If you had told fans of League One Bournemouth three years ago that they would be signing Jack Wilshere on loan from Arsenal one day, they would have called a mental health professional.
If you had told fans of newly promoted Bournemouth one year ago that they would be signing Jack Wilshere on loan from Arsenal within the next 12 months, they would have told you to f*** off.
If you had told fans of Bournemouth on August 29 that they would be signing Jack Wilshere on loan from Arsenal by the end of the week, they would have insisted you vacate the premises or they would call the authorities.
Make no mistake, this is a huge deal. Wilshere has dominated a Barcelona midfield as a teenager, is still hailed by many as a key part of the future for both Arsenal and England, and, with no disrespect intended to the pair, is a notable improvement on Harry Arter and Andrew Surman.
The night Wilshere played against Barcelona at Camp Nou in 2010/11, Bournemouth lost 2-0 at Exeter in League One.
— James Maw (@JamesMawFFT) August 31, 2016
By Tuesday evening, 22 clubs had expressed an interest in signing the 24-year-old on loan. That list reportedly included Roma, AC Milan and Benfica. By Wednesday afternoon, it soon became clear that he was destined for Dean Court. Eddie Howe will have been forgiven for sporting a huge grin.
Crystal Palace were interested, and Alan Pardew claimed that it would be the cherry atop their transfer cake. It is precisely that for Bournemouth. A club-record signing had arrived in the form of the promising but over-priced Jordon Ibe; Lewis Cook is a great addition at £7m; the defence has been strengthened; no key players have been sold.
They were content with a successful summer even before the opportunity to sign Wilshere. With him, they have reason to be absolutely delighted.
Arsene Wenger had to deliver, and he did. Questions must still be asked of the Frenchman’s summer business, but there will be slight murmurs of discontent as opposed to the usual angry demands for an explanation.
Arsenal’s summer can be split into three distinct sections. The first was typified by the arrival of Granit Xhaka. The season had barely finished, the post-mortem of an intensely disappointing campaign had barely begun, before Wenger overshadowed the critics. In came a talented midfielder with bite in the tackle and quality in the pass; the Swiss international became the club’s third most expensive signing ever.
Then came the middle part, the barren months. Interest in Jamie Vardy soon became public, as did the Leicester striker’s subsequent eventual refusal. The same happened with Alexandre Lacazette, who opted to remain at Lyon. Fans remained patient, placated by the signing of Xhaka. But the days passed, and the 23-year-old remained the club’s only major arrival. An inexperienced Japanese striker and a defender playing for a club relegated from the Championship only served to worsen the mood at the Emirates.
The final week has rescued Arsenal’s summer. Shkodran Mustafi is a marked improvement in a problem area, while Lucas Perez may be only third choice at best in two positions, but he provides competition. And that defender signed from a relegated Championship club looks, well, really good.
Couple that with the club’s outgoings, and it has been a successful summer. Wenger will have requested some time alone in a dark room as he came to the conclusion that Wilshere and Calum Chambers should both leave on loan, but they are correct decisions. They are not currently of the requisite standard to remain in the squad, and will gain first-team Premier League experience elsewhere.
Could business have been conducted sooner? Of course. Starting the season with such an inexperienced central-defensive pairing was neglectful. The difference between this season and countless others is that Wenger responded. Either way, this has been better than last summer; at least they signed an outfield player.
In 2013, he was asked to produce Cristiano Ronaldo, Cesc Fabregas and Robert Lewandowski; he shuffled Marouane Fellaini and Guillermo Varela through the door.
In 2014, he was asked to produce Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, while fans pleaded for the arrival of Arturo Vidal. He delivered £150m worth of signings in a successful window, but one which remains tainted by the failures of Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao.
In 2015, he was asked to produce – you guessed it – Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as Bale, Neymar and Sergio Ramos. Bastian Schweinsteiger was the marquee signing of a difficult window, which was rescued only by the unforeseen brilliance of Anthony Martial. The Frenchman, of course, was available for a fraction of his eventual £36m price had the deal been completed earlier.
