While we have already discussed the reasons to be excited about the new season, let’s look at the more negative side of the window. These are the 10 players whose arrivals have disappointed me the most. There isn’t an order to this list.
It seems I cannot avoid criticising the Portuguese midfielder, even after he had arguably his best season in club football. There were two reasons why this was the case, the first being the level he was playing at. Gomes struggled at Barcelona because he was outclassed by a majority of the players around him. Going to a club where he would be the best technical player in the side allowed him to be a big fish in a smaller pond and gave him the chance to show his talents. The other and most important reason is Idrissa Gueye. The now PSG defensive midfielder has been one of the most underrated players in the Premier League since his arrival. No one in Europe’s top 5 leagues put in more tackles and interceptions than Gueye. Gomes is below average defensively and having an elite destroyer next to him allowed him to focus on his strengths, being ball progression. Everton spent over £20 million on a good ball progressor, who lacks any creativity and defensive ability. Soon as it was announced Gueye was departing the club, it made Gomes’s signing instantly bad.
Jamie Vardy seems immortal. Just when you think the former Fleetwood forward is finally going to slow down, he goes on and scores 18 league goals for the Foxes. It’s understandable why Leicester have continuously tried to find understudies for Vardy, expecting him to start to show his age eventually. Iheanacho was the first and has not worked out as well as many hoped. Leicester’s strategy in terms of finding a Vardy backup came in looking for a player who could play in several positions. This happened in the form of Spanish forward Ayoze Perez, who had an awe-inspiring season for Newcastle, but for £30 million it does seem a bit insane. Perez did score 12 goals in the most defensive side in the league last season, and while that can be credited, his numbers did look very underwhelming. This could be down to the limiting system that Benitez plays, but Perez has garnered a reputation for being a hot and cold player. At times he would be great, but others non-existent. I think it’s more frustrating because Leicester had arguably the best summer window in 2018, with Maddison and Pereira signed for less than £30 million. It’ll be a consistent case of there being better value in the market. What is most frustrating is he arrives in an exciting young attack, only to lack the same talent as his new teammates. This could be a signing the former champions regret at the end of the season.Embed from Getty Images
Belgium is a league in which talent can be challenging to measure. We’ve seen Ndidi, Tielmanns and Dendocker all succeed in the Premier League and while Wesley could be a success, there is a difference. The three players previously mentioned were all midfielders, two of which are primarily defensive players. Their roles in the side are more straight forward and can adapt to a different league with ease. Forwards are another story. We’ve seen both Brighton and Southampton sign young attackers from the Belgian top flight. Yet, their acquisitions make more sense, with Trossard and Djenepo showing a lot of promise in terms of dribbling and output. When looking at Wesley’s underlying numbers, it does display an image of a player who looks more threatening than he is. The general opinion of Wesley seems to be he is a technically gifted target man, similar to Sebastien Haller. My issue regarding Wesley is he doesn’t show the same output as the Frenchman, who played in a much better league. The Brazilian won only 1.5 aerial duels last season and isn’t very creative. I think Villa have signed him in an attempt to get as many goals out of McGinn, Grealish and Hourihane. This isn’t a bad idea, with Wesley’s average position usually being outside of the 18-yard box. The issue is I don’t think the trio will reach the same crazy output they did last season. Replacing Tammy Abraham is very difficult for a club that can’t spend over £30 million on a striker. But there must have been better, more proven players out there. I really doubt this signing will work out, but I would love to be proven wrong.
