Arsenal star among four world class 3500-minute men without (suitable) backup options

Will Ford
Bukayo Saka of Arsenal

There’s a reason these guys played so much football last season – they’re bloody good at it. For that reason it’s often hard to source a suitable replacement, with potential signings aware that if they join they’re unlikely to play that much.

As things stand these four Premier League players don’t have suitable backup options, and look set to be run into the ground again next season having all featured for over 3,500 minutes for their clubs last term.


Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – 4,296 minutes
Quite possibly because they picked up on the lack of a Liverpool backup for Mohamed Salah rather than because the story had any basis in reality, well-renowned transfer spin artists Nacional claimed on Friday that Jurgen Klopp wants to bring Real Betis’ Luis Henrique to the club.

The article may well be wide of the mark, but kudos to those guys for selecting a player for their spuriousness who fit the bill as a Salah understudy. And having an understudy to Salah this season is arguably more important than any other player on this list given he’ll be off to the Africa Cup of Nations in January.

Echo made the bold claim earlier this week that ‘Liverpool have just signed Mohamed Salah replacement without anyone realising’. Dominik Szoboszlai is surely needed further back.


Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) – 3,744
Only Gabriel Magalhaes (4,133) played more than Saka last season, and the Gunners have alleviated pressure on the centre-back through the signings of Jakub Kiwior and Jurrien Timber, while Saka looks set for another leg-sapping season ahead of Euro 2024. Give it (and him) a rest, guys.

Marquinhos might stick around but an inconsistent spell on loan at Norwich for the second half of last season won’t have given Mikel Arteta huge confidence he can step into Saka’s shoes, and while Kai Havertz’s versatility could see him operate on the right, he’s far from a like-for-like replacement.


Bernardo Silva (Manchester City) – 3,601
Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain are keen on Silva, but not quite so keen (or as moneyed) as Saudi side Al Hilal, who have offered to treble the Portugal international’s £150,000 per week salary. So City may actually need to replace one of Pep Guardiola’s most trusted and influential players and then find that replacement a backup.

Riyad Mahrez plays in a similar-ish position but could hardly be a more different player, and one unsuited to Guardiola’s new system, and is almost certainly off to Saudi himself in any case.


Enzo Fernandez (Chelsea) – 4,363
Add his exploits in quite the season at international level and Fernandez played an absurd 5,209 minutes of football across 64 games, and with Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic both leaving in quick succession Chelsea are going to rely even more heavily on the Argentinian to dictate play from the heart of midfield.

There’s a helluva lot of talk about Fernandez’s potential partner, and the Blues are deep in negotiations with Brighton over a move for Moises Caicedo, but suddenly – now Ruben Loftus-Cheek has left for AC Milan – Chelsea look short in central midfield.

Conor Gallagher, Carney Chukwuemeka and Andrey Santos are their other options, and even if they’re willing to gamble on that lack of experience, none of that trio could replicate the role Fernandez has played at Chelsea.