EPL 2012-2013 Half-Term Report: 10 Best Summer Signings So Far
January 2, 2013: It’s transfer season again.
After the summer transfer window slammed shut, I put out an initial ranking of all 20 Premier League teams based on their signings.
As we look forward to the new year and to the excitement (or weariness, depending on which side of the fence you’re on) that the winter transfer window brings, it’s time to also look back at the season thus far and give credit to those clubs and managers that did their work to bring in outstanding transfers just half a year ago.
Bargain buys, extravagant signings—we’ve got both ends of the spectrum covered in our half-term best signings list. Enjoy the review, and have your say in the comments below.
10. Robert Snodgrass (Norwich City, £2.8m)
Signing from Leeds United this summer for a mere £2.8 million, winger Robert Snodgrass has been Norwich City’s player of the season so far, and one of the best summer signings in all of the Premier League.
With four goals and three assists in the league in 21 games, he ranks first in both charts on his team (joint first in the case of goals), which means that almost 30% of Norwich’s goals so far (24) have been scored or directly created by him.
As Chris Hughton’s set-piece specialist, Snodgrass is also one of the league’s best free-kick takers, with three of his four goals coming from direct free-kicks.
9. Steven Fletcher (Sunderland, £13.4m)
When Martin O’Neill picked up Steven Fletcher from relegated Wolverhampton Wanderers this summer for a whopping £13.4 million, eyebrows and doubts were raised.
Half a season and eight important goals later, Fletcher has scored almost 40% of Sunderland’s paltry 21-goal total, with five coming in his first four games, netting him the Barclays Player of the Month award for September.
O’Neill will no doubt be looking to strengthen in January to take them clear of the relegation zone, but it has been a titanic fight in the first half of the season led by Fletcher up front.
8. Claudio Yacob (West Bromwich Albion, Free)
After an outstanding start to the season, Steve Clarke’s West Bromwich Albion now find themselves in seventh place with 33 points on board.
While much has been made of the exceptional work done by the Baggies’ strikers (more on their star forward later), it has been the strong and physical midfield that has formed the base of West Brom’s successes.
Claudio Yacob has struck up an instantly effective partnership with Youssuf Mulumbu and, having signed on a free transfer from Racing Club in Argentina, will prove to be one of the finest midfield signings in the modern Premier League era.
7. Romelu Lukaku (West Bromwich Albion, Loan)
That West Brom are the only team to have two representatives on this list is a small testament to their accomplishments under Steve Clarke.
And Romelu Lukaku has been one of the stories of the season. From wasted potential sitting in the Chelsea stands last season to star loan signing showing shades of living up to his “next Didier Drogba” billing, Lukaku has provided real strength and a potent source of goals up front for West Brom.
He has scored six goals and shown signs that he can mature into a Premier League force.
As much as West Brom have benefited from loaning him, it is Lukaku who might end up the real winner in this deal.
6. Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham, £4.4m)
In seventh place is ex-Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur genius Dimitar Berbatov, currently lighting up Craven Cottage with his dazzling array of skills.
Fulham’s £4.4 million capture of Berbatov in the summer was widely considered to be a coup, but aside from his six goals and three assists, he has brought real quality to Martin Jol’s side.
As Fulham’s leading goal-scorer, Berbatov has also provided leadership up front and has spearheaded the Cottagers’ attack with grace, flair and skill.
There is much to come yet from the Bulgarian striker, and we Premier League fans are all the better for it.
5. Eden Hazard (Chelsea, £35.2m)
When Eden Hazard arrived in a whirlwind transfer at Chelsea, he was supposed to lead the Blues into a new dynasty with a core of young European attacking talents alongside him.
Roberto Di Matteo might not grace Stamford Bridge anymore, but his marquee signing still dazzles alongside their undoubted player of the season Juan Mata.
Hazard hit the ground running and has scored four goals and laid on six assists for his teammates this half season.
And he is still 21. At £35.2 million, he might have cost more than an arm and a limb, but he has every chance to justify his price tag and establish himself as one of the premier players in European football.
4. Santi Cazorla (Arsenal, £16.7m)
Compared to Eden Hazard, Santi Cazorla was a snip at £16.7 million when he arrived at the Emirates Stadium from Malaga this summer, but his impact has arguably been even greater.
When Robin van Persie left Arsenal in the summer, the onus was on Arsene Wenger to replace his invaluable source of goals and creativity. In his triple signing of Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Cazorla, he has more or less done that, and Cazorla tops the lot of Arsenal’s summer signings.