In 2016, he was asked to produce Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly; he delivered each target, and before the season even started, no less. Ed Woodward has been subject to much criticism since joining the club with David Moyes three years ago, and plenty of it has been fair. But the executive vice-chairman does not identify players; the manager does. Jose Mourinho simply identified more attainable players than his two most recent predecessors, and Woodward did the leg work.
To quantify how nuts the window is, Ed Woodward comes out of it as one of the most competent, drink that one in my friends.
— Jamie Dalton (@JamieDalton82) August 31, 2016
In isolation, Manchester United might well have had the best transfer window of any club in Europe. In the context of their previous summers, it is enough to bring a tear to any fan’s eye. Highlights of their most recent summer transfer windows include:
* Waiting until the final day to sign a player (Marouane Fellaini) for £27.5m, one month after his £23.5m release clause expired – a release clause their new manager implemented.
* Pursuing one left-back (Leighton Baines) throughout the summer, but never matching his £20m valuation, then leaving it too late to complete a deal for another (Fabio Coentrao).
* Lodging three separate bids for a player (Cesc Fabregas) who subsequently publicly stated he did not want to leave his club.
* The Ander Herrera stuff in 2013. Oh, the Ander Herrera stuff. The three impostors, the refusal to meet his release clause, the agreement of terms with the player before deciding the fee was too much. Never forget the Ander Herrera stuff.
* Attempting to sign Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale or Neymar in each of the previous three seasons.
All it took was a manager who had undertaken due preparation instead of going on holiday or overseeing a major international tournament. He identified four targets; Manchester United signed those four targets. Three of them have been varying degrees of excellent so far, and fans eagerly await the moment when the other, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, is given an opportunity to impress. Paul Pogba was the ultimate statement of intent, already preceded by three marquee arrivals.
Previous summers have damaged egos at Old Trafford, but they have been restored this time around. World-record transfer fees have been broken, a winning mentality has been added alongside youth, and the first team has been immeasurably strengthened. They already look like title contenders.
The club was in the midst of a mid-life crisis; sometimes purchasing a garage full of Ferraris is the only solution.
The promoted clubs
It looks like the three sides rising from the Championship have finally read the editions of ‘Premier League survival for dummies’ their grandmothers bought them for Christmas.
Burnley, in particular, should be happy. The last time they were promoted they purchased just six players for a combined £5m. It remains an unflattering list: Michael Kightly, Marvin Sordell, Lukas Jutkiewicz, Stephen Ward, George Boyd and Michael Keane. Two years on, and only Keane and Boyd are in the first team. This time around, the Clarets have broken their transfer record twice. It might not work, but at least they have turned up to the party this time – even if they did bring Black Tower.
As for Hull, they have defied critics with their Premier League performances so far this season, and have now done the same in the transfer market. This time last week they had signed just two players – Jonathan Edwards and Will Mannion – both on free transfers. Now they too have broken their transfer record, and have a squad with a fighting chance of survival.
But it is Middlesbrough who have impressed the most. Few promoted sides would be able to attract a striker of Alvaro Negredo’s pedigree, but few promoted sides boast a manager with connections such as Aitor Karanka’s. The Spaniard has drafted in a delightful blend of Premier League experience and European style; it is already showing in their league form.
Average age of Manchester City’s 2015/16 squad: 28 years, 1 month.
Average age of Manchester City’s summer 2016 signings: 23 years, 10 months.
They have spent the most of any Premier League side, and they have spent wisely. Pep Guardiola was tasked with moulding a side in his own image, and he has signed the perfect players to do just that. What’s more, England’s £50m hope, John Stones, and Nolito are the only additions to have even played so far, and both have done well. Add Ilkay Gundogan, Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Claudio Bravo, and City have a new blend of youth and experience. It might just be the best squad in the league.
If you doubt that last statement, just remember that this is a side who could afford to shed Joe Hart, Eliaquim Mangala (signed for £32m), Wilfried Bony (signed for £28m) and Samir Nasri (signed for £24m).
