Rafa Benitez hasn’t been shy to air his frustrations this summer, with the Spaniard suggesting that the board have broken promises made after Newcastle secured promotion back to the top flight in May. It’s not hard to see why both he and the fans have been left infuriated by Mike Ashley’s reticence to put his hand in his pocket, particularly after the exits of Siem de Jong, Grant Hanley, Emmanuel Riviere and Tim Krul over the last few days.
Christian Atsu has joined permanently, while Joselu and Mikel Merino have made a positive early impact. Yet the squad doesn’t look anywhere near strong enough for the sort of comfortable mid-table finish Benitez may have initially hoped for, meaning a sustained battle against the drop is very possible.
Antonio Conte has patently been unhappy with Chelsea’s approach in the market this summer – and with good reason, too. Alvaro Morata, Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko have arrived, but the champions failed to complete deals for targets Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fernando Llorente, Alex Sandro and Ross Barkley, even if Davide Zappacosta and Danny Drinkwater did join before the cut-off point.
Selling Nemanja Matic to a domestic rival in Manchester United could come back to haunt them, while Diego Costa – not yet sold, but exiled – is undoubtedly a loss on the pitch despite the considerable baggage he brings off it. Participation in the Champions League means a busier schedule than last term, and Chelsea haven’t sufficiently addressed their depth issues.
18. Crystal Palace
It’s hard not to feel sorry for Frank de Boer, who was appointed with the specific remit of evolving Palace’s style of play and may now be sacked for attempting to do so.
He’s not exactly been emphatically backed in the transfer market either, with the Eagles hierarchy reluctant to spend big bucks after a costly January window. Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tim Fosu-Mensah are excellent loan signings, but Jairo Riedewald was the only permanent addition made before deadline day, when Mamadou Sakho finally signed on the dotted line.
The Frenchman was superb on loan at Selhurst Park earlier this year and will tighten up a shaky backline, but the club’s failure to source a back-up striker (a last-minute deal for Oumar Niasse fell through) and a goalkeeping upgrade – despite knowing these positions needed filling at the end of last season – is baffling. More generally, Palace don’t look to have done enough to aid the transition to a new style, which could spell bad news for De Boer’s job prospects.
Brighton added 10 new players to their first team this summer, yet whether they’ve done enough in terms of quality remains to be seen.
Markus Suttner and Ezequiel Schelotto are accomplished full-backs, Pascal Gross and Davy Propper improve the options in midfield and Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo will strengthen Albion’s support cast, but a lack of firepower could be their undoing. The pressure will therefore be on Tomer Hemed and Glenn Murray to score the goals to keep Chris Hughton’s men afloat.
Brighton fans may wish to avoid getting their hopes up.
16. West Ham
In isolation, Pablo Zabaleta, Joe Hart, Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez all have something to offer, but West Ham’s dealings this summer have once again been haphazard. It’s difficult to detect any sort of overarching plan when it comes to their recruitment, which is precisely why Robert Snodgrass, Havard Nordtveit, Ashley Fletcher and Sofiane Feghouli have already found new homes one season (or less in Snodgrass’s case) after pitching up in east London.
Hernandez will at least add goals and Hart is a better keeper than the outgoing Darren Randolph, but West Ham’s lack of on-field organisation and identity is at least partly a product of their scattergun approach to transfers.
To put a positive spin on things, Arsenal have signed an international striker and an international defender this summer, while also keeping hold of their two principal attacking stars. Yet this has been another dysfunctional window for a club that seems further than ever away from winning the Premier League.
Thomas Lemar was supposedly uninterested in a move to the Emirates, which forced Arsenal to keep hold of an unhappy Alexis Sanchez rather than shift him for a healthy sum of £70m. The Chilean and Mesut Ozil will almost certainly leave for nothing in 10 months’ time, while they’ll need to replace Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from within their own ranks having trousered £35m for the England man.
The Gunners ended up making a profit, but rather than a sign of health that’s just another indication of the club’s skewed priorities.
Eddie Howe’s record in the transfer market isn’t the best, with the likes of Andrew Surman, Charlie Daniels, Steve Cook, Simon Francis, Harry Arter and Marc Pugh – who all played for the Cherries in the Championship – still key members of his squad.
The wisdom of giving Jermain Defoe a three-year contract worth around £130k per week is questionable, even if the ex-Sunderland striker will score goals this term. Asmir Begovic is an upgrade on Artur Boruc in goal and defender Nathan Ake has a bright future ahead of him, but there’s still a feeling that Howe has something to prove when it comes to recruitment.
