Transfer Targets

Sam Hoare 21/05/2018 30comments  |  Jump to last

Time for my annual transfer piece. Look away now all those who roll their eyes at such speculative ‘football manager’ nonsense. Those who devour every piece of tabloid garbage, then look up the player and their stats and their videos; come on in. Last year one of my picks was a certain, nifty Egyptian winger (pre-RS links) who turned out alright, though I also touted the Algerian Ryad Boudebouz who’s hardly turned heads since his low-key move to Real Betis.

At time of writing we are still devoid of a manager (though that may likely change very soon indeed). I’m a big fan of the bookies’ current favourite Marco Silva so am thinking with one eye on a team/squad that might appeal to the Portuguese.

First of all we should address what positions we need. There are decent arguments after last season for a massive overhaul and there aren’t many in our current crop who truly fill me with confidence but my feeling is that the new man must be given time to get a better song out of them and that another big overhaul may do more damage than good. So I’m suggesting that we look at 4 additions in needed areas all who can hopefully impact the first team meaningfully straight away.


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I think most would agree we need a left back and a centre back, I also think we need a box to box midfielder to give more control to the middle and a playmaker who scores (we created far too few chances last season and need more goals in the team). It could be well argued that we need a new striker too but I’m going to have faith in Papa Tosun to push on next season with support from Niasse and Calvert-Lewin. The first two in particular are very decent finishers when provided for. Sandro may yet feature too!

Left Back

My remit here is someone dynamic with pace and energy to get up that flank and be used in attack but then get back and do their primary job of protecting our goal. Baines circa 2012 is ideal. There are a few attractive options in the PL:

Aaron Cresswell - usually looks decent and can certainly cross with 7 assists for West Ham this season.

Ryan Bertrand - has played at the top and done well though I’d prefer someone a bit younger.

Ben Chilwell - has just had his first full season for Leicester and done well.

Danny Rose - has been linked but would likely want CL football if he’s to leave Spurs.

Luke Shaw - may be the cheapest if deemed surplus to requirements at Old Trafford, he’s still only 22 and has the pace and skills to be useful at both ends of the pitch, the question may be whether he has the correct mentality (rumours abound that he did not keep in the best shape at Utd) but I think if made first choice he would buckle down and excel.

Some foreign options include:

Alex Telles- has finished with the most assists in the Portuguese league (though he does take many set pieces). He’s quick and likes tackle. Possibly his worst performance though came in the CL against the RS which may be a bad sign.

Ricardo Pereira- is another Porto fullback. He’s played RB most of this season but was great on loan for Nice last year at LB. His versatility makes him an attractive option as does his pace and stamina. Get a few goals and assists too. [He just signed for Leicester — Ed]

My pick: Kieran Tierney - He’s only 20. He’s only played in Scotland. But there’s something about this lad. He’s rapid, he’s determined, he can pass and shoot and cross. Possibly the biggest risk on the list and has not been tested defensively to a high level but I think this guy is more Van Dijk than Naysmith. He was voted one of the CL players of the round so has shown he can cut it at a higher level than the Scottish Premiership.

Centre Back

Long gone are the days of a young Jagielka and Lescott, a vintage Distin or even a slightly haphazard Yobo. We look horribly slow and troubled in the CB region and could quite possibly use two new additions. I’m going to look past my personal feelings on Michael Keane and hope that he can push on next season in a settled team. Possibly Funes Mori might do the same and still have high hopes that Holgate could become a very talented defender if well coached. But we need someone with some pace and presence to shore up a leaky middle. Again there are some PL candidates:

Alfie Mawson - does not convince me. He reminds me of Keane at Burnley, but lets in more goals. He’s strong and good in the air but not mobile enough for my liking.

Jamaal Lascelles - has had a very good season for Newcastle. I wanted him when they bought him from Forest. He’s strong, authoritative and is no slouch. A better option to my eyes than Mawson though would likely cost a lot more too.

