The forecasts for a significantly calmer summer transfer window were overblown, as plenty of expensive and exciting players are set to take the Premier League by storm.
Chelsea have spent around £200 million and their offseason splurge might not be over. There have been several interesting signings from the Championship, while other players will introduce themselves to the Premier League after earning promotion. And, perhaps due to the financial restrictions prompted by the ongoing pandemic, some clubs have brokered impressive, shrewd buys from the continent.
Here are the seven impending Premier League debutants you should be most excited about, plus a few honorable mentions:
Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace)
Arsenal released him, as did Millwall. Then, just after Eze accepted a job at a Tesco supermarket, Queens Park Rangers gave the south Londoner a lifeline in the professional game.
A seminal loan spell with Wycombe Wanderers and 112 QPR appearances later, he’s a £20-million Premier League player.
“You’d have more luck knocking over a war memorial than our only league ever-present last season,” Clive Whittingham wrote for QPR fan site Loft for Words. “Each attempt to snap him in half by less talented second-tier cloggers (was) merely ridden out or turned into a slick spin and escape that leaves the assailant’s wife scouring the dating apps for a better man. A man like Ebere.”
The 22-year-old’s elasticity and explosiveness will enhance a Crystal Palace attack that’s longed leaned on Wilfried Zaha – and only Wilfried Zaha – for inspiration.
Kai Havertz (Chelsea)
Havertz appears destined for greatness, and Chelsea seized their opportunity to sign the 21-year-old for around £71 million amid little competition from other outfits due to the pandemic.
His unique blend of skill and physical prowess has led to comparisons in Germany with ex-Chelsea man Michael Ballack, Constantin Eckner wrote for BBC Sport.
“He has no stress. Kai has a very good shooting technique and a very good coordination, but he’s a very tall player. He knows where he must go to the first balls, where he must go to the second balls, and he shoots directly,” Peter Hyballa, Havertz’s former youth coach at Bayer Leverkusen, told BetaSoccer.
Havertz scored 10 goals and assisted five times in his final 16 Bundesliga appearances for Leverkusen as he moved from attacking midfield to forward to compensate for injuries to Kevin Volland and Lucas Alario.
James Rodriguez (Everton)
Real Madrid made James the fourth-most expensive footballer in history following his Golden Boot-winning campaign for Colombia at the 2014 World Cup. The most notable effort of his six-goal haul in Brazil was a 20-yard chest and volley against Uruguay in the round of 16.
He may have collected two La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues at Real Madrid, but he could never earn the trust of Zinedine Zidane in the Spanish capital. His £20-million transfer fee – over £50 million less than what Los Blancos paid in 2014 – is a reflection of how James’ reputation has taken a hit in recent years.
But he was at his best under Carlo Ancelotti. The playmaker has never again hit the heights of his first season at Real Madrid when he played for the now-Everton boss, during which he scored 17 goals and started 40 matches in a stacked squad. Ancelotti also loaned James from Real Madrid when he was in charge of Bayern Munich.
Brazilian winger Bernard has cropped up in a central role during Everton’s preseason workouts, covering the position before James takes his preferred No. 10 mantle.
Matheus Pereira (West Bromwich Albion)
Pereira’s promising career stalled when he fell out with two separate coaches at Sporting CP. However, season-long loans to Nurnberg and West Bromwich Albion have turned things around.
Now, Pereira has his big chance in the Premier League after the Baggies signed him on a permanent basis this summer for around £8.25 million.
It’s anybody’s guess where he’ll line up in Slaven Bilic’s XI – he flourished as a No. 10 and while drifting inside from the right flank – but if his technical ability, acceleration, and fierce competitiveness come to the fore for even a few weeks this season, he’ll humiliate a long line of top-flight defenders.
“The step between this league (the Championship) and the Premier League is a big one, so it will be interesting to see how he copes with that. But he has got all the ability in the world to do it,” former West Brom captain Chris Brunt told The Athletic’s Steve Madeley and Jack Lang.
Donny van de Beek (Manchester United)
The Eredivisie isn’t the most reliable measure of quality, but Van de Beek can gesture toward his European exploits for Ajax as proof of his pedigree. He’s played in the Europa League final and the semifinals of the Champions League, and he’s scored in big matches against Tottenham Hotspur, Juventus, and Chelsea. His resume is pretty impressive, especially for a 23-year-old.
“His ability to see space, time his movements, and read the game will really complement the qualities that we have in midfield, and his arrival really strengthens the depth of talent we have in that position,” Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said when Van de Beek’s transfer was confirmed.
The only question is where Van de Beek will play. He contributed more to Ajax’s attacks than to their defensive work, meaning a midfield trio of Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, and Van de Beek would be fun but ultimately offer scant protection to the backline. For now, Nemanja Matic is United’s only out-and-out defensive midfielder, and that’s not good enough.
Timo Werner (Chelsea)
Chelsea were the third-highest scorers in the 2019-20 Premier League campaign but Frank Lampard wasn’t content with his side’s spot behind Manchester City and Liverpool. He wanted more firepower.
Tammy Abraham had a season-long audition as Chelsea’s No. 9 after loan spells at Bristol City, Swansea City, and Aston Villa, and logged a commendable 15 league goals. However, his place is now under threat following the signing of Werner, who outperforms Abraham in almost every meaningful statistic.
2019-20 domestic league statistics:
|Stats (per 90 mins)||Tammy Abraham||Timo Werner|
Werner offers Lampard the extra firepower he yearned for, and more.
He joins the Blues after scoring 34 goals in all competitions for RB Leipzig last season, during which he led one of the most fluid and hard-pressing attacks in Europe. His work off the ball is crucial in regaining possession for his side, and he can eke open space for his colleagues, as he’s not averse to drifting into wide or deeper positions to distract defenders and facilitate an attack.
Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea)
Ziyech’s transfer from Ajax was confirmed in February, but he couldn’t work with his new teammates at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground until mid-July.
The Morrocan international is a versatile attacker but, following the unveilings of Werner and Havertz, it’s likely he’ll be selected on the flanks in the 2020-21 term. The Blues’ wingers in 2019-20 – Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic, Willian, and Pedro – were all right-footed, so Ziyech’s left-footedness will ensure Lampard’s side is more balanced going forward this term. Also, with Willian and Pedro leaving the club in the offseason, it was an area in which Chelsea needed to bulk up their numbers.
Though Ziyech possesses the qualities you’d expect from a wideman, such as fine acceleration and dribbling, it’s his vision and passing that set him apart. Chelsea were often frustrated by a low block during Lampard’s first campaign at the helm; that shouldn’t be as much of an issue with Ziyech around.
Honorable mentions: Allan (Everton), Matty Cash (Aston Villa), Gabriel Magalhaes (Arsenal), Kalvin Phillips (Leeds United), Rodrigo (Leeds United), Fabio Silva (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Thiago Silva (Chelsea), Ferran Torres (Manchester City), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa)