Well, that’s that. Less than a month after the World Cup, three weeks before the end of August and just over 24 hours before a ball is kicked in the new Premier League season, the transfer window closed and retreated into the background until January.
Its early closure triggered a chaotic, breathless barrage of rumours in the final few days. On the surface, it seemed exciting. In reality deadline day once again underwhelmed (save for a few eye-catching deals, which we’ll come to) as we switched off Sky Sports News and looked forward to the return of actual football.
Of course, like any transfer window, some clubs were left thoroughly satisfied with their business, others more deeply disillusioned and frustrated.
Before the football takes over on Friday night, let’s take a look at the transfer window’s biggest winners and losers.
Following the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid, Liverpool acted swiftly – and decisively – to strengthen key areas in the team. The arrival of Fabinho will undoubtedly bolster Jürgen Klopp’s midfield, particularly when coupled with Naby Keïta, the Guinean who arrives with much fanfare from RB Leipzig.
Crucially, in Alisson, the Reds have secured the services of a world-class goalkeeper, one who is likely to save, not cost them, a bunch of points.
Some fans were left disappointed that the proposed £53million deal for Lyon playmaker Nabil Fekir fell through but acquiring Xherdan Shaqiri for a modest £13million may yet prove to be one of the shrewdest pieces of business by any club this summer.
Liverpool’s business frankly cements their status as genuine title contenders. In fact, having had a more productive pre-season than Manchester United, it’s difficult to challenge the prevailing argument that they have unseated their bitter rivals as the force Manchester City should fear the most.
West Ham have made their fair share of disastrous signings over the past decade but this summer, on paper at least, they have seemingly found the right formula to getting major deals over the line.
The Hammers signed ten players to accompany the appointment of Manuel Pellegrini as David Moyes’ successor in the dugout and some of which have the potential to elevate the club far higher than last season’s disappointing 13th-place finish.
Lazio midfielder Felipe Anderson, an unquestionably gifted Brazilian with the tendency to blow hot and cold, became the club’s record signing at £33.5million, while the £22.5million capture of giant centre-back Issa Diop will certainly bolster the back-line.
Łukasz Fabiański may prove to be the reliable goalkeeper the club needs while much is expected of Andriy Yarmolenko, who has 35 goals in 77 caps for Ukraine. Carlos Sánchez is not the most technically gifted player but will certainly add steel and tactical nous to the midfield, making up for the loss of Cheikhou Kouyaté to Crystal Palace.
Finally, the club snapped up Fulham’s Ryan Fredericks and Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere on free transfers, both of which may turn out to be masterstrokes. It all adds up to an alien sense of optimism surrounding the dawning of a new season for West Ham.
Chelsea’s summer ground to a halt until Maurizio Sarri was appointed as Antonio Conte’s successor. As soon as that happened, though, things started moving, and excitingly so. The Blues gazumped Premier League champions Manchester City in sealing the £50million purchase of Jorginho, one of the best-performing midfielders in Serie A last season.
Pertinently, Jorginho was the man who executed Sarri’s philosophy on the pitch at Napoli last season with tremendous precision, so Chelsea are hoping for a similarly fruitful partnership during their maiden campaign in England.
The manner in which Thibaut Courtois departed the club was certainly regrettable but shelling out a world record £71.6million on the Belgian’s replacement, Kepa Arrizabalaga, was an emphatic statement of intent.
The five-time Premier League champions also attained the talents of Mateo Kovačić for a season as part of Courtois joining Real Madrid. The Croatian never quite fulfilled his promise at the Bernabéu but, should he regain some confidence, he has the ability to become a fixture in this Chelsea team and could complete a formidable looking midfield with Jorginho and N’Golo Kanté further back.
Speaking of, keeping the Frenchman was a boost and the same can be said for Eden Hazard, who readies himself for the new season on the back of a fine showing at the World Cup.
With 12 signings, Fulham became the first promoted side to spend over £100million in their first transfer window. History would suggest that backing them for a high finish purely on the back of a summer-long flexing of the financial muscles is a perilous move.
The Cottagers, however, were an impressive outfit to begin with. Led by the impressive Slaviša Jokanović, the astute Serb who has unfinished top-flight business having been fired by Watford after guiding the Hornets to promotion in 2015, the Whites launched an all-out assault on the transfer window as they routinely strengthened practically every position imaginable.
Their business included some mightily impressive coups too. A year ago, Jean Michaël Seri was a hair’s breadth away from becoming a Barcelona player. His addition to the midfield, along with club record signing André-Frank Zambo Anguissa, who starred for Marseille en route to a runners-up finish in the Europa League last season, is particularly striking.
An entirely new Fulham XI:
GK – Rico
CB – Mawson
CB – Le Marchand
CB – Chambers
RWB – Fosu Mensah
LWB – Bryan
CM – Seri
CM – Aguissa
AM – Schurrle
CF – Mitrovic
CF – Vietto
— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) August 9, 2018
Anguissa was one of five signings of a frenetic deadline day. Also signed was Joe Bryan, while the club tied up a hat-trick of loan deals for Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Sergio Rico and Luciano Vietto.
And that’s not to forget the permanent signing of Aleksandar Mitrović, who scored goals for fun during his loan spell in the second half of last season. All of that, combined with warding off interest in Ryan Sessegnon and Tom Cairney, and Fulham fans have plenty to be smiling about ahead of their opening weekend clash with Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Last summer, Everton’s unprecedented splurge on new signings prompted bold predictions of the club’s ascent to the top four.
Such prognostications proved spectacularly wide of the mark but at least under new manager Marco Silva – appointed in June to replace Sam Allardyce – the club’s transfer strategy portrays focus and ambition, rather than scattergun spending.
Like Fulham, Everton didn’t mess around on deadline day, coming out the other end with a trio of quality signings. The talented Brazilian Bernard signed on a free after leaving Shakhtar Donetsk while Yerry Mina and André Gomes both arrived from Barcelona.
While the latter is a season-long loan, the former is a £28.5million coup and the gargantuan Colombian centre-back gives Silva a formidable option in defence.
Lucas Digne is another exciting acquisition from Barcelona and while Richarlison was a hefty investment at £45million, there is clearly talent there with which Silva can continue to work following their brief time together at Watford.
Eye-catching signings: Lucas Torreira to Arsenal (£26.5million), Jefferson Lerma to Bournemouth (£25million), James Maddison to Leicester City (£24million), Mohamed Elyounoussi to Southampton (£17million), João Moutinho to Wolves (£5million), Rui Patricio to Wolves (free), Leander Dendoncker to Wolves (loan).
It’s difficult to look past Tottenham. They became the first club not to make a single signing in the summer transfer window. Remarkably, none of Mauricio Pochettino’s players left either so it’s as you were for the North London side.
Spurs have an excellent squad, of course, so zero activity is far from being the disaster some people have hastily painted it as. But it is curious, still, that notoriously shrewd negotiator Daniel Levy was unable to land any of the club’s primary transfer targets.
They were rebuffed in their attempts to prise Jack Grealish away from Aston Villa while Manchester United plainly shut down any enquiries about Anthony Martial’s availability.
Beyond that, there’s little to say. Pochettino has established himself as an exceptional tactician, one who has instilled a genuine sense of cohesion into this Spurs crop. But even with his set of managerial skills, the Argentine is going to be tested to the limit this season.
The transfer window started brightly for United. Fred certainly has the potential to become a midfield mainstay while many were encouraged by the prospect of teenage Portuguese defender Diogo Dalot challenging Antonio Valencia’s erstwhile cushy position as the first-choice right-back.
However, after landing Lee Grant from Stoke City on a free, it all went cold. All kinds of high-profile names were linked but with little substance. In the end, José Mourinho desperately wanted an elite centre-back and didn’t get one.
The coach’s dour demeanour throughout pre-season was difficult to swallow, for sure, but there is legitimacy to his misgivings over the failure to sign another defender, especially given how heavily the club seemed to be linked to Toby Alderweireld, even before the World Cup began.
Thankfully from a Red Devils perspective, there was to be no significant departures. Whether or not they’re happy about it, Martial and Paul Pogba remain at Old Trafford. Losing them would have been a crushing blow. Now that all is said and done, Mourinho’s challenge is to shape his current squad into serious title contenders.
Make no mistake, though: making up the 19-point gulf to Manchester City is a monumental challenge, one which many claim is beyond Mourinho. It’s up to the three-time Premier League winner to prove them wrong.
We’ve been here before. Another transfer window, another series of reports detailing Rafa Benítez’s growing frustration with Mike Ashley’s regime of austerity.
Of course, the Magpies did make a number of signings. Seven, in fact. The problem is none of the club’s incomings possess the pizzazz to truly elevate them into a position from which they can challenge for European football.
Salómon Rondón is a serviceable striker and nothing more while they have signed two players – Ki Sung-yeung and Federico Fernández – from Swansea City, who have just been relegated.
In fact, Newcastle’s best piece of business this summer was arguably selling Mitrović to Fulham for £22million, but the tentative excitement that accompanied that influx soon dissipated when reality over Ashley’s reluctance to part with sizeable sums took over.
It bears repeating that Newcastle have not broken their transfer record since Michael Owen. That was 13 years ago.
Pluck four football fans from the streets or the pub and ask them who the Watford manager is. It’s like asking people if they know the capital of Canada. They should know it but most of them don’t.
The Watford manager is, of course, Javi Gracia, who assumed first-team duties following Marco Silva’s abrupt departure halfway through last season. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter that Gracia lacks Silva’s tag as a burgeoning tactical mind, especially given that the former has over a decade of coaching experience.
Nevertheless, he prepares for the new season following a frustratingly subdued end to the transfer window.
Gerard Deulofeu’s arrival from Barcelona following a promising loan spell generated excitement in June but that proved to be the peak.
Gracia this week admitted that the Hornets are light on midfield options. What’s more disconcerting, from an outsider’s perspective at least, is their failure to sign a proven goalscorer despite central midfielder Abdoulaye Doucouré ending last season as top scorer with seven goals.