Johnny Evans - could be very cheap if the relegation release clause is true. And he’s experienced. Though his off field antics this season put me off a bit. If cheap then he could be a very sensible option as he’s a very decent defender.

Kurt Zouma – was Stoke’s best player. He’s a proper unit but relatively quick over the ground. Unlikely to feature much at Chelsea he could look for a permanent move next season and might be worth consideration.

Chris Smalling/Phil Jones – are both perennially linked with us. I’d actually consider the former who has been a good defender for United when made first choice though he does have a horrendous blooper in him.

Some foreign options include:

Dayot Upemecano - is only 18 but has looked like the real deal for Leipzig this season. Seems to have all the assets to go on to be one of the better defenders in the game which is why its very unlikely if he leaves it will be to us but worth a try.

Salif Sane - is a very good defender who wins headers for free but I believe he may have just signed for Schalke.

Matthijs de Ligt - is a player Brands will know well from Holland. He’s very young still, though he has racked up a decent amount of games for Ajax and now starts for Holland at times. He’s a sought after talent though he’d need time to adjust to the PL so may not be the right pick for us now.

My pick: Jonathan Tah - The young German would be hard to get but he is strong, fast and would bring a real presence to out back line at 6 ft 4. The next Boateng. He signed a new contract recently and is probably unlikely to leave for a team not in the CL but is worth taking a shot at.

Central Midfielder

Impossible to know what formation we will be playing next season but at any rate I think we lack top class central midfielders who can do the lot. Gana is an excellent tackling machine but his passing and shooting are pretty woeful. Davies is a work in progress. Schneiderlin is not mobile enough and McCarthy is always injured. Someone who can cover ground quickly to stop breakaways, but also pass the ball well and maybe get a few goals would be crucial to our progress next season.

Mo Besic - might not be coming back! But if he does I wonder if he’s worth another look in pre season. He played this role very well for a resurgent Boro and I think is better than we have seen. Not top class I don’t think but possibly better than what we have?

Moussa Dembele – is the one that got away for me. Wanted him so much from Fulham and gutted when Spurs nabbed him. He’d still be great for a season or two in our team though I’d rather a younger version.

Mario Lemina - looked very handy at times for Southhampton this season and looks an astute buy for only £15m. Passes well and able to move with the ball, reminded me at times of a young Dembele! Though still quite raw. If they’d gone down I’d definitely be having a look but will likely cost twice as much now.

Jack Wilshere - looks to be signing anew contract at Arsenal now. Not my cup of tea though he’d still offer something.

From abroad:

Steven Nzonzi - A big presence in the middle who can control matches and win battles in the middle. Has been great at Sevilla and would be a huge help to our team. He’ll turn 29 though this year and for that reason may not be worth the big outlay he would likely cost; though we’d still get a good few years of him at his peak.

Leandro Paredes - is a player with guile and energy in the middle who reportedly wants out of Russia. He’s similar to Ever Banega in some ways and is great from set pieces. Has the intelligence to pull strings in the middle whilst the mobility to get around and make challenges.

My pick: Abdoulaye Doucore - Had a great first half of the season and then fell off a bit when a certain Marco Silva left. It may not be the best idea getting someone after a relatively short period in vogue but he does appear to have may of the required attributes with his energy and ability to both pass and tackle. Plus he’s gets a few goals and seems to work well with our purported new manager.


This could be a winger or a central midfielder or even a second striker. We need to make more chances and we need more goals. Lookman will come back and hopefully feature more. Siggurdsson will be back too. Dowell might even get some more game time if he can show his first half-of-the-season form at Forest.

Xherdan Shaqiri - will be a relative bargain at £12m if that is his relegation release clause. He’s great on his day and gets more goals and assists than Bolasie will. He knows the league but still he’s not my ideal choice.

Wilfried Zaha - is the player we should have got when we paid Crystal Palace £28m! Even then he was younger and looked to have more end product than Bolasie. Oh well. Would be unlikely to choose us over higher profile suitors now but you never know. Expensive.

