Fulham may have been relegated last season but Alphonse Areola is one player who emerged with plenty of credit.
Following his eye-catching loan spell at Craven Cottage, the Frenchman looks set for a Premier League return as West Ham finalise a temporary deal of their own for the Paris Saint-Germain keeper.
With competition for the No1 spot at the London Stadium set to be fiercer than ever, we highlght what Areola will bring to David Moyes' squad.
A composed presence
After ousting Marcus Bettinelli to become first choice at Fulham in 2019-20, Marek Rodak perhaps felt hard done by when Areola arrived on the scene ahead of the club’s return to the top flight.
But it was immediately apparent the Cottagers had significantly upgraded between the sticks by signing the 28-year-old.
Having racked up more than a century of appearances for PSG, played internationally for France and featured for Real Madrid, Areola has experience in abundance.
A sensational shot-stopper
There are plenty of strings to Areola’s bow but chief among them is his outstanding shot-stopping ability.
This is reflected in his save percentage — a calculation of shots on target against, minus goals conceded, divided by shots on target against — which is the best statistical measure of a goalkeeper’s ability to make saves.
Areola had a save percentage of 73.1% in 2020-21, which was only beaten by six other Premier League goalkeepers.
That also placed him in the 83rd percentile when compared with custodians across Europe’s top five leagues.
The last line of defence
Despite Fulham centre-backs Tosin Adarabioyo and Joachim Andersen receiving plenty of praise last season, the defence still gave away plenty of chances.
A total of 58.6 post-shot expected goals (PSxG) against supports this, ranking as the fifth-worst record in the top tier.
But when we subtract the number of goals Fulham actually conceded with Areola on the pitch (48), it becomes apparent just how big a contribution he made to their defensive record.
His PSxG minus goals against works out at +0.21 per 90 minutes, which was the best in the Premier League and in the 99th percentile across Europe.
Areola is not flawless and made a handful of mistakes last season — perhaps most memorably when he spilled the ball to the feet of Edinson Cavani in the 2-1 defeat to Manchester United at Craven Cottage.
But they were few and far between and more than made up for by his excellent all-round goalkeeping.
The 6ft 5in stopper is comfortable commanding his area and claiming crosses, though he often prefers to punch the ball rather than claim it.
While he was inside England’s top 10 goalkeepers for crosses caught last season (0.56 per 90), only Newcastle’s Karl Darlow (one), Southampton’s Fraser Forster (0.88) and Jordan Pickford at Everton (0.75) punched more times than Areola (0.72) per 90.
Ready to challenge
Lukasz Fabianski has been comfortable as West Ham’s No1 for the past three seasons but Areola will push him all the way for a starting spot.
Speaking after arriving at Fulham in September 2020, he said: "It was important to come to a club that gives me this opportunity to play because last season I had a great experience with Real Madrid but the competition was missing and I need to have that.
"The training was great there but you need the competition of matches."
The Parisian stopper will not be joining the Hammers just to sit on the bench — expect a fierce two-way tussle for the goalkeeping jersey at the London Stadium.