The Premier League's global rise means supporters across the planet are watching the summer transfer window with a keen eye, keeping tabs on every movement made by the league's 20 clubs. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, the top flight of English football is under the microscope, and while that bodes well for some ahead of the season, it means those who are unprepared are subject to worldwide criticism rather than merely local condemnation.
With that in mind, here are five clubs that are ill-prepared for the return of the Premier League:
Brighton & Hove Albion signed Mathew Ryan for a club-record fee, reportedly valued at £5.3 million, but the Seagulls look destined for trouble in their first season in the top division of English football since 1983-84. The club's tortuous road from the brink of oblivion to the Premier League is an incredible story, and Chris Hughton might be one of the most underrated managers in England. For its supporters, it will be a season to remember regardless of what happens on the pitch.
Yet, of the three promoted clubs, Brighton, who will become the 48th team to play in the Premier League, is the quietest in the summer transfer window. The Seagulls appear set on relying upon those who shined in the Championship. It will be fascinating to see how the likes of Anthony Knockaert, Lewis Dunk, and Glenn Murray fare, but a fight for survival should be expected by the seaside.
Burnley is doing more selling than buying. Michael Keane departed for Everton and George Boyd moved to Sheffield Wednesday on a free transfer. For a club that narrowly avoided relegation, their exits are significant, and, while the signing of Jonathan Walters will likely address the Clarets' goal-scoring woes, the club doesn't look any better than it did last season.
There is nobody at Burnley who can fill the void left by Keane, and it should be remembered that the Clarets allowed more goals than all but one club outside of the relegation zone last season. Unless something is done about the hole at centre-back, it will be a long season for supporters at Turf Moor.
Defence remains a problematic area for Liverpool. The Reds can salivate over the signing of Mohamed Salah for a club-record fee of £36.9 million, but for all the excitement surrounding the Egyptian attacker, it does nothing for the club's defensive struggles, which must be addressed if there is to be any talk at Anfield of Champions League qualification, let alone the Premier League title.
Andrew Robertson is a fine left-back, and, having signed the Scottish defender for a reported fee of £8 million, Liverpool can breathe a little bit easier. But he's an attack-minded full-back, meaning there might be times where he exposes the Reds on the left side of the pitch, and there's still the matter of who takes the pitch at centre-back. Virgil van Dijk can't arrive soon enough.
Stoke City is in danger of drifting toward the relegation zone, and the Potters' underwhelming activity in the summer transfer window is doing nothing to ease the minds of the club's faithful. The acquisition of Steven Fletcher on a free transfer is practical, Kurt Zouma's season-long loan will fill the defensive hole left by Bruno Martins Indi, and the return of Jack Butland is worth celebrating.
That being said, it's hard to see how Stoke's fans can dream of anything more than a mid-table finish, particularly given the exit of forward Marko Arnautovic.
West Bromwich Albion's supporters would feel much better about the summer transfer window if the Baggies hadn't lost Fletcher. There is, after all, reason to smile at The Hawthorns after the club signed Jay Rodriguez for a reported fee of £12 million. But, without an improvement on Salomon Rondon, without any pace on the flanks, and without the Scottish midfielder to organise the midfield, it's hard to be overly optimistic.
The definition of a mid-table club, West Brom can enter the season expecting much of the same unless there's an injection of fresh blood in August.
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