James Maddison - looks a really good player at Norwich. He’s got 14 goals and 8 assists for them this year and done better than Dowell in nearly every statistic. He works hard and unlike our Kieran (so far) has shown himself to be consistent. He’s only 21 and could be a real player. Expect to see him in the PL very soon one way or another though he did pick up an end of season injury.

Pascal Gross -is not a household name but the German got 8 assists at Brighton and had more key passes per game than the likes of Silva, Zaha, Mata, Salah and Alli (he was 7th in the league). He works hard for his team and also scored 7 goals.

From aboard:

Hakim Ziyech - is a mercurial Moroccan who scored or created around 25 goals for Ajax this season. He can pass, dribble and shoot with some skill and has been consistent in Holland over the last few years. There may be some doubts over his character and has been known to drop his head if the chips aren’t falling his way.

Florian Thauvin - has been astonishingly good since flopping at Newcastle. This season he scored 25 goals for Marseille with a further 13 assists. Sadly it would take an astronomical fee to now get him back to the PL.

Nabil Fekir - is another player who’s been doing well in France with 23 goals and 9 assists. Rumour has it that he might be going to the RS for £60m. That’s the kind of signing we will be needing to make sooner rather than later to compete at the top table.

Yacine Brahimi - has been long linked with us and has 11 goals and 8 assists to his name after another good season in Portugal. 28 now you’d think he needs to make his move to one of the better leagues soon.

My pick: Hirving Lozano - The Mexican dynamo has 20 goals and 8 assist this season after leading Brand’s PSV team to glory. Obviously our new DOF knows him very well indeed and may be well placed to put a word in his ear though there will be likely be competition. He’s rapid, can play on either flank and scores at will. His price may rise if he stars for Mexico at the WC.

As I said I’ve no idea what formation we’ll be playing next season but will go with 4-3-3 as that seems to fit my picks quite well:


Coleman Tah Keane Tierney

Doucore Gueye Sigurdsson

Walcott Tosun Lozano

Sub: Stek, Holgate, Baines, Davies, Besic, Lookman, Niasse

Pace and energy aplenty in that team with the chance for lightning counters and a few more goals and chances than we’ve seen this year. It’s still not a fantastic team and the midfield and centre of defense still concern me but I think we must see what some of the these players can do under new management.

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Reader Comments (30)

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Keith Harrison
1 Posted 21/05/2018 at 19:06:38
Well thought out article, Sam. I also agree with most of your choices, but woah, another striker needed, please. In the out-and-out striker meaning of the word, please.
Andy Crooks
2 Posted 21/05/2018 at 22:45:23
It is all fantasy, Sam, but I thoroughly enjoy it. Good article.
Fran Mitchell
3 Posted 21/05/2018 at 23:08:30
Tierney for left back. If not him, go for Danny Rose.

Alderweit from Spurs for centre-back. If not him, Lascelles or Tah. (Actually, I'd prefer we go for 2 defenders, and have Holgate as 3rd choice/strong competition.)

João Mario from Inter for centre-midfield. A possible loan with a view to buy option is also Sanches from Bayern, a tough couple of years but there is a player there. Maybe Silva could help him.

Lozano for forward, with Lookman and Dowell also coming into the first team squad. If not Lozano, Ziyech or Zaha.

False No 9, Richarlison from Watford. With time, could play a similar role to that of Firmino. If not him, then Luan from Gremio.

Chad Schofield
4 Posted 21/05/2018 at 23:13:30
I think, once Sigurdsson's back, we need him at AM/No 10... if he's not back, play Lookman there.

Some really interesting names and didn't know that about Groß.

Chad Schofield
5 Posted 21/05/2018 at 23:14:41
Oh but, yeah definitely Tierney, please!
Chris Watts
6 Posted 21/05/2018 at 23:19:41
I'd offer Celtic £60 for Tierney and Dembele. That's left back and a pacy striker for the next 5 years.

