The recent surge of money in the Premier League has also seen a surge in talent, with many surprised that some of the top performers at Euro 2016 and the World Cup were from smaller clubs in England’s first division.
Xherdan Shaqiri’s move to Liverpool highlighted that signing talent from inferior sides in the Premier League can be a great way of completing squads, and with many top Premier League teams still searching for new players, here are the ten most likely to upgrade clubs this summer.
- Aaron Mooy, 27, Huddersfield Town
Securing Aaron Mooy’s services permanently after being promoted to the Premier League was a masterstroke for Huddersfield manager David Wagner, who signed one of the most consistent midfielders in the Premier League.
An excellent protector of the defence in midfield, Mooy averaged close to six defensive actions per 90 minutes for Huddersfield this season while also averaging over 60 passes, the latter of which is particularly impressive given the nature of his current side.
Continuing his impressive form into the World Cup with Australia, he showed why Manchester City could be willing to resign him after selling him last summer. In terms of rotating with Fernandinho he fits the role perfectly, with calmness in possession but also the ability to advance forward and cover plenty of ground for his teammates.
- James Tarkowski, 25, Burnley
Undoubtedly one of the main factors behind Burnley’s impressive sixth-best defensive record in the Premier League last season, many were calling for James Tarkowski to be included in the team of the season, as well as England’s World Cup squad.
Dominating in the air by winning 4.7 aerial duels per 90 minutes while averaging 7.1 clearances to add to his defensive prowess, Tarkowski makes up for his lack of ball-playing abilities by being excellent at traditional defending. There is no doubt that Tarkowski could improve even further in coming years due to his relatively young age for a centre-back.
Everton relied too heavily on Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka, not the players they once were, under Ronald Koeman, but in signing Tarkowski, the Toffees would have the perfect player to replace them in the long-term alongside last season’s signing of Michael Keane. Tarkowski’s dominant, aerially commanding defending suits Keane’s ball playing and composure.
- Abdoulaye Doucouré, 25, Watford
Many reports are suggesting that French central midfielder Abdoulaye Doucouré could be set for a move to Everton or even Tottenham, with the player a known admirer of Liverpool. But why is a Watford midfielder who is relatively unheard of being linked with half the top clubs in England?
Since joining Watford in 2016, Doucouré has quietly developed into one of the better central midfielders in the Premier League, using his athleticism and ability to read the game to inspire various defensive and attacking interventions in many matches for Watford.
Scoring seven goals, providing three assists and averaging over five defensive interventions per 90 minutes in 37 Premier League appearances last season, he would be the perfect addition at any of the above clubs, as well as Arsenal, who could use this type of physicality and defensive strength in their midfield ranks. The most suitable move would perhaps be to Everton, where he is most likely to win a starting place and could later move to an even bigger club should he prove himself worthy.
- Kasper Schmeichel, 31, Leicester City
Proving on many occasions that he is in the upper echelon of goalkeepers in world football, particularly through his involvement in Leicester City’s title win and Denmark’s World Cup heroics, Schmeichel is in the prime of his footballing career and will want a move to a bigger club to have one last shot at trophies.
He seems a great organizer at the base of a side, with great command of his area and back four, but his best attribute is undoubtedly his penchant for jaw-dropping saves, which has likened him to his father, legendary goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, who is known as one of the best to ever play the game.
Now is the time for Schmeichel to make a move, and if any of the bigger sides lose their goalkeeper late in the window, they will undoubtedly have the Dane on speed dial. Chelsea will see him as an alternative to another goalkeeper later in this list should their current goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois, depart.
- Harry Maguire, 25, Leicester City
Harry Maguire joining Leicester from Hull City last summer for £12.3 million will undoubtedly prove to be one of the bargains of the season. A towering defender with great feet and an underrated passing range, the 25-year-old emerged as arguably the best defender available to Gareth Southgate at the World Cup.
This, after two solid Premier League campaigns with very different clubs, has led many top clubs to believe a move for Maguire would be an elite, homegrown solution to their defensive problems. With his prime yet to come and his range of impressive qualities he could slot into any defensive system and still be a success.
