Top 10 Impact Transfers of 2011 in the EPL
Don’t you just love that holiday period before the first of January? Christmas comes, everyone is in party mode and we have the spare time to look back at all the breathtaking happenings of the year that we leave behind.
For me personally, recalling the wondrous moments from the beautiful game of football is what is most gratifying.
The Barclays Premier League provides us with many mesmerizing moments every year. After all, it's not without reason that it is considered by millions as the best league in the world.
The Transfer Market too brings its fair share of thrills and spills. Old players make their way out the exit door, and fresh faces come in. Truth be told, change is inevitable.
Anyhow, I shall now get down to the crux of the matter.
What does one mean by impact signings? For those who don't find the term to be self-explanatory, we are talking about a set of players that have made a considerable difference to the club they sign for.
For example, Rafael Van Der Vaart was arguably the No.1 impact signing of the Premier League 2010. He made a noticeable impact at Tottenham. At £8million, he was quite a bargain buy. His return of 15 goals in his first year in England was really something, no?
As the curtain falls upon yet another year, I present to you the top 10 impact signings of the English Premier League for the calendar year 2011.
10. Aiegbeni Yakubu
Blackburn Rovers snapped up Yakubu from fellow Premier League side Everton on deadline day in the summer, and he has been the only one providing a glimmer of hope to the Riversiders, who appear doomed to relegation.
With a record of 11 goals in 15 games this season, Yakubu has clearly been a shrewd signing for Steve Kean's side. Crucially, the goals he has scored have been of massive consequence in the relegation battle and have kept Rovers from falling far behind the pack.
His four goals against Swansea City got them a crucial win in the early days of December, underlining his importance to the team. Well, you know what they say: Feed the Yak and he will score!
9. Scott Parker
Scott Parker is a good example of Harry Redknapp's ability to pull off some brilliant acquisitions in the transfer market. At £5.5 million, he has to be the bargain buy of the summer.
He has forged a delightful midfield partnership with Luka Modric, and this has allowed Tottenham Hotspurs to dominate games in the middle of the pitch against all kinds of opposition while enjoying their best start to a Premier League season.
Unlike most of the others that you will find on this list, he doesn't exactly have many goals or assists to show for, but stats don't tell the whole story, do they? Scottie has been running the show thus far for Spurs, and his manager will expect more of the same in the year that lies ahead.
8. Brad Friedel
The American veteran is the only goalkeeper on the list, and I just couldn't leave him out. He is far more reassuring a presence at the back than the bundle of nerves that is Helguero Gomes.
In the 16 games he has played, he has managed to secure five clean sheets, which is not breathtaking, but consider a different piece of statistics. He has made 69 saves so far, the most in the league by any goalie.
Even at 40, Friedel is a quality shot-stopper. He is yet another testament to the business acumen of Harry Redknapp and Daniel Levy. When a top player is available on a free transfer or at a cut price, they are sure to pounce and sign him up.
7. Joey Barton
Not one to shy away from controversy, Barton often gets slated for his antics off the football pitch. But on it, he's a really good player.
Secured by newly-promoted Queens Park Rangers from Newcastle United on a free transfer, Barton was made captain upon arrival and has truly been the leader on the field. His experience and leadership skills have been invaluable to Rangers.
A brilliant passer of the ball and a dead-ball specialist, I'm certain he'd be a starter at most clubs in the English top flight. Neil Warnock did well to get him and is now bringing out the best in the wacky Englishman.
QPR's hopes of survival will hinge on the form of Barton in the second half of the season, no doubt.
6. Emmanuel Adebayor
Yes, the third Tottenham player on the list, and no, I'm not a Spurs fan.
He has linked up well with Rafael Van Der Vaart, been a constant aerial threat and displayed a good pair of feet. Not only that, his hold up play is commendable too. He epitomizes what the modern centre forward needs to be, methinks.
If he keeps firing, the North Londoners might just find themselves in with a chance for the league title itself.
