Ranking USMNT Players Abroad in Fall 2020 by Tiers Part 2

Welcome back! If you missed it, check out Part 1 of this article here. For a quick summary, last time we examined the male Americans playing in lower leagues. Now we’re looking at the USMNT players who play in the Top 10 leagues in Europe, plus some of the best South American leagues.

Again some housekeeping: I am only looking at games that count towards the ’20-’21 season. In order to limit this already really long list, I am only looking at players who have received first team minutes (Sorry Alex Mendez fans, Jong Ajax won’t count). Additionally, I didn’t go any lower than 2nd division in any country (apologies to all of the Sunderland/Lynden Gooch fans out there). Lastly, I didn’t include a bunch of potential dual nationals because we don’t know what they might do (sorry Florian Balogun fans). These statistics are from December 28th approximately.

These tiers are generally in order from worst-to-best but you could argue the order for the bottom tiers. Within each section I generally listed the players in order from most-to-least interesting. This is kind of a “who is the best player in a vacuum” ranking while also being a “who improved the most between the summer and now” ranking. So, like, don’t take it too seriously? I don’t know I just do this for fun.

Player Name, Age (Club; Total appearances this season, Continental Cup mins, Domestic League mins, Domestic Cup mins if applicable)

Decent 1st Division League (Portugal, Belgium, Austria, Netherlands, Brazil, and Argentina)

  • Matt Miazga, 25 (Anderlecht; 10 app, 900 Juniper League mins)
  • Reggie Cannon, 22 (Boavista; 11 apps, 964 Primeira Liga)
  • Johnny Cardoso, 19 (Internacional; 11 apps, 477 mins across all competitions)
  • Alan Sonora, 22 (Independiente; 12 apps, 563 mins across all competitions)
  • Luca de la Torre, 22 (Heracles Almelo; 12 apps, 730 Eredivisie mins)
  • Chris Durkin, 20 (Sint-Truiden; 13 apps, 784 Juniper League mins)
  • Erik Palmer Brown, 23 (Austira Vien; 11 apps, 990 Austrian Bundesliga mins)

This is a bit of a grab bag section for all of the guys who play in non-Top 5 Leagues. I would argue that all of these leagues are a step up from MLS. Miazga has played well on loan from Chelsea to Anderlecht. EPB is technically still a Manchester City player but has been on loan for 4 straight seasons, similar to Miazga with Chelsea. Gotta wonder when either of them will find a permanent home. Cannon has impressed at Boavista, grabbing the attention of Portuguese giants Benfica in just 9 games. Cardoso is one of the first Americans to ever play in Brazil. Honestly, I’ve barely seen him play but getting minutes in Brazil at 19 usually leads to good things. I don’t know much about Sonora either, but again seeing minutes in Argentina at his age is a good sign. It’s nice to see Luca de la Torre get regular-ish minutes after riding Fulham’s bench for a few years. Only one assist in over 700 minutes is disappointing though. Lastly, Chris Durkin is quietly stacking up mins in Belgium. I think he has more defensive bite now than when he played in the 2019 U20 World Cup.

Good Situation, Small Sample Size

  • Tim Weah, 20 (Lille; 15 apps, 111 Europa League mins, 212 Ligue 1 mins)
  • Richard Ledezma, 20 (PSV; 6 apps, 25 Europa League mins, 93 Eredivisie mins)
  • Konrad de la Fuente, 19 (Barcelona; 2 apps, 19 UCL mins).
  • Zack Steffen, 25 (Manchester City; 4 apps, 90 UCL mins, 270 EFL Cup mins)
  • Owen Otasowie, 19 (Wolverhampton; 3 app, 112 EPL mins)
  • Ethan Horvath, 25 (Club Brugge; 2 apps, 90 UCL mins, 90 Juniper League mins).
  • Chris Richards, 20 (Bayern Munich; 7 apps, 129 UCL mins, 89 Bundesliga mins, 15 DFL Super Cup mins)

All of these guys have around 300 mins or less but they are on good teams who either play Champions League, Europa League, or in a Top 5 League. Horvath and Steffen are both backup keepers and will naturally be limited barring injuries to the starters. But goalkeepers hit their prime later so I’m not too concerned. And, recent rumors have Horvath on the trading block. Otasowie got his first EPL appearance and start in the closing weeks of 2020. From what I saw, he looked raw, but with a few moments of skill. Ledezma tore his ACL, which derailed a breakout year for him. Weah had a ton of cameo appearances out of precaution after he lost most of last year to injuries. Last few weeks his minutes for Lille have been trending in the right direction. Richards saw an uptick in mins for Bayern, but it seemed to be more “out of necessity due to injuries” than “he beat out other players in practice”. Konrad barely makes the cut here as he mostly still plays with Barca B. His appearances in UCL were cameos in games where Barca was leading. Hopefully he will see more meaningful minutes soon.

