The international break is nearing its end, so it’s time to turn our attention to domestic matters once more. Below, theScore picks out five new faces to look out for as the Premier League returns for its fourth round of games.
Takehiro Tomiyasu (Arsenal)
Transfer details: reported £16-million fee
Potential debut: vs. Norwich City on Saturday
Tomiyasu played most of last season in the middle of Bologna’s backline, but the deadline-day arrival of the Japanese defender presents more tactical options for Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta than you’d expect.
The Spanish boss has been tinkering during the international break, shaping a back-three in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Brentford. Ben White, Pablo Mari, and Gabriel made up the defensive trio, with Cedric Soares scoring twice from left wing-back and Calum Chambers taking up the other wing-back role.
The personnel would likely be different in competitive fixtures – Tomiyasu, Kieran Tierney, Sead Kolasinac, and Nuno Tavares were all away on national team duty – but the formation could be a possibility in the coming weeks. Though Tomiyasu could feature in that setup as a wing-back, his most natural spot would be to the right of the back-three.
Should Arteta choose to continue with a defensive quartet, Arsenal could be better protected with Tomiyasu at right-back. Tierney would be afforded more freedom to attack from left-back while Tomiyasu can shift inside to form a solid back-three when the Gunners are in possession.
Daniel James (Leeds United)
Transfer details: reported £25-million fee
Potential debut: vs. Liverpool on Sunday
He was always going to end up here, wasn’t he?
James held up a Leeds United shirt on the final day of the January window in 2019, the culmination of determined scouting by director of football Victor Orta and his team. That is until the transfer collapsed due to Swansea City ghosting Leeds’ calls after terms were agreed and a medical was completed.
He ended up at Manchester United a few months later, but now, after Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival effectively ended the Welshman’s two-year stay at Old Trafford, James has moved across the Pennines to work with Marcelo Bielsa.
“He’s well known all around the world and everyone learns things off him, so I’m just looking forward to learning every day,” James said of his new manager.
It will be interesting to see if Bielsa devises a way to deploy right-winger Raphinha, left-winger Jack Harrison, and James all at once. This weekend could be primed for James’ debut while Raphinha faces the prospect of a five-day FIFA ban.
Marc Cucurella (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Transfer details: reported £15.5-million fee
Potential debut: at Brentford on Saturday
Brighton eyed Cucurella for much of the summer window and finally landed the wild-haired wing-back on deadline day.
The Seagulls have had issues at left-back for a while, enlisting the help of center-back Dan Burn, winger Solly March, midfielder Jakub Moder, right-back Joel Veltman, and forward Andi Zeqiri in that position over 2021. Cucurella is an attack-minded option at left-back, the position he played while progressing through Barcelona’s youth ranks.
For the most part, Cucurella played as a left-winger for Getafe, where his battling qualities proved valuable in their aggressive pressing style.
The defensive base that would provide the best attacking platform would surely consist of a back-three featuring Lewis Dunk and two from Shane Duffy, Adam Webster, and Burn, with Tariq Lamptey (when fit) and Cucurella bombing forward from the wing-back slots. It could be incredible to watch.
Saul Niguez (Chelsea)
Transfer details: loan with option to buy
Potential debut: vs. Aston Villa on Saturday
Saul’s star has fallen in recent times, but Thomas Tuchel will be snapping up the reported €40-million option in his loan contract if the Spaniard rediscovers his best form.
The 26-year-old will be desperate to make Spain’s Qatar 2022 squad after missing out on last summer’s Euro 2020 jaunt and should have plenty of chances to impress in Chelsea’s midfield. Tuchel is keen to give Jorginho more rest after relying heavily on the Brazilian this year and N’Golo Kante has succumbed to numerous injuries over the past couple of seasons.
Aside from that pair, Saul will compete with Mateo Kovacic for minutes and should easily see off any potential comeback from Ross Barkley, a rather frustrating footballer who was on loan at Aston Villa last term.
Saul boasts the combativeness you’d expect from a player who’s worked for Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid, but it’s his eye for a pass and fine execution of the box-to-box midfield role that will endear himself to the Stamford Bridge faithful.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
Transfer details: initial €15M fee
Potential debut: vs. Newcastle United on Saturday
A second debut is a debut, right?
Ronaldo will reintroduce himself to Old Trafford on Saturday. The marksman returned from the international break early after breaking a men’s international scoring record in a two-goal outing against the Republic of Ireland, and supporters have since lapped up the sight of him training alongside his new teammates at Carrington.
The Portuguese superstar is still an extremely dangerous player at 36, winning Serie A’s top scorer award last season after converting 29 times ahead of an admittedly underwhelming Juventus midfield. But the main question at United is: where does Ronaldo fit in a team already full of attacking players?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seeks versatility in his strikeforce. Throughout their careers, Marcus Rashford and Ronaldo have spent much of their time out on the left, Mason Greenwood has done most of his work through the middle, and Jadon Sancho on the right. However, each of those players can take the other roles in attack and will face competition from the similarly versatile Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard this season.
So, Ronaldo will fit in just fine in any part of Solskjaer’s ever-changing frontline, but it will inevitably come at the cost of other players’ game time.
Honorable mentions: Maxwel Cornet (Burnley), Odsonne Edouard (Crystal Palace), Emerson Royal (Tottenham Hotspur), Kurt Zouma (West Ham United)