Signings can make or break a manager. Premier League fans are familiar with how Virgil van Dirk and Allison Becker helped transform Liverpool from perennial pretenders to champions in a very short time span. Top managers usually get their transfers right but, as a rule of thumb, pay the price with their jobs when expensive signings turn out to be flops.
Last week I was waxing lyrical about players that have set the EPL alight by delivering value for money for their managers.
Here are the players who’ve underwhelmed after costing their clubs a literal arm and a leg.
1- Aaron Ramsdale (Sheffield Utd). Filling the boots of Dean Henderson at relegation bound Sheffield United is proving to be an onerous task for Ramsdale. The £18.5m signing has failed to match the standards set by other newly arriving custodians such as Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martinez, Chelsea’s Edouard Mendy and Leeds United’s Ilan Meslier.
2- Matt Doherty (Spurs): Former Wolves defender Doherty was expected to be an improvement on Ivorian powerhouse Serge Aurier when arrived at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The £15m Doherty has instead been reduced to a bit part role, mostly featuring in cup competitions.
3- Jamal Lewis (Newcastle United): Magpies boss Steve Bruce thought he had clinched a major transfer coup when he beat Liverpool to the £15m Lewis’ signature. But the former Norwich City left back has yet to help Newcastle United avoid a slippery slide towards relegation.
4- Nathan Ake (Manchester City): Pep Guardiola’s back four was all over the place during the first quarter of the season, thanks in no small part to £40m signing Ake’s less than convincing defending. No wonder he has not featured in the EPL this year.
5- Nelson Semedo (Wolves): His hefty price tag may not be his fault, but a transfer fee that could rise to £36m from a club with modest means like Wolves implies Semedo must perform above the ordinary. It’s yet to happen for him. The Portugal international has been rudderless in his first season in England.
6- Thomas Partey (Arsenal): Ghanaian midfield dynamo Partey has not yet displayed the kind of tenacity that convinced Gunners boss Mikel Arteta to stump out £45m for his signature. Partey has only come to the party once – in Arsenal’s 1-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford.
7- Rodrigo Moreno (Leeds United): Spanish international Moreno has not justified the club record £30m Marcelo Bielsa splashed out to recruit him from Valencia. Moreno has been reduced to sporadic appearances of the bench as he is being outshone by another new arrival, Raphinha, and top scorer Patrick Bamford.
8- Thiago Alcantara (Liverpool): Champions League winner Alcantara has been an ever present as Liverpool have tumbled to six consecutive losses at Anfield, the worst such run in the club’s history. Kop boss Jurgen Klopp was expecting a lot better when he paid Bayern Munich £25m for Alcantara’s services.
9- Rhian Brewster (Sheffield United): The Blades were anticipating goals galore when they broke the bank and paid £23.5m for Brewster to join them from Liverpool. His prolonged failure to get off the mark is a key reason Sheffield United are shoe ins for relegation.
10- Kai Havertz (Chelsea): German star Kai Havertz’s time at Stamford Bridge has been by a spell on the sidelines after he contracted Covid-19. A lot more was expected of Chelsea’s highest paid player when they splashed £71m to recruit Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen.
11- Willian (Arsenal): Can a free signing turn out to be expensive? That’s exactly what’s happening with Willian who is on a very expensive three-year contract. He’s in this line up ahead of another Chelsea star Timo Werner who has huffed and puffed in opposition boxes to scant effect.