Casemiro, Nunez, Zinchenko: Every Premier League club’s best signing of the season
Casemiro edges out Lisandro Martinez for Manchester United while mayhem merchant Darwin Nunez has been a dizzyingly-bright spot for Liverpool in a sh*te season…
Arsenal: Oleksandr Zinchenko
Gabriel Jesus was the most expensive signing from Manchester City last summer but the Brazilian’s influence has been restricted by injury. Zinchenko has added technical quality, mental toughness and title-winning knowhow to a squad that was certainly lacking in two of those three areas. Kieran Tierney – when fit – was previously thought to be undroppable. Now Mikel Arteta appears happy to ship the skipper off to Newcastle. In his place, Zinchenko has done for Arteta what Joao Cancelo did for Pep Guardiola (before the Portugal star p*ssed Pep off so much he sent him to Bayern Munich).
Aston Villa: Boubakar Kamara
The France midfielder has gone somewhat under the radar beyond Villa Park. Villa fans and staff will tell you Kamara has been one of the signings of the season and he’s been a huge miss during his injury lay-offs. The summer recruit from Marseille drops in to screen a back four shorn of another great hope from the summer window, Diego Carlos, while in possession, Kamara sets the tempo and makes Villa tick.
The veteran keeper joined from Barcelona in the summer on a 12-month deal. He’s been so good, they’ve given him three more years. Neto arrived just in the nick of time, with Mark Travers struggling at Premier League level. Travers conceded almost seven goals more than Bournemouth’s xGA with him in their net. Neto has conceded 3.3 fewer, with only Bernd Leno, Kepa and Alisson outperforming the 33-year-old in that metric.
Brentford: Ben Mee
The Bees signed Mee for free from Burnley last summer, making themselves the most attractive of his offers by offering the veteran the security of a two-year contract. If that was a gamble, it has paid off handsomely. Mee has been outstanding at the heart of Thomas Frank’s defence, seamlessly adapting to playing in a back three.
Brighton: Pervis Estupinan
Brighton did what Brighton do, selling Marc Cucurella for £55million-plus while signing a replacement for around a quarter of the price. Since Estupinan arrived from Villarreal for £15million in the summer, he has established himself as a key cog in the Seagulls side. Combining the Ecuadorian with Kaoru Mitoma and left-sided central midfielder Moises Caicedo, Roberto De Zerbi has one of the most effective left sides in the Premier League.
Chelsea: Enzo Fernandez
Sheesh. Looking through the extensive list of Chelsea signings this season, it’s hard to pick one that has been a roaring success. But Fernandez has slipped seamlessly into Graham Potter’s midfield, which you’d reasonably expect for £106.5million. But the Argentina World Cup winner had never before played in one of Europe’s top five leagues and only moved to Portugal from his homeland last summer. The fact he has been employed deeper than he might like but has still impressed while finding his feet is also to the 22-year-old’s credit.
Crystal Palace: Cheick Doucoure
The midfielder, signed from Lens for £10million in the summer, was hugely impressive through the first half of the season but the 23-year-old has struggled since the New Year. It may not be a coincidence that so too have Palace. Woefully. Patrick Vieira didn’t need Doucoure’s recent indiscipline and Roy Hodgson needs to get the Malian back to the form he showed at the beginning of the campaign.
Everton: Amadou Onana
So good in the heart of Everton’s midfield, the question has already become around how long the Toffees can keep the 21-year-old Belgium international.
Fulham: Joao Palhinha
Palhinha is one of the league’s signings of the season after joining the Cottagers from Sporting for £17.2million. If they want to make a quick profit, they could triple their money in the summer, with Liverpool and Manchester United both known to have noted the Portugal international’s superb form at the heart of Marco Silva’s midfield. The 27-year-old has made more tackles than anyone else in the Premier League, a dozen more than anyone else.
Leeds: Willy Gnonto
Tyler Adams has been vital presence in Jesse Marsch’s and Javi Gracia’s midfields but Gnonto has lit up the Premier League since breaking into the Leeds side following his move from FC Zurich. He cost £3.8million – the Italy international would fetch at least 10 times that amount if Leeds opt to sell, with big clubs here and in Italy apparently queueing up.
Leicester: Wout Faes
The centre-back had played every minute in the Premier League for Leicester up until his red card against Chelsea. He came into a disaster of a defence, making his debut in a 6-2 defeat at Tottenham. But then the Foxes kept four clean sheets in five to kickstart their season. His form has been more erratic of late, mirroring Leicester’s fortunes. Faes was very good for this next lot too…
Liverpool: Darwin Nunez
Got off to a ropey start and remains gloriously erratic. But that start saw Liverpool fans close ranks around the striker and his subsequent improvement has only made him more popular at Anfield.
Read more: Gary Neville has got Liverpool mayhem merchant Darwin Nunez completely wrong
Manchester City: Erling Haaland
Just a ridiculous goal machine.
Manchester United: Casemiro
United spent most of the summer fruitlessly chasing Frenkie De Jong, which made the signing of Casemiro look to some like something of a panic move. After all, anyone would have looked good next to Toni Kroos and Luka Modric in the Real Madrid midfield, right? Nope. Casemiro has been brilliant, with the only concern – his disciplinary record – highlighting how important he is to Erik ten Hag when he’s not available. Lisandro Martinez has also been immense, despite standing at four-foot-two.
Newcastle: Nick Pope
Newcastle have spent the Saudis’ money generally very astutely. Even their most lavish purchase, Alexander Isak, is looking like value for money. But they signed England’s No.2 for a friggin’ steal. Pope benefits from playing behind the stingiest defence in the Premier League but the keeper has more than played his part. Just not at Wembley, unfortunately.
Nottingham Forest: Morgan Gibbs-White
Felipe has been hugely impressive since his January move but Gibbs-White has made the biggest impact of Forest’s many, many signings. He started slowly but soon began to show why Steve Cooper gave Wolves what many considered to be silly money. His consistency is all the more impressive given he’s been played across the pitch at a range of depths, though Cooper seems to have settled on using the England Under-21 international in a No.10 role. It suits him.
Southampton: Romeo Lavia
Southampton could have turned a massive profit inside a few weeks of signing Lavia from Manchester City for £12million, with Chelsea so impressed with the midfielder in their defeat at St Mary’s in August, they plonked £50million in front of Saints. Regardless of whether they go down, the big boys this summer will be sniffing around the recent Belgium cap.
Tottenham: Ivan Perisic
Fraser Forster was in danger of being Spurs’ representative on this list which tells the story of the club’s recruitment. But Perisic edges it, with his competent form in contrast to the other recruits highlighting how he was perhaps the only Antonio Conte signing of the lot. Which is why he might be a bit miffed to see the boss shoved though the door.
West Ham: Nayef Aguerd
Hammers first-team coach Kevin Nolan picked Aguerd as the club’s best recruit and we don’t disagree. Admittedly, it’s not difficult field in which to stand out, but the centre-back has shown his quality after suffering an ankle injury in pre-season. He recovered just in time for the World Cup, where he was brilliant for Morocco, and his form since has been one of the bright spots in a sh*te season for the Irons, domestically at least.
Wolves: Craig Dawson
Matheus Nunes continues to hog the headlines, with Liverpool apparently keen to give Wolves a quick profit, but the midfielder has been largely underwhelming since his £38million move. Ballon d’Dawson cost a tenth of the price and has brought a solidity to a Wolves defence in dire need of it.