Three Arsenal players feature in the best Premier League buy in each of the last 20 windows

Jason Soutar
Premier League players Alisson, Virgil van Dijk, Diego Costa, Nemanja Matic and Bruno Fernandes

With the transfer market back open, we have picked the best signing made by a Premier League club in the last 20 windows, starting with a tricky Brazilian…


Winter, 2013 – Philippe Coutinho (Inter Milan to Liverpool, £8.5m)
Liverpool made two excellent signings in this window, bringing in Daniel Sturridge for around £12m, but their signing of Coutinho for £8.5m takes the cake.

Coutinho brought his Brazilian flair to the Premier League, hitting the ground running and immediately looking like the bargain he was. Over 200 appearances and zero trophies later, Barcelona signed the attacking midfielder for a rumoured £142m after months of pursuing him. That transfer has crippled Barca financially and allowed Liverpool to sign Virgil van Dijk and Alisson, the final pieces of their trophy-winning jigsaw.


Summer, 2013 – Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid to Arsenal, £42m)
Some may disagree, even a few Arsenal fans, but Ozil was one hell of a signing. The deadline day scenes in north London were something to behold when it was confirmed the German playmaker would be signing from Real Madrid.

He helped guide Arsenal to their first piece of silverware in eight years in his first season, as Arsene Wenger’s side beat Hull 3-2 in the FA Cup final. Ozil divided opinion like no other, often being labelled a ghost in matches against Arsenal’s title rivals and criticised for his laid-back style of play by the media and fans.

The way the 2014 World Cup winner left north London was extremely disappointing and sad, not getting the send-off he deserved after eight years of service, but he just pips Christen Eriksen’s move to Tottenham for this window.

Winter, 2014 – Nemanja Matic (Benfica to Chelsea, £21m)
Chelsea were busy boys in January 2014, and are busy in this list, occupying the winning slot in three out of the first five windows. The Blues signed Bertrand Traore, Kurt Zouma, Mohamed Salah and Matic, while offloading Juan Mata to Man Utd and De Bruyne to Wolfsburg.

Matic instantly became a mainstay in the starting XI, being named in the PFA Team of the Year in 2015 as Chelsea won the Premier League.

The Serbian defensive midfielder was sold to Man Utd for around £40m in 2017, being reunited with manager Jose Mourinho. Chelsea got the best three years of Matic’s career before doubling their money for him. What a transfer.


Summer, 2014 – Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid to Chelsea, £32m)
What a window this was. Alexis Sanchez joined Arsenal, Southampton signed Sadio Mane and Hull brought Andy Robertson to England for only £2m. We have opted for yet another Chelsea player, however. Apologies…

It was a tough choice between Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, giving the edge to the striker as he epitomised what that Chelsea side were all about. Costa also had to adapt to the league, which he did straight away. Fabregas had been there before with Arsenal and was world-class at the Blues’ London rivals.

Costa bagged 20 Premier League goals in 26 matches during his maiden season in England as the Londoners won the title. Atletico re-signed the Spanish striker for a rumoured £57m in 2018. Prime years and profit again? Hats off.


Winter, 2015 – Wilfried Zaha (Man Utd to Crystal Palace, £3m)
The debate of who the better transfer was out of Dele Alli to Tottenham for £5m or Wilfried Zaha returning to Crystal Palace for £3m was one we didn’t know we needed; it was very difficult to pick a winner.

Alli became one of the best players in the country almost immediately, going to Euro 2016 and the World Cup in 2018 as well as being named the Young Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017. He has drastically fallen off in recent seasons, which is pretty sad to see.

Zaha, on the other hand, just takes it ahead of Alli due to his consistency, and the fact that Crystal Palace would probably be in the Championship if it wasn’t for him. He re-joined the Eagles having struggled for game time at Man Utd. The 29-year-old has more goals and more assists than any other Palace player in Premier League history, and is the reason the London club are a stable top-flight outfit.


Summer, 2015 – N’Golo Kante (Caen to Leicester, £5.6m)
Kante came to England an unknown quantity, only to become (arguably) the most important player in the most extraordinary league title win in football history.