Ian Holloway says Joe Hart "didn't have that good a Euros"
And we'd like to congratulate Ian for winning understatement of the century.
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) August 31, 2016
Did any manager face a more difficult transfer window? When Claudio Ranieri drew up his shortlist of potential recruits for Leicester as they prepared for a Premier League title defence and Champions League assault, the Italian will have known the issues facing him. When they visited Caen and Schalke to discuss deals for relative unknowns last summer, they did so as a side expected to struggle against relegation. Twelve historic months later, and they sat at negotiation tables across Europe as Premier League champions.
Yet admirably, it seems as though the Foxes have not been swayed by their remarkable success. The temptation would be to spend their new-found riches and use their improved standing as a platform to sign expensive Premier League stalwarts. But unearthing unheralded talent throughout the continent led them to the top of the pyramid, and they have trusted the same method in their attempt to stay there. They have signed seven players to bolster the squad to cope with four competitions, yet have spent £100m less than Manchester City.
How to rescue a transfer window on Deadline Day, by Mark Hughes.
Before Wednesday, Stoke fans found themselves staring at almost exactly the same squad with almost exactly the same problems as last season. Hughes had purchased all the necessary parts to build a gun, he just forgot to buy the bullets.
With Wilfried Bony, that all changes. The Ivorian suffered during his time at Manchester City, but showed in his spell with Swansea that he is an excellent lone striker. Chuck in a Bruno Martins Indi on loan, and you have yourself a fearsome central-defensive partnership, too. Just imagine all those penalties they will concede for grappling.
How to rescue a transfer window on Deadline Day: The European version, by Antonio Conte.
Considering Chelsea finished 10th last season, this was a squad which did not require a complete overhaul. The Blues horribly underachieved, but this is pretty much the same uber-talented side which won the Premier League in 2015. And the additions of Michy Batshuayi and N’Golo Kante simply improved them.
But while Chelsea required only some slight refinement in one key area, as opposed to a drastic squad makeover, it appeared that their new demanding manager had neglected to carry out his basic checks. A central defence of a 35-year-old John Terry and a 30-year-old Gary Cahill was not good enough for a club hoping to return to the Champions League. They needed an upgrade on that pairing, and needed at least one more player in order to facilitate Conte’s favoured system of a back three.
The reaction to the return of David Luiz was a mixed one. “I don’t get it, I’m sorry,” said a perplexed Paul Merson. “Chelsea are going back to where they were,” added Tony Gale. “It’s the best signing for 19 other Premier League teams, that’s how good it is! He does have a mistake in him and he’ll add a little bit of colour, but there’s 19 other teams that will now be thinking: ‘He’s got a mistake in him,'” said their Sky Sports colleague, Alan McInally.
Each were a gross misjudgement of the mood on Stamford Bridge. As unexpected news of Luiz’s return grew more and more likely, Chelsea fans expressed their delight as a former cult hero came ‘home’. They celebrated his arrival; they did not mourn it. They had watched on in horror as Papy Djilobodji and Michael Hector arrived on Deadline Day last summer. The mood was transformed this time around.
Luiz was error-prone on his first stay in England, but is undeniably a talented individual. He is also an endearing character in a dressing room which desperately needs some extra inspiration. If there is any manager who will help the Brazilian realise his defensive potential, it is Conte.
Alan Pardew and Crystal Palace
Between them last season, Connor Wickham, Emmanuel Adebayor, Dwight Gayle, Fraizer Campbell, Marouane Chamakh, Patrick Bamford and Glenn Murray scored nine goals in 78 combined Premier League appearances. Christian Benteke and Loic Remy scored ten in 39 games, most of which came as a substitute for Liverpool and Chelsea respectively. The former in particular is perfect for Palace.
Add in a proven and undoubted goalkeeping upgrade in Steve Mandanda, a precociously talented winger in Andros Townsend, and defensive reinforcement in the form of James Tomkins, then imagine Alan Pardew dad dancing into the night in his living room in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Mandanda; Ward, Tomkins, Dann, Souare; Zaha,, Cabaye, McArthur, Townsend; Remy; Benteke is strongest XI in the club’s history, I’d say.
