We’ve had the 10 worst Premier League signings, now here are the 10 best Premier League signings from last summer’s transfer window. They are in no particular order. Is there anyone who you think should be on the list? Do you think anyone has unjustly missed out? Let me know, comment at the end of the article or on Twitter, @bewareflyingfb
When Luis Suarez completed his move to Barcelona from Liverpool it meant that they were on the search for an international quality forward to spearhead their return to the Champions League. Their first choice was Alexis Sanchez who would find his chances further limited with the arrival of his South American compatriot. Sanchez’s all action style would have been the ideal replacement for Suarez but the Chilean decided to reject signing for the Anfield club in favour of a move to Arsenal. After opting for the North London side Sanchez enjoyed a productive start to the season in an inconsistent Arsenal side. With leading frontman Olivier Giroud injured in August and due to miss the first half of the season the onus was on the £35m signing to spearhead the side. When others, like Liverpool, were struggling to mount a sustained challenge expected it could easily have been Arsenal in that position if it weren’t for the exploits of the Chilean forward. Following Giroud’s return for the second half of the campaign the Gunners have comfortably achieved for another season and may even pip Manchester City to the runners up spot, which would be their equal highest league position in 10 years. They are also still in the hunt for the FA Cup with Alexis Sanchez’s brace in their extra time win over a valiant Reading side in the semi-final. Sanchez’s exploits in his debut season in England saw him nominated for the PFA Player of the Year. Despite missing out to Chelsea’s Edin Hazard it can still be a classed as a positive season with 21 goals in all competitions, especially if the Chilean can help Arsenal defend the FA Cup against Aston Villa. Following quarter-final heartache at the World Cup last summer, Sanchez and his fellow countrymen will be hoping to give his nation something to cheer about when the Copa America comes to Chile in the summer. The pressure will be on Sanchez, as the star of the team, but as Arsenal have found this year Sanchez is the man for the big occasions.
The rise of Andy Robertson has been phenomenal; to think the less than three years ago he was playing in the Scottish League Two with amateur side Queens Park. In his only season with the Tangerines the left back was named in the PFA Scotland Team of the Year and was as picking up PFA Scotland Year Player of the Year. Robertson moved south of the border to join Hull City for a fee just under £3m. The young Scottish full back has made the step with ease; at the start of the season he was vying with Robbie Brady and Maynor Figeroa for the left wing back position however since making the position his own Robertson has made a trademark of marauding runs with the ball down the wing. The 3-5-2 formation which Steve Bruce favours is ideally suited for Robertson’s natural attacking game. The 20 year old also has an eye for goal as demonstrated with his strike for Scotland against England. A solid start to Scotland’s Euro 2016 qualification campaign has made the Tartan Army quietly confident they can make an appearance in their first major tournament since the World Cup, also hosted by France, almost 20 years ago. With club side Hull’s position in the table looking to go down to the final game Robertson will be looking to do all he can to secure his club Premier League status for another year. However if the Tigers do drop down to the Championship there will no doubt be a number of suitor who will be wanting to sign youngster who looks destined for the top and isn’t wasting any time getting there.
Despite starting the Champions League final against Bayern Munich in 2012 Ryan Bertrand was never able to command a regular place in the team at Chelsea first with Ashley Cole and later Cesar Azpilicueta ahead of his in the pecking order. That meant Bertrand had to move away from Stamford Bridge for more game time. Bertrand impressed in the 2nd half of the last season for Aston Villa which showed he had the talent to make the grade in the Premier League, following spells in the Championship with Norwich, Reading and Nottingham Forest. This led him to Southampton where the left back position was available following Luke Shaw’s £28m move to Manchester United. Bertrand settled into the side like a duck to water and became an established member of one of the best defence in the league, recording 13 clean sheets while he’s been on the field. Bertrand’s attacking tendencies have also been on display at St Mary’s where he has scored two goals and provided two assists. In January Bertrand decided to join the Saints on a permanent basis realising a return to Stamford Bridge wouldn’t result in the same amount of game time he was getting this season at Southampton. Following a number of successful loan spells since joining Chelsea as a 15 year old Bertrand will hope to remain a regular at Southampton for a number of years to come especially with how well he and the team are performing. The next step for Bertrand will be to make an impact on the international squad with England. Left back is one of the positions where England has a wealth of luxuries with Leighton Baines, Shaw, Kieran Gibbs, Danny Rose and Bertrand all vying for the same spot.
