Premier League clubs spent a whopping £1.4bn in the transfer window, eclipsing the record spending of last year by a mighty 23%. Over £200m was spent on deadline day alone despite the fact touted moves for Alexis Sanchez, Philippe Coutinho, Jonny Evans, Virgil van Dijk, and Ross Barkley either fell through or failed to materialise at all.
Some teams were busier than others in the window with the blue half of Merseyside being the busiest of all. Everton brought in a total of 15 new players, most notably their new club record signing Gylfi Sigurdsson, which has sparked debate as to whether the Toffees can mount a sustainable challenge for the top four and a Champions League place. Premier League rookies Brighton and Huddersfield were next on the list with 13 and 12 new additions respectively. The clubs will be hoping that the business will be enough to see them remain in the top flight beyond next May.
Conversely, it has been another Summer of frustration for Arsenal supporters. They were promised a window which would see the club spend considerable money to propel themselves back into Europe’s elite competition. Instead, they only brought in two players, less than any other club. Worse still, both new additions were left out of the side manager Arsene Wenger chose at Anfield last week in the sides biggest game so far.
There are always some winners and losers in every transfer window, so let’s take a look at a few from this Summer.
For years Player Power has become more and more influential in transfer dealings. A player demands a move and, no matter how long left they have on their contract, their agent delivers the desired move. Clubs have been powerless to stop it happening. Until now.
This Summer saw the clubs fight back. Southampton, Liverpool, Arsenal, Red Bull Leipzig, West Bromwich Albion and even Preston North End all refused to sell players who put in transfer requests or that were being publicly courted by others for most of the window. Liverpool refused three bids from Barcelona for Coutinho, the third of which would have been the second most expensive transfer of all time had it gone through. The Reds themselves were allegedly preparing a world record transfer fee for a defender in their chase of van Dijk but Southampton’s position for clear and firm. He would not be sold. The current TV deal sees these clubs raking in millions annually. Unlike in previous years, they can afford to say no. The problem the clubs face now is getting the players to put their toys back in the pram. Next years World Cup should be initiative enough.
Business finished early? Check. Main targets acquired? Check. Almost a flawless window for Jose Mourinho. He didn’t manage to find the wide-man he desired but the four players he brought in hugely improve the squad. Zlatan Ibrahimovic returns having scored 28 goals last term. 25 league goal man Romelu Lukaku was brought in to lead the line. Victor Lindelof brings strength in depth at the back and will be shielded by Nemanja Matic. Let it be said, Matic could be the best signing of any Premier League club in the entire window. Chelsea letting him go is a surprise, but selling him to a direct rival is plain stupid. All this with Wayne Rooney being their only notable departure. Combine this with the perfect start to the season and it’s easy to see why their title odds are shortening.
First off, signing up Marco Silva as coach was a shrewd and excellent coup for Watford. He was magnificent for Hull last season and nearly saved a helpless case from the drop. With Silva comes the ability to attract a higher caliber of player. Richarlison has been bright in his opening games. Andre Gray is a solid addition and Nathaniel Chalobah is desperate to prove what he can do at this level. Wouldn’t be a surprise if they break the top ten this year.
When Farhad Moshiri bought his stake in Everton he promised to put the money up to allow the club to compete with the Premier League’s big boys. He’s been true to his word and has given Koeman the firepower to mount a challenge. England’s best young goalkeeper, one of England’s most promising young defenders, England’s record goalscorer and a superb playmaker in Gylfi Sigurdsson has provided Koeman all he could have wished for. Top four is the aim. Even if that proves a step too far, Everton will almost certainly pull further away from the chasing pack. With a platform to build on, Koeman can turn Everton into a real force over the next couple of years.
What a story. Fly to France, undergo a medical and agree personal terms with Rennes despite not actually having permission from West Ham. Fly home to ‘sort out the differences’ but stop at Chelmsford Racecourse on the way as your agent has a horse running there. Place a £100 bet on the said horse, which wins at 9-2 bagging you £550. Finally arrive back at West Ham for talks, which go so well you begin to discuss terms on a new contract. Entertain everyone. Lovely stuff.
