Friday, September 3, 2021

Premier League Transfer Window Thoughts

The transfer window closed on Tuesday with roughly $1.5 billion dollars being spent by Premier League teams. While reflecting a decline in spending from last year’s summer window, the figure exceeded expectation and facilitated key moves which changed the face of squads across the league. The following clubs were among those having noteworthy windows, for better or worse. 

Manchester United

The news of Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to Old Trafford understandably dominated the final days of the Premier League window. The deal came together quickly as, seemingly only hours before, Ronaldo was rumored to be joining rival Manchester City following the news that Harry Kane was staying in London. Ronaldo should add both goals and a winning mentality for the Red Devils. Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, however, will have selection issues given his wealth of attackers. Jadon Sancho, who previously headlined this window for United, could see his expected minutes reduced. Solskjaer may also reconsider his penchant for playing two defensive midfielders. Ronaldo’s former Real Madrid teammate, ceter back Raphael Varane, is another important added piece as United are poised for a title challenge. 


Chelsea moved to the forefront of title contenders with its acquisition of Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan. The Belgian striker provides the goal scoring capability lacking last season for the Blues. Lukaku is already familiar with a league in which he scored 113 goals before his departure to Italy. Frightening for Chelsea opponents is that Lukaku returns to the league much improved from the player who left Manchester United two seasons ago. Timo Werner, last year’s transfer acquisition who disappointed in goal production, appears the odd man out with Lukaku now leading the line for the European champions.

Chelsea also signed Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez who provides depth to an already strong midfield group. A possible concern for the Blues could be back line depth after defender Kurt Zouma headed to West Ham late in the window and negotiations to acquire Sevilla defender Jules Kounde fell through. 

Manchester City 

Manchester City failed to get its sought-after striker as Daniel Levy and Tottenham Hotspur rejected entreaties from the Citizens to bring Harry Kane to Manchester. Pep Guardiola’s side were then momentarily mentioned in connection with Cristiano Ronaldo before the Portuguese legend made his return to Manchester United. City, however, won the title last year, and led the league in goals, without a regular number nine in its lineup and could be more dangerous with the acquisition of Jack Grealish from Aston Villa. The fee for Grealish set a British transfer fee record. As expected, Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia left on free transfers to Barcelona. Bernardo Silva, rumored to be seeking a transfer, remains as part of the Citizens’ loaded midfield.


Arsenal, last in the table after three league matches, was first in net spending among Premier League clubs this transfer window. Any investment decisions by the north London club, however, are subject to scrutiny given an exceedingly poor track record in recent years. Arsenal also continues to have problems in selling unwanted players. The only significant sell-off from a roster rife with the unwanted, was the sale of Joe Willock to Newcastle United after the midfielder thrived on loan to the Magpies last season. Willian, last year’s worst transfer signing, walked away from his contract to join Corinthians in Brazil. This window’s headline acquisition, center back Ben White, could prove helpful but was overpriced. Arsenal also paid dearly for a backup goalkeeper, Aaron Ramsdale, who has played on relegated clubs the past two seasons. Martin Odegaard, signed permanently from Real Madrid after his loan to Arsenal last season, is talented but very similar to the already rostered midfielder Emile Smith-Rowe. 

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs greatest accomplishment this window was retaining the services of wantaway captain Harry Kane, assuming Kane is not so disillusioned that it impacts his normally stellar performance. Daniel Levy’s stonewalling tactics in rebuffing the approaches of Manchester City for his star striker made headlines throughout the window. While the Kane drama was playing out, ultimately in Spurs’ favor, the north London club also focused on upgrades to its defensive ranks. Young fullback Emerson Royal was added from Barcelona while Argentine international Cristian Romero joins on loan from Atalanta. Inconsistent defender Serge Aurier reached agreement to mutually terminate his contract with the club while long time center back Toby Alderweireld also ended his Spurs career to play in Quatar. A midfield prospect for the club was acquired in Bryan Gil, a 20-year-old from Sevilla expected to bring creativity and energy. The Spurs’ Eric Lamela, meanwhile, was dispatched to Sevilla 

Crystal Palace 

The Eagles transformed their squad under new manager Patrick Vieira. A new center back pairing was acquired with young Marc Guehi from Chelsea and Danish international Joachim Andersen from Fulham. The midfield was rebuilt with Michal Olise from Reading, Will Hughes from Watford and Conor Gallagher on loan from Chelsea. Palace fans hope the solution to their long-standing problem at striker has arrived in the form of 23-year-old Odsonne Edouard from Celtic. The French striker had 55 goals the last three season in the Scottish Premiership.

While the many new pieces will need to time to gel, the Eagles appear all in on their youth movement and a desire to play more entertaining football. Only time will tell whether a wholesale change in roster and playing style under an unproven manager will prove successful or if the Eagles seven year run in the Premier League could be endangered. 

Aston Villa

Aston Villa is another team which remodeled during the recent window. Long time club talisman and captain Jack Grealish was sold to Manchester City for the largest transfer fee in British history. On paper, the club would seem to have re-invested wisely and could emerge a better and more balanced side this season. Danny Ings scored 34 goals the last two seasons for Southampton and already has two goals in his three matches for Aston Villa. Emi Buendia was the Championship Player of the Season for promoted Norwich. Jamaican international Leon Bailey, scorer of 15 goals across all competitions for Bayer Leverkusen last season, provides creativity with his dribbling and crossing abilities from his winger position. 


Liverpool made a strong start to the window with the acquisition of 22-year-old center back Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig. The deal terms were reached in May with effect from the opening of the transfer window on July 1st. Konate, however, would prove to be Liverpool’s only signing.

With the other top four contenders upgrading their squads, there is concern as to whether Liverpool has done enough to stay in title contention. Squad depth is particularly a concern as the club battles on domestic and European competition fronts. The departure of midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum leaves a significant void which may be filled by 18-year-old youngster Harvey Elliott. Attacking depth was also depleted with the departure of Xherdan Shaqiri.  

West Ham

West Ham fans were wringing their hands until the club put the hammer down with two late window acquisitions which provide upgrades at both ends of the pitch. A key decision was not to meet an inflated Manchester United valuation for Jesse Lingard who delivered goals from midfield for the Hammers while on loan last season. The club instead moved to acquire striker Nikola Vlasic who has been involved in 54 goals in 108 matches across all competitions for CSKA Moscow. Vlasic was the 2020 Russian Premier League Player of the Year. At 23 years old, Vlasic was a younger and cheaper option for Lingard and fills a greater position of need where the club relies heavily on the oft injured Michail Antonio. A familiar Premier League face was added in former Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma. The 26-year-old Zouma made 52 league appearances over the past two seasons for Chelsea. Known for his aerial capabilities, the defender provided offensive threat with five goals last season. The Hammers also added midfield depth with the acquisition on loan of Czech midfielder Alex Kral. 


Newcastle permanently signed Joe Willock who played so well for the Magpies when on loan from Arsenal last season. The club thus remains intact, but not improved, from the team that finished 12th in the table last season after periods of flirting with the relegation zone. The Toon Army is unhappy at the lack of upgrade and a winless start to the season after three matches. Unpopular manager Steve Bruce and owner Mike Ashley will continue to be the targets of fan ire unless the club can deliver both wins and a more pleasing style of play than Bruce’s preferred defensive set-ups.

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