The window is now slammed shut and all the summer’s business is concluded. But as your club’s new signings line up to hold aloft a scarf on the pitch is there someone missing?
Arsenal – Yann M’Vila (Rennes)
Yup this old chestnut. Wenger has reputedly been chasing the Rennes anchorman since he departed the womb yet ironically it was north London rivals Spurs who came closest to nabbing the 22 year old this summer. The wily Prof seems to have lost interest after a dip in form for the player and some off-field disciplinary problems but surely the exit of Song impelled reconsideration? Evidently not but though Diaby is capable of producing powerhouse displays like he did at Anfield this weekend his injury concerns make a sole reliance on him to bolster the Gunners midfield a risky venture. M’Vila was a must and could cost Arsenal dear in what is otherwise a promising season ahead.
Aston Villa – Lucas Biglia (Anderlecht)
In Petrov’s absence El Ahmadi was a wise purchase to strengthen a real problem area for Villa. Yet even with the addition of the tough-tackling Dutchman the heartbeat of Paul Lambert’s side still looks a touch irregular. Bannan and Delph show all-too-few flashes of the players they should be week in, week out, Gardner is the real deal but still too callow, whilst Ireland will always frustrate. Anderlecht’s Argentinean international Biglia was available for £6.3m and has a bit of everything. Most importantly of all he produces on a consistent basis.
Chelsea – Raul Meireles (Chelsea)
£8m for a disillusioned 29 year old is undoubtedly good business but in our view the Portuguese man o’ war has always been criminally under-valued on British shores. Until recently Chelsea were over-stocked with midfielders but by loaning out Essien and McEachran and now this rather puzzling and unnecessary sale they’re resigned to spending 2012/13 an injury or two away from a central crisis. But of course they’ll always have Mikel. Chelsea will always, always have Mikel.
Everton – Liam Moore (Leicester City)
Evertonians enjoyed the rare experience of being the city gloaters when they awoke on September 1st. Not only had Moyes strengthened a top-heavy squad with six well-assessed recruits but across Stanley Park heads were in palms at the release of Carroll without a replacement in sight.
Yet a concern persists with Moyes’ insistence of sticking with goal-scoring phenomenon Tony Hibbert and club captain Phil Neville at right-back. Both give everything to the cause but have flaws that frustrate the Goodison faithful and the Toffees would have been wise to look in the direction of Leicester where a teenager is fast making a name for himself as an England international in the making. Better yet Moore is versatile, a quality the Everton gaffer values more than most.
Sadly for Everton it appears their chance has now passed with both Arsenal and Manchester United circling with intent for the January window.
Fulham – William Kvist (Vfb Stuttgart)
Since the quite frankly baffling decision was made to release both Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu – affectively ripping their own heart out – Fulham have looked lightweight and easily dominated in the centre of the park. Kvist was a real gem at this summer’s Euros, always neat and tidy in possession, scavengery without, and would have offered some much-needed bite to a side undergoing transition.
Liverpool – Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea)
The furore over the last-day Carroll/Dempsey debacle continues unabated but even if the Fulham man had signed Liverpool would have still only had one recognised targetman at the club until January at least. Both Dempsey and Suarez prefer to run into channels and feed off the main striker which would have left Borini the sole man for such a role no matter how Aug 31st had played out. It’s a baffling state of affairs especially as Rodgers presumably did not decide Carroll’s fate on a whim and had the entire summer to form realistic targets.
Meanwhile down south a supremely talented goal-getter has spent the close season desperately wanting to leave his club because he has repeatedly been denied the number 9 shirt…
Manchester City – Eden Hazard (Lille)
City’s summer recruitment policy can best be described as sensible, by their extravagant standards at least. Certainly there were no marquee signings made this time, no headline grabbing superstars attained by blowing the competition out of the water, as Mancini set about improving and tweaking his already formidable squad of options. The key miss however was undoubtedly Hazard. The sensationally gifted prodigy would have seen Nasri consigned to the bench as he, Silva, Tevez and Aguero ran rampant riot through the league’s defences.
Ironically the most talented Belgian since Tintin is now well on his way to becoming this season’s Silva at the Bridge.
Manchester United – Kevin Strootman (PSV)
United’s treble-winning side of ‘99 – one of the finest British club sides of all time – had a midfield that consisted of Giggs, Scholes, Keane and Beckham. Thirteen years later half of that majestic quartet remain, their pomp long past, their legs running on memory. Worse yet they are surrounded by the likes of Carrick, Anderson and – should he ever return – Fletcher.
The Reds may have bought well this summer but Ferguson’s refusal to beef up a long-standing problem area now borders on the trenchant. Modric was always going to be £10m too expensive but though the scheming Croat would have slotted superbly into the United engine room was he really the only option available?
Strootman may not have Keane’s class – or for that matter Modric’s wile – but he shares the former leader’s attributes. For under £15m United would have had a player who drives forward, offers genuine snap in the centre-circle, recycles efficiently, and injects personality into an area with little. Or in short, Anderson on a very good day.
Newcastle United – Douglas (FC Twente)
Despite Newcastle’s superb campaign one look at their defence and – on paper at least – it’s hard not to come to one conclusion; forgive me the Toon but….over-achievement.
Pardew was reportedly resolved to amending this by pursuing Pieters and Debuchy to upgrade on the full-back positions whilst his main target throughout was the fabulously named Douglas Franco Teixeira from FC Twente.
The 24 year old Brazilian is physical, dominant in the air and would have perfectly complimented the classy colossus Coloccini.
