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Fresh faces: six Premier League players to look out for in the 2022-23 season

Brenden Aaronson (Leeds)

In an ideal world, Aaronson would have arrived at Elland Road in January, but Leeds had two offers rejected for the attacking midfielder. Jesse Marsch was keen for Leeds to revisit the deal, having seen his compatriot progress in Major League Soccer and having coached him at Red Bull Salzburg. Aaronson made the decision to go from the MLS to Salzburg despite more lucrative offers from elsewhere because he thought it would be the ideal way to progress his career. Aaronson’s creativity and versatility will be a useful asset to a team that has lost Raphinha to Barcelona. Leeds were very reliant on the Brazilian to create chances out of nothing but with Aaronson and Luis Sinisterra joining the club, they should have more ways to open up opponents. The 21-year-old is clever off the ball and can spot a gap in the defence in order to find valuable space in dangerous positions. WU

Flynn Downes (West Ham)

Mark Noble’s retirement left a vacancy for a boyhood West Ham fan in the club’s midfield, though unlike Canning Town’s profoundly working-class “Nobes”, Downes is an Essex boy who attended the same private Brentwood School as Frank Lampard Jr, the boxing promoter, Eddie Hearn, and Noel Edmonds. Downes finally arrived at West Ham this summer after 14 years at Ipswich and, last season, at Swansea, where the 23-year-old was the metronome of Russell Martin’s attractive side – his pass-completion rate of 92.6% was the highest of any player in England’s top four divisions. The expectation is that Downes will complement and perhaps eventually supplant Declan Rice in midfield, as well as follow in the footsteps of Jarrod Bowen in being a lower-league gem polished up by David Moyes. “The manager’s track record of bringing players through was a big motivation,” said Downes on signing for West Ham. JB

Flynn Downes is interviewed following his signing for the Hammers in July.
Flynn Downes is interviewed following his signing in July. Photograph: Simon Dael/Shutterstock

Moussa Niakhaté (Nottingham Forest)

Having made a number of youthful signings this summer, Nottingham Forest were keen to add leadership and experience to their ranks before the club’s first top-flight campaign in 23 years. Niakhaté fits the bill given the former France Under-21 international defender was club captain at Mainz. He also brings with him speed and ability on the ball. Niakhaté, 26, started his career with Valenciennes and Metz before spending four seasons in the Bundesliga. He is left-footed and is the ideal man to play on the left side of a back three in Steve Cooper’s preferred 3-4-2-1 formation, all of which may well have been discussed when Niakhaté travelled to Greece in order to meet Cooper to discuss the project at the City Ground and how he would fit in before making the move to Nottingham. WU

Sven Botman (Newcastle)

Despite the expectations of a fair few Toon Army foot soldiers upon the completion of last October’s Saudi-led takeover, Kylian Mbappé and Neymar are yet to arrive on Tyneside. Newcastle’s recruitment has instead targeted players who are taking a step up in heading to the Premier League and can share the journey to the top. Like key January addition Bruno Guimarães, Botman, signed for £32m from Lille, arrives from Ligue 1. Still only 22, the Ajax youth product was a key man in Lille’s 2020-21 title triumph, which brought him to the attention of many of Europe’s leading lights. Newcastle tried and failed to sign the player in January but finally got their man, and he should prove a notable upgrade within Eddie Howe’s defence. Tall and dominant in the air yet comfortable bringing the ball from defence, in the words of Howe, “he’s a presence”. JB

Sven Botman on Newcastle’s pre-season tour in Austria
Sven Botman on Newcastle’s pre-season tour in Austria. Photograph: Serena Taylor/Newcastle United/Getty Images

Julián Álvarez (Manchester City)

Erling Haaland’s arrival in east Manchester has allowed Álvarez to sneak under the radar, which is not a bad thing for a young man moving to a new continent. Understandably, the Argentinian sought advice from City legend Sergio Agüero before committing to the move. The 22-year-old is seen as one of the best talents to come out of South America in recent years – the forward was wanted by a number of clubs in Europe, including Barcelona – and although City Football Group has numerous options to send him on loan, Pep Guardiola wanted him to be part of his squad immediately. Álvarez is happy to get the ball into feet but will also be keen to make runs into space. His time down the middle might be limited due to Haaland but he will get plenty of chances to show what he can do within a front three; he often operated on the right for River Plate. WU

Tyrell Malacia (Manchester United)

A list of the first signings made by David Moyes, Louis van Gaal, José Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjær as Manchester United manager is undistinguished. Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera, Eric Bailly and Daniel James do not set a high bar for Malacia, a 22-year-old left-back from Rotterdam. His arrival suggests Erik ten Hag is dissatisfied with Luke Shaw and Alex Telles, United’s existing left-backs, and in the new man the new manager has a player whose standout attributes include energy, physique and speed. The Eredivisie offers a less-than-exacting examination of defensive positioning, and timing of tackling, about which the signing from Feyenoord is noticeably exuberant. He’s confident, too. “My defence is good, my attacking, my technique is good,” Malacia declared during United’s pre-season tour. JB

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