Transfer Window: Best Signing from Every EPL Club This Summer
Well it was fun while it lasted wasn't it?
The summer transfer window finally slammed shut on September 2, following two months of deals, non-deals, sagas, and a final 24 hours which were joyous for some, gave others reason for nothing other than despair, but which were nothing short of hectic for all.
Soon enough, Premier League clubs will be able to get back away from the side order which has seemingly taken over the offseason—and indeed the opening three weeks of it—and focus on the main course: the actual action on the field.
But, before English football's elite get back into the swing of things, here's a look at the best signing from each of the Premier League's 20 clubs:
Arsenal: Mesut Ozil
63 of 64 days in the summer transfer window were greatly underwhelming if you were an Arsenal fan. The final day however more than made up for what had gone before.
As Sky Sports documented, Jose Mourinho has said of the German:
Ozil is unique.
There is no copy of him. Not even a bad copy. He is the best No. 10 in the world
Perhaps the 24-year-old Ozil isn't precisely what Arsenal need—a striker, defensive midfielder and centre-back of the highest order were maybe more a necessity—but the chance to sign the German international playmaker was one that they simply had to take advantage of.
Gunners supporters had been imploring manager Arsene Wenger throughout the summer to spend some money and he had sought to assure them that he would when he found a player of the required quality. In the former Werder Bremen and Schalke youngster, he has done just that.
No player in La Liga assisted more goals during Ozil's three-year stint with Real Madrid and the delicacies of his play—the silky touch, vision and technical prowess —offer Arsenal a greater attacking threat and will have the likes of Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud positively purring at the service they could be set for.
Additionally, the sole playmaking burden that had resided on Santi Cazorla's shoulders will have been eased; the £42.5 million man and Cazorla together promises plenty.
With 47 international caps and 14 goals to his name Ozil is a genuine A-lister on the world stage and represents quite the coup for the Gunners, who—no matter how you paint it—had become a selling club in recent years. Their supporters will hope that this marks a turning point.
Aston Villa: Jores Okore
Defensively Aston Villa were found wanting in 2012-13, despite the excellence of their American goalkeeper Brad Guzan; their concession of 69 goals in 38 matches was more than everyone except for the relegated duo of Wigan and Reading.
Club captain Ron Vlaar remains first choice in the centre of defence, and the summer signing from Nordsjaelland, Jores Okore, will be his unquestionable partner before too long.
The central defensive powerhouse played an integral part in Nordsjaelland's first championship success in 2011-12 and his combination of pace, aggressiveness and strength appear made for the Premier League.
Fitting in with Lambert's policy of signing young, hungry players who are reasonably priced, expect the £4 million defender to impress at Villa Park.
A partnership with Vlaar and the added maturity of others should see Villa's defence far tougher to breach in 2013-14.
Cardiff City: Steven Caulker
When Steven Caulker, the England international defender, traded in Tottenham for Cardiff City this summer, it came as something of a surprise.
Caulker made 28 appearances in all competitions for Spurs during 2012-13 on the back of a highly successful loan spell at Swansea the previous year and appeared to be a part of Andre Villas-Boas' plans. Nonetheless, the summer brought with it a move to newly promoted Cardiff, and Caulker has already shown why Malky Mackay was happy to spend in excess of £8 million on him.
Solid in the air, a good reader of the game and a decent passer from the back, the 22-year-old is an undoubted upgrade on those who had done so well to get Cardiff promoted from the Championship last season.
Caulker's opening three games in the Premier League with his new side have garnered three points, and if Cardiff can keep it tight at the back they'll pick up points with their attacking talent and propensity for scoring from set pieces—as Manchester City found to their cost.
Caulker, good in both penalty boxes, could really kick on and play himself into contention for a World Cup spot next summer.
Chelsea: Marco van Ginkel
In the short term perhaps Samuel Eto'o, Willian and Andre Schuerrle will be more important to Jose Mourinho and Chelsea as they look to win this season's Premier League title, but in the long term the £9 million arrival of Marco van Ginkel will prove itself to be a bargain.
