Preston North End have been busy so far this summer, bringing in four new faces so far.
With the acquisitions of Liam Lindsay, Izzy Brown and Matthew Olosunde on permanent deals and Sepp van den Berg on loan, the club have quickly got to work making the improvements that we need this summer.
We now have plenty of options in the centre of defence, an actual right-back and an exciting attacking midfield option to boot.
However, one area that fans and the club themselves know needs addressing is the forward line. Our top scorer was Scott Sinclair who managed nine goals – so not one player managed double figures last year.
In addition, we’ve lost two backup strikers and winger Billy Bodin too.
We could certainly do with some extra options – both on the flanks and as a central striker too. So, we at Vital PNE have taken a look at five potential targets to go for this summer based on the budget available to us as a club and the actual availability of the player.
Agree with our picks? Have we missed someone? Let us know over on Twitter with @VitalPNE.
1. Sullay Kaikai – The Free Agent
For a potential free agent signing, we went with Sullay Kaikai. It was a close one – Josh Sims was another option but arguably presents more of a risk – but the winger would be a solid addition.
The 25-year old has only recent managed to get himself regular first-team action, having spent time out on loan with various sides.
In fact, the side he managed to establish himself with just happens to be a certain Blackpool – a club we’re fairly familiar with I’d say!
They wouldn’t want him to do too well with us and alternatively, some of our fans may not want a Blackpool favourite coming to us.
However, take one look at Blackpool lad Tom Barkhuizen and you’ll see how it can work in our favour.
Kaikai has gone from strength-to-strength in the last few seasons, having managed 15 goal contributions in 33 starts in the 2020/21 campaign for the Seaside club.
It came as a surprise that he wasn’t kept on by the club, with them preparing to play Championship football again because of his work at the side. However, their loss could be our gain. He’s an exciting winger with plenty of pace about him and has impressed in the second tier as a 20-year old when he spent time at Brentford and he has worked wonders in League One too.
He surely deserves a look – and on a free transfer, he could be an absolute steal. Considering our wingers, he would be another useful option and can certainly score goals too.
2. Luke Jephcott – The League One Option
The League One option was again a toss up. Ideally, we’d be looking at someone like Dion Charles here but with both Brentford and Nottingham Forest looking at a deal for him this transfer window, he might be priced out of our market.
Instead, we have chosen Luke Jephcott of Plymouth Argyle.
The Welshman is still only 21 and yet has already impressed many in the third tier. By bagging 16 goals in the last campaign, he found himself tenth in the overall scoring charts and fifth in the goals per 90 leaderboard by the time the season came to a close.
Averaging 1.17 shots on target per 90 minutes, it shows he is a player who does like to try and test the keeper where possible and finds himself in the right positions to capitalise and score. He’s clinical and can certainly finish and his age means there is even more room to grow.
He could also be available for a price in our modest budget too. He’s unlikely to fetch an extortionately high fee and yet he’s proven he can produce the goods in both the fourth and third tiers.
He’s yet to test himself in the Championship but he’s adapted well to each division he has tackled so far in his career. With regular gametime for us, he could become a decent player and again, he’s still only young so has the potential to improve. If not, with the fee unlikely to be high, there isn’t much of a risk if it doesn’t pay off.
3. Anthony Elanga – Loan Signing
Anthony Elanga is our pick for this one (although Liam Delap is another option but it looks like he may be on his way to division rivals Millwall).
A similar signing to Anthony Gordon last season, Elanga would provide a youthful option for our flanks and with the chance to prove himself to his permanent club, he would no doubt be desperate to make an impression which could work in our favour.
He’s only played twice for Manchester United so far but with a goal in his first two starts, he seems decent enough. If you look at his smarterscout ratings, he also ticks some boxes.
Elanga is ranked 99/99 for disrupting opposition moves during his appearance for the side, showing he is willing to get back and defend for his team. In addition, his dribbling ability also scores as highly as this, which proves not only is he prepared to put in a shift defensively but can get forward dangerously as well.
His link-up passing score of 99 again shows his all-round game. He defends, he pushes forward and he brings his teammates into the game well. He scores equally as well with his link-up and disruptions on the other flank to boot.
Elanga then could be a solid option despite his age. Capable of playing on either wing, he can get back and defend (which could come in useful if Frankie McAvoy decides to have his wingers defend like Neil did or if he wants to use Greg Cunningham to push ahead and let Elanga do some defensive work) and he has that bit of flair to create good chances for his teammates.
He’s unlikely to get a game for the Red Devils – especially with the side signing Jadon Sancho – so a loan could benefit us both.
4. Viktor Gyokeres – Slightly More Expensive Signing
Gyokeres was one we would have liked both in January and last year but he instead went to Swansea City and then Coventry City on loans instead.
However, if the forward is available again this summer, then it’s worth potentially seeing if we could bring him in. Although he played 11 times for Swansea without producing a goal or an assist, if you look how many times he actually completed 90 minutes, he only did it 3.1 times.
That isn’t much of a chance to produce anything and without a decent run in the side, you can understand the lack of goals. For Coventry though, he managed 8.5 90 minutes and went on to bag three goals. That works out as 0.35 goals per 90 which isn’t a bad rate.
If you watch the 23-year old though, you can see what he offers to a side. His hold-up play is good (no doubt coming down to his height and stature) and he can certainly finish. He bagged plenty in his native Sweden as an 18-year old and then impressed for Brighton’s reserves before bagging a few for the Sky Blues.
He would certainly provide a decent option in the squad – so a loan deal could be worth looking at.
5. Freddie Ladapo – Cheaper Permanent Signing Option
Freddie Ladapo is our last selection. It’s unlikely we will break the bank with any signing this summer – we’d be more surprised if a seven-figure fee was spent than if it wasn’t, even with several sales of players from us – so we have to be realistic about who we can afford. Taking a look at the Championship level options from last campaign, Ladapo might be the best option.
The striker is in the middle of what should be his prime years aged 28. He’s never really had a fair crack of the Championship in his career yet and we should be the side to give him more of a run.
He started 23 times for Rotherham United in their relegation campaign last year and managed only nine goals – but that’s equal to the amount Scott Sinclair bagged as our top scorer and the Millers were also battling at the wrong end of the table to boot.
Of the 44 goals Rotherham scored last season in the league, Ladapo was responsible for 20.5% of them – which puts him just outside the top 20 for goal ratio in the league in 2020/21.
He had to drag his team into games sometimes and although he isn’t the most attractive option, he could be available for cheaper than other forwards and we know he can score at this level (and has bagged freely in the third tier too). He therefore could be another one for us to consider.