Only one place to start here. As mentioned earlier, so much was promised and so little was delivered. The window saw Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sold to rivals Liverpool days after turning down a new contract at Arsenal allegedly worth £60,000 more than the one he agreed in Liverpool. Skhrodan Mustafi allegedly wanted to leave, along with contract rebels Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.
The atmosphere between the Arsenal fans, who almost universally now want Arsene Wenger to leave before he destroys his own legacy is getting more toxic game-by-game. The Thomas Lemar and Sanchez episode on deadline day was like something straight out of a comedy sketch. Arsenal spend the entire Summer adamant Sanchez will not leave, only to then accept a bid with six hours to go. Then launch an enormous bid for Lemar which Monaco duly accept, before Arsenal then turn around and cancel the deal as they haven’t enough time to complete it. Why bid in the first place? If Sanchez didn’t want to play for Arsenal before this saga he will be apoplectic now. Aaron Ramsey used the word ‘Shambles’ on social media and he hit the nail on the head. Good luck with this one Mr. Wenger.
Rafael Benitez & The Toon Army
The Rafa Benitez anger has been simmering away under the surface all Summer long. He feels that Mike Ashley has let him down. Benitez built a squad capable of bouncing back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Now he is there, all he wanted was the backing to build one capable of staying there. Newcastle are the only side in the top flight who haven’t broken their transfer record in the last two years. In fact, Newcastle’s is 12 years old.
Benitez is a man with strong principles. His popularity and relationship with the fans is probably the only thing keeping him there right now. He’s the most popular manager the Magpies have had since Bobby Robson. If Ashleys unwillingness to put his hand in his pocket forces Benitez to walk away he’ll have nobody to blame but himself. The Newcastle fans are some of the best in the country, they deserve so much more.
West Ham United
Bottom of the table with no points, a lack of home comforts even when they do eventually play a home game, and a manager under immense pressure. It’s hardly been the dream start for the Hammers. They brought in Joe Hart who hasn’t been convincing so far, Pablo Zabaleta who look as though his best years are well behind him and Marko Arnautovic was sent off on debut for an immeasurably stupid elbow. Javier Hernandez may yet prove a shrewd acquisition but he just scores the goals, who will create them? The Sakho situation became a national headline which had the entire nation laughing at West Ham. It’s a long way back from here, especially when they’re without a manager in October.
Romelu Lukaku, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ross Barkley, Alex Sandro, Fernando Llorente. All of those are players Conte wanted to bring to Chelse this Summer, none of whom arrived. The snubs of Chamberlain and Llorente must be particularly hurtful. Conte’s Chelsea are the reigning Premier League Champions, it should be simple to attract and sign players. You definitely shouldn’t be losing out to sides who finished below you the previous season.
Whether or not Ross Barkley actually had a medical doesn’t matter. What matters is that he also turned them down. If rumours are to be believed, his change of heart was to join Spurs in January. Another kick in the teeth for Conte. Technical Director Michael Emenalo might be searching for a new job if the failings of the window end up biting Chelsea in the backside. Add all that to the crazy Diego Costa situation and Conte really has some work to do if he wants to keep hold of the Premier League trophy. Luckily for him, and Chelsea, he has the ability to do it.
He’s not alone by any means. As mentioned above, many players tried and failed to force through ‘dream moves’, but the Brazilian’s ‘injury crisis’ and subsequent miracle recovery set him apart from the rest. He’s played no part in Liverpool’s solid start to the season after suffering a mysterious back injury and then illness which all happened to come around once Barcelona’s interest became public. He jetted off, first class, halfway around the world to report for international duty. Upon arrival, he declared the injury was due to stress and he was perfectly OK.
He’s played no part in Liverpool’s solid start to the season after suffering a mysterious back injury and then illness which all happened to come around once Barcelona’s interest became public. He jetted off, first class, halfway around the world to report for international duty. Upon arrival, he declared the injury was due to stress and he was perfectly OK.
The Little Magician didn’t get his move and all it has achieved is naffing off the legion of Liverpool fans who adored him before the window. Raheem Sterling, Michael Owen and Fernando Torres will attest that Anfield is a tough gig once you’ve incurred the wrath of the Kop. The difference is, those three had left, Coutinho needs to rebuild his bridges.
Words by Dan Rawlinson (@Danrawly)
All images from google.co.uk free to use images.