Having soldiered through spectator-less stadiums and jam-packed schedules, the 2020-21 Premier League season is finally drawing to a close. Pep Guardiola's Manchester City eased to a 3rd league title in 4 years in this convoluted and drawn-out season, having staved off feeble challenges from their title rivals.
The battle in the bottom half to avoid relegation didn't last long either, as is usually the case in the Premier League. Fulham and West Bromwich Albion, who only got promoted last season, will be heading back to the Championship alongwith the surprise package of the previous season, Sheffield United.
While the 3 teams' performances were not good enough to avoid the drop, a few players from these relegated clubs have surely done enough to prove their abilities. They will be hoping to see other Premier League clubs fight it out to sign them and stay in the Premier League. Here are 5 such players whose clubs will find it difficult to keep hold of them next season.
5. Sam Johnstone
West Bromwich Albion have conceded 70 goals in 36 PL games so far, more than any other team! However, it could have been so much worse for them if not for Sam Johnstone. The keeper has played all but one match for the club, missing out on the Black Country Derby against Wolves after being infected by COVID-19.
He has faced 211 shots so far, more than any other keeper in the league and has a save percentage of 70.6%. Out of 10 penalties that he faced this season, he saved two and two were missed by the takers. Johnstone has very strong reflexes and is good at long passes too.
A product of the Manchester United academy, Johnstone's contract expires in 2022 and many clubs could look to sign the 28-year-old to compete with their custodians.
4. Harrison Reed
Of the three teams relegated this season, neutrals will definitely be most disappointed with Fulham for Scott Parker's side played beautiful football throughout the season but couldn't get the right results. Fulham revamped their entire defence and supported it with their pacy midfielders Andre Anguissa and Harrison Reed.
Signed from Southampton in the summer for a reported fee of £6million after impressing during his loan spell last season, Harrison Reed has been very solid in the heart of the midfield for the Cottagers, forming good partnerships with the likes of Anguissa and Mario Lemina. Reed, known for being strong at tackling, interceptions and passing, is a complete midfielder who can play in both defensive and attacking roles.
His defensive solidity allowed Lemina and Anguissa to go further up the pitch and help out in attacks regularly. Still only 26 years old and possessing great speed and ability, he could be a worthy addition to any squad needing a strong midfielder.
3. Sander Berge
The 6 ft 5 in Norwegian midfielder joined Chris Wilder's squad in January 2020, becoming Sheffield United's record signing at the time. Berge was proving to be a great signing for the Blades before an unfortunate hamstring tear in a match against Manchester United in December put him out of action for months. In his absence, Sheffield United began struggling and now sit rock bottom in the league.
The Norwegian has been on the radar of multiple top clubs and club owner Prince Abdullah has admitted that it would be difficult to keep hold of some of his players in case of relegation. It will be interesting to see which club the 23-year-old Berge ends up at next season.
2. Tosin Adarabioyo
A poor start to the season saw new signings Tosin Adarabioyo and Monaco loanee Joachim Andersen become pillars of Fulham's fight against relegation. The duo could not save Fulham from the drop but established a solid partnership and impressed with their ball-playing abilities and assured presence. Tosin has made 178 clearances and has a winning percentage of 71.4% in aerial duels.
Having joined Manchester City's youth system at the age of six, Tosin Adarabioyo made the transfer to Fulham in 2020. He made his Champions League debut on 24 August 2016 before becoming the then-youngest player to start a match in the competition for the club later that year, at the age of 19 years and 73 days.
Tosin has represented England across youth levels and is also eligible to play for Nigeria. He will be a solid defensive option for Premier League clubs looking for a young ball-playing centre-back. Expect quite a few clubs to fight for Tosin's signature in this summer's transfer window.
1. Matheus Pereira
West Bromwich Albion's season has been bad. Even the man who always managed to keep his team in the league, Sam Allardyce, couldn't save them. It was pretty evident from their very first match in the Premier League that they would struggle to survive in the top tier this season. The quality was just not good enough and they did not have a proper target man up front. Besides Sam Johnstone, there was only one other bright spark in their dark season - Matheus Pereira.
The Brazilian attacking midfielder has been miles ahead of his teammates in terms of performances. The attacking midfielder has created 60 chances, scored 10 goals and provided 6 assists this season. He has been a threat from set-pieces and open-play alike.
Even though his contract expires in 2024, the Brazilian is too good to play in the Championship and will likely cause a lot of Premier League clubs to fight for his services.