The French defensive midfielder was an absolute hit at the King Power to say the least. After his excellent 2015/16 campaign, Kante moved to Chelsea. He won another league title in his debut season, as well as being named PFA Player of the Year.

It is worth mentioning that in this summer Man City signed Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, Southampton purchased Virgil van Dijk and Spurs bought Son Heung-min. And it wasn’t even slightly close to being a debate for who the best signing was.


Winter, 2016 – James Maddison (Coventry to Norwich, £2.3m)
I know what you’re thinking, but no, Steven Caulker’s loan to Liverpool does not make top spot for the best transfer in January 2016. But as you can probably guess, this was not the most star-studded window of all-time.

Maddison was signed for pennies and sold on for a £22m profit. He has obviously played his best football for Leicester, but kudos to the Norwich scouting department.


Summer, 2016 – Sadio Mane (Southampton to Liverpool, £34m)
Kante’s £32m move to Chelsea has narrowly missed out here. Also in the summer of 2016, Ilkay Gundogan joined Man City for £21m and Zlatan Ibrahimovic moved to a Premier League club for the first time in his career, signing for Man United as a free agent and helping them win the League Cup and Europa League – the Red Devils’ last piece of silverware.

As for Mane, he has been world-class at Anfield since day one, and was the first brilliant piece of business Jurgen Klopp produced on Merseyside.

Mane scored 120 goals for the Reds, including one in a Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid. He was superb as Liverpool won their first Premier League crown in 2020, netting 18 times in 35 games. Mane, Salah and Roberto Firmino blossomed into one of the finest frontlines in English football history. The Senegal forward is the first of the famous three to leave Anfield, joining Bayern Munich in 2022.


Winter, 2017 – Wilfred Ndidi (Genk to Leicester, £15m)
As transfers continued to inflate, Leicester found a way to remain shrewd in this window, and Ndidi is one of the best pieces of business in recent seasons. The Foxes tried to replace Kante – an impossible task – by signing Nampalys Mendy from Nice, which has never quite worked out. Ndidi is the closest they have come to replacing the 2018 World Cup winner.

In a straight battle between Man City’s Gabriel Jesus, the Nigerian midfielder was the best deal of January 2017 due to his consistency, transfer fee, superb ability and sell-on potential. Having said that, Ndidi has declined quite a bit and is no longer being linked with a host of top clubs, but was still a brilliant signing.


Summer, 2017 – Mohamed Salah (Roma to Liverpool, £37m)
Another very strong window, but another very easy decision. Salah was the first of Liverpool’s big three to get them over the Champions League and Premier League hump. You’ll know the other members of said big three soon, if you don’t already.

The Egyptian beats the likes of Ederson, Bernardo Silva, Robertson and Antonio Rudiger here.


Winter, 2018 – Virgil van Dijk (Southampton to Liverpool, £75m)
Liverpool were chasing van Dijk for an eternity before eventually getting their man, spending a monumental amount of money to push the deal over the line.

The Netherlands defender has been one of the most important players for any top-flight side in Premier League history. His presence made teams fear Liverpool again, and he helped the Reds reach the Champions League final in his first season, despite joining halfway through.

Klopp’s side would previously drop silly points against relegation fodder, but that was no more after Van Dijk joined; he sorted the shaky defence out seamlessly. £75m ended up being, dare I say, an absolute bargain. They had one last position to sort out before the Klopp jigsaw was complete…

Virgil van Dijk during a match


Summer, 2018 – Alisson (Roma to Liverpool, £65m)
…and complete it was. £65m was a lot to spend on a goalkeeper, but just like Van Dijk, Alisson was absolutely worth it. This was a difficult window to find a definitive answer for, with Liverpool signing the excellent Fabinho. Brighton also bought Yves Bissouma, Man City brought in Leicester legend Riyad Mahrez, the Foxes replaced him with James Maddison and Chelsea signed the apparent third-best player in the world in 2021, Jorginho.

Alisson addressed a position that desperately needed a permanent fix, coming in and having the same fear-factor impact as Van Dijk. The Reds became European champions in Alisson’s maiden season in England, and Premier League winners a year later. The 29-year-old’s best moment for Liverpool was scoring a goal to secure them a top-four finish. What a moment.


