In the January transfer window, Premier League clubs will be looking for players who can hit the ground running after a year of fixture disruption and issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The winter window is usually expensive and good value is hard to find, yet the summer market saw some standout signings that clubs will be hoping to replicate next month. Here’s a look at some of the most impressive new arrivals and what teams may be able to learn from them going into January.
(Note: certain players, such as Liverpool’s Thiago Alcantara and Arsenal’s Thomas Partey, have not been considered because injuries have limited their participation so far.)
The big money move: Ruben Dias, 23, Manchester City (€68m)
Regardless of his partner in the heart of the City defence, the Portugal international has looked rock solid since his debut. With his size and power, the former Benfica star comes across as a “no-nonsense” kind of centre-back, but in reality he cleverly picks the challenges worth going for and positions himself well to pick up the second balls.
Dias is not the most adventurous passer, but an accuracy rate of 95% this season is still impressive. He has not just been City’s best defender this season but also one of the best in the Premier League and, based on what we’ve seen so far, he looks every bit the man to fill Vincent Kompany’s boots. Indeed, City have only conceded six goals from 17 games with Dias in the starting XI. Sometimes you get what you pay for.
The hidden gem: Wesley Fofana, 20, Leicester City (€35m)
The Frenchman has bedded in well tactically at Leicester, be it in a back four or a back three, and has rightfully collected praise for his performances since making his Premier League debut in the middle of October. Fofana, who turned 20 in December, has impressed with his “proactive” way of defending — he intercepts well, is efficient in aerial challenges (70% of duels won this season), is quick, agile, and plays with an impressive focus — every ball is there to be won.
Despite only starting 16 league games for Saint-Etienne in his career before moving to England, he was still highly-rated on the scouting circuit. One scout told ESPN that he could be a “potential world-class centre-back,” so credit must go to the Foxes for acting fast to sign him before anyone else. It’s safe to say that his former defensive partner, William Saliba, has not worked out quite so well after making the €30m move to Arsenal last year.
The veteran: Edinson Cavani, 33, Manchester United (Free)
Although his signing was mostly met with groans by Manchester United supporters expecting the €120m arrival of Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho, the veteran Uruguayan is slowly working his way into the hearts of the fans.
His two wonderfully executed headers at Southampton, as well as his left-footed winner in the Carabao Cup against Everton, are reminders that Cavani has been one of the top centre-forwards in world football of the past decade. Indeed, the 33-year-old has stolen the spotlight meant for their €45m signing Donny van de Beek, who has so far struggled to make an impact since arriving from Ajax. Cavani may not have been their No. 1 target, but United got themselves an excellent link-up player, a top professional and a first-class finisher. For nothing. And boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer recently said the club have every intention of extending his contract.
The future prospect: Ferran Torres, 20, Manchester City (€23m)
Even the City hierarchy might be surprised at what an impact Torres has made during his first four months in English football. Predominantly an out-and-out right winger at Valencia, he has been given the liberty to roam by Pep Guardiola — often from a wide left position as well as playing as a “false No. 9” in Europe (from which he has scored four goals from five games.)
The flair-based, elegant forward also scored a hat trick in Spain’s 6-0 drubbing of Germany to prove he can do it on the international stage as well. At €23m, Torres may eventually be considered one of City’s best value signings of the last decade as he’s still developing.
The second chance: James Rodriguez, 29, Everton (Free)
James showed enough of his old self before picking up an untimely injury to suggest that he’ll become a key player for Everton in the coming years. Though there was no doubting the Colombia midfielder’s intrinsic qualities, many thought he might take some time to get going in a new, more physical, environment.
Led by his old master, Carlo Ancelotti, James and Everton hit it off right from the start and his three goals and as many assists in 10 Premier League outings is a solid return. The winger/attacking midfielder, whose left foot is still one of the most finely tuned in world football, looks reinvigorated and he will offer plenty of reminders why Real Madrid paid Monaco €75m to sign him in 2014.
The gamble: Edouard Mendy, 28, Chelsea (€24m)
Chelsea are still a work in progress and have yet to find the desired consistency, but at least the Senegal international has brought stability in goal after Kepa Arrizabalaga’s struggles.
The 6-foot-6 goalkeeper is a precise passer of the ball, as well as a great shot stopper (he has saved 80% of shots on target this season), and never seems like he is under too much pressure. Though not the most expensive or high-profile of Chelsea’s €250m worth of summer signings, he looks a clear (and vital) upgrade for the Blues. Chelsea took a gamble, given that he only had one good season behind him at Rennes and five years ago almost gave up his dream of playing professionally completely, but it worked out.