Welcome to the second week of The Transfer Hub, which I consider a pure success based on the fact that I am encourage enough to return for a second week during the sleepy summer break.
At least we have the Confederations Cup to sort of keep us busy—it has been fun to get a solid preview of what Bernardo Silva and Aaron Mooy will offer the Premier League in their upcoming debut season.
Meanwhile, we’ve seen the coaching carousel begin to turn with Southampton hiring Alaves manager Mauricio Pellegrino, a meticulous manager with Premier League experience with Liverpool as Rafa Benitez’s assistant. He took newly-promoted Alaves to a ninth-place finish and a Copa del Rey final and is heralded for his fluid tactics and tendency to adapt his tactics to a club’s talent, which Southampton certainly has plenty.
Every week we’ll look at the transfers coming in, the players leaving the Premier League and the biggest rumors that look to be in the works. Hopefully, this helps you all as much as it will help me to stay organized this summer.
Without further delay, here’s my analysis for the past week of moves in the transfer window. I’m welcoming all suggestions and debates on Twitter (@gastelumEPL) and hopefully I can include your thoughts here in this column next week.
MID – Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
It may have cost a a pretty penny, but Liverpool got its man in Roma winger Mohamed Salah in a deal that could rise to £39 million after add-ons. Despite being labeled a flop for his time at Chelsea, I find it extremely difficult to call someone who is 25 years old and scored 19 goals this season a flop. Truth is, he played under Jose Mourinho and made only 13 Premier League appearances in two seasons. But in his three seasons in Serie A with Fiorentina and Roma, the Egyptian international has recorded 38 goals and 21 assists as a right winger and false nine.
And being a part of Jurgen Klopp’s vaunted 4-3-3 will only bring out the best in him with Marco Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as testaments to Klopp’s work with versatile wingers. Salah will surely be a starter as part of a three-headed monster in attack with Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino. What this means for Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge is anybody’s guess, but it probably doesn’t look to promising for them. But depending on his price in salary cap leagues and whether he is considered a forward or the more likely midfielder, Salah is near the top of my wishlist.
FWD – Laurent Depoitre (Huddersfield Town)
We don’t know much about Huddersfield’s club-record signing, considering he only played less than 300 minutes at Porto last season. But we do know that the Belgian international can score, and that he looks like the perfect fit for what the Terriers need. Before his move to Porto, Depoitre scored 29 goals in 83 games for upstart Belgian side Gent—and in Depoitre, manager David Wagner is also bringing in an veteran locker room presence with Champions League experience, one determined to turn around his career in a World Cup year.
An experienced, stand-alone forward was at the top of Wagner’s priority list this summer; Huddersfield scored the second-lowest goals in the top 12 of the Championship last summer with 56 in 46 games. There was no real striker presence with Elias Kachunga and Nahki Wells, both wingers, registering as the club’s top scorers. Expect Depoitre to lead the line for the Terriers and depending on his pricing/availability, I would put him at the top of the list in terms of new strikers entering the league given his wealth of experience and pedigree.
MID – Will Hughes (Watford)
I think it says a lot that Hughes was Marco Silva’s first signing since being appointed as Watford’s newest manager. I’d imagine Silva will use Hughes in a similar role to Sam Clucas at Hull City, considering Hughes is an agile central midfielder with excellent vision for through balls and over-the-top passes. His passing rate of 40 passes per game on 83 percent would have been at the top of the charts for Watford’s aging midfield last season.
As a good tackler and a known patrol cop of the middle third, Hughes will pair nicely with the newly attack-minded Etienne Capoue. However, he might not be the best fantasy option considering that he will mostly sit back and develop the attack rather than be a part of it.—last year in the Championship, he recorded two goals and three assists. But Hughes will also have to break into a talented midfield that added Tom Cleverley and Roberto Pereyra over the past year, along with established talents in Ben Watson and Abdoulaye Doucoure.
