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It’s just over the quarter mark of the season so that means it’s time for my annual ‘signings of the season so far’ article. After 11 games we have seen quite a few shocks already in terms of both results and positioning in the League tables, with Arsenal, Liverpool and Southampton making up the top 3. I wonder what the odds of that happening would’ve been at the start of the season.
To compile my top 15 I have taken many things into consideration. The player’s fee, their performance level over the first 11 games and whether I feel they can sustain this level throughout the season are just a few of those considerations.
We start at number 15…
15. Kevin Theophile-Catherine
A young French Right Back who few would’ve even heard of before making his £2.1m move to Cardiff City from Ligue One side Rennes. Theophile –Catherine is a 24 year old French youth international who has settled in reasonably well at the back with another Cardiff City summer acquisition Steven Caulker. Capable of playing right across the back, we’ve already seen Kevin fill it in at Centre Back and has been an ever present starter for an impressive start to the season by Cardiff City, who have shipped 15 goals in their first 11 games, which isn’t bad for a side who have just been promoted. Kevin is certainly one to watch for the rest of the season and if he sustains his level of performance, the former Rennes man could be knocking on the doors of a few of the Premier League big boys.
14. Marko Arnautovic
In what has been a relatively tough start to his Stoke career, Mark Hughes will find some salvation in the summer coup of Mark Arnautovic. Keen followers of German football should know all about the Austrian international, who had several good years with Werder Bremen. Standing at 6’3, blessed with power, pace and wonderful technical ability, we are seeing a player who is ready made for the Premier League. We have seen in performances against Man Utd and Arsenal, glimpses of his potential and at a fee of just £2m, Marko who is just 24 years old is looking like somewhat of a steal.
13. Morgan Amalfitano
Morgan Amalfitano has been a vital part of West Brom’s impressive start to the season. A loan signing from Marseille which caught the eye of many as one of the shocks of the window. Morgan was recently capped by France in February 2012 and was a regular for Marseille but become surplus to requirements towards the end of last season. His goal in the victory against United at Old Trafford would have awoken many to his ability. If Amalfitano carries on with the form he has shown already this season, West Brom may have a job on their hands convincing Amalfitano to join permanently, I’m sure the big fish will be circling for the 28 year old.
12. Mathieu Flamini
Many eyebrows were raised at the summer acquisition of Flamini on a free transfer, another signing to stop Wenger from opening his wallet many thought. Boy how Flamini has proved them wrong. Flamini seems to have recaptured the form he had before he left Arsenal for Milan in 2008, with his tenacious tackling and ability to hunt the ball down. He has been a focal point in Arsenal’s surge to the top and will be key to any title aspirations Arsenal may have this year.
11. Simon Mignolet
‘Is he better than Reina’?
Was the question they all asked at the start of the season as Liverpool allowed Reina to join Napoli on loan and splashed £10m on the Belgian keeper from Sunderland. After an impressive few seasons in the Premier League, Mignolet is a young keeper on the rise and has started off well for Liverpool, conceding just the 10 goals in his first 11 Premier League starts for Liverpool. Whether he is a better keeper than Reina or not is yet to be seen, but Mignolet has already started his quest to silence the doubters.
10. Leroy Fer
Many were surprised when Norwich unveiled the signing of Dutch international central midfielder Leroy Fer for a fee of £4.5m from Twente. Leroy Fer was supposed to have signed for Everton in the January 2013 window for a fee almost double of that Norwich paid, but issues surrounding a long term knee injury stalled the deal. Fer has quickly gone on to establish himself in the Premier League as one of the best young Central Midfielders around. Strong in the air, as well as on the ground, Leroy Fer will be key to any hopes Norwich have of staying in the Premier League this term.
9. Tom Huddlestone
Many would be forgiven for forgetting about Tom Huddlestone, as his Spurs career wilted away and who was once a young hot prospect, flirted with the idea of relative obscurity. After managing just 28 starts in all competitions in his last 2 years at Spurs, Hull spent £5.25m ending Huddlestone’s Spurs nightmare. Tom has been a revelation since signing for Hull and has helped them to have the most impressive start out of all of the promoted clubs this year. At just 26, Huddlestone will be hoping this move rejuvenates his career as he tries to get back in with a shout for the England fold, possibly being a longshot for the World Cup squad.