The 20-year-old Dutch international made 41 appearances for Vitesse Arnhem last year, scoring 12 goals and being voted the best young talent in Dutch football.
His performances in preseason showed to watching Chelsea supporters that they had signed a versatile midfielder, tactically excellent and of no little technical quality.
At Vitesse, van Ginkel fulfilled a number of different roles in midfield, while his intelligent positioning and powerful running made an impression during the summer's under-21 European Championships.
In his way at Stamford Bridge currently stand Mourinho's preference of Ramires and Frank Lampard in the anchor positions in his 4-2-3-1 formation, as well as experienced campaigners Micheal Essien and Jon Obi Mikel.
Nonetheless, van Ginkel's dexterity and talent make him a tremendous option for his Portuguese manager—something I alluded to in an article concerning the Dutchman earlier in the summer (find it here).
Expect him to make an impact before too long and to prove himself a tremendous acquisition to the Blues.
Crystal Palace: Jason Puncheon
Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino allowing winger Jason Puncheon to join Crystal Palace on a season-long loan is something of a surprise.
The 27-year-old netted six goals in 32 Premier League matches last season for the South Coast club and would have been an excellent option for the Saints this season, offering something different to their other attackers.
Nonetheless, their loss is Palace's gain, and in the midst of 15 summer signings, Puncheon teams up with Ian Holloway, who he played for at Blackpool during their brief stint in the top division—scoring three goals in 11 games while on loan.
Quick and direct with a sledgehammer left foot, Puncheon is ideal for a role on the right of Holloway's preferred 4-3-3 formation.
The Eagles will need points and goals if they're to win their fight against relegation, and in the shape of Puncheon they possess a capable match-winner.
Everton: Romelu Lukaku
For too long Everton have been without a genuine goalscorer. David Moyes thought he had solved the conundrum with the signing of Nikica Jelavic in 2012, but, having scored nine goals in 13 league games at the back end of the 2011-12 season, he struggled for long spells last season, netting just seven times in 37 league appearances.
As such the problem was inherited this summer by new manager Roberto Martinez, and, though he has taken Arouna Kone from former club Wigan, the deadline day loan deal for Romelu Lukaku is the one which should guarantee that his new-style Everton carry attacking punch in 2013-14.
The young striker enjoyed a fruitful year at West Brom last season, notching 17 league goals in the process and the Toffees will hope he can produce something similar this campaign.
Quick, physically imposing and with intelligent lateral movement, the 20-year-old Belgian international looks tailor made to take on the No. 9 role in Martinez's possession-based 4-2-3-1 formation.
Moreover, with Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines continuing in the full-back roles and looking to spend even more time in their opponents half this season than ever before, the 6'3" Lukaku can expect crosses aplenty upon which to thrive.
Needing regular football to ensure his place in Belgium's World Cup squad next year (assuming they qualify) the deal looks an excellent one for all parties concerned.
Fulham: Scott Parker
In a team of artists, there needs to be an artisan: someone who does the functional things well, the nitty-gritty, to allow others to flourish.
Thus, while the eye-catching names in Fulham's squad—Messrs. Ruiz, Taarabt and Berbatov—will be key, there is no one more vital than summer signing Scott Parker.
Tigerish and tenacious, Parker's never-say-die attitude and hardworking demeanour will be vital to a Fulham side who are an interesting proposition this season: talented enough for a top-10 finish, but perhaps flaky enough to be dragged into a relegation battle if things don't go their way.
As such the signing of Parker from Spurs looks astute on the part of Martin Jol. FWA Footballer of the Year in 2010-11 while at West Ham, the experienced England international adds extra leadership to the Cottagers ranks.
Hull City: Tom Huddlestone
For too long the potential of Tom Huddlestone has been spoken about, and regular observers have always rejoiced in his exemplary striking ability and passing range. Yet, all too often there has been a sense that, injuries aside, he could do more to dominate matches.
With the arrivals of the likes of Etienne Capoue and Paulinho at Tottenham this summer, not to mention the return to fitness of Sandro, the 26-year-old's opportunities would have been limited. However, at the KC Stadium, Huddlestone goes straight in as Steve Bruce's first-choice midfielder.