Sustained Success in a Top 5 League (England, Spain, Germany, France, or Italy)

  • Tyler Adams, 21 (RB Leipzig; 16 apps, 109 UCL mins, 701 Bundesliga mins, 104 DFB Pokal mins)
  • Christian Pulisic, 22 (Chelsea; 12 apps, 175 UCL mins, 605 EPL mins)
  • Josh Sargent, 20 (Werder Bremen; 14 apps, 1010 Bundesliga mins, 175 DFB Pokal mins).
  • John Brooks, 28 (Wolfsburg; 12 apps, 1008 Bundesliga mins)

These guys play in Top 5 Leagues, and they are good players, they simply haven’t made significant improvements since the summer. Pulisic has been slowed by injuries but looks great every time he plays. Notably, Pulisic started 2 games for Chelsea in the last week. Sargent is now a regular starter for Bremen but hasn’t done much in that time (3g 2a in ~1300 mins). Adams has been in the rotation for Leipzig and looks comfortable without being flashy. John Brooks is just a known quantity at this point. An overall good centerback who has the occasional error. Now, these guys are not necessarily worse than the players in the next tier. They just sustained a level of success rather than raised their game in some way. I don’t want to undermine what these guys are doing. It is not easy to continuously play at a high level.

Significant Improvement in a Top 5 League (England, Spain, Germany, France, or Italy)

  • Gio Reyna, 18 (Dortmund; 22 apps, 407 UCL mins, 887 Bundesliga mins, 138 DFB Pokal mins, 19 DFL Super Cup mins).
  • Weston McKennie. 22 (Juventus; 15 apps, 295 UCL mins, 591 Serie A mins
  • Sergino Dest, 20 (Ajax –> Barcelona; 19 apps, 450 UCL mins, 77 Eredivisie mins, 743 La Liga mins)
  • Yunus Musah, 18 (Valencia; 15 apps, 961 La Liga mins, 35 Copa Del Rey mins).
  • Antonee Robinson, 23 (Fulham; 15 apps, 1080 EPL mins, 270 EFL Cup mins)

This group is exciting to say the least. Yunus Musah broke onto the scene in this his first professional season. While technically still not committed to the US, I suspect the multi-national Musah will play for the Stars and Stripes going forward (knock on wood). Robinson may not be playing his first pro season, but it is his first EPL season and he has been up for the challenge showing well in Fulham’s 1-1 draw against Liverpool. The USMNT starting LB spot is his to lose. McKennie and Dest both moved to bigger clubs (you could argue that Dest’s move was more lateral, but I digress) and are regular starters in their respective new homes. McKennie’s goal against Barcelona in the Champions League was one for the ages. Quick reminder: Messi and Ronaldo were on the field and 22 year-old American Weston McKennie had the best goal of the game! Gio Reyna takes the cake though. His goals + assists per 90 mins are top 30 in the Bundesliga (top 25 if you don’t include penalty goals) and the kid turned 18 last month. Unreal. People are talking about him as one of the best teenage soccer players in the world, and rightly so.

Thanks for reading! Have any questions or qualms with how I organized this? Then leave a comment below or yell at me on Twitter @BeardedJack!

Ranking USMNT Players Abroad in Fall 2020 by Tiers: Part 1

Hello all! It has been a hot minute since I wrote about soccer. Graduate school will do that to you. Enough about me though. 2020 has seen the rise of many young US Men’s National Team (USMNT) players balling out for large clubs in Europe. Thus, I wanted to check in to see how all of them are doing. For the most part, I will be looking at their minutes, games played, assists, and goals (mostly all available at https://fbref.com/en/ with some help from https://www.transfermarkt.us/). Here in Part 1, we will mostly examine the Americans in lower leagues. Come back for Part 2 to read about Christian Pulisics of the world.