The Brazilian who cost Spurs £17m has had a great start to English football and has settled in quicker than any of the other Spurs signings. Paulinho is undoubtedly a top class player, with great ball retention and the ability to influence the games tempo. Some have criticised Spurs negative game plan, but they have the second best defensive record in the League and Paulinho is instrumental into Villas-Boas game plan working. Paulinho will be hoping the best of Spurs’ summer acquisitions can click as well he has, as Spurs hope to break in to the top 4.
7. Steven Caulker
£8m. Great business for all 3 sides, though at first it may have come as a shock to see Spurs sell Caulker who is a great young English prospect. Caulker felt he needed to move to gain regular football to aid his development, and Cardiff City offered him that. Caulker has everything in his Arsenal to become a top drawer Centre Back; his performances this season have shown that. Caulker has been a key part of a defence that minus the 6 goals conceded against Chelsea and City, has only been put to the sword on just 9 other occasions. If Cardiff are to stay in the Premier League, Caulker will have to maintain his form and who knows, he earn a surprise call up to England’s World Cup squad.
6. Curtis Davies
Curtis Davies has slipped under the radar this season, but has been an absolute colossus for Hull at back so far. Many remain unconvinced about Curtis Davies’ ability. He is tall, gangly, awkward and immobile, some may say. So far this season he has found a way to silence his critics. I’m sure Hull fans may not have been totally convinced when Steve Bruce spent £2.25m on bringing the former Birmingham man to the club, but it is looking like a move that could well get Davies’ career back on track, after being tipped a few years ago to be a top English defender.
5. Alvaro Negredo
At the start of the season many may not have been convinced by City’s signings. I for one was convinced Negredo would be City’s best signing and so far I’m being proved right. Signed from Sevilla for £20.6m Negredo is a real handful in the air, with great technical ability, he has all the credentials to be a hit in the Premier League. With just the 4 goals in his first 11 Premier League appearances, Negredo found it tough at first, but in recent weeks has found his feet and has taken his tally to 8 goals in 15 appearances so far this season. Negredo will be key to any title threat City have this season, if him and Aguero hit it off, there will be few able to stop them.
4. Romelu Lukaku
Chelsea fans must be looking at Lukaku’s form for Everton and thinking ‘why Jose’?!
Lukaku has picked up from where he left off at last year’s loan spell with West Brom, scoring freely and being an absolute nuisance to defenders. So far 5 goals in 7 appearances have helped Everton to healthy 20 points from 11 games as Everton try to keep pace with the big boys. Last year Lukaku netted 17 times in the League for West Brom and already looks on course to at least equal that tally this season. With Lukaku scoring regularly Everton could be the dark horse for a top 4 finish.
3. Loic Remy
Loic came to the Premier League in January 2013 with QPR and failed to keep them in the Premier League. Remy has been a player on the periphery of becoming a household name for quite a while, finally now it looks like Loic Remy is starting to fulfil the potential he promised as a teenager in France. With Papiss Cisse going through a dreadful run of form, Remy has fired Newcastle into a comfortable mid table position with 7 goals in 9 games, just 4 points behind 4th place Chelsea. Once his loan spell at Newcastle finishes, I’m sure many of the top 6 clubs in England and top clubs in Europe will be taking a look at him.
2. Mesut Ozil
The signing of Mesut Ozil for £42.5m from Real Madrid has propelled Arsenal into title contenders and one of the most in form teams in Europe currently. Ozil has had a decent start to English football, chipping in with 2 goals in 4 assists from his opening 8 games, but it hasn’t just been his performances that have impressed me, it has been his mere presence. His presence has transformed Arsenal Football Club; there are not too many signings in the world who could do that to a football club. When Arsenal’s record signing really gets into the swing of things, him and Arsenal will be hard to stop.
1. Dejan Lovren
The transformation of one of the worst defences from last season to the best defence this season is due to many factors. One of those factors is the acquisition of Dejan Lovren by Pochettino from Lyon this summer for £10m. The Croat Centre Back has been in outstanding form so far this season, being part of a defence that has only conceded 5 goals in 11 games, which compared to this stage last season was 29 from the first 11, a remarkable turnaround. Of course the change in fortunes hasn’t just been because of Lovren, since Pochettino has joined the club he has really tried to sure up Southampton’s defence making it as watertight as possible, the signing of Dejan Lovren made that job easier for him. If Southampton keep up this defensive form, a place in Europe could beckon for them come May.
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