It wasn’t long ago when Shane Duffy was considered undroppable at Brighton. The centre-back was named the club’s player of the season for 2018/19 as his outstanding defensive displays helped the club maintain their Premier League status.
In the two seasons following Brighton’s promotion to the top flight (2017/18 and 2018/19), Duffy missed just four league games – all through suspension. But not only was he a rock at the back in 2018/19 for the Seagulls, he was also a key contributor in attack. In fact, he finished that season with five league goals to his name – the second-highest tally at the club that campaign.
But how quickly things can change in football.
Duffy has fallen out of favour this season under the management of Graham Potter, starting just 12 league games in total. This has led to much talk about his future, and the 28-year-old only fuelled speculation with a recent Twitter post in which he suggested his time at the club was coming to an end.
Of course, the recent arrival of Joel Veltman and the return of Ben White has also led to greater talk of a move away for Duffy. Here, we take a look at which clubs should be targeting the Irishman…
- West Ham
West Ham’s priorities perhaps lie elsewhere this summer, but the fact they conceded 62 times in the Premier League this season cannot simply be ignored, can it?
The Hammers were interested in Duffy back in January and it has been suggested they have reignited their interest. He could well be available in a cut-price deal this summer, making this even smarter business for David Moyes as it will allow him to focus on strengthening in other areas, as well.
It’s no coincidence the club were linked with the defender following the arrival of Moyes. After all, the boss did hand Duffy his debut at Everton when he was just 17 and the pair are said to have a strong relationship.
Hammers fans may be quick to allude to the fact that he wouldn’t necessarily be a ‘statement’ signing, and while this may be true, he is the type of no-nonsense defender the club needs.
With Angelo Ogbonna now 32 and Fabian Balbeuna struggling to really gain the trust of Moyes, the addition of a player like Duffy makes plenty of sense.
Alright, alright, alright, calm down, Gunners fans!
Let’s talk this through then, shall we?
Mikel Arteta has managed to do what he can…with what he has available to him. But the north Londoners are still lacking a true leader at the back, someone to take control and set the tone for the defensive display.
This is what Duffy can bring to the Emirates. Should Arteta choose to continue to operate with three at the back, Duffy would slot in seamlessly into the middle of the three. With his aerial ability, tough tackling and experience, he will bring some much needed resilience to the Arsenal backline.
Is he the long-term solution to the Gunners’ defensive problems? No, he’s not.
But would he improve their defence? Yes, he is a cost-effective signing that will benefit them in the short-term.
Under Chris Hughton at Brighton, Duffy’s role was simple, playing what some may perceive to be an old fashioned way for a centre-back. But Duffy excelled, sniffing out danger at the back and posing a threat from set-pieces.
A player such as Duffy would be welcomed with open arms at St James’ Park. Sure, he may not be the star signing fans have been craving since talk of a takeover – which has since fallen through – first began. But Steve Bruce’s style of play at Newcastle would suit the defender and a move could provide him with the chance to get back to playing at his best.
It is a move that would suit all parties.
- Aston Villa
Aston Villa boss Dean Smith will be more than aware that despite his side’s heroics to retain their Premier League status, reinforcements are required.
But considering last summer’s spending spree, those at Villa will be aware that they cannot simply splash the cash and expect players to deliver. Instead, smart investments are required and one player they should be targeting is Duffy.
Sure, Villa scored just 41 goals in the league, but more worryingly, only Norwich conceded more goals than them in 2019/20.
Even Bournemouth conceded fewer, which underlines just how badly Smith is need of a new defender. Duffy’s ability to lead a defensive unit has been made clear for all to see over the years, while he could build up an excellent praetorship with Tyrone Mings.
Go and get him, Dean.
- West Brom
Slaven Bilic’s West Brom side will be playing Premier League football next season after gaining automatic promotion. With the Baggies looking to strengthen ahead of next term, they have been linked with a number of players – most notably, central defenders.
As Bilic looks to lower the average age of the squad, the club are said to be keeping an eye on a number of young and exciting talents. But the addition of a player such as Duffy, with his Premier League experience and ability to lead a defensive line, could go a very long way to boosting their survival hopes.
During the current financial climate and considering West Brom’s return to the top flight, there aren’t many better deals to be had for Bilic.
- Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace capitulation towards the end of the 2019/20 season was…well, worrying for fans, to say the least.
While they were pushing for a top-half finish for the majority of the campaign, they ended up having to settle for 14th after losing seven of their last eight league games.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, they conceded 18 goals during this time.
Palace have been impacted by injuries, but Roy Hodgson shouldn’t have to ask Cheikhou Kouyaté to play at the back because he has no other options, should he?
Sure, the Eagles’ defence isn’t blessed with much pace and the addition of Duffy wouldn’t improve them in this department. But with Scott Dann and Gary Cahill both in the latter stages of their careers, reinforcements are required at the back.
Duffy – who is in the prime years of his career – would thrive at Selhurst Park with his defensive awareness. It is a low-risk buy for Palace, but such a transfer could address a major issue that currently exists within the squad.
Perhaps one of the less likely destinations (but still well within the realms of possibility) is Burnley. During his Everton days, Duffy was shipped out on loan to the Clarets, where he made just one appearance.
Sean Dyche has been crying out for some backing in the transfer market and a move for Duffy could satisfy all parties involved.
Of course, for Duffy however, breaking up the pairing of Ben Mee and James Tarkowski could prove challenging, unless the latter – who has been linked with a move away – was to move on this summer.
But Burnley’s current system would undoubtedly provide Duffy with the chance to flourish again. Sitting deep and soaking up pressure, both on the floor and in the air, Burnley could be just the place for the Brighton outcast to kickstart his career again, if he gets the game time he is after that is.