It’s been little over two weeks since the English summer transfer window officially opened, but the early business conducted (or not conducted) already has fans brimming with optimism or in meltdown. With more than two months to go until the window shuts, we highlight one player who could boost each club’s expectations heading into the 2022-23 Premier League season.
Note: Estimated transfer values provided by transfermarkt.com.
Arsenal: Gabriel Jesus
Club: Manchester City | Position: Forward | Value: £45M
Jesus’ transfer to Arsenal is apparently done. The 25-year-old’s positional tweak at Manchester City last season – from a No. 9 to a wide forward – indicates the Brazilian isn’t a natural replacement for Alexandre Lacazette, but maybe Mikel Arteta doesn’t want that. Jesus would allow Arsenal’s front line to play with even more fluidity, confusing markers and continually seeking out weaknesses in opposition defenses. An attacking rotation of Jesus, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, and Emile Smith Rowe could make the Gunners one of the more watchable teams in the division, and Martin Odegaard and Fabio Vieira would relish creating chances behind those forwards.
Aston Villa: Conor Gallagher
Club: Chelsea | Position: Midfielder | Value: £22.5M
Aston Villa haven’t lacked ambition with executive Christian Purslow running the show, so signing Gallagher isn’t as outlandish as it may seem to some. The midfielder, one of the darlings of English football after his productive season-long loan at Crystal Palace, racked up eight goals and five assists in all competitions last term. Gallagher’s work off the ball will also appeal to Steven Gerrard: The 22-year-old pressured an opponent who was receiving, carrying, or releasing the ball on 781 occasions last season, which is more than any other player.
Bournemouth: Nat Phillips
Club: Liverpool | Position: Center-back | Value: £7.2M
Phillips kept Gary Cahill out of the side during last season’s loan spell from Liverpool and should be ushered into Dean Court once more. His influence grew over the course of the campaign, and he displayed traditional defensive qualities by dominating in the air and never shying away from a challenge. Though it’d be good to see Phillips trust himself more with the ball at his feet – he often left that part of the game to his defensive partner Lloyd Kelly – the 25-year-old still has plenty of time to fine-tune his work at the back.
Brentford: Christian Eriksen
Club: Unattached | Position: Attacking midfielder | Value: Free
Given Eriksen will have offers of European football elsewhere – Manchester United are reportedly pursuing the Dane – it may be difficult for Brentford to encourage him to sign another deal at the Community Stadium following his phenomenal impact over the second half of last season. Still, Eriksen enjoyed being back in London and is familiar with many figures at Brentford, including his former Denmark youth coach Thomas Frank and compatriots such as Christian Norgaard and Mathias Jensen.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Liam Delap
Club: Manchester City | Position: Striker | Value: £1.35M
Yes, conversations about Brighton’s pretty football not producing enough goals are tiresome, but they sadly ring true. Neal Maupay notched eight goals in each of his past two Premier League campaigns, and that simply isn’t good enough when attack-minded players such as Leandro Trossard and Alexis Mac Allister have improved greatly around him. In Delap, there’s a player who possesses Maupay’s physicality but has the potential to be much more prolific in front of goal. Injuries over the first half of last term disrupted his season, but he scored 24 goals in 20 appearances for Manchester City’s Elite Development Squad over the prior term.
Chelsea: Matthijs de Ligt
Club: Juventus | Position: Center-back | Value: £63M
Somehow, Chelsea have sold or lost Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Fikayo Tomori, Marc Guehi, and Kurt Zouma from their backline over the past couple of years. Thiago Silva turns 38 in September. So it’s no surprise that purchasing a defender or two is the Blues’ most important task this summer. Signing De Ligt would be a huge statement of intent from the new owners, bringing incredible strength, excellent anticipation, and aerial prowess to the heart of Chelsea’s defense. He won’t be cheap, though.