First some housekeeping items: I am only looking at games that count towards the ’20-’21 season (some Scandinavian leagues play a summer schedule so I counted their whole 2020 regular season). In order to limit this already really long list, I am only looking at players who have received first team minutes (Sorry Alex Mendez fans, Jong Ajax won’t count). Additionally, I didn’t go any lower than 2nd division in any country (apologies to all of the Sunderland/Lynden Gooch fans out there). Lastly, I didn’t include a bunch of potential dual nationals because we don’t know what they might do (sorry Florian Balogun fans). These statistics are as of December 28th, approximately.

These tiers are generally in order from worst-to-best but you could argue the order. Within each section I generally listed the players in order from most-to-least interesting. Overall this is kind of a “who is the best player in a vacuum” ranking while also being a “who improved the most between the summer and now” ranking. So, like, don’t take it too seriously? I don’t know I just do this for fun.

Player Name, Age (Club; Total appearances this season, Continental Cup mins, Domestic League mins, Domestic Cup mins if applicable)

Honorable Mentions:

  • Cameron Carter-Vickers, 22 (Bournmouth)
  • McKinzie Gaines, 22 (Hannover 96)
  • Nick Taitague, 21 (Shalke)
  • Alex Mendez, 20 (Ajax)
  • Chris Gloster, 20 (PSV)
  • Cameron Harper, 19 (Celtic)

According to FBref, none of these players have made an appearance for their first team so far this season. There are a million other names that could be here, with the increasing number of Americans in European academies, but these are the ones who (I feel) are closer to 1st team minutes The most notable name here is Cameron Carter-Vickers who recently moved to Bournemouth and reportedly has a nagging ankle injury keeping him out of the squad.

Okay-to-Bad Situation, Small Sample Size (Various Leagues)

  • Ulysses Llanez Jr., 19 (Heerenveen; 5 apps, 95 Eredivisie mins)
  • Matthew Hoppe, 19 (Schalke; 3 apps, 111 Bundesliga mins)
  • Timothy Tillman, 21 (Gruether Furth; 12 apps, 141 2.Bundesliga mins, 74 DFB Pokal mins)
  • Charlie Kelman, 19 (Queens Park Rangers; 3 apps, 42 EFL Championship mins)
  • Tyler Boyd, 25 (Besiktas; 4 apps, Turkish Super Lig 315 mins)
  • Jonathan Amon, 21 (Nordsjaelland; 1 app, 26 Danish Superliga mins)
  • Joel Sonora, 24 (Talleres Cordoba; 8 apps, 156 Argentina Superliga mins)
  • Matko Miljevic, 19 (Argentinos; 1 apps, 45 Copa Sudamericana mins)
  • Sebastien Saucedo, 23 (UNAM; 3 apps, 141 Liga MX mins)
  • Brendan Hines-Ike, 26 (Kortrijk; 4 apps, 360 Juniper League mins)
  • Desevio Payne, 25 (FC Emmen; 2 apps, 32 Eredivisie mins)
  • Dillon Powers, 29 (Dundee United; 8 apps 290 SPL mins)

These are guys who would be in one of the higher tiers if they were were seeing significantly more minutes. Llanez and Kelman just arrived to their new respective teams this fall, and may still be adjusting. Both regualrly feature on the bench but have been rarely selected as substitutes so far. Might be harsh to put Hoppe here since Schalke play in the Bundesliga, but you would understand if you saw Schalke play at all this year. It’s not pretty. Amon just recovered from 13 months of injury and will likely jump into the “Good in a Not-So-Good League” tier if his regular minutes resume by the spring. With the rise of other wingers in the pool (Gio Reyna, et al.), Tyler Boyd probably isn’t relevant to the USMNT anymore.

