The Hard Tackle takes a look at the five best transfer coups in the recently concluded 2018-19 edition of the Premier League.
The 2018-19 edition of the Premier League offered us the opportunity to witness many talented individuals throughout the season. And, here at The Hard Tackle, we have been taking a look some of the noteworthy performers as part of our End of the Season Awards
With that being said, we will be taking a look at some of the best transfers coups during the 2018-19 campaign. But before you proceed, don’t forget to check out our Top 5 goalkeepers, centre-backs, full-backs, wingers and strikers in this THT Awards series.
The transfer market has become a vital part of European football, especially in the cash-rich Premier League. The English top-flight has become the desired destination for any top player playing in Europe. And quite naturally, the transfer expenditures have risen quite a lot in recent years.
Here, we will take a look at five of the new arrivals, who have impressed us the most during the 2018-19 Premier League campaign.
Lucas Digne [Everton]
Everton thought it would be a good idea to sign a few the Barcelona rejects and build a squad around them. And credit to Marcel Brands and Marco Silva, they managed to do so quite well, signing Lucas Digne, Yerry Mina and Andre Gomes.
While Mina struggled with injuries, it was a tough decision for us to choose between Gomes and Digne. But, because Everton signed Gomes only on loan, the extra risk put on Digne’s permanent €15 million move from Barcelona meant we went with the Frenchman over the Portuguese midfielder in the end.
Digne rejuvenated the dynamics of Everton’s backline, with his industry and creativity in the left-back position. And his technical prowess coupled with his excellent chance creation was critical to Silva’s left-sided overload.
Indeed, Digne offered extensive attacking support from the left flank, delivering a whopping 71 key passes, which is the tenth highest in the league and most by any defender. He was also quite productive, having been involved in eight goals in 35 matches.
Defensively, the 25-year-old wasn’t as impressive as he would have liked in terms of stopping the opposition from making runs in behind the defence. But, his intelligent positioning made sure he was one step ahead of the opposition, with the defender averaging an impressive 60 interceptions – a tally only bettered by Idrissa Gueye in the Everton team this past season.
Raul Jimenez [Wolverhampton Wanderers]
Raul Jimenez is the only loan signing on this list (spoiler alert!), and that says a lot given we have largely strictly restricted to picking permanent transfers.
A product of the America youth academy, Jimenez joined an ambitious Wolves side on a season-long loan deal from Benfica last summer. And the Mexican international didn’t take long in integrating to the Premier League, emerging as a pivotal part of Nuno Espirito Santo’s tactical scheme at Molineux.
Jimenez’s robust style of play coupled with his strength and aerial prowess tuned in well with the physically astute nature of English football. And the Wolves boss was quick to realise that, often utilising the 29-year-old as more of a nuisance in the final third.
Indeed, Jimenez provided the physical presence and helped create more spaces for the likes of Diogo Jota and, at times, Ivan Cavaleiro and Helder Costa by using his excellent hold-up play. Hence, it comes as no surprise that the aggressive forward managed to register seven assists, which was bettered by only three other strikers – Sergio Aguero, Alexandre Lacazette and Callum Wilson.
He was also a threat from set-pieces, thanks to his aerial prowess, with the attacker winning an impressive 2.1 headed duels per game. The former Atletico Madrid striker also attempted the fourth highest number of shots on goal with 111 attempts – a tally bettered only by Aguero, Mohamed Salah and Aleksandar Mitrovic.
More importantly, it was Jimenez’s aggression and willingness to win back possession that made Wolves such a dangerous side in the Premier League. All of this attributed to a great season that compelled the Wolves to permanently secure his services for a club-record fee of €38 million.
James Maddison [Leicester City]
Riyad Mahrez’s departure to Manchester City last summer served as a massive blow to Leicester City and their chances of finishing in the top half of the Premier League table. However, they struck a coup with the €25 million signing of James Maddison from Norwich City.
The 22-year-old became Leicester’s creator-in-chief, creating more chances than anyone else in league with a whopping 100 key passes. A majority of his chances have originated from crosses or corners, which emphasises Leicester’s over-reliance on set-pieces and Maddison, in that regard, has been a trusted taker.
Another key aspect of his game has been his versatility. The young attacker has often switched between an attacking midfield and a wide-attacking role throughout the course of the season and under different managers as well. And this ability to adapt to certain situations is a remarkable asset for any player to have.
Hence, it’s probably fair to say that Maddison was by far the most important component behind an excellent season that saw Leicester City make a brilliant comeback under Brendan Rodgers to finish ninth in the league table. But, has he been the best signing of the season? We still have a couple more options for you.
Fabian Schar [Newcastle United]
Fabian Schar hasn’t been as influential as other players on this list. But, what sets him a class apart is that he was brought in from Deportivo La Coruna for a bargain fee of just €4 million – making him the cheapest signing on this list.
As far as impact is concerned, Schar had a rather disastrous start to the campaign under Rafael Benitez, having featured in just one game in Newcastle United’s first ten matches. But, injury to key defender Florian Lejeune served as a boon for Schar, who became a first-team regular for the Magpies during the second-half of the campaign.
The Swiss international built a formidable defensive partnership with the likes of Paul Dummett and club captain Jamaal Lascelles, ultimately helping Newcastle once again survive relegation. It is hard to compare Schar’s statistics with other players given the fact he has played just over 2,000 minutes of league football.
But, the former Hoffenheim defender accumulated extraordinary numbers in his limited opportunities, averaging 2.5 tackles, 5.7 clearances and a whopping 2.8 interceptions per game, making him the one of the busiest defenders in the Premier League since January.
He was also quite busy on the other end of the pitch, notably netting four goals in 24 matches. His screamer against Burnley could well be one of the candidates for the goal of the season.
Alisson Becker [Liverpool]
Big money moves are always the tough ones as they rarely work out, and even if they do, they do not often receive enough recognition due to the soaring transfer fee. However, Liverpool’s €62.5 million capture of Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson was simply a masterstroke by Jurgen Klopp last summer.
The former AS Roma stopper rejuvenated the Liverpool backline with his imposing presence in between the sticks. He solidified the goalkeeping slot, which was always seen as one of Liverpool’s biggest weaknesses and along with Virgil van Dijk, became a key component of his team’s build-up from the back.
The 26-year-old saved a remarkable 81.9 percent of the shots he had faced and conceded just 22 goals – the fewest in the Premier League. He also accumulated the most number of clean sheets, thus winning the Golden Glove award in what was his maiden Premier League campaign.
But, it’s not only his shot stopping that caught the eye this past season. It was Alisson’s neat footwork and ball distribution that allowed him to initiate quick-counter attacks by using his accurate long balls. In addition, he was also in Liverpool’s excellent run in the UEFA Champions League, as they went on to triumph in the competition for the sixth time on Saturday.
And there we have it! Who do you think was the best transfer of the 2018/19 Premier League campaign? Let us know in the poll below.