Crystal Palace: Cheick Doucoure
Club: Lens | Position: Defensive midfielder | Value: £13.5M
Doucoure has occasionally appeared in Lens’ backline, but he’s at his best at the base of midfield. Patrick Vieira’s side was blessed with progressive players last term, but Crystal Palace could improve on the likes of Jeffrey Schlupp (usually a wide player) and Cheikhou Kouyate (aged 32 and maybe on his way out this summer) in the No. 6 role. The positional sense and overall intelligence of Doucoure, 22, placed him fifth for total interceptions in Ligue 1 last season. His strength and dribbling ability also make him difficult to knock off the ball.
Everton: Georginio Wijnaldum
Club: Paris Saint-Germain | Position: Midfielder | Value: £16.2M
Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Winks has been linked with Everton for much of this summer, but there’d be less risk in trying to structure a loan deal for Wijnaldum. The midfielder didn’t make a huge impression last season at Paris Saint-Germain, but his composure, decision-making, and anticipation are still at a high level. The toughest aspects of arranging a temporary deal for Wijnaldum would be getting PSG to accept a low loan fee and persuading the player to join Everton after he enjoyed five successful campaigns with Liverpool.
Fulham: Kevin Mbabu
Club: Wolfsburg | Position: Right-back | Value: £8.1M
Fulham need to recruit at right-back after Neco Williams’ loan expired. Kenny Tete is strong from a defensive standpoint, but manager Marco Silva brought in Williams last season because he prefers more attacking impetus from his full-backs. Mbabu could be an affordable option, offers physicality that’ll be important when the Cottagers are often second-best in games, and attempted a similar amount of dribbles per 90 minutes as Bayern Munich’s Leroy Sane in the 2021-22 Bundesliga campaign. Newcastle United gave up on Mbabu too early when they sold him in 2017.
Leeds United: Tyler Adams
Club: RB Leipzig | Position: Midfielder | Value: £15.3M
Leeds have been linked with moves for attack-minded players like Club Brugge’s Charles De Ketelaere, PSV Eindhoven’s Cody Gakpo, and FC Porto’s Otavio, but Kalvin Phillips’ expected transfer to Manchester City should prompt a shift in the West Yorkshire club’s priorities. Adams played for Jesse Marsch at the New York Red Bulls and RB Leipzig and would complement Marc Roca, another summer arrival at Elland Road, in central midfield. The American manager already signed Brenden Aaronson and Rasmus Kristensen, both of whom worked under him at Red Bull Salzburg. Adams is also just 23, so has plenty of room to improve.
Leicester City: Nathan Collins
Club: Burnley | Position: Center-back | Value: £9M
Given Leicester’s awful luck with injuries over the past year, you can forgive Brendan Rodgers for wanting to trust the players who were meant to build on their FA Cup triumph in 2021. After all, last summer marked the first offseason since 2015 that the Foxes didn’t lose a key player to a Premier League rival. Nevertheless, the busy treatment room did expose Rodgers’ lack of center-back quality beyond Wesley Fofana and the aging Jonny Evans. Collins is just 21 but can reasonably claim to be better than Caglar Soyuncu, Jannik Vestergaard, and Daniel Amartey at the back.
Club: FC Porto | Position: Attacking midfielder, winger | Value: £27M
Aside from perhaps one or two signings to strengthen the club’s youth contingent, Liverpool’s summer business is likely over. But the departures of Divock Origi and Takumi Minamino, plus the stiffening legs of James Milner and Jordan Henderson, put the Reds at risk of being ruinously exposed by a few injuries. Otavio, Porto’s versatile attacking midfielder, could help address that concern while ensuring Harvey Elliott continues to develop as a No. 8 rather than in the wide attacking role he played during a loan stint at Blackburn Rovers.
Manchester City: Marc Cucurella
Club: Brighton & Hove Albion | Position: Left-back | Value: £25.2M
The two left-backs Manchester City have signed over the past five years are Angelino and the disgraced Benjamin Mendy. Over that period, No. 6 Fabian Delph, attacking midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko, and right-back Joao Cancelo have covered the position. However, bringing in Cucurella wouldn’t simply be a case of making up the numbers. The Spaniard was destined to be a success at Brighton, but the ease with which he took to Premier League football was beyond anything anybody could have imagined. He won both the fans’ and players’ versions of the Seagulls’ Player of the Season award off the back of his energetic displays down the left.