Good in a Not-So-Good League (Scandinavian Leagues, Poland, Switzerland, and Scotland)

  • Haji Wright, 22 (Sonderjyske; 12 apps, 690 Danish Superliga mins)
  • Emmanuel Sabbi, 22 (Odense; 13 apps, 956 Danish Superliga mins)
  • Jordan Siebatcheu, 24 (Young Boys; 17 apps, 71 Europa League mins, 434 Swiss Super League mins)
  • Aron Johansson, 30 (Hammarby; 22 apps, 1343 Allsvenskan mins)
  • Christian Cappis, 21 (Hobro; 10 apps, 869 Norway’s 2nd Division mins)
  • Mix Diskerud, 30 (Helsingborg; 28 apps, 2428 Allsvenskan mins)
  • Romain Gall, 25 (Orebro/Stabaek; 18 apps, 585 Allsvenskan mins, 373 Eliseserien mins)
  • Henry Wingo, 25 (Molde, 25 apps; 366 Europa League mins, 1213 Eliteserien mins)
  • Ian Harkes, 25 (Dundee United; 17 apps, 1411 SPL mins)
  • Kenny Saief, 27 (Lechia Gdnask; 11 apps, 826 Ekstrklasa mins)

This section kind of speaks for itself. These guys may look good on paper but you have to consider the context. The Scandinavian leagues, Polish League, Swiss League, and the Scottish Premiere League (outside of Celtic and Rangers) are arguably worse than MLS. Sabbi’s Goals + Assists per 90 is .47, Johansson’s is .80, and Wright’s is .91. My shorthand for those numbers is around .50 is “good for their league” and closer to 1.00 is “they should play in a better league”. I would love to see Wright get a chance to be on the U-23 Olympic roster next year. Harkes, Saief, Gall, Wingo, and Diskerud couldn’t cut it in MLS and that’s why their leagues make this list. Diskerud is 30 now? Woof.

2nd Division Heroes (2nd Divisions of France, England, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, and Germany)

  • Sebastien Soto, 20 (Telstar; 10 apps, 542 Eerste Divisie mins)
  • Nicolas Gioachinni, 20 (Caen; 15 apps, 1135 Ligue 2 mins)
  • Julian Green, 25 (Greuther Furth; 15 apps, 931 2.Bundesliga mins, 178 DFB Pokal mins)
  • Andrija Novakovich, 24 (Frosinone; 12 apps, 660 Serie B mins, 36 Copa Italia mins)
  • Duane Holmes, 26 (Derby County; 15 apps, 600 EFL Championship mins, 55 EFL Cup mins)
  • Matt Olosunde, 22 (Rotherham; 11 apps, 614 EFL Championship mins)
  • Shaq Moore, 24 (Tenerife; 19 apps, 1648 Segunda Division mins)

These guys are all playing about as well as they can given that they play for a second division team. All of the young guys here should continue to prove themselves for the rest of the season and hope for a transfer upwards in the future. Notably Soto has been lighting up the Dutch 2nd division with 6g about 540 mins. Novakovich also has 5g +2a in under 700 mins. Green is arguably the best player on the best team in the 2. Bundesliga right now. If they get promoted I would love to see how Green plays against Bundesliga competition. Holmes had a small injury limiting him this fall.

Declining Veterans (Used to regularly play in Top 5 Leagues at some point)

  • Tim Ream, 33 (Fulham; 6 app, 450 EPL mins, 90 EFL Cup mins)
  • DeAndre Yedlin, 27 (Newcastle; 6 apps, 185 EPL mins, 270 EFL Cup mins)
  • Geoff Cameron, 35 (Queens Park Rangers; 18 apps, 1560 EFL Championship mins)
  • Timmy Chandler, 30 (Frankfurt; 5 apps, 55 Bundesliga mins, 19 DFB Pokal mins)
  • Eric Lichaj, 32 (Faith Karagumruk; 10 apps, 736 Turkish Super Lig mins)
  • Alfredo Morales, 30 (Dusseldorf; 8 apps, 382 2.Bundesliga mins, 110 DFB Pokal mins)
  • Bobby Wood, 28 (Hamburg; 10 apps, 96 2.Bundesliga mins, 13 DFB Pokal mins)

In some ways I think this is the most controversial section, especially putting it in the bottom half. Suffice it to say that if any of these guys want to stay in the USMNT picture, they need to find a new club where they can earn playing time. In my personal opinion all of Ream, Morales and Wood should consider a move to MLS. Lichaj just got to Turkey this fall, otherwise he would also be an MLS candidate. Yedlin and Chandler could probably move elsewhere in Europe and still get starting minutes but it will likely be a step down, perhaps similar to what Cameron is doing in the English second division. And to be clear Cameron is not in the USMNT picture these days, nor should he be. *Late edit*: Yedlin started the last two games for Newcastle, and he is on the young side of this group. Perhaps I was too hasty placing him here. I hope he proves me wrong and continues this run of form!

