We’re almost half way through the season and the time is right for us to run the rule over the summer’s best signings.
We all know it can take time for a player to adapt to life in the Premier League if they’ve come from abroad, while those moving from club-to-club within the top flight tend to find it easier to hit the ground running and make an immediate impact in their new colours.
Some clubs did some outstanding business in the summer, while others (my own club included, no prizes for guessing who I support) not so much.
But who has been the signing of the season so far? A handful of our writers have picked out their best and explained why below…
Without a doubt. Firstly, he’s been crucial to Chelsea’s rise to domince since their derby defeat to Arsenal in September and his inclusion within the squad has been a large part of the success that Antonio Conte has enjoyed playing a three-back formation.
When you take his price-tag into consideration, which was around £30m, it’s an even more successful deal. Chelsea have the finances to throw a truckload of money into the transfer market but they didn’t need to here. Kante has been an instant success and Leicester City’s struggles this year show how important he was to the Foxes.
Sure, he’s no match-winner and he won’t be making the headlines often this season, but that can be a good thing for some players. I think the fact that he’s also moved clubs but hasn’t shown any signs of problems is further testament to his ability, when the likes of Paul Pogba, John Stones and Granit Xhaka have all had to deal with their fair share of issues.
Given how influential he was in Leicester City’s title-winning campaign last season, Chelsea were always going to get a great signing when they sealed his signature for around £30m in the summer.
A player in Kante’s position can sometimes go unnoticed, but what cannot be ignored is how he has helped Chelsea earn 10 Premier League wins on the bounce and push them to six points clear at the top of the table.
The France international is thriving in Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3 formation and has started every single league game this season. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that his former club are now languishing just four points above the relegation zone without his presence.
To go from missing out on a place in Europe to challenging for the title as one of the most potent attacking forces in the league is one hell of a transformation.
Most commentators suggested right from the start that Jurgen Klopp should be judged, not on his first two thirds of a season in charge at Anfield (when he inherited a team and took them to domestic and European finals), but after his first summer in charge. The reasoning was that he should be judged on his first pre-season and how the team played after that.
If that’s the case, he’ll be judged favourably, and one reason is surely the pace and directness that Sadio Mane brings to the team. He’s my signing of the season precisely because he brings to Liverpool exactly what they’ve needed to go up a level.
An honourable mention goes to N’Golo Kante. Both teams are built on strong management and team work ethic, and both Kante and Mane are astute signings who brought to their clubs exactly the skill set that was needed. I’m sure Kante will get a lot of love from elsewhere.
This is a genuinely tricky question. There have been so many with Shkodran Mustafi having looked like just the player Arsenal have needed for a couple of seasons now, while Sadio Mane has been great for Liverpool – as has Joel Matip, who was a FREE TRANSFER.
I’m not sure, though, you can look beyond Chelsea, and N’Golo Kante is, for me, the pick. He’s not an overly glamorous player and may have had a few difficult weeks when he first got to Stamford Bridge, but his energy and work-rate are absolutely vital in Chelsea’s 3-4-3. Since their move to this system the eleven wins on the spin speak for how effective he’s been, and he edges out another impressive performer, David Luiz.
There were perhaps better value-for-money deals during the summer, such as Stoke City’s swoop for Joe Allen and Zlatan Ibrahimovic arriving at Manchester United on a free transfer. But no major signing has handled the pressures of his price-tag better than Liverpool winger Saido Mane.
Many initially scoffed at the £34million fee but the 24-year-old has proved worth every penny, increasing in importance to Jurgen Klopp’s side almost by the game. It’s incredibly telling that he’s the top scorer for the top-scoring side in the Premier League, whilst laying on five assists, and his ability to stretch play with natural width and speed has brought a new, much more dynamic dimension to Liverpool’s attacking play – something they really needed.
He, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino have been a real force this season and their telepathic understanding has been the deciding factor behind Liverpool’s push to be a genuine part of the title race.