The biggest upgrade: Thiago Alcântara
It looked as if Liverpool were prepared to go all summer without a significant signing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but then Thiago Alcântara arrived from Bayern Munich in a cut-price £20m deal. Jürgen Klopp’s side have not just strengthened their midfield. They have signed perhaps the best player in the world in his position. A major part of Liverpool’s recent success has been their ability to pick up players on the verge of becoming world beaters. In Thiago, they have a player who is already a superstar. He showed his class on his debut, making 75 passes in the second half against Chelsea – the most passes completed by a player in a single half of Premier League football since Opta started recording passing statistics in 2003-04.
Timo Werner finished last season with 28 goals in 34 league games for RB Leipzig – four more than Tammy Abraham, Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi managed between them for Chelsea.
Aston Villa rattled through four goalkeepers last season and Dean Smith set about fixing that problem this summer. Villa could not have landed on a better option than Emiliano Martínez. He is the first Villa goalkeeper to have kept back-to-back clean sheets in the Premier League since Brad Guzan in 2014 – and Martínez did it in his first two games at the club. Added to that, last season he finished with the best save success rate in the division (83.8%).
José Mourinho did a number on his former club at the weekend and he did the same in the transfer window too, stealing Sergio Reguilón from under Manchester United’s noses. The Spaniard completed more dribbles (49) in La Liga last season than Ben Davies (45) has managed in the Premier League since joining Tottenham in 2014.
It’s not often you can put the words “Newcastle” and “good transfer business” in the same sentence but Callum Wilson is an astute signing. He has already scored four goals in four games for the club in the Premier League. Only one player – Jonjo Shelvey – has scored more for Newcastle since the start of last season (six).
The most important signing: Thomas Partey
Given that Arsenal apparently had no budget, making 55 staff redundant, the club have not done too badly in the transfer market. After signing Willian, Pablo Marí, Cédric Soares, Gabriel and Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson, they splashed out on deadline day, paying £45m for Thomas Partey. The 27-year-old Ghana midfielder is a massive signing for Mikel Arteta and should boost Arsenal’s chances of a top-four finish. He is brilliant at breaking up play, but can do a lot more than that. Partey can help instigate attacks with forward passes and powerful dribbles. In fact, he has the best dribble success rate in La Liga since the beginning of last season (88.9%). It’s not often a Premier League side poaches a player from one of Spain’s biggest clubs but Arsenal have done just that.
Sometimes the less glamorous signings are the most effective. James Rodríguez has been the star of the show for Everton, but he would not have the foundations to express himself if not for Allan, who has racked up four tackles per game (only three players in the league have made more).
Ollie Watkins has revitalised Aston Villa’s tepid frontline. Villa’s six strikers scored just six league goals between them last season; Watkins is already halfway to that total after his hat-trick against Liverpool at the weekend. He was the first player to score a hat-trick against Liverpool since Dimitar Berbatov in 2010.
Arsenal will be delighted with the way Gabriel has started. The team has tightened up at the back under Arteta and the 22-year-old is playing a key role in that. Only one player in the league – Chelsea centre-back Thiago Silva (101.5) – has averaged more passes per game than Gabriel (100.3) in the league so far this season.
Kepa finished last season with the worst save success rate of the regular keepers in the league – he saved just 53.9% of the shots on target he faced – and he started this campaign with errors in Chelsea’s first two games. Frank Lampard has finally replaced the Spaniard, signing Édouard Mendy for £22m. He kept a clean sheet on his league debut in Chelsea’s 4-0 win against Crystal Palace on Saturday, maintaining his fine form from last season, when he had the second best save-success rate in Ligue 1 (73.5%).
The best youngster: Kai Havertz
Kai Havertz has been at the top of his game in 2020. Only Robert Lewandowski (15) and Erling Braut Haaland (13) scored more goals in the second half of the Bundesliga season than the 21-year-old (10). Havertz opened his Chelsea account with a hat-trick against Barnsley in the League Cup, becoming the second youngest player to score a hat-trick for Chelsea this millennium after Christian Pulisic, who scored three against Burnley last season.
Realising Leroy Sané would leave for Bayern Munich, Manchester City acted fast to secure his long-term replacement in Ferran Torres, taking advantage of Valencia’s financial difficulties. Torres has already had a direct hand in three goals in as many starts for City in all competitions.
After reluctantly being forced to cash in on Pierre-Emile Højbjerg at the start of the summer, Southampton left it until the end of the window to find his replacement. Saints signed Ibrahima Diallo from Brest for £12m, making him their most expensive signing of the summer. They have high hopes for the 21-year-old midfielder. Of the players who have attempted more than 40 dribbles in Ligue 1 since the beginning of last season, only one has a better success rate than Diallo (79.6%).
Liverpool’s loss is certainly Sheffield United’s gain as far as Rhian Brewster is concerned. Jurgen Klopp’s side had to sell Brewster to offset their summer spending and the 20-year-old will now get regular playing time at another Premier League club. He spent the second half of last season on loan at Swansea and he was a revelation, scoring 11 goals. Only one player scored more in the division during that time.
The biggest coup: James Rodríguez
James Rodríguez has won the Puskas Award and commanded more than £125m in transfer fees in his career. And now he is playing for Everton. He is one of the most famous footballers in the league and his first few matches in England have shown why. He has scored three goals and set up three more in his first five games for the club. Everton have James Rodríguez. It’s still sinking in.
For a long time it looked as if Gareth Bale would only return to the Premier League to join Manchester United, but Tottenham pulled off a remarkable deal to bring him back. Harry Kane and Son Heung-min have started the season brilliantly; Son is the top scorer in the league with six goals and Kane is top of the assists charts with six. Add an in-form and fit Bale into that frontline and it looks very exciting indeed.
After finishing last season as one of the best players in the Championship, Eberechi Eze was not short of admirers this summer, so Crystal Palace can be overjoyed at winning the race for the 22-year-old. Eze finished last season with 14 goals and eight assists, as well as completing the most dribbles in the division (136).
Aston Villa had a brilliant transfer window and capped it off with the loan signing of Ross Barkley. Not only will the Chelsea midfielder take the pressure off captain Jack Grealish, it means Villa now have a true No.8 in their midfield. His debut couldn’t have gone better, scoring in a shock 7-2 victory over his boyhood rivals Liverpool – only his second goal in 14 appearances against the Reds.