Winter, 2019 – Youri Tielemans (Monaco to Leicester, loan)
Tielemans joined Leicester on loan, making his move to the King Power permanent in the summer. His future is unclear at this moment in time, but how influential he has been for the Foxes is clear as day.

If it wasn’t for the loan, Leicester would probably not have paid £32m for the Belgian. His winning goal in the 2021 FA Cup final wins him this particular accolade all by itself – not to undermine his terrific performances in the Premier League.


Summer, 2019 – Gabriel Martinelli (Ituano to Arsenal, £5m)
Martinelli is the best signing Arsenal have made since Arsene Wenger
. He has blossomed into one of the best wingers in the Premier League and is absolutely flying this season as the Gunners mount a push for the title.

The 21-year-old has 25 goals and 15 assists in 107 first-team appearances for the north London outfit.


Winter, 2020 – Bruno Fernandes (Sporting Lisbon to Man Utd, £47m)
Man United have made some very questionable signings since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, but Fernandes was a rare piece of good business post-Fergie.

The Portugal star needed no time to settle into life in the Premier League, and didn’t lose a single game in the top flight during his first half-season, scoring eight and assisting seven in 14 matches.

United finished second in Fernandes’ first full season, as he contributed to 29 goals. He slowed down after Cristiano Ronaldo returned to Old Trafford, but at his absolute best, was keeping Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in a job at times. Actually, that probably gives me a reason to say Fernandes to United was the worst signing of this window…


Summer, 2020 – Thiago Silva (PSG to Chelsea, free)
After initially choosing Raphinha’s £17m move to Leeds, I changed my mind to his Brazil teammate, Thiago Silva, who joined Chelsea for nothing from PSG.

Silva has been brilliant for the Blues and is one of not many excellent signings made by the Londoners in recent years. Aged 38, the former AC Milan captain is still going strong.


Winter, 2021 – Moises Caicedo (Independiente to Brighton, £2m)
Jesse Lingard joined West Ham on loan for the second half of 20-21. He was incredible as the Hammers narrowly missed out on the Champions League places.

A year on from writing this feature, I have changed my mind to Caicedo, who has been immense for Brighton since signing for peanuts. Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United reportedly want him, and should the Seagulls sell him, they will make a huge profit.

Joe Willock’s loan to Newcastle is also worth a mention, as his goals played a huge part in the Magpies’ survival last term.


Summer, 2021 –  Martin Odegaard (Real Madrid to Arsenal, £32m)
Everton paid a measly £1.8m for Demarai Gray, and when I initially wrote this feature six months into 21-22. He is who I picked. A year on, it is easier to pick the player for this window, but it was still bloody tough given the high number of great deals.

Arsenal made some stellar signings including Aaron Ramsdale and Benjamin White, but Odegaard was their best and the best of this window. Signed for what has turned out to be a bargain price of £32m, Odegaard has taken the armband and is leading the Gunners’ title push this season.

Gray, Cristian Romero, Marc Cucurella, Michael Olise, Conor Gallagher and Emmanuel Dennis all miss out here. Narrowly.


Winter, 2022 – Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid to Newcastle, £12m)
This was very, very difficult. Christian Eriksen joined Brentford for free and without him, the Bees might have been pulled into a relegation battle. However, he only stayed for six months, so I opted against him. Liverpool signed the brilliant Luis Diaz, Spurs got Rodrigo Bentancur, Man City signed Julian Alvarez, who has the potential to be one of the best strikers in the world, and Newcastle bought both Bruno Guimaraes and Trippier – who I eventually chose after chopping and changing for a while.

Bruno is one hell of a player and someone who I desperately wanted at Arsenal, but given Newcastle’s defensive form since Trippier joined and how little they paid for him, I gave the edge to the Englishman.

Not just defensively, Trippier is contributing with a ridiculous amount of chances created, and his crossing ability has remained consistent and dangerous. What a signing.


Summer, 2022 – Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City, £51m)
I didn’t even look at the other signings for this window, it was a very simple decision to give this one to Haaland.

Off the top of my head, Newcastle did really well signing Sven Botman for a respectable price and Arsenal nailed it with Gabriel Jesus.


READ MORE: Lukaku, Soldado, Mustafi: The worst Premier League buy in each of the last 20 transfer windows