Loftus-Cheek as a box-to-box midfielder.

Ziyech would have us on the edge of our seats.

Zaha with Bolasie to go back the other way.

As you say, what a damning indictment of our transfer policy that we smashed our transfer record on one Palace winger rather than the other better younger one

Plus another centre-back – maybe Blind as a left-sided central defender and the guy from Newcastle.

Therefore Tierney, Blind, Lascelles, Loftus-cheek, Ziyech, Zaha and Dembele. 7 players in and about 12 going out. A younger faster far more exciting team for next season.

Sam Hoare
7 Posted 22/05/2018 at 09:47:04
Thanks, Keith and Andy.

I failed to notice that Ricardo Pereira has already moved to Leicester a few days ago. Fee reported to be around £20M. I think he will do well for them and expect them to challenge us for the ignominious 'best of the rest' title next season.

Tony Everan
8 Posted 22/05/2018 at 11:27:36
Thanks for the interesting article, Sam.

Fekir has stood out for me whenever I have seen him play.

Doucoure has a touch of class about him.

Lozano would be be an exciting signing.

If we could get Zaha in exchange for Bolasie and Mirallas or Schneiderlin, I will brush up on my cartwheel technique.

Left-back is an interesting one... Tierney is very young and may cause us a bit more vulnerability in defence. Bertrand is 28 and is solid and tough in the Kyle Walker mold and if we can get him at a realistic price we could get 3 or 4 good seasons out of him.

Even when Baines is playing left-back, I still feel that position is a vulnerable one for us. Bertrand would address that.

Andrew Lum
9 Posted 22/05/2018 at 11:36:21
Great article and list of potential targets, Sam.

What do you think of Werder Bremen's Thomas Delaney? Looked like a proper midfielder when I watched him play a couple of times. Great movement and energy and good in the air for those Tim Cahill type runs into the box.

Sam Hoare
10 Posted 22/05/2018 at 12:10:55
Andrew, I think Delaney is an interesting one. Seems to fit the bill as an all-rounded midfielder who can tackle and pass and has a great presence.

He's been one of Werder's best players this season though I don't know if he's done quite enough to convince me he's a big upgrade on what we have. He could be worth a shot though if the price is right, though I imagine Werder would be loathe to sell cheap.

Other interesting centre-midfield options could be Morgan Sanson, Thomas Partey or one of my favourites (and hopeful if we'd got Fonseca) is Fred at Shakhtar. Bissouma from Lille also linked yesterday though he's pretty raw.

Matthew Williams
11 Posted 22/05/2018 at 15:16:03
Only a couple needed...Mooy of Huddersfield and Pearson of Preston, I reckon 20 million could bag 'em both.

Seeing as we have an engine room that neither creates nor protects our back line.

Matthew Williams
12 Posted 22/05/2018 at 15:36:36
If I had a warchest... here goes:

Defence: Mee, Lescalles and Bolger (Fleetwood).

Midfield: Mooy, Pattison (Cardiff), Pearson (Preston) and Willian.

Attack: Rodriguez (West Brom) and Talisca (Besiktas).

Andrew Lum
13 Posted 22/05/2018 at 15:45:35
Good to hear your thoughts on Delaney, Sam. I agree, he is worth a punt at the right price. Certainly a good addition to the squad if the likes of McCarthy, Besic and Schneiderlin are to leave. I will be keeping an eye on him in the World Cup!

I have heard so much about Fred but I haven't watched him play though. A couple of players that I like and feel can bolster the squad are Schindler from Huddersfield and Kingsley Coman from Bayern Munich.

Ajay Gopal
14 Posted 23/05/2018 at 09:27:39
Sam, interesting read. Your 'buy' list:

Left-back: Tierney
Centre-back: Jonathan Tah
Midfield: Doucoure
Attack: Lozano

I can't argue with any of those; I would be delighted if we got them all but, after pissing off Watford big-time over the Silva affair, I don't see them dealing with us in the foreseeable future. Maybe the Norwich lad who is out injured now – James Maddison?

Jim Harrison
15 Posted 23/05/2018 at 10:45:27
Good read Sam. What I would like to see is a centre-back that can carry the ball out of defence. Since stones left no one has really been able to do that.

Dembele from Spurs would be amazing, if only for a couple of years. I have read that Spurs think he will drop off quickly because he will struggle to keep his physique. He could be boss along side Gana.

Danny Broderick
16 Posted 23/05/2018 at 22:20:44
Is it me or is there an abundance of left-backs that we could potentially get? It's normally a tricky position to cover, yet I could quite easily see us getting anyone of Shaw, Tierney or Bertrand. Danny Rose could also be available, and there must be others overseas as well.

I agree that we are crying out for a box-to-box midfielder who can score a goal – it kills me when I see Schneiderlin lining up next to Gueye, you just know that Gueye is going to do all the donkey work and that they will offer nothing going forward! Aaron Ramsey would be ideal, though I think Unai Emery has him lined up for an important role at Arsenal next season.

I agree with the shout of giving Celtic some serious dosh for Tierney and Dembele.

For me, the priorities are left-back, centre-mid and striker. I am hoping Lookman can step up to replace Bolasie on the left wing.

Steve Ferns
17 Posted 23/05/2018 at 22:59:34
We can forget Doucouré. There's no way Watford will sell us anyone for a long time now.

Silva has a habit of signing his old players, so Doucouré would have been a good shout. So back to Hull, Robertson would be perfect only he has been lured to the dark side. Clucas looked interesting but he didn't stand out with Swansea. There's no-one else I think we'd be interested in. Back further to Olympiacos, and no, none of them. How did that side beat Arsenal? There's a few Estoril players in it like Sebá to show his preference for players he knows. So back to Portugal. No one from Estoril, he already took anyone decent.

So finally on to Sporting. There's a load of players of interest. Leicester's Slimani and Adrien Silva. Cederic of Southampton. Nani, formerly of Man Utd. However, there's only one real target amongst that squad and someone I do expect to follow Silva here, William Carvalho. He's 26 now. He's big (6'-3") and strong. He's full of running. He's the ideal defensive midfielder in Silva's 4-2-3-1 as he can play very vertically by getting forward at pace to join the attacks.

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There's question-marks over his consistency, his passing is decent (better than Gueye, Schneiderlin or Davies), and he's been considered and passed over by a number of big clubs now. However, following recent events in Portugal, he will be available for sure this window, and Silva knows him inside out and he fits perfectly into his system. I'm not saying he'll be great, but I do think he's likely to be purchased.

Gavin Johnson
18 Posted 23/05/2018 at 23:21:15
Great article, Sam. It is Fantasy Football but I do love reading stuff like this. Some good choices. I would have added Stefan de Vrij to the centre-back choices.

I think you're right about a striker insofar as the other positions are a priority, but I would like an upgrade on Niasse.

My choice would be to spend our budget on a centre-back, left-back and creative midfielder or winger, sell Niasse and replace him with a Bosman. Probably won't go down well on TW but I'd take a punt on Balotelli.

Sam Hoare
19 Posted 24/05/2018 at 11:09:06
Thanks, Gavin, I did think about De Vrij but I believe he's signed a pre-contract agreement at Inter Milan.

Steve F@17, you know more about Sporting than me but whenever I've watched Carvalho I get the impression of someone who's actually quite slow. He has the occasional burst but mainly likes to sit and spray the ball about in Schneiderlin fashion. I'd rather someone a bit more dynamic and with some pace around the middle, though he's obviously a decent player and Silva knows him.

He might do well as a DMC but not convinced he's the box to box player we need. He's got 11 goals in 191 matches for Sporting whereas someone like Doucore has 26 also in 191, though I agree that Watford will be unlikely to do business with us now.