As we’ve just seen, a promotion side’s striker is arguably their most important position. Sheffield had a similar problem as their promotion rivals. While Villa didn’t have a Premier League quality forward to play, Sheffield United still had their duo of Billy Sharp and McGoldrick. But due to their age and lack of top-flight experience, they needed more capable forwards. While Mousset was a decent signing, he could still be quite a risk considering the lack of minutes he played during his time at Bournemouth. However, our spotlight will be on Scottish forward Oli McBurnie and why I’m not the biggest fan of this move. This isn’t to say McBurnie is a terrible player. In fact, there are parts of his game I do like. He’s a hardworking and tactically intelligent forward, something you’d need to be to play under Graham Potter. My issue with McBurnie is actually his goalscoring. McBurnie scored 7 headers, and most of his goals were due to him being in the right place at the right time. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but he never showed himself to be a great finisher. In a side where I doubt a lot of chances will be created, he won’t get the goals that the Blades will be hoping for. If McBurnie didn’t cost nearly £20 million, I wouldn’t have this much of a problem. A lot of pressure is on McBurnie to score the goals to keep Sheffield United in the Premier League, and I don’t think he’s the man to do that.
Permanently moving away from Premier League signings, let’s move to Serie A. Juventus’s business in recent years has been a mix of smart and insane. However this summer it seemed they finally got it right. They managed to sign the most wanted centre back in Matthjas De Ligt, and the most desirable free agent in Adrien Rabiot. When you place those signings around their purchases of some of the young domestic talent and Aaron Ramsey, it looked to be their best window for a long time. Although, that praise didn’t last when Juve opted to sell Cancelo to Manchester City in exchange for Danilo and £27 million. Many questions were raised on where Juventus have found the money to pay those astronomical wages and hefty transfer fees. We now know there is a limit to their spending. Dybala seemed likely to leave, and while that would have been crazy, Cancelo’s departure and his replacement just show the apparent roadblock they have reached. When you look at the Cancelo/Danilo swap deal as a whole, Juventus wanted £60 million for the defender, so Manchester City offered £27 million alongside Danilo. That means Juventus have effectively paid £33 million for Danilo, which is insane. The Brazilian failed to establish himself at Real Madrid and Manchester City, and now he is the starting right-back for a Champions League contender. The downgrade from Cancelo is enormous, and it seems they prioritised the importance of Ronaldo over building a good team. Losing Cancelo has made Juventus so much weaker, and it’s another example of how they can make the right signings, only to follow them up with stupidity.Embed from Getty Images
Barcelona, similar to Juventus, can undermine some fantastic moves by making some very baffling ones. Signing Frenkie De Jong was a stroke of genius as well as the arrival of Junior Firpo for less than £20 million, but it is Griezmann where I have my issues. While the Frenchman isn’t necessarily a bad player, in fact, he is excellent. However, since he announced he was leaving Atletico Madrid earlier in the summer, anyone signing him was going to lose. Atleti were demanding over €100 million for him and considering he is 28, you won’t get enough output from the forward to justify such a hefty fee. It perfectly highlights Barcelona’s desperation to give Messi one last Champions League medal. It goes to the extent of selling Malcom, a young forward who played well whenever he was given a chance and brought in Griezmann. There are two massive issues with Griezmann, the first being the lack of certainty in his position. It’s a similar issue that everyone had with Coutinho’s signing. No one knew where he would play, and considering the significant money spent, it seemed he was guaranteed to start. We now know that lack of certainty regarding his position has helped lead to the Brazilian wanting to leave the club. The Griezmann signing stinks of Barcelona signing a big name for the sake of doing so when there are more pressing matters to attend to. Suarez is still without a long term replacement, there isn’t a top-level right-back, and they, unfortunately, need to begin thinking about life after Messi. While this might sound somewhat baffling, considering the different circumstances, but maybe Barca should have followed a similar route to Manchester United. While they massively overspent on both Maguire and Wan-Bissaka, it cannot be denied that they have fixed massive holes in the squad. Instead of adding that slight improvement in spending a colossal amount of money on another old forward, maybe more long term investments would have made more sense for Barcelona.