Gylfi Sigurdsson moved to Swansea City from Tottenham Hotspur following two years at White Hart Lane. The move saw Welsh international left back Ben Davies move the other way. During his time in London the Iceland international struggled for a regular place in the team, with the majority of his appearances coming as a substitute. When the former Reading Academy graduate was on the field it was often in wide positions to accommodate others. A move to South Wales meant a second spell at the Liberty Stadium following a successful loan spell from Hoffenheim three years previously. He was going to make the move permanent in the summer of 2012 but the move broke down when then Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers, who Sigurdsson knew from his time at Reading, was to take over Liverpool. The 25 year old’s second coming at Swansea started in spectacular fashion with an opening day win against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Sigurdsson was the star at the beginning of the season and linked up well with Wilfried Bony in his favoured advanced midfield position. Thriving in this position the former Reading academy graduate has clocked up six goals and 10 assists. Although Swansea haven’t maintained the exceptional form of the early season they have beaten their highest points total and another top half finish, despite losing top scorer Wilfried Bony to Manchester City. On the international stage Sigurdsson is also performing well with Iceland. The disappointment on losing the World Cup playoff had been tempered by an excellent start to their European Championships qualifying campaign. Despite a population of only 329,000 Iceland have beaten Turkey, 3-0 and the Netherlands 2-0, with the Swansea midfield getting both goals and sit a point behind Czech Republic with a strong chance of making their first ever appearance at a major tournament. Sigurdsson is coming into his peak years with both club and country expected to see the best of him in the coming years.
Fraser Forster made the move from Scottish Premier League Champions Celtic to join a Southampton side that were going through an overhaul of their squad in the summer. The England goalkeeper started his career in his native North East with Newcastle United but after a few loan spells and struggling to break into the first team at St James’ Park Forster moved north of the border where he built a strong reputation for himself. The highlights from his time at Celtic Park were keeping Barcelona at bay in a famous victory in the Champions League, a performance which earned his the nickname in the Spanish press as “La Gran Muralla” (The Great Wall), as well as being named by Xavi as the toughest British goalkeeper he had faced in Europe’s top club competition. He also went 1,256 without conceding a goal in Scottish football, breaking former Aberdeen keeper Bobby Clark’s 43-year-old record in the process. Having won three consecutive Scottish Premierships between 2012-14 Forster returned to England for £9m to join Ronald Koeman’s Southampton. The Saints and Forster started the season quickly establishing themselves in the top four and confounding the critics who thought the mass exodus over the summer would leave the club struggling to stay in the division. Despite dropping out of the Champions League places over the past few months Southampton are still chasing a European place and boast the best defence in the league in no small part thanks to Forster who has 13 clean sheets. The giant goalkeeper has been a dominant presence all season with excellent shot stopping abilities and a strong command of his area when dealing with crosses. Unfortunately Forster’s season ended prematurely due to a serious knee injury which could keep him out for a year. Once he returns the next step for Forster will be to put a concerted challenge for Joe Hart’s England shirt and if he continues to perform as he has done this season the Manchester City stopper may have a fight on his hands.