FWD – Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United)
Who’s it going to be? Who is going to be the guy to replace the massive boots that single-footedly kept Manchester United afloat for much of last season? It looks like United has plenty of solid, young options in James Wilson, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, but looking at Jose Mourinho’s past: Youth is not the answer. Not to mention, one of the best strikers in Premier League history is in central midfield.
Rather, it looks like Mourinho is opting for a pure No. 9, and I still haven’t gotten over the shock of letting a talent like Antoine Griezmann go in favor of someone else (Seriously, who could be better in the current market?). The Alvaro Morata rumors continue to churn, and there have been rumblings about Romelu Lukaku, but for now we’ll have to wait as the search could extend far into the preseason.
DEF – Reece Oxford (West Ham)
Remember two years ago when Reece Oxford was deemed as England’s next savior following his stalwart season-opening performance against Arsenal as a 16 year old? Well, not so fast, I guess. Slaven Bilic has decided that just one year on loan at Reading wasn’t enough for Oxford, and the club has sent him on a season-long loan to Borussia Monchengladbach for the upcoming season.
In the long run, the move looks to be perfect. Oxford is still only 18 years old and Borussia Monchengladbach have a serious need in central defense with the heralded Andreas Christensen returning to Chelsea after two seasons. But in the last week, the Hammers have shipped out two defensive types in Oxford and Havard Nordtveit, leaving an aging defense with little backup. But rather than a defender, I would look for Bilic to make a move for a central midfielder to shore up the squad.
DEALS IN THE WORKS:
DEF – Alex Sandro to Chelsea in a club-record move
This one was a shocker when it came through the rumor mill as possible and turned into plausible and now likely. In my mind, I can’t think of a better wingback last season than Alex Sandro, who terrorized defenses to the tune of five goals and eight assists as part of Massimiliano Allegri’s wingback setup with Dani Alves. But £61 million? Antonio Conte must really be certain that this is the man he needs to take Chelsea to the next level.
There is no precedent for wingbacks, a price tag like this will surely legitimize the 3-4-3 at Chelsea and possibly around the continent. It’s not certain, but Alex Sandro is expected to approve the deal after Juventus were blown away by the offer, meaning that Victor Moses’ short-lived term as a wing-back could be over just after signing a new contract at the club. But Alex Sandro will turn the club’s biggest weakness into its greatest strength, and that makes him worth it—not to mention a top fantasy pick as an attacking defender.
MID – Nemanja Matic heading to Manchester United?
Here’s a move that seems certain to go through in the coming days/week. Reports across England have confirmed that Matic has agreed to terms over a move to join United, who are expected to negotiate a transfer fee of around £40 million. Despite putting up seven assists last year under Antonio Conte, Matic looks to be on his way out with Chelsea looking to secure a move for Tiemoue Bakayoko.
And despite his seven assists and starting status in a Premier League winning side, Matic seems to believe his best years came with Jose Mourinho in charge, so a move to United makes sense. But this would really put Wayne Rooney’s status at the club in limbo, not to mention Marouane Fellaini. And then with Matic, where does the upstart Ander Herrera fit into the fold after a career season? There’s a lot left to sort out for Mourinho, and it makes me keen to avoid United players in early-season drafts.
DEF – What’s going to happen to Kelechi Iheanacho?
It’s such a shame that a talent like Kelechi Iheanacho isn’t going to get his chance at Manchester City. The Nigerian international has scored 14 goals in the last two seasons at a rate of one goal every 100 minutes, while only 13 of his 53 appearances have come as starts. Yet, Pep Guardiola doesn’t look inclined to give Iheanacho a real chance at a spot with Gabriel Jesus as the preferred young talent, Sergio Aguero still a scoring demigod and rumors of the club looking for another attacker (Aubameyang and Alexis Sanchez are the big names being mentioned).
In recent weeks, Iheanacho has been linked with a move to West Ham, which would suit him extremely well, Crystal Palace and Leicester City. But the forward insists that he will remain at the club to fight for his place. But if the Sky Blues move for another forward, Iheanacho would be best served pulling a Lukaku and making his original club regret not believing in his talent, which is obvious. If he joins another Premier League club, Iheanacho is near the top of my list as a value forward.