Premier League signings: The XI we fear will flop this season

  • Kobe Tong
Tottenham's Richarlison protests.

Premier League signings don’t always work out. Just ask Andriy Shevchenko, Radamel Falcao, Angel Di Maria and Jerome Boateng.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a world-class player such as the examples we’ve listed there or a fledging starlet looking to make their name in England, the simple fact of the matter is that our nation’s beloved competition can be a cruel mistress.

Like it or not, the sad reality is that a good proportion of signings each summer do indeed go on to flop and predicting who they’ll be can often prove to be an impossible task.

Premier League signings that flop

Besides, lest we forget that you would have been laughed out of the room for suggesting this time last year that Romelu Lukaku will flop at Chelsea on the back of a 30-goal season with Inter Milan.

But alas, that’s exactly what happened.

So, here at GIVEMESPORT, we’ve acutely aware that the latest instalment of our 2022/23 Premier League predictions might rustle a few feathers because we’re trying our hand at naming the summer signings that, well, won’t come good.

Having already named an XI of buys that we think will tear it up this season, we’ve built a line-up of purchases that – for reasons we’ll go on to unpack – we fear have a difficult nine months ahead.

What quantifies a flop?

First, though, there are some caveats to work through because the players in our XI will fall into one of two categories which can be quantified as deserving of that notorious ‘flop’ label.

Funnily enough, the main type is the player simply having a poor campaign, but the second is a little more nuanced: things simply not working out at the club even if it isn’t actually their fault.

Take, for example, the fact that you’d probably class Donny van de Beek as a United flop hitherto, but not necessarily because of his own performances, rather the fact that he’s largely been stapled to the bench over the last two years despite his £40 million price tag.

Also, it’s important to note that we’re talking about the 2022/23 season in particular because there are umpteen-thousand examples of players who took at least a year to adapt to the Premier League.

Van de Beek scores for Man Utd.
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Joao Cancelo flopped in the 2019/20 campaign, same for Heung-min Son in 2015/16 and Jordan Henderson in 2011/12, but look at them now.

So foreseeing a difficult season ahead is by no means some sort of perpetual indictment of their chances in the Premier League, fear not.

The XI we fear will flop

But above all else, take everything with a pinch of salt because all our picks ultimately come down to the opinion of your humble writer, who would love nothing more than to be proven wrong for each and every one of the 11 predictions.

However, we simply can’t ignore the fact that – as sad as it is – big-name signings do indeed flop in the Premier League each season and we just happen to fear that this lot will suffer that fate in 2022/23…

GK: Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace)

A move that just leaves you wondering: why? Johnstone seemed to be linked with every Premier League club going upon the expiration of his contract at West Bromwich Albion, only to wind up in one of the division’s biggest goalkeeping logjams.

Not only is Vicente Guaita a thoroughly underrated ‘keeper who has hitherto held onto the number one jersey, but Palace already have one of the best back-up shot-stoppers in the division in the form of Jack Butland.

As such, it’s hard not to fear for Johnston – as good a goalkeeper as he is – because there are no shortage of hurdles between him and regular Premier League game time.

Palace's Johnstone warms up.
Soccer Football – Premier League – Crystal Palace v Arsenal – Selhurst Park, London, Britain – August 5, 2022 Crystal Palace’s Sam Johnstone during the warm up before the match REUTERS/David Klein EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club /league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

RB: Giulian Biancone (Nottingham Forest)

Forest have spent big – like, really big – so you’ll forgive us for thinking that not every player to arrive at the City Ground this summer will be a romping success, and Biancone is the acquisition that we fear for the most.

The 22-year-old is at serious risk of being lost in the shuffle as a squad player, unfavored at right-back in comparison to the superior Neco Williams and potentially out of his depth at centre-back in what represents a huge step up from Troyes.

CB: Nayef Aguerd (West Ham United)

An ankle injury requiring surgery was not the way that Aguerd wanted to start his career in England but alas, the pressure has only been cranked up even more as the £30-million buy watches the Hammers open their season from the treatment table.

That aside, this represents one of our more guttural selections in the absence of too many risky centre-back buys, because it is worth pointing out Aguerd’s impressive passing and front-footed style of defending.

However, adapting to West Ham’s style of play on the back of life at possession-focused Stade Rennais, married to competition with Thilo Kehrer, Kurt Zouma and Craig Dawson, could make for a debut season that ultimately disappoints.

Aguerd playing for West Ham.
Soccer Football – Pre Season Friendly – Rangers v West Ham United – Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow, Scotland, Britain – July 19, 2022 Rangers’ Antonio Colak in action with West Ham United’s Nayef Aguerd REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

CB: Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United)

Ah, this one felt cheap, it did, but rest assured that we’re not picking Martinez out of some shallow bandwagon jumping because there’s good reason to think that he will come good at United with his superb eye for a pass and underrated aerial ability.

You only had to look at the resurgence that he enjoyed with Raphael Varane by his side against Liverpool to see that he has the power to prove his doubters, us included, wrong.

