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Opinion: Grading the Premier League summer transfer XI

Only three signings can be viewed as successful, with Fulham, Newcastle United, and Manchester United hitting the mark while a questions continue to be levied in the direction of Tottenham, Chelsea, and Aston Villa

Few could have truly predicted the manner in which the 2022-23 Premier League season has transpired. From Arsenal’s unexpected title push, Brighton’s brilliant run at Europe, Chelsea’s failure under new ownership, and the possible relegation of one of British football’s most historic institutions, it has been one of the most entertaining and twisting campaigns in recent memory.

And once again, despite the massive £2.8bn that has collectively been spent across the top flight of English football, many reminders have been dispatched regarding the reality that spending does not guarantee success.

In the wake of the summer transfer window, Sky Sports viewers voted on the Premier League’s summer transfer XI. With a heavy dose of hindsight, 101 Great Goals grades that team as the season nears its conclusion.

GK: Bernd Leno – Arsenal to Fulham (£3m)

Hit or miss: Hit

German international shot-stopper Bernd Leno proved himself to be a valuable asset in goal for English giants Arsenal after his arrival from Bayer Leverkusen, but some deficiencies in his came respective to how Mikel Arteta wanted to set his team up on the tactics sheet led to the Gunners purchasing current number one Aaron Ramsdale two seasons ago. A summer move to Fulham gave Leno an ideal place to rekindle his career with reduced pressure and he has duly delivered under Marco Silva while being a key contributor in the club’s push for a top-half finish.

RB: Djed Spence – Middlesbrough to Tottenham (£12m)

Hit or miss: Miss

RCB: Sven Botman – LOSC Lille to Newcastle United (£32m)

Hit or miss: Hit

One of a number of young players that have successfully used their time with youth development specialists LOSC Lille, Dutch international Sven Botman was one of the most coveted center-backs in the summer market. Newcastle United did exceptionally well to win the race for the young defender, and can already view him as a vital cog in the wheel under Edie Howe. In partnership with Swiss veteran Fabian Schär, Botman’s performances have been a key factor in the Magpies’ push for a return to the Champions League for the first time in twenty years.

LCB: Kalidou Koulibaly – SSC Napoli to Chelsea (£33m)

Hit or miss: Miss

Senegalese veteran defender Kalidou Koulibaly has long been touted as one of the most dominant center-backs anywhere in Europe after becoming a stalwart presence for Serie A outfit SSC Napoli. His summer departure from southern Italy to Premier League giants Chelsea was meant to usher in a period of upcoming success at Stamford Bridge, which instead has divulged into the club’s worst season in decades. With a future in West London now longer guaranteed, Koulibaly could be one of a number of players sold in the upcoming window in order for the club to avoid FFP sanctions.

LB: Ivan Perišić – Free Transfer

Hit or miss: Miss

On the surface, a free move for veteran Croatian star Ivan Perišić had everything that Tottenham fans, and former boss Antonio Conte, wanted in a critical summer transfer window. Elite-level experience, winners’ medals, and the profile of player that Conte wanted in order to push the club forward. Despite his lack of a transfer fee, Perišić has been hit and miss at best in club colors and is hardly viewed as a first-choice option at current or moving forward. Good intentions that have fallen short of the mark.

RCM: Philippe Coutinho – Barcelona to Aston Villa (£17m)

Hit or miss: Miss

Once billed as one of the best attacking players to grace the Anfield pitch in the Premier League era, former Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho was in the market for redemption in the summer after his move to Barcelona after his Merseyside days had been a categoric failure. His loan spell with Villa during the 2021-22 campaign led many to believe he was ready to return to England, with his move to Villa Park in the summer widely celebrated by fans. Fast-forward to the time of writing, and the Brazilian can boast just one Premier League goal across twenty appearances.

CM: Yves Bissouma – Brighton to Tottenham (£25m)

Hit or miss: Miss

Brighton’s continued progression up the ladder in the English top flight has been one of the most fascinating stories in the last few seasons in the Premier League. A club that is now so used to losing their brightest talents to bigger institutions, that same dynamic played out over the summer when Malian star Yves Bissouma departed for Tottenham despite heavy interest from clubs even bigger than the north London side. He has, unfortunately, massively failed to deliver and recreate his performances at the AMEX and could be on course to be jettisoned during the upcoming summer window.

LCM: Christian Eriksen – Free Transfer

Hit or miss: Hit

It is hard to believe that two summers ago, Danish star Christian Eriksen nearly lost his life on the pitch in Copenhagen during Euro 2020 after suffering cardiac arrest. Thanks to the amazing medical community and the on-pitch support from his countrymen, Eriksen was given a new lease on life when he returned to the top level last season with Brentford as one of Thomas Frank’s most trusted lieutenants. That led to Erik ten Hag targeting the Dane as part of Manchester United’s recruitment drive, with Eriksen proving world-class all the same. When fit, United has been immeasurably better with him in the team.

RW: Richarlison – Everton to Tottenham (£50m)

Hit or miss: Miss

Brazilian international forward Richarlison was once, at a time, viewed as one of the better attacking players in England after becoming a vital piece of the puzzle at Goodison Park with Everton, so it came as no surprise that the player was earmarked for a move away from the blue half of Stanley Park in the summer. Once again, it was Tottenham that pounced, and once again, it was Tottenham that failed to deliver in the market. Richarlison has bagged just one goal in the league since his arrival while not being viewed as a first-choice option in the capital. At the price paid, it’s one of the worst signings of the season.

LW: Raheem Sterling – Manchester City to Chelsea (£48m)

Hit or miss: Miss

English international star Raheem Sterling’s rise to critical acclaim was fantastic to witness across a career that took him from Liverpool breakout starlet to Reds key man, and ultimately a move to Manchester City that saw him develop into one of the top attacking players arguably anywhere in Europe. His chance to move on from City after losing his place in the team in the wake of Jack Grealish’s purchase saw him arrive at Chelsea under Thomas Tuchel, and like so many Blues players, has been anything but the player they hoped they purchased. A real letdown, but hardly a shock given the club’s lack of transfer direction under new ownership.

CF: Darwin Núñez – SL Benfica to Liverpool (£65m initial fee)

Hit or miss: Miss

Last but not least, Uruguayan star striker Darwin Núñez. On the surface, this was a signing that has probably been the best of those that have missed the mark, and some might feel this harsh. He has certainly scored his fair share of goals this season under Jürgen Klopp after finally settling to life in the Premier League, but he remains painfully inconsistent in front of goal and is not always guaranteed to start given the options afforded to the German when everyone is fit. For a deal that could reach £90m after potential bonuses, that is hardly the review Reds fan would have been hoping for, though he still has time to come good.

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Andrew Thompson

US-based Football writer. German football guru with a wealth of experience in youth development and analysis. Data aficionado. Happily championing the notion that Americans have a knowledgeable voice in the beautiful game.

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