Andrew Ellams
20 Posted 24/05/2018 at 11:38:23
Anderson Talisca is a name that has been linked with a couple of clubs recently. He seems to have been the catalyst for a lot of what Tosun did in the first half of last season at Besiktas but has now returned to his parent club Benfica.
Laurie Hartley
21 Posted 25/05/2018 at 01:21:49
Can we have Niklas Süle please Sam.
Lev Vellene
22 Posted 25/05/2018 at 19:09:22
I love guessing/wishing like on this thread, but have any of you thought about the consequences of the early closing of the transfer window in England?

If the player wants to go to the Premier League, he'll have to make up his mind early! He can't wait for continental clubs to make up their minds after the Premier League deadline...

I'm actually looking forward to see what happens this summer!

Sam Hoare
23 Posted 25/05/2018 at 19:54:28
Laurie@21, great player. Niklas Stark's handy as well.

Lev@22, long overdue changes I feel. Not the ideal Summer perhaps to be changing management and late into the market.

Gavin Johnson
24 Posted 28/05/2018 at 02:02:16
Let's start with the outgoings: Robles, Martina, Garbutt, Funes Mori, Williams, Connolly, Besic, Schneiderlin, Rooney, Bolasie, the Swiss lad Martinez signed, and Dowell & Vlasic loaned out.

Incomings: Rose, Lascelles, Ziyech, Sari and Balotelli.

I'd try and sign Jean Sari. He's a complete midfielder, who will always look for the forward pass who would compliment Gana the ball winner and Sigurdsson the playmaker. Also a Nice teammate of Balotelli. Balotelli's probably an unusual choice on the face of it, but the lad appears to have matured, has been scoring for fun the last 2 seasons and has been welcomed back into the Italy fold under Mancini.

My first 11 next season would be a 4-3-3 formation:

Coleman, Keane, Lascelles, Rose
Gana, Sari, Sigurdsson
Walcott, Tosun, Lookman

Subs: Stekelenburg, Jagielka, Davies, Ziyech, Balotelli.

Victor Yu
25 Posted 28/05/2018 at 02:44:31
I would sell Pennington before letting Connolly go.

Balotelli would be a great signing.

James Hopper
26 Posted 28/05/2018 at 03:00:14
For as long as Ryan Sessegnon is at Fulham, he should be on our shopping list, though I'm sure he has no shortage of potential suitors.
Stephen Davies
27 Posted 28/05/2018 at 03:30:37
It's not just about who the targets should be but what they should be...

They should have a desire and hunger and want to be winners who hate losing a leader.

Irrespective of who the manager is, that manager is not playing on the pitch and with all good/great teams, the players know what to do without any manager telling them.

I suspect that Real Madrid don't even practice drills or tactics in training... they just go out to win every game.

Alan J Thompson
28 Posted 28/05/2018 at 05:37:33
All very well and good but does anyone know how much we will have to spend under FFP rules. Having your own billionaire doesn't necessarily mean we have that money to spend even if he wants so to do.

We may have to look at some originality in transfer dealings. For example, if say we are interested in Shaqiri from Stoke would they be interested in Bolasie in part exchange? Could Baines be used in a similar fashion if Robinson is upto standard as cover for whoever comes into the Left Back position. Then where are those out on loan, can Galloway, Browning et al be similarly used or kept in reserve.

Then we need a more comprehensive look at the playing squad and their wages and assess what can be afforded. Leaving aside those out on loan, I don't think that we can realistically expect more than the maximum five signings and five being sold or released. At the moment it looks as though two of those are Robles and Rooney.

I suppose that was my "eye rolling" speculation.

David Barks
29 Posted 28/05/2018 at 06:23:54
Financial Fair Play is not an issue. It has been detailed repeatedly on this site and elsewhere. The revenue streams are extremely high and there are many ways around certain guidelines. I dread a summer of people bringing up FFP at every turn.
Alan J Thompson
30 Posted 28/05/2018 at 06:31:56
David, has it not been an issue with Real Madrid and Barcelona in the past?

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