Gonzo Sports Digest; The Best of the Summer

As we approach the midway point in the season and with the January transfer window nearly upon us I thought I’d have a run through of some of the Premier League’s best signings of the summer.

Transfer news is where the real interest is in football in terms of what people want to read online. When I have a look through some of the traffic that comes through the various sites I work for you quickly realise that transfer speculation far outweighs anything else in terms of views, and sometimes the more ridiculous stuff is the more people go for it.  Think about all those rumours you get about Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – no one is really buying it, I presume, but that doesn’t stop the curiosity clicks. Then again sometimes the unlikely ones come off, the first man on this list is one of those where I thought ‘really?’ when the speculation first arose and I probably wasn’t alone in that.

Xherdan Shaqiri, Stoke City

The ‘Alpine Messi’ first came to my attention when he tore Manchester United in two during his days with Swiss outfit FC Basel (or Basle, whichever you prefer) in the Champions League, take a look at the video below if you’ve not seen it or fancy a refresher.  I’ve followed his career since then but Bayern Munich turned out to be a bad move.  Granted, he had Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery ahead of him in the pecking order and there’s no shame in being kept out of the side by those two but a move to Inter Milan should have worked out better.

He was a bit of a surprise signing for Roberto Mancini in his first transfer window back at the Giuseppe Meazza as he’s not the type of player the pragmatic Italian usually goes for. A switch to Stoke still raised a few eyebrows in the summer though, despite the Potters’ bid to take Shaqiri before he joined the Nerazzurri.  We haven’t seen the best of him at the Britannia Stadium yet, or we have but only in patches, and there is definitely more to come.  Consistency has always been a bit of a problem for the little fella but then again he’s not managed to command a regular starting berth since his days with Basel and this move to the Potteries could see him become the player he’s always threatened to be.  I was highly sceptical when Stoke decided to axe Tony Pulis and bring in Mark Hughes and a new direction in terms of their style of football but credit to them – so far it’s working, which goes to prove fortune favours the brave and that’s the mantra Shaqiri plays with when he’s on top form.

Gerard Deulofeu, Everton

Deulofeu returned to Goodison Park with a bit of a point to prove.  He did ok in his first season in Merseyside in a then loan move from Barcelona in 2013-14 but took a backward step last year with a forgettable temporary stint at Sevilla.  In fact Marca named him in their ‘Worst Team of the Season’ in La Liga, and his Sevilla stint possibly convinced Barca to let him go permanently.

That worked out nicely for Everton of course but the Catalans did insist on a fairly complicated buy-back clause, which can be used at the end of the season or at the end of the following campaign. That shows he is still rated at Camp Nou and from what we’ve seen this season you can see why.  If there were any confidence issues leftover from the Sevilla stint I’ve not noticed them and he’s now a key man in that Everton attack.  So far he’s got three goals in all competitions and eight Premier League assists, not bad for a 21-year-old who will develop further.  Bizarrely Everton just have to hope he doesn’t do too well or Barca may come calling.

Georginio Wijnaldum, Newcastle

Considering how poor Newcastle have been for much of this season going for one of their summer buys might seem a bit strange but Wijnaldum has been one of the few bright sparks this term on Tyneside.  For what it’s worth I don’t think the Toon will be down there by the time May rolls around, there’s too much in the squad for that, but only time will tell if I’m right there and in any case that would have been a far braver thing to say prior to the back-to-back wins over Liverpool and Spurs.

On occasion Wijnaldum’s been a driving force in the Newcastle side when others have been only too happy to hide.  You’d expect the senior members of the team to take on more responsibility when they’re under pressure but it seems to be the Dutchman who has taken that on.  His leadership qualities probably came into Newcastle’s thoughts when they brought him in as the 25-year-old was the PSV Eindhoven captain, but perhaps they weren’t expecting those attributes to come to the fore so quickly.

He gets played out wide a bit and personally I’d rather see him down the middle more, he’s got a good engine and you want to see him involved as much as possible, but wherever he is deployed he seems to do a job.  Like both Shaqiri and Deulofeu there’s clearly more to come but with eight goals in 17 appearances in all competitions (admittedly, four of those came in one game) and eight Premier League assists he’s already making a statement.

Deulofeu was the bargain buy of these three at under £5million, providing Barca don’t buy him back of course – although I would suggest that is an unlikely scenario.  Wijnaldum was a snip at around £15million and Shaqiri cost Stoke a club record £12million; again an absolute steal and I’d imagine there are probably a few fans in Milan wondering why he wasn’t given more of a chance there over their morning cappuccinos, but possibly England suits his game more than the slower Serie A does.

There are obviously loads of players who could have been included in this list and Manchester City pair Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling deserve a mention, but when you’re spending £50million on a player you expect top class – anything else and you’re in flop territory.  I still think City aren’t the same team without Sergio Aguero in the side and when they bring in someone who takes that away that’s when they’ve made a real quality signing. They could also do with a decent centre-half and that may, and probably should, be something Manuel Pellegrini has a look at next month.

Crystal Palace did really well to get Yohan Cabaye in and Connor Wickham may also prove to be excellent business if he can stay fit, he might just be the big man in attack they need to get even more out of Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie. Spurs man Dele Alli was in my thoughts but technically he was a January recruit and besides there’s been enough written about him already after those England games without me adding my spunk to that particular bucket.

Arsenal landing Petr Cech was also a coup but way too obvious, they needed a keeper and brought in a top notch one. Getting him from a rival adds to that transfer success I suppose but we all knew about him already, it was hardly an inspired move.  I also think Asmir Begovic was a quality capture as without him Chelsea could be in more trouble having been without Thibaut Courtois for so long, the Bosnian’s displays were solid and at times impressive when others struggled but I doubt we’ll see much more of Begovic at Stamford Bridge now the big Belgian is back.

Follow/abuse us on Twitter @GonzoSportsDesk, we’re not fancy we follow back.



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