A player from each Premier League team that can take a step and improve their club

A player from each Premier League team that can take a step and improve their club

A whole bunch of football followers revel in the chaos that is a transfer window.

While I can admit that rumour and conjecture about a player joining your own club can be difficult to resist, the widespread fetishism from ‘fans’ and media alike around the movement of players is pretty pathetic now.

Each miniscule stage of a transfer appears to be reported on, producing an incessant amount of sagas, and it’s getting worse by the window. Take this Sky Sports News tweet, for example;

Manchester United have reportedly started to make attempts to find out what it will take to sign Harry Kane ✍️🔴

Like, what does that sentence even mean?

Adam Hurrey of Football Cliches fame was correct to point out that it might be the most preliminary transfer stage ever reported. And it was posted in April!

Lapped up by people I believe love the mere prospect of a transaction over the actual sport, it’s embarrassing to watch the consumption of football move in this direction. Anyway, I digress.

For those that live in the real world and are not dizzied by the ceaseless spinning inside the rumour mill, it makes far more sense to look at the existing composition of a team and personnel that may take a step and improve their club further after the summer.

So, let’s go team-by-team in the Premier League and pick out a player. Ironically, some of them might already be rumoured to move on.


William Saliba

This is an admittedly difficult task for teams that excelled last season and Arsenal can definitely be included in that category, coming so close to an unexpected league title.

William Saliba’s absence for the final eleven games of the 2022/23 campaign was such a big part of the ‘collapse’ conversation that it’s easy to forget just how young the French centre-back is.

The 22-year-old’s performances helped people do so, cutting a strong, composed figure defensively, displaying exceptional ability on the ball and offering a goal threat from set-pieces.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest Saliba takes another step and is one of the best defenders in the Premier League next term.

Aston Villa

Jacob Ramsey

Perhaps the only thing to remain the same for Aston Villa under Steven Gerrard and Unai Emery is the promise shown by 22-year-old Jacob Ramsey.

Held in extremely high regard by both, Ramsey drove Villa forward from midfield. He led the team in progressive carries and was in the high percentile for midfielders for touches in the opposition box, assists and expected assists (xA) last season.

If he continues to be given the freedom to move forward under Emery, big things can be expected from Ramsey in 2023/24.


Marcus Tavernier

January buy Dango Ouattara was an excellent addition to a Bournemouth squad that was the favourite for relegation at the time, making a significant contribution to survival, but Marcus Tavernier’s injury-compromised season was very encouraging.

Showing outstanding energy in defensive aspects of the game, which is essential at Bournemouth, Tavernier’s output at the other end was impressive, too.

Tavernier ranked second for Bournemouth players in touches in the attacking third and progressive carries, while leading the team for successful take-ons and carries into the final third. He also ranked second in goal-creating actions and assists (4) and chipped in with five goals. Only two Bournemouth players scored more league goals.

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Again, that was all in 1,884 minutes of Premier League play — in essence, just half a season. Tavernier is set for an eye-catching 2023/24 if he can stay fit.


Aaron Hickey

After not playing a single minute in November, December and January, Aaron Hickey returned from injury and swiftly became Brentford’s primary option at right-back.

Hickey slotted into a typically good defence without much fuss, too, with Brentford conceding just 16 goals in the 16 games Hickey started from February on, which included some serious opposition.

At 21-years-old, it’s safe to assume the Scottish international will take another step next season and contribute to what is likely to be another solid Brentford campaign.


Julio Enciso

Another player to log his minutes in the latter part of the Premier League season, Julio Enciso appears primed to be the next Brighton youngster to burst onto the scene.

The 19-year-old Paraguayan created a huge impression in limited playing time (806 minutes), versatile in terms of position an delivering tangible output at an excellent rate for a top team.

Granted, it’s a small sample size, but Enciso averaged 4.24 shots and 0.45 expected goals (xG) per 90 minutes in the league. Add in his 0.16 expected assists (xA) per 90 average and the production is striking.

Enciso’s successful take-on numbers are very high and he is obviously capable of the spectacular judging on his goal against Manchester City, so a very exciting 2023/24 season could be on the horizon.


