George Rossiter turns vulture as he looks at players we could snare from the five clubs in danger of relegation.
This season’s relegation battle in the Premier League has been an absolutely mammoth one, with nine teams involved until recent weeks. With a few games to go, it appears to now be three from five that will go down to the Championship; those five being Everton, Leicester City, Leeds United, Nottingham Forest and Southampton. While we may not be able to tempt the likes of James Maddison or Willy Gnonto to the Cottage, it only emphasises the standard of these team’s squads, and whoever goes down, there will be dozens of players eager to find a way back to the Premier League as soon as possible. Here are six we could target.
Tim Ream turns 36 next season, and the future of Shane Duffy is yet to be confirmed, so Fulham will almost certainly be looking to sign at least one new centre-back this summer. Bella-Kotchap impressed massively at Bochum in Germany. After making his professional debut with the club aged 17 in the second division, eventually helping them to promotion to the Bundesliga in 2021. Bochum eased to safety in the 2021/22 season, Bella-Kotchap earning lots of praise that year and eventually a move to the Premier League.
His presence has been missed by Bochum this season, who find themselves in the middle of a relegation battle and have already conceded 15 more goals than last season with games to spare. Bella-Kotchap is an extremely talented defender, and a key attribute that Fulham may look at is his ability to play as the left-sided centre-back, something he has done all season for the Saints. With Ream’s age and Diop/Tosin’s preference to play on the right, Bella-Kotchap would be one of the first players I’d look to sign this summer if Southampton’s drop to the Championship is confirmed.
Signed from Racing Club in Argentina for £12m, ‘Charly’ became an instant hit at St Mary’s, becoming just the fifth Southampton player to score in their first two starts for the club. For all of Southampton’s struggles this season, their faith in youth has been admirable and produced some shining stars. While the likes of Lavia have often taken the big plaudits, and it looks like he’ll get a big move this summer, Alcaraz had provided a more creative and advanced threat in this Southampton side.
His four Premier League goal contributions since his arrival in January have shown his capability of playing an advanced midfield role, something Fulham will surely looking to be investing in with the injury to Andreas Pereira and lack of depth in that position. Even if Southampton look to recoup their investment on Alcaraz, £12m for a midfielder, who has come from South America and adapted to the Premier League very well, could be very sensible business.
Garner’s Premier League career really hasn’t had the chance it should have had to kick into gear this season. After a brilliant season at Nottingham Forest, where Garner was part of the side that won the play-offs to see Forest return to the Premier League, his move to Goodison Park seemed like brilliant business for the Toffees. However, injuries this year have made it particularly difficult for the young midfielder to break into the side, and when he has been fit, he’s found Amadou Onana in his position.
Fulham still don’t really have their Palhinha alternative. Harrison Reed and Sasa Lukic both fit the profile of a number eight rather than a number six. James Garner, however, is definitely a holding midfielder. He would provide brilliant depth in a position we need it, and if Palhinha were to leave in the summer of 2024, or even earlier, we’d have a brilliant young English midfielder ready to step into that role. This one makes a lot of sense to me.
It’s crazy to me that Iheanacho is only 26; it feels like he made his Man City debut about 15 years ago. It’s even crazier that he’s never really been Leicester’s main man up front. Even with the legendary Jamie Vardy at the club, the Nigerian has more than enough to be a brilliant main man for any Premier League side, including at Craven Cottage.
With 42 goals and 27 assists to his name, Iheanacho is an established Premier League forward, even if he’s often been a bit part player, not to mention 11 goals in 42 caps for Nigeria. Kelechi would provide another alternative to Mitro if he was to ever get suspended/injured again, would come at a bargain price if Leicester were to drop, and would still have his prime years ahead of him.
The wing position is going to be one of focus this summer at the club, no doubt about it. As it stands, none of Neeskens Kebano, Willian, Dan James or Manor Solomon are contracted to the club beyond this summer. While some may, and probably will stay, not all will, and replacements will have to come in to support the remaining Bobby De Cordova-Reid and Harry Wilson.
Sinsterra has really impressed fans at Elland Road this year after joining from Feyenoord in the summer for north of £20m. Had it not been for injury issues this season, it feels like the Colombian winger would have a lot more than five goals in 19 appearances to his name in the Premier League, and those extra goals he could’ve added may have earned Leeds some seriously valuable points. Whether they go down or not, Sinisterra would be an ambitious and marquee signing for any Premier League club, and I’d love him at the Cottage.
Just like Iheanacho, it seems scarcely believable to me that Gray is just 26, I’m sure I was still a toddler when the young winger was breaking through at Birmingham City. Alas, Gray now has eight years of Premier League experience to his name, with a small stint at Bayer Leverkusen to throw in there too. While his career had stagnated at Leicester, it picked up again under Rafa Benitez when he moved to Goodison Park, where he started to show signs again of his Birmingham days when he was regarded as one of the brightest young players in the country.
Nobody has come out smelling of roses over the last two seasons at Everton, but Gray has shown signs of quality here and there, including scoring nine goals in that time, and I’d love to see Marco Silva try to find carve more consistently of him at the Cottage. A pacey winger who isn’t afraid to shoot from range on both feet, Gray could be a really useful and quality versatile winger for Fulham next season if there was a bargain to be had this summer.