The transfer window offers a twice-a-year opportunity for clubs to re-jig their squads, shift the deadwood and bring in potential difference-makers. As we saw with Newcastle United’s brilliant second-half of last season, this strategy can be very effective. But some clubs are blinded by shiny new toys, to the point they miss the quality that is already in the team.
Here is The Sportsman’s pick for five players who can kick on and make a difference this season, saving their clubs a few quid in the process.
Let’s get the choice that will get me the most abuse in the comments out of the way first. Don’t worry, I’m not claiming the inconsistent Brazilian should be handed the starting place you’ve all earmarked for Frenkie de Jong. Rather, I believe they can play together.
De Jong’s arrival can free Fred from the cloying gloop of his partnership with Scott McTominay. The two just don’t gel in the way Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was determined to believe they did. Neither are orthodox holding players, and they could never balance their forays forward to ensure one man was always protecting their defence.
De Jong would provide that stability, allowing Fred to rampage forward in more of a number eight role. One of the few tactical changes Ralf Rangnick made in between his hand-wringing press conference moaning was to deploy Fred further forward. It worked wonders, and Fred plays a similarly dynamic role for Brazil.
City’s £100 million man found himself under a lot of pressure last season. When you are signed for a British record fee, you are expected to hit the ground running. As is often the way with new Pep Guardiola signings, there is often a period of acclimatisation.
It is often the case that, after a season to get up to speed, City’s signings come into their own. Ruben Dias is the latest to hit the stratosphere, proving to be one of the best centre backs on the planet in his second season in blue. Grealish could well be next. The talent is there, as we saw at Aston Villa. If the England star can recapture that sort of form then 2022-23 could be his best year yet.
The Chelsea forward has struggled at Stamford Bridge, but there have been moments of brilliance. Not quite a forward and not quite a midfielder, the German has struggled to find his niche. But a likely arrival could help him in this regard.
Shorn of Romelu Lukaku’s more orthodox forward play, Thomas Tuchel now looks likely to turn to Raheem Sterling to bolster his attack. A similarly-fluid forward to Havertz, the two could dovetail brilliantly. Both can finish while also being adept at build-up play and in driving forward from deeper areas.
The balance will be a delicate one predicated on Tuchel drilling carefully-crafted attacking movement in training. But if the partnership works, it could bring the best out of not just Sterling, but Havertz too.
Arsenal pushing so hard to sign the 23-year-old striker to a new contract was a vote of confidence. Handing him the iconic number 14 shirt, formerly worn by club icon Thierry Henry, was another.
A rush of goal-scoring form in the latter part of last season changed Nketiah’s prospects. He went from being a free agent target for Norwich City and Crystal Palace to the possible future of Arsenal’s front-line.
With Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang now both gone, the onus is on Nketiah to carry the load for Arsenal in front of goal. The England under-21 star is under considerable pressure, but that is how diamonds are made. This is his time.
A bit of a tap-in considering how brilliant he was in his single half-season at Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp’s clever January acquisition has already become a fixture in the front three. Sadio Mane’s departure was mourned but it was not as feared as it would have been before the Colombian’s arrival.
Diaz’s impact recalled the immediate upturn in fortunes that rivals Manchester United enjoyed upon Bruno Fernandes’ arrival in 2020. With fellow Primeira Liga import Darwin Nunez joining the front line, Klopp looks to have built a formidable attack to rival the iconic Firmino-Mane-Salah axis upon which his reign has been built.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change