Thanks for reading! Come back for Part 2 later this week. Have any questions or qualms with how I organized this? Then leave a comment below or yell at me on Twitter, @Beardedjack

English Premier League Team of the Year

The Professional Football Association (PFA) announced its Top XI on Thursday and it leaves me scratching my head. I decided I needed to break down the flaws in their Team of the Year and create my own.

Jamie Vardy
Vardy (above) and Mahrez have Leicester on the cusp of an unlikely title.

Well first let’s start with what they got right. And most of it was right. Harry Kane lead the league in scoring so he is a no-brainer. Jamie Vardy has played out of his mind as well, scoring 22 goals and adding six assists. His running mate Riyad Mahrez has been a stud as well, finishing fifth in goals and tied third in assists. Deli Alli’s number are impressive with 10 goals and nine assists.

David De Gea is the best keeper in the Premier League as United has allowed the second fewest goals in the EPL this season. De Gea only allowed 28 of them too. With Tottenham being the only team to allow fewer goals, Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld are hard to argue with. Hector Bellerin has played deserving football as well to make this team. I can’t even argue with Wes Hoolahan, who has started and finished every game for Leicester this season. I could argue that Jose Fonte or Chris Smalling should have been included over him, but we will let that go.

Sergio Aguero
Aguero is tied with Vardy for the second most goals in the league.

That leaves only a few that I would leave off, but they really bother me. First, I am not a huge fan of Payet’s inclusion. He failed to register double digit goals or assists this season. That might be nitpicking, but everyone else in midfield or attack on this list, except Kante, has hit double digits in at least one of those two categories. In 27 games, he registered 18 points, which is very respectable, but with some of the other options out there, I would have changed the formation. I think I would’ve picked a third striker in place of Payet in the form of Sergio Aguero. He played the same number of games this season, often through some sort of injury and registered 24 points compared to Payet’s 18. That kind of performance is deserving of the designation Top XI.

Mesut Ozil
Ozil has been the engine behind Arsenal’s attack.

The other issue I have is N’Golo Kante. That’s not to say that he isn’t a great player and hasn’t had a great season. And yes, I know he lacks the counting stats because he is a defensive-minded player, but when you have someone like Mesut Ozil lead the league in assists, by a sizable margin as well with 18 compared to Christian Eriksen’s 12, you cannot leave him off of the team of the year. He also knocked in six goals of his own. Ozil is on the shortlist for player of the year, so it is mind boggling that he could be left off of the team of the year.

If you want to argue with me that I cannot replace Payet with a striker then fine, but I would leave Kante on before I left Payet. His play defensively I think outweighs that of Payet offensively. Payet is making this mainly as an offensive playmaker, a role which Ozil has surpassed him in this season. I might even argue that Eriksen was more deserving of the spot than Payet was.

The PFA did alright on the whole, but some of the snubs make it a very questionable lineup. Adding Ozil probably would’ve saved them from me writing this. I still can’t figure out how the guy who is on the shortlist for player of the year gets left off the team of the year. Oh well. Now we all just get to sit back and watch if Leicester can hold onto the title.

Premier League Wishlist: Part 2

Continuing from where we left off, this is what is topping each Premier team’s wishlist as they head into the January transfer window. To see Part 1, click here.

Newcastle UnitedNewcastle United: Left Back
If you want to maintain that you belong in the Premier League, then Paul Dummett cannot be your best option at left back. Massiado Haidara has mixed in with him as well but neither one is ready to be a starting full back in England. The Magpies have allowed the second most goals in the Premier League this season. Some of that can be attributed to the rash of injuries at keeper but the poor play at left back definitely does not help.

Nathaniel RedmondNorwich City: Striker
In their return to the Premier League, Norwich has held their own, but if they plan to stay here they are going to need some attacking help. Youngster Nathaniel Redmond leads the team in scoring at the moment with only four goals. Cameron Jermone is the leading scoring forward with just three. Norwich needs to spend a little bit to bring in a quality goal scorer. In 11 out of 17 matches, Norwich has been held to one or fewer goals. That cannot continue if they want to start thinking about year 2 in the top division.