Staying in Barcelona, let’s look at one of the most confusing transfers I’ve ever seen. It started with Jasper Cillessen’s €35 million move to Valencia. At the time, I was puzzled. Why spend one of the highest fees ever seen for a goalkeeper when you have a perfectly capable shot-stopper in Neto? Only days later, it was revealed the La Liga Champions were signing Neto for €26 million. This was the second strange deal Valencia were apart of this summer, with Maxi Gomez’s arrival involving Santi Mina going the other way. The difference here is I don’t see enough of a difference between the pair of keepers to understand why this deal was necessary, but I can guess. Cillessen was extremely unhappy at Barcelona, with his game time close to non-existent. He wanted to move and get the minutes he needs at an age where moving is quite tricky. Valencia must have shown interest, and with Neto having experience in sitting on the bench for a better goalkeeper, it made sense. Maybe putting these two players as some of the worst signings is unfair, but their valuation shocked me, and it’s too strange to ignore.
Atletico Madrid had an exciting summer. The sales of Griezmann, Rodri, Hernandez and the departures of Godin, Juanfran and Felipe Luis meant this was a summer of massive importance. Simeone’s side went into the summer missing a whole backline worth of talent, as well as their two stand-out players from last season. The Los Rojiblancos needed to nail this summer with recruitment that not only replaced their previous crop of talent but improved upon them. While there are some signings, I’m incredibly fond of, with Hermoso, Lodi and Morata making a lot of sense. The issue is their other signings persist of risks or just average players. A lot of people did not like the arrivals of Felipe and Trippier. While they aren’t the best use of money, I trust Simeone to turn the pair into useful members of the squad. I have huge doubts over Felix, but it’s Marcos Llorente where my concerns are raised. The Spaniard has barely played any football in the past 2 years, spending most of his time on Real Madrid’s bench. The last time (and the only time) Llorente played consistently was on a loan spell with Alaves, where he started over 30 games. The problem is there is a lot of expectation on filling Rodri’s boots, which is difficult for many players. Rodri has intelligence, an excellent passing range and a lot of defensive output. While Llorente has shown similar defensive numbers as his Spanish counterpart, it’s his ability on the ball where we will see the difference. I actually like Llorente for what he is, but I think they’ve spent £15 million more than he is worth.
Like Griezmann, anyone signing Denis Suarez was going to be a loser. It was Celta Vigo who took the risk. The Spaniard’s career in the last couple of years has been short, which is putting it lightly. Suarez has only played 136 minutes of domestic and European football in his previous two seasons. His January loan move to Arsenal was intended to give him the needed minutes, to allow Barcelona to cash in on him. While his time at Arsenal was a waste for both parties involved, it blew me away that Barcelona did manage to offload the midfielder, to Celta out of all teams. I can see where Suarez fits into the side, who primarily played a 4-4-2. Suarez could play off the left side, playing as an inverted midfielder and allowing him freedom in ball progression. There is definitely talent in Suarez, but for a player who has massive injury problems, there are risks that are just not worth taking.
Mats HummelsEmbed from Getty Images
The only Bundesliga signing on the list. On paper, the return of Mats Hummels makes sense. Near the end of their title-challenging season, Dortmund could have remained more competitive if they had more leadership at the back, with naivety shown at times by some of the younger defenders. Having a player like Hummels could change some of those disappointing defeats into three points. The issue with this move is the fee. Paying up to £30 million for an ageing Hummels is too much just to add experience to the side. When Arsenal add experience to their team in David Luiz for just £8 million, it’s troubling that Dortmund had to spend so much for a player that is on the decline. I didn’t like this move at first, but what made it even worse was it lead to the eventual departure of Abdou Diallo. The Frenchman was by far their most exciting defender, showing so much promise playing at both centre-back and left-back. Not only did they sell him to PSG, but barely earned a profit. Both moves have put even more pressure on Dortmund to succeed in the short term. Axel Witsel, Marco Reus, Piszczek are all a year older, and while Brandt and Hazard are exciting arrivals, Dortmund have to make this Hummels move count.