Top ten failed Premier League summer signings who could jump or be pushed out in January

Philippe Coutinho is fouled against Chelsea Credit: Alamy
Philippe Coutinho is fouled against Chelsea Credit: Alamy

These ten players were signed for a combined £108.6m in the summer but could be moved on at the first opportunity this January. Chelsea must be stopped.

 

10) Julio Enciso
As is the case with most Brighton signings until they slowly break into the first team and guarantee the Seagulls a considerable profit on their initial outlay, few could name the £9.5m Paraguay international forward they purchased in the summer. The club will hope that Julio Enciso follows the same path from unknown to Todd Boehly obsession as Moises Caicedo, Alexis MacAllister and Kaoru Mitoma.

A slight detour might be required. Aside from three starts in the Carabao Cup and half an hour against Middlesbrough in a 5-1 FA Cup thrashing, the teenager has been largely sidelined. There is a positive slant to the 112 Premier League minutes he has been handed thus far, in that they have all come within Brighton’s last six matches as Roberto De Zerbi starts to shuffle his deck a little more. But a few months away would do Enciso good, particularly with the younger Evan Ferguson suddenly leapfrogging him in the pecking order.

 

9) Sekou Mara
A non-scoring teenage striker with obvious ability but clear limitations: Sekou Mara was destined for Southampton long before Ralph Hasenhuttl stated he was “coming here to score goals and has shown in the French league he can do this”.

Seven goals in 34 Ligue Un appearances brought him to Saints, where he is yet to score in 12 Premier League games.

It started so well – with a stunning assist on his debut in an August draw with Leeds – but Mara is struggling to sustain himself on a drip-feed of minutes. The Frenchman has started three league games and not played more than an hour each time, while his four goals in a reserve thrashing of Middlesbrough’s under-21s was rewarded with consecutive senior games as an unused substitute.

And now Southampton have signed Mislav Orsic and Carlos Alcaraz in this transfer window, a competition for places that Mara was already categorically losing has increased further.

 

8) Malcolm Ebiowei
It was seen as quite the coup for Crystal Palace to entice Malcolm Ebiowei to south-east London from Derby. Wayne Rooney was left with little choice but to rely on inexperienced youngsters towards the end of his spell at Pride Park and he noted that the forward “has got a really bright future” if he continued on the same path which brought him to the Premier League at such a precocious stage.

But three Premier League appearances amounting to barely over half an hour altogether – and all coming in goalless defeats – has thoroughly dampened Ebiowei’s excitement at joining the Patrick Vieira youth revolution. Missing the decisive penalty in a Carabao Cup loss to Newcastle can’t have helped either. So the player likely welcomed interest from Ipswich, Swansea, QPR and elsewhere, before settling on another link-up with Liam Rosenior at Hull City in a move which is likely to be finalised within the week.

 

7) Flynn Downes
The prevalent theory is that West Ham are reluctant to trigger any add-ons from a move for Flynn Downes which cost an initial £9m with £5m more due to Swansea in potential bonuses. That is certainly one explanation. Another is that the midfielder was signed as a proactive Declan Rice replacement. But one last hypothesis is that David Moyes signed the 23-year-old entirely by accident.

It rings true when you consider Downes has only started eight games for West Ham across the Premier League, Europa Conference and Carabao Cup, been the club’s best player in most if not all of those matches, and that he thrives in the sort of possession-based system Moyes has previously suggested he wishes to pivot towards, yet he continues to be unfathomably overlooked. Moyes persists with the struggling Tomas Soucek while handing Downes four substitute minutes in the FA Cup against Brentford. Make it make sense.

 

6) Thomas Strakosha
“Maybe they were thinking of selling their goalkeeper, I don’t know. But clearly it’s a situation that we’ve only been in for a short time and it’s a bit awkward today because for a goalkeeper who has over 200 games in Serie A with Lazio to find himself not playing at Brentford is not easy, bearing in mind that we’re talking about an important Premier League club. It’s an anomaly. He’s asked me to find a solution. We have our ears to the ground to listen to the opportunities that will come. I wouldn’t be surprised if something turns up in January also because Brentford themselves have understood the boy’s embarrassment in this situation.”

The predicament of Thomas Strakosha and his agent Federico Pastorello was not foreseen. It was expected that the Albanian shot-stopper and David Raya would engage in a battle for the goalkeeping ages, trading the No.1 shirt and raising the other’s game through healthy competition. Yet Strakosha’s only Brentford appearances have come in domestic cup competitions and from October to January he wasn’t even named on a Premier League bench by Thomas Frank. A move back to the more familiar climes of Serie A seems likely.