Morgan SchneiderlinSouthampton: Creative/Controlling Midfielder
To say that Southampton are reeling is a bit of understatement. This team finished just outside of a Euro League spot last year but find themselves in the bottom half this season with a lot of question marks. The departure of both Nathaniel Clyne and Morgan Schneiderlin over the summer has left this team starved of creativity and reliability. Infusing a player that can control the pace and create chances will give Southampton the boost they need back into the top half.


Bojan KrkicStoke City: Attacking Midfielder
Go ahead. Try to score against Stoke. It has been nearly impossible to net one against Mark Hughes side this year. That is a credit to the backline and the play of the rising star in Jack Butland Stoke have in between the pipes. Despite that, Stoke are midtable with the worst offense in the league. Scoring only 14 goals in 17 matches is a recipe for disaster. The lack of scoring options on the team is astounding. Stoke only have four players to score for them this season, and they are all strikers. Hughes needs to have someone from the midfield who can pose a threat as a goal scorer to push this team higher up the table.

Billy JonesSunderland: Defender (Any Position)
Sunderland are in danger of relegation. They sit just five points behind Newcastle and Norwich, who are just above the relegation zone, but the Black Cats are going to need some major defensive overhaul to stay up this year. Sunderland has allowed the most goals by any Premier League side this season, almost two per game. John O’Shea is on his last leg and Billy Jones commits a lot of fouls. This team needs to find some new blood to reinvigorate one of the worst backlines in European top division football.

Bafetimbi_GomisSwansea City: Striker
To say Swansea need some more scoring options is an understatement. Andre Ayew and Bafetimbi Gomis have accounted for 11 of Swansea’s 15 Premier League goals this season. As a result, Garry Monk is gone and Swansea is in free fall. Finding a reliable goal scoring option to supplement Ayew and Gomis would stop the bleeding and put Swansea back on track for staying in the Premier League.

TottenhamTottenham: Controlling Midfielder
Spurs reach the halfway point in a Champions League spot with a healthy goal difference. Spurs have only lost twice the whole season but have drawn a league high eight times. If Tottenham want to make a push for the top then they are going to need to control the game a bit more to avoid giving up late goals. They have a tendency of blowing late leads. Finding a midfielder who can hold possession and run with the ball late in games could prove to be the difference maker between Tottenham being good and great.

Troy DeeneyWatford: Keep Deeney and Igahlo
You might even be able to add Etienne Capoue and Nathan Ake to that list. They have been the core that has led Watford to a Europa League spot in their first season back in the top division. To say Watford has been impressive is an understatement. Deeney and Igahlo have been at the center of that. Deeney has scored five goals while setting up four goals. Igahlo has scored a whopping 12 goals and even chipped in two assists. Watford could easily finish in the top half if they can keep their key pieces in place.

Saido BerahinoWest Brom: Goal-scoring option
I doubt they will care where the goals come from but West Brom needs to score more. So far this year, they are averaging a goal per match and the teams leading scorers only have three goals to their names. Saido Berahino hasn’t helped the situation much with his refusal to play at times, especially when you consider that he is one of those players for West Brom to have scored three goals even though he only has eight starts to his name.

Enner ValenciaWest Ham United: Sell Enner Valencia
He played a lot last season but this year, Valencia has failed to work his way into the first team. He has been subbed on four times this season and has failed to make any sort of impact after joining the fray. He notably said that the club had forgotten about him. It is pretty clear that he is not fitting in and he has only scored four goals in his now year and half with the club. If West Ham could find a taker in the vicinity of the £12 million they paid for him last summer, the Hammers could look to improve the midfield and invest in a young defender or two to ensure future success.

 

Premier League Wishlist: Part 1

I’m back! Did you miss me? Did you even notice I was gone? Well just pretend you did and get ready for the Aftermath to resume its normal production of content.

This time of year, millions of kids across the globe are finalizing their Christmas wish lists. With the holiday and subsequently January quickly approaching, The Aftermath is creating a wish list for every Premier League team as the January transfer window gets set to open on New Year’s Day. To see Part 2, click here.

Arsenal CelebrationArsenal: Midfield Maestro
The Gunners were my preseason pick to win the title and they are still right in the thick of the title chase. To make that final push, they need to find a second set up man in the midfield. Mesut Ozil has been incredible this year, setting up 15 goals, the best mark in the league by a significant margin. After that, there is a major drop off to Santi Carzola, who only has three assists on the year. Finding a second reliable set up man for when Ozil needs a rest should be the top of their to do list in January.