5. Demba Ba
Ba's predatory instincts were not in question even before Alan Pardew swooped for him and secured his signature from West Ham United. But after joining Newcastle United, he has truly established himself as a fantastic striker capable of leading the line for a side with European ambitions.
Ba's record in the Premier League is impressive; he has played 16 games for the Magpies and netted 13 times.
Strong in the air, a handful for the opposition defense and very hard working, Ba has been a shrewd acquisition for the club. When he jets off to his continent in January for the African Cup of Nations, he will be sorely missed, something Newcastle fans would assure you of.
4. Phil Jones
Talk of building for the future, and name of Phil Jones pops into my head. He has to be the teenage signing of the year. Sir Alex decided to dip into the transfer market for a centre-back in the summer, and what he got was a highly-gifted defender-cum-midfielder.
It's true. Jones is extremely versatile. A solid defender, Jones is equally adept when going forward with the ball at his feet.
At £16million, he's been a remarkable purchase. Fergie and Man United are already reaping the benefits of this investment.
3. Luis Suarez
In a year that saw club captain Steven Gerrard spend more time on the treatment table than the pitch, Luis Suarez has been a leader of sorts for Liverpool.
In the continued absence of their influential talisman, Suarez has been the go-to man on the field. When his teammates are lacking ideas, the Uruguayan takes it upon himself to conjure up some magic and create openings to exploit.
In 33 games for the Anfield-based club, Suarez has bagged 12 goals and 11 assists, a decent return for a man on whom £22.7million was shelled out. It must be mentioned that he has hit either the cross-bar or post countless times in 2011.
Always willing to take on his man, Suarez also has his negative points, and these are precisely the reason I can't have him in first place on this list. It's not just the diving and theatrics. Suarez has been found guilty in a race row involving Patrice Evra and received an eight-match ban for it.
But giving credit where it's due, he has been a great signing for Liverpool.
2. Sergio Aguero
Diego Maradona's son-in-law had a plethora of possible destinations in the summer. It was, not surprisingly, big spenders Manchester City who splashed the cash on the highly-rated Argentine to bring him to Eastlands.
Now, £38million is a sizable sum, but Aguero has hit the ground running in England. For me, it is his presence up front that has made City the most feared team in all the land.
We're talking about a very complete player here. Quick feet, an eye for a pass, strength and, to top it all off, efficiency in front of goal.
In his 23 games for the club, El Kun has chipped in with 15 goals and five assists. To be a definite starter in a team where competition for places in the starting XI only demonstrates how important he is considered by City gaffer Roberto Mancini.
Carlos Tevez, you won't be missed.
1. Juan Mata
Mata, along with Aguero, has shown that size doesn't matter, and players with a small frame can succeed in the most physically demanding league of all.
It is the trickery, vision and finesse of this fleet-footed Spaniard that makes him such a valuable asset to his club Chelsea, and also to the Premier League.
Stats are obviously not everything, but I have evidence to support my argument. Mata's five goals and nine assists in 22 games are quite impressive.
For me, Juan Mata had to be at the top of this list, simply because of the massive impact he has had at Chelsea since arriving from Valencia. It has gone a far way in helping Andre Villas-Boas alter the playing style of the Blues. His arrival has transformed Chelsea into one of the most entertaining sides across Europe.
He is my No.1 impact signing of the English Premier League for 2011.
Compiling a top 10 list is never an easy job, as so many talented footballers have to be considered before trimming the list to just a few. Surely, some players who you would have in your top 10 are not in mine.
Michel Vorm, Jose Enrique, Darren Bent, Edin Dzeko, Sebastian Larsson, Ashley Young, Yohan Cabaye, Oriol Romeu, Mikel Arteta and Gervinho are some of the players I was tempted to include, but was compelled to leave out.
You may or may not agree with my choice of players and rankings. Feel free to disagree, and do let me know what your top 10 would look like.