 

5) Kevin Mbabu
By his own admission, Marco Silva “expected a different adaptation from the beginning” when it came to his £6.5m summer signing. But Kevin Mbabu has struggled to the extent that it cost him a World Cup squad place with Switzerland and non-specialist Bobby De Cordova-Reid has played more often at right-back for Fulham.

The final nail in the coffin of Mbabu’s Cottagers career, at least temporarily, came when he was omitted from the matchday squad for the FA Cup win over Hull. The 27-year-old has not played in the Premier League since early November – and that was for 10 minutes as a winger against Manchester City – while his two starts in all competitions have delivered different levels of miserable: he was substituted at half-time against Newcastle in October, and played the full 2-0 defeat to Crawley in the Carabao Cup.

Even if just to get away from the despair for a while, a loan would suit all parties.

 

4) Djed Spence
Brentford, Southampton, Wolves, Bayer Leverkusen and a number of other teams are likely to keep monitoring the developments of Djed Spence in north London. Not that there have been too many: Antonio Conte stated of the right-back in July that “the club decided to buy him” and he has barely been used since. Spurs have played 2,340 minutes across all competitions this season and Spence has played 1.75% (41) of them.

Neil Warnock might be enjoying it but the current situation benefits no-one. Spence needs to build his confidence back up first and foremost and sitting behind Emerson Royal and Matt Doherty in the pecking order for a few more months will only further the issue. Spence has at least proven himself as a player who thrives when given a critic to prove wrong, but he might need actual opportunities to achieve that first.

 

3) Philippe Coutinho
“The contact exists and the desire is there, but it is a very difficult deal,” Corinthians president Duilio Monteiro Alves told Spanish outlet Sport this month. “We want the player on loan, but while the transfer window in Europe is open, everything is very difficult. It is still a very premature operation but we have to try.”

It wouldn’t be a January transfer window without Philippe Coutinho making a move built on immense promise which soon dissipates and leaves only regret and an increased wage bill. The Brazilian seems to operate solely in the winter market and Kia Joorabchian has reportedly promised to do what he can to deliver his client back to the more favourable surroundings of Brazil.

Aston Villa’s sole resistance will be in terms of recouping as much of their £18m transfer fee as possible, unless a mutually beneficial loan can be agreed. Coutinho does not seem to be a crucial part of Unai Emery’s plans and the forward has no goals or assists in 17 games this season, much to the amusement of Stevenage.

 

2) Emmanuel Dennis
Nottingham Forest signed enough players in the summer to mean that, even just by the law of averages, some would almost immediately be surplus to requirements. Brandon Aguilera, Hwang Ui-jo and Josh Bowler were all bought and then loaned straight back out, Loic Bade’s stay has been cut short and Emmanuel Dennis is on the transfer list.

The forward was number 12 in the queue to join Forest upon their promotion in a deal which cost around £15m and rising. But a goal-costing mistake against Man Utd in December ‘infuriated’ club staff to such an extent that he will be sacrificed this month to make room in Steve Cooper’s squad.

There is a complication in that Dennis has already played for Watford and Forest – although not a great deal for either – this season. He can therefore only join a club overseas or return to Vicarage Road. Ship him off to Olympiacos and be done with it.

 

1) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Chelsea are really bad at this. It used to be their thing. They bloody loved transfers but they knew when to sell, when to buy and always for how much. Not any more. They have an addiction. They need help. And their dealers over at Brighton are just taking advantage now.

It was Barcelona who spent the summer taunting them. While Todd Boehly scours the BBC transfer gossip column every morning to identify his next target, Xavi and his Catalan pals just kept copying Chelsea’s homework and handed it in before them. Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski and Jules Kounde were all shortlisted by the Blues but joined Andreas Christensen and Marcos Alonso at the Nou Camp instead of Stamford Bridge.

Barca then did Chelsea the debatable favour of sending them Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – a player they themselves had signed as a free agent a few months prior – for £15m. They’re nice like that. Good lads.

It has been refreshingly predictable. Aubameyang’s awful form of three goals in 16 games has compounded a transfer which always felt utterly pointless. Graham Potter has already seen enough and it is unlikely that anyone involved will bemoan speculation suggesting the striker might not still be in Chelsea blue come February.

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