Josh Brownhill

Although Vincent Kompany has some positions to improve upon and fill on Burnley’s return to the top tier, Josh Brownhill could be a solid candidate to keep his spot and have a better Premier League spell than he has in prior seasons.

Brownhill enjoyed an excellent season at Championship level, scoring six goals from 4.75 expected goals and recording eight assists from 6.73 expected assists.

More than capable of carrying out defensive duties, the midfielder showed another aspect to his game last term. His numbers in progressive passes received (208) and carries into the final third (63) were very encouraging, playing a part in Brownhill leading the team by some distance in shot-creating actions (147).

Consequently, Brownhill is well placed to take the step up in stride this time.


Enzo Fernández

Chelsea’s tumultuous campaign was nothing short of catastrophic considering the resources at hand, but it’s easy to be excited by at least one of their January additions.

Disguised by the Blues’ disastrous second half of the season, World Cup winner Enzo Fernández displayed all the tools to be one of the best midfielders in the Premier League.

Fernández led Chelsea in passes into the final third and progressive passes and was ranked fourth for both passes into the penalty area and shot-creating actions, no mean feat considering he played just 1,547 minutes.

If Chelsea manage to bounce back next term, Fernández will play a huge part.

Crystal Palace

Michael Olise

The departure of Wilfried Zaha might not be felt to quite such a level as first feared by Crystal Palace fans. Zaha has undoubtedly been an incredible player for the club, but the emergence of Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise should ease the dread.

Eze’s England call-up was richly deserved and a long time in the making for a terrific player. There’s a good chance, however, that Olise will be the player to improve the team further.

That will be some going when considering Olise’s excellent production last season. The 21-year-old winger registered 11 assists, a total beaten by only Kevin De Bruyne and Mo Salah, from 8.37 expected assists (xA). He also had 143 shot-creating actions, 75 of which came from live-ball situations — it’s not just good set-piece delivery padding stats.

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Don’t forget, Olise logged these numbers on an underperforming Palace team that scored just 40 goals last term.


Amadou Onana

It’s been repeated by almost everyone at the club that Everton must not put themselves in another relegation fight in 2023/24, which means some improvements have to be made, especially from within.

Amadou Onana can step up.

Seemingly perfect for a Sean Dyche side, the big Belgian is a massive threat from set-pieces and has the technical capabilities to add value in an advanced midfield role.

Dyche had trust enough to start him in the tightest of times at the end of last season, but Onana will have to be better at converting chances going forward. He scored just one goal from 3.86 expected goals (xG) last term.


Antonee Robinson

An underappreciated left-back, Antonee Robinson proved to be very solid for a Fulham team that had a spectacular 2022/23 season on return to the Premier League.

Robinson was top or second to João Palhinha in almost every defensive statistic for his side last term and his ability to run the wing pays dividends at the other end. The 25-year-old led Fulham in progressive carries and carries into the final third.

Don’t be surprised if Robinson has an even better campaign in 2023/24 and logs far more than the one assist he managed last season.


Darwin Núñez

Better can be forecasted next season from Liverpool’s agent of chaos, Darwin Núñez.

In a debut Premier League campaign that can best be described as incredibly raw, the Uruguayan showed how dangerous he can be to opposition defences, just missing the end product required.

Scoring nine goals from a total of 13.8 expected goals (xG) describes his inefficiency in front goal rather well, consistently squandering chances for the Reds last term. If he does clean up in that area in 2023/24, which is entirely possible, his output can easily lift Liverpool back up the table.

After all, a rate of 0.67 xG per 90 minutes at 0.16 xG per shot displays just how proficient he is at getting scoring opportunities.


Amari’i Bell

There’s sure to be an awful lot of turnover from a personnel perspective at Luton, much needed if they are to stay up next season.

That makes this an especially difficult choice, but Amari’i Bell was a statistical standout for the Hatters last season and certainly has the physical capabilities to make the step up to Premier League level.

Bell led his team in tackles, blocks, progressive passes, passes into the final third, progressive carries and carries into the final third. He also logged 80 shot-creating actions for the team.

