Arsenal were definitely the winners during the summer transfer window, but how did the other clubs perform? Where do the Premier League’s latest recruits stand as we hit the busy November-December run?
After the comprehensive work that has been put into ranking the Top 10 players from each of the four key positions, it is time we rank the clubs and their latest recruits for the 2021/22 Premier League season.
In this first instalment, I discuss all the summer signings made by the following clubs: Arsenal, Burnley, Brighton & Hove Albion, Aston Villa and Chelsea, and rank them based on how they have fared and what impact they have had so far this season.
Arsenal were, by and large, the biggest spenders this season, with the money spread across six different signings. Aston Villa, too, spent big on three acquisitions, but their net spend remained positive thanks to the £100m they received from Jack Grealish’s transfer. Chelsea, on the other hand, after a massive transfer window, went big again and roped in the Belgium international Romelu Lukaku for £103.5m.
Elsewhere, Brighton & Hove Albion and Burnley spent very little compared to the other three but made shrewd and smart signings to bolster key areas on the pitch.
Please note the alphabets associated with the list as given below –
A – Excellent signing
B – Great signing, star potential
C – Decent start, will only grow from here
D – Shaky start, but will come good
E – Average signing
F – Poor signing, likely to flop
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the transfer tier ranking list for the aforementioned Premier League clubs.
The Arsenal signings Aaron Ramsdale and Takehiro Tomiyasu have proven to be excellent signings for the club. A combined fee of £42m for the pair looks like a great coup and an investment that will keep producing returns in years to come.
- Aaron Ramsdale has kept 6 clean sheets in the 12 league matches he has played in, producing 3.8 saves/90’ with a save percentage of 78%. The 23-year-old has also pulled off a handful of world-class saves, and his commanding of his area and distribution have led to Arsenal conceding just 13 goals in 12 games.
- Takehiro Tomiyasu has been a revelation ever since joining the Gunners on transfer deadline day. The Japan international has blended in well into Mikel Arteta’s system, carrying out instructions effortlessly, while his 1v1 defending and aerial ability are some of the key characteristics of his game. His involvement has led to 5 clean sheets so far this season.
However, the 24-year-old will face a stern test in some of Arsenal’s tricky run of fixtures.
- Graham Potter and Brighton & Hove Albion were on the lookout for a left-back/wingback and managed to land former Barcelona youth product Marc Cucurella for £18m from LaLiga side Getafe.
The 23-year-old has been an excellent acquisition for the club, providing both defensive and offensive cover for Graham Potter’s side. The Spaniard is an excellent reader of the game and a superb tackler, winning 4.1 ground duels (66%) and 2.5 tackles/90’.
- The 25-year-old Ivorian, Maxwel Cornet, joined Burnley on a £15m deal after spending five-and-a-half years at French club Olympique Lyonnais.
Cornet is a versatile player and has fit in superbly into Sean Dyche’s system. After playing a couple of games as a left-back, the Ivorian was pushed further up the pitch as a wide midfielder before playing as part of a front-two.
To his credit, Cornet has already amassed 5 league goals, although averaging just 1.4 shots/90’, proving his efficiency in front of goal.
- Next up is one of the biggest summer signings of the season. Romelu Lukaku joining Chelsea was a big statement; after winning the Champions League the previous season, it was evident Chelsea needed a top striker to challenge for the league, and they did just that by forking out £103.5m for the 28-year-old Belgium international.
Although he hasn’t yet set the Premier League alight, Romelu Lukaku has looked pretty decent in the matches he has played in, scoring three goals but being a constant goal and creativity threat for the opposition.
To put this into context, Lukaku has missed two big chances, while he has set up three big chances himself and produced 1.8 key passes/90’; he still has zero assists against his name, however.
With almost two-thirds of the season left, Lukaku is likely to come good for Chelsea.
- Last but not the least in this Tier B list is Benjamin White of Arsenal.
For some reason, Ben White’s move to Arsenal was the most talked-about transfer despite some other big transfers happening during the window. Maybe it was the amount of money that Arsenal were willing to pay for him, coupled with the lack of experience he had at the highest level.
After a shaky start against Brentford, and then missing the next two games against Chelsea and Manchester City through COVID, slowly but surely, White is proving his worth with every single performance. He has been driving forward, breaking lines with the ball at his feet, pinging cross-field balls for the lone outlet, and he is great at recovering and build-up play as well.
White is everything Arsenal were looking for, and so far, his involvement has resulted in 6 clean sheets.
- Zambian Enock Mwepu is another Brighton signing who has looked quite decent whenever called upon. The 23-year-old, so far, has only played one full game (against Liverpool), where he even got on the scoresheet, while he has started in four of the fixtures he has been involved in.
The central midfielder has featured seven times for the Seagulls, thrice coming on as a substitute. He is an aggressive presser off the ball and complements well when played alongside Yves Bissouma.
Mwepu has shown glimpses of promise, and he will only get better with more match time.
Two Arsenal youngsters also feature in Tier C — Albert Sambi Lokonga and Nuno Tavares. Arsenal had a great transfer window, and that is reflected by the performances their new signings are putting in.
