The ink is scarcely dry on the perforated line that separates the doomed trio of Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich from the survivors of 2019/20’s brutal run in.
The languid, half-hearted commiserations from neutrals and sympathisers came and went with customary speed, and now the bigger clubs are already circling like vultures around the demoted three.
Across their squads are seven players who are apparent certainties to wear a new badge over their hearts within weeks, and continue as Premier League players in 2020/21.
Barring a major snag, Ake will be a Manchester City player well in time for the start of 2020/21. The cited £40m price tag may currently represent better business for Bournemouth than for City, but the centre back has shown evidence that he can be the complete package.
Aside from Hector Bellerin and Luke Shaw, Ake is the most seasoned Premier League defender under the age of 26. In a City defence that looked occasionally horrendous without the injured Aymeric Laporte, the key ingredient is ultimately relevance, rather than outright stardom.
Aside from yielding a further improvement in his rate of headed clearances, the 2019/20 campaign also saw Ake focus on developing his ability to play the ball out of defence.
In turn, he racked up his best-ever pass completion rate in any season with the Cherries. This also gives him a chance of playing as a CDM in Pep Guardiola’s setup, and with City since winning their appeal to participate in European football next term, versatility as well as depth will be of exceptional importance next season.
The season just gone represented a slump for Brooks, after his breakthrough 2018/19 campaign at Dean Court. Despite this, no less than five clubs – Manchester United, Leicester, Everton, Tottenham and West Ham – are believed to be pursuing Brooks’ signature, and for good reason.
In addition to his well-documented passing ability and versatility across the middle of the park, Brooks has a knack for choosing the right shots. He maintains this reputation by making the necessary runs, and with a bigger club, his ‘expected goals’ metric can return to its 2018/19 peak.
Said efficiency from shots is something that Leicester in particular may soon need, given how hard the hiatus on Premier League football initially hit the Foxes’ principal striker Jamie Vardy, who is now 33 years old.
Wilson is still on the fringes of the England setup, but only just, given how much Euro 2020 betting favoured England before the event’s postponement. If he is to become a genuine contender for Gareth Southgate’s 23 in next summer’s staging of Euro 2020, he needs to have the season of his life over the coming months.
The Cherries striker would be particularly welcomed at any club, but Sheffield United and West Ham are two clubs in particular need of a classic number nine who is affordable, in his prime and knows where the goal is.
Both teams also have managers known for defensive mindsets, each of which would likely be open to deploying Wilson in Eddie Howe’s preferred 4-4-1-1 formation.
Wilson has played some of his best football with Bournemouth under that formation. Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder also utilised a flexible 3-4-3 to great effect last term, and with Wilson already proving capable of working with this formation at times, there is a potential match made in heaven down in South Yorkshire.
While he is skilled enough to cope without Andre Gray alongside him, Deeney will undoubtedly miss his usual strike partner, making his next move all the more important.
While not known for being stylish or particularly composed with his first touch, Deeney still has the stamina of an ox, and will prove a handful for even the most colossal of defenders.
With his great sense of positioning, alongside a low centre of gravity, the likes of Burnley, West Brom or Aston Villa would easily be fair game for Deeney. Even so, that has not prevented links to Tottenham – and a role as Harry Kane’s eternal understudy – from surfacing and growing in recent weeks.
Without the efforts of Abdoulaye Doucoure, Watford would have been relegated long before the final day of the campaign. Aside from gaining more FPL points than any other Watford midfielder, and topping the squad’s clean sheet rankings, the Frenchman also provided an offensive outlet, averaging 1.69 shots per start despite merely being deployed as the principal ball winner.
His average of tackles and interceptions per game also compared favourably to others of a similar mould in the bottom half of the table, further implying that he is destined for greener pastures than Vicarage Road. In dire need of a midfield revolution this summer, Everton have been identified as the frontrunners to sign Doucoure.
Throughout the generations, Everton have taken pride in their midfield stoppers – Colin Harvey, Peter Reid, Joe Parkinson and Thomas Gravesen to name a select few – but the likes of Tom Davies and Morgan Schneiderlin have fallen way short of expectations.
With Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti staying true to his adaptation of 4-4-2 throughout an inconsequential post-restart era for the club, such a move appears highly logical.
Todd Cantwell & Max Aarons
This duo will be amongst the first to abandon Norwich manager Daniel Farke’s grotesquely failed top-flight project, and rightly so.
Aside from Teemu Pukki – who may himself still harbour hope of joining a top-flight club – they were shining lights in a dreadful 2019/20 campaign. Throughout his time with Norwich, Cantwell has thrived in a fluid role, repaying Farke’s decision to give him much positional leeway, proving continually to be an excellent agent of transition between the defence and the final third.
Cantwell has all of the natural intelligence needed to make it in the Premier League, and the same can be said of Max Aarons, whose ability to join attacks from the defensive wings makes him a fit for any Premier League club with genuine ambition.
In a manner very reminiscent of Trent Alexander-Arnold, Aaron’s ratio of minutes to take-ons has exceeded that of countless positional rivals with greater experience. He is equally comfortable cutting back as he is putting in a cross, and commands an impressive degree of composure.
Tottenham have been linked to both men, although this is yet to be substantiated by anything more concrete than the fanbase’s desire to see another youthful revolution in North London, such as the one so effectively undertaken by Mauricio Pochettino in the mid-2010s.
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