This has been a remarkable season for transfer waste, with even the champions very much at it. One weird Liverpool stop-gap only made the problem worse.
10) Arthur Melo (Liverpool)
Not since he last encountered a linesman has Jurgen Klopp taken such an unnecessarily aggressive stance as when he spent an entire summer insisting Liverpool did not need to sign a new midfielder, before admitting a few days before the closure of the transfer window that Liverpool probably needed to sign a new midfielder, then reaching a compromise which suited absolutely no-one.
An Arthur Melo loan was fine in theory but diabolical in practice. The midfielder is yet to make his Premier League debut, appearing just once for Liverpool in between predictable injury issues: a 13-minute substitute cameo in the 4-1 defeat to Napoli.
A return from whence he came at the end of the season has already been confirmed for a player who arrived when the Jude Bellingham spectre was still lingering over Anfield. Arthur was supposed to be a convenient stop-gap but he only compounded the midfield problems at Liverpool.
9) Djed Spence (Spurs)
“The club decided to buy him,” said Antonio Conte, who described Djed Spence as “an investment” on their behalf and not his. Considering the Italian’s penchant for the here and now and preference for experience over youth, the immediate outlook was dismal and never did seem particularly prone to change.
Before securing the respite of a January loan to Stade Rennes, Spence played six games for Spurs, the longest of which was 25 minutes in a League Cup third-round defeat to former club Nottingham Forest. A new manager ought to make better use of a possible £20m right-back, although things have also started to unravel in France after a positive start.
8) Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City)
Neither Leeds nor Kalvin Phillips have benefited from their parting of ways last July. With the club careering towards the Championship, the player has to contemplate the prospect of celebrating a detached Treble, with 264 of his 405 minutes in all competitions for Manchester City coming in the two domestic cups.
That typical adaptation period under Pep Guardiola can and honestly probably should take time. Every role in the Spaniard’s machine has to be played seamlessly and instinctively, with those intricate movements and tactical fouls not about to learn themselves.
It is safe to assume Guardiola does not deem Phillips quite up to standard, but at least his recent message that “I always had the feeling Rodri knows exactly what to do in the role” was a little more constructive than outright declaring him “overweight” – and then “so sexy”, in the interest of balance – in public.
7) Loic Bade (Nottingham Forest)
The law of averages decreed that there had to be one Nottingham Forest pick. Omar Richards and Giulian Biancone can be excused on account of their injuries. Andre Ayew was a strange January addition. Lewis O’Brien has already been offloaded. Jonjo Shelvey and Gustavo Scarpa have struggled to make a positive impact.
But Loic Bade joined on loan in September, made a solitary Premier League matchday squad, summarily failed to convince Steve Cooper of his credentials and was sent back in January, moving on to Sevilla and becoming a starting centre-half for the Spanish side, capable of scoring goals against Man Utd to send them to the Europa League semi-finals.
6) Jan Bednarek (Aston Villa)
Steven Gerrard stated that Jan Bednarek was “very much in demand” when Aston Villa drafted him in on a season-long loan from Southampton. With a “fresh start” on offer, the centre-half was expected to bring “experience”, “stature”, “energy”, “aggression” and “defensive capabilities”, while presumably jumping ahead of Tyrone Mings for xCaptaincy.
Bednarek made four appearances for Villa: coming on at half-time of a 0-0 draw with Leeds, coming off at half-time of a 3-0 defeat to Fulham, managing eight minutes of a 2-0 win over Spurs and playing the full 90 in the FA Cup exit to Stevenage.
Southampton recalled the centre-half in January but Villa hardly fought to keep him. Perhaps poor Bednarek has simply been confused all season, having worked under eight different managers across those two clubs and international duty with Poland in the last 10 months.
Jan Bednarek is the first one over to clap the away support.
