The Premier League is widely known abroad as the midfield capital of European football. The brilliance we watch on our screens week in week out is testament to the big money signings that seem to grace the Premier League each and every summer. With big money again being splashed this summer on Midfield talent, and even more rumoured to be in the pipeline, here is our list of the top 5 Midfield signings by Premier League clubs so far this window.
Siem De Jong
Siem de Jong becomes the third ‘De Jong’ in recent memory to feature in the Premier League after Manchester City’s Nigel (no relation), and ironically, Newcastle loanee Luuk (brother). Born in Switzerland to Dutch parents, Siem moved back to the Netherlands aged six, and began his youth career with local amateur club DZC ’68. De Jong was picked up by the Ajax Youth Academy aged 15, and made his first team debut only a few years later aged 18. De Jong’s all round ability has seen him being used in a variety of positions. For Ajax in recent years, he has played primarily as a number 10, but also as a Striker and a deeper lying Centre Midfielder. Following the departure of now Spurs Defender Jan Vertonghen, De Jong was awarded with the club captaincy – a role which he relished. His fine form saw him score once at home and twice away to Manchester City in the Champions League (2012-13 season). While De Jong suffered an injury plagued final season at the Amsterdam ArenA, he finished the league campaign with 7 goals and 2 assists from 19 games, and fittingly, leaving the club on the back of a fourth consecutive league title.
The void left by the sale of Yohan Cabaye was never quite filled at Newcastle United last season, but the signings of Siem De Jong and fellow Frenchman Remy Cabella look like going a long way towards doing so for this coming season. Cabella has been on the radar of numerous Champions League clubs ever since Montpellier’s incredible Ligue 1 title in 2012 (the first league title in the club’s history), but has decided to join the French revolution at St James’ Park with Alan Pardew. Cabella has been capped 17 times for the France under 21 side, and once at full International level. Despite being named on the standby list for the World Cup, he found himself in Brazil at the expense of the injured Clement Grenier. Cabella scored 14 goals and made 7 assists in Ligue 1 last season, and could prove to be a real bargain over time for £8.5million.
Not quite a transfer saga of sorts, but the story of Tom Ince has seen him travel all around Europe before deciding that a stay in England was his best bet. Despite travelling to Monaco and Inter Milan for talks, Ince (wisely) decided that first team football was the most important thing at this stage of his career, and joined Hull on a free transfer (fee to be settled at a tribunal) after his Blackpool contract expired. After letting him go in 2011, Liverpool appeared to move heaven and earth in an attempt to get Ince back to Anfield. That move, like many other projected ones that Ince has seen come and go, never came to fruition. Resigned to losing him at the end of his contract, Blackpool allowed Ince to join Crystal Palace on loan until the end of the season in January 2014, and Ince did well in his 8 league appearances – scoring 1 and assisting 1. Hull could be a perfect move for Ince, allowing him regular first team football to possibly enter the thoughts of Roy Hodgson.
The Eredivisie has become a successful import hub for the Premier League in recent years. With the likes of Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Vermaelen, Christian Eriksen and Wilfried Bony proving a success for a relatively low transfer fee in recent years, Dusan Tadic may be the next addition to the growing list. The flamboyant Serbian attacking midfielder is a like for like replacement for Liverpool bound Adam Lallana and boasts similarly impressive stats too. Last season, Tadic scored 16 goals and made 14 assists in 33 league games, but even more impressively, created the most chances of any player in European football (133). At 25 years of age, Tadic is sufficiently experienced to adapt to the demands of a new league, but also young enough to be considered a long term option for Southampton. The Saints look to have found an absolute gem for around £11million.
What can be said about Cesc Fabregas that is not already known? Last season, Fabregas was one of the few players who prospered under Tata Martino in an otherwise dismal campaign. While playing in Midfield as expected, Fabregas also had a spell playing as a Striker in the absence of Lionel Messi – and appeared to thrive in the role as the attacking figurehead. His season stats of 8 goals and 19 assists in 35 games don’t show the full story however, after only adding 1 goal and 4 assists to his league tally betweenJanuary and May. There is little risk in the signing of Fabregas, after already proving himself in England with Arsenal . In fact, he is arguably more suited to English football than Spanish. In today’s transfer market, £27million for a world class, internationally renowned player (91 Spain caps) like Cesc Fabregas is a fantastic piece of business by Chelsea.
