After a record breaking summer of transfer activity in the Premier League, it’s fair to say that some teams emerged from the window having done better business than others. Here’s a few of my thoughts on who I felt spent the wisest, who managed to improve their squad the most and who had the best transfer window in general.
For me, Chelsea have done the best business overall as the deals they’ve done have made them many people’s title favourites which certainly suggests that they’ve done something right (if early indications this seasons are anything to go by, they’ve got it spot on). Granted, they have the deepest pockets to ensure that they have the “perfect” transfer window almost every time but unlike some of their rivals, they’ve invested their money into their weakest areas and made their team a complete powerhouse which will take some stopping this season. They needed a top class striker, they got one in Diego Costa. They needed a classy midfield player, they got Cesc Fabregas who is essentially a combination of Frank Lampard and Juan Mata, two players which Chelsea have recently let go of.
It’s a shame that Romelu Lukaku, for whatever reason, wasn’t Jose Mourinho’s cup of tea but in selling him they’ve nearly got their money back from what they spent on Costa. Not only that but they managed to offload David Luiz for a ridiculous sum of £50 million. Incredibly, Chelsea are also one of only three teams in the whole league who made a profit from their various big money dealings (the others being Southampton and Tottenham).
One of those aforementioned rivals of Chelsea who didn’t improve upon their weakest areas were Manchester United, even though they might not considered a threat in the title race any more (certainly not this season). Even so, it became fairly obvious they needed at least one (if not two) top quality centre backs. Marcos Rojo can play there but he’ll probably be used at full back/wing back more often than not. With long serving pair Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand making it clear long before the summer that they were leaving, they were well aware that they were going to need replacements. But there haven’t been any.
Instead, on Deadline Day they focused all their attention on bringing in Falcao on loan to reinforce an already strong striking department whilst leaving the defence very weak (Phil Jones, Johnny Evans, Chris Smalling, Tyler Blackett). It’s most definitely the weakest United defence in the Premier League era, especially when you consider that most of United’s many title wins were built on a rock solid defence (the aforementioned Vidic and Ferdinand, Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister, Jaap Stam, etc). The current crop of United centre backs look average at best compared to them and in reality, by the Premier League’s current standards, they are. In all seriousness, there are teams in the bottom half who can boast stronger defences than this.
United may have broken the British transfer record (in terms of highest fee ever paid) on Angel Di Maria, who is obviously a world class player, and they may have spent more than any other Premier League club but really United were one of the “losers” of the transfer window as they’ve attempted to fix something which wasn’t really broken and haven’t fixed something which clearly was broken. As a result, they’re left with a very unbalanced team and this will make qualifying for the Champions League an even bigger struggle than what it already was.
Unlike United, Arsenal have done a much better job of balancing their squad. Normally, all the transfer talk surrounding Arsenal is concerning which of their key players they’re set to lose next. For once, that didn’t happen this summer. Arsene Wenger also finally dipped into his pocket and proved that last summer’s big money signing of Mesut Ozil wasn’t going to be a one-off. Alexis Sanchez, for me, was one of the best buys of the summer, Calum Chambers looked every inch an Arsenal player from the moment he first pulled on the shirt and Mathieu Debuchy is a solid (if slightly predictable) replacement for Bacary Sagna. It was also no secret that they needed a striker and in Danny Welbeck they have found one who, again, fits the Arsenal mould very well. They, along with Chelsea, have improved their squads the most out of the top clubs.
The big winners of Deadline Day were undoubtedly Hull City. Going into the season, they were one of the bookies’ favourites to be relegated due to their threadbare squad (with a couple of long term injury absentees) and having the Europa League to contend with but thanks to their four new additions on September 1st (and their early elimination from Europe), they now look in good shape. The sale of Shane Long, albeit for a whopping £12 million, left serious question marks over where the goals were going to come from for The Tigers but most of that money was re-invested into club record signing Abel Hernandez from Palermo, who should be a real handful for Premier League defences with his pace and strength.
The combative Mohammed Diame adds much of the same to the midfield to contrast nicely to the technical genius of Tom Huddlestone. In the last few hours they brought in two out of favour but very skilful wingers on loan in the form of Gaston Ramirez from Southampton and Newcastle’s Hatem Ben Arfa. The latter is a particularly exciting signing, if he can get back to the form he was in before being exiled from the Newcastle team by Alan Pardew. Now, having added a goal scorer, two creators on the wings and some more strength in the middle of the park, Hull have got a much stronger all round team to what they had with 24 hours of the window remaining.
Unfortunately, there were a couple of teams who did some less than impressive business. If there was an award for “most underwhelming summer acquisitions”, it would have to go to Villa. I don’t really know how Paul Lambert has managed to do this but he has somehow brought in six new players and none of them have strengthened his squad. This makes their excellent start to the season somewhat baffling but that’s football for you. Even so, if I were a Villa fan I’d be braced for another relegation battle. They did manage to hold on to Ron Vlaar, who was pursued by Southampton for much of the summer so they do deserve some credit for that. However, the arrivals of Joe Cole, Kieran Richardson and Phillippe Senderos emphasise the fact that Villa are a club heading backwards.
Their local rivals West Brom also completed some rather strange deals. Their summer started promisingly with the signings of experienced Premier League campaigners Joleon Lescott and Craig Gardner on free transfers, but that is about as good as it got for The Baggies. The club record £10 million spent on Brown Ideye looks like a huge gamble considering that they are lacking a prolific goal scorer and they’ve put all their eggs in one basket for an unproven striker from Ukrainian football. It’d be a surprise if it paid off. Quite how the likes of Jason Davidson, Sebastien Pocognoli and Cristian Gamboa are going to add to the squad other than literally adding to it in the sense of more players is also unclear. Then there’s the return of Georgios Samaras to the Premier League. I have to admit, when I first saw this deal confirmed, I thought it was a joke.
Crystal Palace are another team who struggled to bolster their squad and Tony Pulis’ decision to leave The Eagles is believed to have been due to a lack of financial backing in the transfer market. They did fairly well on Deadline day but up until then, only the return of Wilfried Zaha on loan would have given Palace fans cause for optimism. Even with the four Deadline Day signings, it’s doubtful as to whether they have enough quality to survive this season. They may have finished 11th last season but without significant reinforcement, they were never looking likely of repeating that.
The one team which had the most difficult summer to endure was undoubtedly Southampton as they saw most of last season’s team which lit up the Premier League move on to the top clubs. They did of course rake in a lot of money as a result but have found it difficult to bring in replacements for the likes of Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw, Dejan Lovren and Calum Chambers. Tall Italian striker Graziano Pelle looks like he’ll be a capable striker in the Premier League, if not hugely prolific. Fraser Forster is of course a very good goalkeeper and Ryan Bertrand is a decent full back but despite these signings, their squad looks significantly weaker. If anything that is testament to just how well they did last season but this season they are going to be in a relegation battle.
Over £800 million was spent by Premier League clubs this summer which is more than ever has been spent in one window before. Even though I believe some clubs got it right and some went wrong, it looks set to be another incredibly tight season at both ends of the table.
Photo: Kieran Clarke (via Flickr).