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Opinion

Raid the relegated – Summer 2022 edition

1 month ago
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The curtain comes down on another Premier League season.

Usually this would be the time that we start to panic about which of our few assets are likely to be traded out.

Each season for the last seven, I’ve written an article identifying players from newly Premier League relegated sides that we could target. This became a favourite market of Mike Ashley’s, especially in the later years of his tenure.

Fortunately, we are in a position now where we don’t need to rely on such targets and this may will be the last edition of this article I’ll write. I wanted to do it at least one more for the nostalgia.

In fairness, although we this may not be a market we need / want to target this summer, I actually think there are some gems in the relegated sides and wouldn’t be upset if we signed any of the players below, especially the wingers I’ve identified.

Our defeat of Burnley meant that a lot of quality was lost from this article…Kalvin-Phillips, Raphina and Harrison were all players that would have been identified…but onto the players that did go down.

Maxwell Cornet

Let’s start with the only player that I would take from Burnley.

Cornet has been one of the very few bright spots in a dark season for the Clarets. He has been used as a forward, a support striker and a winger over the course of the season but his natural position is out wide.

He didn’t sign until the end of August and then didn’t make his first appearance until mid-September, coming off the bench against Arsenal. He made his first start the following week against Leicester and bagged his first goal in that game too. From then on, he was in fine form, scoring six goals from his first 10 appearances. He finished the season with nine goals in 26 games, hitting some late season form with two in the last four after scoring just one in 12 in between.

Is he an upgrade on the likes of Almiron and Fraser? His goals would suggest he is, plus he can fill in up front if needed.

He has scored goals with both feet and his head this season and always looked a threat when on the pitch.

The sweetener? He’s supposedly available for £17.5 million due to a relegation release clause. That would be an excellent piece of business that we could wrap up early.

Teemu Pukki

Might seem an odd one…

He’s not an upgrade on Wilson and you’d like to think we will go out and spend some money on a striker capable of competing with our number nine. If a large portion of our budget was focused elsewhere and we were looking solely to upgrade on Gayle, then Pukki could be a decent short-term acquisition. He’s 32 and so wouldn’t be much of an option beyond next season but what could he bring?

Well, he’s reliable; in his four years in English football he’s only missed 11 league games, playing 157 of a possible 168 in two Championship and two Premier League campaigns. He can score goals. He’s bagged 11 in both his Premier League seasons for a team that finished bottom both times. He’s also amassed 55 Championship goals across the other two seasons.

He’s not the future but he’d be an able deputy if Wilson doesn’t stay fit next season. I would argue he’s potentially an upgrade on Wood as well, as Pukki is more mobile and a better finisher. Surely at his age we could pick him up for a reasonable amount. Maybe we could even trade Gayle the other way.

Ismaila Sarr

Watford have followed a similar path to Norwich and the two teams have been promoted and relegated together in each of the last four seasons. Both Premier League campaigns have ended with them finishing just one place above rock bottom Norwich.

Sarr joined Watford during their previous Premier League campaign and earned a lot of plaudits for his pace and trickery. With five goals and six assists in 28 games from the wing, for a relegated side, he was someone that looked likely to earn an instant move back to the Premier League. It didn’t happen though and he had a terrific Championship campaign, scoring 13 and making another 10 from 39 appearances to play a big part in his team’s second place finish. In his first two seasons he scored or created a goal every other game!

This season he’s struggled for fitness but got five goals again and two assists, this time from only 22 games. This is bound to be the season he moves on and I think he would certainly be an upgrade on the likes of Almiron, Murphy and possibly Fraser. If we shifted one of the former two and then had whoever remains competing with Fraser, ASM and Sarr for places on the wing, I would say that position would be strengthened enormously.

With Sarr it’s likely he will command a heftier premium than the others on this list. He’s Watford’s record signing at £25 million and I’m sure they’ll want to make a profit on a guy who has proved he can do it at the top level. We were linked with him in January and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we were linked heavily again. At 24 years old he could be a great signing, even if we have to dig out £30 million or more for him.

Emmanuel Dennis

Another 24 year old.

In his debut Premier League season it amazes me how Dennis only came third in Watford’s player of the season vote. Maybe a slowdown in form is the reason. He only scored two goals and assisted one in his final 17 games.

Prior to that he had eight goals and five assists in his first 16 games. Even with the dip in the second half of the season he still scored ten and assisted six for a team that had a shocking season. His quality tore Manchester United to shreds as he assisted two and scored one in that 4-1 decimation of The Red Devils back in November.

He can score, he can dribble, he links play nicely. Like Cornet, he has found himself utilised on either wing and upfront so he can cover a vast array of positions. Reports suggest he could be available for around £20 million. Another bargain and a player who would easily improve competition in the attacking positions.

I started this article saying that we may not need to target the relegated market anymore…but if we shifted Gayle, Murphy and Almiron out and Cornet, Sarr and Dennis in, I think we will have upgraded our wing / attacking options immensely.

Ben Foster

Bit of a strange one, I know.

Could he be for us what Scott Carson is for Man City? Not saying we’re Man City just yet. However, Foster at 39 is still a more than capable goalkeeper. There’s no way he would be in contention to be our number one but he’d be an excellent deputy.

If we sign a new first choice keeper this summer, then Foster would probably be the best number three in the Premier League. If we don’t, then he’d probably be our number two and would be a steady one at that.

If he wants another season or two of playing football, why not spend it at a club on the up playing the odd cup game and filling in if the options ahead of him are unavailable? It just depends on whether he still wants to be the main man or if he’d be ready to settle down for an easier life in his old (in football terms) age. I think he’d be an improvement on any of our current crop asides from Dubravka.

So there are the five I would be looking at.

Last time Norwich went down I had Todd Cantwell on my list but I have no idea why he has fallen so badly out of favour this season. He and Pukki were by far their best players in the last Premier League campaign. We were linked with him in January and I probably would have taken a chance on him then.

Now I would be hoping for another midfielder of Bruno’s calibre to join our centre midfield options instead.

Let me know below any players you would snap up from the relegated sides. Would you take Tarkowski or Mee on a free? Not for me. Would Dwight McNeil ignite your interest? Who would have Sissoko back (cue silence)…

You can follow the author on Twitter @billymerlin

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