Sean Dyche has again demonstrated his preference for British and Irish players in recent months, bringing in Jon Walters, Charlie Taylor, Jack Cork, Phil Bardsley and Adam Legzdins, as well as New Zealand international Chris Wood and Bermudan striker Nahki Wells – two players who have been playing their trade on these shores for a combined 15 years.
The loss of Michael Keane and Andre Gray will be heavily felt, though, particularly as Burnley haven’t replaced the former with a new signing.
The Clarets’ seven new arrivals may lack stardust, but they should fit in well with Dyche’s approach at Turf Moor. Burnley will once again amount to more than the sum of their parts this season.
As they often do, Tottenham only sprang into action within a couple of days of the window’s closure: Serge Aurier officially joined on Thursday and Juan Foyth on Wednesday, with Davinson Sanchez a relatively early arrival two weeks ago.
The sale of Kyle Walker means Spurs haven’t markedly improved their starting XI, but that was always going to be a difficult task given their strict wage structure. Mauricio Pochettino will be delighted to have kept hold of almost all his star names, while receiving £50m from Manchester City would have softened the blow of having to wave goodbye to his former right-back.
Supporters will have shared a giggle over Spurs stealing Fernando Llorente from under Chelsea’s noses, but whether he’s quite what they needed is up for debate. A couple more additions would have been welcome; it’s Daniel Levy’s wont to leave things late, but this time it arguably harmed the club more than it helped them.
Most of Stoke’s business has come late in the window, but they’ve made up for lost time with some excellent moves of late. Jese is the latest big-name arrival to the Potteries on a season-long loan from PSG, while Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma also joined on a temporary basis.
Centre-forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, central midfielder Darren Fletcher and centre-back Kevin Wimmer strengthen Stoke’s spine, and they recouped all of their spend with the sales of Joselu and Marko Arnautovic.
Much of the doom and gloom that surrounded the club ahead of their season opener has lifted in the last few weeks, even if further improvements at right-wing-back and in midfield would have been beneficial.
Watford seem to have abandoned their ambition to sign a player from every country on the planet, with this summer's recruitment having a distinctly homegrown scent to it. Youngsters Nathaniel Chalobah and Will Hughes possess both potential and re-sale value, while fellow midfielder and Englishman Tom Cleverley is a solid performer for a mid-table side.
Elsewhere, the early signs are positive about Richarlison, who was magnificent in the win at Bournemouth, and Kiko Femenia, a free transfer from Alaves. Former Burnley striker Andre Gray, while pricey at £18.5m, should increase the Hornets’ attacking productivity, and former Sporting man Marvin Zeegelaar will provide Jose Holebas with some much-needed competition at left-back.
Mohamed Salah has brought even more speed and zip to Liverpool’s frontline, and deserves to go down as one of the signings of the summer, but Jurgen Klopp will be disappointed he was unable to complete moves for Virgil van Dijk or Thomas Lemar. The inability to add another centre-back is most worrying, while the wisdom of turning down £114m for Philippe Coutinho is dubious.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the type of player who could thrive under Klopp’s tutelage, though, and left-back Andrew Robertson is a reasonable investment at £8m. The Reds have also done well to secure the advance signing of Naby Keita, the all-action RB Leipzig midfielder who will arrive at Liverpool next summer.
It’s been a relative low-key summer for Southampton, which makes for a change after the mass exoduses of previous years. The Van Dijk saga attracted plenty of attention after months of the Dutchman being linked with Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal, but Saints ultimately stood their ground and refused to sell a player who signed a new five-year contract in May.
Wesley Hoedt was earmarked as Van Dijk’s successor after a £15m switch from Lazio but could now partner him at the back, with Jan Bednarek another new addition to the defensive unit. Former Juventus man Mario Lemina looks like a terrific signing in the engine room, but Saints probably could have done with a dash more creativity in attacking areas.
Despite a raft of new signings, there’s an argument that Everton aren’t actually that much stronger this season following the departure of Romelu Lukaku.
In fairness to the Toffees, they were never going to source a like-for-like replacement for the Belgian and will instead aim to supplant his goals collectively. Sandro Ramirez, Croatian youngster Nikola Vlasic, Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson will be at the heart of that effort, with Michael Keane and Jordan Pickford tasked with aiding Everton’s defensive efforts at the other end and Davy Klaassen offering another option in midfield.
