Similar to the NBA, offseason rumors of player movement is an industry in itself. Through accusations of tapping players and super agents becoming the headline, transfer rumors are about getting and keeping attention on a player or club in the social media age. But past the retweets, false starts, and rumors, transfer windows signings come down to one basic question: can the player in question improve his new team?
We highlight the ten most impactful transfer window signings for Premier League teams below:
Ederson: If nothing else, Ederson already has the advantage in perception just by not being Claudio Bravo, Pep Guardiola’s hand picked keeper last season at Manchester City. Only a string of flawless performances could make supporters forget the manner in which Guardiola pushed out Joe hart for the Chilean. Bravo obliged social media with a series of early blunders, including an inexplicable handball 25 yards from his own goal against Barcelona in a Champions League match.
The $58 million price tag City paid for the 23-year-old Brazilian shows the importance of the keeper position to Guardiola’s style. His ideal version of a keeper would be comfortable with the ball in possession while clearing opposition counter attacks when City’s high defensive line is beaten. All this in addition to a world class ability to save shots.
Maybe it was better Ederson come a season late, without the burden of expectations. This time around, there was no fan favorite to push out. Guardiola praised his new keeper’s decision making, shot stopping, and especially the accuracy of his long distance goal kicks. The latter skill has the ability to break an opposition press in one movement, as this pass to Sergio Aguero demonstrates. Most importantly for Ederson, he’ll get leeway and time as he figures out a new league, something that was never afforded to Bravo.
Roque Mesa: Almost 2200 passes completed with 91% accuracy last season. A 5-7 midfielder from Las Palmas, the 28 year old Roque Mesa has the right amount of strengths and limitations that make him a candidate for best value signing of the summer. In an age of nine figure signings released with fanfare on social media, there is still room for a $14 million slotting immediately into a side.
Las Palmas played a brave possession style against all opponents, Real Madrid and Barcelona included, with Mesa pulling the strings. Swansea manager Paul Clement spoke of his goal to create a different Premier League side that “likes to play”, and emphasized a return to the Swansea way of possession and players of technical ability on a budget. One could hardly imagine a better marriage between managerial vision and player skillset. As for Mesa, he expressed excitement of a challenge in a new league and compared his manager to Carlo Ancelotti.
Mesa’s Swansea side may finish the lowest on the table out of the ten highlighted players. But Las Palmas were a candidate for relegation last season. Instead, they were one of the surprise sides of the La Liga season, holding steady at seventh for an early portion of the season. There are no such expectations of success for Swansea. But they do have a clear identity and purpose.
Mo Salah: Maybe it was better that Salah joined Liverpool this season, than the 2014 winter window as previously rumored. As countrymen Mido explained, his time under Luciano Spalletti and Roma forced the winger to diversify his game. Salah has pace and can break a high defensive line on natural ability, but he learned how to effectively come inside and play underneath a striker when necessary. Jurgen Klopp added that he was impressed with his attitude and ability to perform on the big stage.
Salah doesn’t so much fill a pressing need as accentuate Liverpool’s biggest strength of pace and counter attacking ability, while further pushing the side further into Klopp’s rock and roll football nirvana. Signed at $50 million, he’ll start the season on the right wing of a 433, with Sadio Mane and Firmino creating a pacy, goalscoring, interchangeable front three. There are still questions about defending from last season. Instead, Klopp doubled down on the identity of his Champions League side.
Nemanja Matic: Jose Mourinho has his type of player. As he outlined in a statement following the signing of Nemanja Matic from Chelsea for $50 million, the defensive midfielder is a Mourinho player: loyal, consistent, ambitious, and a team player.
Part of the best midfield duo with N’Golo Kante in the Premier League last season, one can debate the aesthetic but not the result of his role in Chelsea’s league title. Kante’s all action, box to box displays will always get more attention and YouTube compilations, as Matic is the player who plays the pass before the final pass. For his role in the overlooked yet essential parts of winning, Mourinho described him as a genius.
Matic and Mourinho already won a league title together at Chelsea in 2015. Symbolically, it’s this physical, efficient style that Mourinho builds his midfields upon. Alongside Pogba and Ander Herrera, this midfield will not be bullied, regardless of the result. Which brings us to how we can judge Matic this season, or in any season: not in individual stats, but in wins, points, and trophies.