Albert Sambi Lokonga was a highly sought-after midfielder, with some of the top European clubs circling around for his signature, while Nuno Tavares, too, has been a revelation, given he was a Benfica outcast and hardly played any minutes.
- Lokonga, a 22-year-old Belgium international, is a technically gifted player and has put in some quality performances for the Gunners, but the only point of concern is his concentration levels, given he has been found out a couple of times when not playing alongside someone like Thomas Partey.
That, though, will only improve as he gets more game time at the highest level and earns more experience.
- Now, let’s talk about Nuno Tavares: the biggest compliment he can receive in his brief Arsenal career is that the team have not missed their talisman, Kieran Tierney.
One of Arsenal’s biggest problems last season was their left-back position. Tierney was consistently in and out of the team, which left a big gaping hole.
To be honest, so far, Tavares has given everything Tierney could, and to add gloss to that, he has provided better defensive cover than the Scotland international as well.
- During the summer window, Nathan Collins was hyped up as one of the up-and-coming centre-backs in the EFL Championship. The 20-year-old previously played for Stoke City and had his breakthrough year in his first full season.
Burnley snapped Collins up, but dislodging the seasoned partnership of Ben Mee and James Tarkowski was always going to be a tall order.
However, Collins has managed to play five full matches — winning two clean sheets against Norwich and Wolves — and has looked quite decent alongside James Tarkowski. He is aerially good, a great reader of the game, and a competent tackler as well.
- Aston Villa’s £26m investment in the 29-year-old Danny Ings hasn’t started paying dividends yet, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a success at the club. Before his move, only Mohamed Salah and Harry Kane had scored more goals than Ings in the Premier League over the last two seasons.
So far, Ings has scored three goals, but that is largely down to how bad Villa have been this season. With Steven Gerrard taking the wheel, it could reinvigorate Ings’ season as a whole.
- Another Aston Villa player that has been sub-par but has the potential to produce quality performances is Leon Bailey. The Jamaica international jumped ship from Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen over the summer, but the 24-year-old hasn’t had a blistering start to his career at Villa Park.
Bailey has one goal and two assists in 9 Premier League appearances, albeit only four of them were starts. His overall performances, however, have been found wanting, and as a new manager, Gerrard could certainly come to his aid.
- Former Real Madrid playmaker Martin Ødegaard finally secured his £25m move to the Gunners this season, and the Norwegian hit the ground running immediately before a dip in form saw him sitting on the bench for four games on the trot.
Ødegaard scored his first goal of the season against Burnley with a delightful free-kick to grab all three points for Arsenal, but his creative numbers haven’t been very impressive. In his last two starts against Manchester United and Everton, however, the Norwegian has hit the back of the net twice and is looking sharp on the ball again.
Still only 22, Martin Ødegaard has time on his side, and he will be doing everything in his power to become a regular in that Arsenal starting line-up.
- When Chelsea signed Saúl Ñíguez on transfer deadline day, fans and pundits alike expected a lot from the Spanish defensive midfielder. The 26-year-old came on a loan with an option to buy, but so far he has featured just twice in the whole of the Premier League this season.
Saúl’s debut was a catastrophic display against Aston Villa, where he was subbed off during the half-time break, while he came on for just two minutes against Newcastle United along with another first-half cameo before getting subbed off. It’s really surprising that a player of his quality has failed to adapt to the Premier League.
- Brighton & Hove Albion were able to rope in young Dutch goalkeeper Kjell Scherpen from Ajax in the summer window. Scherpen is a 21-year-old goalkeeper who signed for Ajax from his hometown club Emmen in the 19/20 season.
Scherpen hasn’t featured for Brighton so far this season, and hence is unknown to most, but given Brighton’s highly-rated analytics department, he is definitely a one-to-watch for the future.
- Abdallah Sima broke through last season playing for Czech Republic club SK Slavia Prague. The 20-year-old scored 14 goals in 21 league games, while catching the eye of many with his flashes of brilliance in the UEFA Europa League.
Brighton & Hove Albion signed the talented Senegalese winger for £6m this summer, before loaning him out to Stoke City to learn the demands and physicality of the English game.
- Emiliano Buendía has been one of the biggest disappointments this season thus far. Both Arsenal and Aston Villa were in the running for the Copa América winner, but Arsenal pulled out stating the value Norwich were asking didn’t justify the qualities he possessed, while Aston Villa went ahead and forked out £40m (including add-ons) for the Argentine.
In hindsight, it looks like Arsenal were right to pull out and certainly dodged a bullet. It will be interesting to see whether Steven Gerrard can spark some life back into Buendía’s game.
It seems a bit harsh to single him out as the only flop among all the signings.
Here is my reasoning, though: first of all, Connor Roberts is a Wales international. Secondly, he is 26 years old, and it has taken him four months and 14 league games to get a 15-minute cameo for Burnley as the substitute against Newcastle United.
Roberts has only featured for the Clarets twice — in a League Cup clash with Tottenham Hotspur and a cameo against Newcastle United — but he didn’t manage to pull up any trees. There are still 23 league games to be played, though, and only time will tell whether he can establish himself as at least a bit-part player for his new team.