Overall, the Merseysiders probably haven’t done enough to challenge for the Champions League places this year, but they may well jostle for sixth due to Arsenal’s ongoing struggles.
6. Manchester City
Even Sheikh Mansour’s deep pockets will feel a little lighter after City’s £220m spending spree. The full-back issue has been resolved with the additions of Kyle Walker, Danilo and Benjamin Mendy. Behind the defence, Ederson can’t possibly be as disastrous as Claudio Bravo was last term.
Bernardo Silva provides yet more invention further forward, but City probably could have done with an upgrade at centre-back and a younger, steelier presence at the base of midfield. Only time will tell whether defensive shortcomings will come back to bite them once again, but Pep Guardiola at least managed to solve his side’s two biggest problems.
While many of their Premier League rivals were frantically dashing down the aisles on deadline day, Huddersfield had their feet up. David Wagner completed the bulk of his business in early July, which gave the squad time to gel and the newcomers a chance to learn his methods long before the competitive action began. It’s therefore no coincidence they’ve started the season so impressively.
Striker Steve Mounie, wideman Tom Ince and centre-back Zanka have already made an impression, but perhaps the Terriers’ most significant signing was that of midfield conductor Aaron Mooy – now a permanent employee following a successful loan spell in West Yorkshire last term.
None of the six permanent signings Leicester made last summer lived up to expectations, but this year’s arrivals look more promising. Harry Maguire has been brilliant so far and fully deserves his England call-up, ex-Sevilla midfielder Vicente Iborra looks like a good fit for the Premier League when fit, and Kelechi Iheanacho will prove his value over time despite also being hampered by a toe problem in the opening weeks of the season.
Danny Drinkwater, an underrated part of their title triumph in 2015/16, will be missed, but essentially swapping the midfielder for Adrien Silva and £13m is a decent bit of business (assuming Leicester do confirm this one soon). The Foxes even managed to keep hold of Riyad Mahrez, who looked destined for the exit all summer and spent deadline day in an airport waiting for his phone to ring. It didn’t.
While it’s true that Gylfi Sigurdsson was Swansea’s most important attacking player, the Welsh outfit should be more than content with the £45m they earned from his sale. Filling the void left by the Icelander will be difficult, so too the goals of Tottenham-bound Fernando Llorente, but loanee striker Tammy Abraham and midfield duo Sam Clucas and Roque Mesa look like astute additions.
And that was before they remarkably snapped up Renato Sanches on a season-long loan on Thursday, with Paul Clement taking advantage of his relationship with Bayern Munich boss Carlo Ancelotti to wrap up a deal for a raw yet immensely talented midfielder.
Wilfried Bony is more of a risk given his declining form in the last few years, but being back at the Liberty Stadium could help the Ivorian rediscover his scoring touch.
2. Manchester United
There’s something ominous about Jose Mourinho in his second season at a club, and United’s work in the market – as well as their fine performances in August – have only strengthened the feeling that this could be the year they win a Premier League title without Sir Alex Ferguson in charge.
The Red Devils began the summer hoping to sign Antoine Griezmann, but quickly moved on when that transfer was ruled out. Romelu Lukaku boasts a magnificent Premier League scoring record and could lead the line for years to come, while Nemanja Matic – another player Mourinho worked with at Chelsea – adds security in midfield.
United missed out on Ivan Perisic and may have overpaid for Victor Lindelof, but their depth and balance looks very impressive indeed.
1. West Brom
There was talk of Tony Pulis resigning this time last year due to his dissatisfaction with the Baggies’ business, but he’ll be altogether more content with the work his club have done in this window.
Ahmed Hegazi is rugged, aggressive and strong in both boxes, and a typical Pulis centre-back; Jay Rodriguez has hit the ground running following his switch from Southampton; while Oliver Burke is an exciting acquisition from RB Leipzig.
In midfield, Gareth Barry at £1m represents tremendous value for money despite his advancing years, while defensive midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak – who really ought to be playing in the Champions League – is one of the coups of the summer. West Brom even managed to solve their perennial left-back problem, signing Kieran Gibbs from Arsenal on Wednesday, and kept hold of Jonny Evans amid heavy interest from Manchester City. Nicely done indeed.
Get the best features, fun and footballing frolics straight to your inbox every week.
Thank you for signing up to Four Four Two. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.