One per club: Worst transfer business of 2020

Dave Tickner

We’ve already looked at the best transfer business each Premier League club has done this year. Boring. Much more fun to laugh at the times when they done f***ed up. So let’s do that now…


Arsenal – Sacking Gunnersaurus

Arsenal have done some very decent transfer business this year but scored the most spectacularly avoidable of own goals by binning off the beloved football-and-remembrance-loving dinosaur just after chucking unseemly wads of cash at Atletico Madrid for the admittedly excellent Thomas Partey. Is it technically transfer business? Probably not but it gifted an easy chance for Mesut Ozil to win popularity points, which he duly took. This was also a reminder that Mesut Ozil is still an Arsenal player, which is also bad business. Selling Emiliano Martinez wasn’t genius either.


Aston Villa – Signing Danny Drinkwater

The latest club seduced by the idea that Danny Drinkwater might still be a footballer, they borrowed him off Chelsea in January and returned him six months later after four Premier League starts, none of which went beyond the 80th minute. He also headbutted a teammate. Now back at Chelsea and playing for the U23s; they’ve lost both the games he’s played in.


Brighton – Signing Danny Welbeck

We would love to be wrong about this one, we really would. You could argue that signing Aaron Mooy on a permanent deal halfway through a season-long loan and then selling him at the end of the season anyway should probably go here instead, but the dreary truth is that the financials of that Huddersfield-Brighton-Shanghai triangle probably make sense. Andi Zeqiri is yet to taste first-team action but the noises coming from the club are positive, and nine goals in nine games for Switzerland U21s suggests that the noise has some basis. Which only makes bringing Welbeck in on a one-year deal and providing another obstacle to Zeqiri’s path to the first team even odder. Nothing in his recent numbers suggest he’s going to be worth it, and the most recent “experience” he brings to the table is of getting relegated with Watford.


Burnley – Its conspicuous absence

Burnley haven’t technically done any bad transfer business because they’ve done pretty much no transfer business. A bold strategy, and one that is not currently paying off.


Chelsea – Not offloading Danny Drinkwater

They’ve signed some absolutely smashing players, haven’t they? And a goalkeeper who doesn’t chuck it in his own net on the regular. Tremendous stuff. Well done. But who’s that still stinking up the place? It’s only 2016’s Danny bloody Drinkwater. Couldn’t even find another sucker to take him on loan after his Burnley and Villa efforts (see above) last season. He’s on £110k a week and will be until the end of June 2022 unless Chelsea can do something about it.


Crystal Palace – The Alexander Sorloth Frustration

It’s not even particularly bad business – Palace turned a £10m profit on a player who failed to score a Premier League goal in 16 often brief appearances when selling him to RB Leipzig in the summer – but it is frustrating business because there is quite clearly a footballer in there and Palace were never able to coax it out. Still only 24, which means there remains ample time for him to deliver on his promise and have everyone go “Remember when he couldn’t even get a game for Palace?” to which the most honest answer from 99% of the population will be “No.”


Everton – Yannick Bolasie inexplicably still being there

That’s it. That’s the thing. Yannick Bolasie looks set to see out the last year of his Everton contract with the U23s. His last appearance for the Toffees was a seven-minute run-out from the bench on the last day of the season. The 2017/18 season. Cenk Tosun and Oumar Niasse started up front that day. Everton have come a long way. Bolasie has not.


Fulham – Anthony Knockaert and a bloated squad

It’s all a bit of a mess really. Got promoted by accident, signed a load of players and then didn’t manage to get rid of any, leaving 29 players to fit into a 25-man squad. This culminated in Knockaert being loaned out to Nottingham Forest four months after Fulham had signed him on an auto-triggered permanent deal for reaching a set number of appearances while on loan at the Cottage from Brighton.


Leeds – Diego Llorente

We’re inevitably making snap judgments in places here that could make us look even sillier than usual before the season is out, but that’s the game. An injury on international duty hasn’t helped, but Llorente is still currently a £20m signing with plenty of experience in La Liga currently unable to get a game in the Premier League’s joint leakiest defence. If we have to include someone from a club where things are generally looking pretty decent all told – and we’re told apparently we do – then he’ll have to do.


