Stats: What position should your team sign?

Arsenal – centre-forward

The Gunners’ most pressing need for next season is in attack. When your leading marksman has the same number of goals as bottom-placed Norwich, you know there is a problem.

The issue is not in creating chances, the problem is in taking them. Arsenal ranked fourth for shots, shots on target and expected goals (xG) this season, but ranked 11th for shot conversion.

This disparity places Arteta’s side 15th for xG differential, which measures the difference between goals and xG. A low xG differential suggests you are missing high-quality chances – only Brighton, Leeds and the three relegated teams had a lower xG differential than Arsenal.

The main culprit in this regard is Alexandre Lacazette, who scored just two non-penalty goals from 46 shots and a xG return of 6.84. Only Brentford’s Bryan Mbuemo underperformed his xG by a bigger margin this season.

Aston Villa – centre-back

Aston Villa have moved fast this transfer window, the signings of Boubacar Kamara and Diego Carlos will bolster their midfield and defence considerably.

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They still need further upgrades as club captain Tyrone Mings seems to be doing everything on his own at the back. He has the second-most clearances in the division since 2019 and registered team-topping numbers for passes completed, blocks and aerial duels won for Aston Villa this season.

The Villans have won just one of nine Premier League games and conceded twice the number of goals without him. Considering these games were against the likes of newly-promoted Norwich, Sheffield United, Watford and Brentford, it is clear he needs help.

Bournemouth – centre-back

Parker’s side need to invest in central defence. They looked all at sea in games without their 23-year-old captain Lloyd Kelly. They won just two of nine games in all competitions when he did not start, including a 6-0 defeat against Norwich in the Carabao Cup – keeping only one clean sheet and conceding almost two goals per game when the Englishman did not start.

Additionally, 36-year-old Gary Cahill has not made an appearance since late January, Steve Cook was sold to Nottingham Forest in the January transfer window and Nat Philips will be returning to parent club Liverpool as his loan is over.

Brentford – creative midfielder

One of the stories of the season was Christian Eriksen’s return to professional football. And there was no looking back when he took to the field. Brentford picked up more wins (seven) in the 10 games he started than in the 28 games he did not start (six) and their goal ratio doubled.

Eriksen ranked third in the division for chances created and passes into the final third since his first start on March 5. Whether he stays or leaves, Brentford need to find another player who can link defence and attack.

Brighton – centre-forward

There is no secret to what Brighton need: a centre forward.

Only Norwich underperformed their expected goals (xG) by a greater margin than Brighton (-12.45) and only the bottom three teams had a lower shot-conversion rate than Brighton’s 8.6 per cent this season.

This is a familiar problem for Potter’s side: the Seagulls had the third-worst xG differential and fourth-worst shot-conversion rate last season.

Since his transfer to Brighton in August 2019, Neal Maupay is in the top 10 for xG. However, he has scored 26 goals with an xG differential of 36.68 – the highest for any player in that time period.

Chelsea – centre-back

Chelsea look like they have a lack of numbers at the centre-back position. Antonio Rudiger is moving to Real Madrid, Andreas Christensen to Barcelona and Cesar Azpilicueta is likely to depart as well.

The only remaining first-team centre-backs are Thiago Silva, Malang Sarr and Trevoh Chalobah. The options don’t inspire a lot of confidence for different reasons. Silva turns 38 in September, and Chalobah is still only 22 years old.

Crystal Palace – centre-back with good aerial presence

Patrick Vieira’s side would be looking to add a threat from set-pieces at both ends of the pitch.

Only Leicester City (34 per cent) conceded a higher proportion of goals from set-pieces than Crystal Palace (33 per cent) and they ranked 15th for percentage of goals scored from set-pieces as well.

Furthermore, the Eagles scored a league-low two goals from corners and only three teams conceded more goals from corners.

When looking at each club’s leading player for aerial duels won per 90 minutes, the results reveal Palace are rock-bottom for winning duels in the air.