But let’s not totally ignore what proved to be a terrible start to life in the Premier League, looking all sorts of lost amidst the miserable Brighton & Hove Albion and Brentford defeats where he side of the pitch was often deliberately targeted.

We’re not banging the already-shot-to-death drum that he’s five foot, nine inches tall, rather we’re forecasting a tough season ahead as United go through yet another identity crisis.

LB: Marc Cucurella (Chelsea)

Arguably our most controversial pick because Cucurella is a top-class player who was tracked by Manchester City for good reason and one who has hit the ground running in blue. Then again, so did Mr. Lukaku.

Our problem with this signing lies with the fact that Chelsea are already very strong in the left-back position, as well as at left centre-back, leading to a very plausible scenario where Cucurella finds starts hard to come by.

It only takes Ben Chilwell to channel 80-90% of the scintillating form he showed at the start of last season to end up in a scenario where Cucurella, for all his clear brilliance, is filed as a ‘why was that necessary? signing.

Chelsea's Cucurella on the ball.
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CDM: Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City)

Kudos to Phillips for making a move that will guarantee him the trophies he deserves and fair play to City for boosting their already dizzying squad depth, but that’s where the certainties end.

The England man faces a real uphill battle to force his way into a stacked Pep Guardiola midfield in which the dynamism and guile that makes him such an exciting player to watch could well be petrified into passing passivism.

RM: Philippe Coutinho (Aston Villa)

A top, top player up to his eyeballs in raw ability, but we just haven’t seen any sort of consistency from Coutinho since his Liverpool pomp and four whole years of peaks, troughs, zeniths and nadirs isn’t something that can be filed under: ‘minor blip’.

Will he produce a long-range screamer and masterclass every other month? You betcha, but his pedestrian performances to open the season feel symptomatic of a permanent move that could well be defined by brief flashes of brilliance.

Villa's Coutinho in pre-season.
Soccer Football – Pre Season Friendly – Stade Rennes v Aston Villa – Roazhon Park, Rennes, France – July 30, 2022 Aston Villa’s Philippe Coutinho REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

CAM: Fabio Vieira (Arsenal)

It’s just not a position that Arsenal needed to strengthen, is it? A league-high 16 assists for FC Porto last season might well have made Vieira the ‘Movie of the Week’ upon his arrival, but it’s not for no reason that the excitement has already died down.

The 22-year-old is vulnerable to becoming a fringe figure at the Emirates behind Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe in the race to be the Gunners’ leading creative force, despite his undoubted ability and potential.

It smacks of a move that could well work out in the long run, but will be defined as a self-aware increase of squad depth in the wake of a Europa League return as far as 2022/23 is concerned.

LM: Dwight McNeil (Everton)

It’s easy to think that McNeil is a lot older than his 22 years such is his Premier League experience and truth be told, we’re still waiting to see him produce the numbers that have long been tipped for a man of his quality.

Perhaps his lukewarm seven goals and 17 assists in 136 Premier League games can merely be put down to ‘Dyche ball’, but it’s just hard to see turning out for a relegation-threatened Everton side boosting what is ultimately middle-of-the-road output.

McNeil on his Everton debut.
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ST: Hwang Hee-chan (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Wolves need goals and they need them now. On the back of a season where they only scored four more times than relegated Watford and Burnley, the importance of no longer relying solely on Raul Jimenez couldn’t be any clear.

And it’s tough to see Hwang as the man to solve that problem having not reached double figures in a season since leaving the Austrian Bundesliga, notching just five strikes during his loan stint at Molineux despite his overall quality.

ST: Richarlison (Tottenham Hotspur)

Look, even in a world where Richarlison doesn’t get his time in the sun at Spurs, it still represents a positive move for a club needing to boost its squad depth, but this has all the hallmarks of a misstep for the player himself.

Richarlison has gone from being a big fish in a small pond to a medium-sized fish in a whopping big lake and currently, we just don’t see how he breaks up the Heung-min Son, Harry Kane and Dejan Kulusevski triumvirate.

There’s a very real risk that Spurs have spent £60 million on a player who could start fewer than 10 Premier League games this season, and there’s only so many goals and assists that Brazilian can mine from that.

Richarlison playing for Tottenham.
Soccer Football – Pre Season Friendly – Rangers v Tottenham Hotspur – Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow, Scotland, Britain – July 23, 2022 Tottenham Hotspur’s Richarlison reacts Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Who do you think will flop?

No doubt at least a handful of our picks will have you searching for pitchforks and picket signs in your local DIY shop, but remember this: the predictions that make the most sense are seldom ever the only ones that come true.

If we didn’t make a single risky selection in our XI, then you might as well confine our forecast to the footballing rubbish dump before we’ve even started because you can bet that 2022/23 will spring plenty of surprises.

And while we hope that everyone from Cucurella to Coutinho and Johnstone to Phillips make a laughing stock out of our prediction, the brutal inevitability of Premier League signings going wrong means that at least some high-profile buys – whether these ones or others – will fall short of expectations.

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Though, if the 2022/23 season does make history and every signing makes good of their move, then we’ll be the first ones to dance and revel in having been proven wrong.

Go on, lads, make me look like a mug for doubting you.

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