Harry Kane banging in the goals for Man City, Jadon Sancho stealing the show at Old Trafford, Ibrahima Konate bolstering Liverpool’s defence and Romelu Lukaku back at Chelsea… How the Premier League’s top four could line up next season
- The 2020-21 Premier League campaign only reached its conclusion last month
- But thoughts at the leading clubs have already turned to the summer window
- Manchester City will look to strengthen after failing to seize European glory
- Manchester United need reinforcements in at least three important areas
- Liverpool may shake up their forward line and need greater depth at the back
- Chelsea may sanction another splurge after their Champions League triumph
With the Premier League season now concluded, thoughts will quickly turn to the next campaign and the scramble in the summer transfer market ahead.
Manchester City were worthy champions and set the benchmark that their challengers Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and others must match.
Already these prominent Premier League clubs are being linked with some of the most talented players across Europe and beyond.
Manchester City hit the highest standards as they won the Premier League title in 2020-21
But City won’t stand still and it’s up to their closest rivals to strengthen and challenge them
Their managers can already picture how their team will look when things kick-off again in August, turning the transfer shortlists in their heads into reality on the pitch.
Supporters, too, will be beginning to dream of the superstar signings they want to be watching when they return to stadiums in their thousands next season.
So how could the Premier League’s elite clubs line-up for 2021-22? Based on some of the players they’ve been linked to ahead of the summer window, Sportsmail takes a closer look.
Pep Guardiola’s team secured a third Premier League title in four seasons by a very comfortable margin of 12 points, also won the Carabao Cup – but came up short in the Champions League final against Chelsea.
So the Spaniard will be keen to make his side even better and forge a devastating forward line that can terrify their rivals.
They will be in the market to sign Harry Kane, who has made clear his desire to leave Tottenham Hotspur this summer, and are among the few clubs who could afford the astronomical price tag.
Likewise Erling Haaland, who could be prised away from Borussia Dortmund despite their continued insistence he won’t be leaving this time around.
Harry Kane has attracted interest from both Manchester clubs and Chelsea after making it clear he wants to leave Tottenham Hotspur this summer
Either would more than compensate for the departure of City legend Sergio Aguero and restore Guardiola’s team to playing with a proper centre forward, as they didn’t for a lot of last season.
Kane, who as Sportsmail reported last week, favours a move to the champions as he bids to add trophies to his CV would slot right in as the spearhead of City’s forward line.
He knows how to play with Raheem Sterling from their England games and Riyad Mahrez on the opposite flank would be equally adept at supplying service.
But City have also been linked with Aston Villa star Jack Grealish, who could play on either side of the forward three and would surely rack up the assists in such a talented side.
Aston Villa star Jack Grealish has been linked with a move to Manchester City in the summer
So Guardiola would be truly blessed with attacking riches if City fulfil those two transfer objectives in the summer.
Despite the higher price tag of anything up to £150million, Kane looks like being the easier striker to get when compared to Haaland, who is attracting interest from Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Beyond the forward line, City really don’t need any strengthening. Their defence was outstanding all season and they already boast one of the most creative midfields.
How they could line up next season: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Dias, Zinchenko; De Bruyne, Foden, Gundogan; Mahrez, Kane, Grealish
Pep Guardiola may have led City to another title but he will be hungry for further success
Even though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side showed signs of progress this season, it is clear they need reinforcements in several areas after their underwhelming display in the Europa League final defeat to Villarreal.
Central defence, defensive midfield and the right side of their attack are the most pressing priorities for the summer window but a fresh centre forward wouldn’t go amiss despite Edinson Cavani committing for another year.
So it could easily be a busy summer at Old Trafford because it’s been painfully apparent at times that Solskjaer doesn’t have the squad depth to challenge City or fight on three or four fronts.
Kane and Haaland are the obvious centre forward targets and the England captain may be enticed by the prospect of banging in the goals to fire United back to a trophy-winning force.
Borussia Dortmund pair Jadon Sancho (left) and Erling Haaland (right) will be among world football’s most sought-after players this summer
Haaland will of course be trickier, though perhaps Solskjaer can work some Norwegian charm.
More likely is another Borussia Dortmund star in Jadon Sancho, who would certainly offer United some rocket-boosters on the right side of their attack.
United were unwilling to pay the £108million demanded by the German club last summer but the asking price has since reduced and a deal could be possible.
It’s unlikely given the financial constraints of the Covid pandemic that United would be able to bring in both Sancho and Kane but that would certainly be a strikeforce, with Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Cavani at their disposal to rattle City.