Manchester City

Julián Álvarez

Again, this is really difficult to do for a team that enjoyed such success.

Julián Álvarez looks a good candidate to take another step forward, however. A World Cup winner for Argentina in the winter, the 23-year-old was used deployed regularly at club level, and in multiple positions.

Filling in for Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland is hardly an easy task, but Álvarez did so with distinction, helping Pep Guardiola’s side in whatever way he was asked to.

Manchester United

Alejandro Garnacho

It’s sensible to suggest Alejandro Garnacho will get more minutes in 2023/24.

In a breakout campaign that ended with a debut at international level for world champions Argentina, Garnacho flashed brilliance in the limited time he was on the pitch.

Circumstance behind his playing time inflates the numbers somewhat, but Garnacho was in the very high percentile for wingers in progressive carries, touches in the opposition box, shots, non-penalty goals and non-penalty expected goals (xG).

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Making a huge difference when brought on in the FA Cup final, he can do so again when called upon in 2023/24.


Alexander Isak

Alexander Isak’s quality is hardly a secret now, but the Swedish international has all the tools to be one of the best forwards in the Premier League next term.

Despite being interrupted by injury, Isak ended the season with numbers that show he can be excellent at both facilitating and scoring, extremely useful for the role he played towards the end of the campaign.

In just 1,668 minutes, Isak scored 10 Premier League goals from 8.62 expected goals (xG), averaging an impressive 0.17 xG per shot. Ranking highly for forwards in both carrying and passing the ball, too, he’s set to shine for a team on the up.

Nottingham Forest

Morgan Gibbs-White

A standout player for Nottingham Forest in their survival push, Morgan Gibbs-White can expected to have an even better season in terms of production.

The 23-year-old wasn’t short of output in 2022/23 in fairness, especially for a relegation candidate, logging the highest expected goal involvement (12.2 xGI) figure at the club by far.

Gibbs-White also comfortably led the team in tackles in the final third, key passes, passes into the penalty area, progressive passes, progressive carry distance, carries into the final third, carries into the penalty area and shot-creation actions.

He should shine in what should be a better team next term.

Sheffield United

Anel Ahmedhodžić

Anel Ahmedhodžić will be made to do a lot more defending in the Premier League than the Championship for Sheffield United. His enterprising style might well suit the top level, though.

The 24-year-old centre-back ranked highly for his position in both tackles and interceptions, but his comfort in receiving the ball and moving forward with it could prove vital in alleviating the inevitable pressure the Blades will endure.

Ahmedhodžić excelled in progressive passing and often joins the United attack. He’s a big goal threat for a central defender in a team will need all the help they can get in that area.


Rodrigo Bentancur

Ange Postecoglou is an exciting hire for a Tottenham side that desperately underachieved last season. They’ll need more from existing players to succeed, however.

Rodrigo Bentancur is a good example of a player that can thrive under Postecoglou. An energetic midfielder with an abundance of quality with the ball should fit nicely into the new way of thinking.

The Uruguayan had been productive before injury cut his season short. Hopefully he returns on time for the new campaign and shows his class.

West Ham

Lucas Paquetá

After a slow start in new surroundings, Lucas Paquetá started to show the undoubted quality that makes him a regular in Brazil’s line-up.

Unafraid to get involved from a defensive perspective, averaging almost three tackles per game last term, Paquetá also displays outstanding quality on the ball, ranking highly among midfielders for shot-creating actions and shots.

He was West Ham’s best player at the business end of the season and I’d expect him to continue in the same vein. Perhaps there’s more to come, too.


Max Kilman

Wolves’ squad might need some work in the summer but Max Kilman’s name, if he’s not poached away, will be one of the first on the team sheet.

I’m sure everyone is sick of hearing about his futsal background, but the 26-year-old is clearly adept on the ball. Only three centre-backs completed more than Kilman’s 127 progressive passes last term and he’s a very comfortable dribbler.

An improvement in defending last term makes him an interesting option at a problem position for Gareth Southgate and England. A left-footed central defender is a precious commodity, after all.

Kilman can prove to be just that and receive requisite recognition next season.

  • June 25, 2023