With that level of faith being placed in him, the former Derby County youngster has shown in his opening three matches with the Tigers that he is not only adding his technical prowess but also previously unseen leadership qualities to the Humbersiders.
His composure in each of Hull City's opening three games has allowed them to keep possession and mount attacks, while his positional intelligence has helped the side defensively. In short, he's begun to take responsibility and, rather than merely decorating games, is dictating them—witness the 2-0 loss at Man City when he was arguably the best player on the pitch.
Steve Bruce's side were one of the most tactically advanced in last season's Championship and have already flitted between a 3-5-2 and 4-4-2 in the present campaign. Whatever the formation, new signing Huddlestone will be key and has already begun to prove his worth.
Liverpool: Kolo Toure
While Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has signed a number of versatile attacking players and a pair of young defenders rich in potential, perhaps when we look back on the season in 12 months' time, his best signing this summer may well be remembered as Kolo Toure on a free transfer.
The Ivory Coast international's arrival early this summer was largely seen as an experienced hand being hired for back up and to offer the kind of leadership qualities which have been lost following Jamie Carragher's retirement.
However, his opening performances have shown that the 32-year-old isn't merely there to make up the numbers, with the kind of decisive defending and vocal promptings which were a key feature of his game when he was being widely hailed as one of the Premier League's best defenders some seven or eight years ago.
The Reds kept clean sheets in both of his opening two matches, and although he missed the win over Manchester United—with Martin Skrtel ably deputising to the right of Daniel Agger—the sense is that the position at the heart of the Reds defence alongside Agger is the Ivorian's to lose.
With Toure playing like the defender who was a part of Arsenal's Invincibles once more, it may be his position for some time yet.
Manchester City: Jesus Navas
All too often during the final six months of Roberto Mancini's reign, Manchester City's lack of a Plan B resulted in their downfall and eventually cost them the FA Cup: too determined to play through the middle, too one-paced and too easily stifled by packed defences.
City did the majority of their summer business early—something which in Mancini's defence they most certainly did not do 12 months ago—and one of those early deals was their very own Plan B: the Spain and Sevilla winger Jesus Navas.
A true winger, the jet-heeled Spaniard offers a complete contrast to the deftness and inward-wanderings of David Silva and something which was missing all too often under Mancini.
With Navas' positional intelligence and penchant for staying as wide as possible meaning opposing defences have to cover a greater area than they would have done prior to his arrival; his just being there creates space both for himself and his teammates.
Navas offers pace, an ability to carry the ball from the middle to the final third and a crossing ability which will be enjoyed by both Edin Dzeko and Alvardo Negredo, his former Sevilla colleague.
His directness has so often proven a key asset to his national side and his partnership with Pablo Zabaleta offers the 2011-12 Premier League winners arguably the best right-sided pairing in the division.
Manchester United: Marouane Fellaini
Except for the untried Uruguayan youngster Guillermo Varela and Swiss youngster Saidy Janko, the reigning champions signed no one else this summer other than Marouane Fellaini.
And, with the beauty of hindsight, David Moyes' targets and attempted moves this summer looked like something akin to blindly throwing darts at a dartboard: Thiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas, Ander Herrera, Fellaini, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil and Daniele De Rossi amongst others, all very different types of midfielder, were mentioned at one point or another, according to the Daily Mail.
In the end, Manchester United have had to make do with Fellaini, the Belgian who was Moyes' former charge at Everton. However, why the United manager left it until the final hours of the window to secure Fellaini for £27.5 million is somewhat bewildering, particularly considering the £23.5 million release clause that had earlier been in his contract and subsequently expired.
Nevertheless, with Fellaini United are getting a powerful, versatile midfielder capable of fulfilling a number of roles.
Most likely, the 25-year-old, 42-cap Belgian international will partner Michael Carrick at the heart of the United midfield, providing greater steel and physicality. Yet, on occasions when United feel the need to go more direct, don't be surprised if he is pushed into an advanced role behind Robin van Persie.
