LAST CHANCE: GIVING THE PEMIER LEAGUE BOTTOM THREE A FREE AGENT LIFELINE
It’s fair to say that the bottom three clubs in the Premier League haven’t had the seasons they were hoping for so far. They all need various factors to go their way to avoid the drop, but here, we’re going to try and plug the gaps in their sides with three players available right now for free.
18th Place – Fulham (26 points)
Fulham’s first few games back in the Premier League following their promotion were diabolical. In their first six games they recorded just one point in a draw with fellow strugglers Sheffield United, conceded 14 goals and scored just five. After their third game, a 3-0 loss to Aston Villa, Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher said: “Fulham are going down. I’ve never been more certain about anything in my life.”
However, things are looking up more recently at Craven Cottage, and Fulham are now just two points away from safety. Scott Parker has tightened things up at the back, helped by the January addition of Danish centre-back Joachim Andersen, and they’ve even managed to spring a surprise or two against the big teams, most recently enjoying a victory over the title-holders Liverpool, with Carragher watching on from the commentary box.
Fulham’s main issue now is goals. Chances are being created, but they aren’t being finished often enough. That’s why the free agent being brought into Craven Cottage is the Nigerian striker Ahmed Musa. He would link up with fellow Nigerian representatives in Ola Aina, Tosin, Ademola Lookman and Josh Maja.
As Mitrovic hasn’t found a groove all season, and Maja was never meant as an instant fix, Musa would ideally lead the line at Fulham for the rest of the season. If he can rack up a double-figure tally by then, which is certainly possible given his qualities, and the number of chances going begging at the Cottage, then Fulham could pull off something not many thought possible at the start of the season, all thanks to their flock of Super Eagles.
19th Place – West Bromwich Albion (18 points)
Sam Allardyce has got a mammoth task on his hands if he’s going to keep West Brom up this season. He has steadied the ship since his arrival, slowing the stream of goals into their own net. In their first nine games, they conceded 18, but that figure has halved in their most recent nine. The turnaround has been impressive, but they now have a similar problem to Fulham. They just can’t put their chances away.
They’re 10 points and 20 goal difference away from Newcastle in 17th place, so they will need a miracle to pull off the escape, but Big Sam has had his fair share of them. All he needs is a striker he can rely on, and there is exactly that on the free agent market right now. Diego Costa in the stripes of West Brom would be a sight to behold, but the fiery Spaniard could be that man.
Luis Suarez may have already surpassed Costa and Morata’s joint scoring tally from last season, but Costa still has a magnificent goalscoring record. His return to the Premier League might not be the one he would have wanted, but that’s tough, this is our hypothetical situation and we’re sending him to Birmingham whether he likes it or not.
West Brom winger Matheus Pereira is one of the best players in the bottom quarter of the table, but he needs a forward to be able to feed and trust that his crosses and passes will be converted with more regularity than they are now. If anyone can do that, Costa can, and with that in mind, anything can happen.
20th Place – Sheffield United (14 Points)
One of the worst seasons in Premier League history has now claimed another casualty. Chris Wilder, Sheffield United manager for the last five years and hero of the club lost his job last week. The loss could make or break United’s season, as Wilder was woven into the fabric of the club, and any change is going to affect a lot more than just the tactics.
Of the three clubs in the relegation zone, United’s position is the most dire. It took them until mid-January to record their first win in the league. Saving their season would take much more than just one player coming in, as they have issues across the pitch, but the free agent who would be the biggest help is without doubt Alex Teixeira.
A victim of the collapse of the Chinese Super League, Teixeira is a versatile attacking player, who can play a supporting central role, coming in from the left or as the focal point. He has superb statistics from his time in China and when he was at Shakhtar Donetsk. Although he wouldn’t have fit particularly well in Wilder’s system, Teixeira would be vital for any incoming manager.
If he was just given free roam across the front line, he may not be able to work the miracle of pulling Sheffield out of the relegation zone, but he could peel them off the bottom of the table with a few surprise results along the way. Although he will probably never actually go to Sheffield United, watch out whichever club does actually snap him up next in the real world.