Team-mates soon join him and stand still, looking into the crowd with not a word uttered between them. It is in an image of acceptance, if they haven't done that already.#SaintsFC
— Jacob Tanswell (@J_Tanswell) May 8, 2023
5) Naouirou Ahamada (Crystal Palace)
Even on the chaos timeline, Naouirou Ahamada was going to struggle for opportunities under Roy Hodgson. The Crystal Palace caretaker summed it up best when he explained the midfielder’s omission from his first matchday squad: “I didn’t pick him in the first one because I picked another team and didn’t know much about him.”
‘I have heard of Jeffrey Schlupp’, basically. Hodgson further explained that while Ahamada was training well, the rest of the squad was too, adding: “I’m sure it won’t be that long before he starts establishing himself as a player here at Crystal Palace.”
It will, however, be at least as long as Hodgson’s temporary reign, considering Ahamada has not made a single squad under the 75-year-old in seven attempts. But Patrick Vieira hardly showered his January signing in opportunities, giving him seven substitute cameos amounting to 85 minutes.
The onus will be on the next manager to give Ahamada a proper chance and ensure Hodgson picks him when Steve Parish next panics in a couple of years.
4) Anthony Gordon (Newcastle)
Only one person not connected to Newcastle would have considered their £45m capture of Anthony Gordon to be astute business. And it is never wise to occupy the same side as Todd Boehly when it comes to transfers.
Just three of Gordon’s 12 games for the Magpies so far have lasted longer than 45 minutes: a 1-1 draw with Bournemouth, a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City and a 3-0 thrashing by Aston Villa. There have been strops at being substituted and controversial celebrations after playing three minutes in victories over boyhood clubs, but absolutely no goals or assists whatsoever.
3) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Chelsea)
Chelsea would not have signed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang if Thomas Tuchel was not their manager. Then a week after signing Aubameyang, Tuchel was not their manager. The fee of £15m was a drop in Boehly’s oceanic investment over the season but it was a baffling decision made no clearer by the passage of time.
Graham Potter gave the striker a clean slate and was rewarded with a handful of goals, Aubameyang scoring the first of his Premier League reign and a couple more in Europe. But after the World Cup he was almost completely out of the picture when someone noticed he didn’t offer much else besides a sporadic shooting ability.
Frank Lampard gave Aubameyang his first start in six months against Arsenal specifically because vibes, taking him off at half-time in a drab defeat. The Gabon international was removed from Chelsea’s Champions League squad to make room for more new faces and speculation suggests he will return to Barcelona, who certainly won’t be refunding Boehly’s initial outlay.
2) Georginio Rutter (Leeds)
A club-record signing to capture the mood. Leeds were right to deduce that a reliable forward should be their transfer priority, finally addressing the situation in January. But Georginio Rutter’s entire professional career comprised of 12 goals in 70 games before this season so committing £36.5m for his services seemed a curious decision.
Ten Premier League appearances have been spread across three managers, none of whom are the current Elland Road incumbent. Rutter has played in a single win – over Southampton in February – and Leeds have scored just twice with him on the pitch, conceding seven times. The 21-year-old has not been seen since coming on in the 6-1 defeat to Liverpool in April. Sam Allardyce won’t be leaning on him in this relegation battle; the Championship might be more welcoming.
1) Mislav Orsic (Southampton)
A season of transfer waste has set Southampton up for the drop. Their previous imperious record in the market has gone and an aggressive push to sign young talent has failed them. Juan Larios, James Bree, Paul Onuachu, Sekou Mara and Samuel Edozie cost a combined £46.4m and have barely featured.
Some of the sh*t has stuck, with Romeo Lavia a revelation in midfield and Carlos Alcaraz impressing up front. But some of it has not, with Mislav Orsic competing for the title of worst Premier League signing ever.
For a cool £8m, Southampton have enjoyed a total of six Premier League minutes from Orsic, who is already being linked with a move to Turkey this summer at a substantial loss. Of course Nathan Jones signed him. Of course he once scored a hat-trick against Spurs.