Joe Gomez, James Maddison, Aaron Ramsey, Tim Cahill, Theo Walcott, John Stones, Michail Antonio, Jermaine Jenas, Lewis Cook, Michael Carrick, David Brooks, Joleon Lescott. The list goes on.

Some of the best signings in the Premier League era came from the second tier, and while many clubs will spend the summer scouring the planet for the best talent to improve their squads, there are plenty of options far closer to home that might be worth looking at. Many of them are ready to make the step up and are just waiting to be given an opportunity.

Here, we’ve picked six transfer targets for Premier League clubs to consider signing this summer. There is plenty of ability and – perhaps more importantly – value to be found in the Championship.

Alex Scott (Bristol City)

Scott has been linked with a number of Premier League clubs this summer, including Tottenham, West Ham, Wolves and Bournemouth, after a couple of impressive seasons in Bristol City’s midfield. He already has 83 Championship appearances under his belt, and will only turn 20 shortly after the start of next season, so as well as his vast ability, he also offers bags of potential. He was named the Championship young player of the season for 2022-23.

A skilful and versatile midfielder who is at his best in the centre of the pitch but has played on both flanks for City (largely in wing-back roles), Scott loves to get on the ball and is both bold and confident in possession. There is a touch of a young Jack Grealish about him – and not just in the way he wears his socks rolled down – but because his first thought is often to try and beat a man. Jack Rudoni (108) and Tahith Chong (106) were the only other central midfielders to attempt more dribbles in the Championship last season than Scott (104), who was also fouled more times (96) than any other player in the division. He draws a vast number of free-kicks and often in dangerous positions, with 19 of those fouls occurring in the final third, which was the sixth most in the Championship. You can probably see what I mean with those Grealish comparisons.

Alex Scott fouls won

He can give as good as he gets, though, and isn’t scared of getting stuck in. He committed 50 fouls – the 12th-most in the Championship in 2022-23 – and was shown 10 yellow cards in his 40 starts. Given how much he is fouled it may come as a surprise that not one of his cards was for simulation.

There is an unbelievable amount of potential there to work with, and a top coach could quite feasibly transform Scott’s raw talent into something more consistent and threatening. Given how much he gets on the ball, his 38 chances created, four assists and solitary goal hint at a lack of quality in his final ball and decision making. He is still only a teenager, though, so there’s plenty of time to work on that side of his game once he makes the inevitable step up to the Premier League.

Gus Hamer (Coventry City)

There will be some reasonable concern among Coventry fans that their team may struggle to repeat the remarkable run of form that took them to last season’s play-off final, where they were only denied a return to the Premier League by a penalty-shootout defeat to Luton Town. Mark Robins’ side stormed up the table in the second half of the season, fuelled in no small part by the goals of Viktor Gyökeres and the creative spark of Gus Hamer. Gyökeres, however, has now completed a move to Portuguese giants Sporting CP, while Hamer is inevitably attracting attention – apparently from Fulham and Burnley – following the campaign he has just enjoyed. Hamer registered the fourth-most assists (10) in the Championship in 2022-23 behind Gyökeres (12), Jack Clarke (12) and Ryan Giles (11), despite ranking eighth for chances created, with 77. He created opportunities for teammates in both open play (47) and at set-pieces (30), while his three assists from set-pieces were more than any other player who managed as many open-play assists as him (seven), suggesting he was one of the Championship’s more well-rounded creators. Only two players in the league were involved in more shot-ending sequences in open play than him.

Championship open-play shot-ending sequence involvement

A hard-working number eight, Hamer affects the game on both sides of the ball. As well as ranking fifth for total shots attempts (113), second for shots from outside the area (77) and in the top 20 for goals scored, he committed more fouls than anyone else in the Championship (75) and only two players made more tackles than him (114).

Robins has already dipped into the transfer marked by signing Ellis Simms from Everton to replace Gyökeres, but he will hope he doesn’t have to find a Hamer replacement. Losing both of his key attacking players would be difficult to recover from.

Max Aarons (Norwich City)

Now 23 years of age and with two full seasons of Premier League experience under his belt, Aarons is surely too good for the Championship. He has been linked with moves to bigger clubs than Norwich for a long time, and after they failed to win promotion in 2022-23, he will presumably be considering his options. Norwich sporting director Stuart Webber agrees that it is time for Aarons to look for a new challenge.

“I think it’s time probably for Max to make a move, if I’m honest,” Webber said earlier this summer. “I’ve said that to him. I think he’s outgrown the club. I think he’s ready to go and he needs a new stimulus now.” A technical right-back who is measured in possession and combative out, Aarons provides attacking impetus out wide while also being a very competent defender. Of all defenders in the Championship last season, Aarons ranked third for dribbles attempted (125), successfully completed dribbles (53), and chances created from open play (39), as well as ninth for tackles (84). He played an integral role for Norwich, with only Gabriel Sara and Teemu Pukki involved in more open-play shot-ending sequences for their team than Aarons (150).

