The 10 Worst Signings of the 19/20 Window – Gomes, Griezmann, Danilo

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.

Andre Gomes

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.

Ayoze Perez

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.

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Wesley

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.

Oli McBurnie

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.

Danilo

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.

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Antoine Griezmann 

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.

Jasper Cillessen/Neto

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.

Marcos Llorente

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.

Denis Suarez

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 Hummels 

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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.

 

Have Aston Villa Done Enough to Stay Up? Assessing Their Summer Signings

Aston Villa have earned praise and criticism for their continuous recruitment this summer. They seem to be going down the same route as Fulham; recruitment players from weaker leagues that could either be great or bad. However, I’d argue that their business, in general, is a lot worse than the Cottages last season.

Fulham brought in a lot of players who had a positive reputation beforehand. Andre Schurrle was a Premier League proven winger, Mitrovic had that bite and dominance to the success in the league and Seri was linked to Barcelona only in the previous year. A lot of experts thought these players could have been snapped up by bigger clubs, myself included. Last summer, I wanted to see Zambo Anguissa join one of either Arsenal or Chelsea. What happened to Fulham is challenging to explain because so many players had a down year all at once. It’s an anomaly for many players on that side, and it’s how history will view that team.

One area of context is vital when discussing the comparisons between both of these sides. The main criticism against Fulham signing so many players was because they managed to keep their promotion team together. Their goal was to add as much quality as possible to ensure their chances of survival had increased. Villa were in a very different situation. Their most used eleven during their promotion campaign featured ageing forwards and defenders who were on loan. It meant there was a lot of surgery required to turn this squad into an average Premier League side. It makes the insane amount of signings more necessary than Fulham’s in the previous year.

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Villa, while spending £20 million more than Fulham, have brought in more players on permanent deals from leagues where the quality can be questioned. We’ll go through all of their signings so far in this window and judge whether they are good or bad, giving them a final verdict of either a hit or miss.

Wesley (Club Brugge) – £22.50m

Replacing Tammy Abraham is a difficult task for a promoted club. The Chelsea forward was absolutely sensational during his second spell in the Championship, scoring 26 goals for Villa. He proved once again that he is just too good for England’s second tier and should be starting in the Premier League. However, due to Chelsea’s transfer ban, the chances of signing Abraham were next to impossible. The signing of a striker of a vital, and unsurprisingly, I don’t like this movie.

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I’m not going to act like I’ve watched a lot of Wesley, but judging from the numbers I’ve seen, it doesn’t look so good. When signing players from a bad league, they need to be players who have truly stood out and are clearly better than their competition, and Wesley hasn’t done that. The Brazilian scored 12 non-penalty goals in the Jupiler Pro League. The arguments made against this is he is a target man who’s technical strengths allow him to bring others into play, think Sebastien Haller. However, the forward only wins 1.5 aerial duels per 90, not nearly enough to justify that opinion. I could be very wrong about him, but based on initial impressions, this could be one of the worst signings of the summer come May.

Verdict – Miss

Tyrone Mings (Bournemouth) – £20.07m

Signing players who succeeded on loan is usually pretty safe business, depending on how much-said player will cost. Mings was excellent last season, but paying over £20 million for a player with an injury-struck career, it does seem like a lot of money for him. Mings has missed two full seasons due to long term injuries. Usually, when spending a lot of money on players with very little resell value, you want guarantees that these players will be able to play as many games as possible. Mings is a risk, and while you want to keep some of the key players of that promotion campaign together, Villa have definitely overpaid for him. Mings could perform very well on his return back to the Premier League, but there was definitely better investments out there.

Verdict – Miss

Douglas Luiz (Manchester City) – £15.12m 

The first transfer I seemingly like, Douglas Luiz arrives to compete for those key midfield positions, offering versatility, solid defensive numbers and a very, very good dribbler. Luiz comes after impressing on loan at Girona, Manchester City’s sister club that has housed the Champions younger players in the past. Luiz didn’t necessarily have a breakout season, but he has shown enough to justify a side taking a risk on him. He’s still only 21, and for £15 million, it seems like a pretty good deal for him.

Verdict – Hit

Matt Targett (Southampton) – £13.95m

Targett has played a lot of Premier League games for a player who is still pretty young. He has also done very well in the Championship with Fulham during their previous promotion campaign. For a reasonable fee, Villa have brought in a decent full-back who is good enough defensively, however, the main reason for his signing is his crossing. Targett has consistently averaged over an accurate cross per game over the past 3 seasons, one of the highest in the league. He could function as a good creator for Dean Smith’s side, who were one of the most prominent crossing sides during the Championship. His inclusion makes, and wouldn’t depart if the team do suffer relegation. This is another arrival I’m okay with.

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Verdict – Hit 

Ezri Konsa (Brentford) – 11.97m

When discussing Tyrone Mings, I mentioned finding value in the market, and the possibility of better deals than Mings and Konsa is a better deal. The England under-21 only arrived at the Bees last summer and is already on the move once again. Brentford have earned a reputation of finding value in players domestically and across the continent; Konsa is another example of that. For a 21-year-old, the defender has shown a lot of promise and enough reason for a Premier League to consider him. He started 42 games for Brentford last season, completing 80% of his tackles, making over 50 passes and 3.6 clearances per game. What his most impressive about Konsa is how clean he is, only committing 18 fouls last season. There is a potential England international here and was picked up for a perfect fee.

