You’re only classed as a bargain if you cost less than £15million…
The Switzerland star was perhaps Liverpool’s most underwhelming signing during their summer splurge but Shaqiri has made the biggest impact of their four purchases during the early part of the season.
Signed for £13.5million from relegated Stoke, it was presumed that Shaqiri was recruited as a handy squad option, back-up when needed for Jurgen Klopp’s dazzling front three. But that trio have struggled to replicate their form of last season and when called upon, Shaqiri and Daniel Sturridge have got Liverpool out of a couple of holes, being directly involved in a goal every 94 minutes and 71 minutes respectively.
Klopp seemed wedded to a 4-3-3 system which made Liverpool so thrilling going forward but flimsy in reverse. The Reds boss has dabbled with a 4-2-3-1 in several games this season, including the 2-0 win over Fulham on Sunday when Shaqiri netted his second goal in two Anfield appearances. The 27-year-old’s availability has allowed Klopp greater tactical flexibility; last season he could never rely on either Sturridge or Adam Lallana being fit.
The benefit of the newer system allows Klopp not only to stiffen the base of his midfield with two holding players but also provides the German boss with a solution to the ‘four into three simply doesn’t go’ problem.
The Paraguay centre-back admits he initially struggled upon joining West Ham from Corinthians for £4million in mid-July, which is entirely understandable for a South American defender coming to the Premier League. But Balbuena adjusted quicker than most and Manuel Pellegrini has made him a mainstay of his defence alongside Issa Diop.
Diop was by far the higher profile of the two arrivals, costing more than five times the investment in Balbuena, and Jose Mourinho’s praise for a “monster” performance against Manchester United certainly drew the headlines. But Balbuena was equally impressive against the Red Devils, perhaps even more so.
“The intensity here is bigger, and also it’s possible to play more,” said Balbuena last month while reflecting upon the changes he has had to embrace. The defender, whose form has earned him a Paraguay recall, has certainly looked more at ease in possession since the opening weeks of the campaign when he appeared more hurried and rushed on the ball.
Balbuena has played every minute in the Premier League, with the last 10 outings by Diop’s side. With another bargain Lukasz Fabianski behind them, Pellegrini appears to have stumbled across the makings of a solid defence.
Joao Moutinho was an absolute snip at £5million but the success of the 31-year-old has come as little surprise to most who watched the 113-cap Portugal international play at Porto or Monaco.
Few outside Molineux knew what to expect in the Premier League from another Porto old boy when he completed a permanent £10million deal in the summer. Wily Boly followed Nuno to the Black Country in 2017, initially on loan, before sealing a three-year deal at the end of last season after playing a decisive role in Wolves promotion charge.
Boly has continued that form in the top flight, where he has played every minute of Wolves’ impressive start. A commanding performance against Manchester City in August after Wolves felt their way into the Premier League was capped by a goal to earn a draw against the champions and Boly has since formed one of the more surprisingly formidable rearguards alongside Conor Coady and Ryan Bennett.
Even his performance at Brighton amid a three-game losing streak was widely lauded before Boly helped Wolves go closer than most since the opening day to shutting out Arsenal on Sunday.
Willy Boly and Nuno have been nominated for the @premierleague player of the month and manager of the month respectively.
— Wolves Fancast (@WWFCFancast) October 5, 2018
The French teenager’s arrival was by no means the most eye-catching amid a summer of change at the Emirates and the £7million recruit from Lorient was eyed as one for the future, especially since the starlet managed only 18 appearances in Ligue 2 last term.
But Guendouzi is already just one game away from matching that tally in Arsenal’s first team after a stunning start to his Emirates career that saw him land the club’s player of the month award for August.
After starting Unai Emery’s first five games, immediately jumping ahead of Mohamed Elneny in the pecking order, the 19-year-old has been more of a sporadic starter in the Premier League but he has played a part in each one of Arsenal’s Europa League and Carabao Cup matches. Guendouzi was sent from the bench at half-time with Arsenal struggling against Wolves and the midfielder helped the Gunners establish a foothold after being run ragged during the first period.
Lucas Torreira and Granit Xhaka have established themselves as Emery’s first-choice partnership but Guendouzi will still have far greater involvement this term than many expected.
Mattéo Guendouzi! 🇫🇷 Brilliant player! ⚽️ https://t.co/nbYL6P085r
— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) October 24, 2018
Brooks was hardly an unknown when Bournemouth paid Sheffield United £10million for the then-20-year-old this summer. The midfielder earned the player of the tournament award when England won the Toulon Tournament last year, but only nine starts in the Championship led to a few raised eyebrows when Eddie Howe forked out for the Warrington-born youngster.
The 21-year-old’s Premier League starts already eclipse the number he made in the second tier while he has matched his Championship goals tally in his first 11 matches under Howe. Wales also appear set to benefit from not hanging around, with Brooks having switched allegiance to Ryan Giggs’ side, winning seven caps since.
Giggs reckons Brooks would have been called up by Gareth Southgate by now had he not opted to play for the country of his mother’s birth. If not now – like team-mate Callum Wilson – it would probably have been only a matter of time. England’s gain is most definitely Wales’ loss.