A proven Premier League performer, Fellaini is a solid enough addition to the Red Devils' armoury, but United fans are well within their rights to consider themselves short-changed this summer.
Newcastle United: Loic Remy
Much like Manchester United, Alan Pardew's Newcastle United made only one noteworthy signing this summer also, with French striker Loic Remy joining from QPR on loan.
The 26-year-old made a decent impact during his six months in the Premier League with Rangers last season, scoring six goals and looking very much at home in the English top flight despite his side's shortcomings.
An excellent finisher capable of scoring from a variety of distances and angles with a number of different techniques, Remy adds firepower to the Magpies, something which was in short supply last season as they scored only 45 goals in 38 matches.
Aside from his finishing ability, Remy also brings with him tremendous pace, an ability to work channels and intelligent movement, which should make him a good foil for Papiss Cisse.
Norwich City: Leroy Fer
Chris Hughton's Norwich City have made a mixed bag of summer signings, yet it is their two Dutch acquisitions which have attracted the most attention.
And while I have previously been critical of Ricky van Wolfswinkel's hiring from Sporting Lisbon (view here), the signing of Leroy Fer is an outstanding piece of business.
The 23-year-old Dutch international is a powerful, versatile, box-to-box midfielder, with a tremendous all-round game.
Tenacious in the tackle, physically imposing, technically gifted and with a wonderful passing range, the Dutchman also offers positional intelligence which will allow Hughton to use him in both attacking and defensive zones.
Fer's outstanding display in the 1-0 win over Southampton saw him partner Bradley Johnson in a central-midfield partnership, and much of his time with former club FC Twente was spent in a defensive midfield role.
However, Fer also has an eye for goal, having scored 11 in 38 for Twente during 2012-13 something which will offer Hughton food for thought as the season progresses.
Southampton: Dejan Lovren
Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino has aimed big with his summer spending, and while there remain questions on the best way to fit record signing Pablo Osvaldo and club icon Rickie Lambert in the same XI, Croatian international defender Dejan Lovren has fit like a glove after his arrival from Olympique Lyonnais.
The Saints conceded 60 goals in the league last season—no one who finished higher allowed more—and to make progress the defence needed added quality.
The 24-year-old defender certainly adds that, despite a couple of indifferent seasons in Ligue 1 where he struggled with dips in form and injury.
Nonetheless, the Bosnian-born former Dinamo Zagreb man has looked impressive in his opening three matches in English football.
With strong aerial ability, sound positioning and assuredness both in and out of possession, Lovren appears set to become an important piece in Pochettino's Southampton.
Stoke City: Marko Arnautovic
Signed on transfer deadline day, the versatile Austrian forward brings something of the "X factor" to Stoke City.
Capable of playing through the middle or on either flank, Arnautovic arrives at the Britannia Stadium following spells at FC Twente, Werder Bremen and an ill-fated loan move to Inter Milan in 2010, where Jose Mourinho claimed he had "the attitude of a child."
Indeed, trouble has seemingly followed the 24-year-old throughout his career, with fights with teammates not uncommon.
Nevertheless, costing Stoke just £2 million, Arnautovic could prove to be a bargain.
Not a prolific goalscorer by any means, but a good dribbler with clever movement and decent vision, the 27-cap Austria international will offer Hughes an intriguing option in wide areas as he looks to further improve the technical aspects of Stoke's play.
Sunderland: Ki Sung-Yeung
In amongst Paolo Di Canio's vast number of moves this summer is the rather understated loan arrival of Swansea midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung, who only joined the Welsh club last summer and had enjoyed a decent enough debut season in the Premier League.
The languid playmaker proved a versatile performer for the Swans last season, even deputising at centre-back during their League Cup final win, but, despite making 38 appearances in all competitions for the Welsh club, he wasn't a part of Michael Laudrup's plans for the coming campaign.
Nonetheless, 24-year-old Ki, already with 51 international caps to his name, will bring excellent athleticism and an ability to keep possession to Sunderland's midfield ranks.
Swansea City: Jose Canas
And although Michael Laudrup has allowed himself to splurge this summer, breaking the club's transfer record for striker Wilfried Bony, he's also potentially unearthed another bargain in the shape of midfielder Jose Canas.