Are Chelsea finally going to see the best of Alvaro Morata?
The Spanish international has been inconsistent since his £60 million move.
When Antonio Conte sealed the signing of Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid in the summer, many Chelsea fans lauded him as one of the signings of the window.
He was an instant hit at Stamford Bridge following his £60 million arrival, scoring on his debut off the bench in a 3-2 loss against Burnley on the opening day.
Morata has been most commonly used as an impact sub especially at Madrid, but at Chelsea, he was quickly given the responsibility of spearheading the Blues’ attack.
He repaid the faith Conte showed in him early, notching a hat trick away at Stoke in mid-September.
There was early talk of him being involved in a four-way battle for the golden boot alongside Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku and Gabriel Jesus.
Since then, it hasn’t worked out as well for Morata at Chelsea.
He went on a scoring drought soon after, although he did score a crucial winner against title rivals Manchester United in November.
He still received criticism, however, culminating in a poor performance against Arsenal in the Carabao Cup, where he missed several guilt edge chances to give Chelsea the advantage.
He then played 40 minutes in the FA Cup against Norwich, managing to receive two yellow cards in a matter of seconds, first for diving, and then for dissent.
The cold weather has been blamed for his lack of form, as well as a back injury which at one point Conte suggested could force him to miss the rest of the season.
The English climate is different to what Morata will have previously experienced in Spain and in Italy with Juventus, although whether that can be used as a real argument is debatable.
He proved that theory wrong today, finishing off a fine Chelsea move in one of the coldest games of the season.
The Spaniard has looked bereft of confidence in recent weeks and months, and it appeared that Olivier Giroud had overtaken him as Chelsea’s leading marksman until today.
Morata proved his class against a Leicester side that, had it not been for a late mistake, would have taken the current Premier League champions to penalties.
His well placed shot after an excellent Willian through ball opening the scoring before an audacious flick hit the crossbar.
Although not at the heights of the likes of Kane (24 goals) and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (28 goals), Morata has notched 10 goals of his own – a decent return considering he has missed a fair amount of games with injury in a team that is equally reliant on goals from wingers Eden Hazard, Pedro and Willian.
With the cold weather subsiding, if that can be used as an excuse for some of Morata’s poor performances, and Chelsea’s chances of silverware increasing with an FA Cup semi-final, now is surely the time for Morata to produce some of his best form and lead Chelsea’s charge going into the back end of the season.
Tieumoue Bakayoko disappoints again for Chelsea against Leicester City
The Frenchman looked to struggle against his FA Cup opponents.
Tieumoue Bakayoko was one of the big-name signings for Chelsea during the summer as the club tried to push on under Antonio Conte after their Premier League triumph.
The Frenchman had been a standout player for AS Monaco during their surprise Ligue 1 winning campaign and cost the Blues a reported £40 million.
Although they are one of the richest clubs in the world, that remains a big spend and they would have been expecting a first-team ready player.
That hasn’t been the case as Bakayoko has struggled to adapt to English football and has found himself sidelined for Danny Drinkwater on several occasions.
The England international is an experienced Premier League player, but he was brought in to provide cover. It is a worry that he has been performing better than the player brought in to partner N’Golo Kante.
Chelsea managed to qualify for the semi-final of the FA Cup with an extra-time victory over Leicester City. However, Bakayoko was underwhelming once again after being brought back into the starting eleven.
He lasted until half-time before being replaced by Cesc Fabregas. During the first half, the Blues were too predictable in central midfield as neither player offered creativity from deep.
Wilfred Ndidi was arguably the best player in that area of the pitch as he dominated Bakayoko and Kante for the first-half.
The summer signing from Monaco was booked just before the break and didn’t re-emerge for the second-half. It was another disappointing performance from him as he failed to take the opportunity provided by Antonio Conte.
During the match, Bakayoko had a tackle success rate of 33% and he failed to make a single key pass to influence proceedings in the attacking half.
It was obvious that he was lacking in confidence as he often chose the simple pass and wasn’t as aggressive as the Leicester midfield players that he was competing with.
As the season has progressed, central midfield has emerged as an area of weakness for Chelsea. They often play with two defensive-minded midfielders and that makes them predictable to play against.
Last season, Nemanja Matic was more dynamic in central areas and he wasn’t afraid to step into the attacking half to contribute to attacks. The decision to sell him to a rival club now looks a huge mistake as the Blues are less effective in the middle of the park.