Gabriel_Agbonlahor_Aston_VillaAston Villa: Tall Forward
Through the first half of the season, Villa find themselves in the Premier League basement, 10 points away from clearing the relegation zone. Villa might decide to pack it in and get ready for the drop or they might make a push to climb out of the cellar. Assuming they will go for the latter, Aston Villa needs to find a new striker. They have plenty of players that can swing the ball into the middle and give them chances to score but now they need someone who can finish those headers. Rudy Gestede fits that role perfectly but with only three goals in 17 appearances, it looks like they need to find someone who is more reliable.

Matt RitchieBournemouth: First-Team Keeper
The Cherries have had a strong start to the season given that it is their first year in England’s top division. They have a number of areas where they could improve but the most glaring one comes at the back end. Bournemouth have used two keepers so far this season in Artur Boruc and Adam Federici. Federici has been far from relaible, allowing 12 goals in just 5 games. Bournemouth need to find a true first team keeper and push Boruc into a rotation role if they want to stay in the Premier League.

Falcao and WillianChelsea: Clinical Finisher
Raise your hand if you predicted that through 17 games, Chelsea would only be three points clear of relegation. Put your hands down. The Blues are off to their worst start in the last decade and just fired Jose Mourinho. This is a time of change at the club and it should continue with the addition of a new forward. Diego Costa is the leading scorer at Stamford Bridge with just three goals to his name. Falcao once again failed to take hold, Pedro has not had much of an impact yet and Loic Remy has been relegated to a substitute role. Adding a top notch goal scorer, who can create his own chances and work the keeper from outside the box has to be high on Chelsea’s want list.

Yohan_CabayeCrystal Palace: Young Defender
Crystal Palace has already shown they can find good deals in the transfer market after signing Yohan Cabaye for a good price. Cabaye has performed very well and leads the team in scoring. The only thing separating Palace from Champions League football right now is goal difference. If I am Alan Pardew, I want to find a young defender that can learn this year, serving more in a rotation role and develop into a major contributor by the next. The average age of Palace’s back line, is 29 years old. Infusing some youth might not be a bad idea.

Gareth_BarryEverton: Defensive-Minded Midfielder
It is hard to tell where exactly Everton need help. They have played well offensively. Defensively, they have been solid, yet they sit middle of the table. Looking at this team, Everton would do well signing a defensive midfielder. It would give Roberto Martinez another option alongside Gareth Barry and Tom Cleverley. The defensive has room for improvement as well and with plenty of attacking option already in place, bringing in a defensive-minded player should be the next move.

Jamie VardyLeicester City: Not to lose anyone
This sounds kind of lame but with so many rumors linking Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez away from the club, that will be the key to Leicester succeeding. There are some concerns at the back end but with offers bound to come pouring in once the calendar hits January, hanging on to the two star attackers will be the best thing Leicester can wish for.

Raheem SterlingLiverpool: Wide Midfielder
Getting rid of Brendan Rodgers hasn’t helped anything so far. Liverpool needs more than a new manager to fix their shortcomings. Starting that repair process will be centered on finding a wide midfielder. It might seem like a slap in the face but having an attacking winger like Raheem Sterling would likely be a huge boost for the Reds right now, who have struggled to consistently create offense all year. Out of their 17 matches this year, Liverpool have been held to one goal or fewer 12 times.

Sergio AgueroManchester City: Reserve Striker
It is hard to say that City needs a whole lot of improvement heading into the second half but they are six points back of the table leaders by six points. City has been great at scoring this season, but they have hurt whenever Sergio Aguero cannot go. Wilfred Bony has been solid but not consistent enough. Adding another goal scorer to take some spot starts and keep Aguero healthy down the stretch could be the difference for City in their title chase.

Wayne_RooneyManchester United: Forward
The defense for United has been impeccable. They have allowed only 14 goals in 17 games, tied for the second best average in the Premier League. However, the scoring from the Red Devils looks average this season. Juan Mata and Anthony Martial lead the team with four goals apiece. Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney is starting to show his age. Adding another player who can man the attacking spot alone up top is imperative for United.