The 26-year-old Spaniard formed an excellent midfield partnership with the playmaker Benat at Real Betis last season, and the pair were a big reason for the Seville club's success. However, with Canas's contract at an end, the Swans moved quickly to sign the tough-tackling midfielder on a free transfer.
Positionally excellent, fiery and mobile, Canas is an ideal protector of the Swans back four in Laudrup's 4-2-3-1 formation, while his simple passing style will allow others to flourish.
Unlike Michu, don't expect the curly-haired tyro to garner many headlines over the course of the season; make no mistake, however, Swansea have struck gold in the Spanish market once more.
Tottenham Hotspur: Erik Lamela
With Gareth Bale departing, Tottenham Hotspur have been busy in the market this summer, looking to enhance their squad in preparation for mounting an assault on the Champions League places. Having spent over £100 million they've done just that, and the jewel in the crown comes in the shape of their new record transfer, Erik Lamela.
Coming on the back of a wonderful season with Roma where he scored 15 goals from a station predominantly on the right wing (read a little more on that here), the young Argentine will be tasked with both scoring and creating goals at White Hart Lane.
Comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo aren't without their merits; similar to the Portuguese star, Lamela poses a combination of pace, power and individual magic which mark him as one of the finest under-21s in world football today.
Additionally, capable of working his way past defenders with a moment of outstanding skill or through his rapid acceleration, as a forward player in one-on-one areas, he's well blessed. As he becomes more muscular, ala Messrs. Ronaldo and Bale, that acceleration allied with increased power is potentially frightening.
Now as he continues to develop, both physically and mentally, he'll be tasked with making the kind of decisive contributions that his predecessor in North London was accomplishing with increasing regularity.
That burden, not to mention his £26.4 million price tag, may weigh heavily on Spurs' new No.11's shoulders. But with his talent and hunger for a spot in Argentina's World Cup squad for Brazil next summer, the wise money is on backing Lamela to thrive in the Premier League soon enough.
West Bromwich Albion: Scott Sinclair
After a difficult season at Manchester City, where first-team opportunities were few and far between, Scott Sinclair has arrived at West Bromwich Albion with something of a point to prove.
The last 12 months have seen the young winger go from being one of English football's most promising—having been a vital part of Brendan Rodgers Swansea side and in the Great Britain Olympic squad—to being more well known for stepping out with Coronation Street's Rosie Webster.
Nonetheless, the former Chelsea youngster remains a talented player and will add to Steve Clarke's Baggies, who have endured a difficult start to the season, given the Nicolas Anelka situation and their taking just one point from three matches.
Technically gifted and with a good appreciation for space, the 24-year-old winger should prove a good fit at the Hawthorns.
His key attributes of clever dribbling and quickness are something which Clarke's side have perhaps been lacking in recent times, while his eye-for-goal will prove important—Sinclair scored 27 goals in Swansea's promotion season and found the net eight times in their debut Premier League campaign—as Albion look to replace the goals of the departed Romelu Lukaku and Peter Odemwingie.
West Ham United: Andy Carroll
The Hammers haven't been the most prolific side in the transfer market, but one astute piece of business will unquestionably come in the permanent signing of Andy Carroll, who, having cost Liverpool £35 million in 2011, represents a sound investment at less than half that price.
The 24-year-old England international will provide Allardyce's side once more with a powerful focal point in attack, someone who is something of a throwback to a bygone era of towering strikers who were dominant aerially and thrived on crosses. Lest we forget, Carroll is also decent technically with a sledgehammer of a left foot.
Seven goals and four assists in 24 games (according to Transfermarkt) was a decent return last season when taking into account his contribution to the team as a whole.
Nonetheless, with Allardyce's man-management, and provided the Hammers can keep him fit, more will be expected of the Geordie this season, particularly in a team built to cater to his strengths.
On his day Carroll can ask questions of even the toughest defences through sheer force alone. Hammers fans will have every right to hope that those days become increasingly regular now that he is a permanent fixture in East London.