Chicharito: Chicharito was a surprise signing when he first came to the Premier League in 2010, a product of Manchester United’s deep scouting network sent to unearth gems around the world. Now 29 years old, his transfer to West Ham was more obvious and traditional: Bilic tried to sign the striker to West Ham two seasons ago. The striker chose Bayer Leverkusen. Nonetheless, a relationship was born.
Slaven Bilic named the striker as his top target in the summer transfer window. The player and manager are in a similar, uneven phase of their respective careers. Chicharito scored 13 goals in 27 matches in his debut season at United, but could never establish his place under David Moyes or Louis van Gaal. He was sent on loan to Real Madrid before finding stability at Bayer Leverkusen in the last two seasons, before manager Roger Schmidt was fired. There were rumors of Bilic getting sacked after West Ham’s slow start last season. Bilic is currently at 7/1 odds to get fired this season.
As for Chicharito, we know what he does well. There will be discussion of improved link up and combination play, but Chicharito scores goals, from every angle, off any body part. Known as a football romantic, perhaps the Mexican striker’s poaching ability will balance out the West Ham side. A fast start is vital for both parties.
Alvaro Morata: Morata has had enough moments in big games over the past few years with Juventus and Real Madrid that we can easily forget he’s only been a part time player so far in his career. Like so many Real Madrid players, watching Morata play his limited role makes you wonder how he’d fare when made the focal point of a team.
Morata will get that chance with Chelsea and his interplay with Eden Hazard in particular could be special.
Morata isn’t as talented as Diego Costa but he’s certainly a far easier person to get along with and will fully buy-in with Antonio Conte.
Romelu Lukaku: United also pursued and probably preferred Morata, but Lukaku fits the profile of the type of physically imposing striker Jose Mourinho has preferred, even if he wasn’t considered good enough just three years ago when he was sold by Chelsea to Everton. Lukaku joins the lineage of Didier Drogba, Diego Costa and Zlatan Ibrahimovic with his ability to be bigger and stronger than center backs in the box while also having just enough skill to get to goal on counters.
Lukaku will be given more high leverage opportunities with United than he’s had with Everton. Jose Mourinho and simply playing for such a storied club should get the most of his abilities.
Alexandre Lacazette: The ideal Arsenal striker has all the qualities of Lacazette with his pace and ability to identify and move into open spaces while drawing the back line.
The question on Lacazette, arriving from Ligue 1 at the age of 26 and at a price tag of £52.7 million, is whether he has enough quality for Arsenal. The current era for Arsene Wenger where they’ve been irrelevant in the Premier League title chase, eliminated from the Champions League era, and only winning a couple of FA Cups, has been defined by their issues at striker. Alexis Sanchez has been forced to play out of position but at least he’s truly a world class player. Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck aren’t good enough for Arsenal’s ambitions, though the harsh reality may be that’s the station they’re operating in with the perpetually cost conscious Wenger and Stan Kroenke dogmatically running the project.
Lacazette unquestionably was an expensive signing and a risky one, but it is still a value play compared to Morata and Lukaku, who are far from sure things in their own right.
Wayne Rooney: Watching teenaged Wayne Rooney at Everton more than a decade ago was a visceral experience with how mature he was physically at his age, the notion of him sentimentally returning as an old man may unfortunately become a bit depressing.
At this stage, Everton feels immovably stuck in total isolation behind the top-6 and ahead of everyone else. Everton wants to be the Spurs of the north and it’s hard to see how Rooney will make a material difference on the pitch. The same issues of his position with United will be present with Everton and there's of course less talent surrounding him.
Hopefully there are at least a few moments of his prior self to make the reunion worth the effort.
Kyle Walker: After City were unable to finalize a deal for Dani Alves, Pep Guardiola shifted to a more expensive yet far younger option in signing the 27-year-old Kyle Walker on a record £50 million transfer from Tottenham.
It was an easy decision for Daniel Levy to sell Walker as all resources need to be devoted to keeping Delle Alli and Harry Kane. With City having unlimited resources and Guardiola’s system requiring top level full backs, there is really no downside assuming he stays healthy as he’s so reliant on his athleticism.