Verdict – Villa’s best signing

Marvelous Nakamba (Club Brugge) – £10.80m

Initially, it seemed that Villa were going to spend up to £30 million for Leeds defensive midfielder, Kalvin Philipps, but opted to bring in Luiz and Nakamba for less. It was a very sensible move from the promoted side. With Luiz a good signing and Nakamba another good bit of business, I’d say yes. While Luiz is fine defensively and a good ball progressor, Nakamba is definitely on the defensive side. While his numbers in Belgium are unattainable for me, his time at Vitesse is. He showed himself to be a prominent ball winner, consistently putting over 5 tackles and interceptions per 90. While I’m not the biggest fan of Wesley’s signing due to his numbers not standing out in Belgium, Nakamba is a different case. No matter which league you are in, players like Nakamba, Ndidi or Gueye will succeed. Their skillset means they can succeed due to their game being primarily on defensive actions. While Nakamba won’t be an attacking threat, he will adequately cover for McGinn and Grealish as they focus on ball progression and scoring goals. Nakamba is still only 25, meaning it is another good bit of business for Villa.

Verdict – Hit 

Trezeguet (Kasimpasa) – £9.00m 

The Turkish Super League is a real mix bag in terms of recruiting talent. While many bigger clubs like to offload their highest earners to Turkey, signing players from there is quite a rarity. Trezeguet is an excellent dribbler, and while scoring 9 goals from the left-wing does sound promising for a 24-year-old, 5 of those goals did come from outside of the box. The likeliness of the Egyptian scoring that many again is very unlikely and I do not expect him to be this threatening against Premier League opposition. Trezeguet is expected to be a better bench option, which makes sense. He can be unpredictable, and his high dribbling could be great against tiring defences.

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Verdict – A hit if used sparingly 

Anwar El Ghazi (Lille) – £8.10m

Not much to say here. El Ghazi was used often during Villa’s promotion and keeping him is a safe thing to do, considering the lack of wide players Villa have. He doesn’t cost nearly as much as Mings will cost, and is unlikely to leave if Villa to succumb to relegation.

Verdict – No issues

Tom Heaton (Burnley) – £7.92m

While I do think they have slightly overspent on the 33-year-old, all three promoted sides have proven that a good shot-stopper is vital. Norwich managed to sign Ralph Fahrmann on loan and Sheffield brought back Dean Henderson for another season. While the other two sides were justified in their signings, Villa were in desperate need of a goalkeeper. There was constant rotation in that position throughout last season. Jed Steer did manage to earn a place as the number one near the end of the season, but he isn’t good enough for the Premier League. Heaton is a massive improvement over the three goalkeepers they have at the club, with his performances for Burnley earning him a lot of praise since his arrival in the Premier League. It’s a safe signing that has no drawbacks in terms of performances.

Verdict – Hit

Bjorn Engels (Reims) – £7.20m

Engels is third centre back arrival of the summer and is by far the most interesting. While I’m very excited to see how Konsa adapts to the Premier League, Engels is still an excellent addition. The Belgian defender played in a Reims side that defended very well, having the 6th best defensive record in Ligue 1. Engels was a considerable part of that, winning 66% of his aerial duels and making 5.4 clearances per game. My only issue is that while he could perform well against sides who prefer a more target-man approach, he might struggle against better teams in general. Engels only completed around half of his tackles last season, winning only 11. This is primarily down to style of play but could become a problem against the top-level teams. I think he is an okay addition, but I worry he won’t get the playing time he might want.

Verdict – No issue

Jota (Birmingham City) – £4.05m

This was a strange one. This was marketed as Dean Smith bringing back a player he was fond of during his time at Brentford. Villa were in desperate need for wide talent and bringing in the Spaniard for next to nothing does make sense. Jota is a decent creator, but he does lack any sort of ability to beat a man. He might struggle against Premier League full-backs, but for the price, he is bound to offer something for Villa, even if it is minimal.

Verdict – Hit for the price

Kortney Hause (Wolves) – £3.06m

The final transfer is another centre-back, this time from Wolves. Hause is another signing I don’t have an issue with. Hause, while not a mainstay in the Villa side last season, did start over 10 games for the team and performed well when given the opportunity. This signing did feel slightly unnecessary, considering it means Villa now have 5 centre backs at the club. However, the fee is so small I don’t think it is much of an issue

Verdict – Hit

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One might think if my opinion on a majority of the signings is positive, then why have not liked Aston Villa’s business as a whole. It’s because they spent over £40 million on two players who I do not think are a good value for money. It mainly points to Wesley being their only attacking signing of the summer, meaning there is a lot of pressure on him to perform well. I don’t think he will score many goals, but that isn’t what he is there for. He is there to be a focal point and allow Grealish, McGinn, Hourihane and Luiz to push forward and find space around the Brazilian. Last season, Aston Villa’s starting midfielders contributed to 43 goals. It is highly unlikely that they will add to that many, but it seems Smith is hoping that McGinn and Grealish can similarly replicate their success. That still isn’t enough to save Villa from relegation. They’ve lost a lot of goals through Tammy returning to Chelsea, and that could be the difference. Missing out on Maupay has a massive part in this. Villa were chasing the Brentford forward for a majority for the summer but failed to get his signature. His arrival could have brought the goals they need. I predict Villa, alongside Sheffield United, to go straight back down. I do like a lof these signings, but the lack of goals is what I worry about.