With seven goals and five assists to his name, he has also offered pace, dribbling, flair and passing in abundance, and he has become such a pivotal player in the Gunners side that often opponents look to stop Cazorla, if they are to get a result against Arsenal.
3. Robin Van Persie (Manchester United, £27m)
Alas, Santi Cazorla’s preceding talisman will beat him in this list of best summer signings.
Robin van Persie left Arsenal in acrimonious circumstances last summer, and your columnist suggested that he might not be the answer to Manchester United’s problems.
But while United continue to suffer from untold defensive problems, they are currently leading the Premier League by seven points, courtesy of a 54-goal haul, 22 of which have either been scored or assisted by van Persie himself.
Those who suggested that, at 29, he would have been an expensive stop-gap measure might have had a point. For the time being, if the league title ends up back at Old Trafford come May 2013, United fans will not mind one bit.
2. Mohamed Diame (West Ham, Free)
With our experience watching Sam Allardyce’s teams in the Premier League and considering West Ham’s pedigree, no one could seriously have expected the Hammers to not stay up at the first time of asking.
So far, they have notched a tidy 26 points and find themselves in 11th place in the league table, and while the likes of Kevin Nolan and Mark Noble can be considered as expected contributors, there was no better free transfer this past summer than Mohamed Diame from Wigan Athletic.
He has added power, physicality and pace to the Hammers midfield, singlehandedly bringing to Upton Park a phenomenal box-to-box force that has been so pivotal to their solid performances this season.
We can all look to his injury against Liverpool as the catalyst of the Reds’ turnaround a few weeks ago as a sign of Diame’s importance to Allardyce’s team. Truly a bargain.
1. Michu (Swansea City, £2.3m)
But the one that trumps them all has to be Michu of Swansea City, picked for a measly £2.3 million from La Liga side Rayo Vallecano in July.
As quietly impressive as the unheralded arrival of new manager Michael Laudrup, Michu landed in south Wales with a reputation as a handy goal-scorer in Spain, but not even Laudrup could have predicted that, halfway through the 2012-2013 season, Michu would be on 13 league goals, joint second in the overall scoring charts, in just 20 games.
His form has been such that regular striker Danny Graham has largely been kept on the sidelines with Michu operating as somewhat of a false nine, and his goals are often a picture of calm, cool and collected.
There are always those that are unlucky to miss out on these rankings, and the race to finish in the top ten of the Signings of the Summer list was as tightly contested as ever.
Here are three players that were also in the reckoning:
Steven Pienaar (Everton, £5.1m)
There was just something not right about seeing Steven Pienaar turn out for Tottenham (when he got a rare chance to play).
So justice and nature were finally restored when Everton finally brought him back on a permanent basis in the summer, following a half-season loan spell at Goodison Park at the end of last season.
Pienaar has since slotted straight back into David Moyes’ side and has linked superbly with Leighton Baines, contributing to an impressive sixth place position currently held by the Blues.
Danny Rose (Sunderland, Loan)
Eyebrows were raised when Martin O’Neill took Danny Rose, he of untested Tottenham potential, to the Stadium of Light on loan.
Those that originally questioned the deal will now firmly take their words back, as Rose has put in performance after performance of defensive solidity and impressive attacking from his left-back position.
Sunderland might find themselves in the wrong half of the table, but Rose will have done his career no harm with such a promising first half of the season gone by.
Christian Benteke (Aston Villa, £7.7m)
The fee that brought Belgian striker Christian Benteke to Villa Park this summer was eye-catching, to say the least, and your columnist also questioned the wisdom behind bringing in a player untested in Europe’s big leagues on such considerable terms.
That is now irrelevant as Benteke has pushed the prolific Darren Bent to the sidelines and has set the bar for goal-scoring battering rams.
His one-man demolition of Liverpool at Anfield in December was one to remember, but his overall contribution to the Aston Villa cause and combination play with young Andreas Weimann has been cause for huge encouragement.
What a summer, and what a season so far.
With the winter transfer window in full swing, we Premier League fans have plenty more action and signings to look out for in the weeks to come.
Let us know your top 10 summer signings in the comments below.
In the spirit of reviewing EPL transfers:
Stay tuned for 2012-2013’s worst summer signings so far
Take a look back at the best signings of the 2011-2012 season
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