Another transfer window closes, and the Premier League is the biggest spender once again. Liam Rowsell assesses which clubs caught the eye in the market and which could not make their mark.
Despite a time of immense economic uncertainty caused by COVID-19, few Premier League clubs have been afraid to spend. Premier League clubs spent around £1.28 billion within this season’s summer transfer window, twice as much as the next biggest spending league, Serie A, once again displaying the huge financial value of arguably the best league in world football.
A domestic window will remain open until 16th October, allowing Premier League clubs to buy players from clubs in the lower leagues only, but most of the top flight spending has been concluded by now.
Who’s thrived in the market?
After a very tense relegation battle and survival only being confirmed on the last day of the season, Aston Villa have recognised the need to improve the squad. Perhaps the most exciting addition is Ollie Watkins, who was part of Brentford’s ‘BMW’ front three last season. His 26 Championship goals helped the Bees to a play-off final in August and he undoubtably has the quality to play Premier League football. He’s started strongly in a Villa shirt so far, having scored five goals in six games and making a huge statement with his hat-trick against reigning Champions Liverpool.
Another player to score in that shock 7-2 victory was Ross Barkley, who has joined on a season-long loan from Chelsea. Having struggled to get game time for the Blues, he needed a transfer move to get back to his best and he should add an extra element of quality to the Villa midfield. Also through the door was Bertrand Traore, an exciting winger who joins for £16 million from Lyon. Traore was a regular for his side in all competitions last season, including the Champions League, so should add even more excitement to the Aston Villa attack.
After the loan of Pepe Reina expired, Villa were also in the market for a goalkeeper. Emiliano Martinez was the man they got, after some excellent performances for Arsenal at the end of last season. He will be a valuable asset for a side who conceded the second most amount of goals in the top flight last season. The final notable acquisition was Matty Cash, a young right back with plenty of potential.
Several Premier League clubs had shown an interest in him prior to Aston Villa’s signing as his constant presence in a Nottingham Forest side who narrowly missed out on a play-off place last season was impressive.
But one of the club’s best bits of transfer business in the closed season was keeping hold of Jack Grealish, despite interest from Manchester United. He’s given Villa fans plenty of memorable moments since breaking through the ranks at his boyhood club in 2014, and his contract renewal would have pleased plenty of fans. Aston Villa are entering some very promising times, having started this season in perfect fashion. The fans have every right to be excited following this transfer window.
Carlo Ancelotti had shown Everton fans glimpses of what he could achieve with the club in the second half of last season, but during this transfer window, he’s really given them something to shout about. The most notable addition was James Rodriguez, who has worked with Ancelotti in the past and joins the club on a free transfer. He looked like an exciting young player a few years ago, when he stole the show in the 2014 World Cup and claimed the golden boot. Unfortunately, since then he could not reach the same heights but already this season, he’s shown football just what he’s capable of once more with three goals and two assists in four league games.
The Merseyside club have also invested in Abdoulaye Doucoure and Ben Godfrey, despite both being members of relegated sides last season. They are both too good to break playing in the Championship and both will add a significant amount of balance to the Everton side with their defensive capabilities. The other key acquisition was Allan from Napoli, a regular starter in a strong Napoli side. He slots nicely into midfield for a fee of around £22 million to take the Toffees spending up to £67 million.
The loans of Theo Walcott to Southampton and Moise Kean to PSG were completed right at the end of the window, but Everton have been able to keep hold of all of their star players. Having won all of their first four Premier League games, the Toffees sit comfortably at the top of the league and are looking like a competitive side. After the start they’ve had to this season, anything less than European qualification would be an immense disappointment.
Having just faced a two-year transfer ban, it comes as less of a surprise to see Chelsea spending so much. The players they have bought contribute to a very exciting look to Frank Lampard’s team, and he’ll be confident of at least a top-four finish again this season. The £72 million purchase of Kai Havertz saw the Blues equal their previous transfer record for a player who starred in a very successful Bayer Leverkusen side last season. He’s already off the mark with a hat-trick against Barnsley in the EFL Cup and has looked threatening on the ball in the few games he’s played in a Chelsea shirt.
Timo Werner (£47m) and Hakim Ziyech (£36m) were also brought to Stamford Bridge to complete a very strong-looking Chelsea attack. Ziyech continues to recover from injury so has not featured for the Blues as yet, but if his recent form at Ajax is anything to go by, he will cause so many problems for opposing defenders. Meanwhile, Timo Werner joins the club after scoring 28 Bundesliga goals for RB Leipzig last season, being outscored only by Robert Lewandowski. Havertz, Werner and Ziyech will form a formidable front three once all are fit and properly settled into the side.
Problems at the back were addressed during the window as Ben Chilwell and Thiago Silva were brought to West London. Chilwell has already shown just why he had a £45 million price tag slapped on him with a goal and an assist on his full Premier League debut and although Thiago Silva has had a few shaky moments since moving to Chelsea, his experience should help give the side the balance they need.
Chelsea’s issues between the sticks became evidently more serious during the end of last season and the beginning of this season, and so a new goalkeeper soon became a priority. Edouard Mendy was the chosen one and has looked solid in the two games he’s played so far, making several good saves against Spurs and keeping a clean sheet against Crystal Palace. When you add these new transfer signings to the side Lampard already had at his disposal, the Blues become a serious force and should be able to contend with the very top this season.
Other notable mentions
Tottenham have been busy in this transfer window after two years of little activity. Giovani Lo Celso’s loan move was made permanent at the start of the window, Matt Doherty and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg were brought to North London to add depth to the squad and Sergio Reguilon was purchased from Real Madrid after a very successful loan spell at Sevilla. But the transfer move that would’ve got Spurs fans most excited was the loan deal for Gareth Bale. Arguably, he’s been disrespected by Madrid considering all he’s achieved since moving to Spain seven years ago, but a return to the club he made so many memories at will probably be far more enjoyable for the Welshman.
When you add Bale to a team who have already found the net 12 times in four games and have the likes of Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son scoring for fun, Jose Mourinho’s side becomes a team capable of scoring against anyone. Exciting times are on the horizon for Tottenham, who will need to make the most of their squad depth with such a busy schedule throughout the season.
The red side of North London have also been busy during this window, although they left it late as a deal for Thomas Partey from Atletico Madrid was secured on deadline day. He arrives at the Emirates for a fee of £45 million and should add some defensive stability to an Arsenal side who have been unbalanced for several seasons now. Gabriel was the other defensive transfer signing made by the Gunners’ recruitment team and suddenly, there’s a much stronger overall look to the side.
Perhaps the biggest positive of the window for Arsenal though was keeping hold of star man Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and tying him down to a further three years at the Emirates was always one of the major priorities. He stays in an Arsenal shirt and along with Alexandre Lacazette and all the other attacking options Mikel Arteta has at his disposal; the Gunners have a very strong-looking outfit on paper.
Who’s struggled in the market?
It was a far from ambitious transfer window for Burnley, who were barely active at all. Dale Stephens was the only player to sign for the Clarets, joining from Brighton for a £1 million fee, but that’s hardly a transfer signing to set the world alight. Jeff Hendrick, Joe Hart and Aaron Lennon all left the club on free transfers, so they generated little spending and little money from outgoings.
Sean Dyche cannot be happy with this window after the start his side have made to this season. Consecutive defeats against Leicester, Southampton and Newcastle have left his side in the bottom three with no points from the first three games. Defensively they’ve looked weak without their usual James Tarkowski and Ben Mee centre back partnership and given their absence in the opening games, the Burnley recruitment team really should have looked to strengthen that back line.
But perhaps even worse than their defensive frailties is their on-the-ball work. Burnley have looked toothless and void of any ideas when in attacking positions against Southampton and Newcastle in particular. The squad seriously lacks any creativity, bar Dwight McNeil, who looks to be their most threatening player, and with no kind of service, the likes of Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes cannot find their goal-scoring form of two seasons ago.
There’s no one in that Burnley squad with enough quality to make the difference in tight games. There’s no fast winger like Allan Saint-Maximin, no forward runner like Jamie Vardy and no creative number ten like Matheus Pereira, so Burnley fans may well be in for a dull season.
With inconsistent performances and no major trophy since 2016/17, you can understand why United fans are becoming more and more frustrated with the men in charge. They built their entire transfer window plan around bringing Jadon Sancho to Old Trafford, but United were dismally unsuccessful in all their attempts and had to settle for a Plan B that had not been thought through.
With their number one target not an option, United found themselves panic buying right at the end of the window. They brought in Alex Telles from Porto for £13 million whilst Edinson Cavani came to England on a free transfer. It’s his transfer move that has raised eyebrows, as at 33 years old with just seven goals last season, he doesn’t really look like being able to add anything to this United squad.
The best addition United made was Dutch central midfielder Donny van de Beek for £35 million. Having starred in a successful Ajax side, he’s been giving the chance to shine on the Premier League stage, but so far they have only named him as a substitute, despite scoring off the bench in his league debut against Crystal Palace. Once Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fits him into the side, we may well see why United spent the money on him.
If the opening three games are anything to go by, Manchester United fans are in for a long season. A defeat to Palace, a very fortunate last minute win over Brighton and a humiliating loss to Tottenham is not the way the Red Devils would’ve wanted to start the season, but they have enough talent on paper to turn it around. They have not been helped by summer spending, though.
West Ham United
After a nail-biting end at the bottom of the Premier League table last season, West Ham fans would’ve expected strong transfer signings to strengthen their position in the top flight. Tomas Soucek’s loan move was made permanent at the start of the transfer window after impressing for the Hammers at the end of last campaign, and they brought former teammate Vladimir Coufal to East London right at the end of the window. The right back played his part in the shock 3-0 win over Leicester last weekend despite only signing two days before and looks like he may solve West Ham’s full back problems.
Tomas Soucek and Declan Rice have formed a very solid-looking midfield in recent games and the Hammers look well balance with the two of them in midfield. However, you’d have to question how well West Ham would get on should one of the two get injured as they are short in that department. Probably the most important bit of transfer business done during the closed season was keeping hold of Declan Rice with Chelsea sniffing around because had he left, they’d be a very different look to this West Ham team.
A large proportion of West Ham supporters have had problems with their owners for some time now, and this transfer window has only added to their frustration. The departure of Grady Diangana to West Brom has understandably left fans confused why an inexperienced player with bags of potential has been sold to a Premier League rival. They also sold young talent Josh Cullen to Anderlecht on deadline day, despite some very promising performances in the Carabao Cup this season. Supporters of a club who label themselves ‘The Academy of Football’ are rightly concerned why the club are incapable of keeping hold of their best young players.
Should the squad be hit with an extensive amount of injuries at any point, or given the current climate, several COVID-19 cases, West Ham will be in a dangerous position. They have by far the smallest squad in the league with just 21 players, seven behind the Premier League average. With this considered, you can understand the frustration coming out of East London, especially as they were one of only two Premier League clubs to have made more money than they spent during the window. Whilst that seems like a positive on first viewing, a club the size of West Ham, who escaped relegation by just five points last season, are usually expected to spend far more.
Brighton & Hove Albion
The Seagulls are another team who narrowly escaped relegation last season and have enjoyed a relatively quiet summer. Adam Lallana is the most notable transfer signing and arrives at the Amex on a free transfer. Unfortunately for him, he’s had his career overshadowed by injury during his time at Liverpool, but his 34 England caps show he possesses quality when fit. He’s played well for Brighton in the opening few games of the season, and he has the chance to get back to his top level this year.
Brighton also secured the signatures of Jakub Molder and Michal Karbownik, spending £15 million on the pair, although they will both be loaned back out to their Polish clubs for the remainder of the season. They’re perhaps something to look forward to for Brighton fans next season, although apart from that, there are no fresh faces to be encouraged by. There were several outgoings though including Shane Duffy to Celtic on loan, Dale Stephens to Burnley, Aaron Mooy to China in a shock transfer move and fan-favourite Glenn Murray to Watford on loan.
With few changes to the squad for this season, the Seagulls will hope for better performances with the same players. There is talent within the squad and they’re probably a better side on paper than several Premier League clubs, but they can’t afford to have another season like the last.
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