Premier League trio target Rice
West Ham United will face a barrage of bids for prized asset Declan Rice this summer, according to the Telegraph. Premier League trio Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea are keen to sign the England international and will test the Hammers’ resolve at the end of the season. The report states that the fact that West Ham failed to strengthen their squad in January could prove fatal for their attempts to hold on to Rice. The 23-year-old has previously turned down two contract offers from West Ham and missing out on the top four could edge him closer to leaving his boyhood club.
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Paper Round’s view: It seems like – just like we saw with Jack Grealish – there will be a time when Rice leaves West Ham. He has exceeded his childhood dreams with his boyhood club, but there is a limit to the London club’s potential. When a big club comes knocking, it is tough to turn them down. Rice (and a new manager) would turn Manchester United’s squad into title challengers, while he would be a brilliant addition for league leaders Manchester City and Champions League holders Chelsea. It’s sad to say, but he has probably outgrown West Ham and he should be playing in the Champions League on a regular basis.
Arsenal’s pathetic January shifts focus to summer
Arsenal have shifted their focus to the summer transfer window after an absurd and disappointing January. The Gunners allowed 12 first-team players to leave in the winter window, including former club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang whose contract was mutually terminated. The search for a new striker is on, especially as Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah are out of contract this year. The Mirror report that Arsenal will now target Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin or Real Sociedad striker Alexander Isak after missing out on Dusan Vlahovic, who snubbed the Gunners for Juventus in January.
Paper Round’s view: Arsenal have left themselves in a desperate situation for the rest of the season. There is a clear lack of depth in the squad. Even though Mikel Arteta’s side have been dumped out of both domestic cup competitions, a place in the Premier League’s top four is within reach. Arsenal needed to dip into the transfer market if they wanted to challenge for a chance to compete in next season’s Champions League. Either way, a striker will be at the top of their summer wishlist. Calvert-Lewin or Isak would be welcomed with open arms to north London – but will they want to join if the Gunners fail to qualify for Europe’s elite competition?
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Chelsea summer transfer targets revealed
Chelsea are ready to bounce back from a disappointing January with a statement summer window. The winter saw the Blues fade away in the Premier League title race after injuries to key players, such as wing-back duo Ben Chilwell and Reece James. Replacements were not signed in the transfer window – as a showing sign of Chelsea accepting their title tilt to be over. However, the Athletic report that Thomas Tuchel is now prioritising his summer shortlist. The west London club are eyeing Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde, West Ham United’s Declan Rice and Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni.
Paper Round’s view: It would not have made financial sense for Chelsea to go big in the winter window just because of injuries. It is clear that James and Chilwell are both guaranteed starters when fit, so spending £25 million on a back-up in Lucas Digne would have been irresponsible unless the out-of-form Marcos Alonso was offloaded. Chelsea will now focus on the cups as they are already in the Carabao Cup final and have a favourable Champions League draw with Lille. Winning silverware would add to their appeal when convincing summer targets to move to Stamford Bridge.
Last in, first out for Barca
Barcelona will be forced to omit one of their January signings from their Europa League squad due to strict squad rules in European competitions. There is a limit on players that are allowed to be added to Europa League squads, meaning Xavi can only add three of the four new signings. Dani Alves, Ferran Torres, Adama Traore and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang all joined in January. The Mail report that former Arsenal forward Aubameyang is most likely to miss out due to the fact that the Catalans are well-stocked in the attacking positions.
Paper Round’s view: It’s an odd rule to have – especially considering Barcelona did not even compete in the Europa League in the first half of the season. They have made four big-name signings, but one will miss out. It makes sense to keep Alves because he adds depth at right-back, while Torres was signed for a huge fee. Personally, I’d probably pick Aubameyang over Traore because of his experience and goal-scoring ability. Either way, it’s a tough decision and the player who eventually misses out will be gutted.
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