Onana, Rice and Nkunku headline the Premier League’s top offseason signings


In a summer dominated by big-name arrivals in the emerging Saudi league, the English Premier League has made some major signings of its own.

Here is a look at six of them who could transform the playing style — and fortunes — of their new teams when the season starts on Friday:


ANDRE ONANA (Manchester United)

Rarely are goalkeepers transformational signings but Onana’s arrival at Old Trafford from Inter Milan could be just that. United’s build-up play from the back was weak with David De Gea as goalkeeper, leading to some crucial goals conceded and putting extra pressure on his defenders. Onana will change all that. He can pass cleanly out from his area, short or long, like Ederson Moraes at Manchester City or Alisson Becker at Liverpool, for example. That will leave opposition teams in two minds: do they continue to press high up the field and risk leaving United’s midfielders with more space, or will it force them to sit back deeper and play a more containing game? Onana is also a good shot-stopper in his own right. De Gea has been a regular for United for 12 years but might not be missed.


The signing of Rice demonstrated that Arsenal is back among the giants of English soccer after a few years in the wilderness. Aside from enticing one of the most consistent performers for England’s national team, Arsenal has also showed it can compete again for the signature of the biggest names, with Rice having been linked with some of the top teams in Europe like Bayern Munich and Manchester United. On the field, Rice looks set to be the heartbeat of Arsenal’s midfield for years and will give the team more drive and energy. Whether he plays as an anchorman or as a box-to-box midfielder may depend on the opponent but his arrival adds strength to a position where Arsenal lacked depth as it faded from title contention late on last season.


Among the many attackers in Chelsea’s bloated squad, one thing is for sure: Nkunku will be a guaranteed starter. The France striker has come from Leipzig for 52 million pounds ($67 million) and has played in a number of different positions across the forward line in preseason — as the central striker, as a No. 10 and out wide. Nkunku’s versatility will make him a valuable asset, as will his goals. Chelsea lacked an out-and-out scorer last season and the 25-year-old Nkunku is likely to correct that with his cold finishing ability. It remains to be seen if he strikes up a partnership with Nicolas Jackson, another offseason signing, or plays as the center forward himself under Mauricio Pochettino.


The centerpiece of Liverpool’s midfield overhaul, Szoboszlai will provide something a bit different to what Jurgen Klopp had before. The Hungary captain’s great strength is his vision and creativity, which is what was lacking in a sometimes-predictable Liverpool midfield in recent seasons that relied on hard running and left the goals to be scored by the front three. Szoboszlai changes that. Once he gets settled, he will likely play as a No. 10 and take over set-piece duties that have been owned by full backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson. Liverpool will hope Szoboszlai has a bigger impact than the last midfielder it bought from Leipzig — Naby Keita.


In Maddison, Tottenham finally has its first real midfielder playmaker since the departure of Christian Eriksen in 2020. Maddison’s presence in a central role behind the forwards should free up Harry Kane — should he stay at Spurs — to play as more of a striker, with the England captain having been forced to drop deeper in recent seasons to provide a cure for the team’s lack of creativity. The 26-year-old Maddison remained a constant danger for Leicester even in a season that ended with the team’s relegation and will have better players around him to feed at Tottenham, like Kane, Son Heung-min and Richarlison.

MOUSSA DIABY (Aston Villa)

Villa is emerging as an unlikely force under Unai Emery and Diaby, its record signing, might just prove to be the team’s most dangerous weapon. The 24-year-old France winger came through Paris Saint-Germain’s academy but never made it at the French giants and has spent the last four years impressing at Bayer Leverkusen in Germany. Amid reported interest by some top European teams, Diaby has decided to take the next step of his career at Villa and, with his pace and direct running, showed signs in preseason he could bring a new dimension to Emery’s attack that has largely been reliant on center forward Ollie Watkins. He scored goals in both of his preseason outings for Villa in the United States.


Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80


AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

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