Best bottom-six players
With the title won and the top four virtually nailed down, it’s the bottom half of the Premier League table that will provide the drama in the final weeks of the 2017-18 season.
West Ham and Brighton aren’t yet officially safe, but the three relegation spots are likely to be filled by teams currently in the bottom six. With that in mind, we rank the 10 best players who could be available for transfer after demotion this summer.
10. Nacer Chadli (West Brom)
Chadli wasn’t deemed good enough for Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs, but he’s certainly far too good for the Championship. Perhaps West Brom’s fate would be different had the Belgian not been injured since September, with the technically gifted winger a major absence for the rock-bottom Baggies.
Chadli, who now faces a battle to be included in his country’s World Cup squad, is unlikely to be able to find another top-six Premier League club in the summer. He would, however, be a tidy addition to a best-of-the-rest side like Everton or Burnley.
9. Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield)
Former Bolton Wanderers scholar Mooy joined Manchester City from satellite club Melbourne City, only to be sold to Huddersfield for £10m following a successful season on loan in Yorkshire.
Mooy is a two-footed playmaker who combines physical strength with vision and a fine range of passing. He’s the beating heart of David Wagner’s side and is the type of player who’s also willing to sacrifice himself for the collective. Huddersfield may go down, but Mooy almost certainly won’t.
8. Ryan Bertrand (Southampton)
A former Champions League winner with Chelsea, Bertrand is currently battling to avoid relegation to the Championship. The left-back will surely be picked up by a top-flight club if the worst happens to Southampton in the coming weeks.
Indeed, there’s a reasonable chance that he could interest members of the big six, many of whom are hardly flooded with dynamic left-backs: you could picture him adding depth to Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal. There are still plenty of good years left in the speedy 28-year-old’s legs, with Bertrand pushing for a place in England’s World Cup squad despite Saints’ struggles this season.
7. Cedric Soares (Southampton)
Even before Southampton began to slide down the table, the Portuguese right-back had begun talking up his hopes of following Virgil van Dijk (and the rest) to a bigger club, suggesting there’s little chance he’ll remain loyal if Saints succumb to the drop.
At 26, the German-born Portugal international has his best years ahead of him and his technical quality and versatility would be sure to interest a host of Premier League clubs. An impressive showing in Russia this summer would only add to his list of suitors.
6. Jack Butland (Stoke)
Butland has shipped more goals than any other Premier League goalkeeper this season, but he's a shoo-in to be part of England's World Cup squad in Russia.
In fairness to the 25-year-old, he’s the last line of defence in a woeful Stoke rearguard and has proved himself an able Premier League shot-stopper in the last three years. If the Potters do finish below the dreaded dotted line, Butland will likely be among the first players to search for a new Premier League employer. Arsenal and Chelsea have been mentioned, but not as often as Liverpool.
5. Alfie Mawson (Swansea)
The summer's World Cup has probably come too soon for Mawson, but the centre-back has a bright future ahead at both club and international level. There aren’t many homegrown, ball-playing centre-backs in the top flight at present, so the 24-year-old would be a man in demand should Swansea fall through the trapdoor next month.
Tidy with both feet and an aerial threat in both boxes, Mawson has understandably earned comparisons with another former Barnsley centre-half – John Stones. He’ll surely still be a Premier League player at the start of 2018-19.
4. Mario Lemina (Southampton)
It’s often said that Southampton have a Europa League squad, and Lemina may be the only player for whom that’s an understatement. The Gabon international is still a work in progress at 24, but he has plenty of raw talent and will surely be on many Premier League clubs’ shopping lists should Southampton exit the Premier League.
Lemina has a bit of everything needed to be a top central midfielder, with and without the ball. Any suitor would have to pay considerably more than the £18m the Saints spent on his signature last summer.
3. Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke)
The 26-year-old caused a stir recently by claiming there’s "a lack of quality" around him at the bet365 Stadium, while also admitting “the feeling that even a Ronaldinho could do little in this team is sobering”.
Such remarks probably didn’t go down well with Shaqiri’s team-mates, but there’s no doubt Stoke's best hope of avoiding the drop is to keep the tricky winger happy during the run-in. It’s inconceivable that the Swiss superstar, who won five consecutive league titles with Basel and then Bayern Munich, will be a Championship player next term.
2. Jonny Evans (West Brom)
The centre-half's reputation has been somewhat tarnished by taxi-gate. However if – or more realistically when – West Brom go down, there’ll be a lengthy queue for his signature.
The 30-year-old Evans isn’t yet over the hill and he can offer a wealth of experience to any club, illustrated by his three Premier League winners' medals. A reported relegation release clause of just £3m should attract most of the top six, although at this stage of his career the Northern Ireland international might prefer guaranteed first-team football.
1. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
Zaha is so important to Palace. They are yet to win without him this season and one of the best players in the Premier League outside the top six is highly unlikely to stick around in the Championship, despite his obvious attachment to his boyhood club.
The 25-year-old's nightmare stint at Manchester United, where he played just 28 league minutes under David Moyes, is unlikely to deter the big boys, given Zaha's ability to hurt even the best full-backs. He still needs to be more clinical though, and concerns over homesickness might limit him to a London move; Spurs have been linked.