West Ham, Brighton and Manchester City are in the Champions League places but another Premier League team won the summer transfer window.
“For us it was a good thing we could do this season some things that we normally could only do after selling a few players,” said Ralph Hasenhuttl before a Premier League ball was kicked this campaign.
Their outlay of £48.8m at the time, coupled with the lack of any substantial sale, had generated the single biggest summer transfer window net spend in Southampton history. Fraser Forster and Shane Long remained their biggest outgoings by the deadline’s passing but Ainsley Maitland-Niles on loan and Samuel Edozie, Juan Larios and Duje Caleta-Car for a combined £26m added a final coat of gloss.
Saints arguably ended last season with two players who would be coveted by fellow top-flight clubs. James Ward-Prowse was kept from prying hands and interest was latent in Kyle Walker-Peters.
Beyond that, Hasenhuttl’s biggest assets were loanee Armando Broja and the injured Tino Livramento. Years of transfer stagnation and that run of one win in 12 to end last campaign had left the manager on the brink with a squad that looked bare and bereft.
Five games into their season, it is already easy to see that outlook has flipped. Southampton could already triple or quadruple their investments in Armel Bella-Kotchap and Romeo Lavia if they so wished. Gavin Bazunu has shown immediate promise at literally half Willy Caballero’s age. Sekou Mara and Joe Aribo have both shown flashes of excellence.
While many clubs are content with making one or two additions to the squad within the 18-25 bracket, betting on potential when it comes to those with precious little top-flight experience, Southampton have entirely galvanised themselves by ensuring almost every signing fits into that mould. It has been a brilliant, brave and refreshing summer, a labour from which those barely ripe fruits are already being savoured.
For all the frustration, fury and finger pointing, West Ham persisted and ultimately delivered.
David Moyes teased “one of the biggest turnarounds I’m having to make here”. The Scot’s previous 10 permanent signings for the Hammers across six transfer windows and two managerial spells cost £135.6m; this summer’s spend reached a minimum of £160.9m on eight first-team players in every position.
Those who remember being burned by Nikola Vlasic will proceed with cautious optimism. Sebastien Haller remains West Ham’s club-record signing until and unless Lucas Paqueta is good enough to activate some of those £14.5m clauses. Nayef Aguerd’s injury represents the solitary dark lining to this silver cloud.
But after frequently complaining of the “stale” nature of his squad, Moyes has been able to refresh, reset and restore those levels of excitement in east London. West Ham finally remembered to install their system update and things are already running far smoother.
The current master of one modern transfer window staple has successfully tried its hand at another.
Brighton had already proved their ability to sell a player at great expense while seamlessly offsetting their loss. Last season saw Benjamin White and Dan Burn both leave for eight-figure fees at different points, only to be replaced by Shane Duffy and Joel Veltman at no cost to overall form.
The departures of Yves Bissouma and Neal Maupay were blows planned for and cushioned capably by the steady development of Moises Caicedo and Deniz Undav, both signed in January and thus negating the chance for clubs to try and squeeze money out of a Brighton side they would have known were desperate for replacements.
Even then, Pervis Estupinan was bought for the same fee as £62m sale Marc Cucurella once cost the Seagulls, while Levi Colwill could turn out to be an inspired loan. Perhaps Simon Adingra and Julio Enciso will be ready to step in when the next cabs leave the AmEx rank. Billy Gilmour might well thrive under Graham Potter.
That Brighton are now even getting money for players who have never made an appearance for them – £6.8m for Leo Ostigard and Matt Clarke – is testament to a club that knows what it’s doing.
Not content with adorning their own champion squad by signing the world’s best striker, Manchester City multitasked for the benefit of a couple of other clubs this summer.
Having grown so tired of Liverpool providing their only obstacle to national domination, they manufactured competition by helping turn Arsenal into an unstoppable winning machine with a couple of cast-offs.
Manchester City then proceeded to establish a new feeder club in Southampton, which is just good business sense.
Erling Haaland will hopefully get up to Premier League pace soon after the usual Pep Guardiola bedding-in period. Then because Kalvin Phillips and Sergio Gomez was not enough in terms of sensible squad composition, Manuel Akanji is in.
All that for a net profit of £36.2m, while keeping Bernardo Silva, ensuring dressing-room harmony and increasing motivation levels, really does make it all seem quite unfair.
Before this summer, the most influence Frank Lampard ever exerted on a call was to coax something of a live public apology out of James O’Brien for insinuating he was a bad father. Now Amadou Onana and Neal Maupay can attest to his powers of persuasion over the phone – if not his parental capabilities.
Lampard has at least fostered a renewed focus at Everton. He has played the experience card with potentially transformative additions in James Tarkowski and Conor Coady, but not relied too heavily on the trope; Onana is the sort of exciting, young and sought-after talent they should be targeting.
Neal Maupay, Ruben Vinagre and Dwight McNeil fit neatly into the middle of that Venn Diagram: tried and tested in the Premier League but aged between 22 and 26. James Garner is the exciting variable.
Shifting Gylfi Sigurdsson, Cenk Tosun and Fabian Delph off the wage bill, extracting £60m out of Tottenham for Richarlison – although the lack of a replacement is a sticking point – and keeping Anthony Gordon from the clutches of Chelsea makes this a qualified success of a transfer window. As ever the proof will be in May’s pudding.
