WE are only a fortnight into an 11-week transfer window but already there has been plenty of movement, with 13 Premier League clubs bringing in new players nice and early at a combined cost of £320m, or in the region of.
Naturally, this figure could change at any given moment and perhaps substantially so with a British record fee expected imminently for Declan Rice.
Should Arsenal secure the West Ham and England midfielder – a player they have long coveted – they will very conceivably have to shell out north of £100m and adding to the £65m they have already committed for Kai Havertz that would be a serious statement of intent regarding their title aspirations.
If the Gunners get Jurrien Timber over the line too, it more than justifies a revisiting of their title odds, which currently are generous to say the least.
Of the deals that have gone through, Alexis Mac Allister’s move to Liverpool stands out as an excellent purchase for the Reds, a World Cup winner no less brought in for an initial fee of £35m.
The Argentine was instrumental last term in elevating Brighton to their highest ever league finish, averaging 6.6 recoveries and 2.15 progressive carries per 90 and all while chipping in with a double tally of goals. He will surely improve a Liverpool midfield that notably lacked dynamism and creativity last season and is currently short of bodies too, with Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Keita and Melo all departing.
Mac Allister therefore is the first recruit in what will be a big overhaul of Jurgen Klopp’s engine-room this summer and as starts go, it’s an extremely encouraging one.
Elsewhere, several other signings catch the eye and it intrigues to think how they will impact on the outright markets as 2023/24 looms in the distance.
Before we assess this however, we should acknowledge the inherent risk on placing too much emphasis on signings and to what extent they can transform sides, and this warning applies right across the transfer window, not just at this early juncture.
Remember last season, when Spurs ‘won’ the transfer window, bringing in seven players who everyone seemed to approve of? Tottenham went on to greatly disappoint, losing well over a third of their league fixtures.
Perhaps then, a more exacting criteria is needed over and above simply regarding a club’s business as being shrewd. Does the new signing immediately improve his side? And does he inhabit a position that was previously a problem area?
Focusing on these two considerations means we circle back on Mac Allister, because he is definitely a big tick for both. Add in that across Klopp’s long managerial career his teams tend to endure a season-long slump before retuning stronger and suddenly their top four chances look a lot brighter.
Staying with this formula brings us to the most pertinent example to date, that of Chelsea’s purchase of Christopher Nkunku from RB Leipzig.
For all that Chelsea were a team of chaos and crisis last season, they would have fared much better with a recognised centre-forward, one capable of regularly finding the target.
Instead they, at various times, repositioned Raheem Sterling, Kai Havertz and Joao Felix, all of whom are much better suited playing off a number nine. Consequently, the Blues’ leading goal-scorer in the Premier League last season – Havertz – scored the same number as Granit Xhaka and Bournemouth’s Phillip Billing. The second worst chance conversion rate in 2022/23 also tells a sorry story.
Enter Nkunku, a forward who fired 23 across all competitions last season, 16 in the Bundesliga, all while mostly playing as a second striker incidentally. In the campaign before that he converted for Leipzig every 136 minutes.
I don’t think anyone doubts Nkunku succeeding in the prem💙💥 pic.twitter.com/efr2wDUeIW
— Pochettiniac (@Pochettiniac) June 20, 2023
Factoring in too, new boss Mauricio Pochettino’s fine track record in getting the best out of his attacking talents – coaching a career-high number from Jay Rodriguez during his time at Southampton before maximising Kane and Son to greatness – and it’s fair to assume the 25-year-old can provide Chelsea with a good bounty of goals in the coming year.
Looking beyond the traditional ‘big six’, Brighton’s recruitment to this point has been unsurprisingly clever, adding the vast experience of James Milner, while Mahmoud Dahoud has every qualification to be a success at the Amex.
It’s the great big unknown occurring at Dean Court though that really fascinates with the high-pressing, all-out-attacking Iraola-ball coming to the south coast following their appointment of the former Rayo Vallecano coach.
Bournemouth’s cheap purchase of Justin Kluivert is a gamble that could pay off handsomely and more goals can be anticipated from midfield with the arrival of Hamed Traore. Neat and tidy in possession, the Sassuolo schemer averaged 1.5 key passes last term despite having much of his year curtailed by injury.
Let’s face it, the Cherries could be rock-bottom this winter, their experiment having hopelessly failed. But if it works, it will upgrade them immeasurably, which makes their wide odds to make top ten tempting indeed.