With the halfway point of the season fast approaching, some of the biggest signings of the summer are still struggling to adapt to their new surroundings. That’s nothing new but, given the money spent on transfer fees these days, clubs will be hoping these newcomers come good in the new year.
Moise Kean, Everton
Given the way Moise Kean ended last season, it was a shock that Juventus allowed him to leave. It was even more surprising that Everton were relatively unopposed in their pursuit of the Italy international – and that there was no buy-back clause in his contract. Even at a fee of £29m – which could rise to £37m – it was still an exciting signing for the club.
Kean is still just 19, but he did not impress Marco Silva and really needs a fresh start under a new coach. Given their modest options to lead the line, it looked as if Kean would be first choice at Everton, but he has started just two of his 11 league appearances and has only completed the full 90 minutes once – a 2-0 defeat at home to Sheffield United.
He is yet to score for his new club and has only set up one goal. He has averaged 3.3 shots and 2.7 completed dribbles for every 90 minutes he has been on the pitch, so there are some encouraging signs but Everton fans have seen far less of Kean – and far less from him – than they would have expected.
Che Adams, Southampton
If evidence were ever needed about the step up in quality from the Championship to the Premier League, Che Adams’ start to life on the south coast has provided it. Having scored 22 goals last season for Birmingham City in the second tier, Adams impressed in pre-season and looked ready to nail down a starting spot at Southampton after his £15m move in the summer.
The 23-year-old was given his chance at the beginning of the campaign but, after six matches without a goal, he was dropped. Adams hasn’t been back in the starting XI since. Since losing his place in the side, he has made five substitute appearances, mustering just two shots on target. Like Kean, he has made 11 appearances and scored no goals for his new club.
Adams may struggle to regain his place. Danny Ings has been picked for the last 10 games and has scored in eight of them. Adams will be ruing his missed chances. The step up to the Premier League can be unforgiving.
Pablo Fornals, West Ham
Signing Pablo Fornals seemed to be a real coup for West Ham in the summer, given that he had just won the U21 European Championship with Spain. The midfielder had a big reputation, but his form for Villarreal had been stuttering.
In his first season with Villarreal, in 2017-18, Fornals scored three goals and registered an outstanding 12 assists in La Liga. However, his form dipped last season, with just two goals and three assists.
The 23-year-old is capable of sublime moments of skill but it is telling that he has made more tackles (2.2 per 90 minutes) than he has attempted shots (1.6), created chances (1) or completed dribbles (0.7) for West Ham. He has only started eight of his 15 league games so far and is yet to score.
Dani Ceballos, Arsenal
Dani Ceballos was also in the Spain team that won the U21 Euros in the summer and he has also struggled in London this season. Injuries have played their part, but he has not made the biggest impression after his loan move from Real Madrid.
It all started so well too. He set up two goals in his first game at the Emirates as Arsenal beat Burnley 2-1 on a sunny afternoon in August. He looked a looked a class apart from most of the players on the pitch. But, in his nine appearance since then, he has not scored or set up a single goal. Ceballos has missed Arsenal’s last five league games due to injury but, even before his spell on the sidelines, he looked off the pace.
Newcastle forked out a club record fee of £40m for Joelinton and it is not obvious to see why. The Brazilian striker proved to be a strong outlet for Hoffenheim last season, using his physicality to bring others into play and defending admirably from the front, but his goal return was not much to write home about.
He scored seven goals and chipped in with a respectable five assists in the Bundesliga, but his finishing often left a lot to be desired. His conversion rate of 12.5% was modest to say the least and it has dropped further still at Newcastle. He has played 16 times for his new club and only scored one goal – back in August against Tottenham.
The 23-year-old has not scored in his last 13 games. Moreover, his averages of 1.8 shots, 1.1 key passes and 1.4 dribbles per 90 minutes are all some way down on the figures he posted in Germany. As a result, Andy Carroll – who was signed on a pay-as-you-play basis – is now very much in competition with the £40m signing for a starting spot.
Wesley, Aston Villa
Wesley is another young Brazilian striker who has found the move to English football troubling. He started the season well enough – scoring four goals in his first eight games – but he has really dropped off the pace since then. He has not scored in his last eight games and, truth be told, has rarely looked like finding the net in that time. He won his first cap for Brazil last month, which was a touch bemusing given that it came in the middle of a barren run in front of goal for Aston Villa. On current form, the 23-year-old will have to wait some time for his second cap.
He is clearly low on confidence and is really struggling to use his stature to hold up the ball for Aston Villa – all too often it’s coming right back as a result. Despite his 6ft 4in frame, he has won just 38% of his aerial duels. On top of that, he has lost possession due to an unsuccessful touch 42 times (the seventh worst in the Premier League). Given the lack of competition at Villa Park, there was a lot of pressure on Wesley to hit the ground running. At this stage, he needs to be taken out of the firing line and given a rest.
The Guardian Sport