— Ed Malyon (@eaamalyon) August 31, 2016
The busiest Premier League club, with 13 new faces adorning West Ham’s newer home. It is almost as if they were preparing for Europa League football. Silly sods. But each area has been strengthened, and Dimitri Payet has been kept.
Be they super or otherwise. Well over £1bn worth of transfers have been brokered this summer, and that only includes incomings for Premier League clubs. What a time to be a Mendes, a Raiola or a Barnett.
Only time will tell, but Southampton have repeated that same old trick of conducting their business quietly and efficiently. More key individuals were lost this summer, including their manager, two main goal threats and midfield powerhouse, but the performances of Nathan Redmond and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg so far are cause for optimism. Add a club-record signing in Sofiane Boufal, and while Saints are unlikely to continue their remarkable record of improving their league position in six successive seasons, they should again be proud of their business.
A Championship club in name only; they outspent all but seven Premier League clubs. It certainly helped recouping £68m for Moussa Sissoko, Georginio Wijnaldum and Andros Townsend, signed for a combined £28.1m. A reminder that this is a trio who were relegated last season.
The year is 2066, and, with Arsenal having failed in an attempt to resurrect Karim Benzema, it soon becomes clear than an 80-year-old Olivier Giroud will lead the line as their first-choice striker. He’s still bloody handsome, too.
Fans of protracted transfer sagas
Manchester United signed Paul Pogba before the Premier League season began. Zlatan Ibrahimovic decided on his next club in ample time. Google searches for ‘Alvaro Morata’ and ‘Mario Gotze’ fell dramatically by July. Alex Manninger put us all out of our misery, ending intense speculation over his future weeks before the deadline.
There was no fax machine-related tomfoolery concerning David de Gea. There was no threatening to never play Jeremy Peace. Heck, Darren Bent did not even swear on Twitter. Ignore the obscene amounts of money, the painfully tiresome rumour-peddling and the whole Jim White thing, and it was quite a pleasant, straightforward and engaging window.
Fans of the economy
John Stones for £47.5m. Moussa Sissoko for £30m. Yannick Bolasie for £25m. Andre Ayew for £20.5m. Jordon Ibe for £15m. Ryan Mason for £10m. Papy Djilobodji for £8m. Watford and Crystal Palace spending £100m between them. Championship Newcastle spending more than all but seven Premier League sides. Just four clubs – Liverpool, Southampton, Everton and Swansea – registering positive net spends.
You know that window over there? Open it and throw out everything you thought you knew about the transfer market. It’s f***ed.
Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool
It was going so well. Liverpool acted quickly and decisively, signing two goalkeepers, two strong central defenders, and two exciting forwards. Each fit Jurgen Klopp’s system, Sadio Mane and Joel Matip in particular impressing in the early stages of their Anfield careers.
But for all the good work completed over on the red side of Merseyside, one problem area remains. Liverpool will continue this Premier League season with a giant red target painted on the left side of their defence, just to ensure the opposition are fully aware of their weak spot.
It’s not as if Klopp has not had time to figure out that Alberto Moreno is not good enough at left-back. If high-profile mistakes in the Capital One Cup and Europa League finals did not convince him, then the Spaniard began the season by conceding a penalty and playing a key role in the concession of a goal within he first few minutes of Liverpool’s first game. That was on August 14. The manager has had weeks to source an improvement.
And yet nothing. Well, not actually nothing, for Klopp believes that a 30-year-old central midfielder with a remarkable jawline constitutes a perfectly passable left-back. James Milner has started two of three games in the position so far this season. It is weird that we do now know who Liverpool’s first-choice left-back is; it is stupid that the decision is between Moreno and Milner. It will be the difference between qualifying for the Champions League and missing out again.
Alberto Moreno has to compete with a midfielder for the left back spot and still can't get into the first 11. Imagine when Gomez comes back.
