With the Premier League season having just started it’s now time for reflection. Even with the transfer market deflated by the coronavirus pandemic, millions of pounds were spent by clubs last summer and in the January transfer window. Some of the signings were hits, with honourable mentions to Edinson Cavani, Emiliano Martinez and Jesse Lingard – but some were very much misses. Total Football Magazine takes a look at 10 of the worst in the top flight this recently past campaign.
1. Thomas Partey (Atletico Madrid to Arsenal, £45m) There was a big fanfare among Arsenal fans when they signed Thomas Partey from Atletico Madrid on the final day of the delayed summer window on October 5, 2020. Here was a player who had been at the heart of Atletico’s growth in recent seasons and at 27 was now entering his prime. UK singer Donae’o even re-released his 2009 hit ‘Party Hard’ to be known as ‘Partey Hard’ in anticipation of the Ghanaian’s arrival.
However, his debut campaign in England has been anything but a celebration. He has missed 17 games through hip, muscle and hamstring injuries and will be hoping those issues don’t resurface next season. When fit he has shown his capabilities, such as during 1-0 wins at Manchester United and Chelsea, but that needs to happen more often if Arsenal are to even come close to being at least a top-four outfit again.
2. Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea to Crystal Palace, loan) If this were a permanent deal, instead of a loan, then it would have cause to be higher than ninth. Crystal Palace fans had fond memories of Michy Batshuayi after his first loan spell at Selhurst Park – where he scored six goals in 13 appearances during the latter part of 2018-19.
However, his season-long loan move back to the Eagles this time didn’t prove nearly as fruitful. The striker scored just two goals in 18 appearances for Roy Hodgson’s side in all competitions. These figures make for worse reading when you consider his first goal came on January 26 and the other on April 5.
3. Joshua King (Bournemouth to Everton, £5m) Seventeen months ago, Joshua King was close to re-joining Manchester United. Fast-forward to now and that ship has sailed and his time at Everton could be coming to an end too. King only joined the Toffees in the January transfer window until the end of the season, with the option of a further season. But having registered zero goals and zero assists in 11 matches since his arrival, don’t expect the Norwegian forward to be playing for Everton next season.
4. Ozan Kabak (Schalke to Liverpool, loan) Liverpool’s title defence was dismantled when Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip all suffered season-ending injuries. Fabinho and captain Jordan Henderson were used as stop-gaps at centre back until Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp scoured the January transfer window. His answer? Ben Davies from Preston North End and Ozan Kabak from Schalke. While we can’t judge the former, on the account he hasn’t kicked a ball for the club yet, Kabak’s loan spell was memorable for the wrong reasons. His howler against Leicester – with Alisson Becker also to blame to giving Jamie Vardy a tap-in into an empty net – probably sums up his time perfectly for the Reds.
With the 20-year-old Turkish centre back in their team, Liverpool won just six, drew three and lost four. He didn’t play in their last five matches and it’s no surprise that the deposed champions won all five – with three of those coming with a clean sheet too.
5. Timo Werner (RB Leipzig to Chelsea, £53m) Timo Werner was expected to plunder goals for the Blues as they looked to make an assault on the Premier League title this season. However, the Germany striker was more synonymous with being offside than scoring. He only scored 12 goals in 52 games for the Blues this season – a goal-per-game ratio of only one every four games. ‘The first half was a bit like a mirror of the whole season for me,’ he said after having a goal disallowed against Aston Villa on May 23 for – yes, you guessed it – offside, although this time he wasn’t the guilty party.
‘Until now I was always close, then at the end not really close. It may be the unluckiest season I have had and will have.’ The 25-year-old’s pace and work rate cannot be questioned but his timing and finishing has left a lot to be desired – as highlighted in the first half of the club’s Champions League final triumph over Manchester City on Saturday night.
6. Nathan Ake (Bournemouth to Manchester City, £40m) Nathan Ake can look back on his first season at Manchester City as a Premier League and Carabao Cup winner but that masks a lot of personal disappointment. The £40m signing has been plagued by injuries since arriving from Bournemouth on August 5, 2020. Just 13 appearances – 10 of which have come in the league – for the Etihad outfit alongside his lofty price tag doesn’t make for great reading.
That translates to £4million a game in the Premier League. City have had issues at left back all campaign but the 26-year-old hasn’t been considered as a viable solution there. With Ruben Dias imperious and John Stones revitalised, Ake is fourth in their centre-back hierarchy too when you consider Aymeric Laporte’s stock.
7. Karlan Grant (Huddersfield to West Brom, £15m) £15million is a lot of dough to splash out on a new striker for a newly-promoted club. One goal in 21 games is probably not the kind of return West Brom would have had in mind when they decided to spend that much on Karlan Grant. Having a goalscorer is essential for any club to be able to survive in the Premier League, which is why West Brom plucked for Grant, who had done well in a struggling Huddersfield side in the Championship the season before.
Unfortunately it didn’t work out in his first season at the club, but West Brom can take comfort from the fact that Grant is more of a long-term investment having tied him down for his best years. The 23-year-old signed a six-year deal when he joined last summer so has five remaining and West Brom will hope he can rediscover his scoring touch back down in the Championship to bring them back up again next term.
8. Willian (Chelsea to Arsenal, free) Has a free transfer ever been more despised by a club’s fanbase? Willian’s move from Chelsea to Arsenal wasn’t the first time these bitter rivals have done business but it’s probably the final straw for fans of the latter. After a brilliant debut against Fulham, where he set up all three goals in a 3-0 win, Willian’s form slumped.
Arsenal supporters have been left scratching their head at his input all season. The 32-year-old only scored once in 37 appearances for Mikel Arteta’s side this season – and that came on May 9 in a 3-1 win over West Brom. Following his hat-trick of assists against Fulham, the Brazilian was only able to contribute a further four assists. Willian has another two years on his £220,000-a-week contract. Arsenal fans will demand better value for money or things could get more toxic at the Emirates.
9. Donny van de Beek (Ajax to Manchester United, £40m) Just like his Dutch compatriot Ake, Donny van de Beek’s impact this season has been limited to the point of negligible. However, this isn’t down to injuries – this is down to the decision of Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Solskjaer and the United hierarchy shelled out £40million for Van de Beek’s services from Ajax on September 2, 2020.
He looked set to take the place of Paul Pogba in the Red Devils midfield but now finds himself essentially sixth in the pecking order (behind Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Scott McTominay, Fred and Nemanja Matic). The 23-year-old’s signing is looking increasingly bizarre considering Solskjaer consistently doesn’t start him and when he does get some minutes it’s just fleeting at the end of a match. It’s just one goal and two assists from 36 mostly substitute appearances so far.
10. Rhian Brewster (Liverpool to Sheffield United, £24m) The numbers make for grim reading. A club-record £24m signing, 31 games and zero goals in all competitions. Those are Rhian Brewster’s figures this season at Sheffield United. After a lack of opportunities at Liverpool, the 21-year-old England U17 World Cup winner (and top goalscorer) took the plunge for regular football at Sheffield United. However, the season has been a nightmare for the striker.
His performances aside, Sheffield United suffered relegation, finishing bottom of the Premier League table with just 20 points. The striker’s goal-shy output was a microcosm of the team’s displays. David McGoldrick – who is anything but prolific – was their top goalscorer with nine goals this season and was only one of four players to score more than twice.
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