOAD NBC SPORTS PREDICTOR

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Crystal Palace 3-1 Brighton – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Watford 0-2 Liverpool – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

West Ham 1-1 Southampton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Norwich 1-2 Leicester – (Friday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Everton 2-1 Man United – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Newcastle 2-1 Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Bournemouth 1-0 Chelsea – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Tottenham 1-3 Wolves – (Sunday, 9 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM