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Premier League: Biggest Hits and Misses from the Summer Transfer Window

Premier League: Biggest Hits and Misses from the Summer Transfer Window

Saturday, 11 November, 2017 - 10:45
Liverpool winger Mohammed Salah. (AFP)

From a bargain triumph at Brighton to a costly success at Manchester City, and from a struggling £25m Leicester striker to an unseen defender at Southampton, we assess how last summer’s transfer business looks so far:

Best summer signings

Pascal Gross (Ingolstadt to Brighton, £2.6m)

The money Brighton paid to bring Gross from Ingolstadt already appears to have paid off handsomely. Chris Hughton has fashioned a hard-working team – of the eight players who have covered the greatest distance in the Premier League this season three play for Brighton, a list on which no other side have more than one representative – and Gross is the most energetic player he has. He has the quality to match his industry, proving influential from set pieces and from open play. Brighton have scored 11 league goals of which Gross has scored two and assisted five (plus Tomer Hemed’s goal against Newcastle United came when one of Gross’s free-kicks was headed down by Dale Stephens). It took until October 20 for Brighton to score a goal in which he did not play a crucial role.

Aaron Mooy (Man City to Huddersfield Town, £8m)

Mooy’s 574 passes make him Huddersfield’s most influential player by a huge margin (their next, Christopher Schindler, has made 416, followed by Mathias Zanka with 415). He has also tackled more than any of his team-mates – indeed, only Leicester’s Wilfred Ndidi has out-tackled him in the league this season – and his two goals make him their joint top goalscorer. He counts as a summer signing only on a technicality, having spent last season at Huddersfield on loan before making the move permanent in June, but however impressive his displays in the Championship had been, the level of his performances in this campaign has been greater still. “Aaron is the heart of our game,” David Wagner said in June. “He is able to decelerate when necessary, or accelerate the game if you need it. You don’t often find a player who is so comfortable on the ball and has such a great fighting attitude.”

Mohammed Salah (Roma to Liverpool, £36.9m)

Four goals in four Champions League games plus seven in 11 league matches and a match-winning two-goal turn in Egypt’s World Cup qualifier against Congo equals a phenomenal season for Salah. Somehow he still often ends up being remembered for his misses – at a crucial, early stage against Manchester City, for example, or from the penalty spot against Huddersfield – but using the expected goals metric he is statistically very much in credit, his chances being considered worth 6.18 goals. He has had more shots on target than any other player in the Premier League, despite being fourth on the list of shots overall: 65 percent of his efforts are accurate, compared with Harry Kane’s 37 percent and Romelu Lukaku’s 47 percent. Neither Fernando Torres nor Luis Suárez had scored as many goals at this stage in their Liverpool careers, and they weren’t wingers.

Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur to Manchester City, £50m)

“Kyle Walker becomes the world’s most expensive defender at £50m plus” wrote Gary Lineker on Twitter after the deal was completed. “Imagine how much he would cost if he could cross the ball.” It seemed a reasonable point: he had averaged 2.8 league assists per season in his last five years at Tottenham, despite sending over, on average, 85 crosses. It took him, in other words, a little more than 30 crosses to create a goal. This season he has attempted 20 crosses and has four assists, meaning one in five has been converted, and is second on the list of the league’s most creative defenders (level with his replacement at Tottenham, Kieran Trippier, and one behind César Azpilicueta). It helps that he is crossing from a different location – low, from the byline, often inside the penalty area, rather than more speculatively from wherever on the right flanks looks promising – but he suddenly seems a creative force, and a key component of the most irresistible attacking side to grace the Premier League for many a year.

Richarlison (Fluminense to Watford, £11m)

Richarlison’s arrival in Hertfordshire attracted little attention but Watford always had high hopes for the callow Brazilian, who was busy excelling for Fluminense during England’s summer break. “I remember, many times when we were in Austria [during pre-season] we watched full games and we analyzed really well the player,” Marco Silva said in September, “and in that moment I took the decision and when I met the board I said: ‘We need to buy this player.’” He had agreed to join Ajax and was only hours from boarding the plane to Amsterdam when a phone call from Silva convinced him to reroute. His impact has been impressive: the 20-year-old started the first game of the season on the bench, and came off it only because of an injury to Roberto Pereyra. But since that moment he has played all but 10 minutes of Watford’s league campaign, showing a combination of pace, trickery and unstinting effort. He is currently sixth in the league for completed dribbles and has already contributed four goals – all scored away from home – and three assists.

Top of the flops

Jan Bednarek (Lech Poznan to Southampton, £5.7m)

“I have heard Southampton is such a good club for young players,” said Jan Bednarek after he completed his move from Lech Poznan. “It was key for me that the young players are playing here. That was most important, that young players are getting the chance here and can improve themselves.” Bednarek has yet to play a single minute of league football and was last glimpsed on the substitutes’ bench back in August. The highlight of the 21-year-old Pole’s season so far is his full international debut, against Kazakhstan in September, and even that only lasted one minute. Not so much a bad signing, perhaps, as an unnecessary one: instead of getting the chance Bednarek had been led to expect he is engaged in a personal battle with Florin Gardos for the title of Southampton’s fifth-choice center-back.

Davy Klaassen (Ajax to Everton, £23.7m)

Klaassen’s Everton career to date can be split into three distinct parts: the one when he was on the pitch for at least part of every match, the one when he was on the bench for the entirety of every match, and the one when he was neither in the team nor on the bench at all. Under David Unsworth he has made the match-day squad only once and never got as far as the pitch. He has one assist to show for his troubles, at Ruzomberok at the start of August, while in the league he has won two of five attempted tackles and completed 54 of 68 passes. This from the man who was named Holland’s player of the year in 2015-16 and who got nine assists from Ajax’s midfield in the Eredivisie last season (joint fifth in the league) while scoring 14 goals (joint eighth), counts as rank under-performance, even allowing for his team’s travails.

Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City to Leicester, £25m)

Not only has Iheanacho failed to score a Premier League goal for Leicester, he has only had three shots, and none of them was on target. This was not what Leicester thought they were getting for their £25m investment, although the Nigerian remains a rough diamond, having only turned 21 last month, and he hardly lacks experience, having played 64 times and scored 21 goals for Manchester City before his move. Having had his pre-season curtailed by a toe injury and the confusing and drawn-out nature of his transfer, he has played only 233 minutes of league football and rather than becoming Jamie Vardy’s regular foil remains in the shadow of the 31-year-old Shinji Okazaki. In Manchester his goals came at the rate of one every 106.5 minutes, making him at the point his transfer was confirmed statistically the most prolific striker in the history of the Premier League; already he has dropped down to sixth, just ahead of Ruud van Nistelrooy – and he’s falling fast.

Renato Sanches (Bayern Munich to Swansea, loan)

When the magazine FourFourTwo listed its top-20 deals from the summer window – not only in England, mind, but in the whole of Europe and therefore the world – Swansea’s swoop for the 20-year-old Portuguese midfield tyro was its No1. It was certainly among the biggest surprises of the summer but so far it has been a disappointment. Sanches has appeared in five league games, from which Swansea have taken one point; he gave the ball away 14 times in the first half hour of his debut, against Newcastle in September; he has an average WhoScored rating of 6.55. “He’s a really good player, it’s about getting him up to speed,” Paul Clement said last month. “He’s missed a lot of football and his confidence has been damaged. I think his performances are picking up.” He is not Swansea’s only disappointing summer recruit: Wilfried Bony has started two games, made two appearances off the bench, had two shots on target and neither scored nor assisted a goal. The only players to have played as many as his 170 minutes and passed so unsuccessfully (his success rate is a meager 53.2 percent) are goalkeepers, who do a lot of optimistic hoofing, and Burnley’s Sam Vokes.

Jairo Riedewald (Ajax to Crystal Palace, £7.9m)

The versatile 20-year-old was very much the choice of Frank de Boer, who had given him his Ajax debut in 2013 and looked on him as something of a protégé, welcoming him as “a player I know well” who “will be an excellent addition to our squad”, while Riedewald said that he “chose Crystal Palace because of De Boer”. But there is a downside to being the manager’s favorite, particularly if the manager involved is sacked after only four matches. Since playing the entirety of Palace’s season-opening home defeat by Huddersfield, Riedewald has been used for only 34 league minutes, across three matches. There have been glimpses, particularly in the Carabao Cup victory over Huddersfield, of his quality, and perhaps he suffers from his versatility: as if unsure whether to play him in defense or in midfield, he is currently being fielded on the substitutes’ bench instead.

The Guardian Sport

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