We may only be in October but with the league beginning to take shape and the transfer window shut, I’m going take a look at some of the signings of the season (so far). There are a few caveats here, in that I have tried not to include too many players signed for huge fees which explains why Sergio Aguero is not here, given that everyone knew of his amazing quality before City shelled out a large sum on him. Anyway, on with the list:
Emmanuel Adebayor (Tottenham, loan, from Manchester City)
Jack Heaney of this parish has already outlined the reasons why the Togolese forward could be one of the signings of the season. On loan from Manchester City, the rangy striker gives Tottenham the option of playing a lone striker and allowing the likes of Modric, van der Vaart and Bale to play off him. Keane and Crouch have gone to make room but Adebayor looks like an upgrade for both: more mobile than Keane and a better target man than Crouch. It remains to be season whether his barnstorming start can be maintained or whether complacency sets in as it has done so often before.
Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle, £4m, from Lille)
Many Newcastle fans lamented when their goal-snaffling captain left for a tearful reunion with Big Sam at West Ham, but his replacement has settled in so quickly that fond memories of Nolan are already fading. I’ve already mentioned Cabaye’s vital contribution to this Newcastle side, but it bears repeating. The French international likes a tackle and has already formed a partnership with the formidable Cheik Tiote. He has an eye for a pass too and takes a good set piece, now if he could just get amongst the goals he could become a cult hero for the Toon Army.
Ashley Young (Manchester United, £18m, from Aston Villa)
I was going to exclude Young from this list on account of the lavish sum spent on him, but changed my mind. Though he was expensive, Young arrived with misgivings – he was an England international but played only in fits and starts for his country, many felt that the “big fish” at Villa may struggle in the much larger pond at Old Trafford. Instead, though, Young has thrived and has become a mainstay for both club and country and looks as though has been a Manchester United player for years rather than months. Several years ago then-Villa manager Martin O’Neil heralded Young as “world class” and was largely ridiculed. Recent signs suggest that he may not have been wrong, just been a few years early…
Shay Given (Aston Villa, £3.5m, from Manchester City)
When veteran ‘keeper Brad Friedel headed to Spurs for one final hurrah, Villa turned to another Premier League veteran to fill his gloves. After a season kicking his heels on the bench at Eastlands as Joe Hart continued to excel, some wondered whether he could still be the top class keeper of old. They needn’t have worried. Given’s performances have been as good as expected, usually producing at least one excellent save a match for his new club. Despite their good start a difficult season may lie ahead for Villa. The points that Given will be worth to them could be the difference between a relegation battle and mid-table safety.
Scott Parker (Tottenham, £5m, from West Ham)
It was an open secret that Parker would be going to Spurs from the tail end of last season onwards, with Harry Redknapp chuntering to anyone with a microphone about what a “t’riffic player” Parker was (usually this was just after stating that he doesn’t like to call about other teams players, but…). The move came to pass this summer despite reported late interest from Arsenal and Chelsea, and £5m looks a bargain. Parker gives Spurs the solid base needed to play either 4-4-1-1 or 4-2-3-1 and at the age of 31 is finally getting regular international recognition. Though his displays for Tottenham are more measured than the one man rescue jobs he was doing at West Ham last season, he still looks a class act and could be the difference between Spurs being in the Champions or Europa League come next year.
Shane Long (WBA, £6m, from Reading)
In the summer £6m for a striker unproven at Premier League level looked an awfully big gamble for a side so usually risk-averse in the transfer market, but now we’re in October it looks a steal. Long combines clever finishing with a Stakhanovite work ethic, and with Peter Odemwingie struggling to replicate last season’s heroics, the Baggies could well be relying on his goals for survival. It’s hard to imagine Long staying at The Hawthorns in the long term if he keeps up his current progress, but if and when he goes they will get a significant increase on their initial outlay.
Jonathan Woodgate (Stoke City, free transfer, from Tottenham)
Many obituaries have been written about Woodgate, but despite all the setbacks he has suffered the former England defender just keeps bouncing back. Following his release by Spurs, physical Stoke took a gamble on the balsa-wood centre back, but the signing looks more and more astute with every game he completes. Woodgate’s class has never been in doubt (he is arguably the best English defender of his generation) but his availability has. If he can play at least 20 games this season then Stoke will consider the deal a success.
Joey Barton (QPR, free transfer, from Newcastle)
He’s everywhere lately – in the newspapers, on Twitter and now even calling radio phone-ins (presumably when the 140 character limit becomes too restrictive) to give his opinions on everything from the England rugby team, the international set-up and his QPR teammates. This Savage-esque media presence can make us for get that Barton is actually a footballer, and not only that, he’s a damn good one when he puts his mind to it. He provides the bite and menace that any newly promoted side needs as well as a classy range of passing. The caveat here is the usual with Barton: he needs to keep his head, and so far he is. Although we can’t help but feel that the combination of Barton, Taraabt and Warnock at one club is a disaster waiting to happen…
Demba Ba (Newcastle, free transfer, from West Ham)
Ba’s goals almost kept West Ham up last year, and he was one of a handful of Hammers players considered too good to go down. Newcastle swooped to snap up the French-born Senegal international on a free transfer and after a slow start he is beginning to hit his stride. Surrounded by mediocre forwards (Ameobi, Best and Lovenkrands), Ba will need to keep banging them in for Newcastle if they are to maintain their excellent start, but the signs are that his aerial ability and power will trouble many a defence this season.
Anthony Pilkington (Norwich City, £2.5m, from Huddersfield Town)
The winger-come-forward has taken the long route to the top flight. Having failed to make the grade as a youngster at both Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers, he joined his local side Atherton Collieries and was playing in the North West Counties League as recently as five years ago. Since then he has hauled himself up the Premier League via stints at Stockport and Huddersfield Town. League One was the highest division in which he had played prior to his £2.5m move to Premier League newcomers Norwich City. Pilkington has thrived in a tight-knit Norwich side made up in the main of players rescued from the lower leagues. He impressed in the Canaries’ narrow defeat at Old Trafford and caused the champions numerous problems, then scored a vital winner against Bolton and followed that up with two goals to defeat fellow promoted side Swansea. The young man looks totally at ease in the rarefied air of the Premier League, and if he keeps this up he may help Norwich defy the odds and stay there.
There’s my list. You know the drill – if there’s anyone I’ve missed, tell me how and why I’m wrong in the comments below.