It was hoped that Ross Barkley would provide more energy to that position, but he has struggled with injuries since moving to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea have a difficult task to save their season, as they must finish in the top four and lift the FA Cup to restore pride.
Bakayoko needs to have a strong end to his season if he is to prove himself worthy of another chance next season. There is likely to be a new manager at Stamford Bridge with Antonio Conte’s position looking more untenable by the day.
A managerial change will lead to a squad overhaul and the 23-year-old will be one of the first to go. He doesn’t offer anything different to Kante and his compatriot is far superior in every area.
His most ardent supporters will allude to his inexperience and suggest that he needs to be given more time. However, when watching him against the 21-year-old Ndidi, it became clear that he isn’t good enough for a club like Chelsea. He was outclassed and outbattled by his younger opponent.
Since Roman Abramovich bought the club, there have been several mistakes made in the transfer market. The decision to sell Matic and sign Bakayoko was another.
Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea: Three talking points from the Etihad
Manchester City managed to beat Chelsea for the second time this season as they continue their march to the Premier League title. The contest was far from entertaining, as the visitors showed no interest in playing football and instead to soak in pressure.
Pep Guardiola’s team didn’t have to get out of second gear and it was a more comfortable victory than they would have been expecting. The Citizens are now 18 points clear at the top of the table and remain on target for 100 points, which would be a superb achievement.
Meanwhile, Chelsea sit outside of the Champions League places and are now five points behind Tottenham in fourth position. They will need a near perfect end to the season if they are to avoid missing out on qualification for next season’s competition. Here are three talking points from the Etihad Stadium…
David Silva showed his class
The 32-year-old has been at Manchester City for the majority of their journey from Premier League also-rans to elite super club and he remains a crucial player for them under Pep Guardiola.
If he had been in the team for the entire campaign, he would be running Kevin de Bruyne close for the PFA Player of the Year award. He is a classy operator who seems to get better with age.
He got the important assist for the winning goal with a superb piece of play and that is becoming par for the course for the Spanish international. Silva completed 95% of his passes and made three key passes during the contest. Meanwhile, he was very good out of possession as he made three ball recoveries.
It has been incredible to watch Pep Guardiola get all of his attacking talent on the pitch at one time, but the improvement of both Silva and De Bruyne off the ball has helped achieve that.
They are now complete midfielders and capable of thriving in both halves of the pitch. The midfielder is a club legend and supporters will be hoping that he has a few years left in him.
Antonio Conte continues to make puzzling decisions
Last season, the Italian was lauded every week as his side won the league title comfortably, but he has failed to follow it up with a good second campaign. There have been a lot of problems for Chelsea this season including recruitment, tactics and player performance.
They have been reliant on Eden Hazard and as the campaign has progressed, the team have lost their intensity, which suggests they no longer believe in Conte.
Their 3-4-2-1 formation was revolutionary, but they have moved away from it frequently this season and haven’t been able to settle on a first eleven. That was one of Chelsea’s strengths last season. Gary Cahill and David Luiz have been sidelined, while Alvaro Morata has failed to replace Diego Costa sufficiently.
On Sunday, Conte chose to field Hazard as a lone frontman, but he struggled to impact the game in that role. He is best when having space in front of him to run into and he didn’t have that against Manchester City.
The Belgian international was isolated and touched the ball only 31 times. It was a tactical error and one that blunted Chelsea’s attack before a ball was kicked.
Ilkay Gundogan is flourishing in the middle of the park for Manchester City
The former Borussia Dortmund midfielder has had his problems since arriving in the Premier League.
He has suffered a few injuries and that has seen him struggle to secure a regular starting berth, but he has featured prominently in recent weeks and is perfect for the system. Gundogen recycles possession effectively and that is required, especially when the opposition team sits deep.
Gundogen touched the ball more than any other player on the pitch with 181 touches and was very good at distributing the ball quickly. He finished the match with a 96% pass success rate, which shows his role.
He wasn’t taking any risks and he didn’t have to. City have a lot of attacking talent and the German international isn’t required to try risky passes to influence the game.
Although Chelsea didn’t get on the ball much, Gundogen broke up the play when required with four ball recoveries. Fernandinho’s absence could allow the 27-year-old to secure the place on a permanent basis and he does offer more in the role, especially in possession. It was a strong performance and one of the standouts in a dull affair.
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