It was the departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona which dominated the headlines in the summer and with the money Liverpool recouped from the Uruguayan bringing in a number of new faces to Anfield. With the likes of Adam Lallana, Ricky Lambert and Dejan Lovren already familiar with the Premier League it was unexpected that Emre Can would have the greatest impact of the new arrivals. The German Under 21 international signed from Bayer Leverkusen for £10.75m as a player with great potential but as a central midfielder would have to force his way past captain Steven Gerrard and the ever improving Jordan Henderson. Liverpool struggled to recapture the form which saw them finish runners up last season. This was especially difficult for a young player new to the league and still getting to know his teammates. It took until December for Brendan Rodgers to find the solution to his side’s malaise. Going to Old Trafford to face their great rivals Manchester United the Mersyside club set up in a 3-4-3 formation with Emre Can as right sided centre back. Despite a 3-0 defeat Liverpool played well for long spells and Rodgers persisted with the new formation. Following an unconvincing win at Burnley the Reds went 13 games unbeaten. The front three were able to showcase their attacking talents and the defence were starting to keep clean sheets. Can played on the right side of a three man defence alongside Martin Skrtel and Mammadou Sakho where the German was able to showcase his qualities by taking the ball into midfield. When facing the best opponents he did look exposed, such as conceding a penalty in the League Cup semi-finals against Chelsea after felling Eden Hazard. Overall Can has impressed out of position but he is likely to return to midfielder and with Gerrard departing in the summer he could be the driving force behind Liverpool alongside Jordan Henderson for many years to come.
Cesc Fabregas’s return to Barcelona didn’t quite turn out as he had hoped, despite winning six trophies in three years he was unable to displace the iconic pairing of Xavi and Andreas Iniesta in his favoured midfield position. As a result he was often moved around the pitch including a spell as striker. When it was clear his second spell with his hometown club was coming to an end speculation began as to where his next destination would be. It was well known that former club Arsenal had first option on their former captain; however Arsene Wenger thought the Gunners were well stocked in the midfield area. Speculation grew with reported interest from Manchester City but Fabregas joined Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea for £30m. The Spaniard started well for the Blues settling into his preferred central midfield position alongside the defensive minded Nemanja Matic. From this position Fabregas was able to dictate the play and lay on numerous chances for his teammates recording two assists on his debut at Burnley, including an exquisite pass from Andre Schurlle. Up to the turn of the year Fabregas had a hand in 15 goals with 13 assists and two for himseld. Despite holding onto top spot Chelsea and Fabregas in particular weren’t able to maintain their scintillating early form. Following a home draw against Southampton the former Arsenal captain was booed off and criticised by his own fans. Perhaps some weren’t as quick to take to Fabregas in the blue of Chelsea having previously spent eight years in the red of their North London rivals. This drop of form in the second half of the season wasn’t completely surprising considering statistics from his time at Barcelona comparing his productivity over the course of the season. The fact that Fabregas has still the highest number of assists in the division, and closing in on Thierry Henry’s all time record, as well as the League Cup in the bag plus the Premier League wrapped up the £30m signing has undoubtedly been an excellent piece of business for Chelsea.
The first half of the summer last season was dominated by the departures from Southampton. The team, led by Mauricio Pochettino, which had finished in an impressive 8th place last season was quickly disassembled with Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert moving to Liverpool, Manchester United buying Luke Shaw and Callum Chambers heading to Arsenal. With new manager Ronald Koeman in place the second half of the summer he was tasked with building a new team. Seven new players arrived at the club from across Europe including Sadio Mane from Red Bull Salzburg. Unless a regular viewer of Austrian Bundesliga action Mane was an unknown quantity to many fans. In two years with the Austrian club Mane scored 31 goals in 63 appearances, including two goals in their impressive 6-1 aggregate Europa League win over Ajax. Although the fee was undisclosed it is estimated the Senegalese international cost over £10m. For a club with Southampton’s resources this was a large investment with only Victor Wanyama and Dani Osvaldo costing more, depending on the exact fee. With a new manager and half a new team the Saints settled very quickly confounded critics who thought the summer upheaval would bring a relegation scrap to the South Coast. In fact for the first half of the season Southampton were a regular in the Champions League qualification positions. Mane has been a crucial member of the team, operating as an attacking midfielder, either in the centre or from the left, the 23 year old has contributed with seven goals and two assists from 27 appearances. His goals have been important too, scoring the only goal in games against Crystal Palace, Stoke City and QPR to settle the match. There have also been strikes in the home win against Arsenal and a draw versus Chelsea. The hope for Southampton is they can build on a successful season without a repeat of the distractions of players leaving the club. If they can hold onto the core of the squad Koeman’s men will be hoping to mount another challenge on the Premier League’s elite.