In terms of a defensive midfielder, United have been linked with West Ham’s Declan Rice though the Hammers are adamant he won’t be going anywhere.
West Ham’s Declan Rice has been linked with Manchester United and Chelsea in recent weeks
Perhaps Jesse Lingard, fresh from a successful loan spell at the London Stadium that ended in Europa League qualification, could be used as leverage in any prospective deal.
Then there’s the conundrum of who to pair captain Harry Maguire with at the heart of defence. Sevilla’s Jules Kounde and Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane.
Both would be an upgrade on the current defensive options of Eric Bailly or Victor Lindelof.
How they could line up next season: Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Kounde/Varane, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, McTominay, Pogba; Sancho, Kane, Rashford
Sevilla defender Jules Kounde could be a potential option as United strengthen at the back
Jurgen Klopp’s team made a very impressive late surge to qualify for next season’s Champions League and rescue a season that looked to be going off the rails at times.
But Liverpool will need to strengthen if they’re to challenge City and regain their Premier League title next season, as well as challenge for other honours.
RB Leipzig centre-back Ibrahima Konate has already arrived and inevitably they have already been linked with a few transfer targets, midfielders Yves Bissouma and Rodrigo De Paul, and Lyon forward Memphis Depay.
Klopp’s defence was left looking threadbare following injuries to key centre-halves Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez towards the start of the season just passed.
Ibrahima Konate of RB Leipzig (right) has agreed to move to Liverpool to bolster their defence
Konate should slot into the back line nicely next to Van Dijk.
There’s a vacancy in midfield after Georginio Wijnaldum’s departure with Brighton’s Bissouma and Udinese’s De Paul mentioned. Liverpool are likely to face stiff competition for both but Champions League football next season makes them an enticing proposition.
Brighton midfielder Yves Bissouma is attracting admiring glances from leading clubs
Liverpool’s long-established front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino, which stepped up to power them into the top four during the closing weeks of the season, could be in a state of summer flux.
Salah has made well-publicised overtures to the Spanish giants but it’s doubtful they’ll have the funds to sign him this summer.
Diogo Jota has already proven himself worthy of replacing one of the trio but reports have linked ex-Man United forward Depay to Liverpool.
He’d be replacing Firmino in the centre of the forward three if he was to come in.
How they could line up next season: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Bissouma; Salah, Depay, Mane
Memphis Depay rebuilt his reputation at Lyon after Man United and could return to England
Despite an outlay of over £200million last summer, there remains the potential for Chelsea to splash the cash again this time so Thomas Tuchel can make his mark on the team. After scooping the Champions League trophy – the Blues board will do all they can to support him to ensure they can retain their crown.
Kai Havertz – who netted the winner against City – Timo Werner, Ben Chilwell and all the other acquisitions have all made an impact but they fitted into Frank Lampard’s vision and his time has obviously passed.
There is talk of a centre-half to offer a longer term option to 36-year-old Thiago Silva, another central or defensive midfielder to anchor Tuchel’s wing-back system and maybe a centre forward after Werner struggled.
Chelsea was among the clubs mentioned in the same breath as Kane but it appears highly unlikely Spurs will sell to their London rivals.
Romelu Lukaku scored a hatful of goals as Inter Milan won the Serie A title in Italy
A return for Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan has also been mooted. The Belgian, who spent three years at Chelsea between 2011 and 2014, comes fresh from scoring 30 goals for Inter as they won the Serie A title.
But he certainly wouldn’t be cheap, with Chelsea potentially needing to pay more than the club record £72m they shelled out on Havertz last year.
Rice has also been linked with Chelsea amid reports striker Tammy Abraham could be used as a makeweight in a deal that could be worth up to £90m.
The England star could slot in alongside N’Golo Kante as the midfield pairing, providing plenty of industry and allowing protection for the three centre-backs if Tuchel sticks with the current set-up.
Bayern Munich defender Niklas Sule has been linked with a summer move to Chelsea
As for the defender, Bayern’s Niklas Sule could be available for £30m with Dayot Upamecano heading to the Bundesliga champions in time for next season.
It has been reported that Tuchel is an admirer of Sule and the 25-year-old, engaged in a contract stand-off with Bayern, could be tempted by a move to Stamford Bridge.
How they could line up next season: Mendy; Azpilicueta, Sule, Rudiger; James, Kante, Rice, Chilwell; Mount, Pulisic; Lukaku
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