In fact, there are four Brighton players, and three from Brentford, Burnley, Newcastle and Watford, before we arrive at the Eagles’ leading aerial winner, Joel Ward.

Everton – centre-back

The Toffees need to upgrade in several positions, but the most pressing need is in central defence. They conceded the most goals from set-pieces (22), most-headed goals (15) and ranked 17th for percentage of aerial duels won in the Premier League this season.

Their current centre-backs have varying problems: Michael Keane seems to have lost his form – he made two errors leading to goals this season, having made only one in his Premier League career prior to this campaign. Yerry Mina is a constant injury worry – he has started (79) almost as many games as he has missed (73) since signing for Everton.

Fulham – creative midfielder

The Cottagers might have scored the most goals by a Championship team in an individual season, but they are losing one of their chief assist providers to Liverpool, Fabio Carvalho. The 19-year-old had the most goals (10) and assists (eight) by a teenager in the top four English divisions last season.

Although Harry Wilson provided the most assists and created the most chances in last season’s second tier, Carvalho had the most expected assists in open play per 90 minutes with 0.32. Fulham will need someone to share Wilson’s creative burden.

Leeds – defensive midfielder

It seems obvious to criticise Leeds’ defence after they conceded the second-most goals and had the second-highest expected goals against (xGA), but a major part of their poor campaign was the absence of midfield maestro Kalvin Philips. Leeds suffered an injury-plagued campaign, but they missed the 26-year-old most.

In the 30 Premier League games that he has not started since the beginning of last season, Leeds have lost 19 – compared with just 10 defeats in the 46 games when he has started. A larger cause for concern is that they concede almost double the amount of goals (from 1.3 to 2.3 per game) when he does not start.

Leicester – centre-back

No team conceded a higher percentage of goals from set-pieces (34 per cent) and a higher number of goals from crosses (15) than the Foxes. They were not helped with the long-term injury to Wesley Fofana but even Jonny Evans started only 16 of the 38 league games this season.

With the likes of Daniel Amartey, Wilfred Ndidi and Hamza Choudhary having to fill in at centre-back, Brendan Rodgers would be desperate to sign an experienced player in this position.

Liverpool – centre-back

It seems strange to be discussing what a team needs on the back of such a successful campaign. If Liverpool are to upgrade in a certain position, it is possibly that of centre-back.

When we compare the seasons of Liverpool and Manchester City, they had a similar number of goals, expected goals (xG) and goals conceded. However, there was a large difference in expected goals against (xGa). The fact that they conceded as many goals as Manchester City was due to the brilliance of their goalkeeper.

The Reds do have one of the best central defenders in Van Dijk, but they struggle without him: Liverpool almost missed out on Champions League qualification when he was injured for most of last season. Since his arrival, Jurgen Klopp’s side have lost 10 of 129 Premier League games with him in the side and eight of 39 games without him.

Manchester City – defensive midfielder

There is not much room for improvement for the Premier League champions – they have already addressed the issue of not having a front-line striker with the signing of Erling Haaland. However, if there is a cause for concern, it is how they perform without their midfield engine, Rodri.

He has won the most recoveries and has the second-most touches and successful passes in the division this season. Furthermore, City’s win percentage dropped from 77 per cent to 43 per cent in the games he did not play (Premier League and Champions League) this campaign.

The Spain international was an unused substitute for their opening-day defeat against Spurs and the draw against Southampton one month later. Additionally, Pep Guardiola’s side lost the Community Shield and were knocked out of the Carabao Cup and FA Cup when he did not play.

The departure of Fernandinho, another player who can play in his role, emphasises the need to recruit in this department.

Manchester United – central midfielder

United are crying out for a player who can link the defence with attack, having appeared poised to sign such a player before they bought Cristiano Ronaldo last summer.

The club ranked 12th for possession won in the middle third and 10th for passes in the final third last season. The fact Paul Pogba notched a club-topping nine league assists this season, having played only 16 games, emphasises issues in this area.