After helping Atletico Madrid knock Chelsea out of the Champions League Semi Finals last season Diego Costa swapped Spain from Stamford Bridge in a £32m move. The striker came to England with a reputation as a highly talented goalscorer but extremely temperamental. On his debut against Burnley Costa started in an eventful fashion scoring before being booked for simulation. Chelsea continued their good form with the Brazilian turned Spanish international linking up well with his new teammates especially fellow new signing Cesc Fabregas. His early season goal scoring exploits saw him lead the race for the golden boot, with nine goals in his first seven Premier League matches. Coming into the closing weeks of the season he is still in contention despite the fierce competition from Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero. One of the reasons who the former Atletico striker hasn’t kept up his early form is due to the temperamental nature of his game. In Chelsea’s League Cup Semi Final against Liverpool stamped on Emre Can and Martin Skrtel. The incidents weren’t picked up by the referee but Costa was retrospectively banned for 3 matches. This edgy side of his character has seen the striker embroiled in numerous run ins throughout the season, despite not being sent off this season. Some may say he is the type of player who needs to be fired up to perform to the best of his abilities but it could be argued opponents are winding him up making the Spaniard lose focus from his task for the team. Whatever people think Costa is the kind of person who wouldn’t let their opinions affect him. Due to his overall contribution to the season Chelsea look set to win the Premier League as well as already securing the Capital One cup. Individually his performances have seen him nominated for the Players’ Player of the Year Award. He looks likely to miss out to his teammate Edin Hazard but he has certainly given the Blues the cutting edge they were missing last season. Despite looking much older the 26 year old could be the spearhead for Jose Mourinho’s side for many years to come.
With doubts about Andy Carroll’s fitness West Ham purchased a whole new front line in the summer. Mauro Zarate returned to the Premier League having previously played for Birmingham City; Enner Valencia was bought for £12m after appearing for Ecuador at the World Cup; the final striker transferred in was a little known Senegalese forward from Metz in France. The £3.5m signing scored 20 goals in Liege 2 last season but there were question marks to whether he could make the step up in quality to perform in the English top division. It seemed most likely he would be reserved as back up to West Ham’s forward line. However with Sam Allardyce moving to a 4-4-2 diamond there was room in the starting line-up for the new West Ham number 15 alongside Enner Valencia. With ammunition supplied by Stewart Downing, in the number 10 role and attacking fullbacks Carl Jenkinson and Aaron Cresswell the new frontline profited from the dynamic style of play implemented by Allardyce, apparently at the request of the owners. Usually it takes time for half a team of new signings to adapt but West Ham clicked immediately and by Christmas were unexpectedly challenging for the top 4. In January Sakho was called up to represent Senegal at the African Cup of Nations however Sakho reported for duty injured and therefore was unable to play for his national team. While the tournament was still going on Sakho, recovered from his injury, came off the bench to settle the Hammers third round FA cup tie at Bristol City. The Senegalese FA were upset that Sakho was allowed to play when they understood he was injured There was speculation FIFA would expel West Ham from the Cup. West Ham claimed Senegal was informed and Sakho would have to travel to matches by coach rather than flying while he was still recovering from the injury. It was agreed the Hammers would be fined £71,000 as punishment. Since the turn of the year West Ham’s form has dramatically slipped with two wins in 17 games, with the team struggling Sakho’s goal scoring exploits have also suffered, with only four goals since Christmas. Despite mid table security for the third year in a row since promotion Big Sam’s future is still in doubt, with his contract due to expire in the summer. The board has stressed that they will sit down with the manager once the season’s finished. Whatever the outcome of these discussions; Hammers fans will be hoping Sakho can build on his highly impressive debut season in East London.