As Pedro pens a deal to come and join compatriot Cesc Fabregas at Stamford Bridge, we look at the Top 5 signings of the new season so far.
5) Dimitri Payet (Marseille to West Ham United)
28 year old French international Payet cost the Hammers A?10.7million, but if his early performances are anything to go by, this transfer looks likely to be a steal. Payet was phenomenal in Slaven Bilic’s opening game win over Arsenal, delivering a delightfully accurate ball that deceived Petr Cech as Kouyate headed in West Ham’s first. This was followed up with a home debut goal in the defeat to surprise leaders Leicester City. Payet hasn’t just replaced Stewart Downing at West Ham, he is a definite upgrade.
Payet’s excellent last season in Ligue 1 earned massive interest from top clubs, but West Ham did a good bit of business to snap up the midfielder who got 17 assists last season and created more chances than any other player in the top five European leagues. Top 6 finish for rockstar Slaven in his first season?
4) Petr Cech (Chelsea to Arsenal)
Yes, Cech’s mistake was highlighted in the last entry, but Arsenal have bought the last piece of the jigsaw this season. Always a team teasing its fans with a brilliant start only to fall flat on their faces, Arsenal look the real deal this season. Petr Cech has the experience Wenger needs to sort his defence out.
Arsene Wenger must be confused by the fact that nemesis Mourinho let Cech go to one of his top competitors, but he would quickly cast his doubts to a side as he tries to win Arsenal their first league title since 2004. No facts need to be thrown up to support Cech’s credentials, but barring a catastrophe where half of Arsenal’s team are hit by injuries that stop their surge to the championship, North London could be celebrating come May – oh, wait.
3) Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich to Manchester United)
One World Cup, One Champions League, Eight Bundesligas, Seven German Cups – it is obvious Manchester United have a winner in Schweinsteiger in their ranks. But even more commendable is the ability to prise away a one club man before he goes downhill. Schweinsteiger spent 13 years in Munich and was seen as a symbol of the club by fans, their club captain who adores Bayern with all his heart, and was a crucial part of the team. Last season under Pep Guardiola changed this.
Guardiola’s high intensity pressing system meant either one of Schweinsteiger or Xabi Alonso had to be relegated to the bench. Louis van Gaal stepped in and using nostalgia to charm Schweinsteiger, pulled off one of the biggest coups in the Premier League. Although he hasn’t started an official game for United yet as Van Gaal brings him up to full fitness, anyone who saw the German’s 45-minute performance against Club Brugge will see how dangerous a fully fit Bastian would be. Schweinsteiger made more passes in those 45 minutes than any Brugge player who played the full game. With Carrick no longer young enough to play an entire season in a primary midfield role, Schweinsteiger’s ability becomes crucial for United’s success this season.
2) Pedro (Barcelona to Chelsea)
Not since Manchester United in 2009 has the Premier League trophy been defended. If Jose Mourinho intends to break the spell, he will need to recover the early ground lost. The mood is dismal around Stamford Bridge, with trouble at the medical department, finger pointing by Mourinho at his own players during his worst start to a season, so the signing of Pedro from under the noses of Manchester United evokes a wry smile from the Chelsea fans. Pedro’s arrival is exactly the kind of lift needed for Chelsea to find their way back into the season.
With a cabinet of glittering trophies and medals being no substitute for his desire for first team football, Pedro was looking for a fresh challenge, and although Mourinho might not claim this to be a victory over Manchester United, hijacking his move to Old Trafford can be seen analogous to winning a six pointer. United still lack the quality to definitely challenge for the title and Chelsea seem to have covered for the embarrassment that Juan Cuadrado’s presence causes. Pedro should slot in comfortably at right-wing, alternating with the more hard working Willian who would find first team chances harder now. Pedro can even play at left wing, and with Eden Hazard still finding his feet into the new season, competition from Pedro could be the spur he needs.
1) Memphis Depay (PSV Eindhoven to Manchester United)
Had Ed Woodward been able to pull off the Pedro signing, Manchester United players would have covered 100% of the Top 3 on this list. However, while Pedro got away and Woodward got blamed by the media, some would feel he has done enough for the season by signing the hottest young talent in the world right now – and quickly. Perhaps learning from the long protracted sagas that led to failure in transfer windows of the past, Woodward and United moved quickly for Memphis and announced his arrival even before last season ended.
Memphis brings power, pace, strength and skill to the United team, and those who saw his performance against Brugge in midweek were reminded of a certain United captain’s debut in the Champions League 11 years ago. Some are already predicting Memphis would be a better number 7 than Cristiano Ronaldo, Eric Cantona and David Beckham put together. He has the quality to do so and has slotted in well behind Wayne Rooney in United’s attack. His versatility was on display when Adnan Januzaj played as a number 10 against Aston Villa and Depay had to move to the left, a position from which he delivered the telling cross that means United will go into the second leg of their Champions League qualifier in the driver’s seat. United have made the buy of the season, but the proof of the pudding will of course, be in the eating.