Top 10 signings of the season… so far
Yes, we have only had seven games of the Premier League season, and yes it is the beginning of October.
Even so, during the summer transfer window 120 players were signed by Premier League clubs. Who has impressed so far?
10. Ali Al-Habsi – Wigan Athletic
On first glance, this may seem a strange choice. After all, Wigan sit two points off the bottom of the league, and have conceded 13 goals.
Scratch below the surface and the story is different. After conceding 10 goals in two games, Chris Kirkland was dropped and replaced by Al-Habsi, a loan signing from Bolton Wanderers. Since then the keeper from Oman has conceded just three goals in five games, and kept three clean sheets. Wigan are the only side in Premier League, Serie A, Bundesliga and Primera Liga to not concede an away goal.
If the Latics to continue to struggle in the Premier League, Al-Habsi may well have chance to add to his reputation.
9. Frederic Piquionne – West Ham United
OK, OK don’t laugh: I know it is Frederic Piquionne.
But just because Paul Merson tells you on Gillette Soccer Saturday that someone isn’t up to scratch doesn’t make it so.
Piquionne is not a prolific striker and never has been. At times he is infuriating, and his misses make fans hold their heads in their hands.
However, Freddie is on this list for one reason. West Ham have got five points this season. Piquionne’s goals have got them four of them.
8.Titus Bramble – Sunderland
Bramble’s career is something of a mystery. After consistently gaining notoriety for Danny Baker style own goals and gaffes, Titus has recently turned himself into something of a genuine centre-back. The lack of concentration has been replaced by a determination to right previous wrongs.
Indeed, the surprise this summer was not that Sunderland bought Bramble, but that they got him for just £1 million.
Since arriving on Wearside, Bramble has helped his side to concede an average of just one goal per game, despite facing sides such as Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool.
The only hope for Sunderland is that the allegations of rape prove to be unfounded.
7. Luke Varney – Blackpool
Almost certainly the most surprising player on this list. When Blackpool signed Varney in August, it stank of preparing for relegation, in that he was signed on a season-long loan deal with a view to a permanent move. In the last three seasons he has scored 22 goals in 118 games at a level never above the lower reaches of the Championship.
Varney has proved everyone wrong. He scored on debut in a 2-2 draw with Fulham, and this weekend hit what turned out to be the winner at Anfield.
Of the seven goals scored by his club while Varney has played for Blackpool this season, the striker has got two goals and three assists. Has a disregarded player ever had such an effect?
6.Kenwyne Jones – Stoke City
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes watching Stoke City play on television is equivalent to scratching your eyeballs.
The problem is that you also have to damn well admire them. It is ‘staying in the Premier League by numbers’. Get some decent wingers and players good at set pieces, and then buy some strikers that bloody well love the ball in the air. Let battle commence, and finish between 10th and 16th in the league.
The addition of Kenwyne Jones to this methodology is an inspired move. Jones had stagnated at Sunderland, but Tony Pulis has given him a new lease of life.
With service, Jones is dangerous. He has received this at the Britannia, and scored four goals in seven games in all competitions.
5. Yaya Toure – Manchester City
Admittedly, it is difficult to pick players in this list that have been signed for £24 million, but Yaya Toure provides something that Manchester City desperately needed: an all-round player.
It may seem a vague and unclear description, but Michael Essien can be classed as the same, and it is a huge compliment. Toure is not a player that is simply a destroyer in the De Jong mould. Nor is he an attacking midfielder similar to Stephen Ireland. Instead he merely links the midfield and attack through crisp passing and adventurous runs.
Manchester City currently find themselves second in the Premier League. Much of this is due to the goals of Carlos Tevez. Underestimate Toure’s work at your peril.
4. Marouane Chamakh – Arsenal
Arsenal were crying out for a proper striker (and Nicklas Bendtner troubles the Trade Descriptions Act with his impression). That they managed to get one that was from France, under 27, for free, with a good reputation, speaks volumes. The money Arsenal would have spent on his type has been freed to improve the defence, another area of the pitch in which improvements were needed.
Chamakh is not in the same mould, or class, as a Didier Drogba or a Dimitar Berbatov, but he does offer Arsenal exactly what they need. He can head, is comfortable with the ball at his feet, and will only improve after fully adapting to the Premier League.
Chamakh has shown glimpses of the class that will propel him into Gunners folklore. It must be remembered that both Drogba and Berbatov initially struggled at their current clubs. When Arsenal learn to provide him correctly (yes lads, you might have to cross the ball), his reputation will only be enhanced.
3. Moussa Dembele – Fulham
All would be forgiven for assuming that mediocrity was on the menu when the Belgian arrived. After all, he signed for a club at which he would not necessarily receive the service or exposure to become a tabloid success. Faced with a gut-busting slog to get to 10 league goals, especially when a £5 million transfer fee increases pressure, foreign imports have all too often gone down worse than one of Rooney’s escort girls.
Dembele has broken this mould impressively. Before being butchered by meathead Andy Wilkinson against Stoke, the Belgian had scored against Port Vale in the Carling Cup, provided assists for both goals at Blackpool, and scored both goals in 2-1 win against Wolves.
Ligament damage promises to keep him out for a few weeks, but Fulham and Premier League fans will hope Moussa picks up where he left off. Dembele is just 23. He could just be a real star.
2. Peter Odemwingie – West Brom
See number 3 for the suspicions that Odemwingie would drift into anonymity in the Premier League. It has been a strange career for a 29-year-old who many have heard of, but few know too much about.
But West Brom may well have got a bargain. The Nigerian striker has scored at a rate of a goal every three games for the last five years. Whatever the value of his undisclosed transfer fee, it will be considerably less than the £8million paid by Lokomotiv Moscow for his services.
On his debut, he scored the winner at the Hawthorns in the last ten minutes. Clearly this will always help, but Odemwingie has used this as a platform to genuinely impress, becoming the spearhead and finisher of a West Brom side that, like the striker, has performed above all expectations.
Hitting goals in a derby win over Birmingham and at the Emirates in their famous victory will very quickly vault you into legendary status, but it is perhaps Odemwingie’s work rate that has been the most satisfying.
To top this off, he was named Premier League Player of the Month for September.
1. Rafael Van der Vaart – Tottenham Hotspur
Let’s face it, this one was a shoo-in. Van der Vaart has been the most exciting player this season in the Premier League. Bar none.
When he signed, £8million looked like a snip. Right now, it looks like the signing of the decade. He makess goals, and he has scored four goals. But this is merely the tip of the iceberg. What Van der Vaart offers to Spurs fans is the glimpse of what just might be if they can retain their top four status. He is vibrant and effervescent. He has had 17 shots in four games in the Premier League, while Peter Crouch has had nine shots in seven games.
Most of all, he is box office. He sells shirts and sells tickets. Last season Spurs paid £8million for Sebastien Bassong. The season before Vedran Corluka cost half a million more. This season, Levy has hit gold.