Norwich City – Josh McEachran (Chelsea)
Incoming gaffer Chris Hughton has quietly gone about improving further an already decent mix of industry and flair in the Norwich centre. But you can’t help feeling that the skinny frame of McEachran would have revelled on the lush Carrow Road turf, enjoying his learning curve before the forgiving Canaries. Instead he went to Middlesbrough depriving the Prem of a young, intriguing talent.
QPR – Kolo Toure (Manchester City)
We’ve all done it – woken on Xmas morning and watched with pride as the kids rip open their presents that you’ve paid a great deal of money for only to remember halfway through that you’ve omitted to buy any batteries. Mark Hughes must have had a similar feeling as the transfer window looked to close after bringing in more players than are stored in Danielle Lloyd’s old phone before realising all too late he’d only signed one centre-back. A 35 year old no less. Bids for Carvalho and Dawson were ambitious but perhaps always doomed to fail and in hindsight – following the news yesterday that Toure is set to move to Galatasaray – a similarly aggressive approach for a player he once signed from Arsenal would have got through.
Reading – Luciano Narsingh (Heerenveen)
Reading were a fluid and devastating force going forward last term but there is little doubt that the likes of Noel Hunt, Kebe, Church and new signing Mariappa have a lot to prove on the bigger stage. Having secured the services of Pogrebnyak from under the noses of Fulham boss Brian McDermott missed a trick by not snatching away another player who looked destined for Craven Cottage. Narsingh was part of the Dutch Euro squad and provided more assists than any other player in Holland last season. Having been given a tour of Fulham’s picturesque ground he seemed on his way to the capital until PSV swooped in July. The figure – for a player who made twenty assists last term – was a derisory £3.5m.
Southampton – Nicolai Boilesen (Ajax)
The Saints needed to raise the bar in both full-back roles and did so successfully on the right by recruiting the fabulous Nathaniel Clyne. Boilesen would have fit the bill nicely on the opposite flank but alas a rumoured £5m bid failed to tempt Ajax into parting with their 20 year old Danish international.
Stoke City – Adam Matthews (Celtic)
Stoke have a fearsome spine with wide men in Etherington and the newly acquired Kightly who add flair and balance to it.
Their full-backs however are of the ilk that will adhere to every utterance from the gaffer and always put in a shift but truthfully lack the quality to take the Potters to the next level. Matthews can play on either flank and could be realistically attained for under £4m.
Sunderland – Toby Alderweireld (Ajax)
When Titus Bramble was arrested last year I assumed it was for impersonating a professional footballer. Granted O’Neill has experience to spare in O’Shea and Brown
but beyond that Kilgallon and the aforementioned joke in boots provide inferior cover
and if Sunderland are genuinely serious about breaking into the top six then a man of Alderweireld’s class would go a long way to shoring up a back-line that is always capable of being breached. The Belgian formed a formidable partnership with Jan Vertonghen at Ajax with some claiming he was the better defender. A mix of non-nonsense simplicity and style and all for £10m.
Swansea City – Lewis Dunk (Brighton)
New signing Chico seems destined to become the poor man’s David Luiz – flamboyant displays of excellence undone by moments of utter madness – but Laudrup evidently has faith in his man from Cádiz. Meanwhile Ashley Williams remains one of the most under-rated stoppers in the English game. Beyond that however you stumble upon players of integrity and professionalism but who you really wouldn’t fancy against Aguero in a bad mood.
Dunk himself would probably get massacred by the Argentine but that’s due to the Brighton lad being barely out of his teens. Yet he has enough promise of future poise and fortitude that he’s attracted the interests of all the big clubs. With the Swans making a decent profit on their summer dealings a punt of £5m would not have gone amiss on a potential captain and rock in years to come.
Tottenham – M’Baye Niang (Caen)
The 17 year old sensation from Caen trialled at Spurs, Arsenal and Everton in the close season but it was Milan who ultimately swooped for a player who – rather predictably – has been coined the ‘next Henry’.
Blessed with speed, guile beyond his tender years, and enough arrogance to humble Simon Cowell the teen was available for just £7m and with Spurs spending all but one week of the summer with just Jermaine Defoe as their only recognised striker it seems a puzzling decision not to pay out, sit back and be blown away.
West Brom – Cristian Ansaldi (Rubin Kazan)
Rookie boss Steve Clarke has added shrewdly to an already well balanced squad but the right-back position notably remains a weak link. Step forward Argentine international Cristian Ansaldi, a fiercely competitive, marauding specialist who is currently plying his trade at Rubin Kazan. Best of all the 25 year old is two footed and equally adept on each flank.
West Ham – Jetro Willems (PSV)
Big Sam has put together his Premier League Hammers line-up like an assembly plant. Keeper with plenty of top flight experience. Check. Centre back with plenty of top flight experience. Check. Top class big man up front. Check. Quality supply line from under-rated winger. Check. His transfer activity has been a masterclass in pragmatism.
Yet he has over-looked a fatal flaw and that is that his full-backs are….well, average at best. George McCartney might have something about him down the right but his left-back options are a slender picking of mediocrity. Willems may have been out-classed in Polkraine in the summer but he is a jet-heeled bundle of promise who is trailed by the bigger lights
Wigan Athletic – Lee Chung-Yong (Bolton)
The South Korean has just returned from a horrific leg break that ruled him out for the entirety of last season. This was presumably why Wigan were unwilling to match the Trotters’ £7m valuation of a player who is far too good for the Championship.