— The Iceman (@WeHaveKlopp) September 1, 2016
Arsenal realised they needed a centre-half; they signed one. Manchester United realised they needed a striker; they signed one. Chelsea realised they needed a defender; they signed one. Liverpool realised they needed a left-back, and they put an average midfielder there.
It represents a huge victory for his new club, but Jack Wilshere’s loan move to Bournemouth is undoubtedly a step down for the player. Once he decided that he wished to pick up his long-term injury elsewhere this season, he was unlikely to find a better suitor than Arsenal, after all. But is a move to a side who finished 16th last season really going to benefit an individual looking to revitalise his career?
If reports are to be believed, Roma and AC Milan were among those interested in the England international. It is difficult to ignore the feeling that a fresh start and a different approach in a European league would have benefited the midfielder more than joining a side expected to be among those fighting relegation.
At best, Wilshere returns to the Emirates Stadium having impressed for a mid-table Premier League side. The question would remain as to whether he is good enough for Arsenal. At worst, he returns with his already damaged reputation possibly irreparably broken. His career has stalled, and this hardly seems like the jump start it needs.
“I’ve got some good news for Everton fans,” crowed Jim White as the deadline edged ever closer. After the day began with news of potential moves for Porto forward Yacine Brahimi, Napoli striker Manolo Gabbiadini, and Newcastle’s Moussa Sissoko, Toffees were begging for a breakthrough.
White needn’t have bothered. For all the build-up, the arrival of Enner Valencia typified the most disappointing of days at Goodison Park. Everton desperately needed a striker to provide back-up and competition for Romelu Lukaku. It arrived in the form of the loan of a forward deemed surplus to requirements at West Ham.
The fan reactions summed up what was a frustrating conclusion to a once promising window. ‘Do you seriously think anyone cares or is remotely happy about this or today’s shambles?’ tweeted one. ‘Why agree a fee? We don’t want him on loan let alone permanently,’ said another. ‘Absolutely embarrassing…this transfer window was an absolute disgrace to the badge and all Everton supporters,’ read one more.
A ‘new era’ was promised at Everton by new shareholder Farhad Moshiri, who brought with him promises of extra investment into a squad which sorely needed it. The club said the right things and acted quickly in removing Roberto Martinez, bringing in Ronald Koeman and Steve Walsh, and signing four new players in key areas.
It was a promising start, but an embarrassing conclusion. Reports earlier this summer stated that Iranian billionaire Moshiri had pledged investment of up to £100m this summer; Everton did not even spend half of that. Ten clubs, including Watford and Crystal Palace, spent more. They are left with a squad that still screams ‘mid-table’.
‘Everton have struggled to sign players, but the mood is positive,’ Daniel Storey wrote in July. It was an accurate assessment then, but times change. So has the mood at Goodison, and rightly so.
Only Daniel Levy. Only Daniel Levy could sanction a £16m bid for a player whose club have already valued him at £30m. Tottenham’s offer for Moussa Sissoko in the early hours of Wednesday was predictably dismissed.
What was Tottenham’s response? They simply dropped interest in the player. They were not linked with any other players, seemingly content with their business.
That was until Everton made a £30m bid in the evening, and the north London club decided to match their offer. Within a matter of hours, their valuation of one player had rocketed by £14m.
Tottenham eventually got their man, but it was no secret that Sissoko was available throughout the summer. The Deadline Day chase for a Championship midfielder stank of desperation. Levy lowballing no longer works when Crystal Palace and Watford are both spending £50m apiece. The chairman can no longer afford to negotiate deals as if this were 2010. Football has changed; Premier League football has transformed.
Tottenham deemed £25m for Wijnaldum (25) too much earlier in window and then spend £30m on Sissoko (27) at the last minute. Levy logic.
— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) September 1, 2016
On one hand, it was completely out of character with the rest of their business. Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen had both arrived early in the window, bolstering the squad in preparation for Champions League football.
On the other, it was in keeping with a disappointing summer. Wanyama and Janssen are good signings, but the club have failed to capitalise on Champions League qualification. They have not signed a single player who would not have joined them anyway. Liverpool made the same mistake two years ago, and they paid for it.