Newcastle – centre-forward

The Magpies seem to have done most of their heavy lifting in the winter transfer window of 2022 when they spent a league-topping ?93m on Bruno Guimaraes (?40m), Chris Wood (?25m), Kieran Trippier (?15m) and Dan Burn (?13m).

Since the beginning of January only Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham have more points, wins and clean sheets than Newcastle. Despite their incredible run of form, Eddie Howe will be looking to get more from his strikers.

January signing Wood has scored only one non-penalty goal in over 1,250 minutes of Premier League football. Callum Wilson, though prolific, has started 39 of the last 76 league games for the club. Neither of them have scored 15 goals in a league season – something the Magpies would desperately want from their leading marksman next term.

Nottingham Forest – central midfielder

Forest were prolific in front of goal in the Championship despite having a comparatively more reserved style of play with below-average possession in the final third. Cooper’s side scored 77 goals during the campaign – only Fulham netted more – and relied heavily on fast breaks and players carrying the ball upfield, primarily Brennan Johnson.

This deeper style resulted in Forest conceding just 43 goals – only Bournemouth shipped fewer – and ranking among the elite for possession won in the defensive third and tackles, which are traditionally metrics few high-flying teams excel at. Notably, Forest typically had an inferior average share of the ball across the campaign.

Therefore, an injection of midfield mettle and the capacity to apply a high press and retain the ball in central areas could boost their chances of survival. However, the reserved and countering style can pay dividends: the radar below compares the styles of Wolves and Forest and shows how the style can, indeed, reap rewards in the top-flight.

Southampton – goalkeeper

Both of Southampton’s goalkeepers rank among the bottom five for save percentage this season – factoring ‘keepers clocking 15 or more games.

Alex McCarthy has the second-worst ratio with 62 per cent and Fraser Forster the fifth-worst with 66 per cent. Furthermore, McCarthy has the lowest in-box save percentage (51 per cent) and both ‘keepers concede more than 1.5 goals per game.

This is not a new problem – they both have save percentages under 70 per cent in each of their Premier League seasons since 2016.

Tottenham – attacking wing-back

Conte wants attacking returns from his wing-backs. During his time at Chelsea, only three players had more goals than left wing-back Marcos Alonso.

The Italian is trying to create a similar style of play at Tottenham, with Ryan Sessegnon, Sergio Reguilon and Matt Doherty ranking first, third and fourth, respectively, for most touches in the opposition box per 90 for defenders since he arrived.

However, Doherty and Reguilon have the highest expected goals (xG) per 90 for defenders since his appointment, his wing-backs have only scored five goals combined. Furthermore, Reguilon and Doherty have started only 13 and nine of Conte’s 26 games in charge, respectively.

West Ham – centre-forward

Only relegated Watford and Burnley fielded older teams than West Ham in the Premier League last season, so David Moyes will be looking for younger prospects to complement his experienced stars.

Michail Antonio enjoyed a brilliant beginning to the season with six goals in as many games but fatigue seemed to get the better of him.

He has not played more minutes since 2015. In fact, he played more minutes in all competitions this season than in both the previous seasons combined. Regardless of their Europa League commitments this term, Antonio still played more minutes in this season’s Premier League than in all competitions in any other season since 2016.

Even when he is fit, he does not take the majority of his chances: since he was converted to a forward in 2019, he has underperformed his expected goals (xG) in all three campaigns. In that period, only Brighton forward Neal Maupay has underperformed his xG (-10.7) more than Antonio (-9.9).

Wolves – centre-forward

Jimenez was Wolves’ top goalscorer this season with six goals – the lowest for any Premier League team. In fact, only three teams in Europe’s top-five leagues had their top scorer on fewer goals.

Wolves were also in the bottom four for goals, expected goals, shots and shots on target. Bruno Lage’s side scored more than two goals on just three occasions this campaign – only Norwich (one) scored in fewer games.

Meanwhile, summer signing Hwang Hee-chan scored four in his first six games, but only netted once in his next 24 appearances.

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