THREE RELEGATED PREMIER LEAGUE STARS SET FOR AN IMMEDIATE RETURN - REAL, ARSENAL AND LEEDS IN HUNT
Every year, three teams are handed the crushing ultimatum of relegation for the Premier League. Whilst top flight status departs, the more agonising blow is the financial decrease upon leaving the division, with that being a crucial factor in why players tend to move on immediately after.
And, every year, we see relegated players and just think: ‘what are they doing there?’
At the end of last season, we had a fair few. It came as an injustice to see players such as Emiliano Buendia, Todd Cantwell and Ismailia Sarr reside in the drop zone. For varying reasons, they all stayed with their clubs and reaped the rewards, gaining promotion from the Championship at the first time of asking.
But some teams might not be so lucky this time out. Fulham, West Brom and Sheffield United were the unenviable three to succumb to relegation in the 2020/21 campaign. They all finished some way off safety, though despite their clear shortcomings, they all have diamonds in the rough just waiting for another deserved opportunity in the big time.
Fulham - Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa
Fulham’s Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa has, surprisingly enough, been involved in two relegations. This one, however, with the wounds still fresh, could well be the last one for quite some time.
After joining the club in 2018 from Marseille as part of Tony Khan’s radical- and ultimately ill-fated spending spree, the midfielder played a bit part role as his side suffered an immediate relegation, starting 16 matches all season.
To steady their wage bill, Fulham made the decision to loan Anguissa out the following campaign. It worked well for both parties; the Cameroonian International spent a successful year with Villareal, helping them to 5th place and meriting links to Real Madrid. And Fulham, bolstered by the acquisitions of numerous impressive Championship performers in Bobby Reid, Ivan Cavaliero and Harrison Reed, gained promotion via the playoffs.
By that point, Anguissa was finally ready to show what he could do in a Fulham shirt.
Even though he had found himself linked to a catalogue of top European outfits, he remained in West London and instantly became a staple in Scott Parker’s side. Combative yet creative, it’s fair to say that Anguissa has finally lived up to the £22m fee that Fulham shelled out for his sought-after services and with two years left on his current deal, they could yet make a profit, too.
And whilst there are still limitations in Anguissa’s game, some of his numbers compared to Premier League midfielders per 90 minutes are extraordinary. His ability to drive forward and progress play from midfield is well-documented, with the 25-year old ranking in the top 7% percentile for both shot and goal creating actions via dribbles.
By completing 3.02 dribbles p/90, the Fulham star is in the top 1% for that metric, whereas he also ranks in the top 14% for carries into the penalty area- showing that his dribbling ability is worthwhile and productive. His defensive qualities are just as encouraging as he records an average of 4.6 tackles and interceptions p/90, which has been integral for the counter attacking play that Scott Parker has tended to employ.
As preparations for the Championship are sketched and chalked up, it may be time for another outfit to embrace Anguissa’s multidimensional prowess.
West Brom - Matheus Pereira
West Bromwich Albion seldom find themselves intertwined with flamboyant flair, or captivating craft. And Brazilian buoyancy? Forget it.
Yet, in playmaking maestro Matheus Pereira, they have a player who ticks all the boxes of what they usually appear at odds with from a stylistic perspective.
Formerly of Sporting Lisbon, Chaves and Nurnberg, Pereira was snapped up from the Portugese giants in August 2019 as West Brom seeked promotion, after losing out in the playoffs the previous season.
He duly delivered.
That campaign, second-tier defences were left defenceless. Teammates were left in seas of applause and embraces. Supporters were subdued to captivation. Eight goals, 16 assists and 132 created chances later (yes, you read that right), the West Midlands outfit were back in the big time thanks to the efforts of their crown jewel.
Due to his performances and the ascending transfer interest that had already been circulating, Premier League supporters were eager to see if Pereira, whose loan spell had been made permanent for a bargain £8M fee, could live up to the billing.
Although West Brom’s Premier League return lasted a solitary season, Pereira coated himself in glory. He scored 11 times, a career high, and maintained his inventive ingenuity by coupling 6 assists with 66 created chances. No one will be forgetting *that* solo display at Stamford Bridge, either, where Pereira orchestrated a stunning 5-2 win over Chelsea back in March with a brace of goals and assists.
An experimental passer, Pereira dispatched 1.99 key passes per 90, whilst ranking in the top 5% for through balls, the top 1% for passes from free kicks and making 3.6 shot creation actions.
His versatility will also come as a plus for potential suitors, as he has featured through the middle and as a wide midfielder at the Hawthorns. Regardless of where he found himself deployed, though, his serial importance to his side remained fully intact.
So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to read that a host of top flight clubs are looking to keep Pereira in the Premier League. Recent reports suggest that West Brom will be demanding a fairly meagre fee of £15M, promptly alerting the likes of Leeds United and Leicester City.
Even newly-promoted Norwich City have been linked as a result of the imminent departure of Emi Buendia, who is set to join Aston Villa for a club-record £35M. Wherever he ends up, £15M appears a real bargain for a player of his quality.
Sheffield United - Sander Berge
Lastly, in stark contrast to the aforementioned names on this list, we come to a player who hasn’t played a whole lot of football recently. That is no fault of Sander Berge’s, though, who has endured an injury-stricken season with relegated Sheffield United. Over the course of the 2020-21 term, he only made 15 appearances- but, it is telling that 13 of those were starts.
When fit, not many would dare to contest his talent. Berge had previously been with Belgian outfit Genk, where a string of wowing displays allured some of Europe’s top dogs. Bayern Munich and Liverpool had both been interested in the towering Norweigan, but to the surprise of the footballing world, it was Sheffield United who sealed his services midway through their first season back in the Premier League for over a decade.
Berge instantly made an impression at Bramall Lane as the Blades shocked the masses to finish 9th after tinkering with European qualification for much of the campaign. However, the subsequent season was nothing short of an implosion.
Perhaps the finest typification of ‘second season syndrome’ as you could ever find, United sunk to rock bottom, losing 29 times and finishing 16 points away from safety. Amidst all the subsidence, the club even parted ways with Chris Wilder, the manager who guided the club from the depths of League One to the Premier League. A disaster.
Realistically, it’s hard to envisage Berge plying his trade in the Championship- as his fleeting, yet applaudable showings will concur. A physically imposing midfielder with a tendency to progress play into attacking areas, the Norweigan International completed 1.53 dribbles per 90 and made 5.6 progressive carries.
Along with this, very few players have carried the ball into the penalty area than Berge’s 0.53 per 90, which, at 0.72, places him in the top 5% amongst top flight midfielders.
However, the South Yorkshire side will not part easily with the 23-year old- and, in all honesty, can you blame them? Arsenal, a team in need of a midfielder boasting Berge’s skill set, reportedly enquired recently, only for United to respond with a quoted £35M price tag.