Nottingham Forest fans
It will hardly feel like it in the cold light of a visit to Painsville, to which they were welcomed by mayor Erling Haaland. But Nottingham Forest did precisely what most fanbases want their clubs to do upon promotion: capitalise on the new-found profile and money and properly indulge.
Across a 95-day span from their play-off final victory to deadline day, Steve Cooper green-lit 21 new signings at a rate of one every four and a half days. Forest supporters have the equivalent of an entire new matchday squad and reserve team to acclimatise to, including three club-record buys. Taiwo Awoniyi must feel like a veteran of the City Ground dressing room at this point.
Scratch a little beyond the surface and Forest had little choice but to invest: five loanees from last season all returned to their parent clubs; Gaetan Bong, Tobias Figueiredo, Lewis Grabban and Carl Jenkinson made 65 Championship appearances between them in 2021/22 but were on expired contracts; Brice Samba, Xande Silva and Joe Lolley all left and needed to be replaced.
From starters to squad players, Forest could not simply supplement a promotion-winning team. They had to rebuild one geared towards survival and have left as little up to chance as possible.
As much as supporters wish it were so, the likelihood of a club filling every position they set out to in one transfer window is low. There are too many moving parts to consider, too many variables that cannot be controlled. A theoretically unlimited budget helps but cannot overcome every obstacle.
Newcastle wanted a goalkeeper, a centre-half, a midfield anchor and a striker at the start of the transfer window. Eddie Howe would have realistically been delighted to tick any three of those boxes with the requisite quality. He could not have hoped to do much better than Nick Pope, Sven Botman and Alexander Isak.
Midfield remains an issue which the current absence of Bruno Guimaraes has further exposed, but these are the best possible foundations upon which Howe could have wished to build for the future, both short and long term.
Pope is relatively young for a keeper, while Botman and Isak are 22. It beats the comparative spine that started Howe’s first win: Dubravka, Lascelles and Wilson. And it shows that Newcastle will continue to eschew the usual fantasy names – your Neymars, your Mbappes, your Jan Bednareks – in favour of more realistic excellence.
£115m spent this window by Newcastle United with four new signings strengthening the starting 11.
Smashing their transfer record for Alexander Isak the jewel in the crown 👑 #NUFC pic.twitter.com/XqBFXfeAxB
— Keith Downie (@SkySports_Keith) September 1, 2022
Just as everyone predicted, the two remaining members of the Wolves squad which won the Championship in 2018 who are still in the club’s first team four years later are Ruben Neves and Connor Ronan.
Quite how they have kept hold of one of those players amid the current midfield shortage at the upper echelon of Premier League clubs is unknown. How bizarre that no-one came in for the 24-year-old Irishman.
It has been a summer of real churn at Molineux. Morgan Gibbs-White, Ruben Vinagre, Marcal, Romain Saiss, John Ruddy, Ki-Jana Hoever, Fabio Silva, Patrick Cutrone, Luke Cundle, Willy Boly and Leander Dendoncker made a combined 599 Premier League appearances for Wolves but have all been moved on. Conor Coady was captain for their entire top-flight run since returning but Bruno Lage’s clear-out cares not.
That has all paved the way for Nathan Collins, Goncalo Guedes, Matheus Nunes, Sasa Kalajdzic and Boubacar Traore to come in: the first four on permanent deals for eight-figure fees; the latter on loan with an €11m option. And only two of them are Portuguese! They really are different.
It is a shame Marco Silva did not hark back to his first transfer window as a Premier League manager and get the band back together: Markus Henriksen, Evandro, Kamil Grosicki, Omar Elabdellaoui, Lazar Markovic, Andrea Ranocchia, Alfred N’Diaye and Oumar Niasse.
Fun as it would have been, Bernd Leno, Issa Diop, Joao Palhinha, Andreas Pereira, Layvin Kurzawa and Carlos Vinicius does seem a little more sensible, if considerably more boring. Perhaps this can be the new, cited-far-less-often Doing A Fulham.
You’ve changed, Marco. And you probably have change left over to purchase Aleksandar Mitrovic the finest bubblewrap.
There is fan frustration but Tottenham supporters would likely be satisfied with the transfer window if the beginning and end was flipped.
After bringing in Ivan Perisic, Fraser Forster, Yves Bissouma, Richarlison and Clement Lenglet by July 8, the only other signings were not particularly wanted by the manager (Djed Spence) and loaned straight back from whence he came (Destiny Udogie).
The positive vibes from that early business had long dissipated by the deadline, when the sense that Tottenham had missed an opportunity to add an attacking midfielder had long taken hold.
Maybe they are a player short in that area. A stronger hand at right wing-back and centre-half would not have gone amiss. But for years Daniel Levy was derided for waiting until the deadline day panic set in elsewhere before panicking. Tottenham were sorted before the season and that should benefit them in the long run.
If Richarlison or Bissouma were added on September 1 then the general mood would be far more favourable, but football is remarkably susceptible to recency bias and short-term memory. Plus most would have had Spurs down as having a bad January window at the time yet it was that checkpoint which helped them push on to Champions League qualification. Let Antonio Conte have a proper play with all his toys first.
He enjoyed himself and that’s all that matters. But yeah, maybe look into that sporting director thing. Sounds interesting.
David Ornstein and Fabrizio Romano
Sleep well, sweet princes. See you in four months.
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