Saturday 21 April 2018

Stephen Hunt: Premier League striker roulette should see big guns splash out in summer gambles

Romelu Lukaku will be high on Chelsea's target list as Diego Costa looks set to leave. Photo: PA
Romelu Lukaku will be high on Chelsea's target list as Diego Costa looks set to leave. Photo: PA
Stephen Hunt

Stephen Hunt

The transfer window is well and truly open. Two goalkeepers have joined Manchester City and Everton for a combined £64m. The madness has begun.

This is the second season since the mega-billion TV deal was signed so we can no doubt expect some crazy fees. Don't be shocked if the Paul Pogba record £89m fee is broken this summer - especially if Ronaldo is on the market.

Here's my take on what the top six need.

Chelsea

With Diego Costa going, Antonio Conte obviously needs a striker and, although they will face competition from Manchester United, I'm pretty sure they will get Romelu Lukaku back from Everton. Lukaku will fancy being the main man at Chelsea and going back to London, and Conte has a chance to shape him into his kind of striker. If Lukaku is flakey, Conte won't accept it.

Conte's decision on Costa is an interesting one. He managed him last season to get the best out of him on the pitch but he has clearly had enough of his antics off it.

Costa gives the impression that he really won't be bothered what anyone thinks or who he plays for because he just wants to play football.

Chelsea need a left-sided centre-back too, and a player who can perhaps play at left-back, like Cesar Azpilicueta on the right. They'll go for someone athletic and young but with European experience.

Tottenham

The biggest questions I had with Spurs last season were over their durability and mental strength and they proved me wrong to finish second. They are a very good side and need numbers in to challenge the first team, plus a replacement for right-back Kyle Walker.

Without Harry Kane they struggle. Mauricio Pochettino desperately needs a striker who will accept being second fiddle to Kane.

He will have to be prepared to start 15 to 20 games, and come off the bench, score goals, be alive and take the flak when he doesn't deliver. Those players are not easy to find.

Vincent Janssen has been through it now and Pochettino could still give him a chance. He scored for the Netherlands last week and could be one of those foreign players who needs time to adjust - and the Spurs manager might not have written him off.

Manchester City

Pep Guardiola has no excuses now. Barcelona's Bernardo Silva for £43m, goalkeeper Ederson for £39m and they could pay £60m for Kyle Walker. I know they want proven English players but that is a ridiculous fee.

Guardiola will continue to spend, and spend big if he has to, to get what he wants. And he needs a new back four, bar John Stones. I suspect Alexis Sanchez is his number one target, and with money no object, they are bound to get him. With City spending big again, the route is blocked for many very good City youngsters and I wouldn't be surprised to see some Premier League teams signing some of these players, for decent fees, or on loan. It has to happen if these lads are going to play.

Liverpool

I can't believe the Virgil van Dijk deal is dead and, if it is, I still can't believe it. The only reason I can see Liverpool pulling out is because they feel they have an alternative as good, if not better. But he must be a hell of a player. Van Dijk is perfect for Liverpool. Manchester City have to be interested. Jurgen Klopp needs a left-back, and I'm also surprised he didn't challenge for Jordan Pickford, who is a future England 'keeper and will prove good value at £30m over time. Centre-back, holding midfielder, striker will also be on his list. Klopp will be looking to do some business.

Arsenal

Arsene Wenger has led a business-run club for so long, and of course they are going to take the best possible price for Alexis Sanchez. But as Wenger is out of the Champions League for the first time, it is going to be difficult to invest that money in experienced players as he looks to take Arsenal to the next level after last season's disappointment.

Sanchez's departure will leave an enormous hole, on top of the additions Wenger must make to change his entire squad. They are desperately short up front and lacking at the back but Wenger knew all this when he signed his new contract. He is under pressure but he will want to challenge for the title - and Arsenal fans will be hoping he can pull some aces out of his sleeves.

Manchester United

Mourinho means business. Benfica defender Victor Lindelof already signed and Ivan Perisic and Alvaro Morata are lined up, all for a cool £100m. And there will be others. I think he'll go for Lukaku but miss out.

His priority is obviously a striker. Ibrahimovic's presence last season made a difference to the rest of the squad and he was brilliant. If they can keep David De Gea, after the way he was treated at the end of the season, it will be a miracle. He would be a major loss to United, no matter how much money they are prepared to spend on a replacement.

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