“Everyone knows, I often said it when I was young, Arsenal is the club of my heart. The beautiful Arsenal. We will see. I cannot tell you if I am going to go to Arsenal” – June 7, 2016.
“Arsenal made me dream when I was a youngster. Patrick Vieira was my idol. I saw myself in him” – February 2, 2015.
“If Arsene Wenger calls, I’ll have a man-to-man discussion with him and then we’ll see. Arsenal has always been the club of my heart” – January 11, 2015.
“When I was young, Arsenal were my favourite team. My idol, Patrick Vieira, played there. I have always loved that club. I still love that club” – December 22, 2014.
Good luck at your new club, Moussa. You might need it.
Before Wednesday, Sunderland’s transfer business could be summarised with the following two points:
* Papy Djilobodji was their most expensive signing.
* David Moyes really likes his old players.
Djilobodji, Paddy McNair, Donald Love, Adnan Januzaj, Javier Manquillo, Steven Pienaar. So read the list of incomings before Deadline Day, an uninspiring selection of players tasked with helping Sunderland improve on a finish of 17th.
The club-record signing of Didier Ndong did little to placate fans. French outlet RMC Sport reported that representatives of his club Lorient ‘almost fainted’ at the size of Sunderland £13m offer. After all, this is a player who ranked, in terms of per-game stats in Ligue Un last season: 22nd for tackles (2.8), 73rd for interceptions (2.2), 45th for passes (50.5), and 151st for key passes (0.5). Stinky.
Last season, Sunderland scored 48 goals. Fifteen came from Jermain Defoe; 11 were scored by players no longer at the club (Steven Fletcher, Jeremain Lens, Adam Johnson, Dame N’Doye and Yann M’Vila).
Moyes really does have a job on his hands, and he is at least partly to blame for that.
Nacer Chadli is a fine addition, but to examine the signings made by West Brom this summer is to look upon a club who will struggle this season. Matty Phillips has already been relegated twice from the Premier League, Allan Nyom was fine at Watford, but hardly an inspired acquisition, and while Brendan Galloway is a promising player, it simply is not enough. Signing Hal Robson-Kanu, a player who was a free agent throughout the summer, in the final hours epitomised the most underwhelming window of any Premier League side. Such a lack of transfer activity has seen Tony Pulis leave a job before. If he stays, expect survival, but not entertainment. Twas ever thus.
What a difference a year makes. Manchester United fans rejoiced last summer after a World Cup winner and an individual who had won 23 trophies throughout his career was signed for a relative pittance. Schweinsteiger was just 31 years old at the time, but was the marquee signing who could inspire an Old Trafford revival.
Now, having failed to find new employers, he is training with United’s youth players, and is unlikely to ever feature for the club again. If anyone wants a succinct example of the difference between the reigns of Mourinho and Van Gaal, just remember that the former broke the world transfer record for a player in his prime, while the latter’s £6m signing is simply broken.
They are placing an awful lot of faith in Borja Baston and Fernando Llorente. Even if the Spaniards do perform, Alfie Mawson is not an adequate replacement for captain and defensive stalwart Ashley Williams. Swansea are in trouble, and will be counting down the days until Tony Pulis inevitably takes over from Francesco Guidolin in November, the Welshman having already quit West Brom in frustration by September.
Christian Benteke was signed for £32.5m; he was sold for £27m.
Mario Balotelli was signed for £16m; he was sold on a free transfer.
Joe Allen was signed for £15m; he was sold for £13m.
Luis Alberto was signed for £6.8m; he was sold for £4.3m.
Lazar Markovic was signed for £20m; he has been loaned out.
Mamadou Sakho was signed for £15m; he has already been told he will not feature this season.
All of the above were signed by Brendan Rodgers within three years at Liverpool. Outstanding.
Chelsea’s fax machine
Thirty-eight players have been sent out on loan from Stamford Bridge this summer, including 11 on Deadline Day alone. Bloody mental.