Top ten most likely panic buys with a week left of the window

Matt Stead
Rhian-Brewster Liverpool

10) Dayot Upamecano to Manchester United

It probably won’t happen. It certainly should. Yet Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seems steadfast in his belief that Manchester United’s defensive problems are “more structural mistakes than individual mistakes”. The evidence offered by five goals conceded to Crystal Palace and Brighton suggests both are as endemic as the other.

His assertion that “we’ve got many defenders here” is irrefutable. But quantity does not imply quality. The six possible centre-half partners to Harry Maguire at Old Trafford range from the slow and soft Victor Lindelof to the untrusted Chris Smalling and the untested Axel Tuanzebe. Once Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones are eventually moved on, Rio Ferdinand might actually be worth listening to when it comes to Dayot Upamecano.


9) Thomas Lemar to Wolves

It takes a stupid brave man to see a 4-0 loss to West Ham and suggest another forward is the cure for what ails Wolves. But Nuno Espirito Santo seems entirely wedded to the idea that Romain Saiss is a centre-half capable of helping them chisel away at the glass ceiling instead of falling through an equally precarious floor, so links with Thomas Lemar as their final big move of a breathless summer do make a semblance of sense.

The 24-year-old World Cup winner has fallen on relatively hard times with Atletico Madrid. Lemar’s 2019/20 comprised of 12 starts, including at home to Liverpool in the Champions League before being taken off at half-time. It is not long since his name was bandied about in conversations regarding the Reds and Arsenal so adding some depth to a Wolves side shorn of the attacking variation Diogo Jota once offered is a genuine possibility. The only problem would be the price and wages involved, which most would agree is quite the stumbling block.



8) David Alaba to Manchester City

“You ain’t got no Alaba, you ugly,” Uli Hoeness did not tell Manchester City this summer, thus instigating a chase led by Pep Guardiola to reunite with his former Bayern Munich flame. Austrian Dave was named as a ‘prime target’ in July; the only thing that has changed in the two months since is that the need has become even more pressing.

The assumption is that Ruben Dias will address some of the myriad central problems City have encountered over the past couple of years. But their options at left-back have been whittled down to Benjamin Mendy, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Joao Cancelo, Nathan Ake and Aymeric Laporte, none of whom come without their pitfalls either as individuals or to the team. Alaba, who has claimed to be “still benefitting” from Guardiola’s coaching long after their parting of ways, would be another expensive solution, but far more foolproof than anything else they have come up with.


7) Olivier Ntcham to West Brom

A midfield of Jake Livermore and Romaine Sawyers leaves a lot to be desired. It isn’t bad, per se, just surely not good enough when part of its remit is to protect a particularly susceptible defence. No club has ever conceded more goals in the first three games of a Premier League season than this iteration of West Brom and not all of that can be attributed to Kyle Bartley.

Olivier Ntcham was once considered the answer. That speculation has drifted somewhat but Neil Lennon is struggling to get the best out of the 24-year-old at Celtic, the crime of not being Scott Brown slightly stunting his spell in Scotland. He has been used as more of an attacking threat of late but might be the answer West Brom seek in terms of a deeper presence.


6) Declan Rice to Chelsea

There is nothing quite like shipping three goals in one half to a promoted club to bring interest in Rice to the boil. Chelsea want him and the player himself is said to be ‘pushing’ for the move. One obstacle remains, but persuading West Ham to sell their most valuable asset with a week left to replace him is quite the challenge.

Frank Lampard has been obstinate in a reimagining of N’Golo Kante first attempted by Maurizio Sarri. Neither have been successful in finding a role for the Frenchman better than the one he fulfilled in consecutive Premier League title-winning seasons. Rice could add to Chelsea’s midfield options or even reinforce their central defence. It would likely take them to the biggest single-window spend ever but at least Lampard would keep adopted son Mason Mount happy.


5) Wesley Fofana to West Ham

West Ham could then look to reinvest those funds. Burnley and Brighton are the only clubs to spend less this summer and the entirety of their £15m outlay was reserved for making Tomas Soucek’s loan permanent. Jarrod Bowen’s winter move and post-restart development should not be overlooked in how well it has refreshed an expensive but disappointing attack. Next is the defence.

James Tarkowski seems like an impossible and incredibly underwhelming dream so the decision to pivot to Wesley Fofana is understandable. The reasoning is sound enough – copying Leicester’s transfer homework cuts out the expensive middle man and usually guarantees at least a degree of success in the market, to which the Hammers are not exactly accustomed – but a rejected £33m bid comprised of £10m in add-ons suggests time is in as short a supply as the necessary money in east London.


4) Josh King to Tottenham

Roberto Soldado, Fernando Llorente and Vincent(o) Janssen failed to the tune of 11 goals in 83 combined Premier League appearances for Tottenham. Christian Benteke and his six goals in 72 matches therefore makes perfect sense in the perennial search for someone to replace Harry Kane for a few weeks in October and March as he recuperates from a biannual dodgy ankle. Josh King would be a better alternative in reality.

Jose Mourinho has not yet been furnished with the striker he “wants” and “needs” in north London. King is a cost-efficient option with Premier League experience, versatility and a strong enough desire to stay in the top flight that he might consider an eternal existence on the periphery of the starting line-up. If anything, it will be interesting just to see how much Daniel Levy tries to lowball a Championship club over a player with a less than a year left on his contract when he makes his move an hour before the deadline.


3) Harry Wilson to Burnley

While Dwight McNeil plugs away as perhaps the most underrated forward in the entire division on the left, Burnley continue to make do with what they have on the opposite flank. Robbie Brady and Josh Brownhill have failed to create a single chance between them on the right-hand side, managing four off-target shots against Leicester and Southampton. Harry Wilson might have failed to help Bournemouth in their relegation battle last season but he would at least provide an edge to a position that has been allowed to rust.

The only issue might be the price, with Michael Edwards sure to hold a club that has spent just £1m heading into the final week to ransom. Wilson has three years left on his Liverpool contract but no realistic prospects of breaking through under Jurgen Klopp; he has been omitted from all three Premier League matchday squads and only made the bench against Lincoln in the League Cup. His stock might be as high now as it ever will be at Anfield with those seven top-flight goals for Bournemouth still fresh in the memory.


2) Juan Foyth to Fulham

Mario Lemina has filled one Premier League loan spot for Fulham, who have borrowed Alphonse Areola and Ola Aina from the continent. Scott Parker has a final space to fill and would be foolish to waste it on anything other than a centre-half.

Their issues in that position have been well-documented and Foyth might be an unlikely solution. Mauricio Pochettino’s pet right-back project has featured three times under Jose Mourinho and completed just one game, his only Premier League start resulting in a half-time substitution against Norwich in December. No player is in a more precarious position as the Portuguese looks to trim the squad fat, and Fulham could benefit.


1) Rhian Brewster to Sheffield United

Only West Brom have had fewer shots per Premier League game this season than Sheffield United. The sample size is small but three consecutive goalless defeats to compound a hat-trick of successive losses at the end of last campaign might engender that least Yorkshire of emotions: panic.

Chris Wilder acknowledged that “time is running out” in his pursuit of Rhian Brewster but an impending deadline must crystallise and focus the search for a striker. Sheffield United might hold the advantage in that Crystal Palace’s interest seems to have waned and Aston Villa are content with their options.

Liverpool understand the importance of the 20-year-old getting games to aid his development but they simply do not have the capacity to give him those opportunities. Their preference would be a permanent deal with a buy-back yet loaning Brewster out to gain top-flight experience would suit them and him more than a diet of random minutes in domestic cup competitions too. Sheffield United need him.

Matt Stead