Manchester United: Frenkie de Jong
Club: Barcelona | Position: Midfielder | Value: £54M
Declan Rice’s greater familiarity among English-based supporters would make him a surefire winner for the oft-agitated attendees at Old Trafford, but West Ham United boss David Moyes stated in April that his star midfielder won’t be allowed to leave for less than £150 million. So, United should focus their attention on 25-year-old Frenkie de Jong, who’s a more realistic capture given Barcelona’s financial troubles. He’s available for around €86 million (£74 million), according to The Guardian’s Fabrizio Romano, and would certainly improve a midfield that’s long leaned on the shaky foundation of Scott McTominay and Fred.
Newcastle United: Lloyd Kelly
Club: Bournemouth | Position: Center-back | Value: £10.8M
Eddie Howe signed Kelly during his time at Bournemouth, so he knows exactly what the defender could offer his Newcastle side. Firstly, the center-back provides options: He can fill in at left-back – an area where the Magpies are thin – and would be comfortable in three-man and four-man backlines. He’s also an accomplished instigator of swift attacks – he produced the second-most accurate long balls by an outfield player in the Championship last term – and has the pace and confidence to evade an opponent’s press.
Nottingham Forest: Neco Williams
Club: Liverpool | Position: Right-back | Value: £7.2M
There’s been little evidence to suggest January signing Richie Laryea can sufficiently fill the boots of Djed Spence after the latter’s loan from Middlesbrough expired. With Nottingham Forest once again on the lookout for a player who can play both right-back and right wing-back, they should try to borrow Liverpool youngster Williams. The Welsh international, who spent the second half of last season at Fulham, can address the East Midlands club’s void and allow it to hold off on potentially spending a much larger sum on a permanent acquisition for at least another year.
Southampton: Sasa Kalajdzic
Club: Stuttgart | Position: Striker | Value: £22.5M
Southampton would face strong competition for Kalajdzic’s signature after the Austrian bagged 22 Bundesliga goals despite starting just 36 matches over the past two seasons. But the Saints should push hard for this move after Armando Broja returned to Chelsea following his loan spell and given Che Adams and Adam Armstrong combined for a paltry nine Premier League goals over the 2021-22 term. If Kalajdzic continues to improve the technical side of his game, he could help cover some of the goals lost when Danny Ings left for Aston Villa last summer.
Tottenham Hotspur: Djed Spence
Club: Middlesbrough | Position: Right-back | Value: £7.2M
The secret was out in January. Spence single-handedly subdued Martinelli and terrorized Nuno Tavares during Arsenal’s FA Cup visit to Nottingham Forest, forcing onlookers to ask one very simple question: How is a player of Spence’s quality on loan from Middlesbrough? Now he’s back on Teesside, and Boro want to cash in. The London-raised wing-back left his hometown when he was released by Fulham in 2018, and a return to the capital with Tottenham makes a lot of sense. He’s potentially a huge upgrade on both Emerson Royal and Matt Doherty.
West Ham United: Armando Broja
Club: Chelsea | Position: Forward | Value: £19.8M
David Moyes needs to find a marksman to inherit the No. 9 role from 32-year-old Michail Antonio, and Broja seems to fit the bill. For a player reared in the academies of Tottenham and Chelsea, Broja is surprisingly raw; he should learn how to use his 6-foot-3 frame more effectively when holding up the ball, and Ralph Hasenhuttl questioned his work ethic during the early months of his season-long loan at Southampton. But West Ham’s creative players, such as Jarrod Bowen and Pablo Fornals, could help the 20-year-old unlock his obvious potential at the London Stadium.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Joao Moutinho
Club: Unattached | Position: Defensive midfielder | Value: Free
This is an admittedly boring pick, but a woeful final few months to the 2021-22 season make Wolves a decent outside bet for relegation in the upcoming campaign. Bruno Lage’s side, then, needs some stability and leadership to drag it through a potentially tough period. Moutinho, whose diligence alongside Ruben Neves never got the credit it deserves, was an excellent servant for Wolves before he was named on the club’s released list at the start of June. The club said it was in talks with Moutinho over a new contract then. It’s time to get it done.