Following the release of our Opta Player Radars, we used the tool to answer some (mostly) transfer-related questions…
With the European transfer window open, most clubs are already plotting for next season as they hope to make the marginal gains that take them to the next level – or even higher.
Football waits for no team; in this day and age, standing still is to fall behind, whoever you are. Manchester City may have become only the second English team ever to win the treble, but don’t expect them to settle for what they’ve already got.
Pep Guardiola knows that to keep City setting the standards they must continue pushing boundaries. Everyone else is playing catch-up, but Arsenal and Mikel Arteta proved last year that a team can make significant strides in less than 12 months.
Of course, this time of year also captures the imagination of supporters itching to see exciting new signings, and our new Opta Player Radars can help you to make your own assessments about club targets, even enabling you to offer your own suggestions and analysis.
With that in mind, let’s see what they can do…
How Could West Ham Replace Declan Rice?
West Ham captain Declan Rice was one of only six midfielders in the Premier League last season to record at least 30 tackles (79), created 30 chances in open play (31) and make 30 interceptions (63). Replacing his output and influence will be difficult, maybe even impossible.
It seems particularly unlikely that they’d be able to tick every box with one player, but if Rice does leave, the Hammers stand to bring in a substantial amount of money.
Arsenal had seemingly been leading the chase, reportedly having an offer worth £90million rejected earlier this week, but now Manchester City are said to have thrown their hat into the ring.
The Opta Player Radar suggests Arsenal could have a potential advantage, however, as the tool considers Thomas Partey to be the player most similar to Rice in the 2022-23 season. The current Gunners midfielder has an 87% similarity to Rice, which is high.
Partey is currently courting interest from Saudi Arabia, where he would likely earn considerably more than even in the Premier League. An apparent asking price of £40m could also be less of an issue for the Saudis, who are throwing money around with little regard at the moment.
But if Partey retains a desire to play in a competitive league – and Europe for that matter after West Ham qualified for the UEFA Europa League by winning the Europa Conference League – then maybe he could be persuaded to swap the Emirates for the London Stadium.
Who Can Tottenham Replace Harry Kane With?
Much like with Rice, trying to replace what Kane offers with just a single player probably isn’t going to go well. Not only is he such a deadly finisher, he also provides creativity and operates very effectively as a target man.
It’s certainly not a given that he’ll leave this summer. He’s said to favour a move to Manchester United, though reports suggest they’ve ruled out continuing their pursuit of him because Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is reluctant to sell to a Premier League club.
Real Madrid have also been linked, but a move abroad would obviously impact Kane’s chances of breaking Alan Shearer’s record for the most Premier League goals.
If Kane doesn’t leave this summer, however, it seems likely he’ll seek a move as a free agent next year. Either way, Spurs need to be prepared for what comes next. Why not rip the plaster off and get it over with while he still has value?
In such a scenario, the Opta Player Radar puts Lille striker Jonathan David as the forward most similar to Kane, with a 76% similarity.
Of course, you have to recognise David’s output is recorded from a league regarded as weaker than the Premier League. Nevertheless, the Canada international scores and creates at comparable rates to Kane, and he’d unlikely break the bank, providing room for manoeuvre in terms of additional reinforcements.
Another option highlighted by the tool is Marcus Thuram (75% similarity). The France international wouldn’t be a like-for-like replacement given he likes to operate a little wider than Kane, but he’s a dynamic forward who’d probably fit in well around the likes of Son Heung-min and Dejan Kulusevski. Thuram is a frequent shooter, gets into the penalty area a lot and is also available on a free transfer for the moment.
Who Could Man Utd Sign Instead of Kim Min-jae?
Manchester United’s first season under Erik ten Hag generally went well, but they need to carry on that progress by continuing to replenish the squad. There’s every chance that’ll mean captain Harry Maguire is sold after falling out of favour.
While that would likely be a popular move among supporters, they’d still expect to see some kind of replacement. Napoli’s Kim Min-jae seemed to be their first-choice target, but the South Korea international appears to be heading for Bayern Munich.
So, who could United turn their attention to instead?
Jonathan Tah of Bayer Leverkusen could be a decent alternative, according to the tool. At 79% the Germany international was considered to be one of the two most similar players to Kim during the 2022-23 season. William Saliba was the other, though he wouldn’t be seen as a realistic target. Tah is also said to be available for as little as £15.5m.
Another option could be Fikayo Tomori. The Milan centre-back has a 78% similarity to Kim’s output in 2022-23, and he has the added bonus of being English, so he would count towards United’s homegrown allocation in the UEFA Champions League, for what it’s worth.
Is Tonali Good Value?
Newcastle United will be back in the Champions League next season having qualified to appear in the group stage for the first time since 2002-03. As such, they’re looking to bolster their squad with top-tier talent.
A move for Nicolò Barella failed to get off the ground, but according to the latest widespread reports, their attentions remain in Milan.
Sandro Tonali is said to be the subject of a £60m (€70m) offer, which would be a new club record for Newcastle. The price tag has left many Serie A experts a little surprised.
If Newcastle want a talented, well-rounded midfielder, they might find better value looking elsewhere.
Lyon star Maxence Caqueret still may not come cheap, but the France Under-21 international has developed very well over the past couple of years and is arguably a superior all-round midfielder than Tonali, capable of playing as a number six or an eight.
The club’s financial position could also strengthen the position of any interested parties, as Lyon’s ownership company – Eagle Football – has been told to find €60m through player sales or cash injection before the end of the month, according to L’Equipe.
Tonali’s Milan teammate Ismaël Bennacer could also be another option having stood out significantly more than his colleague at times. Nevertheless, his €50m (£43m) release clause doesn’t kick in until July 2024.
Who Are the Greats Similar To?
Of course, you don’t have to use the Radars just for transfer-related queries. Perhaps you’re simply curious to see who the best players in the world profile closest to.
Well, you can do that too.
Obviously we know they’re significantly different types of players in terms of style. But with regards to output, the Radars help put Mbappé’s current brilliance into historical context.
They also highlight just how relentless both players are or have been over the years.
Mbappé’s output this term has most closely resembled Messi’s 2012-13 campaign, when he scored 60 goals across all competitions for Barcelona – only in 2011-12 (73) has he ever managed more in a single season. According to the model, Mbappé’s 2022-23 has a 94% similarity.
Nevertheless, Mbappé’s probably been overshadowed this season – well, if we ignore the small matter of the World Cup – by Erling Haaland. Which players does he historically compare to in terms of output?
Well, the Radars emphasise for starters just how different the Norwegian is to Mbappé. You already knew that, of course; it’s just nice to see it laid out with numbers and graphics.
The player from the past 15 years that Haaland profiles closest to is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (2017-18, 87%). In fact, the former Arsenal striker appears twice here, with Mauro Icardi (2014-15, 82%) and Luis Suárez (2020-21, 85%) also in the top four.