Transfer Alternative XI: Arsenal and Spurs blessings in disguise up front with Watkins

Jason Soutar
Casemiro, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Heung-min Son in action.
Casemiro, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Heung-min Son in action.

The word ‘alternative’ is not a nice one. You never want to be someone’s second choice in life and football is no different.

Saying that, it can sometimes work out better for everyone involved. Here is a current Premier League team full of transfer alternatives who actually turned out to be pretty good.


GK: Bernd Leno (not Dean Henderson)
Fulham pulled off one of the signings of the 2022 summer transfer window when they landed Bernd Leno from Arsenal for a measly £3million, potentially reaching £8m.

Marco Silva had targeted Dean Henderson and Thomas Strakosha before getting the German shot-stopper, who was second only to Alisson in a ranking of Premier League goalkeepers last season.


RB: Aaron Wan-Bissaka (not 803 others)
Manchester United apparently had 804 right-backs on their radar before eventually settling on Aaron Wan-Bissaka. We’re assuming that at least one of the 803 alternatives was rated higher by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his scouting team.

Wan-Bissaka has had a mixed time at United and is probably the least successful signing in this XI, though it has to be said he has improved a great deal under Erik ten Hag. So much so that he is likely to get a great deal himself.


CB: Thiago Silva (not Jose Gimenez)
“I always used to watch Chelsea as a kid, loved them,” said Uruguayan centre-half Jose Gimenez, who has been tracked by Chelsea since 2016. But the rumours gathered real pace in 2020 when Frank Lampard was desperate for a new centre-half.

But despite his willingness, Gimenez was proving too expensive to procure from Atletico Madrid so Chelsea turned to veteran Thiago Silva on a one-year deal. Three years later he is still there and has been a rare ray of sunshine in a really very cloudy sky.


CB: Ruben Dias (not Kalidou Koulibaly)
‘Man City make embarrassing gaffe as they name Kalidou Koulibaly in announcement for new defender Ruben Dias’ – talkSPORT, September 2020.

Bullet = dodged.


LB: Oleksandr Zinchenko (not Lisandro Martinez)
Last summer, Mikel Arteta prioritised the signing of a player who can operate as an inverted left-back, quickly identifying Ajax’s Lisandro Martinez as his top target. Arsenal’s interest prompted Manchester United into action, who paid way more than the Gunners were willing to spend and bought the teeny-tiny Argentine to play as a central defender, much to the disbelief of Our League fans and Jamie Carragher.

Arsenal got a pretty handy alternative in Oleksandr Zinchenko. The ex-Manchester City man is tailor-made for Arteta’s system, though it has to be said the idea of Martinez in that role is an intriguing one. He can do everything Zinchenko can with the ball at his feet, plus he offers a lot more defensively. It is clear to see why Arteta initially wanted him.

Arsenal, February 2023


CM: Casemiro (not Frenkie de Jong)
Manchester United spent almost all of last summer trying to convince Frenkie de Jong to join, but failed miserably, even with his former Ajax boss Ten Hag at the helm. They ended up falling upwards, however, landing Casemiro from Real Madrid.

Many questioned the Red Devils for spending over €70million on a 30-year-old. The fact he signed a four-year contract – with the option for a fifth – also raised eyebrows. Folk thought the Brazilian would sit on his heavy wages and act as if he was on holiday. That was not the case. Mainly because he is a very motivated individual but also a little because Manchester is a rubbish holiday destination.


CM: Mateo Kovacic (not Jude Bellingham)
He has obviously not kicked a competitive ball for Manchester City, but Mateo Kovacic is a fine player and a good Ilkay Gundogan replacement while being a brilliant alternative to Jude Bellingham, who didn’t want to join the Premier League champions because they are a ‘plastic club’.

The Croatian has the experience of the former and the ability of the latter, which makes him a bloody good buy. We cannot see this one going wrong.

READ MORE: Is Man City new boy Mateo Kovacic the luckiest footballer alive? What a result he’s had here


AM: Alexis Mac Allister (not Jude Bellingham)
Just a bloody good signing for a fraction of the price of Bellingham. We told you back in April when it became obvious that a) money and b) Liverpool being a bit rubbish was going to scupper that deal.


RW: Leandro Trossard (not Mykhaylo Mudryk)
Everyone expected Arsenal to sign Mykhaylo Mudryk in January but in classic Arsenal fashion, they fumbled the deal as Chelsea swooped in and offered Shakhtar Donetsk exactly what they wanted.

Arsenal and Arteta might have really wanted Mudryk, but it has to be said they got a better player and for a fraction of the price. Mudryk has the potential to be a top player in the Premier League but Trossard already is.

He has proven himself to be a superb, versatile option. We said Arsenal had more of a chance of winning the Premier League with the Belgian and even though they failed to do so, we stand by it. Though he did bottle it.


CF: Ollie Watkins (not Callum Wilson)
Following Bournemouth’s relegation to the Championship, star striker Callum Wilson was one player bound to return to the Premier League. Aston Villa and Newcastle United battled for his signature and it was the latter who came out victorious.

Villans boss Dean Smith turned to his old club, Brentford, and pushed to sign young striker Ollie Watkins. The Bees, then in the Championship, accepted a bid worth an initial £28m and Watkins has gone from strength to strength at Villa Park.

His inclusion does not say Wilson has been rubbish for Newcastle – he has been far from that – but Villa got the younger of the two and could easily double their money on Watkins if they wished to do so. They do not wish to do so.


LW: Heung-min Son (not Saido Berahino)
Classic Spurs were too stingy to meet West Brom’s valuation for Saido Berahino and turned their attention to Bayer Leverkusen forward Heung-min Son. The lucky so-and-sos.