Max Aarons chances created map

Ilias Chair (QPR)

Anyone who has played in a World Cup third-place playoff in the last year should surely be playing for a better team than one that finished just six points above the Championship relegation zone last season, right? QPR’s form in the second half of 2022-23 – they won only three of their last 31 games of the campaign – may well have been enough to convince the Morocco international it is time to look for a move. Chair is a wonderfully talented attacking midfielder at his best in the number 10 position or drifting into central positions if he has started on the left side of attack. He provides a near constant threat on the opposition’s goal; only two players created more chances in the Championship last season than Chair (96), while he also attempted the ninth-most shots (97) and the third-most from outside the penalty area (61). Only five players were involved in more open-play shot-ending sequences in the Championship last season than Chair (197), and he was involved in the most when adjusted per 90 minutes played (5.4) of everyone to feature for at least 3,000 minutes.

Championship open-play shot-ending sequence involvement per 90

Looking at his shooting numbers reveals that this could be an area of his game that needs some work, despite the fact that only Burnley’s Manuel Benson (6) scored more goals from outside the box than Chair (5) in the Football League last season. He still, remarkably, somehow managed to underperform relative to his xG, failing to score a single goal from his 36 shots from inside the penalty area. His shot map proves he tries to score from poor shooting positions far too often, and he would need to adjust his game if he were to step up to a bigger club.

Ilias Chair xG map

That said, standing out in a high-quality league despite playing for a poorly performing side who ended up only just beating the drop was a genuine achievement. He certainly has what it takes to make the step up.

Michael Cooper (Plymouth Argyle)

Cooper is only a Championship player because Plymouth Argyle were promoted from League One last season, so he is yet to play a second-tier match, but he could yet be ready to make the step up to the Premier League before long.

The League One goalkeeper of the season in 2022-23 conceded 29 goals from shots worth 35.8 expected goals on target last season, meaning he prevented 6.8 goals with his saves. That was the second best such rate in League One behind Wycombe’s Max Stryjek (9.5) and the fourth best in the entire Football League.

Michael Cooper goals prevented

He made a few real standout saves over the course of the 2022-23 season, including five saves from shots worth 0.45 xG or higher, which if you were watching, you would always expect the attacker to score. He maintained a save success rate of 77.3% – the fourth highest of all goalkeepers to play at least 500 minutes in the Football League – and that only dropped to 72.1% when focusing just on shots from inside the penalty area. That is all the more impressive considering he made the fourth-most saves from shots from inside the penalty area per 90 minutes played in the entire Football League (2.6).

Plymouth play a possession-based game under a progressive manager in Steven Schumacher, averaging the third-highest possession share in League One last season (55.3%). They built out from the back, starting off moves with Cooper, who played 58% of his passes inside his own half and maintained a pass success rate of 62.4%. By comparison, Aaron Ramsdale played 59% of his passes in his own half and had a pass success rate of 63.5%. The Premier League is obviously a step up but Cooper is playing the kind of football that would mean making that step would be easier than it might for other third-tier keepers.

Michael Cooper pass map

Hayden Hackney (Middlesbrough)

A key cog in Michael Carrick’s Middlesbrough revolution, Hackney was the metronome at the base of midfield through which most of their moves went. From the date Carrick took over at the Riverside in late October last year until the end of the season, only three players completed more passes in the Championship than Hackney (1,841), and two of those three players were centre-backs.

Hackney gets on the ball often and is responsible for maintaining the tempo of his team’s play. He tends to keep it simple, playing 94.1% of his passes short over the course of the season, and he rarely gets into positions to actively threaten the opposition’s goal, creating just 21 chances and registering four assists. But his job is a crucial one for Boro, who ranked third in the Championship for average possession share (58.1%) and had the third-most passes per sequence (3.7).

Championship team styles

A ball-winner and a ball-player, Hackney was key to those sequences. Since Carrick became manager, Hackney was involved in the build-up of an open-play sequence that ended in a goal 13 times last season, which was the second most of all players in the Championship. He also ranked fourth for involvement in the build-up to a shot-ending sequence (78).

He was fourth in the Championship for the number of times he won possession during that period (223), and he combined this ability with his excellent distribution to good effect, too. He ranked sixth in the Championship after Carrick took over for the number of times he regained possession and then started a sequence which ended in a shot (eight). He might not affect the game high up the pitch directly, but he does an important role in breaking up play and moving the ball on to more dangerous attacking players.

At 21, Hackney still has some developing to do, but there is good reason to expect that he will be in the Premier League before long – either under Carrick at Boro or with another club.

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