As we hit the busy Christmas period and draw towards the January transfer window it’s time to look back at the first half of the Premier League season. More specifically, I’ll have a closer inspection of the best and worst acquisitions of the summer and how they’ve fared since signing for their new clubs. Here’s the 10 best signings of the summer window in reverse order:
10 – Seb Larsson; Birmingham to Sunderland; Free Transfer
The Swede was a very astute signing by Steve Bruce, a player who had also played under him briefly during his time at St Andrews. A technically gifted player and set piece specialist, Larsson has made an excellent start at The Stadium of Light, despite the incessant diving, but still couldn’t do enough to save his manager’s job.
9 – Royston Drenthe; Real Madrid to Everton; Loan
Just a temporary signing, but that’s the only currency The Toffees have been able to deal in recently. Drenthe hasn’t had a huge amount of time on the pitch since completing his season-long loan move to Goodison Park but when he has played, he’s played very well. The Dutchman looks a very exciting player and could make a huge difference for Everton if injury-free in the new year.
8 – Yohan Cabaye; Lille to Newcastle; £5 million
The French midfielder has played a huge part in Newcastle’s bright start to the season. He must have seen some potential in Newcastle in order to move from the Ligue 1 champions to the Sports Direct Arena and has proven to be a bargain at just £5 million. He’s an excellent passer and an accomplished set piece taker and he should forge a superb central midfield pairing with Cheik Tiote, should Alan Pardew hold onto them both.
7 – Phil Jones; Blackburn to Man United; £18 million
With a big price tag for a teenager, Jones arrived at Old Trafford with high expectations. With the likes of Vidic and Ferdinand standing in his way, Ferguson had most likely planned a gradual introduction of the former Blackburn defender. However, injuries have caused him to be thrown into the fray sooner than expected, at centre-back, right back and even in central midfield, and he’s stepped up more than capably. The youngster has made a strong case for his inclusion in Fabio Capello’s Euro 2012 squad and looks a steal at less than the price paid by Liverpool for Jordan Henderson.
6 – Jose Enrique; Newcastle to Liverpool; £8 million
During Liverpool’s year of big spending, this was the most sensible signing of the lot, a no-brainer to be honest. Dalgleish’s side were missing a natural left back and Enrique had been a consistent performer for Newcastle for a number of years. Since arriving at Anfield he has settled straight in and played every minute for the club, without putting a foot wrong. A top player and would be desperately unlucky to miss out on a spot in Spain’s Euro 2012 squad.
5 – Sergio Aguero; Athletico Madrid to Man City; £35 million
One of the top performers in the Premiership so far this season and only down at number five in the list in an attempt to recognise value for money. Aguero has played a huge part in putting City at the top of the table and, although compared to Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres he represents a bargain at just £35 million, those two have been particularly bad value for money and I don’t want to reward City too heavily for having deep pockets. Still, a great player and an excellent signing.
4 – Juan Mata; Valencia to Chelsea; £24 million
The diminutive Spaniard has been a brilliant addition to the Chelsea squad this season. After failing in the pursuit of Luka Modric, Andre Vilas-Boas looked to the Valencia man as the next best thing and it was an excellent move. Along with Modric and David Silva, Mata’s silky skills have played a big part in producing an entertaining few months of top-flight football. It would be painful for Blues fans to imagine how far off the Premier League pace they would be if it weren’t for Mata, but they’ll be glad he is at Stamford Bridge and available to play.
3 – Michel Vorm; Utrecht to Swansea; £1.5 million
There was a bit of a goalkeeper merry-go-round this summer, with Shay Given and Brad Friedel proving to be smart signings. However, Michel Vorm has been the highlight of this year’s keeping additions. I don’t know how Brendan Rodgers heard about Vorm but he must have a decent scouting team at Swansea. Since arriving, the Dutch keeper has caught the eye of just about every football fan in England and his value must have already increased tenfold. In the opening 16 Premier League games Vorm has kept 8 clean sheets and, without meaning to offend the Swans’ defence, it hasn’t often been a straightforward task. If Swansea survive this season, they’ll have Vorm to thank and whoever found him to thank even more.
2 – Demba Ba; West Ham to Newcastle; Free Transfer
Another Newcastle entry and what a fantastic signing he’s been. As last season drew to a close and West Ham were relegated I remember thinking someone needed to snap up Demba Ba, hopefully Spurs as he is just what they need to kick on to the top four. When Alan Pardew secured his signature I thought a few bigger clubs than Newcastle had missed a trick and the striker has proved me right. In 2011 only Robin Van Persie has scored more Premier League goals than Ba and he doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon.
1 – Scott Parker; West Ham to Tottenham; £5 million
How far ahead at the top of Championship would West Ham be had they kept all their players? The second former Hammer in the list’s top two is Spurs new boy Scott Parker. At just £5 million Parker is a steal and has slotted into Redknapp’s midfield alongside Modric, Bale et al, which is now recognised by many as the league’s best midfield. Tottenham are finally being considered by one or two as genuine title contenders and Parker’s vast contribution has made a lot of the difference. He is also now rightly recognised as one of the first names on Capello’s England team sheet and has blossomed later in his career into a fantastic footballer.
Special mention also goes to Anthony Pilkington and Yakubu, who signed for Norwich and Blackburn respectively for bargain prices and have popped up with a few useful goals already. As well as this, Neil Warnock’s capture of Shaun Wright Phillips was a wise one; whilst Redknapp’s astute loan signing of Emmanuel Adebayor deserves recognition. In terms of the transfer window’s failures, here are a few of the highlights:
David N’Gog – at £4.5 million Owen Coyle’s signing of the French striker was something of a mistake. He had already proven during his time at Liverpool that he has little useful to offer and has produced few surprises since arriving at the Reebok Stadium, contributing to Bolton’s nightmare start.
Wilson Palacios – just like Coyle at Bolton, Tony Pulis obviously doesn’t watch a lot of Premiership football. If he did, he would have seen Palacios playing at Spurs and probably wouldn’t have then decided to sign the Honduran midfielder for around £8 million. Since the move he hasn’t featured regularly and I can only assume that’s because he and the manager both turn up to training.
Jordan Henderson – from one point of view, this wasn’t a bad signing. However, when put into context of other deals taking place at the time it hardly represents good business. Firstly, with Gerrard, Adam, Kuyt, Suarez etc around he was hardly a necessary purchase, whilst the fee (£22 million) doesn’t represent great value when compared to Ashley Young’s move to United (£18 million) and Juan Mata’s to Chelsea (£24 million). To make it worse, he’s hardly made an impact since arriving.
Nicklas Bendtner – not a lot needs to be said about Bendtner. Wenger will be glad to be rid of him, albeit temporarily, O’Neill won’t be happy about inheriting him and Sunderland fans will be looking forward to the day his loan deal ends.