Transfers

Five players who can take mid-table Premier League sides into Europe

 • by Sam McGuire
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The traditional top six in the Premier League are under threat and there are a number of clubs just waiting to gatecrash the party.

Wolves claimed the best of the rest title, finishing nine points behind six-placed Manchester United during the 2018/19 campaign. But then 12th-placed Crystal Palace finished just eight points off of Wolves.

While 17 points, the gap between the Red Devils and the Eagles, seems like too much to make up in a single season, there are reasons to believe it isn’t impossible.

For starters, Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s team are going through a transitional period. A change in philosophy at Old Trafford will yield results down the line but in the short-term, they may struggle a little.

The same could be said for Chelsea if Maurizio Sarri leaves and their transfer ban is upheld. An Eden Hazard-less Blues side just doesn’t strike the same fear into opponents. If they’re unable to strengthen this summer then Christian Pulsiic will have to adapt quickly and the likes of Tammy Abraham will have to go from Championship star to a top-four striker.

It’s a big ask.

Arsenal need to rebuild key parts of their team while Spurs could well lose key members of their squad. It’s a big summer and one that could change the landscape of the Premier League.

Those eyeing a European place will have to invest wisely. To help with this, we’ve taken a look at five players who could help turn mid-table sides into teams challenging for Europe.

Florian Thauvin

Remembered by many in England for his ill-fated time with Newcastle United, Thauvin has transformed into one of the most devastating wide forwards in Europe over recent seasons for Marseille.

His exploits in front of goal have seen him net 53 times over the past three seasons in Ligue 1 while assisting a further 27 more. Over that period he’s averaged 0.56 goals per 90 with an expected goals average of just 0.33.

Overperformances can be a red flag at times with players more often than not revert to the norm. However, given Thauvin has done this for three straight seasons it’s clear the Frenchman is part of the elite in the sense overperformance is now expected.

Still only 26, Thauvin is only just hitting his peak years. To think he can improve is a scary prospect. His time with Newcastle may put him off returning to England but if a club could convince him to give the Premier League a second chance they’d have a game-changer on their hands.

He’s the sort of player Leicester City should’ve spent the Riyad Mahrez money on last summer.

Sébastien Haller

Exceeding expectations is an art few have mastered. To do it, you need players who regularly overperform what is expected of them. Just like Thauvin, Haller has bettered his expected goals total for the past two seasons.

The Eintracht Frankfurt man did his work in the shadow of Luka Jović last season with the 21-year-old Serbian stealing the show on countless occasions. His form resulted in a big money move to Real Madrid.

Manchester United are believed to be interested in the 24-year-old Frenchman but as of right now there is nothing concrete in the works. And given he’s wanting to break into the France squad, first-team football will be at the top of the list if he does leave Die Adler.

Plenty of Premier League clubs could do with a striker of Haller’s style and reliability in front of goal. The fact he makes the most of his opportunities means he could well be the difference between a loss and a draw in those crunch matches. And those points add up.

Brais Méndez

Capable of playing wide on the right side of attack or centrally as a No.10, versatile and inventive Celta Vigo youngster Méndez has impressed in a struggling side this season, scoring six goals and registering seven assists in 27 starts.

Still just 22, the Celta academy product was given a first senior Spain cap last year and was linked with a move to Leicester City in January.

Méndez is a throwback to the days of David Silva as a wide forward. He’s not explosively quick and he’s not a dribbler. Instead, it’s his ability to intelligently drift and occupy key areas which makes him such a danger.

When the 22-year-old finds those pockets, he makes the most of them, averaging 1.1 open-play key passes per 90. But then unlike many other creators, he’s added goals to his game to give him this all-round feel very few others can offer.

During the 2018/19 campaign, Méndez exceeded both his expected goals and his expected assist tallies.

Gastón Pereiro

To be blunt about it; goals win you games. Having more goals in your team increases the chances of you picking up all three points.

Goalscoring midfielders are becoming more common in the modern game with the teams now using attacking midfielders in the middle third. Adding ten goals to your midfield can make all the difference. The PSV midfielder has scored 42 goals over the past four seasons while chipping in with a further 15 assists.

While he might not be able to replicate those exact figures in the Premier League, there’s nothing to suggest the 23-year-old can’t involve himself in ten goals per season in England.

Having that threat from midfield can make all the difference.  And teams in mid-table should be looking at that as an area to improve.

Kristoffer Peterson

Peterson was tipped for a bright future when he was part of the Liverpool academy but the hype fizzled out. He moved to Holland and turned out for Utrecht, spending a season on loan with Roda JC before eventually moving to Heracles in 2017.

There, the 24-year-old found a home and began to show exactly why he was so highly rated as a youngster. Last season he netted on 12 occasions and assisted five in the Eredivisie.

His 2.47 dribbles per 90 minutes can only be bettered by seven players in the Dutch top flight and the Sweden international gets an impressive 41 per cent of his shots on target.

He can beat a man. He can score a variety of goals and he can bring others into play. On paper, he’s an ideal wide forward who could thrive in a Premier League team if he’s allowed to do what he’s good at. Those goals from wide areas are invaluable and are often what makes all of the difference.

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