Examining The Summer’s Expensive Gambles

Date published: Tuesday 6th January 2015 9:19

Examining The Summer's Expensive Gambles

As with any summer transfer window, there have been some Premier League summer signings which draw knowing nods of approval. There have also been those those that inspire the reaction: “How much?!”
As clubs become increasingly desperate to add to their ranks, some transfers (and transfer fees) cause bafflement. WhoScored.com have picked five summer deals in which clubs appear to have paid over the odds. So back Connor Wickham to score 20 goals.
There are a number of factors that have boosted Wickham’s price tag. He’s young, he’s a striker and, of course, he’s English, but Palace already filled that criteria with the loan signing of Patrick Bamford. The Eagles’ decision to pay a fee that could rise well above £7m seems bizarre, despite boasting modest striking options even after Bamford’s arrival.
It’s easy to forget that Wickham is still only 22, but having been tipped to kick on after a heroic end to the 2013/14 campaign, last season was another disappointment. He matched his Premier League tally of five from the season previous, but said total came from over three times as many minutes (2774 compared to 848 in 2013/14).
With 11 Premier League goals to his name over four seasons and 4593 minutes of action, he’s taken, on average, over four-and-a-half matches to score a goal – Palace’s investment is certainly a gamble. Wickham may well come good, and he certainly has the physical attributes to do so, but a less than modest WhoScored.com rating of 6.81 last season suggests Alan Pardew has paid too much.

If Sunderland are happy with the fee they’ve received for Wickham, that feeling is all but nullified by the unwanted permanent signing of Ricardo Alvarez. It’s fair to say the winger hasn’t enjoyed his time on Wearside, so an extended stay due to a clause in his loan contract has only really been welcomed by Internazionale. That the fee taking the Argentine to the Stadium of Light on a permanent basis was believed to be over £7m is a significant blow to the Black Cats, whose dealings have been modest outside the £8m arrival of Jeremain Lens.
In a campaign disrupted by injury, Alvarez made just five starts and eight substitute appearances in the league, failing to register a single goal or assist. A meagre WhoScored.com rating of 6.48 only rose to 6.57 when excluding the cameos from the bench, so it’s fair to say Sunderland fans aren’t particularly enthused about another season of ‘Tricky Ricky’.
Some teams have been busier than most in the market, and in the case of both Watford and Aston Villa most of their new signings appear shrewd. For both, however, there are gambles among the new recruits, with Jurado and Jordan Ayew standing out as risky options for notable transfer fees.
Jurado is an experienced and gifted playmaker who could well have a big part to play at Vicarage Road, but a fee in the region of £6m for a 29-year old is eye-catching. Nevertheless, new Watford boss Quique Flores clearly has great faith in his compatriot, with Jurado scoring seven goals and registering four assists under his stewardship at Atletico in 2009/10.
A move to Schalke followed, but the Spaniard struggled to adapt to a style of play not dissimilar to the Premier League and a transfer to Spartak Moscow came to fruition in 2012. Despite a strong start in Russia, his influence in the capital waned last season, with just 10 of his 18 league appearances coming from the start. Flores has got the best out of Jurado in the past, but a significant increase on last season’s WhoScored rating of 6.85 is needed.
Villa’s signing of Ayew has been met with general optimism in England but some scepticism in France, where most feel Tim Sherwood has spent too much on an inconsistent youngster. The Ghana international is 23 and has plenty of potential, but is highly frustrating watch at times.
Ayew scored 12 goals and registered five assists last season, but that scoring record can be put into perspective by the fact that only Andre-Pierre Gignac had more shots (112) In Ligue Un.
Indeed, Alexandre Lacazette notched 27 times despite mustering 16 fewer shots at goal. Ayew was also dispossessed more often than any other player in Europe’s top fove leagues (4.0 times per game). Ayew is another player who could easily prove this writer very wrong but, for now, he seems a pricey risk for Villa to take in their quest to replace the goals of Christian Benteke.
We’ll finish off with a defender that isn’t James Chester – but who also cost a pretty penny – new Leicester recruit Yohan Benalouane. The 28-year old was a promising centre-back at one time, emerging into the Saint-Etienne team ahead of a move to Italy, but his time in Serie A has been massively underwhelming.
Across five seasons in Italy’s top-flight the France-born defender has started just 79 league matches and secured an average rating of 6.82 from WhoScored. That average was down at 6.78 last season despite 2014/15 being his most consistent campaign in Serie A in terms of appearances, starting 25 times. While defensive reinforcements were required at Leicester, Benalouane’s unspectacular abilities appear to have come at a significant cost.
Martin Laurence
Download the free WhoScored.com 2015/16 season preview magazine for a comprehensive look ahead to each of the major leagues kicking off across Europe, including transfer round-ups for every team in the top 5 leagues.

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