The Premier League season might just be two games old and the transfer window still open for more than a week but some players have already made an impact on the season.
There’s been the good in Brighton, the bad in most of Everton’s team and the ugly in Manchester United’s midfielders’ cohesion.
Some players have turned up with a point to prove and fall into the category of one of football’s more derided terms: ‘Like a new signing.’
It sounds like something Richard Arnold and co. would have labelled Mason Greenwood if their plan to reintegrate him into United’s squad wasn’t scuppered by those pesky investigative journalists and humans with morals, but it can also be attributed to several other players this season to date.
Of course, it is a tiny sample size to work off but who’s showing that old can be new so far?
Julian Alvarez (Manchester City)
Okay, so picking a World Cup-winning striker and scorer of 17 goals in his debut campaign at Manchester City might feel like cheating but Alvarez only started 13 Premier League games last season.
After the departures of Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez, the 23-year-old found himself starting in the opening-night win at Burnley. That game saw him tee up Haaland’s second goal but also Kevin De Bruyne hobble off with a serious hamstring issue, which has ruled him out for up to four months.
City’s other midfield magician, Bernardo Silva, was ruled out of the 1-0 Oil Classico win against Newcastle at the weekend, meaning Alvarez’s role playing off the Norwegian became even more integral to Pep Guardiola’s attack.
How did he respond to this promotion? With a stunning winner, of course.
City might have signed him as a squad player last summer but he could quickly become one of their main men over the coming months.
Serge Aurier (Nottingham Forest)
Unarguably one of the most maddening players to play in the Premier League, it would have taken a brave person to predict that of the approx. 900 players signed by Nottingham Forest last summer, Aurier would be one of the successes and a fixture in the line-up in the run-in, even captaining the club against Brighton.
In his 24 appearances, the Ivorian failed to register a single assist. Most of those outings saw him at right-back until Steve Cooper switched to a back five towards the end of the season, which led to an upturn in the Reds’ fortunes.
That formation has continued this season and has seen Forest narrowly lose at the Emirates and grab a much-needed win in possibly the earliest ever ‘six-pointer’ at home to Sheffield United. Two headed goals from strikers Taiwo Awoniyi and Chris Wood and two assists from Aurier.
Not a bad start to the season for the now-City Ground cult hero.
Leon Bailey (Aston Villa)
Signed for £30m as part of the post-Jack Grealish spending spree in the summer of 2021, Bailey has had a mixed Villa career to date, starting just 33 league games in his first two seasons, scoring five goals and six assists.
It must be added that he is on his third manager, having been signed by Dean Smith, rarely used by Steven Gerrard and revived somewhat by Unai Emery – scoring in a 3-1 win at home to Manchester United in the Spaniard’s first game in charge.
The promise was there but he has often been the odd man out, being subbed off at half-time in the opening-day hammering at St. James’ Park.
Both Villa and the Jamaican responded in stunning style, dismantling a sorry Everton side 4-0 on Sunday. Bailey was at the heart of things, proving an assist for John McGinn’s opener after bamboozling former teammate Ashley Young and grabbing the third himself.
Perhaps the arrival of former Bayer Leverkusen teammate Moussa Diaby has kickstarted his Villa career. Third manager, third season, third time lucky?
Yves Bissouma (Tottenham)
One of the many Brighton players to move on to so-called bigger and better clubs, Bissouma’s £25m move to Spurs last summer was considered a coup for Antonio Conte.
Injuries, form and Conte’s apparent hatred of everything saw the Malian barely feature in his debut season, making just 10 league starts. To make matters worse, his former club slotted in that man Moises Caicedo with ease and went on to finish above his new side.
It was a disastrous season on the white side of north London with Conte departing and Ryan Mason being drafted in after the Cristian Stellini ‘era’ and one that was best being written off by Bissouma.
A new no.8 squad number suggested he would be a key component of ‘Ange Ball’ and that has been the case to date, with him and Pape Matar Sarr being particularly impressive in the 2-0 win against United at the weekend.
Finally, it seems that Spurs fans are seeing the player they thought they had signed 12 months ago.
Raheem Sterling (Chelsea)
Absolutely nothing went right at Chelsea last season as Todd Boehly’s reign of transfer terror kicked off in shambolic fashion.
Sterling was the marquee arrival of that first summer but struggled in a failing side, scoring just six league goals in 23 starts, a world away from his best form in his Manchester City days. Three of those goals came under Thomas Tuchel and his sacking can be pinpointed as the moment Stamford Bridge became a true circus.
There were a lot of mitigating factors but it seemed like Sterling could join his fellow ‘Class of 2022’ members Kalidou Koulibaly and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in departing the club this summer.
That has proved not to be the case with Mauricio Pochettino picking him his first two games in charge, perhaps remembering the England man’s brilliant performance against him in the 2019 Champions League quarter-final.
The 28-year-old is also one of the very few senior heads in a seriously young squad and is likely to have a key role in guiding the Blues this season. Jamie Carragher claimed he was back to his old self in Sunday’s loss to West Ham and all Chelsea fans must be hoping so, as well as Gareth Southgate.