Leicester – The Lingering Islam Slimani, I guess

And even he’s getting minutes. Leicester are top of the league on a net spend of under £10m. There’s not a huge amount to criticise, really. Clever Brendan.


Liverpool – Not signing a centre-back

The failure to foresee Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez both suffering significant injury misfortunes within the first two months of the season has to go down as a shocking error from the defending champions.


Manchester City – Nathan Ake

Is he a £40m centre-back? Probably not when he was fit. Definitely not now he’s injured, the big idiot. Did score a goal against Leicester, which is good, but some other stuff also happened in that game.


Manchester United – The whole Jadon Sancho Thing

Just cringe. United’s steadfast belief that Sancho would join them as long as they just wanted and believed it enough was very on brand for 2020, an embarrassing sh*tshow from start to finish based on an arrogant and wrongheaded view of their current standing in the wider world, which also stopped them getting various other important work done until an unseemly last-minute panic.


Newcastle – Henri Saivet going nowhere again

It was a strange summer in so many ways, and it really is striking how the Premier League was pretty much the only one that managed to pretend reality doesn’t affect them. Maybe it doesn’t, but the upshot of it is that a lot of Premier League clubs bought a lot of very good players with almost no competition from the continent, with the flipside being that they have been lumbered with deadwood they can’t even get shot of on loan. Saivet has played 231 Premier League minutes in nearly five years at St James’ Park.


Sheffield United – Rhian Brewster

Plenty of time yet for this to change, of course, but you don’t really want to be a £24m striker who hasn’t yet scored or assisted a single goal in this of all seasons. Especially for a team that finished in the top half last season and is currently propping up the rest after losing seven of their eight games.


Southampton – Ibrahima Diallo

Like Leicester, it feels churlish to come up with anything here given the extent to which the club is punching right now. In the absence of any actual mistakes, we’ll just harshly make a snap judgement on the necessity of spending their Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg money on Ibrahima Diallo when they should obviously have known that Oriol Romeu was about to suddenly become really quite bafflingly good.


Tottenham – Gedson Fernandes

Selling Kyle Walker-Peters was understandable even if he does currently look better than either of Spurs’ right-backs, but if letting Southampton have KWP at a nice price in any way greased the wheels for Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s move in the opposite direction then in the round it really has to go down as a rare transfer deal where everyone’s happy with the outcome. With Spurs’ other bits of business all already firmly in the ‘Good’ or at worst ‘TBC’ pile, the 18-month loan of Gedson Fernandes is left standing alone as the obvious and predictable booboo. A Jorge Mendes deal that appears to serve no on-field purpose whatsoever given Gedson was no more than a fringe player at Benfica and is less than that at Spurs. Given Spurs still reportedly held an interest in Bruno Fernandes at the time, you could be forgiven for wondering whether Gedson is a bit Four Seasons Total Landscaping. Has made it as far as the bench once in the Premier League this season and is not even in the Europa League squad. Seven Premier League appearances in all doesn’t initially appear too shabby, until you tot them up and realise those appearances comprise 61 minutes. At least that’s a number with some nice Spurs resonance, because it isn’t going to change.


West Brom – Branislav Ivanovic

Ivanovic and his big bottom quite simply cannot be the answer to any Premier League question in 2020, even for West Brom. Surely.


West Ham – Letting Grady Diangana go on the cheap

So far it’s not hurting the Hammers too much and there always was a sort of bleak, brutalist logic behind it. But it was also a monumental gamble to take away one of the few players providing a bit of relief to a fanbase on the verge of mutiny. A very decent start to the season has at least eased the friction twixt club and fans, but there still remains a sense of fragility to the current situation. It won’t take much for the mood to darken once more.


Wolves – Losing Diogo Jota

It was decent money and everything, but it’s left a Wolves side that if it had a weakness was a tendency towards the prosaic going forward looking even more so. Finishing seventh again last season constituted progress, but you feel they’ve been slightly overtaken by events this year. They are ninth at the moment, which is fine, but have to face Southampton, Arsenal, Liverpool, Villa, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United before the new year. In the season of All The Goals, Wolves have just eight in eight games. Only the bottom four have fewer.


Dave Tickner

Mark Smith and Matt Stead know all about disappointments. Join them to discover that Chelsea are the only Big Six club without representation on this week’s top ten.