The only reason why he is not in the top three in this list is because he currently is on a long-term contract with Leicester City, a club who will undoubtedly be reluctant to sell a centre-back given Maguire’s ageing partners at the back, as well as their high-price sale of Riyad Mahrez. However, he would fit in perfectly at Manchester United, combining with either Eric Bailly or Victor Lindelöf at the back with relative ease.
- Manuel Lanzini, 25, West Ham
The fact that Manuel Lanzini, an attacking midfielder from West Ham, was included in Argentina’s World Cup squad despite their embarrassment of riches in the position, is indicative of the talent he has shown for West Ham.
Able to play in central midfield or on both wings, it is undoubtedly directly behind the striker where the 25-year-old has shown his talents, scoring five and assisting five in seventeen appearances for West Ham at attacking midfield. Known for his dribbling through the middle of the pitch, Lanzini’s ability to fashion chances for his teammates through passing channels is relatively unknown outside West Ham.
Sides searching for a player who plays the position of a traditional attacking midfielder but offers completely different attributes should look at Lanzini. Tottenham lack a true alternative to Christian Eriksen and could be obliged by this potential move.
- Jordan Pickford, 24, Everton
When a young goalkeeper goes to the World Cup and represents England flawlessly, making jaw-dropping saves in the process, heads will be turned. Combine this with the fact that Jordan Pickford is not even known mainly for his saves and he should be a shoo-in for a big move in the next two years.
Pickford, at club level, is known for his two-footed, inch-perfect distribution from the six-yard box to just about anywhere on the pitch, as he is used to launch counter-attacks and even create chances for his side from the goal-line.
It is only a matter of time before an elite Premier League goalkeeper, playing for a Champions League club, leaves, and their club turns to Pickford. As aforementioned, the most likely destination at this point seems to be Chelsea.
- Ryan Bertrand, 28, Southampton
Starting and winning the Champions League final with Chelsea, it is bizarre to say that Ryan Bertrand, now fighting relegation for Southampton, is a better player than he was in his Stamford Bridge days.
A defend-first fullback with the ability to drive forward and create chances, as he showed playing left-wing for Chelsea in that Champions League final, Bertrand registered four assists for the Saints last season while averaging over four defensive actions per 90 minutes. Many were calling for his inclusion in England’s squad, which may have been warranted given Ashley Young and Danny Rose fell short in the latter stages of the tournament.
He would be a great alternative option for sides who lack depth at left-back, with Manchester City coming to mind. A player like Bertrand would give current City left-back Benjamin Mendy a proper chance to fully recover from his season-ending ACL injury that kept him out of the Citizens’ 2017/18 title win.
- Wilfried Zaha, 25, Crystal Palace
Much like Mooy with Manchester City, it is proving just a small mistake that Manchester United sold Wilfried Zaha so soon after Sir Alex Ferguson made him his last signing at Old Trafford. Zaha’s all-action wing performances, and occasional appearances up front, have been the highlight of Crystal Palace’s season.
Zaha has nine goals and three assists in 29 Premier League appearances, averaging an incredible 2.2 shots, 1.8 key passes, and 4.1 dribbles per 90 minutes in the process. A rare breed of winger, clubs would pay incredible sums of money to have a player of his mould as a tactical option in their ranks.
United, well-stocked with left-wingers, will likely not be his return destination, but it could be Arsenal for sure; the winger needs a club where he will be the best in his position, and the Gunners need a natural winger to balance out their plethora of world class attacking talents who prefer playing in central positions.
- Wilfred Ndidi, 21, Leicester City
While it may not be this season, there is almost no doubt that Wilfred Ndidi will turn heads for one of the biggest clubs in the world in the upcoming seasons. At the tender age of 21 he is one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League and will continue to develop along the same trend.
Known for his involvement in defensive actions, Ndidi’s 4.1 tackles are the biggest contributing factor in his unbelievable 8.6 defensive actions per 90 minutes. He is not known for his passing range by any means but neither are the likes of N’Golo Kanté and Nemanja Matić, arguably two of the three best current destroyers in the Premier League.
Considering that Paul Pogba and new-signing Fred have been signed to develop into two of the best midfielders in the world in their positions for Manchester United, adding Ndidi to the long-term ranks at some point would form a perfectly balanced, impenetrable midfield for the Red Devils.
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